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Roger Harrop on Middle East Business

Business guru Roger Harrop has outlined plans to spread his business development mantras of ‘keep it simple’ and ‘focus on the bigger picture’ to CEOs across the Middle East.

The UK-based international speaker was in Dubai this week to introduce members of the British Business Group (BBG) to the main messages of his acclaimed ‘Staying in the Helicopter’ series of books, talks and workshops.

Harrop has worked extensively with company owners and senior managers in Europe, the US and Far East and now plans to build his business in the Middle East. He will concentrate first on tapping into the market for business development and training in the UAE before extending his attention to Bahrain and Qatar.

“The Emirates excite me at the moment because of the attitude shown by its business community,” said Harrop. “They really want to make the country successful and are keen to grow and develop their markets. I feel there are things I can do to help this process through my extensive experience across a broad spectrum of businesses.”

Harrop is a former group chief executive of a successful multi-national high-tech company and has run companies in four continents. He has spent the last five years as an international speaker, consultant, author and leadership tutor. More than 2,000 business leaders worldwide have seen dramatic growth in profits and sales as a result of the tools shared in his ‘Staying in the Helicopter’ talks and workshops.

At yesterday’s event in the Crowne Plaza hotel Harrop explained to BBG members how important it is for CEOs and managers to get a wider perspective on their business by rising above the day-to-day details and focusing on the big issues. He also said that it was vital to keep things simple and avoid the temptation to over-complicate a business.

“Business leaders tend to get sucked into the details when instead they should get up in the helicopter and see the big picture,” he said. “It’s amazing what insights you get from up there on how the business can be improved. People also don’t realise how simple a business is and spend their time making it complicated, which can damage its potential for growth.”

Harrop explored ways of growing a business by closely defining its purpose, getting more from existing customers, using advertising and promotion effectively and making improvements by continually challenging the accepted way that things are done. He used real-life stories, anecdotes, humour and simple analogies to get his messages across.

The event was one of a regular programme of seminars, workshops and presentations featuring inspirational business thinkers from around globe organised by the BBG for the benefit of its members. The BBG, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has more than 850 members and is widely recognised as one of the largest and most active business groups in the Gulf.-(TradeArabia News Service)

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Deyaar to go Public

Deyaar, a fast growing real-estate company, today announced plans to go public. The company has applied to the Ministry of Economy to launch an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the first half of 2007, subject to all regulatory approval.

Deyaar, a fully owned subsidiary of Dubai Islamic Bank and following Shariah principles, is a leading local and regional real estate developer, based in the UAE. Since the full scale launch of its operations in 2003, Deyaar has evolved as UAE’s largest non-master developer. Deyaar has over 17 residential and commercial projects across UAE, Lebanon and Turkey. Projects are also planned in Kazakhastan and India.

Deyaar manages the largest portfolio of third party properties with over 16,000 units in UAE. Aside from this, it also offers professional brokerage services to its customers, making it a one-of-its-kind property player in the country, said a spokesman.

only catalyse Deyaar’s growth in key business areas but will also provide investors an opportunity to participate in its growth. Deyaar’s growth has been spectacular, with net profits rising from Dh75 million and Dh140 million in 2004 and 2005 respectively to Dh412 million in 2006.

Shuaa Capital has been appointed as lead manager, financial advisor, and book runner; while Millennium Finance Corporation has been appointed as the co-lead manager for the IPO.

Highlighting Deyaar’s core strengths, Dr Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash, chairman of Deyaar and UAE Minister of State of Finance and Industry, said: “Deyaar’s dynamic growth has been driven by its thorough understanding of the customer’s requirements and the dynamics of the property market. The company is now fully geared for aggressive expansion internationally either through joint ventures or direct participation, besides also providing quality products and services in the local and regional markets. The proposed IPO will mark a milestone in Deyaar’s growth curve.”

Commenting on Deyaar’s success, Zack Shahin, chief executive officer, Deyaar, said: “Deyaar’s success is built on strong business and commercial principles. The company constantly strives to enhance the value it provides to its customers, tenants, landlords and business partners. Deyaar prides itself in completing sales of its projects within days of new launches, which is reflective of the value and trust that customers place in the company.”

Recent land acquisitions in the UAE have raised Deyaar’s total land bank to over Dh3 billion. Acquisitions in the UAE now account for Dh2.3 billion, with the balance being in overseas markets. Deyaar has identified Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey and Kazakhstan as potential markets for investment. -(TradeArabia News Service)

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Air Miles Diversifies

Air Miles has diversified its participant portfolio to include Royal & SunAlliance and UPS. “As the regional economy continues to enjoy exponential growth, we see more potential for Air Miles to expand its operations and diversify into new industries,” said Dave Battiston, CEO, Rewards Management Middle East Limited, the company that operates Air Miles across the region.

Air Miles cardholders can simply enter their card number while applying for a quote online from Royal & SunAlliance’s fasterquote.ae website, and they will be able to add more Air Miles to their account with every purchase.

“We believe in going the extra mile for our customers and giving them more value for their money,” said Royal & SunAlliance manager – Broker Relationship & Affinity Partners, Rakesh Nayar.

“By partnering with Air Miles, we are giving customers more reward choices which is a great value-added proposition.”

Air Miles cardholders can collect Air Miles for both UPS and Royal & SunAlliance transactions from March 1st.

“With Air Miles, Royal & SunAlliance and UPS will be able to reward their customers with more than 1,000 different gifts and experiences,” added Battiston.

Customers and cardholders can exchange Air Miles for rewards ranging from jewellery to adventure trips to electronic and electrical items.

Air Miles recently set up a new office in Bahrain and is preparing to roll out its programme to other Middle East markets.

Air Miles is the Middle East’s leading multi-participant loyalty programme and Royal & SunAlliance is a global insurance leader while UPS is the world's largest package delivery company.

Since its launch in 2001, the programme, which is free to join, has grown exponentially, with more than one million members enrolled from over 500,000 households in the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.

Now, over 80 per cent of all Air Miles members have either redeemed or have enough Air Miles to do so, making Air Miles the largest and most active retail database in the region.

Air Miles is managed by Rewards Management Middle East (RMMEL) in the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, and is part of Air Miles International that has been running successfully in the UK (‘Air Miles’ & more recently ‘Nectar’), Canada, the Netherlands and Spain for the past 16 years.

Members can collect Air Miles from a massive total of over 100 market-leading participants including: HSBC, Spinneys, Damas, Lamcy Plaza, Axiom Telecom, Thomas Cook Al Rostamani (Travel & Tourism), Gulf Greetings, Hertz, Bin Sina Pharmacy, Hilton Hotels, CineStar Cinemas, Pan Emirates Home Furnishings, Rotana Hotels, Jawad Business Group (FCUK, Monsoon, Hush Puppies, Shoe City, Costa Coffee), Al Futtaim Watches and Jewellery, Al Ghandi Electronics, JW Marriott Hotel, Renaissance Hotel, SNTTA Travel & Tours, Abela, African & Eastern, adidas, Oriental Stores, Emax, Al Jaber Optical Centre, Compume, Al Ansari Exchange, Bin Hendi Cafes and Emirates Post.

Air Miles offers a wealth of rewards and experiences to members such as electronics, jewellery, family days out, adventure experiences, hotels suites and airline tickets.

RMMEL also operates the business performance recognition programme Air Miles Incentives, which gives companies the opportunity to capitalise on a wealth of rewards for employees, sales teams, operators, trade partners and corporate customers. (TradeArabia News Service)

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SME focus of Bahrain Conference

Ways of supporting small and medium enterprises were the focus of a major conference in Bahrain. Bahrain’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce held the conference on “Enhancing SME Access to Finance and Transparency in Corporate Governance” in partnership with the Labour Fund, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), and in alliance with the Commercial Law Development Program, a programme of the US Department of Commerce Office of the General Counsel, and Financial Services Volunteer Corp (FSVC).

The conference was held under the patronage of Dr Hassan Abdulla Fakhro, Minister of Industry and Commerce, at the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel. Drawing on the experiences of both local and international experts, conference speakers included Shaikha Hissah bin Saad Al Abdulla Salim Al Sabah, from Kuwait, and experts from the Commercial Law Development Programme of the US Department of Commerce and Financial Services Volunteers Corp.

The conference's opening address was given by Dr Fakhro, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, and introductory remarks were given by William T Monroe, US Ambassador to Bahrain; Deon Woods Bell, senior counsel, Commercial Law Development Program, US Department of Commerce; and Andrew Cunningham, managing director, FSVC.

The conference addressed a number of vital topics, integral to SME growth and development: The Role of Banks in Providing Financial Services to SMEs; SME Financing Scheme Products; The Role of Small Business Administration in Facilitating the Creation and Growth of SMEs; Accessing Non Bank Finance: Equity and Venture Capital; The Role of SMEs in Growing Economies; Productivity and Entrepreneurial Financing; Bahrain’s Draft Code: Nuts and Bolts; The Impact of the Corporate Governance Code; and The Role of LMRA in Improving Governance.

Approximately 200 people participated in the Conference, including: small and medium business owners, entrepreneurs, commercial bankers, lawyers who represent small and medium business owners, representatives from non-bank financial institutions, representatives from Bankers’ Society of Bahrain, and representatives from Bahrain’s government agencies. (TradeArabia News Service)

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Oman Sheraton Auctioning All

The prestigious five star Oman Sheraton Hotel is undergoing renovations and thousands of items will be auctioned at 9am on March 1 at the hotel in Muscat. Buyers can pick up great bargains for king and single size beds, lamps, chairs, tables, luggage racks and boards, sofas, TV's, chairs, mini-bars, safe boxes, mirrors, full gym equipment, laundry machines and much more.

Global auctioneering firm Auction Alliance will be conducting the auction. General Manager of Auction Alliance Middle East, Ismail Hendricks stated that it is encouraging that auctions are seen as the new and exciting way to sell and buy.

"The hotel furniture, fittings and equipment are of a very high quality and are in a very good condition. There has been a very good response from buyers in Oman and the UAE - from individuals, businesses and other hotels. So we have all the ingredients for a great auction," said Hendricks. The auction will be the first of its kind in Muscat and makes for an exciting event, he added. via Trade Arabia

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Kuwait hosts Leadership Seminar

International corporate consultant and peak performance expert Tom McCarthy will hold a free leadership seminar during his visit to Kuwait next month. The seminar will be held at the Holiday Inn Downtown from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on March 18.

"We're excited about the opportunity to present Tom McCarthy's valuable ideas for free to audiences in Kuwait," said founder and CEO of Leaders Enterprises, the organisation that is bringing Tom McCarthy to Kuwait, Khalid Al-Zanki.

"Anyone can attend the seminar, and I know that many of Kuwait's leading business people and professionals will be there, including representatives of large companies. Anyone interested in becoming a better leader should come along," he added.

"In a survey conducted by Leaders Enterprises, 80 per cent of respondents strongly agreed that business managers in Kuwait and the GCC region need training to become more effective leaders. Tom's Leadership seminar addresses this issue in an entirely new way for Kuwait audiences."

Tom McCarthy has worked with Fortune 500 companies and Olympic gold medalists and he is passionate about leadership. "Leadership really boils down to the question of how do you select and motivate a team that delivers outstanding results," said Tom McCarthy.

Leaders Enterprises is a Kuwait-based training organisation which brings the world's leading peak performance and business coaching experts to the Middle East. Along with the free Leadership seminar, Leaders Enterprises is also hosting Tom McCarthy's "Mental Diet for Success" seminar on March 17, 2007, and the popular "FIRE-UP Your Presentations" workshop on March 18 and 19 at the Holiday Inn Downtown.(TradeArabia News Service)

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Cass Business School EMBA Programme

Cass Business School part of The City University, London, one of the world's leading business schools, has launched its Executive MBA (EMBA) programme offering three alternative specialisations: Islamic Finance, Energy and General Management and Finance.

The programme was officially launched by associate dean at Cass Business School Dr Hassan Hakimian and the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor Alderman John Stuttard, City of London, who is also Chancellor of The City University, in presence of Dr Omar bin Sulaiman, Governor, Dubai International Finaance Centre (DIFC).

Launched in association with DIFC, the EMBA will be the world's first MBA programme offering specialist streams in Islamic Finance and Energy.

The new programme will be taught over 24 months and will involve the same content as Cass's London-based Executive MBA, one of the highest ranked EMBAs in the world by the Financial Times. The first intake of students is planned for September 2007.

'The boom witnessed in the region has opened the doors to hundreds of thousands of jobs, and there is a dearth of qualified professionals in the financial sector. As reforms accelerate further within the Islamic finance sector, there will be a requirement for talents at a level and scale never seen before,' said Dr Omar bin Sulaiman.

Classes will be delivered by Cass academics who will visit Dubai to deliver classes over a long weekend once a month. The School's online learning platform, CassLearn, which has been instrumental in the success of the delivery of the China Executive MBA in Shanghai, will be used for online tutorials, group discussion and research, an official spokesman added.

Cass already delivers highly ranked full-time and executive (part-time) MBA programmes in London and an Executive MBA in China. (TradeArabia News Service)

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Jeddah Economic Forum

The eighth Jeddah Economic Forum kicks off its activities today. The forum, to be held till February 27, is organised by the Jeddah Marketing Board that operates under the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It is taking place under the auspices of Makkah's Prince Abdulmajid bin Abdulaziz and the participation of more than 2,500 economic figures from around the world. The forum, entitled 'Economic Reform: Flourishing Grounds and Expanding Horizons', will address strategies for economic reform, social responsibility, and privatization, among others.

The forum's chairman Sami Bahrawi said in statements published by local Press that there were 35 key speakers from 22 countries taking part, including Jordan's Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The final session of the forum on Tuesday afternoon, February 27, focusing on privatisation, will feature, among other speakers, the deputy prime minister of Malaysia, Mohammed Abdul Razak, Khaled Almolhem, director-general of Saudi Arabian Airlines and London Business School Professor Zeger Degraeve.(via Trade Arabia News Service)


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Mashreqbank Students Accounts

Mashreqbank has introduced a first of its kind account in the UAE which has been specially designed for Emirati students. The account package has been tailored with the assistance of students from the UAE Higher College of Technology (HCT) so it is a package that has been designed by Emiratis for Emiratis.

The Emirati Student Package (ESP) consists of a current account with a debit chip card and a savings account, which is online based. As students can access both their saving and current accounts over the Internet and via ATMs all over the world, it is truly an account without international frontiers, said an official spokesman.

The package also takes into consideration the financial burden a student may face, so it is free of fees and has no minimum balance requirement. 'Mashreqbank has always played a pioneering role in introducing cutting edge products in the UAE. In addition to innovative products we also strive to cater to different sectors of the community based on their expectations of satisfying banking relationship. This has included locating branches and ATMs in locations convenient to the large college and university communities,' said Head of Retail Banking Group in Mashreqbank Atif Bajwa.

Students can apply for the ESP at their local student services centre based within their college campus, or by visiting their local Mashreqbank branch, or calling the bank's Direct Banking Centre on 04-2174800.

In addition to their valid passport or UAE National ID card, the student must also show they have a current HCT student ID card.(TradeArabia News Service)


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International Business Student Competition - Peak TIme

"Peak Time is the largest and most well-known International Business student competition in the Baltic States. During this event students apply and test their academic and empirical knowledge in a competitive and realistic environment. It is also an international forum where students and professionals from various academic and cultural backgrounds meet and make new contacts. Moreover, it is an environment that encourages the exchange of diverse ideas and insights, while expanding the mindsets and broadening the global perspectives of the participants."

Details of the competition can be best understood from the diagram on site. It is a competition for undergraduates. The rules and details can be found in the Application section on Peak Time website. The teams should consist of 4 undergraduate students

The first step to entry is the essay, and the topic for this year is:

“What are the main challenges entrepreneurs face on the global arena and how to deal with them?”

The essay has to be a maximum of 900 words and the application deadline is March 1st.

As time is short on the hands of participants bizzwhizzdubai.com offers free assistance sessions for essay review and structuring. Good Luck!


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Webwasher 6.5 - Online Security for ME

Secure Computing Corporation, the leader in enterprise gateway security, has launched Webwasher 6.5, the industry's first and only reputation-based Web gateway security solution, in the Middle East.

Webwasher 6.5 delivers reputation-based URL filtering for corporate users surfing the Web, and provides bi-directional protection for enterprise networks to stop inbound threats such as spyware, phishing or other malware, and prevent outbound threats related to sensitive data leaks.

As part of Secure Computing's vision to provide comprehensive enterprise gateway security, Webwasher 6.5 incorporates global intelligence from the company's industry-leading reputation system, TrustedSource, said an official spokesman.

Like a credit agency provides credit scores to enable reliable commerce, TrustedSource provides source-based reputation scores for URLs, domains and IPs as content-based reputation scores for web page content, messages, attachments and images.

Using this real-time scoring, Webwasher 6.5 allows organisations to detect and prevent security threats such as spyware, phishing or other malware.

'Today's Web gateway includes many point products that offer little security and significant administration and management burden,' said regional sales director, Secure Computing, Middle East and Africa, Ray Kafity.

'Webwasher 6.5 integrates the key technologies required to provide full bi-directional protection against emerging threats such as malware, spyware or other Web-based attacks, as well as to protect organizations from sensitive data leaks. Webwasher 6.5 takes Web gateway security to the next level with its reputation-based concept, allows organizations to have fully integrated and best-of-breed functionality all in a single, affordable and effective solution,' he added.

Webwasher Version 6.5 includes Reputation-based URL security, Real-time anti-malware protection, multiple support options for various proxy deployment scenarios, new methods for stopping data leaks and Ease of management and administration.(Trade Arabia News Service)

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Al Qasba Food Fest - Sharjah

Qanat Al Qasba, the premier family entertainment and cultural destination of the Sharjah UAE, is getting revved up for Al Qasba Food Fest 2007, one of the most exotic food related events in the emirates. Scheduled for March 15 to 24, the Qanat Al Qasba Development Authority has invited all restaurants and F &B outlets to participate in this much looked forward to annual event, which is being held at Qanat Al Qasba for the first time.

'Food Fest is sure to be a crowd puller. Al Qasba Food Fest 2007 is not only about exploring food issues and diverse cultures through their food but also about experiencing new tastes,' said events manager at Qanat Al Qasba Development Authority Arwa Lootah. The festival will include entertainment shows, food workshops, kiddies' shows, a carnival and much more.

Visitors will also have the added advantage of experiencing Al Qasba Food Fest 2007 at one of the best locations in the Emirate with its great outdoor facilities. All retailers who would like to participate at Food Fest 2007 can contact 06 5560777 for more information or visit www.qaq.ae
end post (TradeArabia News Service)


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$350m Solar Power Plant Coming in Abu Dhabi

The government of Abu Dhabi will build a $350-million solar power plant, the first of its kind in the world's biggest oil exporting region, an investor in the project said on Sunday.

The 500 megawatt plant, expected to begin operations in 2009, is part of Abu Dhabi's drive to cut dependence on hydrocarbon power generation, said Sultan al-Jaber, chief executive of state-owned Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co.

Future Energy, a subsidiary of government-owned Mubadala Development Co, and the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority will fund the plant with other investors.-
end post (via Trade Arabia News Service)


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King Abdullah Economic City - Registeration Opens

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), the path-breaking development by Emaar the Economic City (Emaar EC) has opened investor registration for its Industrial Zone. The first phase of the 63 million sq metre zone dedicated to industries will be launched soon and potential investors can register on-line at www.kingabdullahcity.com

One of the six components of KAEC, the Industrial Zone is designed solely with the needs of manufacturers in mind. To be one of the largest industrial parks in the region, the Zone offers investors the option of building from the ground up on a fully-serviced site or the choicest premises built to the highest specifications, said an official spokesman.

'As one of the key sectors of diversification, industries have brought about a considerable shift to the Kingdom's economy by generating employment to millions of Saudis,' said CEO, Emaar EC, Nidal Jamjoom.

'KAEC's Industrial Zone is a perfect fit for the Kingdom's industrial growth and offers several distinctive advantages.'

The 168 million sq m King Abdullah Economic City is the single largest private sector development in the Kingdom, and is located on the Red Sea coast. The Industrial Zone, in close proximity to Jeddah, enjoys a strategic location advantage.

The 13.8 million sq m Sea Port, which is a key part of KAEC and the largest in the region, will offer the Industrial Zone logistical advantages of immense value.

'The significant advantage of the Industrial Zone at KAEC is the infrastructure support it will offer to industries,' added Jamjoom.

'Poised to be world's first 'Smart City,' KAEC will offer advanced information and communications technology support to industrialists. KAEC will feature several firsts in terms of 'smart city' management by offering a safe environment that is ideal for sustained growth. A fully integrated transport system will be an added benefit to investors.'

The Industrial Zone will have specific initiatives to encourage local entrepreneurs through incubator-like modules. International experts have already been consulted - and will work hand-in-hand with Emaar.E.C management - to ensure that the development is in line with the best environmental practices.

With the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) as the project's prime facilitator, KAEC has the potential to create one million jobs. The mixed-use development with commercial, residential, industry and hospitality components is expected to be home to over two million people, the spokesman added.

The other components of KAEC are: the Central Business District, which will have office space and mixed-use components and a central Financial Island with a 125-storey tower; the Educational Zone; the Resort District; and the Residential Zone.

Work on KAEC is progressing on schedule. The Presentation Centre will be officially opened soon, and access roads to the project have been completed. (TradeArabia News Service)


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Omani government raises stake in OAS to 80%

The Omani government has raised its stake in the Oman Aviation Services private company by 80% to 50 million Omani Rials.

The proposed hiked investment in the firm is meant to help the aviation company to reach the next few years' plans for new destinations and acquirement of new aircrafts from Beoing and Airbus.

Currently, both the avaiation services company and international airports of the Sultanate are facing massive upgrades in light of increasing number of passengers through the country in hope of raising the country's tourism contribution to the overall GDP by the year 2020.


- OAS to hike-up paid capital to RO50m (English)

- Omani government raises stake in OAS by 80% to RO50m (Arabic)
end post


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Instrata Capital Bahrain gets Licence

Instrata Capital has been granted an investment firm licence from the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB). Instrata Capital will identify, structure and manage investment products that are unique within the region. Instrata Capital is a newly formed Bahrain-based investment management company.

While maintaining a broad view of investment opportunities in the GCC and Mena, Instrata Capital will focus initially on private equity investment in sectors including utilities, transportation, and social and industrial infrastructure, the company said in a statement.

Within the first three years of operation, Instrata Capital expects to have approximately $1 billion of funds under management invested in a portfolio of regional companies and projects.

The region's infrastructure sector is among the fastest growing, with the GCC countries alone projected to spend over $545 billion on infrastructure development over the next 10 years, said the company.

Such rapid development is being facilitated by high fiscal surpluses, the corporate investment required for the expansion of many industrial and processing companies as well as the need for governments to meet the demands of the region's fast growing population for access to a broad range of services.

These factors, coupled with increasing opportunities for private sector participation in infrastructure development, make this a time of unprecedented opportunity for regional and international companies as well as privately managed infrastructure projects in which Instrata Capital intends to invest, it said.

Among Instrata Capital's founding shareholders is Kuwait Investment Company (KIC), the first and largest investment company in Kuwait, majority owned by the Kuwait Investment Authority.

Another firm is Sage Capital Management Group (Sage), a Bahrain-based management and business administration consultancy involved in the oversight of a broad portfolio of investment holdings on behalf of its shareholders in various industries such as financial services, hospitality and hotel management and consumer goods manufacturing among others.

'Today represents a milestone for Instrata Capital as we establish the foundations upon which we can capitalise on investor demands for innovative and alternative investment products within the strong regulatory environment provided by the CBB,' said KIC chairman Bader Nasser Alsubaiee.

'Alongside Sage and other investors, we have created a unique platform through which we can offer new and compelling investment opportunities.

'Instrata Capital will initially provide investors, who do not have access to the specialist skills necessary to evaluate, structure and arrange direct infrastructure investments, with regional infrastructure investment products supported by a highly experienced investment team.

'Infrastructure investment offers strong potential for growth and superior returns as well as effective portfolio diversification.

'We are confident that Instrata Capital is well positioned to maximise the opportunities that exist in the GCC and Mena infrastructure sector and to provide significant value to shareholders, clients and the companies and projects in which it will invest.'

Instrata Capital will work in conjunction with KIC in the development and distribution of its investment offering.

It will soon hold the first meeting of its founding shareholders, at which time it intends to formally appoint a board of directors and senior management team.-(TradeArabia News Service)


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'Middle East Project Finance 2007' - Doha

Doha will host 'Middle East Project Finance 2007' on February 26 and 27 at the Ritz-Carlton. The conference is being organised by the Middle East Economic Digest (Meed) with support from the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC). Qatar National Bank is the platinum sponsor of the event.

Out of the $130 billion to $ 135 billion proposed to be invested in Qatar over the next few years, around 50 per cent will come through project finance. In 2005, latest figures for which are available, Qatar was the second-biggest project finance market in the world, after China.

'This is the 11th annual event and is being held in Qatar for the third time. There will be 60 speakers and 250 delegates,' said Meed editorial director and conference chairman Edmund O'Sullivan.

Minister of Finance and acting Minister of Economy and Commerce H E Yousuf Hussain Kamal will be the opening keynote speaker. Another keynote speaker will be Lloyd's of London chairman Lord Levene of Portsoken.

'Qatar is on the financial map and the whole world is looking at Doha. Something huge is happening in world finance due to the surpluses in the region. This is an interesting place to work as far as project finance goes,' added O'Sullivan.

The sectors covered in the conference will include oil and gas, petrochemicals, marine shipping, telecommunications, power and water, real estate and tourism.-(Trade Arabia News Service)

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QCB Bans Loans for Stock Trading - Qatar

The Qatar Central Bank has issued a directive to all banks in the country to cease giving loans to those seeking money to invest in shares. In an interactive programme Lakom Al Karar, produced by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and broadcast on Qatar Television (QTV), Minister of Finance and Acting Minister of Economy and Commerce H E Yousuf Hussain Kamal said: "The QCB has banned loans for the purpose of buying shares."

The move follows many Qataris incurring huge debts due to amounts taken from banks in order to dabble in the stock market. With the Doha Securities Market (DSM) not faring very well, they are now finding it difficult to make ends meet as chunks are deducted from their salaries every month as repayments. Kamal also said that from next March, the DSM will become an independent entity with no connection to the Ministry of Economy.

Speaking on the economic situation, the Minister stated: "We do not pretend our laws and measures are 100 per cent and are now at their very best. Laws can always be reviewed and revised." He also stressed the importance of all companies to lay out their future plans such as new projects or expansions at their annual general meetings (AGMs).

He asked small investors to ensure they attend the various symposiums which are meant to help in understanding the stock market. "As per my knowledge, a number of specialists have been brought here to address investors. But unfortunately, very few attended the meetings."

Kamal suggested that investors take advice from experts before entering the market. "We have an electronic page which provides all information to educate the investor. Anyone not specialising in the markets should get advice from experts," he said.-(MENAFN)

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Dubai Properties Unveils Leadership Programme

Dubai Properties recently launched the High Potential Leadership Development Programme, incorporating 14 of its future leaders. The programme is part of the company's strategy to invest in its people, in line with the overall objective of Dubai Holding.

The first session was held at Burj Al Arab and was inaugurated by Mohamed Binbrek, CEO of Dubai Properties; Yaqoob Al Zarooni, Chief Officer Human Capital; and Francois Viljoen, HR Development Director from Dubai Holding. It was facilitated by Hassan Khalifa, Director - Human Resources, Dubai Properties.

The programme is being conducted in collaboration with Novations, a US-based talent development centre, which helps companies develop employee strengths, capacity and performance using a broad range of proprietary tools. Participation is conditional on candidates' potential to rise to senior positions within the organisation in the future.
end post-(via Khaleej Times)


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RAK to attract $13.6bn investment

Ras Al Khaimah's share of the region's economic pie would grow exponentially in coming years, attracting $13.6 billion investment, experts say. It would position the emirate as a frontrunner in the race for global investment and attention, a cross-section of industry leaders said at the Ras Al Khaimah 2007 conference in the emirate.

Chief executives and leading analysts from the region's real estate, tourism, healthcare and education, infrastructure and investment sectors praised the emirate's strong start and expressed full confidence in its ability to achieve its economic and developmental goals in the coming years.

Dr Izzat Dajani, chief executive of the emirate's Investment and Development Office, said it has laid the groundwork to attract Dh50 billion ($13.6 billion) in inward investment in the next few years, with 60 per cent expected to come from lifestyle development and 40 per cent from industrial development.

Ras Al Khaimah currently has the third-highest level of project investment relative to GDP in the UAE ($25.9 billion) and accounts for a full five per cent of total GCC project investment, said Nicholas MacLean, managing director of international commercial real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis Middle East.

"For such a relatively small location, Ras Al Khaimah is making significant levels of investment to spur additional economic development and job creation, and we fully expect that level of growth to continue," MacLean said. The emirate, he added, must continue to develop its underlying industrial base, support services and infrastructure to create the right conditions for institutional investors.

"There are two key factors that factor heavily in Ras Al Khaimah's future," MacLean added. "The first is that it needs to concentrate on its natural resources that are unique in the UAE. Second, Ras Al Khaimah should not compete with the other emirates on products that already exist in the national marketplace, but instead find a role that is complementary." The emirate can continue to be served, he added, by its unique industrial base.

Selim El Zyr, president and chief executive officer of the Rotana Hotels Corporation, said the Middle East's leading independent hotel chain is also highly optimistic about growth potential in the emirate. Rotana is involved with two projects in the emirate, he said, at the $60 million hotel and villa project The Cove and the $2.7 billion Mina Al Arab waterfront development.

"Ras Al Khaimah has the potential to become a destination," El Zyr told a conference session on tourism. "It has a rare anchor, nature, and will resonate with people willing to pay the price for something that is unavailable in the rest of the region."

Representatives from top-tier educational and health institutions Tufts University and Methodist International also announced $50 million in two new initiatives at the Ras Al Khaimah conference. The new facilities will be hosted jointly by the existing EDRAK initiative, and a new RAK Health cluster.

The emirate's domestic trade activity continues to witness rapid growth. Earlier this month, the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone reported 190 per cent growth in the number of companies registered, representing a capital investment of Dhs3.3 billion.

The Ras Al Khaimah 2007 conference, organised by the emirate's Investment and Development Office and regional business magazine MEED, is focused on the current developments and opportunities in the emirate, and its ongoing efforts to diversify its economy.

More than 30 high profile international speakers and over 200 entrepreneurs and business leaders are attending the two-day conference and its specialized sessions on tourism, real estate, free zones, manufacturing, energy and petrochemicals, and other growth sectors.-(TradeArabia News Service)

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Al Islami - Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment JV for Young Entrepreneurs

Consolidating its presence in the region, Al Islami Foods, the leading provider in Real halal products, will unveil its joint venture with Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders of Dubai, during region's largest industry event, Gulfood Exhibition 2007, to be held on February 19th - 22nd at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai.

In its efforts to highlight quality halal food, Al Islami Foods will be initiating a dedicated forum, The Halal Industrial Dialogue, in collaboration with the renowned World Halal Forum, Malaysia. Making its mark, the summit will address the need to measure, consolidate and harmonise the regional and international halal food markets. A newly formed Halal Industry Development Corp. (HDC), Malaysia, will present Malaysian and global industry statistics and future strategies.

"In line with our commitment to the industry, Al Islami Foods, a pioneer in halal food industry, will present an array of diversified products to cater to the growing demand for our halal food products, with the introduction of innovative delights", said Saleh Abdullah Lootah, CEO, Al Islami Foods. "With the increasing global demand for halal


food, we are rolling out a blueprint of our comprehensive 5-year strategic growth plan, the first such initiative by Al Islami Foods", Lootah added.

Al Islami Foods has established itself as a leading player in the region's processed food industry, employing the most advanced technologies in its operations, ensuring that the food items are prepared under the most stringent hygiene standards and offers high nutritive content. Al Islami Foods' reputed line of products includes fresh and frozen chicken, meat, seafood, vegetable and dairy products.

As part of Al Islami's social responsibility, the company believes that safeguarding the health and welfare of its consumers is not only critical to company's operational philosophy, but also to its success. The company always endeavors to remain steadfast to its commitment to consumers' health and safety.

Al Islami Foods will reveal their latest joint venture initiative with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders at a press conference, which will be held on the 2nd day of the exhibition. via Menafn.com

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GCC & Arab Ministers discuss Free Trade Zones

A closed-door consultative meeting of Arab ministers of finance and economy started on Thursday discussing in part problems related to the Arab free trade zone.

Meeting sources said talks foscused on obstacles facing the greater Arab free trade zone, disagreements on regulations of origin of products traded within this zone, set up in 2005.

The ministers, according to the sources, praised a recent decision by Egypt to lift facilities that exempted some Arab commodities. They also discussed topics to be discussed at the upcoming Arab summit, due in Riyadh, namely establishment of the Arab Custom Union, economic conditions in the Arab world, the region and the globe in general.-
end post (via MENAFN)

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'Booming' Dubai set to borrow $10bn+

Dubai Government seeks to borrow at least $10bn by 2009, as the emirate’s ambitious expansion plans begin to outpace revenues from its oil, which is expected to run dry within 20 years.

Such borrowing would be used to fund the road, rail, power and water desalination infrastructure necessary to achieve Dubai's ambitious plans for economic growth, which the emirate's ruler forecasts will hit 11% per year until 2015.

This will require borrowing that will “go into double-digit billions” by 2009, according to Nasser Akil Abbas, treasury director at Dubai government’s finance department, quoted by Bloomberg.

“There will be both syndicated loans and bonds of 7, 10 and 15-year [maturities]”, he added.

Dubai is seeking a credit rating in order to achieve this, and its Department of Finance is drawing up a strategy with advice from JP Morgan and Swiss bank UBS, according to a senior official.

"The Government of Dubai is assessing its medium-term financing strategy and is evaluating different available alternatives," Mr. Al Qamzi, Director General of the Department of Finance, said in a statement made to the state news agency.

"The timetable for the ratings process as well as the specifics of Dubai's financing strategy are yet to be finalised and will be communicated in due course."

Talks with UBS are likely to be further strengthened by news that the bank today celebrates its official opening at the Dubai International Finance Centre. Huw Jenkins, CEO and Chairman for UBS Investment Bank, and Peter Burnett, Chairman for UBS in the Middle East, will be in attendance.

Anticipation of a debut bond from Dubai has been growing since Dubai Holding Commercial Group's $2.5 billion bond sale last month. The company is owned by the emirate's ruler, and the move was seen as a precursor to the government’s debut in the bond market.

Dubai Holding Commercial Group's sale, rated A+ by Standard & Poor's, AA- by Fitch and A1 by Moody's, received orders of about $12.5 billion last month.

It was previously reported that Dubai's government planned to issue $4 billion worth of dollar-denominated bonds in the international market to fund infrastructure projects, according to a Dubai official last year. via arabianbusiness.com


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IBM offers Open Desktop Software

IBM said it will offer an open desktop software system for businesses that puts the cost of managing Apple or Linux computers on a more equal footing with Microsoft's Windows software, improving the economics of Windows alternatives.

The product -- which the company calls its 'Open Client Offering' -- pulls together software IBM has developed in-house and with partners Novell and Red Hat to answer questions over the cost-effectiveness of managing Linux or Apple desktop PCs alongside Windows PCs.

International Business Machines said the new software makes it feasible for big businesses to offer their employees a choice of running Windows, Linux or Apple Macintosh software on desktop PCs, using the same underlying software code. This cuts the costs of managing Linux or Apple relative to Windows.

IBM's Open Client software chips away at long-time rival Microsoft's Windows franchise by making it unnecessary for companies to pay Microsoft for licenses for operations that no longer rely on Windows-based software. The move comes as corporate decision-makers have begun to mull when it makes sense to upgrade to Microsoft's Windows Vista.

'We worked with the open source community and found a way to write software once that will work regardless of operating system. It will run on Windows, Macintosh or Linux,' said Scott Handy, IBM's vice president of Linux and open source.

As an alternative to Microsoft, IBM will offer its own Open Document Format (ODF) software for tasks like word processing, spreadsheets or presentations, along with Lotus collaboration, instant messaging and blog tools, and the Firefox Web browser, which is the biggest rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

IBM believes that using its software can cut the cost of managing applications, maintenance and customer support costs on company networks that need to run not just Windows but other software, Handy said. Technology market researchers Gartner and IDC estimate that it costs $4,000 to $6,000 to manage the average desktop PC of any office worker, he noted.

'In big organisations, a large, double-digit percentage of users don't require Windows Office suite licenses, meaning they can save a lot of money,' Handy said, pointing to roles like customer call center operators or Web software programmers.

IBM plans to use its 'Open Client' software initially to run some 5 percent of desktop computers across its own organization, which employs around 320,000 staff worldwide.

Customer call centers and software development groups in Brazil, India, Europe and other IBM offices will take part. Pockets of Apple computer users within IBM also will be supported for the first time by Open Client.

'Now it is a level playing-field where Linux is a very viable option and can get the same kind of maintenance and support as Windows,' Handy said.

Europe's second-largest automaker, PSA Peugeot Citroen, last month said it had agreed to a multiyear deal with Linux software provider Novell to run Linux on 20,000 desktop PCs plus 2,500 server computers. Underpinning this deal is IBM's Open Client Offering software, Handy said.

A piece of IBM software called Expeditor enables an organisation to manage different systems as if they were on a unified underlying system, IBM said. Apple software support will be ready later this year.

One Linux analyst said that the use of Linux to run desktop computers as an alternative to Microsoft Windows has occurred at a 'glacial pace,' in spite of frequent predictions by pundits in recent years such a transition is inevitable.

'There is a growing appetite not so much to displace Windows wholesale as to offer alternatives,' said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with research firm RedMonk. 'No one is going to dramatically unseat Microsoft's desktop dominance.('Reuters')

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Intilaq - SME support in Dubai & Abu Dhabi

Small and Medium Entreprizes are esstential to growth of any economy from within. This was recognized by Dubai. Since 1999 Dubai Department of Economic Development has been issuing Intilaq liscences. These allow UAE nationals to opperate from home and their garages. Targetted at the housewives, elderly and the young entrepreneurs. Therefore it bypasses alll expenses such as office, muncipality fees and other taxes. A fully operational liscence can be obtained for as low as 1000 Dhs.

Details can be found at the Dubai D.E.D. website and by visiting in person. However all materials are in ARABIC as it is a nationals only scheme

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Bahrain: Hoteliers seek More Time

Bahrain's private sector yesterday urged the government to give hoteliers more time to reorganise their business under new tourism rules. The call came as one hotelier claimed the new rules would dent his revenues by 80 per cent.

A statement from the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that while it supports an upgrade of the tourism industry in principle, it does not see any reason for the ministry's rush to implement the new rules by March or April.

The statement said that new rules announced by Tourism Affairs, which falls under the information Ministry, would not only harm the welfare of the private sector but the good of the country as a whole.

"The chamber supports policies that aim to promote development of the industry and its future for the public good," it said.

"These policies should help to support the role of the industry in the development of the economy and job creation.

"The ministry, in its role as regulator of the tourism industry and the body responsible for granting licenses, should avoid implementing rules that will harm any hospitality or tourism establishment.

"The chamber hopes that the authorities will discuss these issues with the sector so that common ground can be reached. We also hope that the authorities will reconsider the deadlines to give the hotels more chance to implement these new rules."

The chamber said that private sector was currently working with the authorities through a joint committee, which had its first meeting on January 23.

The meeting discussed many issues related to the industry, including these latest developments, it said. The chamber's representatives had formally asked the government to extend the deadlines. The new rules ban alcohol and discos in hotels and restaurants in residential areas or near mosques or schools.

Meanwhile, some hoteliers are concerned that new tourism rules could result in their business dropping dramatically. One hotelier, who did not want to be named, said that his business could fall by as much as 80pc and that it would also result in many job losses.

"We employ staff, including Bahrainis and expatriates," he said. "If these rules take effect, the revenue generated by the hotel will be reduced to less than 20pc.

"This will adversely affect the overhead expenses, including the staff ratio. It would compel us to retrench about 80pc of our present staff,” he said.

Paying benefits to staff will become an additional burden to the investor, who also fears that the banks will also be looking to recover huge loans that were previously taken out for various investment projects.

"We have invested huge sums of money to start the project and as per the instruction of the concerned authorities, we again spent a lot to further upgrade the standards of the hotel during the holy month of Ramadan," said the investor.

He also objected to the new rules on recruiting live singers and bands from abroad, which will only be allowed for five-star hotels.

The investor said that these "smacks of elitism" would deprive people with lower income, who may not be able to afford to go to five-star hotels, of their right to entertainment.

"We would like to stress that the one to four star hotels are places where people from all walks of life can choose to relax,” he said.

"This ban, if executed, will have an adverse effect on the common man, restricting them from enjoying themselves during their free time and relieving their stress."-(TradeArabia News Service)

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Marsh hosting Conference in Dubai

Marsh, the world's leading risk and insurance services firm, will host the first global risk advisory conference of the world's national oil companies (NOCs) in Dubai.

The Marsh National Oil Company Conference will be held from February 26 to 28 under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and will feature speakers from Saudi Aramco, Petrobras, Statoil ASA, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other organisations.

Marsh chairman and CEO Brian Storms will discuss emerging risk topics in the oil and gas industry to open the conference, which is being attended by senior officials, representatives and delegates from dozens of countries.

A broad array of topics will be discussed during the three-day event, including knowledge transfer among NOCs, governance, measurement of enterprise-wide risk, and operational challenges tied to cross-border investments.

"It's increasingly clear that state-owned oil companies will play a major role in determining where the world's petroleum-based energy supplies will come from in the future," said managing director of Marsh's Global Marine & Energy Practice Jim Pierce.

"We're proud to bring together many of the world's NOCs and host this important gathering of international energy executives, experts and business leaders."

Over the course of two days, the conference will feature both presentations and breakout sessions that address the NOCs transition from their respective national stages to a global platform, said a senior official.(via TradeArabia News Service)

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Indias Economy on the verge of Overheating

With breakneck growth, an outsourcing industry that leads the world and hundreds of millions of consumers demanding more class and comfort, India has an economy many countries would envy.

But now, after three years of near double-digit growth, signs of a potentially dangerous inflationary spiral are beginning to emerge. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his closest economic advisors gathered just last weekend over fears that India’s extraordinary economic expansion was starting to overheat, an issue they labeled as a “key short-term priority.”

They may have waited too long. Food prices are climbing for everything from lentils to onions, squeezing the poor. Apartment rents and prices are rising steeply, especially in large cities. Factories that make the country’s increasingly ubiquitous motorcycles are running at full tilt and have still fallen weeks behind in meeting orders from dealers.

Inflation in India remains much lower than in many developing countries. But prices are rising more than twice as fast as in China, India’s archrival for foreign investment and economic leadership among emerging markets. Prices are also increasing considerably faster than in industrialized countries.

That has put the onus on government leaders to try steering the economy, which is expected to expand by as much as 10 percent this year, away from a possible escalation of inflation pressures that could derail some of their achievements and temper the country’s climb in living standards.

“There is a recognition of these pressures and there is virtual unanimity that these have to be managed,” Y. Venugopal Reddy, the governor of the central bank, said in an interview this week. On Jan. 31, the central bank raised an important short-term interest rate by a quarter-point, to 7.5 percent, to help stem inflation.

Mr. Singh, Mr. Reddy and other senior officials have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment in recent days to the market-oriented policies that have helped to triple the economy’s growth rate since the early 1990s.

But rising prices are starting to rekindle some nostalgia for the 1980s, when India had one of the world’s most highly regulated economies. “You have to ensure some amount of price regulation,” said Suhel Seth, a prominent political commentator and marketing consultant. “Under the guise of a free market, you’ve created a free fall for the poor.”

Some of the largest increases in food prices have been here in Mumbai. This is an industrialized peninsula where food is brought in over long distances by truckers who have had to pay much more for diesel fuel over the last year as the Indian government has passed on part of the increase in world oil prices.

Navalben Nagda, a retired shopkeeper in northern Mumbai, shopped for milk this week in a green sari but complained that she and her husband had been forced to change their purchasing habits.

“We buy lower-quality food now because that’s all we can afford,” she said. “It doesn’t taste as good.”

Wholesale price inflation has accelerated to 6 percent from 4 percent last spring. Consumer price indexes have risen nearly 7 percent in urban areas over the last year and almost 9 percent in rural areas, where more than two-thirds of the population live and where higher food prices are having the biggest effect.

Government economists attribute rising food prices in India to global factors like a poor harvest in Australia, the growing use of crops to produce ethanol and a higher cost of diesel for tractors. But many here link the increase to the government’s encouragement of futures trading in agricultural commodities, and the government has responded this winter by limiting a few types of transactions involving food.

Mr. Reddy said he felt “some justifiable optimism” about inflation and the Indian economy. He pointed to the lagged effects of interest rate increases over the last year that had not yet fully worked their way through the economy. He also noted that Indian companies were investing in additional capacity and that new roads, loading docks and other infrastructure were being built.

Still, the central bank’s surveys show that practically all of India’s manufacturers are operating at full capacity, as consumer demand has risen first and companies have been slower to respond. Many factory expansions and new factories will be ready in 18 months to two years, Mr. Reddy said, describing the time until then as a transitional period for the economy.

Awash with deposits derived from foreign investors, Indian banks have been lending aggressively, particularly to consumers. That has led to a wave of buying on credit.

Rahim K. Premji, the manager of Allibhai Premji Tyrewalla, a motorcycle store here, said that there had been so many buyers nationwide that for the last six months, motorcycle factories had typically been 15 days late in filling orders.

“It used to be you’d place your order and they’d dispatch it right away,” he said. “They’ve constantly been expanding capacity, but not as fast as demand.”

The panoramic view from the 25th floor of India’s central bank provides clear evidence of supply shortages. Across a wide swath of four-story buildings, stretching for many miles, not a single construction crane was in sight, not in the nearby historical district nor in the poor and rich neighborhoods alike all the way to the edge of the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

That stands in stark contrast to Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Yantai, which have used rising property markets to help finance the bulldozing of many square miles of crumbling housing.

But India has very strong rent control laws and other tenant protection legislation. Along with extensive litigation and backlogged courts, these rules have made it extremely difficult to demolish and put in high-rise complexes to replace the tens of thousands of acres of moldering buildings that clog large cities.

The scarcity has sent prices even higher for existing housing. In fashionable neighborhoods of South Mumbai, apartment prices have jumped close to 60 percent just since last spring. Foreign investors, including oil-rich investors from nearby Middle East countries, are joining the market, bidding aggressively against members of India’s increasingly affluent business elite.

Rushabh S. Mehta, a partner at the Royal House Agency, walked through a 2,000-square-foot apartment that had a cheap-looking concrete floor and flimsy wooden closets. But it is in the chic Malabar Hill neighborhood. The asking price is nearly $1.5 million.

“It’s the location, basically — there’s no view,” he said, looking out a window at the white wall of a neighboring apartment building.

Demand for everything from housing to beer is outpacing supply in part because white-collar salaries are rising faster in India than anywhere else in Asia, climbing 13.7 percent on average over the last year, said Sharad Vishvanath, a labor cost analyst at Hewitt Associates. Wages for junior managers and technical employees are rising fastest of all. Meanwhile, new factories and offices take time to build. But analysts and executives say that productivity gains could allow India to wring more output from the businesses it already has, helping avoid the bottlenecks that can feed an inflationary spiral.

Big gains could come from modern telecommunications and the growing flexibility of India’s labor force, as shown by workers like Selvi Partipan in Chennai.

Ms. Partipan, a 40-year-old who gave birth to the first of her five children when she was 13, used to work as a street vendor. She fried samosas and other fare for passers-by, earning just $2 a day.

But six years ago, after partial deregulation of the leather industry, Mrs. Partipan found a leather factory job. She sewed everything from handbags to jackets and earned $3 a day. She learned that she could earn as much as an additional $7 a day by doing extra sewing at home in the evening and on weekends, when other factories were desperate to finish orders.

The difficulty lay in figuring out when a leather factory manager somewhere else needed workers. So last summer, she gave $80 to her son, a security guard who works a morning shift, to buy a mobile phone. When work became available, factories sent text messages to her son and others in English — Mrs. Partipan speaks only a local dialect — and he quickly told her and she raced to the factory gate.

“I’ve already gathered some orders by phone,” she said, wearing a maroon sari and sitting on a plastic stool as a daughter cooked samosas at the same location where Mrs. Partipan used to cook. “It is paying for itself.”

But while such adaptability helps to explain the long-term optimism of most government and business leaders in India, people in the streets are more worried about the continuing rise in prices. Mukesh Maru, a shopkeeper in Mumbai, pointed to a steel basin of moong dal, a popular type of small yellow bean in especially short supply now, and said that the price had risen to 58 cents a pound from 23 cents a year ago.

In the 35 years his family’s shop has been in business, he said, “it’s only in the past year the prices have jumped so much.”


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Tunisia, the Economic Opportunity

With one citizen out of ten living outside the country, Tunisia has a staggering emigration rate. With a full section dedicated to those expatriates in his government program “For Tomorrow’s Tunisia”, Tunisian President Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali has stressed the importance of this part of the Tunisian community as well as the mutual commitment involved.

According to the Tunisian daily La Presse, by the end of the year 2005, a total of 933,944 Tunisians were living outside the country’s borders. The most common destination was Europe, in which more than 83 percent of Tunisian expatriates currently reside, mainly disseminated in three countries. Thanks to French language instruction in Tunisian primary schools, France is at top of the list with 535,608 Tunisians, followed by Italy, which houses a community of more than 123,845 individuals and 70,349 in Germany.

Hence, on its quest to reinforce the connection between expatriates and their home country, the Tunisian government continuously works towards reaching multiple bilateral conventions and agreements with host authorities. In addition, special care is also dedicated to the fortification of the relationship with specialized engineers and the Tunisian elite abroad in order to benefit from their expertise and achieve a global sustainable development.

All these efforts have been bearing fruit from an economic standpoint, as currency transfers have been continuously growing for the last ten years reaching 1.822 million dinars in 2005. Moreover, expatriates also actively invested money in the Tunisian economy by financing 2,525 projects since 1987, and creating 21,172 jobs.

The Tunisian community is thus composed of a large number of expatriates who are considered full elements of the country's national entity who will have to play an important role in the future of Tunisia.
via Mena Report

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GCC Toy Market 11.8% Annual Growth

On 13 May 2007, the largest toy exhibition in the Middle East, Middle East Toy Fair, will open in Dubai. Exhibitors and industry experts from across the globe will descend on the emirate with what probably amounts to several Santa’s sack-loads of toys and a veritable plethora of new ideas for the playroom.

The show, which has doubled in size since it’s launch five years ago, will comprise of more than 200 exhibitors – among them, iconic toy industry names such as Ravensburger, Simba-Dickie Toys and Christy’s Group. Categories will span the market spectrum too - from baby products to back-to-school, to just about everything you could possibly think of in-between.

It’s probably the very best place on the planet as visitors will be entering the magical world of toys where they will observe the latest innovations and endless creativity in the toys’ industry which makes it the most competitive and lucrative trades in the world.

And the market in the Middle East is no exception. Worth an estimated $1.5 billion a year and with growth rate of 11.8 percent, toys are a serious business for GCC retailers, who are rapidly cashing in on the region’s booming population growth of six percent a year.

Season’s Greetings
But although the market has enjoyed a steady and healthy growth over the past three decades, as would be expected from a region where an estimated 50 percent of the population is under 16, unlike other retail markets, selling toys is not all fun and games.

Primarily, it’s a seasonal industry, with approximately 65 percent of a year’s sales taking place during Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha, Christmas and Diwali. This sets it apart from other retail arenas such as fashion, where the year is broken into spring/summer and autumn/winter collections which sell fairly consistently throughout the year.

Children are tricky customers too. Retailers must hazard a guess at the new ‘it toys’ for the season which may – or may not turn out to be successful. Parents are also a factor in the customer equation, and conflict will often arise in terms of which toys they want their children to have – and which toys their offspring actually desire – making the ‘it toy’ forecast even more complicated.

And all that isn’t even factoring in the logistical issues of the extra space required by retailers to display their products and the strict safety standards required across the board – particularly for babies and children under five.

Baby Boomers
Yet despite the challenges of the industry, the eastern hemisphere in general is experiencing what amounts to a blossoming business climate – and population growth as well as healthy disposable incomes are the reasons, say Magrudy’s – the company that opened Dubai’s first toy outlet more than 30 years ago.

“Demand for toys is increasing by around 10 to 15 percent a year,” says their spokesman, who acts as the chain’s main toy buyer consultant.

He explains; “The reasons are basically down to the increase in population, which manifests itself in the increase of shopping mall space, increase of kindergartens and increase in the flow of tourists. Magrudy’s has been in the business of toys for more than 30 years and the market has changed a lot, but the main season for business is still the last quarter of the year – where on average, parents spend more than Dhs 300 per purchase.”

As evidence of the younger customer’s purchasing power – and their steady increase in number, (the region’s birth rates have risen by 10 percent over the past few decades) the Middle East is soon to become the home of six Hamley’s stores.

The historical outlet which has suffered financially in recent years, hopes the great trek east will boost its market value, following the decline in sales in the west, where the population is ageing, consumer spending is down, and rents and overheads are increasing. Indeed, already 30 percent of Hamleys customer’s in its legendary London store are tourists – not residents.

The first Middle East Hamleys store will appropriately open in Emaar’s new Dubai Mall– which will also be the world’s largest shopping mall. And the amount of retail space opportunities that will be available to other outlets in Dubai by 2009, is currently estimated to be worth a staggering $26 billion.

In terms of home-grown businesses, Babyshop is the local success story. The company, which was established in 1973 with just a single outlet, now has 60 stores across the region – 26 of which are in Saudi Arabia were the birth rate has enjoyed a particularly healthy boost in recent years.

Traditional versus Modern
But perhaps most surprisingly, despite the massive technological advances within the toy industry that have seen the birth of the Furby, a robotic plethora of pets and electronic nursery playmates, traditional, educational toys are gaining in popularity in the Middle East.

“The demand for creative, educational toys has increased,” confirms Magrudy’s spokesman, who goes on to add that the retail chain has geared their stock to meet market demands by increasing the number of traditional toy in their stores.

Perhaps the shift towards learning through play is evidence of the increased awareness parents now have regarding the development of their children. Or perhaps, it is also in part because the number of nurseries and kindergartens in Dubai has increased by almost 40 percent over the past five years.

Either way, a young population plus a healthy economy is a pleasing equation for the region’s toy market, which for now, and for the foreseeable future, looks set to enjoy a profitable growth trajectory.

Consumers, trade visitors and experts can visit the Middle East Toy Fair from 13-15 May. And for the first time a Conference will take place along side the Exhibition to shed more light on the latest trends and discuss other interesting topics concerning the toy industry. Some of key speakers are V Andrew Dobbie, Gameplan Europe UK, former European Marketing Director of Mattel Toys. Neil Griffiths, UK Creator of the internationally acclaimed Storysack concept and author of books on creative play as well as children’s picture books. Wasken Abadjian, Intermarket Consulting Germany, Former Export Manager of Haba Habermaaß GmbH.
via Mena Report


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GCC Water Projects need $100b Investments

A recently published report revealed that an estimated $100 billion in investments will be needed over the next decade for water and desalination projects in the GCC.

With only one percent of the world's renewable fresh water resources and five percent of its population, "the provision of adequate water supply is one of the key issues facing governments across the region today," the report said according to Gulf News.

Twenty-four million cubic meters of water per day, or approximately 70 percent of the UAE's daily water supply comes from desalination plants. "The scale of the demand is illustrated by the fact that the UAE consumes more water per capita than any other country with the exception of the US and Canada," explained Sarah Woodbridge, Group Director of Exhibitions at IIR Middle East - organizers of the Middle East Electricity.

The county's water consumption is growing rapidly, having increased from 49 MIGD in 2003 to 54 MIGD in 2004. "Dubai alone has an installed desalination capacity of 188 MIGD (million gallons per day) with a total production of 58.8 MIGD," the report added. Some 40 percent of the total demand in the region comes from its industrial and municipal sectors.

Currently, Saudi Arabia is the world's largest producer of desalinated water with 30 desalination plants pumping nearly 600 million gallons per day, accounting for about one-third of total global production.

In addition, the report pointed out, "The region has one of the world's highest demands for power generation and clean water as the result of rapid population growth rates and economic diversification." via Mena Report

A comprehensive analysis of the water market. Such huge investment would open opportunities for business and entrepreneurs but on the same side would increase dependence on high energy comsuming survival projetcs.

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Regional Stock Markets Mixed Start

The New Year has begun on a mixed note as regional markets reacted differently to the prevailing economic, financial and political variables. Four of the six GCC markets declined, with the UAE and Oman being the notable exceptions, according to executive partner of Rasmala Investments Returns Khaled Al Masri.

Egypt, after a positive start to the year, was affected by a wave of profit taking leading to losses of over four per cent for this market. The smaller North African markets of Morocco and Tunisia continue to make further gains despite valuations having reached overly high levels. The Jordanian market, after a poor 2006, began the year on a very strong note and registered the highest growth among regional markets, noted Al Masri in his overview report for the Middle East.

Trading activity in the first two weeks of the month was light as most investors preferred to stay on the sidelines awaiting corporate earnings results. As the month progressed, more companies declared their financial results and there was a clear improvement in trading activity, he added.

The largest market, Saudi Arabia, began the New Year with a large decline. The Saudi market (TASI Index) dropped more than 11 per cent for the month, after having dropped by more than 50 per cent in 2006.

The fall was broad based with seven of the eight sector indices showing losses and the banking and telecom sectors were the most affected with losses of 15 per cent to 20 per cent, the report revealed.

Profit results of the major companies have largely been in line with market expectations but it would seem that investors had been expecting higher dividend payouts and were worried by signs of weakness in the fourth quarter profits of some leading banks.

Lower oil prices and the on-going worries over Iran and Iraq seem to have affected the Saudi market more than any other market. Investor confidence was further damaged by the regulator's (CMA) decision to suspend two firms, Anaam International Holding Group and Bishah Agriculture Development, after their accumulated losses had wiped out their capital. We see these stringent measures as a welcome development despite their negative short-term impact on the market, the report highlighted.

The large decline for the month has made certain valuations attractive but the market keenly awaits a catalyst to trigger a rebound in investor interest.

UAE markets rose by more than three per cent for the month after a slow start to the year. The generally positive profit news from leading companies and banks has led to a clear improvement in investor sentiment and trading volumes were four to five times higher than they were at the beginning of the year.(TradeArabia News Service)

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IPO Summit - Focus on Market Stability

The prospects for regional initial public offerings (IPO) in 2007 will be the focus of a major conference in Dubai next month. Dubai-based IIR Middle East will organise the 2nd Middle East IPO Summit 2007 from March 24 to 29 at the Madinat Jumeirah, Mina A’Salam.

The summit will help restore investor confidence and market stability after a volatile performance in 2006, which saw $436 billion wiped off GCC market capitalization, said a spokesman. Andrew Jeffreys, editor-in-chief, Oxford Business Group, commented: “Investment experts, regulators and business leaders need to collectively discuss the current IPO environment throughout the region and to positively influence the direction of the markets they inhabit.”

Although Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait recorded modest gains, the bourses in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai saw red as the markets headed south for most of the year. According to figures released by the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), these four bourses together lost a staggering $436 billion, with the Saudi market losing over $320 billion, nearly half of its recorded market capitalisation at the beginning of 2006.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai also saw their market capitalisation plummet, with losses of $60 billion (45 per cent) and $26 billion (23 per cent) respectively. Qatar’s financial market was not immune to it either. The Doha Securities Market witnessed the market capitalisation of its 33 listed companies plunge by $28 billion (32 per cent) in 2006.

Regional traders charged speculation, insider-trading, lack of transparency and disclosure and uninformed investors, as the key issues responsible for the catastrophic market performance. However, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) it was more a case of excess liquidity and the lack of depth in the regional markets that were the underlying causes. Indeed at the end of 2006 there were only 1,607 companies listed on all 14 Arab bourses combined, 58 less than the year before.

Deep Marwaha, conference manager for the summit, said: “IPOs can redress the balance between liquidity and market depth. They can also enable private and family-owned companies, which make up 90 per cent of the region’s businesses, to realise their value or to raise additional capital, representing great potential for future listings.”

Debate and discussion amongst investment experts, regulators and market leaders will centre on regulatory and industry standards, corporate governance and transparency, reporting standards and internal audit, management changes and restructure. It will also address the costs associated with IPOs and the long-term obligations of public companies as well as the critical factors underpinning oversubscriptions, over-pricing and macro-economic issues affecting IPOs.

Two dedicated workshops have also been organised and will examine IPO feasibility studies that assess how to prepare for listing and structuring a successful IPO. New this year is a four-day, in-depth seminar entitled “Certified IPO Specialist”, which runs for two days pre and two days post of the main conference.

An impressive line-up of international and regional financial experts are expected to speak at the event including amongst others, Henry Azzam, chairman, Dubai International Financial Exchange, Habib Mulla, chairman, Dubai Financial Services Authority, Vivek Rao, head of finance, Tamweel, Zahed Chowdury, head of Middle East Research, Deutsche Bank, Mark Hanson, head of corporate finance, Saudi Hollandi Bank, Omar M. El Quqa, executive VP – corporate finance & treasury, Global Investment House and Mahmoud Salem, VP – Business Development and Depository Receipts MENA, Bank of New York. Global Investment House is the diamond sponsor of the summit.-(via TradeArabia News Service)

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Opportunities in Ras Al Khaimah to Unfold

A major conference next week will address the opportunities unfolding in the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The ‘Ras Al Khaimah Conference 2007’, a conference jointly organised by the Investment and Development Office (IDO) of the Ras Al Khaimah Government with MEED will be held on February 12 and 13.

Under the patronage of and featuring a keynote presentation by Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, the conference will be led by a panel of industry leaders and speakers.

The speakers will provide an in-depth analysis of current projects, tendering projects and opportunities in the real estate, tourism, petrochemicals, manufacturing and energy sectors of Ras Al Khaimah. The conference will be held at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah.-
(via TradeArabia News Service)end post


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GCC Markets Still Attractive

The GCC stock markets remain attractive to investors due to strong economic factors, attractive valuations, stable economies and sound market liquidity, says a report. The fall in stock prices during 2006 shows signs of consolidation more than a start of a long bear phase, according to M R Raghu, head of research, Kuwait Financial Center (Markaz).

Bear markets are generally accompanied by economic recession and banking system weaknesses. Neither of those conditions is forecasted for GCC region in 2007, he says. Among economic sectors, the report assigns positive ratings to banking, telecom and services sectors; neutral rating to industrial sector and negative rating to real estate sector.

The report examined nine important variables like economic factors, valuation attraction, economic liquidity, investor sentiment, etc and assigned scores based on each factor in order to assess the relative attraction of each GCC market.

On a scale of 1-5, Oman top scored at 2.93, followed by Bahrain (2.85) and Kuwait (2.84). Saudi Arabia scored 2.66 while UAE was at the bottom with a score of only 2.18. Accordingly, the report suggests overweight to Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, neutral weight to Saudi Arabia and underweight to UAE.

2007 may be headed for lower real GDP growth according to international forecasts. Qatar is the only GCC economy that is expected to maintain its scorching pace of growth, according to Raghu.

UAE and Qatar appear vulnerable to inflation threat as inflation is close to double-digit. Strong demand growth coupled with supply bottlenecks lead to inflation turning higher than the average. The supply bottlenecks are expected to continue especially in sectors like construction.

Kuwait and UAE enjoy very high fiscal surpluses relative to other GCC countries. All GCC countries enjoy excellent current account surpluses.

In terms of valuation attractiveness, all GCC countries except Saudi Arabia enjoy attractive valuation in terms of P/E and P/B. GCC valuation is looking attractive compared to emerging markets. Some of the emerging markets look very expensive in terms of P/E like China (31), Czech Republic (26) and India (23). Expected P/E ratio for GCC is estimated at 13. Dividend yields have improved in 2006 after a sharp correction. GCC economies continue to experience strong growth in broad money (liquidity) relative to their long-term trend. The study notes that Saudi Arabia exhibits strong sensitivity to liquidity growth.

After the steep market correction, GCC equity fund managers have started increasing their allocation to Saudi Arabia, though slowly. Corporate profitability growth was lower in 2006 compared to previous years. The slump in earnings is mostly concentrated in mid and small caps more than large caps according to trends available till September 2006. For example, in Kuwait while the overall market reported a drop in earnings of 19 per cent, the top companies recorded a growth of 20 per cent while other companies earnings fell by 71 per cent. Other GCC countries also reported similar pattern.

The framework also measures investor sentiment through response to IPOs. Raghu notes that there are no formal mechanism to measure investor sentiment and hence response to IPOs can be considered as a distant proxy to measuring investor sentiment. Amount raised through IPOs halved during year 2006 compared to year 2005 reflecting weak investor sentiment. While the secondary market recorded huge slump in Saudi Arabia, the market for IPOs and rights continues to be strong indicating strong investor appetite.

GCC economies are experiencing stable and improving political conditions as reflected by international ratings. GCC economies score very well on economic structure risk. Stock market liquidity dropped during year 2006 with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain being exceptions. -(TradeArabia News Service)

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GCC Food Spending to hit $20 billion

The annual food bill for the GCC region could double over the next 10 years and reach $20 billion as the region’s population approaches 40 million, according to a report. The six countries are estimated to have spent close to $9 billion on food in 2004.

To address this issue, the GCC has set ambitious targets to substantially develop the agricultural sector by 2010 and an investment of billions of dollars has been earmarked to meet the projected increase in future demand, with Saudi Arabia alone planning to spend over $6.6 billion in water, agriculture and infrastructure sectors during 2007.

However import costs could rise further if as expected the US dollar weakens as America struggles to reduce its trillion dollar budget deficit and GCC central banks do not realign their currencies against the ‘greenback’, heightening concerns over inflation.

”These developments present immeasurable opportunities for agriculture and food related manufacturers, suppliers and technologists to develop significant business opportunities throughout the region,” said Michael Hanlon, exhibition manager for AGRA Middle East show at IIR Middle East.

The AGRA Middle East exhibition is being held at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre (DIEC) from April 17-19, 2007. Established for over 10 years, AGRA Middle East is a proven networking platform that greatly contributes to the region's economy by playing a crucial role in promoting and networking the varied trade activities of the region's burgeoning markets, said Hanlon. The show presents a focus on crop cultivation technologies and machinery, farming technologies, landscaping, irrigation systems, greenhouses, horticulture, fertilizers and agrochemicals, agriculture and garden tools, fencing and related agricultural activities.

The 2007 edition of AGRA Middle East Exhibition will also feature the latest scientific developments in laboratory processes, pest control and biotechnologies, making this exhibition a 'must see' event for all industry participants.

Running concurrently with AGRA Middle East are four distinct, yet closely linked, industrial sectors that have been drawn together to create one comprehensive and power-packed platform. The event will showcase the latest advances in Agriculture & Irrigation, Animal Husbandry & Poultry Farming, Floriculture & Horticulture plus Fisheries & Aquaculture.

The exhibition has attracted confirmed participation from international agribusiness leaders including Cargill, Alltech, Chore Time Systems and Zagro. Moreover, the exhibition has gained key support from regional players and institutional groups like Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and development (AAAID), Egyptian Agribusiness Association and Malaysian Fisheries Department.-(TradeArabia News Service)

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SME Financing Focus by Bahrain

Bahrain’s Industry and Commerce Ministry is organising a conference on “Enhancing SME Access to Finance and Corporate Governance”. The full-day conference will take place on February 25 at the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel – Taj Ballroom.

The event will be held in partnership with the Economic Development Board – Labour Fund, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Labour Market Regulatory Authority and in alliance with the Commercial Law Development Programme, a programme of the US Department of Commerce Office of the General Counsel and Financial Services Volunteer Corp.

It is being organised under the patronage of Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Abdulla Fakhro. The conference will commence from 8:30am and continue to 5:30pm and targets small and medium business owners, entrepreneurs, commercial bankers, lawyers who represent small and medium business owners, representatives from non-bank financial institutions, representatives from Bankers’ Society of Bahrain and representatives from Bahrain’s government agencies.

The morning session will be dedicated to introducing best practices of SME financing, highlighting the role of banks in providing financial services including credit to SME’s and outlining the products currently available in Bahrain for SME financing.

The conference will draw on the experiences of both local and international expertise in providing financing solutions to small and medium sized businesses and good corporate governance practices.

The speakers include officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, reputed members of the Bankers Society of Bahrain, representatives from a number of local reputable banks, experts in providing financing solutions from the Commercial Law Development Program of the US Department of Commerce Office of the General Counsel and Financial Services Volunteers Corp.

The evening portion of the conference will introduce the Corporate Governance Code of the Kingdom of Bahrain and focus on the impact on companies of implementing the Code.

Small and medium sized enterprises are the backbone of all economies and are a key source of economic growth. All businesses, small or large, tend to face the same issue in their early days – finding the funds to enable them to start and build up the business.

However in general, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are at a disadvantage when trying to obtain financing or attract private investors relative to larger and more established firms.

The difficulties that SMEs encounter when trying to access finance may result from an incomplete range of financial products and services, regulatory barriers or gaps in the legal framework or a lack of information on both the banks’ and the SMEs side. The global demand for improved corporate governance could not be greater.

The increasingly complex legal and regulatory environment, high profile corporate scandals, greater participation of foreign investors in developing markets and increased investor awareness of the risk associated with poor corporate governance practices has led to extensive governance reforms in nations throughout the world and greater demand for improved disclosure about how organizations are run.

The global focus on governance has created a need for organisations to assess the effectiveness of their governance structures, programs and processes.

Good corporate governance is vital for Bahrain’s financial and economic development. Global experiences have proven that good corporate governance practices protect investors’ rights, attract investment and enhance the value of companies. The Corporate Governance Code of Bahrain aims at highlighting good governance practices for companies doing business in Bahrain. (via TradeArabia News Service)


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Goldman Sachs in Saudi JV

Goldman Sachs Group and National Commercial Bank have agreed to set up an investment banking and asset management unit to tap business in the oil-producing country. 'Goldman Sachs and Al Ahli Financial Company intend to cooperate on a number of areas of activity inside the kingdom and also on areas of activity linked to the kingdom abroad,' National Commercial Bank said in a statement.

'The memorandum of understanding also provides for the participation of Goldman Sachs in the capital of Al Ahli Financial Company,' the lender said. The world's largest investment bank will own as much as 40 per cent of Al Ahli Financial, said an NCB official. 'It will not exceed 40 per cent.' (Reuters)
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Zebra offers Mobile Printer

Zebra Technologies Corporation, a global leader in on-demand printing solutions, has introduced the miniature MZ220 mobile receipt printer. The printer is designed for applications such as retail line busting, delivery and field service operations, hospitality and tableside receipt printing and public transportation ticketing.

This small and sleek mobile printer fits comfortably in the palm of the hand, weighs less than a pound and offers a wide range of connectivity from Infrared Data Association (IrDA) and USB 2.0 connectivity to optional Bluetooth and 802.11b/g.

“The MZ220 is the perfect printer for quick and convenient printing from mobile workers’ personal digital assistants (PDAs), handheld devices and smart phones. A great addition to the Zebra mobile printer family, it’s a smart solution for simple, low-volume receipt printing,” said Bob Danahy, director of global mobile and wireless technology for Zebra.

“Designed with our customers in mind, this economical, lightweight mobile printer is attractive, easy to use and backed by the same reliability and quality that the Zebra brand is known for worldwide.”

The MZ220 is small enough to fit easily in the palm of the hand and can be carried or worn comfortably all day by a mobile worker. User-friendly and attractive, it is ideal for use in retail, hospitality and other customer-facing environments. The MZ220 also features Zebra’s advanced networking support, via tools such as ZebraNet Bridge Enterprise printer management software, and advanced security protocols such as 802.11i and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).-(TradeArabia News Service)

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