Bahrain’s economy now fastest growing in the Gulf region

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The rate of growth of Bahrain’s non-oil economy reached 4.8 percent in the first nine months of 2017, outperforming previous expectations, according to the Bahrain Economic Development Board’s (EDB) Bahrain Economic Quarterly.

According to figures included in the report, 2017’s non-oil growth is expected to exceed the 4 percent recorded in 2016.

The overall economies growth reached a pace of 3.6 percent for the first three quarters of the year, compared to 3.2 percent during 2016 as a whole. The report notes that the rate of growth makes Bahrain’s economy the fastest growing in the GCC.

“Bahrain’s economy continues to deliver at the upper end of growth expectations thanks to a combination of robust structural and countercyclical drivers,” said Dr Jarmo Kotilaine, Chief Economic Advisor of the Bahrain EDB. “We expect this positive dynamic to continue into 2018 as the regional environment becomes more supportive of growth and as the diversified economy continues to expand, supported by an unprecedented investment pipeline.”

According to Kotilaine, Bahrain has increasingly undertaken efforts to take advantage of emerging growth drivers, such as fintech – most notably through the Bahrain fintech Bay – and ICT infrastructure.

“As growth becomes increasingly underpinned by improvements in productivity, Bahrain’s investment in infrastructure, regulatory reform and development of human capital will play a vital role in ensuring long-term, sustainable prosperity and expansion,” he added.

Notably, Bahrain’s non-oil growth is almost entirely driven by the private sector, which has resulted in broad-based, strong performances in sectors including hospitality, F&B, social, personal and financial services and communications, all of which recorded over 6 percent year-on-year real growth during the first nine months of 2017.

Additionally, the report notes that non-oil growth has been boosted by a number of large-scale infrastructure investments, despite subdued oil prices and low government spending growth.

Bahrain’s overall investment pipeline is estimated to have increased by nearly 20 percent in 2017, led by $32 billion worth of ‘priority’ projects such as an airport modernisation project and expansion of the Alba aluminum smelter.

Throughout 2017, the valued of tendered projects as part of the GCC Development Fund rose from $3.9 billion to over $4.1 billion, with the cumulative amount of funds disbursed rising from $751 million in Q4 2016 to $1.4 billion in the same quarter of 2017.


Bahrain’s Gulf Air says first Dreamliner to launch on London route

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Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air has announced that its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will serve its double daily London Heathrow service.

The new aircraft, which conducted a fly pass before the Bahrain Grand Prix race on Sunday, will join the fleet on June 15, the airline said in a statement.

A total of five Dreamliner aircraft will enter Gulf Air’s fleet by the end of 2018 with an additional two aircraft arriving during 2019 and three arriving by the end of 2020.

Gulf Air CEO Krešimir Kucko said: “We are only weeks away from officially taking delivery of Gulf Air’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – a historic moment for Gulf Air and Bahrain and yet another important step in our strategic direction towards furthering Gulf Air’s fleet modernization process and supporting our network and overall passenger experience enhancement strategies.

“Only a few weeks ago, we unveiled a new Gulf Air corporate strategy, 2018 network expansion plans to 8 new routes, details surrounding our incoming fleet, new, best in class products and services, our new overall direction and where we hope the future will take us all. It is time for change and we are embracing change today.”

This summer, Gulf Air will also expand its network with flights to Bangalore, Alexandria, Casablanca, Baku, Abha and Tabuk in Saudi Arabia, Calicut, and Sharm El Shaikh.

Gulf Air’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will offer 282 seats in a two-class configuration, with 26 Falcon Gold Class seats and 256 Economy Class seats.

Marty Bentrott, vice president, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Sales for Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Central Asia and Africa, said: “The number of airlines operating this super-efficient airplane is increasing across the world and we look forward to the Dreamliner joining Gulf Air’s fleet.”


Tourism to contribute ‘double digits’ to Bahrain’s GDP in coming years

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Bahrain hopes that the tourism and hospitality sector will contribute “double digits” to its GDP over the next several years, according to Ali Ghunam Murtaza, the director of real estate, tourism and leisure business development at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).

According to official figures, tourism contributed 6.3 percent to Bahrain’s GDP in 2017.

Speaking to Arabian Business at the Arabian Travel Market, Murtaza said that the figure is likely to grow as ongoing tourism projects are completed.

“We foresee the contribution to go up for many reasons. Part of that is that we are actively working towards it. We want the contribution of tourism to increase along with other sectors in Bahrain,” he said. ” It’s an active strategy.”

“Through direct and indirect investment to tourism, I think it will be a big part of GDP,” he added. “Our aim is to get into double digits soon.”

In the longer term, Murtaza said he hopes that tourism’s contribution to GDP will reach as high as 20 percent, as much as other sectors such as banking.

“We aim to get it there in the long run,” he noted, adding that the county also hopes to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2020, up from approximately 12.7 million in 2017.

Additionally, Murtaza noted that investment in Bahrain’s tourism sector has reached $13 billion, a figure which encompasses 14 separate projects in the country’s tourism and leisure sector.

The tourism projects, in turn, form part of a larger infrastructure development campaign across a number of sectors, which is collectively valued at more than $32 billion.

“We have fantastic five-star resorts coming in, such as the Address, the Vida, the Jumeirah [Royal Saray], and so forth,” he said. “In addition to that, we’ve also started adding to our retail offerings, such as The Avenues, and we have a couple of others.”

To encourage more visitors to come to Bahrain, Murtaza noted that Gulf Air has invested nearly $7.2 billion to expand its fleet and “modernise the Gulf Air brand”, as well as $1.1 billion investments into expanding and improving Bahrain’s national airport, a project which Murtaza said is approximately 60 percent complete.

Looking to the future, Murtaza said that partnering with foreign investors is a key pillar of Bahrain’s strategy to increase visitor numbers and revenue from tourism.

“We work with them [companies based outside of Bahrain] very closely to identify opportunities where they can bring synergy to the table, where they bring quality investment, quality operations,” he said. “There are a lot of firms around the world with a lot of specific experiences.”

“We work to identify the top ones, and we work to get them to like Bahrain, get them to understand the opportunities, and then we enable the investment,” he added. “We are partners for the long-run.”


Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways sees Q1 loss despite 42% revenue jump

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Kuwait-based Jazeera Airways on Wednesday announced double digit growth in both revenue and flown passengers in the first quarter of 2018.

The airline recorded an operating revenue of KD14.3 million, up 42.7 percent from Q1 2017, and a net loss of KD0.3 million, an improvement of KD0.636 million from Q1 2017.

Passenger numbers in the first three months of 2018 totalled 403,863, up 43.1 percent from the year-earlier period.

Load factor on flights reached 75.8 percent, up 5.4 percent from Q1 2017, the airline added in a statement.

Jazeera Airways chairman Marwan Boodai said: “Despite the first quarter being a low travel season historically, we saw a 43.1 percent increase in flown passengers this year, a 42.7 percent growth in topline earnings, and significant improvement in our bottom line earnings.

“Looking head, the rest of the year is looking incredibly exciting for our business with our very own dedicated terminal coming on-line in mid-May, in addition to new routes, and new additions to the fleet.”


Uber to invest indefinitely in Middle East market, says Harford

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Uber’s chief operating officer Barney Harford said the company will increase its investment in key growth markets like the Middle East, which might include a bid for Dubai-based Careem, its rival in the region.

The US-based ride-hailing firm recently sold its South-East Asia business to Singapore-based rival Grab and now has “resources available that are allowing us to double down in critical competitive markets in particular India and the Middle East North Africa”, Harford told CNBC television.

Responding to CNBC question about the possibility of acquiring Careem – its rival in the Middle East – Harford said that the company has ruled out “transactions for minority stakes.”

“We’ve been very clear about is that going forward we have no interest in doing transactions for minority stakes,” he told the broadcaster.

“It would be crazy for us as a hypergrowth company to not engage in conversations about potential partnerships

“But we’ve been very clear, the markets that we remain in today are core markets for us.

“We’re doubling down on our investment and we’re very committed to these markets,” he added.

Harford said that the situation in the Middle East with Careem “is very different” to Southeast Asia, where Uber got a 27.5 percent stake in Grab – valued at roughly $6 billion – in return for its operations there.

“There were three players in that market. We had a smaller position,” he said. “We…operate in a position of very clear strength here in the Middle East and North Africa market.”

Uber made a loss of $4.5bn last year, despite a 61 percent increase in sales. He said the profitable markets it operates in will allow Uber to invest indefinitely in markets like the Middle East and North Africa.

“We actually are in a fortunate position that a good number of the markets that we operate the ride sharing business today are already profitable. We are able to use the profits from those markets to allow us to invest on an indefinite basis in key growth markets such as the Middle East and North Africa where we’ve announced plans to double down investments,” Harford said.


MB&F reveals aquatic version of Horological Machine No.7

Maximilian Busser and Friends (MB&F) has launched its new aquatic watch Horological Machine No.7 ‘Aquapod’ in three limited edition designs.

Inspired by jellyfish, which generate power from food caught in their tentacles, the Aquapod produces power from its tentacle-like automatic winding rotor, boasting a central ‘flying’ tourbillon similar to the hood of the water creature.

MB&F reveals aquatic version of Horological Machine No.7
The limited edition Aquapod features elements inspired by jellyfish

MB&F reveals aquatic version of Horological Machine No.7
Maximilian Busser and Friends (MB&F) has launched its new aquatic watch Horological Machine No.7 ‘Aquapod’ in three limited edition designs.

Inspired by jellyfish, which generate power from food caught in their tentacles, the Aquapod produces power from its tentacle-like automatic winding rotor, boasting a central ‘flying’ tourbillon similar to the hood of the water creature.

The indications radiate from the centre like “ripples in a pond,” according to the brand. The watch also features outward symmetric rings to display hours and minutes, based on the symmetric ring of brain neurons of jellyfish.

The winding rotor’s 3D ‘tentacles’ are crafted from a solid block of titanium, with platinum mass for efficient winding placed underneath them.

Unlike diving watches, the Aquapod’s unidirectional rotating bezel is not attached to the case, but floats alone.

As for its 72-hour power reserve engine, it was developed in-house by MB&F.

Moreover, as jellyfish glow in the dark, so does the Aquapod on its hour and minute numerals, flying tourbillon and tentacle-like winding rotor.

The timepiece is available in three designs including titanium with blue ceramic bezel limited to 33 pieces, red gold with black ceramic bezel limited to 66 pieces and titanium with green sapphire crystal bezel limited to 50 pieces.

Qatar non-oil exports grow 15.1% in Q1

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Doha: The total value of Qatar’s non-oil exports for the first quarter of 2018 reached QR5.64 billion compared to the first quarter of 2017 which amounted to QR4.9 billion, registering an increase of 15.1%, according to the monthly report of Qatar Chamber on the foreign trade of the private sector. The total value of non-oil exports for last March reached QR1.4 billion compared to QR1.8 billion in March 2017, recording a decrease of 22%, the report shows.

Qatar Chamber’s monthly report on foreign trade of the private sector showed that despite the decline in exports during March 2018, the non-oil exports performance index during the first three months of this year showed a qualitative growth in volume compared to the same period of the year 2017, thanks to the country’s product quality and global demand.

The report which was prepared by the Chambers Research & Studies Department and Member Affairs Department, pointed out about 2876 certificates of origin were issued in March 2018, including 2592 general model certificates, 114 GCC standard certificates (industrial), 154 unified Arab certificates, and 19 certificates for preferences.

Commenting on the report, QCs director general Saleh bin Hamad Al Sharqi said that despite the slight decrease in the value of Marchs non-oil exports compared to the last month, new markets have entered to the fray with advanced position such as Netherland and Australia. He noted that the escalating surge in Qatar exports in the first quarter of 2018 assured that the country is not affected by the siege.

According to the report, Qatar exported goods and services to about 57 countries, including 11 Arab and GCC countries, 10 European countries including Turkey, 16 Asian countries (excluding Arab countries), 15 African countries (excluding Arab countries), 3 countries of North America, and one of South America and Australia.

In comparison with March 2018, we see a decrease in the number of countries that received non-oil exports in March by 5 countries. On the cluster and group level, there is a decline in the number of Arab countries including GCC countries which received Qatari exports, From 12 countries in February to 11 in March. The number of Asian countries excluding the Arab countries declined from 17 countries in February to 16 in March, as well as African countries except Arab countries from 17 countries in February to 15 in March. 13 countries in February to 10 in March, while the number of North American countries rose from two in February to three in March, one from South America and Australia.

According to the report, Oman was still Qatar’s top non-oil exports destination in March 2018 accounting for QR485.8 million or 35.8 percent of the total exports. It was followed by Netherland with almost QR209.1 million or 15.4 percent and Turkey with QR87.7 m or 6.5 percent. India came in fourth place with almost QR78.8m or 5.8 percent followed Bangladesh by with QR76.3m or 5.6 percent. Hong Kong was in the sixth place followed by Germany, Indonesia, China and Australia.

“It is clear that 85.2 percent of the total value of exports were received by the first ten countries above mentioned,” the QC report said.

GCC countries (Oman and Kuwait) as an economic bloc were top destinations of Qatari exports amounting to 37.1% of the total exports with QR 502.4 million. Most of them were received by Oman.

Asian countries excluding Arab countries come in the second place. They imported goods worth QR440 m, which represents 32.4 percent of the total non-oil exports. European countries including Turkey come in the third place amounting to 20.4 percent of the total value with QR276.3m.In the fourth place, Arab countries excluding GCC received QR76.1m or 5.6 percent of the total value. Australia came in the fifth place receiving QR30.8m followed by African countries which received QR23.2 m followed by North America and South America.


120 companies register with Qatar Financial Center since siege began


Doha: Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC) CEO Faisal Rashid Al Sahouti said that 120 companies have registered with Qatar Financial Center (QFC) since the siege was imposed on Qatar, an increase of 200 percent in investment volume compared to the same time last year.

In an interview with Al Raya Newspaper, Al Sahouti said the increase in investments despite the unjust siege reflects the investors’ trust in the Qatari economy and the failure of the siege countries’ plans to harm the economy.

He added that QICDRC was a main factor in marketing QFC globally thanks to the role it played in resolving different civil and trade disputes. Since its establishment, he added, it has engaged in a number of major cases using senior judges with proven experience and international competence.

Al Sahouti said that describing QICDRC as international is not only a result of the diversity of its judges but also because the followed system is the same as in most courts in the world’s largest cities that attract capital. Al Sahouti explained that it has 16 judges from 10 different countries, all of whom have long standing experience in the judicial work in their countries adding that the QICDRC is headed by the former Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom. He revealed that there are two levels of litigation before the court, after which the judgments become final and enforceable, and may not be appealed to any other party.

He added that the number of cases heard by the court has increased by 15 to 20 percent annually, noting that there was a significant increase of 70 percent between 2016 and 2017 in comparison to the previous years. This is due to the investors’ trust in the court and the increase of investment in Qatar, he added.

Al Sahouti said that Qatar International Court has contributed to doubling the number of registered companies with QFC between 2010 and 2015 as the increase took place since establishing the court created confidence for the investors.

With regards to the future development plans of the court, he said that its development must proceed in a gradual and stable manner, adding that a new law will be issued for QFC and is currently in its final stages.

The QICDRC CEO explained that the law will expand the court’s jurisdiction making it supervisor not only of QFC but is likely to oversee companies operating elsewhere in the country to enhance the confidence of foreign investors to work in Qatar.

He added that the new law will allow the court to expand the scope of the arbitration process, where it will be activated through the establishment of an independent center under the umbrella of the court and will operate independently. In addition, the largest international arbitration centers will be attracted to open branches in QFC and Dispute Resolution Centre, following the transfer of the court next year to the financial district of Msheireb, he said.

Al Sahouti said the financial district will hold a building exclusively for the court and the international arbitration centers which have showed interest in opening branches here in Qatar, which will make Qatar an international hub for settling trade disputes, where major companies will head to for regional or national or international disputes. Qatar International Court will be supervising the arbitration, he added.

In addition, he announced the signing of bilateral agreements in the near future with a number of the most important business capitals in the world of finance and business at the international level. Such agreements would serve as bridges of justice between the most important capitals of the world, contributing to the transmission and implementation of judgments, he added.

As for cooperation between Qatar International Court and Foundation of Qatar Sports Arbitration (FQSA), Al Sahouti said the foundation opened a branch in the Dispute Resolution Centre of the court, in aim to resolve sports disputes. He added that this comes in the future plans of moving to the new building of the court in Msheirab, including headquarters for courts, dispute settlement centers, arbitration institutes and arbitration centers, so that the building is an international point for settling disputed and a place for cases since its start to the implementation stages.

On opening a branch of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) in Qatar, he revealed that the institute is the first in the world in the field of training and qualification of arbitrators. The institute has 80 branches worldwide with Qatar’s branch being the first in the Middle East and North Africa and will organize training courses and prepare awareness lectures for arbitrators or persons who want to work as arbitrators.


Aldar, Emaar merger ruled out for now, says chairman


Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Aldar Properties on future of joint activities between real estate giants

A merger between UAE property giants Aldar and Emmar is not on the table, according to Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Aldar Properties.

Last month the developers announced a strategic alliance to develop $8bn (AED30bn) worth of projects, initially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

In a CNBC interview this morning, Al Mubarak said: “We want to first cement this JV… We want to finish these developments, at the highest quality we can, at the timeframe we announced, and share it with the people, and then we can discuss what the future can hold for both these entities.”

The agreement, signed by Al Mubarak and Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar, will see the developers initially collaborate on two UAE-based projects: Saadiyat Grove on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, and the Emaar Beachfront project, located between Jumeirah Beach Residence and Palm Jumeirah.

Al Mubarak said of the strategy: “You eventually always outgrow your market. And as we’ve last seen, over the last several months with the announcement of the joint venture with Emaar – that is specifically focused on how we can bring in brand new clientele to Abu Dhabi. At the same time, how we can expand to Dubai and other areas where Emaar are available… I think what you get with Emaar is a fantastic track record in developing unbelievable projects.”

Al Mubarak acknowledged that 2017 saw a “difficult real estate market around the world,” but said that the company’s gross profit was “about AED2.7bn” with recurring revenue of AED1.6bn and off-market sales of AED2.5bn.

Abu Dhabi, he continued, “is still quite early in bringing international investors in the realm of real estate. But, the opportunities are quite vast. Our real estate laws continue to get stronger. The locations that we have that Aldar has are really second to none.”

He was also bullish on the UAE capital’s economic development telling CNBC: “I think it’s been clear from day one that we want to diversify from oil. And that’s been the strategy of Abu Dhabi. And you can hence see the investments – whether it’s in Medicare, in renewable energy, in culture, and infrastructure both hard and soft, space, infrastructure, and the list goes on. All these create jobs, all these create opportunities.”


Saudi Arabia to launch first cinema in Riyadh


Saudi authority teams up with US-based AMC Entertainment for historic event in King Abdullah Financial District

The Development and Investment Entertainment Company (DIEC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), will launch Saudi Arabia’s first public cinema this week in collaboration with US-based AMC Entertainment.

The newly created cinema complex will be located in the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh.

DIEC and AMC Entertainment will commemorate the historic moment with a gala event on Wednesday, hosting prominent local and international guests, a statement said.

The launch event will be a private screening, showing a Hollywood blockbuster, the name of which will be announced later this week.

It is the first in a series of invitation-only screenings that will be held during April, the statement added.

The cinema is set to open to the public in May, and tickets to public show times are planned to go on sale later this month through an online ticketing system.

A further three screens at KAFD’s theatre will open in the third quarter of 2018 and represent the beginning of a partnership that could see 40 or more AMC Cinemas complexes open in the Gulf kingdom over the next five years.

The partnership between DIEC and AMC Entertainment will advance a key objective of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to grow the entertainment sector.

DIEC said it intends to invest up to SR10 billion in entertainment projects by 2030.