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Masdar UAE Offers Scholarships

Masdar the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company has launched a UAE-wide search for top young scholars to pursue graduate-level science and engineering degrees at its seven university partners. Twenty Masdar Fellowships will be awarded to engineering and science graduates who demonstrate outstanding performance and a strong commitment to help build the UAE’s scientific base.

Sultan Al Jaber, Masdar CEO emphasized: “Masdar’s philosophy is to develop the UAE’s indigenous human capital, to transform the natural resource wealth of the country to a long-term, competitive and sustainable knowledge economy”.

Masdar Fellows will be able to pursue research areas of interest in any of the member institutions in Masdar Research Network (MRN). The MRN is a unique collaborative network of world-class scientists and researchers in seven leading scientific centres on three continents, including Columbia University (USA), Imperial College London (UK), RWTH Aachen University (Germany), German Aerospace Center-DLR (Germany), Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan), University of Waterloo (Canada), CIEMAT – Research Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology (Spain).

Each fellowship will cover educational and living expenses, in addition to a pre-set salary and foreign living allowance. Upon graduation, Masdar Fellows may choose to work at Masdar, the Masdar Institute of Science & Technology (MIST), founded through a cooperative agreement with the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), or a Masdar-related joint venture.

Current Masdar research included many cutting-edge technologies, such as solar energy, water technologies, carbon capture and storage, biofuels, energy storage and energy efficiency.

Applications will be accepted until May 31, 2007. Potential candidates should submit their CV and expression of interest to the MRN Fellowship Committee by e-mail: mrnfellowships@masdar.ae - TradeArabia News Service

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ABN Amro Up For Sale

The chief executive of ABN Amro is at risk of losing his job after the Dutch bank reversed course and allowed a takeover consortium to access its books, according to a media report.

Sunday's The Independent, a British newspaper, reported that CEO Rijkman Groenink only changed his position against allowing the Royal Bank of Scotland-led group to perform due diligence on ABN ABN after coming under intense shareholder pressure to consider their bid.

ABN is weighing competing bids Britain's Barclays PLC , offering about $91 billion, and the proposal by the RBS group, which is worth about $100 billion.

ABN decided Friday to open its books to RBS, a day after Groenink defended the Barclays deal against a shareholder revolt, according to a report on The Independent's Web site.

Citing unnamed analysts, the report said the exit of Groenink could boost RBS's chance of winning the takeover battle for ABN.

The report said the move to allow due diligence by RBS is believed to have been pushed through by the Dutch bank's supervisory board. ABN's board still supports Barclay's proposal.

The report follows an announcement from an Amsterdam court on Saturday that it will decide Thursday about whether or not to freeze the sale of ABN's LaSalle Bank to Bank of America Corp. BAC. If the $21 billion sale is halted, it would give the RBS group more time to present its offer to ABN shareholders. See full story.

On Friday, the RBS group, which includes Spain's Banco Santander, said it intends to push ahead with its pursuit of ABN, despite resistance from the bank itself. via menafn.com


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Pakistan's first Electronic Commodity Exchange, National Commodity Exchange Limited (NCEL)

The much-awaited country's first electronic commodity exchange, National Commodity Exchange Limited (NCEL) is likely to go in operation next month as the securities' watchdog has given final consent to the exchange for raising all three bourses' representation by five percent, sources in NCEL told Business Recorder on Monday.

"The bone of contention among the three stock exchanges of the country has been removed completely," they said. They said that that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has finally approved the shareholding issue of the three stock exchanges ie Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad stock exchanges, raising an aggregate shareholding from 30 percent to 35 percent.

"The securities' regulator has given the biggest chunk to Karachi Stock Exchange with 17.5 percent shareholding while Lahore and Islamabad bourses would get 10 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively," sources said.

Since the shareholding issue, which was the main impediment in launching formal trading of the country's first electronic commodity exchange has been resolved, the NCEL is likely to start trading in the first week of May this year.

"The latest development on the NCEL front is that the names of the Board of Directors (BoD) have also been sent to SECP for approval," sources said. They said that the NCEL has put forward two names from KSE, and one each from LSE, ISE, Pak-Kuwait Investment Company and Zarai Taraqiati Bank Ltd, to fill the nominated directors' slots. "NCEL will have 12 directors on its board with, obviously, one managing director," sources said.

Earlier, more than three times, the NCEL management had announced to commence its trading operations but always it had been delayed due to the dispute on share holding the operation.

After clearing all issues, now there is no hurdle to start operation of commodity exchange, sources said. NCEL is the country's first commodity exchange, with paid up capital of Rs 50 million and has 283 members. SECP had issued the licence in 2002 and later gave permission for futures trading in gold to NCEL management to commence its formal operations.via Business Recorder, 2007


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UAE Approves Trade-Mark Law

The Uinted Arab Emirates Cabinet has approved an unified trade-mark law, according to a statement from the Ministry of Economy.'The law is mandatory and a federal decree in this regard is in the pipeline,' the statement added.

The unified GCC trade-mark law is in conformity with approval of the Trade Cooperation Committee according to the GCC Higher Council resolution on joint efforts to unify economic and trade policies, according to a report in the Gulf News.

The idea is to improve and upgrade them to meet world economic developments, especially the WTO regulations and establishment of the GCC Customs Union.
end post via TradeArabia News Service

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Karachi Pakistan Attracts Foriegn Investment

Project Director, Tameer Karachi Programme, Rauf Akhtar Farooqi on Thursday said that Qatar government was interested in constructing a "city center" in Karachi at a cost of $1.5 billion. Talking to PTV about the mega projects in Karachi he said.

it was for the first time that federal government was taking interest in the development of Karachi and development projects worth Rs 29 billion were nearing completion. He said, mega project of Sohrab Got flyover would be completed in next two months. Phase one of it was already open for the public.

Another mega project is the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the road, which leads towards Korangi industrial area. It was the long awaited demand of the public, he said, adding this project would cost Rs 1.120 billion and would be completed in three months.

Farooqi said corridor one project, which included three flyovers, three underpasses was completed in record time of eight months, adding it had reduced pressure on the main highways. He said, similarly, the corridor two project, which was recently approved by City Nazim Mustafa Kamal would start from Sharah-e-Faisal and after passing through Gulistan-e-Johar and Gulshan Iqbal would terminate at Nazim Chorangi.

"We will never compromise on quality, all roads are of international standard and their life is 30 to 35 years," he added. He said every road had its drainage system and the underground system was being improved so that there was no need to break the road if there was any problem of leakage or drainage, adding all underground infrastructure had been improved.

He was optimistic that rainy season would not be a trouble for the citizens of Karachi. Farooqi said that increasing foreign direct investment in Karachi manifests that foreigners had full confidence in the city's future.

He said, Karachi elevated expressway was a project of $350 million and a Malaysian company was investing in this project. Malaysia was also constructing an Information Technology Tower in Karachi, which would be the largest building of Pakistan, he said adding it would be 47-story building and there would be 10,000 call centers in it.

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Seef Properties Bahrain IPO Opens Tomorrow

Subscriptions to the initial public offering (IPO) of Bahrain government’s shares in Seef Properties start tomorrow (April 26). Strong demand is expected from both individuals and institutions, the company said. The IPO marks the first time that the Bahrain government has introduced initiatives to encourage share ownership amongst the general Bahrain public.

Bahrainis who subscribe for a minimum 5,000 and a maximum of 50,000 ordinary shares are qualified to apply for the Retail Offering, which will allow them to benefit from the government’s incentive schemes. These include a discounted price of 110 fils and payment by instalments (50 per cent upon subscription and the remainder 12 months later).

The second offering, the Institutional Offering, is open to Bahraini and non-Bahraini individuals and institutions applying for a minimum of 51,000 and a maximum of 111,455,000 ordinary shares.

Shares are priced at 110 fils for the Retail Offering and 125 fils for the Institutional Offering. Bahraini applicants are able to apply for either the Retail Offering or the Institutional Offering, but not both.

The IPO subscription period will run till May 10.

Shaikh Ebrahim bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, Undersecretary, Ministry of Finance, said: “Since we announced details of the IPO, we have seen massive interest across the Kingdom. We are looking forward to seeing strong demand over the next two weeks."

Applications for shares in Seef Properties will be accepted during the subscription period at designated branches of BBK and Bahrain Islamic Bank. Copies of the prospectus and applications forms will be available for collection from Securities & Investment Company (SICO), BBK, Bahrain Islamic Bank and KPMG Fakhro. The prospectus, mini prospectus and sample subscription application forms can also be downloaded from the website www.seefipo.com from April 26. - (TradeArabia News Service)

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'Women in Business' conference Oman

'Women in Business' conference will be held in Oman under the patronage of Sayyida Aliya bint Thuwaini Al Said. With one of the most prominent group of speakers to be assembled in the country at any one time, the two-day event will herald the beginning of an annual event with the inaugural conference set to take place at Shangri La's Barr al Jissah Resort and Spa on June 2.

These days the high status Omani women enjoy is reflected in the priority accorded to them in the country's development plans. Women account for half the Sultanate's population and are encouraged to play their part in the country's economic development alongside their male counterparts.

During the conference delegates will be inspired and enthralled by the keynote speakers who are themselves outstanding leaders and successful businesswomen from around the world, lending their credibility and clout to this event.

Organisers Envent are recommending that delegates book early due to the great interest already being expressed in this significant event, both locally in the Sultanate and beyond.

Detailed programme information can be viewed on the conference website at www.womeninbusiness-oman.com with registration discounts applicable for group bookings and for individuals signing up before May 15, 2007.-(TradeArabia News Service)

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Bahrain's Seef Properties IPO (26 April - 10 May)

Bahrain's government will sell 48.5% of Seef Properties in an initial public offering from 26 April to 10 May 2007, Reuters reported. The government will sell 222.91m shares and expects to collect $69.5m from the issue, a senior finance ministry official told the news agency. Individual Bahraini investors can buy shares at a 12% discount of 110 fils each, and pay for them in two equal installments over 12 months. -(ameinfo.com)
end post

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HP New Storage System for Middle East SMB Market

HP has introduced an all-in-one storage system for the small and medium-size business (SMB) market. The new system will help customers lower the cost and complexity of their data storage environments, the company said. It has also named two new executives to its SMB team.

As director of worldwide SMB activities within HP’s Technology Solutions Group, Urs Renggli, 42, will coordinate storage, server, software and services business units to deliver customers simple, affordable and reliable offerings.

Harry Baeverstad, 54, as director of SMB within the StorageWorks business unit, will be in charge of leading SMB product strategy and go-to-market programs for StorageWorks.

The HP StorageWorks 1200 All-in-One Storage System (HP AiO1200) is the newest member of the company’s easy-to-use family of storage systems for SMBs. Unlike competing offerings, this integrated system is designed for IT generalists who have no storage expertise.

“As a clear leader in the SMB space, HP sees the business-to-business technology market at a tipping point where spending among small and medium-size businesses is growing faster than spending among enterprise businesses,” said Renggli. “This puts HP in a prime position to deliver tailored products and expertise to help businesses grow, reduce costs and mitigate risk.” - (TradeArabia News Service)

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Saudi Arabia Plans new IPO Pricing System

Saudi Arabia is introducing a system of book-building to allow investor demand to determine the price of shares sold in initial public offerings. Investor demand plays relatively little part in the pricing of IPOs in the Gulf Arab region. In Saudi Arabia, a company either sells shares at a nominal value of 10 riyals ($2.67) or at a higher price set with its advisers before the IPO opens.

"From now on, any company that is floating shares will be subject to this new system...of book-building," Al-Jazirah newspaper quoted Abdulrahman al-Tuwaijri, head of the Capital Markets Authority, as saying in an interview. "It will no longer be up to the authority or the financial adviser to get involved...but up to the market and the people interested in buying," he added, according to the paper.

Jazirah did not give details of the book-building process, which usually involves the IPO's lead manager tracking demand for shares after announcing the range of prices in which it expects to sell them. The actual price is determined at the end of the book-building period.

Tuwaijri's spokesman Abdulaziz Alzoom could not be reached for comment on the story.

The Capital Markets Authority is already applying the new procedure to a company that plans to sell shares, the paper quoted Tuwaijri as saying, without giving details.

Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Coampany secured approval from Capital Markets Authority on Wednesday to sell $1.8 billion of shares this month in what will be the second-largest Gulf Arab initial public offering. Kayan, 35 percent owned by state-controlled Saudi Basic Industries Corp., will offer 675 million shares at 10 riyals each between April 28 and May 7.

The pricing of Saudi IPOs came in for criticism after a crash halved the value of the largest Arab stock market between February and May last year, stinging many retail investors. Investors had snapped up new share offerings during an equity boom in the previous two years, in some cases paying astronomical prices for what eventually became worthless stock. - Reuters

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Saudi International banking and Investment Conference 2007

There is a need for in-depth studies to expand the scope of investment banking from the Shariah perspective, experts have told a conference. “Lots of investors are dazed and confused,” Taha A. Al-Kuwaiz, member of the Shoura Council, said told the three-day Saudi International banking and Investment Conference 2007, while moderating a discussion on “Investment banking: Opportunities and challenges’ on the concluding day of the event. “There are lots of changes taking place at the retail level and factors causing them should be examined,” he said, adding that demographic, political, economic and investment factors were influencing the changes.

Ammar Shata, CEO, Al-Khabeer Financial Advisors, said that despite the region’s immense potential, opportunities remained untapped because of the absence of appropriate mechanisms that could efficiently channel funds from investors to entrepreneurs. This deficiency can be attributed mainly to an underdeveloped financial market structure and dearth of locally available knowledge of advanced financial structures and products. “This is further accentuated as the region’s population is not comfortable with financial products transplanted directly from the West,” he added.

“We recognised the enormous gap that lies between the demand for Islamic financial products and services and its fulfillment. On the one hand, the conventional finance players are struggling to keep pace with the breathtaking advancement in modern finance and investments and, on the other hand, develop a thorough understanding of Shariah.”

Speaking on “Investment banking from the Shariah perspective,” economist Dr. Yasin A. Jefri, said 60 per cent of Saudi citizens have been investors for over 20 years. “Investment climate in any country depends on its political and economic stability. The Kingdom in particular has an exceptionally stable economy, especially since 9/11, 2001, with American and other Western investments returning home. That’s why local investors have chosen to take to Islamic investment,” Jefri said, adding that it was growing demand for Islamic investment that gave rise to Islamic banking products. “There was also growing concentration on the part of Islamic scholars on such products. Even foreign banks, and non-Islamic ones, started seeing advantages in Islamic banking products,” he said. “Islamic products are Shariah compliant, but the compliance is not enough, not satisfying,” he added.

Razi Shafik Fakih, acting CEO, HSBC-Amanah, London, noted that there had been an increasing investor preference for Shariah-compliant products, especially in the GCC and Malaysia. Currently, there are more than 250 Shariah-compliant mutual funds together valued $300 billion in assets, with Malaysia alone accounting for a growth from 7 to 71 Islamic investment funds between 1995 and 2004.

He suggested that new funds should be developed on “customer insights” rather than replicating the latest ‘hot trend’ in conventional funds. “This will allow for an appeal to a larger target market including conventional investors, lower expense ratios and better investment results,” he said.

“Standardisation of Shariah rules is imperative to increase the scope of investment funds and enhance the investor base to provide size and critical mass,” he said. He wanted simpler, robust funds to be developed so that investors could make smart choices of exchange-traded funds and life cycle funds. Education of the stakeholders is necessary for the growth of the industry, whether investors or sales force, he said.

Dr. Amr I. Rajab member of the Shoura Council who moderated the panel discussion, said: “Lots of banks have changed to Islamic banking, but they say the derivatives have high risk factors. Whether high or low, hey should not limit the Islamic product development.” In Pakistan, he pointed out, few banks have been successful in changing to Islamic banking, but they have not developed the products outside the country. “We are quite behind in this part of the world, yet there is a positive trend and Islamic products are being steadily developed.”

Participating in a panel discussion on “Saudi stock market — current trends and prospects,” Dr. Khalid Abdulrahman Al-Bassam, associate professor at the department of economics at King Abdul Aziz University, said lot of countries had raised the competency of their stock markets and the Saudi stock market should follow suit. He noted that stock markets in Malaysia, Thailand and Brazil had developed the infrastructure with supervisory techniques and regulations. This had resulted in improving the capital of many of their companies. “Such measures can be beneficial to the Kingdom by decreasing inflationary trends and increasing the participation of the private sector,” he said.

Dr. Mugbel Saleh Al-Dhukair, professor of economics at King Abdul Aziz University, said the Saudi stock market could benefit a great deal from the buoyant economy coupled with liquidity, the Arab News reported.

Moderating a panel discussion on “Investment and real estate financing,” Abdullah Al-Moualimi, president of Dar Al-Moualimi consulting, described the Kingdom’s real estate market as parallel to the Saudi stock market. “Real estate market has been witnessing a big change, an investment tool for many investors.”

Dr. Fahad ibn Yousef Sharif Al-Eatany, business consultant of Trade Exhibitions & Conferences Ltd., which organised the conference, said real estate was mainly a service sector, especially when seen in the context of the World Trade Organisation. “We should study our real estate sector in the context of our society and culture.” He described the Kingdom’s real estate as the second biggest sector after Saudi stock market. “The future will see a greater inflow of investment into real estate,” he said. “In fact, we have already started seeing the results...new clients are coming in. So there will be a fierce competition among investors in this sector, between individuals and between companies, especially with King Abdullah Economic City and four other new cities coming up,” he said.

Dr. Tarek Ali Hasan Fadaak, associate professor, faculty of design and environment, King Abdul Aziz University, said the Kingdom needed almost 200,000 new housing units a year, however, a third of inhabitants in Jeddah live in slums. “There will be challenges and yet opportunities to overcome them,” he said. These challenges include risks involved in financing real estate through mortgages or loans.

“There should be a quick and easy process to deal with financing real estate,” Fadaak said. “In fact, we need a five-year-plan to meet our housing requirements.”

Abdulaziz Turkistani, a real estate specialist, said that the recent developments in the real estate sector had made many investors optimistic. “However, some real estate companies are one-man shows and they need to be professionally oriented to reap a rich harvest,” he said.

Abdulmoneam M.N. Morad, executive director and board member of Ewa’a Al Derah for Real Estate Development Company Ltd., speaking on the “Anticipated role of real estate financing companies,” called for a strategic planning on the part of financing companies to meet the growing housing needs, especially in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Additionally, demand will be increasing for renovations, reconstructions and maintenance of existing units, he said.

NCB was the platinum sponsor of the conference, with SABB and Bank AlJazira as golden sponsors. Deutsche Bank, Saudi Hollandi Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank were among its silver sponsors.-(TradeArabia News Service)

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Kofi Annan to be in Leaders in Dubai Business Forum

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Leaders in Dubai Business Forum. The forum will take place from November 18 to 20 in Dubai.

The Nobel Peace Prize recipient will address the influence of diplomacy on corporate leadership and social responsibility in the Middle East.

“We are honoured to have Kofi Annan at this year’s forum,” said Alan Kelly, event director, IIR. “His address is very timely as bilateral diplomacy is an integral component to the success of commercial globalisation. Today there is an increasingly urgent need for businesses and governments, particularly those in the Middle East and China, to forge effective and beneficial corporate diplomacy programmes.”

Throughout his tenure, Annan was instrumental in building closer partnerships with global businesses, civil societies and labour organisations whose strengths complemented those of the UN. As a result, joint initiatives were adopted like the ‘Global Compact,’ which promotes corporate social responsibility.

The theme for this year’s Leaders in Dubai Business Forum is ‘Networking for the Present, Ideas for the Future’. The line-up of prominent speakers includes: Robert S. Kaplan, co-creator of the Balanced Scorecard and Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard University; Steve Forbes, president, CEO and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine; Malcolm Gladwell, author of critically acclaimed book 'The Tipping Point'; Professor Muhammed Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of Grameen Bank; and Dr Philip Kotler, marketing guru and the S C Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago.

Last year more than 1,800 participants, including royalty, current and former heads of government, as well as delegates from more than 40 countries participated in the forum.

In its fourth year, the Leaders in Dubai Business Forum 2007 is the region’s largest conference for the local and international business community to learn from leading experts and network with successful, like-minded individuals.

More information of the event is available at www.leadersindubai.com

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Rich Boys buying Corporate Toys

By Steven Pearlstein, Los Angeles Times-Washington PostNews Service

When they come into money, men are known to go out and buy houses or sports cars or yachts. But when they come into lots and lots of money, some men can't resist the urge to buy corporate playthings. Really big companies. Companies in trouble. Companies in industries that they know very little about.

It began last week with the announcement that Sam Zell, who just sold his real estate empire to the Blackstone Group in a deal valued at $39 billion, would use $315 million of the proceeds to buy the ailing Tribune Co. in a complex deal valued at $13.2 billion. As the owner of big-city newspapers and television stations (including the Baltimore Sun), Tribune is in the midst of trying to make the painful transition from the old media to the new.

As yet, there are no indications that Zell has thought deeply about that transition or figured out how to stanch the decline in advertising revenue. Instead, what he has offered is a highly leveraged financing plan and an employee ownership structure that will give him a giant tax break and give workers a piece of the action, albeit without any say in how the company is run.


Even before the ink was dry on the deal, however, Zell had set up a meeting with David Geffen, the Hollywood wheeler-dealer, who is just one of several Los Angeles zillionaires hoping to persuade Zell to break off a piece of his new Tribune empire and sell the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, whatever the problems of media companies, they pale in comparison to the challenges faced by the Big Three auto companies.

But apparently that's what attracted Kirk Kerkorian to make a $4.5 billion offer for Chrysler last week. This is Kerkorian's second run at Chrysler in 17 years, and it comes just months after his failed attempt to force a restructuring of General Motors.

He faces an uphill battle not only with the autoworkers union but also with executives at the parent company in Germany, whom he accused of snookering him and other investors to win approval of the DaimlerChrysler merger in 1998.

Kerkorian is not the only bidder for Chrysler. In addition to a number of private-equity firms, there is also Canadian auto parts magnate, horse breeder and racetrack owner Frank Stronach. Stronach rightfully claims to know a thing or two about the auto business and dealing with the UAW. But even he has offered few details on how to turn a money-losing operation with mediocre products and $15 billion in unfunded retiree obligations into anyone's pot of gold. (Gulf News)

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Islamic Wealth Management Event in Geneva April 24 and 25.

The Islamic Private Banking industry will be the focus of a major conference this month. Michael Gassner Consultancy has organised the third annual Islamic Wealth Management event in Geneva at the Hotel du Rhone on April 24 and 25. The event has grown year by year and offers intimate insights into the Islamic Private Banking industry, its differences and commonalities with the conventional industry.

The Silver Sponsor, Sanad Sukuk Fund, is the world’s first GCC-oriented, diversified Sukuk fund. Sukuk—which are also known as “Islamic bonds”—have, until now, been difficult to purchase for the vast majority of Muslims leaving them unable to enjoy the benefits of bond-like investments.

Previously Muslims were able to buy only deposit equivalents, stocks, real estate and private equity assets that met Sharia standards. A major gap has existed in the investment universe of Muslim savings, a gap that finally was closed with the launch of the Sanad Sukuk Fund.

Mark Mortimore, executive director of the Sanad Sukuk Fund and a member of the fund’s board of directors, said:

“Now we offer Islamic investors a reliable, Sharia-compliant alternative to a conventional bond fund, and provide them with both the returns and liquidity that western investors have enjoyed for decades.

“Since bonds make up almost 45 per cent of worldwide managed assets, this indeed is a historic step for Islamic Wealth Management.”

The entire programme of the 3rd Islamic Wealth Management Event comprises of challenging lectures on traditional and alternative asset classes, on specifics of Islamic financial planning, market strategy and last, but not least, philanthropy and carbon allowances as new asset opportunity.

Islamic finance is considered a growth industry.

Although statistics are not well proven, most experts estimate a size of $500 billion plus x as a reasonable figure.

The main financial markets dealing in these matters are London, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Geneva remains a distinguished place where many Middle East based investors let companies manage their assets – conventionally and increasingly Islamically.

Experts’ estimations are around $200 billion alone in Assets under Management from Mideast clients and an increasing percentage of these funds are asked to be managed Islamically.

The main requirements are upholding certain industry exclusions, avoidance of bank interest, and legal uncertainties in contracts.

The wider objectives of Islam in investments are similar to the sustainability concept and includes stewardship for mankind and environment, which we received in trust by God.

Sukuk , the plural of the Arabic word Sakk, means “certificate” or sometimes “credit note”.

It is also the root for the English word “cheque”.

Sukuk replace interest income with rent or profits; they are therefore the alternative for Muslims seeking a stable income complying with their faith.

Sukuk finance real economic activities and, depending on the underlying structure, they are tradable at market value from the Islamic perspective.

Secondary market trading is still weak in the GCC region, as Sukuk are relatively new.

Significant new Sukuk issuance has only recently increased, while near-term expected new issuance is forecast to increase dramatically. Japan, China and Indonesia are among many market entrants expected to enter the Sukuk market in 2007, while at least 100 or more companies based in the Arab world are believed now to be preparing new Sukuk issues.

Sanad Investment Company — or the Sanad Sukuk Fund — is the first GCC-oriented diversified Sukuk fund in the world.

It will provide both stable income and liquidity for Muslim investors.

It closes the significant market gap for Muslim investors in their asset allocation by finally providing a bond-like investment vehicle that is fully Sharia-compliant.

The Sanad Sukuk Fund will invest not less than 75 per cent in Sukuk and a maximum of 25 per cent in Sharia-compliant credit syndications, with a focus on the GCC countries.

Expanding the Sukuk market by creating a Sukuk fund will lead directly to increased economic development in the GCC region. The fund is being domiciled in the Cayman Islands along with the fund manager Encore Fund Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Encore Management S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Sanad Sukuk Fund targets institutional and individual investors of all kinds. Headquartered in London, United Kingdom, Michael Gassner Consultancy is a leading advisor for Islamic banking & finance. The work is focussed on publishing, training and marketing advice. Structuring and strategy consulting is done via partner firms.

The firm organises the Annual Islamic Wealth Management Event in Geneva, created a major knowledge resource in the web and publishes the free of charge newsletter “IslamicFinance.de – Executive News”, which is read widely all over the Islamic finance community. (TradeArabia News Service)


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Bahrain NRIs get Online Trading Facility

Bahrain-based non-resident Indian (NRI) investors have been urged to shun middlemen and use new online technology. At a high-profile launch, Indian firm UTI Securities Limited and its associate company in Bahrain, Indo-Gulf Financial Services Limited, explained the benefits of their new online trading site to an audience of business figures. Promoting the website www.usectrade.com as valuable means for NRIs to oversee their portfolios, investors were told the volume of stock transactions made online will soon overtake that of those conducted through a broker.

"There are a lot of disadvantages in conventional trading, as far as the communication part is concerned," UTI Securities vice-president and e-brokering head Rakesh Singh told the GDN. "Typically a broker handles a number of customers and this can range from 30, to 50, to 100.
"Suppose a customer calls a broker at a particular time, but a broker only has three or four lines and if he has 100 customers then 100 people could be calling him at a similar time.

"But in online trading the customer can trade at ease in their home, in a cyber-cafe, or by using the internet in their offices," he added.

High returns on investments in recent years have seen the number of NRIs investing in stocks increase, said Singh.

He said the new website would offer an easy to use means for investors to acquaint themselves with the Indian market.

"It's basically an online trading product whereby customers do not have to call any broker or anything, the customer can just log-in to the site and make investments in products ranging from equity investments, to Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and mutual funds," he revealed.

The site charges a flat brokerage fee of 0.5 per cent including1 transaction costs, a competitive rate compared to some brokerage houses, which charge 1.25 per cent, said Singh.

He said Bahrain is the financial hub for the entire Gulf region and an upcoming market.

"As far as the population is concerned, 25 per cent of the population in Bahrain are Indians, so we are looking out for these customers," said Singh.

Indo Gulf Financial Services Ltd is licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain as a category two investment business firm.-(TradeArabia News Service)

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Arab World Competitiveness Roundtable - Doha, Qatar

Over 150 top policy-makers, business leaders and public figures from the Arab world have garthered in Doha, Qatar for the Arab World Competitiveness Roundtable. The participants at this exclusive regional meeting of the World Economic Forum are discussing how to sustain the momentum of growth in the Arab world.

What policies will be most effective in improving the competitive environment in the region? Which regional and global trends will open up new opportunities for Arab businesses in the coming years? How can targeted reforms support promising sectors?

The event began on (April 9) and will concluded(April 10).

The programme of the two-day meeting will focus on three sectors of Arab economies - travel and tourism, healthcare and insurance services - and discussions on the wider regional environment, including the growing role of Iran, future evolution scenarios for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and the challenges ahead for the new generation of Arab companies that are growing globally.

'As Arab countries continue to make significant progress in getting the market fundamentals right, liberalizing trade and encouraging private investment, a new generation of Arab companies is emerging as global players,' said head of Middle East, World Economic Forum Sherif El Diwany.

'The next challenge for Arab corporations will be to develop their own risk management know-how in order to sustain their capacity to compete. The Roundtable will dedicate a session where CEOs and experts will take stock of the types of risks Arab corporations are, or will be, facing and explore the alternative risk mitigation techniques that would be suitable for them,' he added.

On this occasion, the World Economic Forum will launch its third Arab World Competitiveness Report, which is intended to support policy-makers and business leaders alike in their endeavour to enhance competitiveness in the region.

This year's report has expanded coverage to 13 Arab economies - Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and UAE. It provides an in-depth assessment of the competitiveness of Arab economies vis-à-vis the rest of the world, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of individual countries while offering a tool to assess efficiency of measures and overall progress.

Since the last edition of the Arab World Competitiveness Report two years ago, the global economic environment has continued to benefit the Arab world economies. And despite a precarious geopolitical environment, many economies in the region have grown faster than in the last three decades.

The previous edition of the report called for more intense reform efforts and, indeed, many countries have made significant progress in reforming and diversifying their economies.

'The report contains a number of policy recommendations that governments can take up directly. They can use the rankings to get an overview of competitiveness in specific Arab countries as well as what the business sector thinks about the competitive environment,' said senior economist at the World Economic Forum and co-author of the Arab World Competitiveness Report 2007 Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz.(TradeArabia News Service)

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Al Rayan Investments -Qatar Financal Centre's first Islamic Finance Institution

Masraf Al Rayan has launched Al Rayan Investment, the first Islamic financial institution at the Qatar Financial Centre. The announcement was made by chairman of the board and managing director Dr Hussain Al-Abdulla at a press conference attended by the chief executive officer and director general of the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, Stuart Pearce.

Dr Al-Abdulla said: “With today’s buoyant economic conditions, expansion and the desire to diversify has created an exciting business environment. It provides us with numerous opportunities for investors, developers and government bodies to work with Islamic finance in realising their goals over the coming years. That is why today it gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of Al Rayan Investment. We are the first Islamic financial institution to be issued a license to operate within the Qatar Financial Centre, yet another great milestone for the bank and its management.”

The region’s only fully fledged commercial and investment bank with an entirely Sharia’a compliant portfolio of products, Al Rayan Investment envisions to be a new progressive power in the world of Islamic banking that will offer world class Shari’ah compliant investment services.

“All investments will be Shari’ah compliant and we believe we should be at the forefront of shaping the growing collaboration between Shari’ah compliant and other financial institutions. It is a matter of particular importance and value to us all,” added Dr Al-Abdulla.

Stuart Pearce added: “The role of Islamic finance, across the spectrum of financial services in the Middle East as well as the Muslim world generally, is growing rapidly, which makes it logical for the QFC to regard it as one of our core businesses. We are witnessing dramatic economic growth here in Qatar, so the prospects for Masraf Al Rayan seem very bright indeed. We congratulate them on their launch and we look forward to working with them to grow their business in the future.”

Masraf Al Rayan’s commercial banking will continue to offer day to day banking needs and its outstanding products and services.-TradeArabia News Service

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Mashreq Bank (UAE) offers Merchant Overdraft

Mashreqbank has launched an unsecured overdraft facility for merchants against their point of sale receivables. Speaking at the launch of the product, the first of its kind in the market, Atif Bajwa, head of retail banking group, Mashreqbank said: "At Mashreqbank, we have always believed in partnering our customers' growth and offering our customers the very best propositions - innovative whilst remaining simple and transparent from the customer's perspective. Mashreqbank Merchant Overdraft, we believe, will help us enhance our relationship with our existing merchant customers, and going forward, build strong relationships with new customers."

Mashreqbank Merchant Overdraft is the first ever standalone unsecured business overdraft offering in the market; it allows customers involved in retail trading to leverage their existing business flows and catapult to the next level. The application and approval process has been kept relatively simple for the convenience of the relevant customer segments. The proposition is offered in combination with a value-added & powerful business current account.

This offering is also synergistic for the Bank. Mashreqbank is already a material participant in the retail trade sector. The Bank is a key player in the merchant acquiring market with a significant customer base as well as PoS terminal installations across the emirates across diverse retail businesses.

Retailing is booming in the UAE with the sector estimated to be worth $100 billion - thereby being a significant contributor to the GDP, with growth rate next only to the real estate sector. The years ahead are expected to remain very promising for this sector in the UAE. Shopping space in Dubai is expected to treble to over 4 million square metres by the end of 2010, from under 1.5 million square metres in 2006.

Mashreqbank's merchant overdraft credit facility product boosts the working capital and cash flow for the retail traders, which will enable such customers to maximize the benefits from the available growth opportunities. This powerful product will enable the Mashreqbank to enhance the product holding within its retail merchant customers, many of which are SMEs, and cross-sell many more transaction banking and trade-facilitation products. Customer can also avail other products to grow their business viz. treasury services, commercial vehicle financing and personal credit facilities, subject to separate evaluation.

Hemant Lalithraj, head of SME Business, retail banking group, Mashreqbank commented: "SME Banking solutions from Mashreqbank are customised to meet the needs of diverse SME customer segments. We are proud to launch Mashreqbank Merchant Overdraft, which we believe is the most flexible financing option for SMEs involved in the dynamic retailing market in the UAE. This allows them to leverage their existing business and banking relationship to grow to the next level through our competitively priced financing package. This offering forms an integral part of the Bank's SME product proposition, besides other products namely value-added SME business account with transaction services, trade finance & working capital facilities and treasury services for SMEs."-TradeArabia News Service

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Gulf Finance House Bahrain to Go Global

Gulf Finance House (GFH) plans to focus on opening offices around the globe and infrastructure investment. The Bahrain-based investment bank yesterday announced that a review of its business and future prospects has been completed and a five-year strategic plan is ready to be presented to the investment bank's shareholders during investor relations road shows starting in Kuwait on Tuesday.

Chairman Dr Fuad Al Omar announced the news in a Press conference at the Kuwait Stock Exchange.

"We undertook recently a strategic review of all aspects of our business with a view to positioning the investment bank to deliver excellent returns to clients while continuing to grow in the future," he said. "From that review, we have prepared a very exciting business plan for the next five years, which we will unveil to our shareholders in greater detail at the road shows."

The plan includes identifying profitable opportunities in the field of development infrastructure, particularly in countries with an appetite for economic growth.

"We have more opportunities than we can currently service and we see an opportunity to increase both the size and number of projects we undertake," said Dr Al Omar. "To do so, we should expand our sources of funding. That expansion can come from expanding our existing private client base to countries outside the GCC, working with a core group of strategic partners and from tapping both the local and the international financial markets."

GFH, the first Islamic investment bank in the world to be rated investment grade by Standard & Poor's (S&P) last year, is expected to help in achieving its objectives.

"We are informed by S&P that our rating attracted the greatest interest amongst international banks and investors," he said. "We are already capitalising on this by working with the world's leading investment banks to expand our sources of funding to include the international finance and equity markets, particularly for our development infrastructure projects.

"As part of this trend towards the internationalisation of our business we are building our presence in London and have plans to open branch offices in Singapore and other parts of the world in due course.

"The result of this work should give GFH scope to increase the number or size of the projects it currently undertakes and this should increase earnings significantly."

He added that the plan had received the backing of the board. "The board has not changed radically since the bank began its operations and remains strongly supportive of the efforts of management to build the business within the board's strategic direction," he said.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer and board member Esam Janahi said more high-profile appointments within the company are expected.

"One of the main developments taking place in our business is the initiative to build a world-class asset management business around Alan Durrant, who will be with us by the end of the month," he said.

"Another main development is the initiative to build a European private equity business around Joe McGrane.

"Perhaps the main constraint we face in this part of the world is finding investment banking and development infrastructure professionals with the right experience and leadership qualities to join the GFH team and take the business forward.

"Fortunately, over the last six months and as a direct result of our increasing exposure to and reputation within international markets, we have been able to recruit senior people from world-class organisations. "Our recruitment drive both within Bahrain, the GCC and beyond will continue to at least the end of the year." -TradeArabia News Service

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Young Arab Leaders (YAL) Bahrain

Young Arab Leaders (YAL) Bahrain is stepping up efforts to develop 100 future leaders this year. Young Arab Leaders (YAL) Bahrain resolved to step up their efforts to develop a new generation of leaders, drawing up an action plan to help at least 100 prospect leaders this year.

The decision was made at a meeting, chaired by YAL Bahrain chapter vice chairman Tariq Al Saffar, in which YAL members voted to add two new leadership programmes to its already busy annual calendar of activities.

While details of the two new events are still being finalised, they will both contribute towards achieving the chapter’s goal, that of providing bright students and young professionals in Bahrain with the skills, knowledge and support they need to build successful futures and play their role in the kingdom’s development process.

“Last year YAL helped more than 50 prospect leaders through its various programmes,” said Al Saffar.

“This year we hope to double that to at least 100.

“This is a natural next step for YAL’s activities in Bahrain.

“The more young people we help, the more our contributions will be felt by society at large when they grow into leadership positions in the future,” said Al Saffar.

“The programmes we have conducted so far have all proven to be hugely successful, with feedback from participants being overwhelmingly positive.

“We are currently working on developing new activities that will be of the same high quality,” he added.

The chapter currently organises three successful events each year.

These include an Internship Programme, which allows university students to experience the real life working environment in Bahrain.

This will enhance and compliment their education as well as help them build confidence and experience - the necessary ingredients for starting a career.

The two-week Leadership Trust programme, held in the UK, tests young professionals’ ability to cope under stressful situations such as managing a sail ship, mountain climbing, caving and scuba diving.

The participants are also asked to work in teams to execute various projects under very tight deadlines.

The idea is to teach the participants teamwork spirit, leadership skills and the ability to deal with extreme conditions.

The third activity is the Sophia Antipolis Mentorship Programme, which is held in the south of France.

The two-week programme includes training in leadership development and entrepreneurship skills.

Sophia Antiplis is the largest science park in Europe, housing prestigious international institutions, universities and research centres.

Through the mentorship programme, students are able to interact with professionals, academics and chief executives from these various centers as well as representatives of science and technology related organisations. TradeArabia News Service

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Private sector 'is engine of growth' - IFC World Bank

Private sector development is the most important engine of growth and job creation, said Lars Thunell, head of IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. Thunell's observation came at the end of a one-day visit to the UAE, which highlighted IFC's continuing commitment to its well-established partnership with that country.

Thunell was accompanied by Michael Essex, IFC director for the Middle East and North Africa. "IFC's main focus in the UAE is development and promotion of investment and trade between emerging markets," said Thunell. "We see untapped opportunities, and we are committed to helping the country's private sector expand across the region. We also believe that improving corporate governance and promoting entrepreneurship are key to growth for the UAE's smaller businesses," added Thunell, IFC executive vice president.

IFC Advisory Services in the Middle East and North Africa-PEP-MENA -has been very active in promoting responsible practices in corporate governance. Partnering with the Dubai International Finance Corporation, IFC PEP-MENA recently supported the launch of Hawkamah, Dubai's Institute for Corporate Governance. IFC and Hawkamah will improve corporate governance reforms and assist countries across the region in developing policies based on international best practices.

IFC PEP-MENA is also concentrating on the next generation of business people in the UAE. The country's overall population is expected to reach 5 million by 2010, half of them under the age of 20. To sustain the level of opportunities for young Emiratis, IFC PEP-MENA has partnered with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders to promote entrepreneurship. Programs aimed at the young entrepreneurs are based on IFC's Business Edge, the brand name for the Corporation's international range of management training products.-TradeArabia News Service

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Gulf Bank backs Women's Forum Kuwait

Gulf Bank was a major corporate sponsor of the National Forum for Empowering Women, held under the auspices of the Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs Shaikh Nasser Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

A number of Gulf Bank staff attended the forum at the Salwa Sabah Al Ahmed Hall in Salmiya to support the forum's objectives of helping women achieve a greater role in Kuwaiti business and society.

Gulf Bank is a leading employer of Kuwaiti women. Its most senior female employee, Sana Juma, was recently named Best Executive in Europe, Middle East & Africa, in the international Stevie Award for Women in Business.TradeArabia News Service

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Moody's sees Real Estate downturn risk in Dubai and UAE

There is a risk of "short-term real estate downturn" in the UAE that could affect ratings outlook of local institutions, a Moody's official said. Banks in the UAE have high levels of exposure to the real estate sector and a correction in property prices would adversely affect them.

"A downturn in the real estate market would be the most pertinent shot-term risk," said Tristan Cooper, senior analyst at the sovereign risk unit of Moody's Investors Service.

But the UAE economy "could absorb quite a strong shock" because of the country's healthy public finance situation and a large current account surplus, Cooper said, indicating that the prospects for the UAE sovereign ratings upgrade remain favourable. Moody's has opened an office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

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12th International Islamic Finance Forum focused on Investments from women

There was need to create appropriate investment vehicles to tap the wealth handled by women in Muslim countries, a finance forum was told."Women are increasingly controlling large amounts of capital and the industry is responding, but more appropriate investment vehicles need to be established to address the issue of women's wealth," said Rushdi Siddiqui, global director, Dow Jones Islamic Indexes.

The emerging role of women in Islamic Finance (IF) was one of key topics on day one of the 12th International Islamic Finance Forum (IIFF), which opened on April 2 at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, UAE. Currently there is a dearth of women in Islamic Finance and throughout the finance industry in general, due primarily to the long hours and extensive travel, which often conflicts with the more traditional role for women in Muslim countries.

However with role models such as Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi, UAE Minister of Economy, changes are slowly coming about especially with the perceived role of women in business.

Hari Bhambra, senior manager in supervision, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) said: "Qualified women bring insight and value to the table, after all they are important decision makers in the home." It is important for women to take their place in IF not only to broaden the appeal, but also to alleviate a potential bottleneck in the growth of IF due to a general shortage of suitable professionals.

Through empowerment real changes would be seen in the workplace the local communities and in the home. Parents need to make their daughters aware of career opportunities; schools and industry should work together to provide internships and jobs. Banks also need to more flexible with working hours to accommodate family demands and persuade female employees to take executive MBA courses.

"This is not going to happen overnight, it is a cultural and a mindset issue and that can happen by continuous development and education of people," stated Faten Hani, Head of Education Centre, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

Many Muslim women prefer to interface with other women and the Saudi Arabian model of women-only bank branches could be one area of real growth. Also Bahrain has now gone one further by establishing a bank exclusively for women. Indeed access to the markets is no longer an issue for many women, with exchanges such as Dubai, providing a ladies' section and the availability of online trading and brokerage accounts.

Delivering the keynote address at IIFF Dubai was Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister and minister of finance of Malaysia. Ibrahim set the tone for the conference by sharing his vision for the consolidation and diversification of the Islamic Financial Markets of the future.

"We must broaden the discourse of IF beyond its legal interpretation of Shari'ah compliance, into real issues of trade, market economy and distributive justice," declared Anwar Ibrahim.

Elsewhere on the agenda, Sukuks were featured prominently. The Economist Intelligence Unit has reported that the $41 billion global Sukuk market has been growing at 45 per cent per annum since 2001. The Gulf region contributed $11 billion worth of issues, with another $9 billion planned before the year-end. A number of in-depth case studies were examined including the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation's (Sabic) $800 million domestic issue Sukuk and Nakheel's $3.5 billion Sukuk, which remains the largest in the world by capitalisation.-TradeArabia News Service

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Mitsui $763m Railway for Saudi Arabia

Japanese trading house Mitsui and its partners have won a $763m order for Saudi's North-South Railway project, Reuters reported. Under the terms of the agreement Mitsui, the local Al Rashid Trading and Contracting Co and Australia's Barclay Mowlem will build an 818 km portion of the track designed to transport minerals from the kingdom's interior to an industrial complex on the Gulf coast.(ameinfo)
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Correction in Dubai Propoerty Sector

Dubai's property sector is not heading for a slowdown, even though some 'saturated' areas could see prices level off, according to officials at two major UAE property developers, cited by Gulf News. The comments were made by representatives from Dubai Properties and Tameer Holdings in the face of reports from property brokers that the local market is heading for a correction. (ameinfo.com)

This is an interesting stance by the developers but market correction is a phenomena as natural as breathing. Market correction came to even the most sustainable economies, so it is a matter of time. However it would be interesting to see if government steps in to stabilize the living costs to trade profit with long term sustainability.
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