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Saturday, 16 January 2010

Dubai crisis hits Indian educational institutes

Indian engineering and management institutes, which have set up bases in Dubai, are facing a 13-60 per cent dip in admissions due to the economic crisis in the city, which is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The institutes with branch campuses in Dubai include the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)-Pilani, Institute of Management Technology (IMT), S P Jain Center of Management, and Manipal University.

Manipal University, for instance, says it has been able to admit 622 students this year against 721 last year — a drop of 13 per cent. “While institutions of higher learning in Dubai have been affected severely, we have been fortunate to have had a minimal impact on our new admissions. While partly this can be attributed to the economic slowdown and the emigration of middle-class expatriates due to job displacements, the increase in the number of universities competing for quality students is also a contributing factor,” said B Ramjee, director of Manipal University, Dubai.

Saudi Arabia and the oil bank

As crude oil prices climbed back over US$80.00 per barrel during 2009 - after the dramatic spike to $147 and subsequent collapse to $35 - United States politicians and regulators were in no doubt as to who to blame.

They accused "speculators" such as exchange traded funds (ETFs) and hedge funds of manipulating oil prices through the use of futures and options contracts on the dominant exchanges - the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Intercontinental Exchange - and also off exchange, through bilateral over-the-counter (OTC) contracts.

But the truth lies elsewhere.

Saudi economic growth likely to accelerate to 3.9% in 2010

Saudi Arabia’s economic recovery this year will most likely follow a gradual, steady track. Economic growth should accelerate following a stagnant and difficult year, inflation will remain at manageable but historically high levels and expansion of the private sector is set to take a turn for the better along with credit expansion at Saudi banks. The government, through a stimulatory public spending program, will continue to lead the pick up in the economy as Saudi oil averages around $74 a barrel and low levels of government debt bolster the Kingdom’s fiscal position. A higher oil price environment will enable Saudi Arabia to experience comfortable budget and current account surpluses.

While many key elements are in place to support a recovery in the Middle East’s largest economy, Banque Saudi Fransi (BSF) reducing slightly its 2010 economic growth forecast for the Kingdom to 3.9 percent from 4 percent based on our view that improvements in business activity will be gradual and cautious. The government’s commitment to counter-cyclical fiscal expansion remains solid.

Banks are likely to loosen up on their reluctance toward lending to the public and private sectors, one barrier that choked the private sector during 2009. Last year, claims on both sectors by banks contracted by almost 5 percent, following growth of 30 percent during 2008. This year, banks will have little choice than to lend more as they emerge from a period of challenging revenues and an unfavorable low interest rate environment.

FACTBOX-Asian crude oil demand growth in 2010

Asian oil demand growth was set to accelerate in 2010 after India's imports from West Africa and the Mediterranean hit record highs and Chinese demand for crude hit an all time high in December.

- Chinese crude oil imports averaged more than 5 million barrels per day for a month for the first time in December, according to China's customs office.

The glut of fuel could be set to increase -- trade sources have told Reuters that China has lined up more crude from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq this year.

Kuwait-France Nuclear Power Agreement Inked

France and Kuwait inked a nuclear trade pact yesterday to support the Middle Eastern nation's efforts to develop a civilian nuclear energy capability, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, March 3, 2009).

Kuwait has already set up a Nuclear Energy Commission to regulate the peaceful pursuit of atomic power.

"This is the first step of cooperation and to share experience in the nuclear field," said French Atomic Energy Commission head Bernard Bigot.

Bahrain's Bintel wins Congo Rep mobile licence

Congo Republic has granted the country's fourth mobile phone operating license to Equateur Telecom Congo (ETC), a subsidiary of Bahrain-based telecommunications provider Bintel.

ETC, which will be competing with Zain, MTN and Warid for subscribers in the Central African nation, said Congo was a key country for the company's African strategy and the market there was growing.

"This new business will help develop our economy," Thierry Lezin Moungalla, Congo's minister for post and telecommunications, said at a ceremony in Brazzaville to present the license on Friday.

Russian funds inflows: the second-highest in 12 months

Alnair Capital Holding, an Abu Dhabi fund, has completed the acquisition of another 10% in Kazkommertsbank, increasing its stake to 28.6%, the bank reports (the transaction was announced in mid-December); we believe the bank’s free float declined to around 7%, as the main shareholders’ stakes are unchanged

Telecommunications Minister Igor Schegolev might replace Leonid Reiman (former telecoms minister and now a presidential advisor) as Svyazinvest’s board chairman, RBC Daily writes. The list of the state’s nominees to the Svyazinvest board is to be finalized by end-January. We believe that the telecoms minister heading the company’s board would effectively cement a common policy between the two entities

RusHydro’s board has replaced Deputy Energy Minister Vyacheslav Sinyugin and former acting CEO Vasily Zubakin on its strategy committee with Deputy Energy Minister Stanislav Svetlitsky and George Reginashvilli, who recently came to RusHydro with the InterRAO management team

Case study: UAE pursues its nuclear option

The Middle East may be a region rich in hydrocarbons but several countries in the region are debating ambitious atomic energy plans to meet growing demand for electricity.

The United Arab Emirates has come furthest with its nuclear programme. In December, Abu Dhabi, its wealthy capital, awarded a $20bn contract to a South Korean consortium for the construction, commissioning and fuel loads for four 1,400 megawatt nuclear plants.

By the time the first plant is operational and producing electricity in 2017, it may be only one of several nuclear programmes in the region. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan are all interested in nuclear power generation.