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UAE and Qatar will set up $2b acquisition fund

Dubai: Abu Dhabi government-owned Ipic and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) will invest $2 billion in a new fund for global acquisitions, the managing director of Ipic said yesterday. “We plan to invest in all sectors, including oil and petrochemicals,” Khadem Al Qubaisi said. The fund could thus mark a new direction for the International Petroleum Investment Co (Ipic), which until now has limited its investments to the energy sector. Ipic and QIA initially will each invest $1 billion in the fund, Qubaisi said. Investment will be leveraged to maximise acquisition potential, and the fund will be operating in about six months, he said. “We will look at any opportunities where we can make money and add value. That could be anywhere – the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States,” Al Qubaisi said. Ipic and QIA investment in the fund, which Qubaisi said had yet to identify any specific targets, will likely be increased later. “We will be conservative with the first investments and build carefully,” he said. “You cannot be aggressive from day one.” QIA officials were unavailable for comment. The tie-up fits with the ambitions of both countries for gas trade, said Mustafa Al Alani from Dubai-based think-tank the Gulf Research Centre. Abu Dhabi is short of gas, while Qatar holds the world’s third-largest gas reserves. Qatar started gas exports through a pipeline to the UAE last year, but Abu Dhabi needs more to meet spiralling domestic demand from both power generators and heavy industry. Qatar has looked beyond the Gulf for years for gas markets and is the world’s top exporter of liquefied gas. But as petrodollars fuel a regional economic boom, Doha is eyeing markets closer to home, Al Alani said. “I see this very much as a question of gas,” Alani said. “The UAE needs gas. The Qataris… for the last 10 years were looking at distant markets. Now they feel that the political impact of their policy was negative, so they are moving closer to other Gulf states, and are talking about joint projects and more integration.” Last year, Qatar also set up joint investment funds with the governments of Oman and Dubai. Sover-eign funds from the Middle East, Asia, Russia and China have poured billions of dollars into stakes in Wall Street firms, arousing concern among US lawmakers that politics may be influencing investments. US and Abu Dhabi agreed last week on a set of principles for the funds to keep politics out of decisions. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is thought to be the largest sovereign fund in the world, controlling assets of over $800 billion. The UAE is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, and its government has reaped the windfall from a five-fold increase in crude prices since 2002. Funds including QIA and ADIA have helped rescue struggling Western banks in recent months. Quick look: Investment vehicles – IPIC is an investment vehicle for the Government of Abu Dhabi, which has more than 90 per cent of the United Arab Emirates’ oil reserves. – QIA is Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. Its assets stand at around $60 billion, according to an estimate by Standard Chartered. Source: Reuters

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Etisalat cash dividend at 35%

Dubai : The general assembly of Etisalat has approved a 35 per cent cash dividend of the nominal share value for the second half of 2007 to be distributed to shareholders. This brings the total cash dividend distributed in 2007 to 60 per cent of the nominal share value. In its meeting on Monday, the assembly also approved the distribution of a 20 per cent share dividend, with one share distributed for each five shares. On the demand by some assembly members to allow foreigners to acquire Etisalat shares, Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, who represented the government in the assembly meeting, said Etisalat submitted a request to review the government concession and setting a proper mechanism for it. Etisalat also requested to transform from an establishment into a company, and the request has been submitted to the concerned authorities to take the proper decision. The authorities will also discuss the issue of foreign ownership of Etisalat shares, Al Mansouri said. Mohammad Hassan Omran, Etisalat Chairman, said the establishment is committed to providing the latest technologies available and world-class services, and has invested more than Dh3.4 billion to enhance its infrastructure in 2007. In a statement following the meeting, Omran said Etisalat would seek to become to a company, which would enhance its financial performance. “The transformation into a company requires an Emiri decree, since Etisalat was set up by a special law, which must be amended to allow the switchover onto a public joint stock company,” Omran said. Source: WAM

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US agrees on principles for sovereign funds with Abu Dhabi, Singapore

Wahington: The US Treasury Department on Thursday said it agreed with Abu Dhabi and Singapore on a set of principles for sovereign wealth funds that specifies politics should not influence their decisions. The foreign-controlled funds, many based in the Middle East but also in Asia, Russia and China, have aroused US lawmakers’ concern because they have poured billions of dollars into large stakes in Wall Street firms and other businesses and fanned fears the US was losing control of its destiny. But Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, in a statement after meeting government officials from Abu Dhabi and Singapore as well as some individual funds, said they were welcome in the United States and set out principles that also guide the behavior of countries that are getting the funds’ money. Paulson said the principles the Treasury made public should guide efforts by the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which also are working on developing a set of “best practices” for the funds. The first principle said funds should make investments “solely on commercial grounds, rather than to advance … the geopolitical goals of the controlling government.” Countries that are getting the money “should not erect protectionist barriers” to foreign investment, according to another principle that reflects the Bush administration’s determined bid to ward off restrictions on the funds, especially at a time when their money is badly needed. At a briefing for reporters later, Treasury’s assistant secretary for international affairs, Clay Lowery, said there was no attempt to single out the Abu Dhabi and Singapore wealth funds as specially desirable partners for an agreement. Source: Agencies

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Dubai to host global travel and tourism summit next month

Dubai: The 8th Global Travel and Tourism Summit, a World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) initiative, will be held in Dubai from 20th to 22nd April at the Madinat Jumeirah. Congress Solutions International (CSI), the official summit co-ordinator, is putting the finishing touches to the event. “Dubai is one of the world’s fastest-growing tourism hubs. As a major, world-class city that is strategically located at the crossroads of East and West, Dubai can be easily accessed from any point in the world and hence is an ideal venue to host the summit,” Frederic Bardin, senior vice president of Congress Solutions International, said. The summit is the industry’s most high-profile event that attracts chief executives of the world’s foremost travel and tourism companies as well as senior government officials and influential media from around the globe. The Dubai summit will focus the industry’s attention to three global issues: preserving the world’s natural and cultural assets; the role of travel and tourism in generating employment and wealth; and harnessing growth. Source: WAM

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DP World to boost capacity of China port

Shanghai: DP World aims to boost its container-handling capacity in China 30 per cent this year because of the country’s surging trade growth. The company plans to add four container berths in Qingdao, eastern China, and a second venture in the northern port of Tianjin, Kris Chang, managing director of DP World China, said on Thursday DP World had a capacity of 10 million cargo boxes in China and Hong Kong at the end of 2007. DP World raised $4.96 billion in the Middle East’s largest initial share sale last year to fund expansion plans, as Dubai aims to become a global transport hub for Asia, Europe and Africa. The company plans to add facilities in China after the country’s exports surged 26 per cent last year. “We’re still a newcomer in China and we will continue to expand our portfolio here,” said Chang. The company currently operates terminals in Qingdao, Tianjin, Yantai and Hong Kong, with a total of 19 container berths. DP World aims to boost its global capacity to 90 million 20-foot boxes by 2017 from 48 million last year, through a combination of new ventures and expansion at existing ports, Chang said. The company handled 43.3 million boxes in 2007 at its 42 terminals worldwide, an increase of 18 per cent from a year earlier. It aims to have 56 terminals in 27 countries by 2017, Chang said. Source: Bloomberg

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Dubai horse fair attracts firms from 30 countries

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, inaugurating the Dubai International Horse Fair at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday. Dubai horse fair attracts firms from 30 countries Staff Report Published: March 20, 2008, 23:54 Dubai: Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, on Thursday inaugurated the 2008 Dubai International Horse Fair (DIHF) at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Following the opening ceremony, he toured the show, which this year attracted over 200 companies from 30 countries. Organised by the Dubai World Trade Centre, DIHF will run till tomorrow. The show will run from 11am to 8pm tomorrow and from 2 to 8.30pm today. The show runs alongside the fifth Dubai International Arabian Horse Championship (DIAHC), a three-day competition for purebred Arabian horses culminating in the Championship classes for the most exquisite horses. “The response from both visitors and exhibitors has been extremely strong this year, with many international attendees saying that the show is now firmly among the world’s best equestrian events,” said Abdullah Qassem, board member, higher organising committee of DIHF and DIAHC. DIHF brings together local distributors, international horse owners, manufacturers, breeders and suppliers as well as the wider riding community. Building on last year’s successful introduction of seminars and exhibitor presentations at DIHF, veterinarians and horse owners have been invited to participate again. Source: WAM

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US ‘urges UAE to retain peg’

Dubai: The UAE, conceding to US pressure and a desire to act in concert with Gulf allies, will keep the dirham pegged to the dollar, a UAE Central Bank official said. US embassy officials last week told UAE Central Bank Governor Sultan Bin Nasser Al Suwaidi of their concern about reports that the country may drop the peg, the official said yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity. Political leaders have stopped the bank from developing any plans to move toward another currency regime, the official said. US Embassy spokesman Atalah Hoshan in Abu Dhabi wasn’t immediately available for comment. Source: Bloomberg

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UAE stocks continue slide amid bearish global trend

Abu Dhabi: The UAE stock markets continued their slide on Sunday in line with the bearishness prevailing in global financial markets. Markets worldwide were highly volatile last week, impacted by lifetime-high oil prices and a weak dollar. Traders were unnerved by global concerns that the US economy is fast heading towards recession. The Emirates Securities general index fell 1.25 per cent yesterday to 5,932.96 from 6,008.17, its previous close. The Abu Dhabi Securities Market (ADSM) general index fell 1.07 per cent to 4,681.97, while the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) index closed at 5,675.47, down 1.36 per cent. Market analysts, however, said the fundamentals of the UAE economy are strong and the domestic bourses will bounce back into positive territory soon. “This is a temporary phase. If the first quarter results of major listed companies are strong, it will cement the belief of investors that over the long term, the UAE markets are immune to the shocks in the global economy,” said an investment banker. The ADSM was dragged down by the energy sub-index that fell 2.80 per cent, followed by industrial sub-index that declined 2.30 per cent. Shares valued at more than Dh426.31 million were traded, with the volume of shares exceeding 70.43 million. Aldar Properties was the most actively traded, while Emirates Driving Company was the main gainer closing 2.20 per cent higher at Dh6.51. Oman & Emirates Inv. Holding was the main loser, declining 6.10 per cent to Dh6. On the DFM, more than 170.67 million shares valued in excess of Dh838.1 million were traded. AirArabia’s stock was the most active by volume, while Dubai Refreshments (DRC) was the main gainer. DRC’s shares rose 4.85 per cent to close at Dh17.30. Oman Insurance was the main loser declining 4.98 per cent to Dh9.74 at close.

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UAE central bank ‘studies revaluation’

Dubai: The UAE’s central bank has launched a study into a revaluation of the dirham, the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) reported late on Friday, citing a bank official. “There is a study group that has been looking at the effects a revaluation would have for several months now as part of the planning for the long-term strategic future of the bank,” MEED quoted the official as saying. The group is expected to report the findings at the end of 2008, according to the magazine. The UAE, like other Gulf Arab countries, which peg their currencies to the dollar, is struggling to curb soaring inflation, driven by a five-fold increase in oil prices during the last six years and lower interest rates. Source: Reuters

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Jumbo plans Dubai listing with eye on retail investor

Dubai: Jumbo Group, the $2 billion electronics retailer, is planning to expand business organically as well as through acquisitions, in addition to a planned listing in Dubai. “Given Jumbo’s current financial position, we would, in fact, be interested in acquiring some businesses with synergies,” Vidya Chhabria, chairperson of Jumbo Group, said, responding to takeover rumours. “We would want the people of Dubai to share in our success, and at the appropriate time we would definitely like to list Jumbo in Dubai. The listing when it happens will be skewed towards the small, retail investor to give them a chance to share in the growth of Jumbo. “With Jumbo’s projected growth rates exceeding 25 per cent year on year for at least the next ten years, it would definitely provide a good investment opportunity to the small investor.” The group’s flagship company, Jumbo Electronics, was established in 1974 by Manohar Rajaram Chhabria, a non-resident Indian, who made a fortune selling Sony televisions. The company benefitted from the massive growth of the electronics retail business in Dubai. Chhabria yesterday outlined her companies growth plans that is expected to raise its current annual turnover fivefold from Dh1 billion. “Jumbo’s turnover will touch Dh5 billion soon. It has substantially increased the gap between itself and its competitors.” “The growth is solid and sustainable as it is organic, and not through acquisitions. The Jumbo Group has over the last few years reinvested millions of dirhams into the business to fund its rapid expansion. Jumbo has an exceptionally strong balance sheet completely free of any term debt. The group has several divisions with turnovers of over Dh1 billion.” Chhabria, however, ruled out inducting new partners. “We have no intention of bringing on new partners into the business nor any intention of diluting the stake in the business.”