31 March 2009

* Teenager Kidnapped for $1.5 Million Ransom

A 14-year-old student has been kidnapped in Beirut for $1.5 million ransom, news reports said Tuesday. 
The daily An Nahar said Amin Jihad al-Khansa was abducted on Monday while waiting for a school bus outside his home in Beirut's Ghobeiri – airport highway district.
It said Khansa's parents were not aware of the kidnapping until they received a call from an anonymous man at midday, demanding a $1.5 million ransom.
The kidnappers threatened with the words "or else" if ransom was not paid.

An Nahar said the father thought the call was a joke. To be 100 percent certain, however, he called up the International College, where his son attends intermediate classes, to find out that Amin did not show up that day.

He called up Amin's bus driver only to get this answer: Amin was not waiting as usual to be picked up.

It was at this point that the kidnapped boy's father realized his son had been abducted.
He informed police of the kidnapping and immediate investigation showed that the anonymous caller used a public telephone booth in the eastern Bekaa Valley to make his call.


* Saudi company to set up $61m units in Bahrain

The Saudi Arabian Amiantit Company (Amiantit) yesterday announced its plans to build a number of new facilities at Bahrain International Investment Park (BIIP). It is planning to invest BD23 million ($61m) in the kingdom.

These new operations will include, a glass reinforced plastic manufacturing facility, a glass reinforced epoxy manufacturing facility, a resin manufacturing facility, a global engineering facility and a group export office.

Announcing the projects, in the presence of Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro, Amiantit managing director and chief executive officer Dr Solaiman Abdulaziz Al Twaijri outlined the main reasons the company chose BIIP for these new investments.
The reasons are, quality of the environment for new manufacturing industry and infrastructure facilities that exist at the BIIP, quality of the business climate in Bahrain, proximity of the location to the new Khalifa Bin Salman Port and
availability of skilled labour for all the activities being undertaken in the
new projects.

Dr Fakhro said he was pleased that a global company like Amiantit had chosen Bahrain and the BIIP for this investment.

Describing Amiantit as a technology leader in its field, Dr Fakhro said that this project was a very important one for the BIIP and it meets several of the park's objectives.
Main among these are the provision of quality jobs for Bahrainis in manufacturing, quality control, engineering and internationally traded services.

The total number of jobs to be created will be close to 300 with extra indirect jobs being provided in transportation and logistics.

Amiantit is also planning to relocate to the park from Dammam, its global engineering operation.

The company will construct its facilities on 60,000 sq/m of land and invest in the most modern plant and manufacturing services.
The project's produce will be exported to customers throughout the Middle East and Africa.


29 March 2009

* Makhzoumi "..will not take part in such a charade"


"I am not a candidate in the legislative elections because I refuse to take part in such a charade"

“I am not a candidate in the legislative elections because I refuse to be associated with such a charade”, declared Fouad Makhzoumi, leader of the National Dialogue Party. In his view, the resurrected electoral law of 1960, in accordance with which the 2009 elections will take place divides rather than unites Lebanese society.

He further thinks that the “forces of the fait accompli are reviving the confessional system, which is so harmful to the Lebanese entity and its people… Most of the forces on the ground adopted, in public, the Taef Agreement, but in fact they are working to annihilate it and go beyond it.

“That”, he adds, “is why the National Dialogue Party refuses to follow the path of the forces of March 8 and March 14, which are together responsible for the events of May 7, 2008. The building of the state begins with a fair and balanced electoral law”.

What are the repercussions of inter-Arab repercussions on the Lebanese political scene?
The forces of March 8 and March 14 wrongly believe that Lebanon is an advanced line of the operation to bring about a regional change in the framework of a new Middle East.

When in 2000 we suggested the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria without marginalizing the Christian role in our country, we were eliminated from the elections.

All the parties must be aware of the fact that the interests of states take precedence over those of persons, and therefore we must not expect that America will expose its special regional relations to danger, especially those in Iraq, in favor of a Lebanese faction. Nor must we lose sight of the fact that most of the personalities now affiliated with March 14 were previously fundamental allies of Syria.

Need for a Syrian-Saudi-Egyptian rapprochement
After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Americans looked for Sunnite symbols to deal with on the Lebanese scene. Our party adopted a clear position against UN Resolution 1559 since it was hostile to both Syria and Hezbollah. How could we abandon the weapons of the Resistance when Israel envisages repeating, at any time, its aggression against our country? We have always argued that it is not possible to reach a settlement in the region except by means of a return of the historic axis between Damascus, Riyadh and Cairo. The rapprochement now going on shows that these three Arab capitals realize the dangers threatening their national interests.

As for Lebanon’s position, it is the same as it was in 1943, in the sense that it remains the scene where regional and international projects. From 1992 to 2004, our country was influenced by the Arab-international entente.

After the assassination of [former] Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, seditious currents were revived between Sunnites and Shiites, especially on the part of those who coveted official posts and other positions of leadership.

Now the Arab states realize that America has no intention of imposing sovereignty, freedom and democracy, and this is proved by what is going on in Lebanon. How can we believe the United States supports the “cedar revolution” while insisting that the legislative elections of the year 2005 take place in accordance with the “Ghazi Kanaan law”?

The electoral law of 1960 accentuates cleavages
The electoral law of 1960 intensifies the cleavage among the citizens. In 1945 our political system was based on a coalition of communities, and since the Taef Agreement of 1989 it has been based on a coalition of leaders, and this has abolished the authority of the state’s institutions.

Will the inter-Arab reconciliations affect the Lebanese electoral alliances? Why do you feel concerned with the return of the “two-party alliance” and the “four-party alliance”?

In the 2005 elections the four-party alliance was established and comprised the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, Hezballah and the Amal Movement, without forgetting the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb.

And today we have Hezballah, Amal, the PSP, the Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement.

But can we consider this to be realistic?
After the breakup of the four-party alliance in 2006 due to the association of each grouping with a particular program different from that of others, the July-August war of 2006 and UN Resolution 1701, and the establishment of Hezballah as a striking force, the Future Movement was allowed to arm itself and bring about a confrontation. This led to taking it to Doha and reaching an agreement and the election of a president.

I personally think that in Doha on March 30 [during the Arab League summit taking place there], there will be an agreement on the 128 MPs [who will be elected on June 7] as well as on the name of the next prime minister, and even the names of the ministers taking part in the next cabinet.

Thus, we will return to the old system of “electoral buses” with a new look.

Will you be a candidate in the June 7 elections?
Not at all. I have no desire to take part in this absurdity or to give it legitimacy. For two years votes have been transferred from Akkar to the Beirut II constituency, but despite this the Party of Dialogue will win in that constituency. At Doha they decided to revive the four-party alliance in the framework of an agreement aimed at handing Beirut over to the Future Movement in order to share its parliamentary seats. That’s why we’ll boycott the elections, and everyone will feel the dimension of our boycott.

What are the likely perspectives following the elections?
Since 1992, we have seen in Lebanon the founding of two states: that of Solidere and that of the security apparatus. The state of Solidere never interfered in security issues, nor did the security state ever interfere in economic affairs. This situation prevailed until 2004, after which we all witnessed assassinations and political transformations.

The new electoral alliance will enable MP Hariri to take the majority of the seats of the next legislature with the blessing of Hezballah. Even [MP] Ossama Saad may be excluded because he belongs to a third party which is far removed from the prevailing duality.

I also do not consider that the candidacy of Premier Saniora to a legislative seat could destabilize the Doha Agreement as some say, because here matters will be clear: Hezballah and the Amal Movement will have all the Shiite seats in Parliament, the Future Movement will have the Sunnite seats, Jumblatt the Druze seats. Jumblatt will leave one seat open on his list for former MP Talal Arslan and a certain formula will be found for the parliamentary seats that belong to the Christians.

What do you expect of the Arab League Summit in Doha?
We call on the Arab countries and the Arab League to seek dialogue and solidarity during the upcoming Arab League summit as well as to find a solution to the mushrooming Arab problems. They should take a united and courageous stance facing all issues.

Sudan is facing a dangerous crisis and in Palestine, Gaza is in dire need of assistance and peace should be made between the Palestinian factions. In Lebanon the ashes of strife are smouldering under the surface, and Iraq continues to suffer from division and occupation.

However, we are happy about the positive developments that have taken place on the level of the Saudi-Syrian relationship, and we encourage the Arab reconciliations, which should strengthen the Arab nation in the face of the Israeli enemy. We should reconsider the peace dossier, especially after the mention of stopping the Arab Peace Initiative with Israel. We should raise the awareness of Arab opinion about the various issues on the international agenda. And remember: no one will feel any sympathy for someone who doesn’t fight for his rights, especially in the face of the UN Security Council and the international community.

What do you think of the centrist bloc, about which there has been so much controversy?
The demonstrations that have taken place under the slogan of the centrist bloc and the discussions between the political forces do not show that this bloc is envisaged in the politically-understood sense of this term. This issue has turned out to be a bone of contention between the loyalists and the opposition. Why does one side want to give the president an MP from here or there if all the statements show that the coming conflict will be about the one who governs, “the majority”, without the participation of the opposition or the formation of a government of national unity or of a coalition?

The forces of the present parliamentary majority have said frankly that they will not take part in power if they do not obtain a parliamentary majority in the coming elections. The president does not want to be supported by a bloc, although logic says that President Sleiman’s mandate needs the support of such a bloc. But the situation implies that he must remain equidistant from the two sides, continue to assume the role of arbiter and be the compass directing Lebanon towards the stability and security required for the success of his mandate.

Where does the Party of Dialogue stand in relationship to March 8 and March 14?
We support the principles of freedom, sovereignty and independence, but we are against the exchange of one tutelage for another, which is evident whenever the March 14 side goes to [the US embassy at] Awkar. We are also against dualities, which do not build a state. The Shiite-Maronite duality between Hezballah and the Free Patriotic Movement does not build a state. And we reject the behavior of both March 8 and March 14.

You speak of the partnership of interests proclaimed between Hezballah and the Future Movement. Who is responsible for the events of May 7, 2008?
The Future and Hezballah are responsible for those events. Otherwise, why allow the Future Movement to arm itself? What happened was planned in order to lead to the Doha Agreement. That’s why this agreement will not be disowned by Hezballah or the Future Movement.

How can Lebanon the state be built in the context of dualities?
The building of the state begins with a balanced and fair electoral law, not a law that prevents an ordinary citizen from expressing his convictions and opinions outside the political alignment now prevailing. A popular situation is needed that will exert pressure in order to bring about change and a new political class, especially since new cards are appearing in line with the policy of entente and understanding now being followed by the Obama Administration.

24 March 2009

* Qoleilat Trial Postponed for Last Time

The criminal court in Beirut has postponed for the last time the trial of Rana Qoleilat, the heroine of the $1.2 billion scandal that ruined Beirut's Al-Madina Bank. Qoleilat is being tried in absentia on charges of counterfeiting official documents.

Qoleilat was arrested in Brazil in March 2006. She was often reported to have handled enormous financial transactions involving Syrian Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh when she was chief assistant of Al-Madina Bank's majority shareholders.
Former Syrian Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam had said that Ghazaleh stripped the troubled Al-Madina Bank of $35 million and showered top Lebanese leaders, including former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, with threats and insults.
Hariri was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005 only five months after he was pressured by Damascus to vote in parliament for an amendment of the constitution to enable President Emile Lahoud to extend his term for another three years.
News reports at the time linked Rana's arrest in Brazil with developments in the U.N. probe into Hariri's murder.
(radiosawt beirut)

---- Strange... we thought she was acquited last year!!!! unles this Sawt Beirut is outdated!

19 March 2009

* Future Pipe Industries (FPI) obtains Shock Test Certificate Royal Navy

Future Pipe Industries (FPI) has successfully conducted a series of tests at the Qinetiq shock test facility in Scotland to become a qualified and approved supplier to the Royal Navy. Having a shock test certificate is mandatory to be considered as an approved supplier for navy ships. During the qualifications FPI’s Glassfiber Reinforced Epoxy pipe systems were subjected to heavy tests, simulating shock waves going through a ship after an explosion. The GRE pipes remained unimpaired throughout the tests.

With this certificate at hand FPI can now serve, next to the merchant Marine Market, the Navy Market.  Glassfiber reinforced pipe systems by Future Pipe Industries have been used successfully for more than 40 years under the most corrosive conditions. Major clients include the petrochemicals industry, refineries, shipbuilders, the offshore industry, oil and gas extraction and power plants. FPI pipe systems have amply proven their reliability and durability in other fields besides industry and civil engineering.
Future Pipe Industries is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of epoxy, polyester and vinylester pipe systems and provides total solutions for Glassfiber reinforced pipe systems, from design to installation, from its own facilities in Europe, USA,
the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.


* Four Dubai-based banks long-term ratings placed on CreditWatch negative on deteriorating operating environment

UAE. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today that it has placed its long-term counterparty credit ratings on four Dubai-based banks, namely Emirates Bank International (EBI), National Bank of Dubai (NBD), Mashreqbank, and Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) on CreditWatch with negative implications.

The 'A-1' short-term ratings on EBI, NBD, and Mashreqbank were also put on CreditWatch with negative implications, while the 'A-2' short-term rating on DIB was affirmed. S&P said this action reflects its growing concerns regarding the impact on the banking sector of the economic downturn in Dubai.

A statement said: "The outlook for Dubai's economy, in our view, has worsened relative to last year; the global economic downturn has been hurting some of Dubai's key economic sectors including trade, tourism, and commerce. Demand in the all-important real estate sector also continues to show clear signs of stress, with indications that a sharp correction is underway.

"As a result, we expect Dubai's economy to contract between 2% and 4% in real terms in 2009, putting pressure on banks' asset quality and profitability. Dubai is a small open economy that can do little to shield its key sectors from the impact of a fall in external demand in the coming months.

"The rating actions on EBI, NBD, and DIB also reflect our concerns that the government may use these banks to support the refinancing that is soon coming due of the debt of other government-related entities (GREs). We already noticed that these banks have been important participants to the refinancing of Borse Dubai's debt that matured in February 2009.

"We understand that these banks received deposits to neutralise the impact on their liquidity profile. Taking into account the important amount of Dubai GRE debt that is soon coming due, Standard & Poor's believes that additional directed lending to these entities would increase credit and concentration risk. On a positive note, Dubai's establishment of a US$20 billion bond program at the government level and issuance of US$10 billion that was fully subscribed by the Central Bank of the UAE somewhat alleviate liquidity pressure.

S&P also said it is concerned about Dubai-based banks' exposure to the real estate sector - about 20% of total loans at year-end 2008 - in light of the marked deterioration of this sector. Standard & Poor's expects the correction to result in a decline in asset quality and profitability indicators for the four banks in the coming quarters.

Standard & Poor's classifies the UAE as "interventionist" toward its banking sector, meaning that it expects the government to provide extraordinary support to systemically important banks in case of need.

Therefore, the long-term rating on Mashreqbank is one-notch above its stand-alone credit profile owing to its systemic importance. The long-term ratings on EBI, NBD, and DIB are two notches above their stand-alone credit profile owing to their systemic importance and significant ownership by the Dubai government.

To resolve the CreditWatch placement, Standard & Poor's said it will assess the expected impact of the deteriorating economic conditions and real estate sector on the financial profile of these banks. It will also update our assessment of the government of Dubai's willingness and capacity to provide extraordinary support to these banks in case of need, in light of the changing environment and its related impact on its creditworthiness.

After consideration of these elements, S&P said it expects to resolve the CreditWatch status in the coming six weeks. It does not anticipate to lower the ratings on these banks by more than one notch, based on the current expectations.


* Lebanese Among U.S. Researchers who Found New Drug that May Prevent Brain Damage

A new class of Alzheimer's disease drugs may prevent long-term damage from traumatic brain injury, according to a study by Georgetown University Medical Center researchers, including a doctor of Lebanese origin.
The drugs -- gamma-secretase inhibitors -- are designed to target amyloid plaque that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

"No one knows why it occurs, but abnormal amounts of amyloid plaque have been found during an autopsy in about a third of brain injury victims, some of whom were children who would ordinarily never have had these deposits," Mark Burns, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at Georgetown and the study's lead author, said in a university news release. "Remarkably, these deposits occur in less than one day after injury."

It's also known that people who've suffered a brain injury have a 400 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to the researchers.

"In this study, we show that the same pathways activated chronically in Alzheimer's disease are activated acutely in traumatic brain injury and that they appear to play a very important role in secondary injury," Burns said.

He and his colleagues, including Lebanese researcher Charbel al-Hajj Moussa, first conducted tests that showed that brain injury in mice resulted in substantially more amyloid peptide than normal. They then found that amyloid peptide production after brain injury was reduced in mice that received an experimental agent called DAPT, one of the first gamma secretase inhibitors developed and the basis for some Alzheimer's disease drugs now in clinical trials.

The researchers said that their findings, which are published online in Nature Medicine, suggest that this class of drugs could do something no other drug has been able to do -- prevent the long-term and continuing damage that often follows serious brain injury.

Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care. The center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies. 


12 March 2009

* Potential of MENA-based MNCs looms ahead

Gulf-based businesses are preparing for the new economic order by leveraging new growth opportunities presented by the current global financial crisis. Long-term growth measures include acquiring assets, recruiting fresh talent and training them and exploring non-traditional growth markets with a focus on “more volume, less value” deals.  This was the unanimous conclusion of a panel of GCC-based business leaders at the first-ever Wharton Global Alumni Forum being held Dubai.
The conference session ‘Is the Dawn of the New Era of MENA Multinationals Delayed?’ witnessed much straight-talk with one of the participants urging the Arab world to “step up to respect each other before respecting outsiders” that was greeted by the audience with loud applause.  Presenting the case, the moderator Professor Witold J. Henisz, Associate Professor of Management at The Wharton School, asked the participants what made their businesses succeed.
Mohamed Alshaya, Executive Chairman of Kuwait’s Alshaya Company, said the key to the success of his organisation was selecting the right talent and ensuring fair deals for all stakeholders.  Sami Bargoum, Managing Director at Jeddah-based Savola Group highlighted the need to tailor the brands for the region and focus on cultural proximity. Meanwhile, identifying how governments and the public sector work was the niche route to success developed by Tarek Sultan, Chairman and Managing Director of Kuwaiti logistics company Agility.
Rami Makhzoumi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Future Pipe Industries in the UAE, explained that the ethno-origin of companies are not a constraint, and asserted that the new generation of today’s business leaders are “MNCs in our own individual capacity.”
The panel highlighted that the attitude of governments to the private sector has shifted considerably even in conservative markets. Participants also urged for the need to create job opportunities for Arab youth – expected to dominate the regional demography by 2030.  Alshaya and Bargoum said that they are building on the current financial climate to invest in human resources and acquire new assets. “This is a good time to take a pause, look inward and look at how we can reduce costs. That is because businesses are concerned and must make contingency plans. But this is also the time to identify opportunities and act on them,” Alshaya added.
Professor Henisz concluded that the concept of MENA-based MNCs is a reality, and they need to build on their technological, marketing and financial capabilities, and support them with strong leadership skills.

11 March 2009

* Lack of leadership capability major challenge for Gulf Region

DUBAI - Despite the current global economic crisis the Gulf region still has opportunities for investment, but the major challenge is shortage of leadership capability, said experts.
The region needs good school of management and complete overhaul of education system as local boys can do better trade and more safely, said Sami Baroum, Managing Director of Saudi-based Savola Group.

"We are providing training to 10,000 Saudi men in retail sector to bridge leadership gap," informed Baroum during a panel discussion at Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Dubai on Wednesday.

The event was organised by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the world's first collegiate business school.

The timing of the conference coincides with a number of economic trends such as regional governments trying to diversify their oil-based economies while instituting political, social and economic reforms, including privatisation and liberalisation. Even in the current climate, the regional GDP is projected to grow four to five per cent, and the Gulf is today a powerful economic bloc with a combined GDP of over $1 trillion.

Saudi Arabia done right things by launching infrastructure projects engaging private sector in development activities providing the way to other governments in the region to follow, said Tarek Sultan, Chairman and Managing Director of Kuwait-based Agility Logistics.

"We are in very small country and when we started business it was protected market. We invested in market research for building capacity," Sultan said.

"Being from small country we look out to grow to large market," he added.
Kuwait-based Alshaya Company's Executive Chairman Mohammed Abdul Aziz Alshaya said that businesses need contingent plans to meet future challenges and it is good time to take a breadth. Because of uncertainty no body knows what will happen in a few weeks or month so it is better to concentrate on reducing cost, Alshaya added.

He said, "I believe values of business relations based on trust and transparency. Key for core value is quality of people," Alshaya added.

The President and Chief Executive Officer of Lebanon-based Future Pipe Industries Rami Makhzoumi said: "We need to unite in present crisis time for economic dialogue and concentrate on regional issues." 

"We have to act how to cater for the sake of prosperity and create economic opportunities," concluded Makhzoumi.


10 March 2009

* Future Pipe Industries sets $900m sales target for this year

Future Pipe Industries (FPI) has set a $900 million (Dh3.3bn) sales target by the year-end, eight per cent higher than what it recorded last year, despite the current economic conditions, a top official from the company said.

The company has recorded $829.8m sales in 2008 out of its 10 factories in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, The Netherlands and the US.

The Dubai-based fibreglass pipe maker has achieved about 18 per cent of the target in the first two months of 2009 and is further hoping new contracts from its non-core markets would boost the company's performance.

Rami Makhzoumi, President and CEO of Future Pipe Industries Group, said the company has won $120m worth of new contracts in Iraq and Libya and is looking at expanding its capacity in the US, Latin America, South East Asia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Future Pipe Industries Group, however, will not be building any new manufacturing facility in the next 18 months, Makhzoumi told Emirates Business.

"We don't expect any growth contraction but we also don't expect our business to grow the way we did grow last year," he said. "We are still going ahead with expansion plans prudently. There will be no new manufacturing facilities but we will increase our machines."

With no major expansion plans on hand, Makhzoumi said the company wouldn't need any additional financing. He said the $165m syndicated loan it secured last year with banks HSBC and Mashreqbank as mandated lead arrangers would be enough to fuel its existing operations.

The facility was inturn used for general corporate purposes and the refinancing of "existing bilaterals", from short-term to medium-term facilities.

"Last year we closed $165m syndicated loan for three years and in our business perspective that would be enough for the moment. We are not at the moment actively looking for financing given the current economic condition," he said.

Future Pipe Industries Group resorted to restructuring its loan facility and ended up borrowing from the banks after suspending an IPO in May at the last minute due to unfavourable market conditions. It had postponed its initial plan to raise $554m through the IPO due to "poor market conditions". It hoped to sell up to 35 per cent of the company and list the stock on Nasdaq Dubai.

Future Pipe Industries Group has sales offices in each of the countries it operates, as well as in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, China and Greece.
Future Pipe Industries Group, founded by the Makhzoumi family, has found a niché in the large diameter fiberglass pipe industry. The company's share of the global large diameter fiberglass pipe market for 2007 is estimated at 11.6 per cent. It has provided pipe systems for some of the world's largest development projects including Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar and the Dubai World Central Airport. In 2007, Future Pipe Industries Group's sales and Ebitda were approximately $556.4m and $87.6m, respectively.

Sales derived from factories in the GCC in 2007 accounted for approximately $422.5m.
( zawya)

09 March 2009

* Arabtec announces new joint venture in Saudi

Dubai’s Arabtec Holdings, the region’s largest listed contractor, has announced the formation of a new joint venture in Saudi Arabia to take advantage of the Kingdom’s continued growth.
Arabtec Saudi Arabia will have a paid up capital of US $40 million (SAR150 million) and is expected to turnover $400 million in its first year and up to $1.3 billion within three years said Arabtec CEO Riad Kamal at a press conference

"This is a natural expansion in our activity in the region," he said.
“We feel that through this alliance, Arabtec Saudi Arabia has the potential of becoming one of the leading construction companies in the Kingdom, especially given the enormous volume of projects announced recently by his Majesty King Abdulla Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to be completed over the next few years.”

The new firm will be 40% owned by Arabtec, with a 35% stake taken by CPC Services, a member of the Saudi Binladin Group, and 20% by Prime International Group Services.
Kamal said the company would immediately start work on a project in Riyadh, but declined to give further details.
Arabtec, the UAE's largest construction firm whose contracts include the Burj Dubai, posted fourth-quarter net profit of about $50.2 million (AED 184.8 million), down from $52.2 million a year before and missing analyst forecasts.
Chief finance officer Ziad Makhzoumi said that the company still expects to receive $2.6 billion in revenue this year with a net profit margin of around 10%.
Meanwhile Kamal said the company's cash position was also "beginning to show very positive results" despite the slump in Dubai’s property sector and tightening liquidity markets.
"The cash situation, the receivables, have been coming in very slow in the last three months but the situation has changed in the last couple of weeks and we are beginning to see some liquidity being pumped into the system," he said, adding Arabtec had received almost all monies due up to December last year.

"We've been promised that the flow will continue for our receivables in the coming few weeks and months," he said.

The company has a backlog of projects worth $10.6 billion, including $2.7 billion for a tower project in St Petersburg in Russia, which is awaiting final approval by the board of Gazprom and is expected soon, Kamal said.

Dubai residential real estate prices have fallen by an average of 25% since a peak in September, Morgan Stanley said last month, adding some $263 billion of projects had been cancelled or put on hold in the UAE.

The company has laid off 250 employees of 5,000 working in administration as a result of the financial crisis but has not cut jobs of those working in the labour sector, said Kamal.


08 March 2009

* Hezbollah gets $1 Billion in funding

Business research facility asserts that majority of donations from Tehran in bid to shore-up terror organization ahead of elections in Lebanon. But funds also pouring in from other sources – in spite of economic crisis
Roee Nahmias
Published:  03.04.09, 00:37 / Israel News
Hizbullah's treasury has recently received no less than USD 1 billion. The bulk of the sum, some USD 600 million, was transferred to the Lebanese terror organization from Iran in a bid to strengthen the former's standing prior to the upcoming general elections in Lebanon this June.
 The claim was made Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd. The institute, which deals in economic reviews regarding the Middle East and also monitors terror funding, released a report Tuesday evening detailing the massive increase to Hizbullah's finances.
According to its sources, Hizbullah is adamant to succeed in the coming elections and expand its power in the Lebanese parliament. All the better for the group if this were to come at the expense of their rivals, the anti-Syrian camp.
The report authored by IPR, which was founded by industry captain Muzi Wertheim and economics lecturer Dr. Gil Feiler, establishes that highest single contribution was made by Iran to Hizbullah.

Part of the delivery was made via high-ranking Iranian officials, and the details regarding the transfer were kept classified until recently as the Iranian election scene heats up and the opposition revealed the massive transfer of funds to Hizbullah.

The report says that after the Second Lebanon War, Iran sent Hizbullah USD 500 million in urgent monetary aid. News of the transfer drew the ire and criticism of Iranian moderates, who accused the regime of rashly giving away the money while ignoring the economic plight of Iranian citizens.

'Terror groups thriving during financial crisis'
But Iran is not alone. According to the Info-Prod report, Hizbullah received another bulk sum from a second Gulf nation – apparently Qatar.
Unconfirmed reports in the Gulf say that in recent weeks Qatar bestowed USD 300 million on Hizbullah. Qatar, it should be noted, is actively trying to buy influence in the Arab world using its gas revenue – putting it in direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia, which openly backs the anti-Hizbullah coalition.
An additional USD 100 million have been brought in since early 2009 following a fundraising tour conducted by Hizbullah envoys in the Gulf area, aiming mostly at private tycoons.
"It seems that the global financial crisis has been good for the Islamic terror organizations in terms of fund raising," explains Doron Peskin, head of research at Info-Prod.

"With the fall of Wall Street, investors in the Gulf were quick to withdraw their funds. Since local investment opportunities are limited, a lot of liquid wealth had accumulated there.
"Groups like Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda and Hamas are well aware of the opportunity at hand – and since 2008 they have stepped-up their fundraising efforts, particularly during the Hajj, after Eid Al-Adha."
The report cites Lebanese sources as confirming that Hizbullah is still funding the rehabilitation of southern Lebanon following the 2006 wars.

02 March 2009

* Saqr to Decide on Release of 4 Generals Soon

Examining magistrate Saqr Saqr plans to decide soon about a request for the release of the four top generals arrested on charges of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
The generals submitted a request to Saqr on Thursday for their immediate release.
Saqr, however, turned down all requests on Friday for the release of former head of the presidential guard Mustafa Hamdan, security services director Jamil Sayyed, domestic security chief Ali Hajj and military intelligence chief Raymond Azar.
Sayyed's attorney, Akram Azouri, renewed a call for the release of his client "for the sake of the reputation of Lebanon's judicial system."

In remarks published by the daily As Safir on Monday, Azouri said that the Lebanese judiciary jurisdiction "remains in effect" until the international tribunal's chief prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, "lays hands on the (Hariri murder) case."

"An artificial vacuum should not be created," Azouri stressed, claiming the transfer of jurisdiction to Bellemare is "a continuation of power and not meant to create a vacuum."


* Decoding Symbols on Plastic

Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.