GULF

 

Mar 15 - 21 , 2004

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. PAKISTAN

3. GULF


SHAYBAH 'PROVES LONG LIFE OF SAUDI FIELDS'

Saudi oil officials trekked to the top of a 1,000-foot sand dune overlooking the Shaybah oilfield and delivered a firm message to those who say the kingdom's vast reserves are past their prime: "Saudi Arabia is not running out of oil."
"Look. Shaybah can pump at a rate of 600,000 barrels a day for 70 years, and that's without replacing any reserves," Hussain Al Obaid, Shaybah's Engineering Superintendent told reporters on a tour of the complex, as he scanned the harsh, wind-swept terrain. "But we're drilling more wells and discovering even more reserves to offset what we produce."

 

 

 

 

This remote sector of the Empty Quarter in southeastern Saudi Arabia had until recently been the land of a few brave Bedouins who read the wind, sand and stars.

But since 1998, the $2.5 billion Shaybah oilfield complex has been home to state oil firm Saudi Aramco, which pumps premium crude at a cost of less than $1 a barrel, drills wells and shoots seismic surveys. Judged by the standards of Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, Shaybah is of modest size especially when compared to the giant Ghawar reservoir which pumps millions of barrels daily.

But Shaybah, "old man" in Arabic, can easily churn out half the volume supplied by the smallest producers in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

Aramco has recently offered a rigorous defence against analysts and media that have suggested that some of the kingdom's biggest oilfields have been mismanaged and face rapid declines at the wellhead.

That is clearly not the case at Shaybah, where the expertise and hard work of Aramco technicians has paid off in 15.7 billion barrels of initial reserves.

JAPAN SLASHES OIL FROM UAE AS IRAQ SUPPLIES RESUME

Japan slashed its oil imports from the UAE in November because of a decline in domestic seasonal demand and a resumption of Iraqi crude supplies.

Although oil imports from Saudi Arabia also receded, the sharp decline in UAE supplies pushed the emirates back to second place after the Kingdom on the list of oil exporters to the southeast Asian industrial giant. Japan's crude oil imports from Iran also tumbled by nearly 25 per cent while supplies from Kuwait surged by more than 37 per cent.

From around 987,000 barrels a day in October, the UAE's crude oil exports to Japan slumped by 19.5 per cent to nearly 793,000 bpd in November, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said in a report. From zero supplies during most of 2003 and 2002, Japan imported around 125,655 bpd of Iraqi crude in November, the report showed.

Industry sources said the decline in supplies from the UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries was caused by fresh supplies from Iraq and a drop in domestic consumption in Japan because of the mild weather during autumn.

There were also declines in supplies from Qatar, Oman and the Neutral zone, which produces around 300,000 bpd, shared equally by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The report said the oil shipments from Iraq in November were the first in nearly 19 months as crude production in the Arab country had been disrupted for several months due to the UN Gulf war sanctions before it was occupied by a US-led coalition in April.

During the first nine months of 2003, the UAE was the top oil exporter to Japan, supplying it with around 1.03 million bpd.

EMIRATES UNVEILS $500M EUROBOND

Emirates recently launched a $500 million Eurobond, the largest ever from an airline. Originally targeted at $400 million, the size of the bond has been increased due to increased investor interest. Emirates made the initial announcement for the launch of the bond last December.

The issue will be a Floating Rate Note (FRN) with a tenure of seven years and will pay a margin of 0.80 per cent over six months USD Libor. The issue will be listed in Luxembourg. This is the largest ever unrated Eurobond issue by an airline and also the largest ever unsecured issue by a corporation within the GCC.

Emirates said: "The response to the issue has been extremely positive and Emirates has been able to achieve a wide geographical spread of investors, with over a quarter from Europe/Asia and over half from outside the UAE.

OIL CUT BACKED DESPITE HIGH PRICE

The president of oil cartel Opec has promised the group will "guarantee" oil flows when prices are high.

But though oil is at $37 a barrel in the US, the highest level since prices soared ahead of the war on Iraq, he said planned output cuts will go ahead.

The 1 million barrel/day cut and a 1.5 million barrel slowdown in oversupply kicks in on 1 April. But prices are already rising because of tight supplies in the US and political instability in Venezuela. The cuts may not be as extreme as Opec is promising. The 14-nation grouping's members routinely breach their quotas as the attempt to cut oversupply demonstrates.

 

 

ISRAELI ARMY KILLS 5 PALESTINIANS

Israeli troops shot dead five Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin on March 10, Palestinian witnesses and Israeli security sources said. The Israeli sources said soldiers conducting a sweep for fighters shot Palestinians who aimed guns at Israeli forces.

Israeli undercover troops killed the gunmen who belonged to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a part of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah political movement, witnesses said. Israeli soldiers have conducted similar raids to arrest hundreds of militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising after peace talks failed.

IRAQ CONTRACTS GIVEN TO US AND UK

The Pentagon has awarded seven Iraq reconstruction contracts worth a total of about $130 million (72.3m) to consortia involving US and UK firms.

The contracts cover management projects in six sectors ranging from oil to electricity and are part of a package worth $5 billion. Payment will come out of the $18.6bn in funds for Iraq set aside by the US. Michael O'Brien, the UK's trade minister, said the awards recognised British reconstruction expertise.

MIDDLE EAST BANK LIKELY TO BE LISTED ON DFM

Emirates Bank Group plans to list subsidiary Middle East Bank which is being converted into an Islamic bank on the Dubai Financial Market.

The move would be a first step towards an initial public offer. The bank posted a net profit of Dh38.972 million for last year, marginally up from the Dh35.091 million it made previously.

EBG POSTS 8.5PC RISE IN NET PROFIT

Emirates Bank Group (EBG), comprising several subsidiaries such as Middle East Bank and Union Properties, last week announced a net profit of Dh608.893 million for 2003 representing an 8.5 per cent growth over the 2002 net profit of Dh561.42 million.

The bank's annual general meeting passed a 20 per cent cash dividend, amounting to Dh229.602 million, and stock dividends at a rate of one share to every four held. The 25 per cent stock dividend issue will take the capital of the group up to Dh1.435 billion.

Of the group's total net profit announced, Dh430.7 million was attributable to Emirates Bank alone, which was again around 12 per cent more than that of the previous year.

The earnings per share (EPS) of the group went up marginally from Dh1.22 to Dh1.33 for 2003. While the interest income improved marginally from Dh931.49 million to Dh943.79 3 million, the interest income dropped from Dh323.75 million to Dh275.43 million.

There was a 10.5 per cent growth in the total income of the bank when it increased from Dh996.46 million to Dh1.101 billion during this period.

Total assets grew from Dh27.198 billion to Dh31.87 billion.

ENERGY FUND

The Emirates National Oil Co (Enoc) has unveiled an ambitious plan to set up a $50 million energy fund to provide petroleum products to the UAE industrial sector, as part of its long-term strategy to boost the country's economic diversification drive, the Opecna Bulletin said.

UAE TRADING FUND

Driven by bullish prospects for mutual funds, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) launched its new UAE Trading Fund, expecting it to grow to Dh250-300 million by the end of this year.

AL HABTOOR

The Al Habtoor Group is investing Dh1.8 billion in various projects, including hotels, buildings and facilities in the UAE and Lebanon, according to the group's top official.

The group is investing Dh450 million in a new project, the Metropolitan Beach Resorts and Towers, involving the construction of two towers, a central plaza and related developments, to be connected to an existing resort at Jumeirah Beach on the Dubai Marina.

UAE FILMMAKERS PICK UP TOP AWARDS

UAE filmmaker Waleed Al Shehhi won the prize for the best fiction film at the Third Emirates Film Competition.

Al Shehhi's Aushba's Well, a 17-minute production, which explores the boundary between reality and dream, won a prize of Dh15,000.

Best fiction in the student category went to the introspective On The Pavement Of The Soul by UAE University's Amjad Abu Alala, while The Champ by Yousef Ibrahim and The Only Way Out by Haifa Al Mansour of Saudi Arabia shared the prize for the best screenplay.

JAPAN FIRM WINS QATAR SHELL GTL CONTRACT

A Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) contract has been awarded by the Qatar Shell GTL affiliate Shell Global Solutions International to JGC Inc of Japan for the onshore design of the $5 billion Gas to Liquids (GTL) project in Qatar.

The contract, which will require almost 500,000 design man hours, will further refine the design of the onshore GTL plant in preparation for the implementation phase.

JGC will execute the majority of the work at the MW Kellogg office in Greenford, North West London.

ZAMIL STEEL

Zamil Steel has unveiled a new five-year plan under which it seeks to cement its recent gains in profitability.

"Zamil Steel will be bigger, stronger and more profitable over the next five years as part of a five-year strategic plan," said President Khalid Al Zamil at the company's annual sales conference in Cairo.

IRAQ GOVERNING COUNCIL SIGNS LANDMARK STATUTE

Iraq's Governing Council signed an interim constitution after weeks of wrangling in a key step towards the June 30 launch of a sovereign government, but the country's top Shiite cleric refused to endorse it.

Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani said in a statement the interim charter would make it harder for Iraq to agree on a permanent constitution, a crucial foundation for democracy.

Iraq's US governor, Paul Bremer, hailed the agreement and noted the difficulties it had faced.

"We are witnessing the birth of democracy and birth is painful, as we've learned over the last few evenings," he told the council. "Not everyone got everything they wanted in this law that's the way of democracy."

 

 

ARAB STOCKS HAVE BUMPER YEAR

Arab stock investors netted a staggering $153 billion in profits last year and the bulk of the wealth was made in the UAE and other Gulf states, according to official statistics.

From $208.8 billion at the end of 2002, the market capitalisation of the Arab world's 14 formal bourses leapt to $361.8 billion at the end of last year, showed figures by the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), the Arab League's financial arm.

Saudi Arabia, which has by far the busiest stock market in the Middle East, grabbed the biggest part of the cake, with the capitalisation of its companies more than doubling to around $157.3 billion at the end of last year, nearly 44 per cent of the total.

In the UAE, both bourses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai recorded big leaps, with the market value of their listed companies peaking at nearly $44.6 billion, the third biggest stock market in the Arab world after those of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Kuwait's capitalisation surged by nearly $25 billion while Qatar's burgeoning Doha market jumped by a staggering 260 per cent to a record $26.7 billion.

UNB SEEKS TO BECOME TOP QUALITY BANK

Union National Bank (UNB) will complete upgrading all its branches over the next one to two years, offering customers advanced facilities, said the bank's chief.

The bank's Khalidiya branch in Abu Dhabi moved to new premises and was opened by Ahmed Saeed Al Badi, board member.

TIME IS RIPE TO LIBERALISE TELECOM SECTOR IN QATAR

The authorities in Qatar need to open up the telecommunications sector for competition in order to complement the country's extraordinary economic achievements. Qatar has reportedly registered as much as eight per cent real gross domestic product growth rate last year, the highest in the region. Additionally, Qatar is reaping the fruits of opening up its gas industry to foreign competition.

Thanks to the efforts of global energy firms, Qatar could emerge as the world's leading exporter of LNG by 2008 by producing as much as 36 million tonnes.