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