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Credit Ratings for Private Companies in Dubai

Dubai is likely to make credit rating mandatory for the private sector companies if the current plan materialises, a government official said.

About 75 per cent of Dubai's 80,000 private sector establishments have been brought under a credit rating mechanism by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and French credit insurer, Coface.

"We are working on a set of proposals to submit to the board that might make credit rating mandatory to all companies registered in Dubai," Mariam M. Al Serkal, Credit Rating Unit team leader at the DCCI, told Gulf News yesterday.

"This proposal might be submitted later this year, although, we are currently working on expanding the network.

"More than 5,000 companies within Dubai's free zones have been brought under the scheme while we are moving ahead towards bringing others into the mechanism."

Private companies in the UAE are not required to declare financials, assets and liabilities, making it difficult for others to measure risks.(via Gulf News)

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Customer Loyalty Solutions in UAE

Loyalty and incentive solution provider Vice Versa International FZ-LLC has entered the UAE market with an innovative and cost effective product.

The new solution enables retailers to run smart chip card programmes entirely independently of any existing retail application, said the company.

Vice Versa International’s unique ‘Plug & Play’ solution runs on a SQL server database platform, and utilises cards based on the latest available smart chip technology.

“Many retailers can see the potential benefits of a customer incentive or loyalty programme but face potential barriers in implementing one such as cost, resources, incompatibility with existing retail application software and concerns of potential programme abuse, ” said Martin Wennergren, IT manager.

Vice Versa’s application of smart chip technology now makes it possible for retailers of all sizes to run sophisticated and secure loyalty programmes. The maturation of smart chip technology now recognised by major banks globally and in the UAE as the most secure way of managing card data, has enabled the company to develop a unique incentive and loyalty solution featuring a secure instant reward and redemption facility. The solution was developed in conjunction with a European smart chip solution provider and has been applied in a range of retail environments, he said.

“The instant reward and redemption feature is extremely simple and appealing to the card user – which is why we set out to develop the solution like this. We believe that if it has a genuine appeal to the card user, it will be the most effective programme for the retailer too,” Wennergren added.

All a retailer has to do is plug a terminal into an existing phone line to run a programme entirely independently. The rest is taken care of by Vice Versa International at its Dubai Internet City headquarters – in effect, completely outsourcing the customer relationship solution. Retailers can choose the extent of services they require from Vice Versa International, making the entry level cost effective, enabling even smaller retailers to run a smart chip programme.

The loyalty terminals send each outlet’s data to the Vice Versa data centre as a batch process. The SQL server database platform enables the effective processing and reporting of data from large network of terminals. Retailers can choose to receive raw data, or analysed data in the form of a user friendly report accessible from anywhere via Vice Versa International’s extranet service. This data can be utilised by a retailer’s CRM or marketing partner or alternatively, by Vice Versa International, using their own basic CRM product. -(TradeArabia News Service)

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Bank of Sharjah - 20pc dividend

Bank of Sharjah's (BoS) board of directors will propose a 20 per cent cash dividend equivalent to Dh250 million ($68 million) to shareholders at the bank's General Assembly on February 10.

For the financial year ending December 31, Bank of Sharjah generated net profits of Dh320 million plus an increase of Dh62 million in shareholder equity due to cumulative changes in the fair value of investments.

The bank's total profits of Dh382 million represent a 23 per cent increase over 2005's profits of Dh310 million, without taking into account exceptional profits of Dh292 million in 2005.

The increase in net interest for 2006 was Dh171.4 million, up 13 per cent from Dh151.9 million in 2005. Net core banking income reached Dh262.4 million, up 11 per cent from Dh237.2 million in 2005.

Total assets grew by 31 per cent, from Dh5.749 billion on December 31, 2005 to Dh7.627 billion on December 31, 2006.

Total loans and advances increased 50 per cent, from Dh2.502 billion in 2005 to Dh3.757 billion last year. Customer deposits shot up 30 per cent, from Dh3.720 billion in December 2005 to Dh4.846 billion in December 2006.

Shareholder equity, factoring in the proposed cash dividend, increased Dh175 million or nine per cent, from Dh1.921 billion in 2005 to Dh2.096 billion in 2006.

"The bank was able to achieve excellent results in 2006 for both profitability and growth across its balance sheet despite the challenges posed by the local and regional financial markets," said general manager of Bank of Sharjah. Varouj Nerguizian.

Established in 1973, Bank of Sharjah is the largest financial institution in Sharjah in terms of capital and equity. It has three branches in the UAE: Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.(TradeArabia News Service)

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Franchising in Middle East -High Growth Sector

The franchise industry in the MENA region is now worth around $14bn and is growing at a rate of about 27% per year according to International Expo Consults. The firm is organizing the Franchising Middle East event in Dubai from March 7-9. The IEC said the retail sector is now the fourth biggest contributor to the UAE's GDP. via ameinfo.com
"Currently, franchising companies and their franchisees account for $1 trillion in annual U.S. retail sales in 320,000 franchised small businesses in 75 industries. Markets outside U.S. borders represent new avenues of opportunity for franchisors with visions of expansion. While in the U.S., Canada and part of Western Europe franchising has reached domestic market saturation, emerging markets remain relatively untapped." www.franchisingme.com
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Businesswomen in Dubai join 3iC

3iC Group, an international investment firm, is set to launch Dubai Growth Fund Enmaa', a Dh367 million ($100 million) Sharia-compliant open-ended public fund, a statement said yesterday.

The minimum investment amount per customer is $1,000. 3iC Group is licensed by the Financial Services Commission of the British Virgin Islands with operations in Malaysia and the US, is the sponsor and manager of Enmaa'.

Dubai Businesswomen Council, a division of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) is teaming up with 3iC Group, to launch Enmaa' Class A shares.

The fund will primarily invest in high growth equities and pre-IPO opportunities in the Middle East and selected international markets following the Dow Jones Islamic Indexes criteria.

Emirates Islamic Bank has agreed to become the receiving bank while HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd is custodian and administrator of the fund.

The National Investor (TNI), a leading UAE asset manager based in Abu Dhabi, has been retained to become the portfolio manager.

Raja Eisa Al Gurg, president of Dubai Business Women's Council and co-sponsor of Enmaa', said yesterday, "Finally, there is a Sharia-compliant public fund that really caters to the average investor and we see it as a great tool to empower women investors".

Akram Yosri, managing partner 3iC Group and sponsor of Enmaa' added: "We are honoured to have the Dubai Business Women's Council as co-sponsor of Enmaa' and we hope that this will be the beginning of a serious programme to empower women investors not only in the UAE but throughout the region as well."

Subscriptions to shares of Enmaa' will open today at all Emirates Islamic Bank branches nationwide.

UAE women nationals and residents should contact the Dubai Business Women's Council to receive a letter, which should be presented to the bank to obtain the 2.5 per cent discount.(via Gulf News)

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New UAE Industrial Law

The UAE will issue a new legislation to regulate its industries soon, according to a cabinet minister.

The new law has already been drafted and will be submitted to the legislative panel at the Ministry of Justice, Dr Mohammad Khalfan Bin Kharbash, Minister of State for Finance and Industrial Affairs, was quoted as saying in a Gulf News report.

Bin Kharbash said the UAE economy would post a 7 per cent growth in 2007, buoyed by a strong performance in the service and industry sectors last year.

"In 2006, the growth rate was estimated at eight per cent while the annual average in the past seven years touched 7.7 per cent, making the UAE economy the second largest in the Arab world," he said.

The gross domestic product for 2006, he added, had grown by nine per cent.
(via Trade Arabia News Service) end post

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Ras Al Khaimah hosting Tourism Conference

Ras Al Khaimah will be hosting a two-day conference which will focus on the investment opportunities unfolding in the tourism destinations of the Middle East.

The 'Ras Al Khaimah Conference 2007', to be held from February 12 to 13 at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah, is being organised by the business weekly Meed in association with the Investment & Development Office (IDO) of Ras Al Khaimah.

Around 175 policy-makers, investors, consultants, chief executives and facilitators from a wide spectrum of businesses world over are expected to attend the conference, which is also supported by Amana, CTC, Metito, Rasmala Investments and Saraya Islands.

Crown Prince and deputy ruler of Ras Al Khaimah Shaikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, under whose patronage the conference is being held, will deliver the keynote address outlining the vision that propels the rapid growth being witnessed by the emirate, according to the organisers.

Reflecting the vibrant investment scenario in the emirate and the spurt of interest in its ambitious development drive among regional and international businesses, the conference will focus on the theme of 'Major New Project Opportunities in Ras Al Khaimah', said a senior official.

The seven sessions following the keynote address will be dedicated to presentations and discussions on the various aspects of business and investment; tourism; education and healthcare; real estate; port, logistics and free zones; manufacturing; and energy and petrochemicals. A panel of 30 high profile investors and senior business leaders will lead these sessions.

Meed conferences is providing their pre-event networking facility to delegates. This will help delegates arrange for business meetings and network with other participants well in advance.

Senior executives from various local and international establishments like RAK Properties, Al Mal Capital, Rasmala Investments, Hilton International, Rotana Hotels, Abraaj Capital, AC Nielsen, Al Tamimi & Company, EDAW Australia, George Mason University, KGL Ports International, RAK Airways, RAK Ceramics, RAKGAS, Standard Chartered Bank, Tufts University, Methodist International and Khoie Group have confirmed their representation at the Conference.

Speakers at the conference include Engr Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman, RAK Civil Aviation; Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO, MashreqBank; Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Hagbani, Secretary General, Gulf Petrochemicals Association; Nicholas MacLean, MD, CB Richard Ellis; Kito de Boer, Managing Director Middle East, McKinsey & Company; and Ali Kolaghassi, Vice Chairman & CEO, Saraya Holdings.(via TradeArabia News Service)

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Abu Dhabi to set up Gas Distribution Network

Abu Dhabi is embarking an ambitious plan to establish a vast natural gas distribution network across the emirate, officials said yesterday. "The big picture of the project involves providing natural gas for residential buildings to replace liquified petroleum gas (LPG), and to make it the primary source of energy for the industrial establishments, as well as expanding the network of natural gas refilling stations for motor vehicles," an official at Adnoc distribution told Gulf News.

The work on the residential pipeline network will begin by mid-2008, with several gas stations planned to complement the existing two at Mussafah and near Port Zayed.
"Further, the developers of Al Reem island are installing a natural gas pipeline network that will be connected to our grid as soon as it is accomplished," the official added.

Adnoc distribution provides natural gas to ten major customers at the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD I), and is working now on a major project to supply Emirates Steel with its needs. The company is looking as well to provide the gas to at least 20 major customers in ICAD II. "The work will start this year to construct a gas network to cover all of ICAD II, including all the big industries such as ceramics, glassware, chemicals, and so forth," he said.

The industrial areas get the supply from the Mussafah station which receives the gas from Maqtaa through a sub-sea pipeline. However, Adnoc plans to expand the sources of natural gas with the commencement of the Dolphin project.
"Though the main source will be developing more facilities in Habshan," the source added, explaining that "the pipeline network will be extended remarkably with the new line passing through the city adjacent to the sub-sea line creating a loop all the way round."(via Gulf News)

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Bahrain issues 236 new industrial licences

Bahrain's industrial sector is booming with a bumper crop of new licences. 'A record 236 initial industrial licences were issued last year, generating a potential windfall of investment and jobs,' Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro said in a report submitted to yesterday's Cabinet.

If finalised, they will secure Bahrain investments averaging BD610 million and create 8,323 jobs for Bahrainis, he told the session chaired by Deputy Premier Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa at Gudaibiya Palace.

A first batch of 119 industrial licences has already been approved, securing Bahrain investments worth BD277 million and 5,931 opportunities for Bahraini job-seekers.
While hailing achievements as testimony to its successful policies, the government reiterated its resolve to offer further incentives and woo foreign investors to set up projects in Bahrain.

It also stressed the importance of earmarking more industrial zones and exploring alternative sources to natural gas. The ministerial committee for public facilities has been commissioned to ensure the necessary follow up.-(via TradeArabia News Service)

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Cisco - New solutions for Real Estate and Facility Management

Cisco, a leader in networking for the Internet, today launched TREC, a comprehensive suite of solutions, in Dubai. The suite is designed to address increasing demand for intelligence in network infrastructure from the tourism, real estate and construction sectors.

"As part of Cisco's commitment to the region, we have chosen Dubai to launch the TREC," said Samer Alkharrat, Cisco's Gulf general manager."Dubai is witnessing an unprecedented boom and it is estimated that 15-25 percent of the world's cranes can be currently found in Dubai. TREC is an ideal solution to support the industry in overcoming the challenges relating to employee productivity, legacy communications systems, energy costs, and lost revenue streams."

The TREC framework is based upon the convergence of network infrastructure and building systems onto a single Internet Protocol (IP) environment. It harnesses the power of IP to transform building construction and management.

Amr Salem, manager of real estate vertical at Cisco, said: "For property owners, there is an incremental multiplier effect as more properties are connected together. Networked buildings can be linked together into a connected portfolio. The open standards-based building infrastructure encourages a centralised approach to monitoring, maintenance and control of the building environment, where building control systems across all properties can be controlled from a single place."
He added: "TREC will bring huge financial and operational advantages not only to the construction, real estate and property services industries but also to downstream constituencies – such as hotel operators, multiplexed retail outlets, and corporate tenants – in sectors as diverse as leisure, healthcare, education and retail finance."

Through TREC, Cisco will automatically and securely connect building owners and tenants to innovative amenities, applications and features that allow people to do things, better, faster and cheaper. "Tenants benefit from differentiated bulk services – such as broadband – with lower costs and higher service levels. Additionally, real savings to tenants include reduced IT resource requirements, cheaper communications costs, faster service delivery, simplified partner management, and greater control over their environment," Salem said. -(TradeArabia News Service)

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UAE Companies to Rasie $4.2b Finances

A report by the Deutsche Bank has revealed that UAE based companies are likely to raise around $4.2bn via the markets this year, according to Emirates Today. It is estimated about $3.1bn of this will come from IPOs and the rest via rights issues. Companies raised $10.1bn in 2005 but generated less than a third of this last year as the markets slumped. (via ameinfo.com)

A trend towards regulated use of markets and sophisticated finance avenues. The previous years crash turned out to be positive as it allowed the infant market to watch and regulate its leaps of growth.
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Arab Business Intelligence Report

DUBAI, 24 November 2006 — The second edition of the Arab Business Intelligence Report (ABIR II) will be released at the Arab Strategy Forum from Dec. 4-6 in Dubai, it was announced yesterday. More than 550 top business leaders from across the Arab world have participated in the ABIR II, an increase from the 140 of its first edition, as a result of the renewed partnership between Moutamarat and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report is the most comprehensive analysis of business opinion in the region and is rapidly becoming the most authoritative indicator of trend lines and future business direction.

Arab News - 24/11/2006

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Rising Costs hurt UAE Real Estate Contractors

The country's contractors may suffer this year because of rising raw material prices, industry sources said.

Aamer Kannan, General Manager of Global Resources, a construction raw material trading company, said that his company warned contractors last month that the prices of most raw materials will increase in the beginning of 2007 by 10 to 15 per cent.

"We advised them to reevaluate their new project contracts in line with the expected change in prices," he added. "The new expected increments go to factors like the increase in insurance, transportation and the increase in the global prices."
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Custom Tariffs Reinforced - Steel & Lumber

Steel prices increased by 7 per cent to 10 per cent last week, while lumber prices held steady with a few exceptions.

"The main reason for that increase goes to the Customs Department's reintroduction of the 5 per cent tariff on imported steel that was cancelled for the last two years," said Ebrahim Al Rahmani, Chairman of Al Rahmani General Trading. He said the tariff was postponed for two years to help control inflation in the raw material prices that was affecting the property market. No additional tariffs had been applied to imports of steel from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the other GCC countries.

Kannan said that prices of Turkish steel varied between Dh1,950 and D1,990 per tonne, but increased to between Dh2,150 and Dh2,180 per tonne. Qatari steel stabilised between Dh2,100 and Dh2,150 per tonne.

Nora Rahmani, General Manager of Pacific, a Sharjah-based raw material trading company, said that prices of some brands of lumber are expected to increase by five to ten per cent.
(via Gulf News)

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Barclays Wealth Unit in Dubai

Barclays Wealth Intermediaries & Corporates, a division of Barclays Wealth, formally launched to the offshore corporate market yesterday in Dubai.

The event was hosted by managing director Peter Horrell and local associate director Richard Corrigan at the Al Bawardi Polo Ground.
Barclays Wealth serves affluent, high net worth and intermediary clients worldwide, providing international and private banking, investment management, financial planning and brokerage.

Part of the Barclays Group, one of the largest financial services companies in the world by market capitalisation, it works closely with all parts of the group to leverage synergies from client relationship and product capabilities.

The Intermediaries & Corporates business, headed by Peter Horrell, is a key part of the Barclays Wealth division. It provides financial advice, products and services to Wealth Intermediaries and Corporates seeking offshore/cross border banking and has more than 30 years of dedicated offshore banking experience. Currently the business has 50,000 organisations banking with it, with assets under management of approximately £12 billion ($23.7 billion).

Barclays Wealth Intermediaries & Corporates offers safety and security of funds, backed up by exceptional credit ratings from Standard and Poors.
Horrell said: “We have launched in Dubai with a local dedicated team in place. We are a bank that specialises in offshore structures and non-resident, non-domiciled businesses. We have created an understanding of complex tax structures and the role of offshore centres in tax planning and risk management and the ways in which we can provide comprehensive financial services to the professional market in this space.”
“The launch of the business in Dubai is very significant for the corporate market based here that have offshore or cross border banking requirements,” he added.

A central part of the Barclays Wealth Intermediaries & Corporates offering is providing multi-jurisdictional banking, where clients have access to any one of the eight geographically based sales teams that make up the business. The teams are in Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Knightsbridge International (London), Gibraltar, Cyprus, Hong Kong and Geneva. There is also a presence in South Africa and plans to launch a sales team in Singapore in early 2007. -(via TradeArabia News Service)

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Business Bay offering 4.2m sq ft Commercial Space

Dubai Properties said its master development Business Bay would offer more than 4.2 million sq ft by 2010.

Between 2007 and 2010, Dubai Properties expects to deliver seven commercial projects including the Vision Tower, Aspect Tower, Porsche Design Towers, Signature Towers and several other mixed use buildings within commercial developments that will be announced in the coming few months.

Business Bay business development director Shahab Lutfi said: “The excellent economic growth experienced by the GCC market in the past two years has led to a higher demand for office space, particularly from businesses attracted by Dubai’s productive and highly liquid market, and small and medium sized companies on the threshold of expansion.

“While supply is increasing, it is not increasing fast enough to meet the demand. Consequently, the cost of leasing office space has increased substantially in the past two years in particular.

“This has forced some companies to look elsewhere for office accommodation, either in other emirates or other commercial centres in the region.”
Lutfi said it is important that Business Bay ensures quick market entry by speed of delivery of new projects to match market demand and expectation.

According to recent surveys, there is currently 14 million sq ft of commercial office space in Dubai, and a further 26 million sq ft is expected to enter the market through various projects in the pipeline, including Business Bay.
Business Bay is a master development by Dubai Properties located between Sheikh Zayed Road and Al Khail Road. Business Bay offers waterfront high-rise towers, both commercial and residential, along the extension of the Creek.
It is being developed along the lines of Manhattan of New York or the Ginza of Tokyo, to provide the best possible commercial environment to world-class companies, investors and businesses.

Dubai Properties is a member of Dubai Holding and operates with the express aim of conceiving unique communities that add value for the customer and contribute towards the growth of Dubai.
The portfolio of projects handled by Dubai Properties is diverse and represents the highest quality of real estate in the region.
Dubai Properties offers mixed-use master developments catering to diverse lifestyles including Jumeirah Beach Residence, Business Bay, The Villa, Culture Village, Tijara Town, and Mudon. Dubai Properties also offers premium retail opportunities with The Walk at JBR and Bay Avenue at Business Bay.
Offering a unique lifestyle, Business Bay is a mixed-use freehold development in the heart of Dubai, featuring a place for people to work, enjoy and live an enviable lifestyle.

Valued at Dh110 billion, Business Bay covers an area of 64 million square feet. Developed along the lines of Manhattan of New York or the Ginza of Tokyo, Business Bay will provide the best possible commercial environment to regional and international companies, investors and multinational businesses.
Located between Ras Al Khor and Sheikh Zayed Road, this freehold master development covers an area of 80 million square feet.

Business Bay will offer world-class infrastructure, design, urban planning, architecture and perfect environmental balance.
It is one of the few developments that offer freehold office towers at the emerging centre of Dubai's new business district along the new creek.(TradeArabia News Service)

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Leaders Urged to focus on Changing Climate

Global leaders have been urged to make progress on resolving climate change and restart the Doha round of global trade negotiations. The call went out at the opening of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2007 in Davos, Switzerland.

The Annual Meeting co-chairs joined founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum Professor Klaus Schwab in urging participants to confront "The Shifting Power Equation" and use the five-day meeting to shape the 2007 global agenda.

Some 2,400 participants from 90 countries are participating in the Annual Meeting 2007, including 24 heads of state or government, 85 cabinet ministers, religious and media leaders, and heads of non-governmental organisations

Around 50 per cent of the participants are business leaders drawn principally from the Forum's membership - 1,000 of the foremost companies from around the world and across all economic sectors.

"In some ways, we are living in a schizophrenic world. On the one hand, we have an economy that is doing well and the prospects for this year are very promising; on the other hand, we have so many underlying imbalances, inconsistencies, weaknesses and fragilities," said Professor Schwab.(TradeArabia News Service)

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Bahrain to review Real Estate Boom

The first forum on real estate investment in GCC countries due to be held in Manama on February 7 will review the sector's current boom and future prospects.

The gathering will be organised by the General Secretariat of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry's Union and the BCCI in co-operation with several GCC real estate companies, funding establishments and government bodies, said a report in our sister publication the Gulf Daily News.

It aims to study factors behind the real estate boom in GCC countries, analyse future prospects, explore means of averting problems hindering the sector's development and provide a favourable atmosphere to maintain such development.

The three-day gathering will review pivotal issues such as the real estate sector's relationship with other sectors like oil, the hazards and basic structures and components leading to the sector's development as well as the role of investors, executors, consumers and agents.

The volume of the real estate market, fair distribution of revenues, competition, cooperation, mergers, the need to protect consumers, foreign investment in the real estate sector, funding and real estate mortgage market are all on the forum's agenda.(TradeArabia News Service)

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EFT units in sale

The Emirates Financial Towers (EFT) has launched the sale of its modern residential units based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

EFT chief executive officer Hani Abu Auida said: “We decided to sell our residential units inside the Emirates Financial Towers to meet the increasing demand of investors in the DIFC realty market.”

Emirates Financial Towers are twin towers consisting of 26 floors of Grade-A office space, retail offices, and residential units.

Coalescing premier commercial and residential space, the architects of the stylish Emirates Financial Towers have presented a unique design that features a distinctive elliptical profile with an embedded transparent Sky Bridge.

The project has an advanced car parking facility, designed by Robotic Parking Systems from the US which is the first of its kind within the Middle East and is planned to contain 1,200 fully automated parking spaces.

The total project budget is Dh600 million ($160 million).

The venture based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is one of many prestigious projects being constructed in Dubai's future financial hub and is being recognised as the signature development of the district. (TradeArabia News Service)

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SAGIA - $80bn Investments

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) is aiming to license investment projects worth more than SR300 billion this year.

The authority will launch two mega economic cities in Tabuk and Eastern Province this year, said a report in Arab News.

Sagia licensed 1,389 joint and foreign projects in 2006 with a total value of SR253 billion, a growth of 25 per cent compared to 2005, said the report quoting from Sagia’s annual report for last year.

It said the agency has opened an office for investors’ services at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh. It has also opened marketing offices in Britain, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore and plans to open five other offices in world capitals to attract investment during the current year

via ameinfo.com

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Dubai sets up Economic Zones World

Dubai World has launched Economic Zones World, a far-reaching enterprise initiative aimed at consolidating its unique strength in the development and management of economic zones and business hubs across the world.

Economic Zones World (EZW) has been created as a single commercial entity to look after Dubai World’s global operations of free zones, special economic zones and activity-specific business and industrial zones.

Economic Zones World’s current group profile includes Dubai’s flagship venture Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), its international arm -- Jafza International, Techno Park and Dubai Auto Zone.

Commenting on the move, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman Dubai World said: “The Economic Zones World is well positioned to carry forward the mandate of Dubai World to bring new dynamism and strength to Dubai’s role as a major economic powerhouse in today’s market-driven world.

“Its creation is a logical step forward in the evolution of Jafza, which is the Middle East’s premier international business hub.

“The launch of Economic Zones World reinforces our policy of thinking big and planning ahead in order to take on future challenges.”

Dubai World, a Dubai Government entity, is rated as one of the world’s largest holding companies.

It was established to continue expanding Dubai’s aggressive growth, domestically and abroad.

Salma Hareb, CEO of Economic Zones World and Jafza, unveiled the logo of the EZW marking the official launch of the new entity.

“The Economic Zones World is aimed at consolidating our inner strengths and resources.

“It is designed to provide the best support systems possible to enable existing businesses and prospective investors to grow without hindrance.

“It will bring new energy to its four subsidiaries, and promote their local and international image as trend-setters. It is a reflection of our commitment to empowering businesses,” said Hareb.

Economic Zones World aims to achieve its aspirations by leveraging its existing strengths. It currently operates Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), its international arm Jafza International, Techno Park and Dubai Auto Zone.

Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), which is one of the largest and fastest-growing free zones in the world, was established in 1985.

Today it is home to about 6,000 companies from 120 countries, and plays a lead role in the burgeoning UAE economy.

Jafza International is the international arm of Jafza, created to manage and operate special economic zones in other countries.

It currently operates free zones in Morocco, Djibouti and Malaysia, and has signed MoUs for developing free zones in Oman, Senegal and South Korea.

Jafza International’s new mandate includes the development of business hubs by equity participation in ownership, wherever expedient.

Techno Park symbolises Dubai's vision to develop a knowledge-based economy.

It has been established to promote high-tech industries to support the country's long-term economic development.

Dubai Auto Zone (DAZ) is an industry specific initiative which aims at developing the Middle East region’s most comprehensive market place for the automotive business, catering to buyers, sellers, service providers, principals and traders alike.

DAZ, a mixed use facility comprising a free zone to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the auto sector, a specialized economic zone to cater to the GCC markets and a retail zone to serve local markets.

EZW aims to capitalise on its highly customer centric Jafza Business Model to expand its operations in strategically important areas worldwide, and, in specific in the emerging economies in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world.

“With its current first-ever position and strong platform, Economic Zones World is all set to achieve long term growth and profitability in its Dubai based and in international operations,” said Salma Hareb

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Air Arabia launching IPO in 1st quarter

Air Arabia has applied to the UAE Ministry of Economy and relevant regulatory authorities for approval to launch an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the first quarter of this year.

The Sharjah-based airline, which began operations in October 2003, will become the first airline in the Gulf region to go public.

Air Arabia chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammad Al Thani said: “We are extremely pleased to announce that Air Arabia has submitted its application to the UAE Ministry of Economy to convert the carrier into a public shareholding company ahead of a planned IPO.

“Upon approval, the airline will launch its IPO.”

He said: “In just over three years since launch, Air Arabia has established itself as one of the region’s great success stories.

“Born in Sharjah and serving a region that stretches across the Middle East, North Africa, Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, Air Arabia has set its sights on reaching even greater heights.”

SHUAA Capital has been appointed the Financial Advisor, Lead Manager and Bookrunner for the IPO.

Having served more than 3.4 million customers since it began operations and currently serving 32 destinations, the company has been profitable since its second year of operations.

Air Arabia chief executive officer Adel Ali said: “The decision to go public was prompted by our desire to increase our equity capital to support our ambitious plans for future growth.

“As well, we are keen for our customers, staff and stakeholders to share in the success of Air Arabia through this IPO.”

He added: “Based on both the individual success of Air Arabia and the growing demand for commercial and leisure travel in the region, we are planning to expand the company’s current operating fleet over the next five years from nine Airbus A320s to a total of 34 aircraft.”

Makram Kubeisy, managing director of SHUAA Capital’s Investment Banking Advisory, said: “We are pleased to be associated with Air Arabia’s IPO, which is a landmark for both the sector and the region.

“We believe that local and regional equity markets are an attractive source for growth capital for companies with a successful track record, such as Air Arabia.

“Indeed, the carrier is financially sound and has a strong management team that has significantly grown the business and profitability in a remarkably short span of time.”

Air Arabia was established in February 2003 by an Amiri decree issued by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qassimi, Ruler of Sharjah and Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE.

The company began operations in October of the same year.

Based in Sharjah and with a fleet of nine Airbus A320 aircraft, Air Arabia serves 32 destinations across the Middle East, North Africa, Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Sudan, Turkey and Yemen.

Air Arabia is modeled after leading American and European low-cost airlines and is customised to local preferences.

Its main focus is to make air travel more convenient through Internet booking and offering the lowest fares in the market without sacrificing on service or safety standards. (TradeArabia News Service)

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Fraser Guide with UAE business tips

Dubai-based legal consultants, Hugh Fraser International, has launched a second edition of its guide, Doing Business in the UAE – Choosing A Legal Structure.

The PDF guide, which can be downloaded free, is an invaluable aid to any business or commercial enterprise considering future expansion in to the UAE.

Foreign businesses can opt for a number of different legal structures when setting up an UAE operation and the guide outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each formation.

Advice on agency laws, employment laws, visa regulations and the advantages and limitations of setting up a Free Zone company in one of Dubai’s Free Zones is also covered.

Other commercial issues, such as insurance, banking arrangements, safeguarding intellectual property and the registration of trademarks, are also highlighted in the guide.

In addition to selecting the most appropriate legal structure, consideration of the necessary licensing rules and procedures must also be undertaken in respect of carrying on business, construction or modification of business premises, and the hiring of expatriate and national personnel.

HFI managing partner, Hugh Fraser, said: “This is an updated edition of our original guide which proved very popular with businesses who are exploring the potential of setting up in the UAE.

“The guide is an informative introduction to the various legal structures which have to be considered when looking to do business in the UAE.

“Our aim is to assist our clients to ensure a quick and trouble free market entry in to this potentially lucrative region and while the guide outlines some basic requirements and areas that need to be considered, we would stress that specific legal advice should be sought.”

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Libya laying off 400,000 Gov. Employees

The Libyan government plans to lay off 400,000 people, or more than a third of its workforce, to try to ease budget pressures and stimulate the private sector, Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali Al Mahmoudi said.

Mahmoudi told the General Peoples Congress or parliament the number of civil servants and state employees had grown excessively to more than one million in recent years and their salaries ate up 4 billion dinars ($3.13 billion) in 2006.

Outlining a 31 billion dinar draft budget for 2007 at the assembly in the town of Sirte, Mahmoudi said those who lost their jobs would receive assistance.

'Each released public employee will be given his full salary for three years or will be granted up to 50,000 dinars in loans for each one who wants to start his own business,' he said in a speech broadcast on national television.

'The objectives of this budget are to increase Libyans' standard living by the rate of 5 per cent during this year and to promote productive activities,' he said without elaborating.

Mahmoudi said he wanted to improve health and education and encourage the private sector to make manufactured goods of sufficient quality to compete with imports.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi regularly scolds the north African Opec member country of 5 million for over-reliance on oil, which is the source of almost all Libya's hard currency earnings.

Gaddafi also says Libyans are too dependent on foreigners and imports of consumer goods.

He is pushing for more economic self-reliance and private sector-friendly reforms to fight an unemployment rate of at least 13 per cent.

The state-dominated economy has long been enfeebled by international sanctions, old-fashioned centralised management, a primitive banking sector, corruption and red tape.

But hopes of change have risen with the revival of diplomatic relations with Washington. In May 2006, the Bush administration said it would restore formal ties with Tripoli as a reward for Libya's scrapping of its weapons of mass destruction programme.

While most US sanctions were lifted in 2004, the revival of formal ties is expected to loosen a remaining web of financial curbs placed on US-Libya investment in the decades of estrangement when the West accused Libya of supporting terrorism.(Reuters)

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Dubai Islamic Bank - Shariah Consultancy

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) will shortly launch the world's first Shariah legal and financial consultancy firm to provide a one-stop centre for solutions to all financial structuring, legal documentation and product development needs of the Islamic finance industry.

The new entity will also carry out research and development and provide Shariah training. In due course, the entity will also undertake Shariah audit and Shariah rating functions.

Announcing the move, Saad Abdul Razak, Group CEO of DIB, said, "With worldwide exponential growth in demand for Islamic financing and investment products, the need for a strong source for providing quality Shariah guidance on a comprehensive basis was greatly felt. By setting up the firm, DIB would like to share its Shariah expertise with any one seeking complete and authentic Shariah guidance. This move will also augment the efforts by Dubai and UAE to become the world's financial hub and to provide the financial market with the necessary tools to develop innovative Islamic financial solutions for the industry."

To ensure high-standard Shariah guidance, the new subsidiary of DIB will be headed by the renowned Shariah scholar and professor of law Dr Hussain Hamid Hassan in the capacity of president. Dr Hussain has been associated with the bank since 1999 in the capacity of Chairman of the Shariah Board of DIB besides many other Islamic financial institutions. He was instrumental in converting a number of conventional financial institutions to Islamic. Dr Hussain holds doctorate in Shariah from Al Azhar, besides a doctorate in the study of comparative law and masters in economics.

"We are indebted to Dr Hussain for accepting the new responsibility and are confident that the market will benefit as immensely as DIB is doing from his strong academic background in Shariah and law and l experience in successfully structuring various innovative capital market and treasury products. This will reinforce DIB's position as a leader and the pioneer in the Islamic financial world," said Saad Abdul Razak. (via MENAFN - Khaleej Times)

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Middle East $57 Billion Investment for Power Generation

British energy expert Neil Walker has said that the power and water infrastructure projects in the GCC countries have witnessed a boom, as these countries have demonstrated sufficient level of stability that developers are now willing to risk capital. Middle East North Africa region will invest $57 billion over the next six years to install new generation capacity.

"This provides opportunities for both local and international firms active in the sector," said Neil Walker in a lecture at the Information Affairs Office (IAO) of Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of Abu Dhabi.

Walker said that there are great privileges in involving both the private and the public sectors in energy generation industry in the states of the region.

He pointed out that in order to keep pace with this high demand, massive investment is required to build and upgrade power plants. He expected that the total investment needed in the sector for the region will be around $200 billion over the next 15 years. Over the next six years, Middle East and North Africa is predicted to spend $57 billion on the installation of new capacity alone, he said. He pointed out that there is an increase in demand for energy in the UAE and in the future it will need to diversify means of power generation to include the renewable resources.

He affirmed that there are a number of pioneering research projects for renewable energy, mentioning the decisions in early December by the high committee of the Gulf Co-operation Council ordering a study into the creation of a joint programme of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. He stated that nuclear power is one of the issues being discussed by various governments including Iran, adding that developing the nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes is very essential as it is clean adding that the nuclear option is not the inevitable solution.

The energy expert stated that while power generation from renewable energy sources is still a fringe activity in the Middle East, the number of pilot projects, hybrid plants and renewable energy research areas are on the increase. Coal and natural gas industries are among the activities recently being developed for power generation.

But he warned that the planned gas and electricity links between the Gulf States threaten to change the existing dynamics, as it will reduce the amount of investment required in new generating plants in each state by creating a means for reserve sharing, and ultimately trading, between states. But the remarkable benefit of the Gulf electricity link is that it will be useful for all. (via - Khaleej Times)

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Bahrain and Qatar in Mega-Joint Ventures

Joint ventures between Bahrain and Qatar in key sectors were discussed at a forum yesterday.
A joint bank and investment company as well as partnerships in the aluminium, glass, real estate and transportation sectors could be created as joint ventures between Bahrain and Qatar, the two-day meeting between Qatari and Bahraini businessmen heard.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro addressed the opening, saying he hoped that businessmen from the two countries would continue to meet regularly.
"Trade relations between the two countries have been improving, with bilateral trade rising form BD17 million in 2000 to BD47 million last year," said Dr Fakhro.
"No doubt the initiative to establish a causeway between the two countries will be an additional incentive for more trade."
Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) president Dr Essam Fakhro said the bank idea would be discussed on the second day of the meeting today.
"We don't yet know what kind of bank it will be. It could be a commercial, real estate or investment bank," he said.
The proposed investment firm would be an umbrella company for all the other projects.
"The other projects would each be independent, with different investors, but they may all exist under the umbrella of this investment company, if it is launched," said Dr Fakhro.
He is leading Bahrain's delegation, while the Qatari group is led by Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Shaikh Khalifa bin Jassim Al Thani.
Shaikh Khalifa said that he had high hopes for boosting trade between Bahrain and Qatar. "The two countries have historical relations and many opportunities ahead of them," he said.
"We hope that the discussions will result in the signing of agreements and become reality."
The meetings are being held at the Gulf Hotel's Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
BCCI industrial committee chairman Sharif Ahmadi said that a proposed aluminium extrusion company was likely to be built in Qatar.
"Bahrain's Balexco (Bahrain Aluminium Extrusion Company) is likely to be involved in the project, because of its experience in the field," he said.
"It will most probably be located in Qatar because they are building an aluminium smelter there and they don't have an extrusion company. They need to develop their downstream industry. Mr Ahmadi said that the location of three other major projects hadn't been finalised yet, but that they would likely be 50-50 joint ventures.
"These include a glass processing factory, a transportation company that will move people and goods between the upcoming Qatari-Bahraini causeway and a real estate investment company," he said.
"The real estate company will likely begin with investing in the Bahraini and Qatari markets and then expand into other markets in the future." -TradeArabia News Service

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Marina West Bahrain On Sale

Marina West, Bahrain's first residential beachfront community to be located on the Kingdom's west coast, has launched sales of the development's luxury freehold apartments, duplexes, simplexes and penthouse suites.
Accelerated ahead of official ground breaking, the launch responds to high demand registered from pre-sales activities undertaken by exclusive sales and leasing agency, Asteco Property Management.
The 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom freehold residences currently available within the 75,000 square metre masterplanned gated community begin at a price of BD47,000 with floor space ranging in size from 92 to 447 square metres.
Owners of the luxury residences which will be set in tranquil and idyllic coastal surrounding will also be able to enjoy a full range of recreation, leisure and entertainment facilities and numerous up market retail outlets.
According to Ahmed Abubaker Janahi, chairman and chief executive officer of AAJ Holdings Company, the company representing Marina West, the development presents a compelling proposition that has gained the serious interest of home seekers.
"We are very encouraged by the interest that has been demonstrated in Marina West and for this reason brought forward our sales launch.
"As a truly unique development Marina West's inherent value is further enhanced by residence and lifestyle benefits associated with the Kingdom and this applies equally to citizens as well as to GCC nationals and expatriates alike."
Andrew Chambers, managing director of Asteco Property Services Company, added:
"Bahrain's robust property market is poised for long-term growth and this has been demonstrated by the strong interest we have registered from our pre-sales activities
"The exciting nature of Marina West certainly promises to delight those who choose to make their home in the community and we expect brisk sales for the first three of the 11 overall luxury towers that go on the market today."
More information on Marina West is available by contacting Asteco Property Management on telephone number +973 17 690808 or by visiting marina-west.com. (TradeArabia News Service)

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Yansab Saudi Expands

The Yanbu National Petrochemical Company (Yansab) complex will add four million tons of petrochemical products to Sabic's total capacity, said Mohamed Al-Mady, Sabic vice chairman & CEO Al-Mady was speaking after an inspection tour of Sabic affiliates Saudi Yanbu Petrochemical Company (Yanpet), the Arabian Industrial Fibers Company (Ibn Rushd), the National Gas Industrial Gases (Gas) and construction works at Yansab.

Al-Mady, with other senior officials, inspected the progress of works at the Yansab construction site which is expected to be completed before the end of this year. The complex is scheduled to go on-stream and begin commercial production next year.
Al-Mady said Yansab's output will include 1.3 million tons of ethylene, 400,000 tonnes of propylene, 900,000 tonnes of polyethylene, 400,000 tons of polypropylene, 770,000 tonnes of ethylene glycol, in addition to 250,000 tonnes of benzene, xylene and toluene mixtures, and 100,000 tonne of (butene-1), (butene-2). -(TradeArabia News Service)

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UAE 5-year Bonds in March

The UAE central bank plans to issue bonds with maturities of up to five years in March to manage liquidity and create a benchmark for longer-term loans, the central bank governor said.
The UAE central bank now only issues certificates of deposit with maturities up to 18 months.
"The purpose is to soak up liquidity and establish a trend and a benchmark for those who want to grant longer term loans," Sultan bin Nasser al-Suweidi told Reuters in an interview. He gave no details of the size of the issue. (Reuters)
endpost.

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Business Incubators for Bahrain

A network of business incubators is to be created across Bahrain, to spur new enterprises. The Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) is to set up new incubators in Hamad Town and Isa Town, it announced yesterday.
It is also expanding its existing incubator in Hidd, creating more than 1,800 new jobs. The BDB is also planning to create a venture capital bank, to finance new projects. Work on the Hamad Town and Isa Town incubators will begin as soon the bank gets the necessary land, said general manager Nedhal Al Aujan.
He expected work to start on the Hamad Town incubator this year, on a 64,000-sq-m plot.
The BD8 million expansion at Hidd will add about 210 units and 25,000 sq m to the existing 39 units, which cover an area of 5,000sq m.
The expansion also includes the BDB Enterprise Centre, which will offer facilities suitable for manufacturing.
These will be used by small and medium-sized businesses to launch their operations quickly and efficiently, said Al Aujan. -(TradeArabia News Service)

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Abu Dhabi Nationa Energy Co Bonds

Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) will sell a 300 million sterling bond in the third quarter to finance its purchase of North Sea assets from Talisman Energy, the chief executive said.
The bond will be part of the company's $9.5 billion euro medium-term note programme, Peter Barker-Homek told Reuters by telephone from London on Thursday. Abu Dhabi National Energy said earlier one of its units had agreed to buy North Sea oil properties and assets from Canada's Talisman for $550 million.-(Reuters)
endpost.

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World Exchange Congress in Dubai

Key players in the global financial markets will be taking part in the World Exchange Congress 2007.
The conference, organised by Terrapinn, is set to take place at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai from March 26 to 28.
"The World Exchange Congress is the CEO level strategy conference for the global exchange industry. With representation from all the world's regions and from all stakeholders, this event is where agendas are created, partnerships are formed and business is done," said managing director for World Exchange Congress, Terrapinn, Sean Willis.
"Last year saw the official opening of the Dubai International Financial Exchange, which is going to drive increased regulation and create greater interest from global markets in the region," he added.
"Although the regional stock market performance experienced significant losses in the past 12 months, the coming year is expected to see increased stability driven by more regulation, transparency and standards.
"The World Exchange Congress will feature speakers with expertise from some of the world's leading financial markets, to share their experiences and discuss the challenges the industry expects to face."
Keynote speakers from both Euronext and the London Stock Exchange will present their perspective on strategies for growth in an environment of disruptive change.
Their insight will include examining global growth trends, implications of exchanges losing their monopoly on market data and responding to change in the shapes of mergers, alliances, joint ventures and partnerships.
High-profile speakers will include representation from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the European Commission, Merrill Lynch Financial Centre, Nasdaq, Bombay Stock Exchange and the Cairo & Alexandria Stock Exchanges. The conference agenda will cover a range of topics including Disruptive regulation, Investment banks, exchange technology and brand management.
World Exchange Congress 2006 is organised by Terrapinn, organisers of the Hedge Funds World series of events. The conference is sponsored by Millenium Information Technologies and OMX Group. (TradeArabia News Service)

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Adobe RoboHelp 6 released

Adobe Systems announced Adobe RoboHelp 6, a complete, flexible and user-friendly system to create, manage and publish software help systems, knowledge bases anddocumentation for desktop and Web-based applications.
As a key element of Adobe's technical communications product line-up, which includesAdobe FrameMaker, Adobe Captivateand Adobe Acrobat, RoboHelp 6 provides all the desktop functionality that authors need to create advanced Help content, including table of contents, index, glossary, graphics, special effects and context-sensitive Help.
Adobe RoboHelp Server 6, also introduced today, provides powerful server features that ensure the delivery of up-to-date online content, with real-time tracking of how end-users engage with the help system that provides valuable feedback to Help publishers.
"Adobe RoboHelp 6 is a major release and a key milestone in the product's 15-year history," said Don Walker, senior director of product marketing and business development at Adobe.
"RoboHelp 6 strongly reinforces Adobe's commitment to the technical communicationsmarket, giving authors what they need to easily develop, manage and maintain intuitive software help systems and knowledge bases."
"RoboHelp has consistently led the market for the past decade, providing superior usability and productivity," said Ron Linyard, president and CEO of Unwired Software and former VP of Engineering for eHelp.
"The software is compatible with a host of formats and leverages the benefits of other Adobe products to give users a richer experience than other tools provide."
With this release, Adobe has consolidated the Adobe RoboHelp product family into two simple and powerful choices -- Adobe RoboHelp 6 for authoring and Adobe RoboHelp 6 Server for the delivery of online content.
Users of RoboHelp 6 also benefit from the integration of Adobe Captivate 2 for improved workflow and more engaging content with simulations and demonstrations.
In addition, users can automate the building of their help at a predetermined time using command line compilation. Conditional Table of Contents (TOC) allows for greatercontrol and customisation of table of contents.
With User Defined Variables, changes can be made just once, but seen everywhere in Help.
Updated Adobe RoboSource Control provides an unique source document and version control system for Windows and Web development for both individual users and collaborative teams.
Adobe PDF creation generates support for hyperlinks & bookmarks and enables accessible PDFs.
Built-in RoboScreenCapture means users don't need to invest in a separate application to create and edit screen shots.
RoboHelp Server 6 extends and supports the capabilities of Adobe RoboHelp 6 to provide a complete online Help and Knowledge Base solution.
Authors can easily deploy and manage up-to-date online content, control and monitor the use of Web-based Help systems in real time through a new web-based remote interface, and develop Help systems for use with the Microsoft .NET Framework.
Also, RoboHelp Server 6 includes FlashHelp Pro, a server-based version of FlashHelpand provides connectivity with Oracle and SQL databases, formerly sold separately in the RoboEngine Connectivity Pack.
Adobe RoboHelp 6 gives users more choices to create and publish content.
Users can import a variety of content created in Microsoft Word, Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe PDF, XML and other help projects and then publish the content in popular help formats including FlashHelp, WebHelp, HTML help, WinHelp, HTML, JavaHelp, OracleHelp for Java and even printed documentation output in Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word.
The customisation of content is made easier with conditional text and new features like TOC and user defined variables.
RoboHelp 6 and RoboHelp 6 Server are available for purchase for Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
Support for Windows Vista will be added in 2007.
The estimated street price for Adobe RoboHelp 6 is $999 and $1999 for Adobe RoboHelp 6 Server.
Previous users of RoboHelp and RoboInfo can upgrade to Adobe RoboHelp 6 and RoboHelp Server 6 for an estimated street price of $499 and $999, respectively

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Petra- Jordan News Agency Online

The Jordan News Agency, or Petra, has taken its newspaper online at www.petranet.jo. The site carries local and international news and video streaming, the Jordan Times reported. Initially in Arabic, it will be available in English in a few of months. (via ameinfo.com)
end post

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Middle East $117 Billion to be invested in Water

More than $117 billion is expected to be invested in the Middle Eastern water sector between 2005 and 2015, according to a financial industry expert.

'Governments in the region are paying attention to the mounting need for fresh water, and have increased their investments in the water sector,' said Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Capital strategy and research head Imad Ghandour.

'Around $117 billion is expected to be invested in the Middle East between 2005 and 2015, an increase of 59pc compared with the previous decade's investment,' he said.

Population and economic growth are stretching the supply of fresh water, and making the scarce commodity into an even more critical resource to humanity, a report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper, said.

According to a UN report, a third of the world population will be living in areas experiencing water shortage. Such areas will include parts of the USA, south and east Africa, and vast areas of Asia in addition to the desert areas of the Middle East.

Symptoms of such shortages are already appearing across the globe, and the stress on the water infrastructure has never reached such levels.

Gulf Capital's recent acquisition of 60 per cent of Metito Group, the largest Arab water engineering and concession company, sheds light on how leading financial institutions are positioning themselves to take advantage of the upcoming trend for privatising the water sector in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is the largest market for water and waste water in the region. Nearly $28 billion, 24pc of the region's total, are to be invested in the sector over the next 10 years, of which approximately $6 billion will be allocated for building new desalination water plants.

The UAE, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and many other Middle Eastern countries will be required to invest heavily in their water sector just to keep up with demand and avoid social and economical problems.

'As water assets move from public ownership into private hands, it is expected that competition will evolve into more than the basic commodity of water,' said Ghandour.

'Perfecting the operational management and maintenance of the water assets, reducing waste and non-revenue water, revenue management, and optimising the financial structuring are some of the skills that will be needed to remain competitive over the long term.

'More importantly, local market knowledge and developing solutions and technologies adapted to the local needs will be a necessity to be perfected most likely by a local player with a fully integrated operation.'

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Gulf Countries rising as Exhibition Centers

The exhibition industry in the GCC states has entered a significant “boom and adjustment” period, according to a report released by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

The findings clearly reflect the overall prosperity and modernisation process underway in the region, said officials.

The findings of the UFI study on “The Exhibition Industry in the GCC – Facts and Figures” was released during a Press conference hosted by UFI member, the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Participants at the Press Conference were: UFI president Jochen Witt; UFI Middle East/Africa Chapter chairman Ahmed Humaid Al Mazrouie and Dubai World Trade Centre director-general Helal Saeed Al Marri.

The research for this study on the exhibition industry in the GCC states was conducted by the UFI Middle East/Africa Office in Abu Dhabi.

The number of organised exhibitions continues to increase, while exhibition venues are being enlarged and modernized in order to match rising market needs, says the report.

UFI president Jochen Witt said: “It is clear that the GCC exhibitions market is in a period of significant expansion, demonstrated by the increasing sophistication and economic value of the regional event sector.

“We are delighted to see the emergence of such a health regional exhibitions industry, which will continue to develop international prominence.”

Today 16 exhibition centres are in operation in the GCC states, providing a total net covered exhibition space of 243,300sq.m.

By 2009, four new centres will be operational, raising the GCC’s total available exhibition space to 429,800sq.m, - a 76.6 per cent increase over current capacity.

In 2006, 289 trade fairs were held in the GCC states, an increase of 40 per cent since 2002.

Sixteen new trade fairs and exhibitions will be launched in 2007.

Consumer Goods and Education lead the exhibition themes for which exhibitions are being organised.

“The research report demonstrates the dynamism of the GCC market, which continues to expand at an impressive rate. Ongoing investment and the delivery of new, industry-specific congresses and conferences will enable us to maintain this dynamic growth,” said Ahmed Humaid Al Mazrouie, UFI Middle East/Africa Chapter chairman.

The growth in exhibition surface reflects an adjustment of the venue offer towards the exhibition organiser’s demand.

It echoes the current trend towards the development of city and industrial infrastructures in the region.

It also mirrors government policy encouraging the development and expansion of the private sector and the attraction of foreign investment.

“Membership of UFI has delivered a number of strong benefits for Dubai World Trade Centre, including access to this essential report,” said Dubai World Trade Centre director-general Helal Saeed Al Marri

“The ongoing growth and development of the region’s exhibitions industry offers major opportunities to companies in this sector, which we are all working hard to capitalize upon,” said the director-general.

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, promotes, serves and represents the trade fair and exhibition industry worldwide.

Via its member organisations, including the world's leading show organisers and fairground operators, professional associations and industry partners, UFI is present in 73 countries on 6 continents.

UFI Members are responsible for the management and operation of over 4,500 exhibitions around the world.

Excerpts from the report:

The exhibition industry in the GCC states has entered a significant boom and adjustment period, reflecting the overall prosperity and modernisation process of the region.

The number of organised exhibitions continues to increase, while exhibition venues are being enlarged and modernised, in order to match rising market needs.

This growth in exhibition surface reflects an adjustment of the venue offer towards the exhibition demand.

It echoes the current trend towards the development of city and industrial infrastructures in the region.

It also mirrors the government policy encouraging the development and expansion of the private sector and the attraction of foreign investment.

Some disparities exist however between countries or cities, in terms of market size, investments and expansion.

The GCC exhibition industry is led by the UAE, and in particular Dubai, in terms of exhibition space availability and number of organised events.

This position will be reinforced in the coming years.

Other cities are positioning themselves as newly significant players on the GCC exhibition scene.

These include Abu Dhabi and Doha, which will be equipped with state-of-the-art exhibition venues and which are attracting new events.

Today, 16 exhibition centres are in operation in the GCC states, providing a total net covered exhibition space of 243,300 m2. More than half of this exhibition space is located in the U.A.E. and more than one third in Dubai.

By 2009, four new exhibition centres will be built in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Riyadh, raising the GCC’s total available exhibition space to 429,800 m2.

This represents an increase of 77 per cent. By 2009, the covered exhibition space in the UAE will represent 65 per cent of the total exhibition space available in the GCC, while the sole city of Dubai will represent 47 per cent.

By May 2007, Qatar will quadruple its available exhibition space.

In 2006, 289 trade fairs and exhibitions were held in the GCC states.

Compared to the year 2002, this represents an increase of 40 per cent.

“Education & training” ranks as the second most important business sector for which exhibitions are organized, preceded by Consumer Goods fairs.

Many trade fairs and exhibitions organised in the GCC are related to furniture, housing and building issues.

Dubai is the leading GCC city in terms of number of organized exhibitions for many business sectors.

Sixteen new trade fairs and exhibitions will be launched in 2007.

Sixty-five of these will be held in the UAE, 31 per cent in Abu Dhabi and 25 per cent in Dubai.TradeArabia News Service

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Free Zones essential for GCC Economic Growth

Doha • Economists and local businessmen have stressed the importance of setting up free zones in the country to boost exports and attract Arab and foreign investments.

However, laws on imports need to be reassessed and updated to enhance foreign investors' confidence, especially in view of increased interest in free zones worldwide that currently total over 5000 with some $400 bn worth of trade volume.

The experts and businessmen noted that free zones today represent an important catalyst for increasing exports and gross domestic product, in addition to creating new job opportunities.

They pointed out that free zones enjoy several advantages such as free flow of manufactured goods with no restrictions attached to the origin of the capital in addition to exemption of custom taxes.

Dr Khalid Shams Abdel Qader, Head of the Financial and Economic Department at Qatar University noted that free zones provide a suitable environment for diversifying national resources and speeding up economic development.

Another advantage of free zones is their capacity to attract foreign investments and for transfer of technology, according to Dr Nasser Al Shafi, a well known Qatari economist.

He said that such free zones would help create a strong basis for the country's exports and also create new jobs as well as providing an opportunity for local small and medium size industries to benefit from the expertise of international firms. Free zones reflect the extent to which a country complies with the open economy policies and giving confidence to the foreign investor by implementing those policies on the ground, said Al Shafi.

He stressed the need to reassess all the Qatari laws related to imports which help in opening up the markets to foreign goods and also evaluate whether they suit free zones.

He said that it is important for these laws to be updated to enhance foreign investors' confidence, pointing out that free zones are primarily intended to attract foreign investments and diversify sources of income. The trend is prominently being witnessed in Dubai and United Arab Emirates as well as in Saudi.

Mohammed Nour, a businessman noted that the idea of creating free zones in Qatar was initiated in the 70s but that has yet to materialise, expressing hope to see such zones established in the country since, he said, they indicate the vitality of a country's economy (via Menafn)

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GCC Stocks Look good for Foreign Investments

Middle Eastern stocks, some of which are bottoming out after large falls, look attractive again and foreigners who position now stand to gain as markets mature and open up more to overseas cash, a senior fund manager said.

The region contains markets like Egypt and Morocco -- star performers last year on the Morgan Stanley index of emerging equities -- and Gulf bourses like Saudi Arabia, many of which are closed to non-residents and ended the year down after large shakeouts.

'Valuations now are no longer extended compared to other emerging markets...from a historical point of view they are the cheapest they have been for a long time.' said Oliver Bell, chief investment manager at Pictet's $7.8 billion Global Emerging markets fund.

'I understand there is a chance they will open up to foreign investment sooner than everyone realises. It's a question of timing -- you could get caught flat-footed if you don't start looking at them now,' Bell added.

He sees little danger of another equity bubble developing, similar to the situation in 2005-2006 when millions of retail investors poured their money into soaring markets only to see their savings evaporate a few months later.

'As the market becomes cheap again it's always the foreign investors who come in first and then as confidence returns, local money comes back in,' Bell said. 'I can't imagine those who were hurt so badly so recently are going to come back...I don't think the market really will run away from us very quickly.'

But high oil prices, the factor that fuelled booming growth and huge current account surpluses, are still a factor and will not fall below $40 a barrel soon, he said.

Non-oil producers like Jordan are also benefiting, due to investments, tourism and expatriate workers' remittances.

'They are investing in their own countries and putting in infrastructure which in the past they did not do. Therefore what you see are the offshoots, you see companies rising in the foreseeable future as a consequence of that,' Bell said, citing banking and infrastructure firms across the region.

The downside is Gulf equity markets are not included in the MSCI index, often required for Western institutional investors. That may change if restrictions on foreign investors are lifted.

And at present a large instutitional investor does not have much opportunity for sector diversification as petchems, banking and telecoms dominate the bourses, Bell acknowledges.

For now he has $500 million invested into his overweights such as Egypt and is conducting due diligence on markets like Jordan and Oman. And until Gulf markets open up, he says he is getting exposure to them via select Egyptian stocks.

He likes Orascom, the Egyptian telecom, financial and tourism conglomerate.

Bell acknowledges risks are high -- reliance on a single commodity and constant geopolitical tensions that last year erupted in an Israel-Hizbullah war, and continue to simmer in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. Islamic fundamentalist groups also pose a threat, especially in regional giant Saudi Arabia.

But he cites Israel as a case where markets outperformed despite geopolitical risks. Iran and Iraq are problematic but tensions are unlikely to spill over yet, he believes.

'One aspect of investing in these markets is that it's all oil-related money, so if oil does fall below $40, these markets will go with it,' he said. 'But from my point of view it's only when oil goes below $40 that one needs to start worrying.' Reuters

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GCC Retail Fast Growth

The organised retail space in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries will top six million square metres by 2007, says a study by Retail International, an independent retail consultancy offering specialist professional services to the industry.

The findings were published in Retail International’s Review of the Year from a pan-regional survey of 250 shopping centres.

Simon Thomson, an authority on the region’s retail and mall operations and owner of Retail International and a founding member of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres (MECSC), said: “In the longer term, we project that organised retail footage across the GCC could reach 15 to 16 million sq m within the next 10 years.”

“Given rising demographic forecasts across the region a further five million square metres or so on top of that already completed or well on its way, may in the end turn out to be a conservative forecast.”

The findings are published as the MECSC prepares for its annual convention on March 19 and 20. The two-day leasing fair, trade expo and conference will see some of the region’s leading retail real estate developers come together to showcase new mixed use retail projects and network at Hall 4 of the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.

Mike Davidson, president for the MECSC, said: “Retail is becoming a major contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) for a number of Arab countries, particularly in the GCC. The forum provides the ideal opportunity for the industry, retailers, analysts and other interested parties to see the scope for retail in the region.”

The UAE and Dubai in particular will continue to dominate in the regional retail real estate arena, where Dubai accounts for approximately 1000 sq m for every 1000 people or more than 50 percent of retail space across the country.

Saudi Arabia’s retail scene is gaining momentum, with the capital, Riyadh and the Red Sea port of Jeddah operating between 700,000 to 800,000 sq m respectively. With Riyadh’s population estimated to treble to 15 million people within the next 10 years, the scope for the Kingdom’s retail scene is yet to be realised.

Davidson continued: “The growth of national populations and influx of expatriates have made for a viable industry, while the continued growth of regional and international inbound tourism, plus the region’s general tax free status, all makes for an enticing choice of destinations, and a lucrative opportunity for retail brands.”

The region has witnessed a greater influx of international brands during 2006, with more scheduled to enter the market in 2007. This is despite a reported 22 per cent increase in retail rent over the previous 12 months, which equates to around $98 per sq m per month.

With a number of new malls scheduled to open during 2007, existing malls are undergoing massive redevelopment and remodelling, firstly to attract new brands, and also to maintain footfall.

Davidson continued: “The Levant and Egypt are also providing an interesting case study, with huge Gulf investment being funnelled towards retail development, particularly in Lebanon and Syria. However North Africa has also seen its fair share of growth in the retail, with Egypt receiving an estimated $1.9 billion investment by Al Futtaim Group, part of which will go towards a 140,000 sq m retail park.”

The 2006 survey states that the GCC region currently enjoys 5.5 million sq m of retail space, with another 4.5 million under development. There is room for a probable additional 2 million sq m, with the reasonable potential for an extra 3.5 million on top of that.

The full survey can be downloaded free from the Retail International website at www.retailinternational.co.uk -TradeArabia News Service

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Saudi Arabia's largest National Budget

The 2007 national budget of Saudi Arabia was announced on Monday, the largest in the Kingdom's history, with projected revenues of SR400 billion ($106 billion) and expenditures of SR380 billion ($101 billion).

Authorities also revealed that a record budget surplus of SR265 billion would be reached this year, according to Arab News. Public debt would be shrunk to SR366 billion by the end of 2006, they added. The budget puts special emphasize on capital expenditures that will create more job opportunities and boost economic growth.

Allocations made for expenditures in the 2007 budget were SR45 billion higher than that of 2006 budget where expenditures were put at SR335 billion, stated King Abdullah, who unveiled the budget during the weekly Cabinet meeting at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh.

He added that the budget would meet the goals of the 8th Five-Year Development Plan, making necessary services available to citizens.

“The budget also aims at reducing public debt,” the king said in an address to the nation.

“By the grace of God, we have been able to pay back a large part of the debt to bring it down to SR366 billion by the end of the current fiscal year.” Abdullah added that the budget included new projects aimed at development throughout the Kingdom worth some SR140 billion.

The Finance Ministry also revealed that some SR40 billion from the 2006 budget surplus was allocated by King Abdullah for additional development projects. Additionally, SR20 billion had been allocated increase the capital of Public Investment Fund (PIF), while SR96.7 billion was allocated to education and manpower training.

“We are keen on meeting the requirements needed for raising the educational capabilities of teachers and improving their performance by introducing modern educational methods,” King Abdullah said in his keynote speech according to the Saudi Press Agency.

“We have issued our directives to increase the capacity of educational institutions,” the king said, adding that these institutions would focus on specializations required by the labor market. The 2007 budget has made allocations to establish and furnish 2,000 schools and to open four new universities in Baha, Tabuk, and Najran in addition to a university for girls in Riyadh. The existing universities will get 56 new colleges," he added.

An additional SR39.5 billion will be allocated for health, SR15.5 billion for municipal services, SR13.6 billion for transport and telecom sectors, and SR24.8 billion for water, agriculture and infrastructure sectors.

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IPOs to boom in GCC

The region is set to see a 15 % increase in Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) in the next twelve months according to Oxford Business Group (OBG), the UK based publishing, research and consultancy organisation.

Following a slowdown in IPOs that reflected a downturn in the market in the second part of 2006, there are several major players lining up to take advantage of the improving market conditions, according to Andrew Jeffreys, OBG’s Editor in Chief. “We expect prices to return by summer 2007 as price per earnings ratios rise to more realistic levels following significant undervaluation of shares in several market sectors.

“This lack of confidence in the market led to a number of high profile delays across the region, including Oger Telecoms, which pulled its US$ 1.25bn IPO because of increasingly challenging and volatile regional market conditions.

“Of course, pricing is key. We saw several IPOs that were oversubscribed multiple times – and widely reported as a great success. They may be successful for investors who experience immediate gains, but the owners of these firms often feel they have been undersold,” said Jeffreys.

Despite such factors, pan-Gulf interest in IPOs remains at an all time high as companies look for ways to raise capital to fuel investment. Says Jeffrey’s “We are likely to see IPOs across diverse market sectors to include not only real estate and energy but trading and finance too.

“The mechanism for going public is fairly new to this region so there is a natural learning curve for companies and a need to proceed correctly in order to ensure the long-term, positive contribution of IPOs to the region’s economies.

“For those organisations that adhere to the improving regulatory framework and follow best practice, the benefits go beyond the additional capital investment necessary for business growth and sustainability to include greater corporate governance and transparency.”

Jeffrey’s comments follow his chairing of the 2nd conference dedicated to the public listing of Gulf companies, the ‘GCC IPO Summit’. Among the 100 leading industrialists who took part were Rajiv Nakani, Head of Investment Banking, Global Investment House, Philip Turberville, Chief Executive, RAK Petroleum and Graham Dallas, Head of Investment Banking, the London Stock Exchange.via Al Bawaba

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Pakistan Culturing Incentives for Industry

Industry leaders expect government to come out in next few weeks with a salvage package to stop industry from a collapse. "It is imminent’’, the President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Majyd Aziz said as according to him,, the government will take some relief measures before announcing the next elections and putting in place a caretaker set-up.

Amin Bandukda, the Chairman of SITE Association of Industry too shares this perception and expects a quick initiative from the government. Except for automobile, cement and construction all other segments of industry are begging for relief. The automobile that depends on 35 to 45 per cent imported kit of equipment and parts in semi knock down condition and cement and construction industry are somewhat flourishing because of government policy to give them liberal bank loans.

“The conventional manufacturing industry is in distress’’ a senior businessman in Lahore who heads one of the top business houses of Pakistan with stakes in cement, textiles, banking, insurance and tractors said. He said the services industry is thriving and mentioned telecom, banking, insurance, leasing, retail and wholesale trade, transport and construction as examples. These industries are booming because of the government measures.

Cement, he said is one conventional industry that is under distress because the government has levied Rs 750 excise duty on a ton plus 15 per cent sales tax. Excise, he said is normally levied when government wants to discourage consumption and tobacco and alcohol are such items. ``But there is no sense in levying excise on cement’’ he argued in the light of the government’s policy to encourage construction.

He said that cement demand has increased somewhat but it does not match the capacity expansion and heavy investment involved in the projects. The financial burden is killing cement industry and it needs some immediate relief. Fawad Ejaz from the leather industry also eagerly awaits promulgation of a promised relief package for his industry. ``We had several meetings with the commerce minister and chairman Export Promotion Bureau (or Trade Development Authority?) in last few months’’ Fawad said, disclosing that relief packages for long and short- term measures have been agreed upon between the leather industry and the government.

After observing a persisting decline in exports, virtually across the board, since July this year, the prime minister, the commerce minister and senior government functionaries held several meetings in October, November and December with business leaders in which strategies were discussed to check this fall. ``Obviously, the production cost of industry was the central theme’’, said a local business leader. In this context, the focus was on utility tariff, financial cost, labour charges and other levies.

There is now almost an all-round consensus that the industry is in a distress as it has suffered a lot and the 2007 outlook is bleak and the government should do something to give relief by way of bringing down production cost. ``The government cannot afford to have closed industries and army of unemployed in the cities at the time of elections’’ Majyd Aziz argued .He is convinced that stage is set for putting in place a salvage package. This cannot be done by any caretaker government.

“The growth in large-scale manufacturing remained below the annual target during FY 06, for the first time during last four years’’, reported the State Bank of Pakistan’s annual report for the year 05-06 released on December 2, 2006. In fact, the government projected only 13 per cent growth target for LSM in 05-06 as against 15.6

per cent a year earlier in recognition of (i) capacity constraints faced by some industries (ii)

impact of rise in oil prices and (iii) continued monetary tightening. No wonder than the LSM showed only 10.7 per cent growth in the year 05-06.

What is the magnitude of stress under which the industry is operating is best illustrated by virtually having a look across the board decline in the industrial exports. Not only this, the national industry is now losing ground to foreign goods in the domestic market.

The situation has reached a stage where at least two top shoe-making companies are said to be getting their products from China for sale through their domestic outlets’ network to local consumers. Reason: cost of production is high as compared to China. ``Reputed Indian companies too have their manufacturing facilities in China for sale of their products in India’’ is the only argument that is offered by one of the leaders of leather industry who attribute this phenomenon to business globalisation from which Pakistan or India cannot remain insulated. But this arrangement of keeping the business afloat by importing products from China for sale in Pakistan has rendered a big number of employees jobless. The number goes into thousands as a big part of leather goods and leather garment industry is in informal sector where employed labour is not registered and the growing unemployment remains unreported. So is the case with garment and knitwear units which are largely in informal sectors.

Owners have managed to recover some of their investment by disposing off their machines, buildings and land but the labour is not finding any alternate employment. Industry sources say there are reports that about 400 knitwear and readymade garment units, leather garment factories, small manufacturing facilities of sport goods, surgical instruments and a host of other factories that have pulled down shutters. A casual glance over July to November 06 figures reveal declining export trend in textiles, carpets, sport goods, tanned leather, leather garments, footwear, surgical goods, cutlery, onyx, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, gems, jewellery, furniture and handicrafts. Along with this export decline has come the flood of imported goods in domestic market which has literally given a crippling blow to the industry that now puts at stake the investment in billions of rupees and hefty bank loans and also an army of unemployed in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and other big cities of Pakistan.

"If not now, when will government come with a rescue package?", asks a businessman

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Dubai Duty Free Hits Dhs 2.56 billion sales

Dubai Duty Free has announced record year-end sales that signal a new retailing milestone for the operation. Sales for 2006 reached over Dh2.56 billion, representing a 20 per cent increase over the previous year.

Commenting on the year-end figures, Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group said, "It has been another highly successful year for Dubai Duty Free and the turnover reflects the operation's determination to retain its position as one of the top three duty free operations in the world. I congratulate the team at Dubai Duty Free on its record-breaking achievements."

While sales throughout the year showed a consistent increase, the last quarter saw sales rise significantly. December was a fitting end to the year as sales for the month reached Dh290 million, which is 33 per cent higher than the former record month set in December 2005.

Commenting on the highlights of the past twelve months, Colm McLoughlin, Managing Director of Dubai Duty Free said, "2006 has been a fantastic year for the operation, which on average handled over 44,000 sales transactions per day or 16 million transactions in the year. These figures are an indication of the hard work undertaken by our team here at Dubai Duty Free. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum for his ongoing support and join him in thanking all of our staff for helping us achieve a new annual record."

Retailing highlights over the past twelve months include Dubai Duty Free's 23rd anniversary day (December 20) when a 23 per cent discount offer saw sales soar to Dh29.5 million in the 24-hour period. Category wise, Perfumes ended the year in the No. 1 spot as sales reached Dh348 million, which represents a 28 per cent increase over 2005. Liquor came in second place and showed a 20 per cent increase while Gold was the third highest selling category with a 19 per cent increase in sales over last year. via Khaleej Times.

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Qatar financial Center setting Global Standards

The year 2006 saw the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) not only easing labor market restrictions, a first of its kind and in line with the WTO mandate, but also building infrastructure for the Middle East’s first energy exchange Imex, a no small fete for a novice hub.

The QFC’s proactive global marketing seems to have paid dividends as many top notch financial banking and financial institutions, accounting and management consultants have set up bases in the QFC that seeks to silence critics.

Not only did the QFC inked pacts with global regulators for co-operation and information sharing as part of efforts to curb money-laundering but it also laid out prudential norms for sectors like insurance and rules on employment, while making legislations for collective investment funds.

More significantly the QFC authority (QFCA) enacted its immigration rules, doing away with employer release in sponsorship transfer and allowing sponsored employees to get multiple exit visas.

This, as anticipated, comes in the backdrop of Qatar having played the host to the World Tradorganizationon (WTO) negotiations of 2001, which later came to be known as the Doha Round, where many restrictions were thrashed out in a multilateral framework.

Another milestone was that the QFC put in place employment regulations, which call for establishing an employment standards office and enabling the employees to “whistle-blow” against employers violating norms, a practice largely seen in developed countries.

As a testimony to its global standing, many international banking and legal luminaries made their way to the boards of both the QFCA and its regulatory body QFCRA, which is an associate member of the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB).
To ensure jurisprudence, the QFC set up a tribunal, headed by former Lord Chief Justice Harry Kenneth Woolf as its judge, while roping in William Blair as chairman of the Appeals Body and Michael Thomas as member and alternate chairman of the appellate authority.

The QFC, which loathes arithmetic of players but unbending on the chemistry of composition as it seeks quality, has so far granted over two dolicensesnces for regulated and non-regulated activities.

Leading entities that were given nod in the review year include Credit Suisse, Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays Bank, Morgan Stanley and Co International, AXA Investment Managers, AXA Insurance (Gulf), Alpen Investment Bank, National Bank of Dubai, Bank Audi, UBP (Qatar), Global Investment House (Qatar), United Gulf Financial Services and Kuwait Financial Centre.

For effective supervision of those firms operating across jurisdictions, as they are an essential part of the world class regulatory framework, the QFCRA has entered into pact with Channel Islands-based Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) and Bahrain Monetary Agency for co-operation and information sharing.
Not oblivious of its responsibilities towards society, the QFC is considering setting up a knowledge centre and is in talks with Qatar Foundation and other agencies in this regard.

QFC, an onshore catalyst of investment and of growth in financial services, focuses on attracting new participants as the Middle East gears up for mammoth project financing.

Various reports suggest project financing to the tune of $1tn and Qatar is now second to China as a consumer for project finance in view of the fast development taking place in the country.

Qatar has already committed investments to the tune of over $130bn in the coming 10 years. They encompass the development of essential infrastructure needed to exploit and export LNG globally, and to invest in water and power, airport and hospitals, free zones, hotels, roads and educational institutions locally.
The New Year will see the QFC being shifted from its present office in the Ministry of Economy and Commerce to its own building.

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