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Dubai : Emirates Bank completes funding of Dh292m for float glass plant

Dubai: Emirates Bank yesterday said the Dh292 million facility for Emirates Float Glass (EFG) has been successfully closed, and oversubscribed. Emirates Bank is the mandated lead arranger, and bookrunner for the transaction. Participating banks are Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Lloyds Bank and Commercial Bank of Dubai as lead arrangers and Union National Bank as co-arranger. The facility will partly fund the cost of Dh692 million for setting up EFG’s manufacturing facility in Abu Dhabi. “This project complements the long term vision and business mission of Dubai Investments,” Khalid Kalban, chairman of EFG said in a statement. The plant will have a capacity of 600 metric tonnes per day to manufacture clear, tinted and pyrolytic glass for architectural purposes; and clear and tinted glass for automotive purposes. EFG has a current paid up equity capital of Dh185 million being held 53 per cent by Dubai Investment Industries (a subsidiary of Dubai Investments), and 47 per cent by high networth, well-reputed individuals and corporates. Source: El watan

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Europe group chosen for Dh5b Yahsat satellite deal

Staff Report Dubai: Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, has selected a consortium of EADS Astrium, Thales and Alenia Space as the preferred bidder to build a Dh5 billion dual satellite communications system, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Yahsat was incorporated earlier this year and is mandated to fulfil the satellite communication requirements of government and commercial customers in the Middle East, Africa, Southern Europe and South East Asia. Yahsat will develop, procure, own and operate a hybrid (Government and commercial) communication satellite system, and will strategically fill the current gaps in the existing satellite market. ——————————————————————————– ——————————————————————————– YahSat will focus on providing solutions for internet trunking via satellite, corporate data networks and backhauling services to telecom operators, in addition to broadcasting services. “This is a tremendously exciting time to be in the satellite communications industry. We are seeing a boom in satellite demand and Yahsat is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities in our region,” said Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, COO of Mubadala and Chairman of Yahsat. “Thanks to the long-term vision of the Abu Dhabi government, we see Yahsat as equipped to become a leading player in the regional satellite market,” he said. The global commercial satellite industry generated over $80 billion in revenue in 2005 alone, with the highest revenue growth being registered in the Middle East and Africa region. “The resources and the technology that we are putting behind Yahsat will enable us to take a leading position in this competitive sector,” added Waleed Al Mokarrab. Main focus Yahsat will now focus on completing the negotiations with the designated consortium with a view to finalising the contract as soon as possible to commence the manufacturing phase. Mubadala Development Company is an investment and development vehicle established and wholly owned by the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Its mission is to invest in commercially viable, strat-egic, industrial and commercial partnerships.

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Deyaar’s IPO oversubscribed 14 times on strong investor interest

Staff Report Dubai: Real estate firm Deyaar’s Dh3.178 billion initial public offering (IPO), the largest public issue so far, has been oversubscribed more than 14 times, an e-mailed statement said. The issue, which closed on May 16, attracted over 85,000 subscribers, collecting over Dh45 billion. Shuaa Capital is the lead manager, financial advisor and sole book-runner for Deyaar’s IPO. The preliminary subscription data, subject to final audited figures, indicates that the issue is more than 14 times oversubscribed, with noticeable strong retail and institutional demand. Ministry stake ——————————————————————————– ——————————————————————————– The Ministry of Finance and Industry has decided to subscribe to five per cent of the total number of shares on offer, the maximum percentage permitted under the law. The Ministry will be allocated the full percentage prior to the allocation of shares among the remaining subscribers. “The demand reflects the potential of the real estate sector and the investors’ immense confidence in the company’s ability to deliver exceptional value,” Zack Shahin, chief executive of Deyaar, said in a statement. Rody Yared, Head of Syndicate at Shuaa Capital, said, “The strong demand for the issue, from both retail and institutional investors seems to indicate a reversal in market sentiment.” Refunds and allocations to subscribers in the UAE will commence on May 30, and June 4 for investors who subscribed in the GCC. Profits rise manifold in three years Deyaar has grown phenomenally, with net profits rising from Dh5 million in 2003 to Dh73 million in 2004, Dh141 million in 2005 and Dh412 million in 2006. A wholly owned subsidiary of Dubai Islamic Bank, Deyaar is one of the region’s leading real estate players, with over 17 residential and commercial projects. The company also leads the property management segment.

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Profit-booking dents Dubai index as Emaar disclosure delay continues

By Ahmed A. Elewa, Staff Reporter Abu Dhabi: The UAE markets closed on a mixed note yesterday, with Dubai’s benchmark index falling by 0.34 per cent to 4,156.38 and Abu Dhabi’s general index advancing by 0.68 per cent to 3,347.27. In Dubai, the marginal decline was attributed to profit booking, while some analysts blame the fading investor’s interest in Emaar Properties due to the delay in revealing the details related to the company’s partnership with Dubai Holding. Alternatives “The low volumes indicate the lack of interest due to the lack of transparency, accordingly many investors switched to alternative blue chips,” commented Rami Sidani, senior associate partner in Shuaa Capital, who forecasts that Emaar will trade in a tight range of price movement up to the time when it announces the details of the deal. ——————————————————————————– ——————————————————————————– Dubai Islamic Bank continued its strong performance, though it was unchanged by the close at Dh9.03, yet with initial estimates of ten times over-subscription for its real estate arm, Deyaar, initial public offering of Dh3.17 billion, many analysts are expecting the rally to continue. “This outcome means that more than Dh30 billion was directed to the new issue indicating strong interest in IPOs on the one hand, and the abundance of liquidity on the other,” Sidani explained. The official outcome of the IPO is still to be announced. In Abu Dhabi, the market continued its uninterrupted gains, maintaining the strong rally on the real estate and energy shares, in addition to the excellent performance of the banking sector. Interest “Foreign interest is still fuelling the market rally, while etisalat’s intention to open up for foreign investment can further boost the flow of foreign funds to the market,” Sidani said. etisalat, which is expected to be relieved from 40 to 60 per cent of the royalty fees it pays to the government soon, did not change to close at Dh18.05, while many analysts observe the current price level below the fair value, and hence forecast further growth. “Many companies are still undervalued in Abu Dhabi, and the growing demand is a healthy indication that the market is heading towards strong gains,” Sidani said.

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Microsoft gearing up for an upgrade

Financial Times Consolation prize or prize capture? Microsoft’s $6 billion acquisition of online advertising company Aquantive last week was a secondary target, but may prove to be a source of primary growth in the future. The software giant turned its attention to Aquantive after it lost out to Google in a bid for Aquantive’s rival, DoubleClick. Google will pay $3.1 billion in that deal, almost half as much as Microsoft is paying. This is the parsimonious Redmond company’s biggest ever buy – costing more than four times its previous record, the $1.45 billion paid for Danish software company Navision in 2002. ——————————————————————————– ——————————————————————————– But cash-rich Microsoft can easily afford the 85 per cent premium it has paid and the acquisition had become a strategic imperative – the online ad business is expected to be worth $40 billion in 2007 and is growing at 20 per cent a year, a rate that makes its core software business seem becalmed. “We have walked away from some transactions over the last few years because we have considered they haven’t been strategically important enough to pay a premium for,” said Chris Liddell, chief financial officer, on Friday. The Seattle company is key in that it provides a complete advertising solution for Microsoft’s ambitions to sell and profit from advertising beyond its own network of websites. It also enables it to stay in touch with market leader Google. “Google has significantly more advantages than Microsoft,” says Shahid Khan, a partner at Interactive Broadband Consulting. “If you go back, it started selling, using its own ad-serving technology, then it built a sales force and started selling on other people’s websites, and then expanded to print and radio. Now DoubleClick gives it even more technology, better integration with ad agencies and publishers and the best platform overall.” Microsoft has been way behind, admitting as much in making anti-trust complaints that Google combined with DoubleClick will have 80 per cent market share for serving online ads. It only recently developed its own ad-serving technology and, apart from a partnership with the Facebook social networking site, has confined its business to its own network of sites such as MSN and Windows Live. “We are new in the advertising business but we have made a lot of investment,” says Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s chief advertising strategist. “We have the biggest audience for an ad network – half a billion users visiting our properties every month. To this point, we have really not run advertising for other companies except Facebook . . . now we will.” Mehdi says Aquantive has bigger revenues and profits than DoubleClick and offers the best ad tools. Prime target Tim Vanderhook, chief executive of the SpecificMedia online ad network, agrees Aquantive’s Atlas tool for advertisers is a superior product offering. “Microsoft has paid up to catch up. I was really surprised that DoubleClick was the initial prime target, it’s only an ad-serving technology, it doesn’t have a division that buys or sells online media [like Aquantive],” he says. In seeking a more complete solution through Aquantive, Microsoft is following Google in trying to build a broad platform that can serve as a one-stop shop for advertisers trying to reach specific audiences across a range of media. Shahid Khan cites Microsoft’s earlier acquisition of Massive, which serves in-game advertising, and Google’s moves to sell TV advertising. He believes mobile advertising networks will be the next acquisition targets as the big players spread their offerings to advertising on cellphones. Financial times

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Gulf Air begins a painful process of restructuring and returning to profitability as Bahrain becomes the soleowner of the airline.

As he sat oozing with confidence, Bahrain’s Crown Prince Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa had one clear message for the people sitting around the long table in Gulf Air’s meeting room: “Gulf Air will succeed under Bahrain’s sole ownership. It will not be easy, but it will be possible.” This statement and others by the Crown Prince, who was born 19 years after Gulf Air launched its first flight in the region, were meant as a first pragmatic move to bring the situation in Bahrain under steady control following a frenetic week of wild speculation, anxious concern and poignant appeals. Last month, Gulf Air’s newly-appointed president and chief executive officer Andre Dose told reporters that the Bahrain-based airliner, which was till then equally co-owned by Manama and Muscat, needed a serious restructuring to halt the nearly $1 million a day hemorrhage. “Since 2003, Gulf Air has constantly increased its losses,” said Dose as he painted a bleak picture of the situation. “Losses in 2006 were 130 million Bahraini dinars [$345 million] versus a budgeted profit of 26 million dinars. Accumulated losses and costs amounted to 254 million dinars [$675 million]. Currently operational losses are in excess of half a million dinars [$1 million] per day,” he said. It was the first time that someone spelled out so candidly the plight of Gulf Air, the aviation icon founded in 1950, and was for years equally owned by the governments of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Qatar withdrew in 2002 and Abu Dhabi in 2005. Oman said this month that it ceased to be a shareholder, leaving Bahrain as the only owner. Adopting a new approach that sharply contrasted with previous ones, Dose explained why the company needed 310 million dinars ($825 million) and how it would work on securing the amount. Restructuring costs included network transition, the closure of some routes and the reduction of aircraft. Such fateful measures would help save or bring in 120 million dinars ($319 million). Investment costs, including fleet improvement, lounge investments and new facilities would amount to 190 million dinars ($505 million). Punctuality According to Dose closing the profitability gap of 156 million dinars ($414 million) can be achieved by reducing costs by 66 million dinars (fleet, personnel, fuel, commissions, other) and generating additional revenues of 90 million dinars through sales and network improvements. Another major source of problems at Gulf Air, according to Dose, is punctuality, which failed to match internal or industry standards. “Too many flights are cancelled, creating a negative domino effect on the rest of the fleet, and delay problems are often not communicated openly to passengers,” he said. “Customer service in case of problems, such as cancelled flights, is often inadequate.” Yet another serious problem plaguing the company, according to the new management, was that its organisation was too complex, with unclear, overlapping responsibilities and little cross-divisional teamwork. Overhead costs were high due to the complex and oversized organisational structure. But the new managerial team expressed confidence that it could successfully tackle the situation by focusing on four key performance indicators: safety, punctuality, profitability and customer service. “Progress will be monitored on a daily basis through the key performance indicators, and funds have already been put aside to reward progress.” The restructuring plan has been dubbed as the “Getting Well” programme. The first initiative is to implement a simpler and customer focused organisation, where all operations are concentrated in four division and responsibilities for each division and department are clearly defined. As for the fleet, it will be reduced from 34 to 28 as the Boeing 767s and Airbus A340s will be phased out and all planes will be Airbus. Meanwhile, realistic flight plan tables that reflect effective flight time will be implemented. The new plan will add connections to major destinations and, once Gulf Air is stable, will establish new connections to important economic centres. Gulf Air says that it has identified 11 major areas of restructuring, and that it had the ability to address them within two years. The restructuring programme seems to be running on a clear timetable. The new organisation to stabilise operations and improve productivity has already been implemented. May will be witnessing action to improve fleet management, punctuality, reduce the cost structure, downsize staff, improve customer service on the ground as well as the decommissioning of the 767s. Next month, the company will start the review and monitoring by independent safety experts, while the remodelled and customer-friendlier network will be operational in July. Improvements on ground (lounges) and in the air (cabins) and having an all-Airbus fleet will also start in July. Although Gulf Air was exceptionally open and honest in presenting the bitter reality, and despite the seemingly plausible plan announced by the management, several people in Bahrain remained edgy. The news that about 1,500 staff would be sacked as part of the restructuring plan triggered a wave of concerns that prompted trade unionists and Members of Parliament to start building up pressure to ensure that Bahraini families would not be affected. Workforce Claims of generous compensation packages failed to allay growing concerns, and the inability of the new management to provide exact figures of the total number of workers who would be sacked during the restructuring has not helped either. During his visit to Gulf Air headquarters in the vicinity of the airport, one week after Bahrain announced that it had become the sole owner of the iconic company, Shaikh Salman brought much-needed clarity to the information needed to paint a fuller picture of what lies ahead for the thousands of its staff. He first sought to calm down growing concerns that hundreds of Bahrainis would lose their jobs. “I don’t want any Bahraini to pay the price of wrong policies,” he said. However, he clearly resented self-complacency, reminding everyone that performance was the magic word. “I am sure that the officials will look into this matter and try to set up measures so everyone is clear on the requirements of working and being promoted in this company. I have requested this from the company’s board of directors. Regardless of the employees’ nationality, we should not discriminate between one nationality and another. But we can distinguish between a good and a bad performance.” About 60 nationalities are on the payroll of the company which employs about 6,000 people, with non-Bahrainis making up 70 per cent of the total force. Competition For Shaikh Salman, the company is regarded by GCC nationals as the most salient symbol of the Gulf unity, which has reached this deplorable stage mainly because of its faulty decision-making process and its inability to compete with other airliners. But the crown prince, who, almost single-handedly succeeded in bringing Formula One to the Middle East and building an award-winning race track in the middle of the desert, believes that there must be a new policy on the role of Gulf Air. “Now that Bahrain has complete ownership of the company, previous shortcomings in terms of decision-making, policies, or balancing four centres in a small environment, should no longer apply. We must realise one thing: Bahrain’s economy will not grow without an airline … The question we should be asking is what type of company it is going to be. Currently we are supporting Gulf Air based on its requirements so it does not affect the economy, [and ensure that] not many jobs are lost by Bahrainis and a smooth restructuring process is carried out,” he added. “We will try our best to ensure that the company’s philosophy is in line with Bahrain’s economy and this requires time, a year or two, until the picture is clear.” For Shaikh Salman, the historic ownership by Bahrain of the airline leaves no room for emotions. He resisted calls to change its name to Bahrain Air or Royal Bahrain as was suggested by some Bahrainis enthralled by Bahrain’s becoming the sole owner. “We will preserve the name and will not change it. It is a powerful icon of tradition and heritage and we are keen on preserving it,” he said. Now that Bahrain owned the airline outright, the infusion of confidence-boosting measures and the amelioration of lacklustre performance seem to be almost as significant as the injection of cash to meet the new economic costs. “What we must do is define our own niche. We are providing a service that no one else can because we are the national carrier for Bahrain,” Shaikh Salman said. “Am I worried? No! Am I stimulated by the challenge? Yes!” Losses Since 2003, Gulf Air constantly increased its losses. Losses of 2006: 130 million Bahraini dinars ($345 million), versus budgeted profit of 26 million dinars Accumulated losses and costs amount to 254 million dinars ($675 million) Currently operational losses are in excess of 0.5 million dinars ($1 million) per day To reach profitability again, restructuring and investments are needed Total costs of the “Getting Well” programme amount to 310 million dinars ($825 million) Passengers Gulf Air served 7.1 millionpassengers in 2006 (-4%) Seat Load Factor (SLT) in 2006 was 72.1% (+0.4%) The network includes loss making destinations Aircraft utilisation is low due to an inefficient network Current network causes longconnection times for passengers The History The company was established on March 24, 1950 and started operations on July 5, 1950 under the name of Gulf Aviation. It initially provided regional services between Bahrain, Doha and Dhahran and contract work for oil exploration companies. British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was a major initial shareholder until the governments of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar purchased BOAC’s shares in 1973. Gulf Aviation became the national carrier of the four states and was renamed Gulf Air when the Foundation Treaty was concluded on January 1, 1974. The government of Qatar withdrew from the airline in December 2002. On September 13, 2005, Abu Dhabi also withdrew from Gulf Air. Oman withdrew in May 2007 leaving Bahrain as the sole owner of Gulf Air. Contribution to Bahrain’s national economy Direct impact: $246m annually Indirect impact: $153m annually Total: $400m annually Gulf Air employs: 5,917 people directly Helps to create 3,600 jobs indirectly Total: More than 8,000 additional jobs in local market Gulf Air accounts for 70% of Bahrain International Airport’s traffic Source: Gulf Air

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Inflation to rein in UAE growth

Dubai: Galloping inflation may slow the growth of Gulf economies, especially the UAE and Qatar, a top IMF official said yesterday. “The unprecedented economic boom driven by oil revenues and the recycling of regional liquidity has seen Gulf GDPs racing at a pace close to those of some of the East Asian countries. But inflation is becoming a major limiting factor,” Mohsin S. Khan, director of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia Department, told Gulf News yesterday. The real GDP of the UAE and Qatar is growing by almost 10 per cent annually and the other Gulf countries are growing by 6 to 8 per cent. With the surge in econ-omic growth these countries are facing high inflation, primarily driven by supply constraints. The UAE Ministry of Economy earlier said nominal GDP last year grew by 23.6 per cent to Dh599 billion. “In the UAE, inflation is estimated at above 10 per cent. However, this figure is for the whole of the UAE and for a city like Dubai the inflation rate could be much higher,” he said. With the rising cost of living, the UAE is facing upward pressure on wages and an overall cost escalation in all economic sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and financial services. According to the IMF, a key driver of inflation in the UAE and Qatar is soaring house rents. Despite assurances by the government and the central bank, the IMF does not expect new supplies of housing this year to cool inflationary pressure. “New supplies of housing units will have some impact on rents and inflation, but not as much as the central banks would expect to happen,” Khan said. On the monetary policy measures taken to tame inflation, Khan said the Gulf countries in general have limited options because interest rates follow the US rates due to the currency peg. Curtailing liquidity by other measures such as variable reserve requirements or bank rates is not effective in the region because of the sheer volume of liquidity that is floating in the financial system. Apart from the huge liquidity available in the region, Khan said stock market corrections have resulted in a lot of money re-entering the banking system and real estate. According to Khan, the inflationary pressure caused by excess cash flows in the region is compounded by the sheer lack of assets that can absorb liquidity. “Ideally, the corporate sector in the region should create an active debt market. The emergence of sukuks and convertible sukuks to some extent is a viable solution to rein in liquidity but the current size of these asset class is relatively small,” the IMF official said. Not cool enough According to the IMF, a key driver of inflation in the UAE and Qatar is the soaring house rents. Despite assurances by the government and the central bank, the IMF does not expect new supplies of housing units this year to cool inflationary pressure. Source : el watan

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Saudi Arabian introduces 14 more flights to Dubai

Riyadh: Saudi Arabian Airlines, the national carrier of the Kingdom, has increased the number of its weekly flights to Dubai by 14, said Hassan Al Yami, the carrier’s general manager for the Middle East and Gulf. The latest move brings the total weekly flights between the two destinations to 44. In a statement, Al Yami said the move is to meet the increasing demand in the Saudi Arabia-Dubai sector. He said the new flight schedules include significant changes as there are flights that take off from Dubai in the morning. Heavy demand He added that the airline expects the demand to be heavy as it provides flexibility for passengers in general and businessmen in particular. “According to the new schedule, Saudi Arabian Airlines will have 14 new weekly flights between Dubai and the Kingdom. Twelve of them will be between Dubai and Dammam using MD90 planes,” the official said. He added that two weekly non-stop flights will operate between Dubai and Madinah. One of the two flights will be on Tuesday night using a Boeing 777 plane and the second on Thursday morning with an MD90 plane. The airline will also start two-weekly direct flights between Dubai and Salalah, Oman, from June 27. Source : el watan

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McDonald’s plans more outlets in UAE

Dubai: American fast-food chain McDonald’s intends to beef up its operations in the UAE by adding more restaurants this year. McDonald’s Managing Director Rafic Fakih told Gulf News yesterday they are set to open 10 to 12 outlets in Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah. Some of the restaurants, which will boost the 44-strong chain in the UAE, are scheduled to commence operations in about two or three months. The famous American brand’s Middle East portfolio boasts of 220 outlets throughout the Gulf region. Revenues Fakih admitted that given the number of restaurants in the UAE, their segment is not considered the major driver in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, but revenue figures have always been promising. “Up to now, since the last three or four years, we’ve always posted double-digit growth,” he said. Based on the latest financial report released by McDonald’s Corporation, comparable sales in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) rose from five per cent to 9.6 per cent in March, driven primarily by the strong performance in Japan and China. Overall, McDonald’s restaurants worldwide posted 8.2 per cent increase in comparable sales in March. The food chain’s operations in Europe reported the highest monthly comparable sales growth of 11.2 per cent, compared to 6.2 per cent in the U.S. and 9.6 per cent in APMEA. Source : El watan

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Dubai : Family businesses show better prudence

Dubai: Family-owned GCC conglomerates are strong on credit quality and accounting standards, according to a report by Moody’s, the international rating agency. “Whilst financial transparency and conglomerate-type business strategies pose analytical challenges, such companies also frequently demonstrate hidden credit strengths,” said Moody’s Investors Service. Analysing the key characteristics and issues involved in assessing the credit strength of family-owned companies in the Middle East, Philipp Lotter, Moody’s Senior Credit Officer and author of the report, said, “The main analytical challenges in assessing the credit quality of family-owned companies in the GCC, where such groups are commonplace, are the ownership structure and the limited public financial disclosure.” Key areas Moody’s new report, titled ‘Family-Owned Corporates in the GCC, looks at four keys areas such as corporate structures, accounting and transparency issues, capital structure and liquidity and analytical considerations. According to Moody’s, many large family-owned or closely held companies in the GCC encompass diversified core operations, often comprising real estate, construction and energy activities complemented by large land banks and investment portfolios. As a result of closely-held corporations being not obliged to publicly report their results, the availability of public information can often be sketchy. To assess a company’s financial strength, Moody’s has so far relied on private annual accounts, often prepared under International Financial Reporting Standards and audited by international firms. Moody’s said the quality of information, and indeed companies’ willingness to share such information on a confidential basis, are often high. Moody’s observes that many companies in the GCC – whether closely held or publicly quoted – rely heavily on short-term funding, which often depends on the strength of their banking relationships rather than any contractual commitment. The use of uncommitted lines to meet potential short-term liquidity needs remains a source of some uncertainty. Source : El watan