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Friday, 5 June 2009

Tiger Woods' pride dented as Dubai course hits bunker

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 02:  Ti...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Tiger Woods (the golfer) has become a byword for unfettered success but there is now a little less lustre about Tiger Woods (the brand name) after it emerged yesterday that the first golf course in the world bearing the world No1's name has fallen victim to the economic problems that have wrought havoc in parts of the Middle East.

Sources in Dubai confirmed that Tiger Woods Dubai‚ a multi-million dollar development in the desert with a Woods-designed golf course at its heart, will now not open this autumn and has been pushed back to 2010 or even later, amid claims that the real estate element of the project – 22 "palaces"‚ 75 "mansions"‚ 100 "luxury villas" and a high-end hotel – will be delayed indefinitely.

Tatweer, the government-owned company behind the development, has long denied rumours of problems with the project. "When the course is actually ready you will be able to find and live the value of why the Tiger Woods Dubai is such a special project," Abdullah Al Gurg, the project's manager, said earlier this week. "We have put our plans together to solidly rise above the current market situation."

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Dubai's Enoc eyes "modest premium" for Dragon Oil

Dubai’s Emirates National Oil Company confirmed on Friday it is in talks to buy the outstanding shares it does not already own in Dragon Oil, the oil and gas group, with operations in the Caspian Sea.

ENOC, which already owns 48 per cent of the oil and gas producer, said any offer would represent a “modest” premium to the closing share price of 338¼p on June 3 before rumours of the talks began leaking to the market.

Shares in Dragon Oil rose 19 per cent or 64½p on Thursday to close at 402½p, valuing the share capital at £2.06bn. On Friday the shares in London opened trading down 3.4 per cent at 389p.

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Tadawul Monthly Investment Report - May 2009

Kuwait corruption levels on the rise

Corruption and bribery is perceived to be increasing in Kuwait, according to the 2009 Global Corruption Barometer, a new study that was conducted by Transparency International (TI), an international anti-corruption watchdog. The results of the survey were released yesterday. Some 20 percent of the respondents in Kuwait claimed to have paid a bribe themselves or knew someone in their household who did in the past year. "Kuwait's average (perceived corruption) was higher this year than the previous year and was higher when compared globally," explained Tamara Kamhawi, TI program coordinator for Middle East and Africa.

In a telephone interview with the Kuwait Times yesterday, Kamhawi said, "When surveyed, results showed that Kuwait was most unhappy with its civil servants and public officials." She also noted that the survey results on Kuwait indicated the majority of the 801 polled were satisfied with the judicial system.

TI conducted public opinion surveys in 69 countries, polling 73,132 people between October 2008 and February 2009. Kuwait was part of the countries surveyed for the Middle East and North Africa regions in the 2009 Global Corruption Barometer. Other countries included Iraq, Lebanon and Morocco. The survey explored the personal views about corruption and experiences with bribery in the public and private sectors. According to the survey results, four in ten respondents claimed bribe payments in the last 12 months. The Middle East and North Africa recorded the worst results by region.

Gulf markets rally running out of steam

Gulf stock markets could suffer a double-digit correction as a slump in summer trading and little improvement in the wider economy spark selling across key sectors, analysts said.

The rally — four of seven markets are at 2009 highs in rising volumes — is unlikely to be sustained, not only because stocks are overpriced but because the economic downturn is expected to send many wealthy expatriates home for good.

“I think we’re looking at a serious round of profit taking before the end of June,” said Sanyalaksna Manibhandu, Emaar Saudi Financial Services head of research.

Abu Dhabi owned shipper posts derivatives loss

Emirates Ship Investment Company (Eships), a chemical and dry bulk tanking firm based in Abu Dhabi, posted a loss of Dh92.2 million (US$25.1m) last year mainly from using financial instruments in an attempt to protect itself against volatile interest rates.
Revenues for the year declined slightly as demand for shipping slowed with the global downturn, but the company still generated positive cash flow. The loss came about from an unexpected steep decline in interest rates, which caused large losses on derivatives.

The use of interest rate swaps was a common hedging tactic for shipping firms servicing long-term debt on their vessels, said Richard Coxall, the chief financial officer at Eships.

“These are not speculative, but a conservative protection against variable interest rates,” he said. “However, interest rates plummeted by year-end.”

Solid gold links and family bonds

Tawfique Abdullah weaves between workstations at the Damas Jewellers workshop floor in Dubai, and tilts his tall frame over a goldsmith’s shoulder to offer a quiet word of advice.

Unlike many at the helm of a multimillion-dirham public company, Mr Abdullah, 52, can still work the factory floor.

The goldsmith-turned-chairman was just seven years old when he began visiting his father’s workshop, then in Dubai’s Gold Souk, after school. Initially, he toyed around with scrap metal. When he was trusted with real gold, he created pendants. One, in the shape of a passage from the Quran was his first finished jewellery piece. “I was this little child intrigued with these machines,” he says. “Basically, it was like going to art school or art class.”

RAK to take over Dh2bn La Hoya Bay

The Ras al Khaimah Government is willing to take over La Hoya Bay, a Dh2 billion (US$545 million) island property project threatened by the collapse of its developer, a senior government official said Thursday.

The decision came as a relief to hundreds of investors, mainly from the UK, who have committed their savings to the flagship project of the Ras al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), on the man-made island of Al Marjan.

“We won’t make it complicated for investors,” said Khater Massaad, the chief executive of RAKIA and adviser to Sheikh Saud bin Saqr, the Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras al Khaimah. “Those who have paid for a studio will get a studio. The project will be built.”

Qatar developer eyes funds for billion-dollar deals

Ezdan Real Estate Co, Qatar's largest developer by market value, said on Thursday it planned to sell some of its real estate portfolio as it seeks to raise funds for billion-dollar projects in the next five years.

Ezdan's deputy chief executive officer, Samer Wahbeh, said the company, which complies with Islamic law, would build schools, hotels, residential units and hospitals in Qatar, the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

"We are still quite bullish about the market and have an aggressive expansion plan and we need to fuel this growth for the company," Wahbeh said.

Nasdaq Dubai focuses on derivatives

Jeff Singer came to Dubai in July 2008 as the Chief Executive of Dubai International Financial Exchange, which was re-branded as Nasdaq Dubai last November.

Singer - previously a senior vice-president, international listings of Nasdaq OMX Group - was responsible for global listings business development and managing international relationships with companies outside the Americas.

Armed with a Masters degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a degree in international fin-ance from Brigham Young University, Singer aims to transform the relatively young Nasdaq Dubai into a vibrant international market for equities, derivatives, structured products, sukuk and conventional bonds.

Iran to sell majority stake in BSI by year-end

The Iranian government is set to privatise 51 per cent of Bank Saderat Iran (BSI) by the end of 2009, BSI chairman and managing director Hamed Borhani told Gulf News.

At a road show event targeting UAE and Iranian expatriate investors late on Wednesday, Borhani said six per cent of the bank's 18.6 million shares will be offered on the Tehran Stock Exchange soon.

Larger blocks of shares will later become available to retail and institutional investors, he added.

4 executives, 7 companies deny charges of money-laundering

Four executives and seven companies on Thursday refuted charges of laundering £150 million (Dh891 million), an amount which prosecutors say would be the largest in the emirate's history.

The four suspects, an Emirati employee, A. A., a British executive, O. Y., an Indian financial controller, M. J., and a Pakistani general manager, M. A., pleaded not guilty and strongly dismissed the charges before the Dubai Misdemeanours Court.

"I am innocent ... I cannot understand how the public prosecution referred this case to court when the committee it assigned failed to prove that the seized money was earned from money laundering crime. The charges were based on assumptions and guesses," argued A. A. when he defended himself before Presiding Judge Abdul Majid Al Nezamy.

Muslims want action after words

When Barack Obama strode on to the podium at Cairo University to deliver his address to the Muslim world on Thursday, Saudis were glued to their television screens.

They were already delighted that the US president had recognised the crucial role of their kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, and had visited King Abdullah before travelling to Egypt.

It was their society that had felt most stigmatised by the terror attacks of September 11 2001, an atrocity carried out largely by Saudis.

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Obama identifies seven tensions

Barack Obama identified seven areas – tensions he called them – which he said the US and Muslim world should “confront together”:

Violent extremism

Describing the conflict in Afghanistan as a “necessity” in the fight against al-Qaeda, Mr Obama went on to say that the US accepted “military power alone” would not solve extremism in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan

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Debt structures may spell trouble for Global

Global Investment House, one of the best-known investment banks in the Middle East, has drawn millions of dollars of financing from an investment company subsidiary through so-called murabaha, an Islamic debt structure.

But investors have raised concerns over how the financing has been managed.

Global MENA Financial Assets , a London Stock Exchange-listed investment company owned 29.99 per cent by Global and managed by Global’s private equity team, has entered into a $47.8m murabaha with its parent company and $59.1m of murabaha with two unnamed Kuwaiti companies that are also struggling to repay debts, the company said in January.

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Location of IranImage via Wikipedia

The leading presidential challenger, Mir Hussein Mousavi, appears to be gaining a head of steam leading up to Iran’s election on June 12. Even though some polls now show Mousavi to be leading the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, some experts in Tehran maintain that political change in Tehran is unlikely. Some powerful forces in Iranian politics are unwilling to see Ahmadinejad lose.

With just over a week to go until election day, Mousavi would appear to be a plausible winner. He has attracted exuberant crowds at recent rallies and has exploited Ahmadinejad’s propensity to make bombastic statements, such as his repeated denials of the Holocaust, to cast doubts on the incumbent’s competence. Mousavi and Ahmadinejad prepared to hold a televised debate on June 3 that could shape the final week of the campaign.

Although he has been pressed harder than he expected, Ahmadinejad does not appear to be worried about the prospect of electoral defeat. A major reason for this is the fact that he is backed unequivocally by some of Iran’s most powerful institutions, including the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Basij Militia. These key pillars of support for the Islamic Republic have sent signals that they will go to great lengths to prevent the need for ultra-conservative forces, represented by Ahmadinejad, to cede power to a moderate like Mousavi.

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UAE nuclear project award in H2: Total

The United Arab Emirates will likely award a contract for the construction of two nuclear reactors in the second half of 2009, a senior executive at French oil major Total (TOTF.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Thursday.

Total, which is jointly bidding with GDF Suez (GSZ.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) for the project, reckons it can win the multi-billion dollar deal, Jean-Jacques Mosconi, head of strategy and planning at Total, told the Reuters Energy Summit.

"Yes, we are hopeful about the decision. We know there's competition but we think we have a good file to propose to Abu Dhabi because we have been there for decades in onshore and offshore business," he said.

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