But oil prices fell back from their highs after
Venezuela's Supreme Court ordered the restart of operations at the state
oil firm PDVSA.
Gold, meanwhile, has assumed its traditional role as
a safe haven in uncertain times, with its price hitting levels not seen
in almost six years.
Oil prices strengthened on Thursday after the chief
United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix said there was "little
new information" in Iraq's weapons declaration to the UN.
And US Secretary of State Colin Powell stepped up the
pressure by saying Iraq had "totally failed" to meet the
requirements of a UN Security Council resolution with its declaration.
Oil traders fear that any war in Iraq could disrupt
oil supplies out of the Middle East.
But news of the Venezuela Supreme Court's ruling
knocked prices back from their highs as hopes rose that oil supplies
from the country might start again.
Oil output in Venezuela is now down to less than
300,000 barrels a day from 3.1m last month, following the 18-day-old
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, US crude oil for
January delivery was up 12 cents at $30.56 a barrel after hitting $31.10
at one point.
In London, February Brent crude prices fell back to
$28.22 a barrel after earlier reaching $29.40.
PRIVATISATION IS ONE THING AND LIBERALISATION ANOTHER
Few days ago, the initial public offer (IPO) of Saudi
Telecommunications Company (STC) made headlines. However, Saudi Arabia
is not liberalising the telecom industry. To be sure, most GCC states
have taken measures for privatising state telecom monopolies rather than
liberalising the industry or deregulating the services.
This article offers a report card on progress towards
opening the telecom market within the GCC. With respect to Saudi Arabia,
the STC was corportarised in 1998 as joint-stock company and permitted
to operate on commercial basis.
In 2001, the government passed the telecommunications
act and later set up Saudi Communications Commission as the
telecommunications regulator. On December 17, 2002, the STC offered to
sell 30 per cent of its shares, hoping to raise SR15.3 billion ($4
billion). But only Saudi nationals and government institutions were
allowed to purchase the 90 million shares, sold at SR170 a piece.
Foreign investors are barred from investing in the
telecommunications sector, as part of a negative list that prohibits
foreign investments in some 20 activities. The IPO confirms STC's
success in overcoming an earlier failure to win a strategic buyer - in
2000 SBC of the U.S. decided against joining the proposed partnership.
The next plan calls for allowing entry of foreign operators in the
mobile line by 2004.
Kuwait's telecommunications sector is the most
liberal within the GCC economies - not a single monopoly firm controls
the telecom services. Two firms, Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC)
and National Mobile Telecommunications Company (Wataniya) provide mobile
services. The government has minority stakes in both firms and acts as a
regulator of the industry.
BUSH TO SPEAK ON IRAQ 'VIOLATION'
The US is to provide intelligence to the arms
inspectors US President George W. Bush is due to make his first public
comments on Iraq's weapons declaration since America announced its view
that Iraq is in material breach of UN resolutions.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday that
omissions in the document meant that Baghdad was "well on its way
to losing this last chance" to avoid military action.
Mr Powell stressed that the US still accepted that
weapons inspectors should continue their work in Iraq, but warned that
the burden was on Baghdad to prove that it did not have weapons of mass
He was speaking soon after the chief weapons
inspector, Hans Blix, told the UN Security Council that the declaration
showed that Baghdad had missed an opportunity to fill in gaps in the
BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb says there
is a sense of satisfaction in the White House at the outcome of the
Security Council meeting.
IRAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO LIFT BAN ON SATELLITE TV
Iran's parliament voted Tuesday to end an
openly-flouted national ban on satellite television, and instead place
restrictions on what residents of the Islamic republic are allowed to
Deputies in the Majlis approved a text that
commissioned the telecommunications ministry to develop over the next
six months "receivers that can receive a limited number of foreign
channels" whose broadcasts do not contravene Iran's national and
The law also authorises state television to relay
programming from some foreign media, and would give certain people such
as academics and journalists unlimited satellite television access.
Reformist deputies argued that a total ban had proved
impossible to enforce.
GCC URGED TO FORM ALLIANCE WITH INDIA AND PAKISTAN
Gulf Arab states should get closer to India and
Pakistan and form an alliance with the two subcontinent giants to serve
their interests and offset the growing military power of the
neighbouring states Iran and Iraq, according to a UAE study.
But the six GCC countries should also try and use
their strong links with Pakistan to persuade it to defuse tension with
India to avert destruction on the grounds as New Delhi is militarily far
superior, said the study, prepared by Abdullah Jumma Al Haj, Cultural
Attache at the UAE Embassy in Washington.
UAE BANKS EXCEED GLOBAL ADEQUACY LAWS
Commercial banks in the UAE have heeded Central Bank
inst-ructions and largely surpassed international standards on capital
adequacy by strengthening their reserves and tightening credit rules,
according to their balance sheets.
At the end of 2001, all national and foreign banks
were far ahead of the 8 per cent floor set by the Bank for International
Settlement for financial institutions worldwide to ensure they have
sufficient funds to face a possible financial crisis.
MEDIATORS TO DISCUSS MID-EAST PLAN
Representatives from the quartet of mediators trying
to create a blueprint for a peace deal between Israel and the
Palestinians are due to meet in Washington on Friday.
The four - the United States, Russia, the United
Nations and the European Union - will discuss a roadmap that proposes
the creation of two states living side by side.
But hopes of anything substantial coming out of this
meeting are not high.
MASS ARRESTS OF MUSLIMS IN LA
US immigration officials in Southern California have
detained hundreds of Iranians and other Muslim men who turned up to
register under residence laws brought in as part of the anti-terror
Reports say between 500 and 700 men were arrested in
and around Los Angeles after they complied with an order to register by
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is
refusing to say how many people were arrested but said detainees were
being held for suspected visa violations and other offences.
IRAQ TO DISCUSS MISSING KUWAITIS
Iraq has agreed to hold talks with Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia next month to discuss the fate of hundreds of people who
disappeared during the Gulf War.
The meeting, in Jordan, will be the first time in
four years that Iraq has discussed the issue.
Kuwait says more than 600 people, almost all of them
Kuwaitis, are still unaccounted for since the Iraqi occupation in
NEW CASH FOR GULF AIR
Gulf Air, the Bahrain-based carrier, is to get
another $240m (£150m) in emergency funding from the Middle Eastern
countries that own it.
Bahrain, Oman and Abu Dhabi have already injected
$81.7m this year to try to stabilise Gulf Air after the state of Qatar
abruptly decided to pull out of the company.
At the time, Qatar said it did not believe the
company, battered by the sharp slowdown in the aviation business which
was exacerbated after September 11, could survive.
The new money is intended to cover the company's
deficit, while debt worth $146m will also be frozen till May next year,
according to chairman Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak al-Nahayan.
SALMONELLA RISK CUT BY BETTER CHECKS
Poultry imported by the UAE from other countries has
been found to be heavily contaminated with Salmonella bacteria which
causes fever and can eventually lead to death, according to an official
The level of contamination was very high in early
1990s but it has been reduced over the past few years due to better
handling in the UAE and improvement of processing measures in key
producing countries, said the study carried out by Dr Anwar Saad of the
Abu Dhabi Municipality's Food and Environment Control Centre (FECC).
Arabian Ranches, the multi-billion dirham residential
community, which is being developed by Emaar Properties, will have one
of the world's top-100 desert golf courses.
Experts predict that the 7,698-yard, par-72 course -
designed by Australian Ian Baker-Finch in association with Niklaus
Design - will rank among the top 100 courses of any kind anywhere in the
FACTORY PLANS EXPANSION
Al Ain Vegetable Processing and Canning Factory plans
to expand the production capacity of all kinds of packed beans by May
INDUSTRY GROWTH STEADY
The dairy industry is growing steadily, although it
is facing stiff external competition as well as protectionism and
dumping policies, the participants of a symposium were told here.
The industry, which started with just 382 cows
producing 97 tons of fresh milk in 1979, now fulfils 75 per cent of the
UAE's dairy products requirements, said Prof Abdel Alim Metwally, dean
of the College of Food Systems at UAE University. But by 1997, the
production increased by 65 per cent with the growth of farms which
FIRST ISLAMIC IN REAL ESTATE DEAL
Crescent Euro Industrial I - the newly formed joint
venture vehicle between First Islamic Investment Bank (First Islamic)
and Lend Lease Real Estate Investments GmbH (Lend Lease) - will acquire
usufruct lease interests in a portfolio of industrial distribution
facilities in Germany.
The portfolio is expected to consist of 5-8
stabilised industrial distribution facilities with a total value of
between Euro 150-200 million. The properties will be spread across
markets of strategic importance to German distribution, logistics, and
industrial sectors, such as Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt and
BLIX TO REPORT ON IRAQI DOSSIER
The United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix,
is due to deliver his first assessment of Iraq's weapons declaration to
the Security Council, amid growing signs of tension among council
Washington, which is threatening military action if
the resolution is not enforced, is to issue its own formal response to
the declaration after the report by Mr Blix.
AL FUTTAIM GROUP TO INVEST $2B
Dubai's Al Futtaim Group plans to invest Dh7.3
billion ($2 billion) in a mixed-use property development in Cairo, said
a top company official.
Land has been acquired and development may begin in
two years. The group aims to increase its international portfolio of
properties as part of a larger plan involving other similar projects in
the Middle East.
UAE'S PC MARKET
The UAE should cross the 200,000 PCs a year mark for
the first time in 2003, according to early forecasts by International
Data Corp (IDC). In value terms, this would be around $320 million, out
of which the portable PCs would account for $130 million.
In 2002, the corresponding figures were $280 million
and just over $100 million respectively. The growth predicted for 2003
belies the increasingly worst-case scenarios that have been painted in
recent times for PC growth in the country.
BAHRAIN TO OPEN TELECOM SECTOR
Several foreign companies have expressed interest in
investing in Bahrain's telecommunications sector which will be open to
competition January, an economic official source told Gulf News.
BAHRAIN BIDS TO BOOST INSURANCE
A new, four-pronged strategy is being launched by the
Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA) to develop the domestic and offshore
insurance sectors centre, an official said recently.
The major new drive follows the recent assumption, by
the BMA, of the role of sole regulator for the financial sector, which
includes insurance and the capital market.
CAIRO-AMMAN BANK TO E+
Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the
financial strength rating of Cairo-Amman Bank to E+ from D. The outlook