Saudi Basic Industries, the Arab world’s largest company, suffered a net loss of $260 million in the year’s first quarter. Dubai recorded 2% first-quarter growth and issued loans to needing companies from its $10 billion bond sales. Nasser al Shaikh, Dubai finance director: “We have to safeguard the economy, so we will not be focusing on investing abroad.” Deyaar Development, also led by Mr. Shaikh, made its international strategy clear. Its CEO: “We are sitting on 1 AED billion [$272 million]. We are cash-flow positive … and have literally no debts.” Dubai’s DP World started managing operations at Algiers port. A Jordanian diplomat estimated UAE investments in his country to be $2 billion.
Foreign investment in the Gulf decreased 15% ($10 billion) between 2007 and 2008. Abu Dhabi’s carbon-neutral Masdar project asked its consultants to reduce fees by 20%. The $33 billion Al Maktoum Airport, billed as the world’s largest airport, saw its number of runways reduced from six to five. Dubai Airports’ CEO: “This is not about scaling back or reducing capacity but about optimizing it.”
Saudi Arabia’s General Investment Authority and Emaar signed the major pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Avenis to open in the not-yet-opened King Abdullah Economic City. An economic study revealed Meccah could create one million jobs over the next ten years. For the first time since the Islamic Revolution, Iran opened its markets to foreign banks, and four American banks, including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, applied for approval. China expressed interest in investing in Iran’s mining industries.
Last year’s F1 Grand Prix generated 2.2% of Bahrain’s GDP. Bahrain’s nineteenth political party neared registration. Its platform: “to establish a strategic alliance between all vivacious national, nationalist and Islamic forces in the Arab world through a network promoting democracy, freedom, human rights, justice and unity.” Iran’s ambassador in Beirut listed projects his country has completed for Lebanon’s reconstruction: 136 educational centers, 62 religious sites 19 medical centers, 14 bridges 108 electricity projects, 150 rural development projects. Dubai Dreamz Group started work on low-cost housing developments in three Pakistani cities. With no specific projects mentioned, Bill Gates’ foundation and Dubai Cares agreed to co-fund health and education projects in the developing world.
A consultancy firm (partly owned by Dubai Holding) ranked Dubai as the world’s fourth best retailer. Boston Consulting Group ranked four UAE companies (Emirates Group, Etisalat, Dubai World and Emaar) in its 2009 1000 Global Challengers.
An Abu Dhabi municipality official: “We have already finalized the land registration law, mortgage law, escrow account law, strata law that will bring transparency to the market.” A report estimated that Abu Dhabi’s office market shortage would continue for the next 3-5 years. The waiting time in Abu Dhabi for construction machinery has dropped from 6 months to one-and-a-half hours. Al Raha Beach’s developer said it was reconsidering the project for more “what we call affordable [housing].” The same developer launched a $2.5 billion project of mid-income housing for locals, who will receive the houses free of charge from the government.
At Cityscape Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council launched its Capital City District, proposed for 370,000 residents and including seven grand boulevards representing the seven emirates. Basra’s investment commission announced a $107 million tourism development at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Al Arkan real estate reported its Al Qasr project, an urban renewal project surrounding Jeddah’s Khozam Palace, to be on schedule. French consultants recommended that Baghdad could replace its concrete security barriers with hedges: “We can remake Baghdad as a city focused on nature, ecology and the environment, with a new concept of security.” A GCC environmental official stated that the council was considering a regional “green tax.”
Umm Al Quwain decreed the closing of all bars and nightclubs in the emirate starting May 1. France was considering a university in Bahrain to promote French language and culture. Dubai’s proposed opera house, designed by Zaha Hadid, was “set to be cancelled,” and Foster + Partner won a design contract for five stations on the railway linking Medina and Meccah.
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