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Dubai airport’s passenger throughput crosses 8m

Dubai: Passenger throughput at Dubai International Airport, the busiest in the Middle East, crossed the eight million mark in the first quarter this year, an increase of 17.7 per cent over the corresponding period in 2006, a statement said. The airport handled a total of 8.15 million passengers from January to March, compared to 6.89 million in the corresponding period of 2006. January was the busiest month with 2.9 million passengers, while February was the slowest at just over 2.5 million passengers. With a total of 28.78 million passengers in 2006 the airport registered an increase of over 16 per cent over 2005. Passenger traffic is expected to reach 33 million this year and up to 60 million by 2010. The total tonnage of cargo handled during the period under review reached 362,919 tonnes against 334,329 tonnes during the first quarter of 2005, a substantial increase of 8.6 per cent. March was the busiest month for cargo with over 132,400 tonnes, while January and February had a marginal difference at just over 115,000 tonnes for both. There were a total of 63,494 aircraft movements during the period under review, an increase of 9.2 per cent over the first quarter of 2005. With over 21,922 aircraft movements, January was the busiest month, slightly over March (21,847) and February (19,725). Shaikh Ahmad bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group, said that the report is very encouraging and will set the tempo for the remainder of the year. He noted that after a successful year throughout 2006, Dubai International Airport is looking forward to repeating the feat this year. “The region’s aviation sector is the world’s fastest growing, and Dubai being the regional hub for trade, tourism and aviation, a consistent increase in passenger throughput at DIA shouldn’t come as a surprise,” he added. Traffic registers 17.7% rise in first quarter An increase of 9 per cent in aircraft movement during the furst quarter of 2007- An increase of 17.7 per cent in passenger movement compared to the last year figures.- In terms of cargo, the growth is almost 9 per cent compared with last year.- A total of 115 scheduled airlines and 25 frequent charter airlines operating to 200 destinations.

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Dubai :Emaar to sell excess rights issue

Dubai: Emaar Properties announced yesterday it will sell the unsubscribed portion of its rights issue to those investors who had applied for more shares than their entitlement. Emaar offered a 1:1 rights issue to investors in August 2005 at Dh5 per share including Dh4 premium. The company had offered the flexibility of paying for the shares through four equal installments. It is now offering to sell that portion of the offering, which was not taken up by the rights holders. “The surplus shares are now being allocated to shareholders who requested more shares than their initial entitlement and who reflected such intention at the time,” Emaar said. While the shares will be sold at the same offer price of Dh5 per share, the company has not specified how many shares are available. Investors eligible for the offer will be notified directly by the company and the will have 30 days to settle the payments for the additional shares allocated.

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Dubai : Japan’s new FDI rules to ease foreign takeovers

Tokyo : Red tape, high business costs and local fear of foreign take-overs have all held Japan back in the race to win foreign investment, but this may start to change when new merger and acquisition (M&A) rules take effect in May. With Japan’s population and workforce forecast to fall by about 10 million and 13 million respectively over the next 20 years, the world’s second-largest economy will suffer unless more foreign direct investment (FDI) comes in, economists say. Productivity The country needs to raise its productivity by bringing in new technology and management know-how, they say. “An ageing of the society means everybody who is left working has to work a lot harder. So you need productivity,” said Robert Feldman, chief economist at Morgan Stanley Japan Securities Co. “If we don’t raise productivity, our living standards will fall,” he said. The government had aimed to double Japan’s foreign investment stock to 13.2 trillion yen ($111 billion) in 2006 from 6.6 trillion yen in 2001. But that figure is estimated to have reached only 11 trillion yen as of the end of last year, a mere 2.2 per cent of Japan’s gross domestic product. That compares with 13 per cent in the US, 33.5 per cent in the European Union, and 14.3 per cent in China as of 2005, according to the latest UN World Investment Report. “There are a number of issues that affect the willingness of foreigners to come here,” Feldman said. “Regulation is very complex; getting regulatory decisions takes a long time; and the rules are not clear. In the end, sometimes it’s just not worth it when it takes so much work and so much trouble to come.” As a result, Japan has missed out on the global upsurge in FDI, which has been fuelled by cross-border mergers and acquisitions between developed countries. But economists say the country needs such investment to revitalise Japanese industry, citing the success of Nissan. Revamp “Since [chief executive] Carlos Ghosn joined Nissan, it has facilitated restructuring in areas such as its dealer network, which couldn’t have been carried out by Japanese management,” said Shujiro Urata, an economics professor at Waseda University. Help may be at hand, though, as new Japanese M&A rules that take effect in May will enable foreign companies to buy Japanese firms with exchanges of shares using their Japanese units, in so-called “triangular mergers”. “We may see an increase in foreign companies taking over Japanese companies,” said Patrick Mohr, a strategist at Nikko Citigroup Ltd. “[It may] not be a dramatic increase but enough to keep the steam alive.” Defence: Companies adopt anti-buyout measures Sensing the threat of foreign takeovers, more and more firms have been adopting takeover defences. According to Kengo Nishiyama, senior strategist at Nomura Securities Co, 224 listed firms, or 5.7 per cent of all listed companies, had adopted anti-takeover steps by April 2, compared with just 27 back in 2005. That number will top 300 by around May, he said. – Reuters

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Dubai on mortgage at the prevailing rates

Customers who have purchased property on mortgage in the UAE feel the industry has grown considerably in the five years since inception but still has a long way to go to meet international standards. Most of the respondents to a survey said a middle-income family cannot afford to buy a home in Dubai on mortgage at the prevailing rates. In a series of interviews with industry professionals and consumers, who have used mortgages to finance their homes, researchers from DSL Exhibitions – organisers of the Resale and Rental Property Show (R and R Show) in Dubai – asked respondents to answer a set of questions to gauge their opinions on the property finance industry. “We conducted this opinion survey to understand the issues that concern consumers so we could offer this snapshot to our exhibitors,” said Tessa Morris, the marketing director. Most of the respondents said that in terms of number of companies, the UAE presents a competitive scenario. Media reports have already estimated the size of the property mortgage market will reach Dh17.5 billion this year, with the home finance sector itself registering a 64 per cent growth from Dh7bn last year to Dh11.5bn this year. Bassam Ghani, who financed his villa in the Springs, said: “I bought my villa directly from Emaar and since they recommended Amlak I chose them. But I did shop around since almost all banks now offer property finance products.” Mohana Rao, the International Business Development Director at Ideal Management Essentials (IME), said: “In the short term, all banks will offer property finance services – however, in the long run, the financial institutions will begin to design tailor-made products to better suit their customers’ requirements – such as payment terms, tenures, minimum salary requirement, down payments, charges and so on.” A majority of respondents also agreed that in the short term property finance companies will jostle for market share but over the longer term, competition will result in providers creating more competitively priced mortgage products and keeping interest rates as low as possible, thereby creating a stable market. All the respondents agreed that with prices of property where they are right now, a middle-income family cannot afford to get a mortgage in Dubai at the moment. Adilane Sakane, who lives in a tower in Dubai Marina, said: “A basic two-bedroom apartment costs Dh2 million. Over 25 years, the minimum reducing interest mortgage will cost at least another Dh4m. That is Dh6m over 25 years. Tell me, which middleincome person can afford to pay Dh20,000 per month?” In the United Kingdom, average mortgage repayments, as a percentage of average household income, have remained between 15 and 20 per cent for the past 20 years, never exceeding 25 per cent. “If the same conditions are replicated in Dubai, most people will prefer to buy property on mortgage than rent a home,” said one respondent. Nearly 70 per cent agreed that the industry has still to mature by offering both innovation and flexibility. Mature mortgage products such as interest-only mortgages and hybrid adjustable rate mortgages that allow purchase of insurance against interest rate risk are still unavailable in the UAE, although Tamweel’s “Yusr” and HSBC’s “Flexi Home Loan” were cited by some respondents as indicators that the market is moving towards sophistication. Owen Belman, the head of consumer banking at Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Standard Chartered Home Loans are carefully designed to offer customers the financial support they need with the maximum convenience and choice. That is why we have partnered with leading real estate developers to provide our customers with a wider range of property options to choose from.” However, lack of knowledge, both about the intricacies involved in evaluating a mortgage plan as well as comparing apples to apples was stated as a reason why companies are not being “pushed” to introduce such products. Source : emiratestoday

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Consolidation of the GCC stock markets is “inevitable”

Consolidation of the GCC stock markets is “inevitable”, the chief executive of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) said yesterday. “Globally that is where we are headed,” said Nasser Al Shaali. “We have seen some efforts going in this direction with a GCC bourse, an Arab bourse, even an Islamic bourse. They have yet to bear any fruit for the region, but it is inevitable. We want to go beyond localised volatile and turbulent markets into a more global, mature environment.” Al Shaali would not be drawn on when consolidation of the GCC market will occur. “Speculation is unwise given the history of this region,” he said. Al Shaali refused to comment on rumours the London Stock Exchange was poised to take a stake in the (DIFX). In May 2006, the DIFC increased its holding in Euronext, the pan-European exchange that operates bourses in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon, to 3.48 per cent. The following month, the New York Stock Exchange announced a merger with Euronext worth $20 billion (Dh73.4bn) to create the first transatlantic stock market. Al Shaali reiterated the DIFC was planning to invest up to Dh2.5bn in other markets and was currently in talks with six bodies worldwide. “Hopefully we will see the first deal in the first half of 2007, but we cannot always predict when these will happen. “We are looking at all kinds of options. These investments are not limited to exchanges, it could be financial services.” Al Shaali said the investments were part of its goal to become global hub between London and Hong Kong. “These will fill in the gaps in financial services and infrastructure in the region.” Source : emiratestoday

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Dubai Microsoft pioneer prepares for blast-off

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan – Billionaire software programmer Charles Simonyi is set to rocket into space Saturday in a flight to the International Space Station (ISS) that will make him the world’s fifth space tourist. The 58-year-old Simonyi, who was born in Hungary and made his fortune as a pioneer at US software giant Microsoft, will spend 10 days on the station conducting experiments, blogging, and at least part of the time, marvelling at how far he’s come. Simonyi will bring with him a paper ribbon containing a program he wrote on the 1960s Soviet-made UrAl 2 computer, as he said, ‘to remind me where it all began.’ Like any good guest, he’ll also have a treat for his hosts on the ISS: a special space meal he will prepare for them on April 12, Cosmonaut’s Day. Simonyi is set to blast off at 1731 GMT Saturday from the space centre here with Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov will see them off, as will about 50 of the programmer’s friends. The three space travellers spent a two-week quarantine in Baikonur after a month of training — and a crash-course in Russian for Simonyi — at Star City, a space mission preparation centre near Moscow. The flight, which cost Simonyi around 25 million dollars (19 million euros), will be far more than a pleasure trip. Between snapping shots of Earth, he will be conducting medical experiments for the European Space Agency and testing high-definition cameras for the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. He plans to spend his free time detailing his experiences in a blog at www.charlesinspace.com. The site already contains daily accounts of his training sessions, as well as information and games ‘for future generations of space explorers.’ At a walk around the Baikonur space centre this week, Simonyi said he had been thrilled to find a piece of his programming past there. ‘At the Baikonur museum they have a UrAl 1, which is almost like a UrAl 2…. I kind of thought that the circle is closed, that we’re back to the future, and I think it’s great.’ His passion for the stars seized him only recently as he watched rocket launches at the US space centre in Cape Canaveral. As a teenage computer programmer, Simonyi’s greatest ambition had been ‘to get out of Hungary and emigrate to the West.’ He succeeded in 1968, at the age of 20, when he enrolled in the prestigious University of California-Berkeley and studied engineering and mathematics. His path to fortune was laid in 1981, when he was hired by Microsoft — then a scrappy young company — and helped design the benchmark Word and Excel programmes. He later received US citizenship, and in 2002 quit Microsoft to found his own firm, Intentional Software. Already adept at piloting airplanes and helicopters, Simonyi said he was not sure what would strike him more — the sight of the blue planet from space or the feeling of weightlessness. ‘I think that the best is to discover it on the spot,’ he said. He is scheduled to return to Earth on April 20 together with the current ISS team — Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin and American Miguel Lopez-Alegria — while his companions stay on for a 190-day shift in orbit. Simonyi will be the fifth tourist to travel to the ISS, following the United States’ Dennis Tito (2001) and Greg Olsen (2005), South Africa’s Mark Shuttleworth (2002) and an American of Iranian origin, Anousheh Ansari (2006). Once back on Earth, he will focus on a more worldly task: developing his new company. ‘I’ve got this company, and my dream is to make it very successful,’ he said. Source : Khaleedj

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Suicide bomb threat rings out in Pakistan capital

ISLAMABAD – The chief cleric of a radical mosque in Pakistan’s capital trumpeted plans on Friday to set up vigilante Islamic courts and exhorted followers to become suicide bombers if their Taleban-style movement was forcibly suppressed. “Our youths will shake their palaces with their suicide attacks,” Maulana Abdul Aziz warned the government in a fiery sermon delivered to thousands of followers at Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in central Islamabad. Followers of the radical clerics in Lal Masjid have become increasingly audacious in recent months, raising fears that for all President Pervez Musharraf’s talk of “enlightened moderation” he cannot stop a trend toward the Talebanisation of Pakistan. “They should not take the law into their own hands; this will create lawlessness in the country. We will not allow them, I will not allow this,” Musharraf told a convention for women’s health being held barely a kilometre away. So far, the authorities have been wary of confronting the anti-Musharraf and anti-American radicals at Lal Masjid for fear of provoking a wider backlash from conservative forces. There were no police around the mosque and militant literature was sold openly, while chants of jihad, or holy war, rang out from loudspeakers. “The government has been saying that an operation against us is the last option, I want to tell the government that suicide attacks are our last option,” Aziz said. “Yes, Yes, Allah-o-Akbar,” the worshippers shouted when Aziz asked them if they were ready to sacrifice their lives. Aziz also set a one-month deadline for the government to close down video and music shops, and bordellos. “If the government fails to do this by the deadline, then our students will take action themselves,” he said amid more shouts of “Allah-o-Akbar”, or “God is Greatest”, from the congregation. Outside the packed mosque, hundreds more worshippers offered prayers on the roads, protected by youths carrying batons and some covering their faces with scarfs, while burqa-clad women stood on the rooftops of an adjacent madrasa. A bonfire of thousands of video and audio cassettes and CDs was set alight by a contrite shopkeeper outside the mosque as onlookers chanted “our way is jihad, jihad”. Aziz said shariat, or Islamic law, courts would be set up and presided over by 10 clerics to stamp out vice in the capital, a sedate, suburban city hardly known for its vice dens. “Allah’s system on Allah’s land” and “We will sacrifice our lives to bring about an Islamic system” read two of the banners strung on trees on the waste ground outside the mosque where Aziz said the vigilante courts would be set up. Pakistan already operates a parallel Islamic legal system alongside its civil penal code. Female students from the adjoining Jamia Hafsa madrasa, or religious school, raided a brothel last month, and took the owner and two of her relatives into custody until they repented. City authorities have for months been at odds with clerics and their followers at the mosque over government attempts to demolish mosques illegally built on public land. Women from the Jamia Hafsa madrasa have occupied a library next door since January and their compound is akin to a fortified camp with young men guarding the gate and walls. Source : khaleedj

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Dubai : Call for greater transparency, tougher stock exchange rules

DUBAI — In terms of governance and transparency, the Middle East “has come a long way but still has a way to go, especially in relation to international accounting rules,” says Shayne Nelson, Standard Chartered’s regional chief executive in the Gulf and Levant. Speaking to Khaleej Times, he emphasised the need for greater transparency “in terms of financials as well as the need for tougher stock exchange rules.” For many companies, “their financials don’t have the detail and transparency that stakeholders and regulators require. This is generally an issue across the region. Although countries vary, we would like to see an improvement,” he says. But he added that “regulations are improving quite quickly and that the DIFC creates a good standard for countries to look up to.” Nelson also thinks “Bahrain is doing a very good job.” He also believes that financial centres should not be competing with one another to become the “centre of excellence” for the region but should be seeking to establish their own niche. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that because you are smaller you can’t find a niche that is very profitable and adds a lot of value to the community,” he says. “Despite Singapore being a big regional financial hub, for example, Malaysia has still found a niche as an Islamic hub.” Source : Khaleedj

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Dubai : DFM jumps 2.5 per cent

DUBAI — Leading UAE stock market indices made strong gains yesterday, the biggest in more than a month. The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) General Index advanced 2.5 per cent to 3,757,69 while the Abu Dhabi Securities Market (ADSM) Index jumped 2.1 per cent to 2.922.32. On the DFM, the banking sector performed strongly. The banks index advanced 3.2 per cent as three banks made gains. Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) leapt 6.5 per cent to Dh6.87. Shares in Emirates Bank International, currently in the process of merging with National Bank of Dubai, rose 3.9 per cent to Dh9.09. The National Bank of Dubai advanced 0,8 per cent to Dh8.67. Shares in the Islamic Arab Insurance Company (IAIC), the largest Islamic insurance (takaful and re-takaful) operator in the world, rose 5.47 per cent to Dh5.91. It made profits of Dh181 million for the 2006 financial year, a 65 per cent increase over 2005. Gulf General Investments, a UAE investor in real estate and industrial projects, recovered most of its recent losses (it had lost about 7 per cent over the past few days) by climbing 5 per cent to Dh5.91. Amlak, the UAE’s largest home-finance provider, also made significant gains, advancing 4.2 per cent to Dh2.95. This follows yesterday’s 2.5 per cent increase. Before that it had lost 12 per cent since March 29 when the company announced that the UAE Central bank had rejected its application for a banking licence. Emaar Properties, one of the world’s largest property companies and Amlak’s largest shareholder, also advanced by 2.3 per cent to Dh11.20, extending the previous day’s 0.9 per cent gain. On the ADSM, 28 stocks advanced, eight declined and two remained unchanged. Among the biggest gainers was Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) whose shares jumped 7.5 per cent to Dh6.18 on speculation that the bank was in merger talks with Union National Bank (UNB). ADCM, the third largest lender by assets in the UAE, said there was “no substance” to the market speculation. The government-controlled UNB is the seventh-largest bank by assets in the UAE. Its shares jumped 3.1 per cent to Dh6.01. Source : Khaleedj