Obama expected to push for Gulf missile defense at U.S. summit.

President Barack Obama is expected to make a renewed U.S. push next week to help Gulf allies create a region-wide defense system to guard against Iranian missiles as he seeks to allay their anxieties over any nuclear deal with Tehran, according to U.S. sources.

The offer could be accompanied by enhanced security commitments, new arms sales and more joint military exercises, U.S. officials say, as Obama tries to reassure Gulf Arab countries that Washington is not abandoning them.

With little more than a week to go before Obama hosts the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council at the White House and then at Camp David, aides are discussing the options in pre-summit meetings with Arab diplomats. Officials say no final decisions on possible U.S. proposals have been made.

Obama faces a formidable challenge in deciding how far to go to sell skeptical Sunni-led allies on his top foreign policy priority, a final nuclear deal with Shi’ite Iran due by a June 30 deadline. Failure to placate them could further strain ties, though additional defense obligations would carry the risk of the United States being drawn into new Middle East conflicts.

Obama issued the invitation to the GCC after Iran and six world powers reached a framework agreement last month that would give Tehran sanctions relief for reining in its nuclear program.Gulf Arab neighbors, including key U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, worry that Iran will not be deterred from a nuclear bomb and will be flush with cash from unfrozen assets to fund proxies and expand its influence in countries such as Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

U.S. officials with knowledge of the internal discussions concede that Obama is under pressure to calm Arab fears by offering strengthened commitments.“It’s a time to see what things might be required to be formalized,” a senior U.S. official said.

Obama is all but certain to stop short of a full security treaty with Saudi Arabia or other Gulf nations as that would require approval by the Republican-controlled Senate and risk stoking tensions with Washington’s main Middle East ally Israel.

A second U.S. official insisted the summit would be a “two-way street,” with Washington pushing Gulf leaders to overcome internal rivalries and find ways to collaborate better in their own defense.

Obama is likely to press Gulf allies to do more to integrate their disparate militaries and work toward a long-delayed anti-missile shield against an Iranian ballistic missile threat, the sources familiar with the discussions said. This could take the form of a new high-level joint working group led by the Pentagon, one of the sources said.

Gulf countries have already bought U.S. missile defense systems such as the Patriot system built by Raytheon Co and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system built by Lockheed Martin Corp.But the Obama administration is now expected to press them to implement the initiative touted in late 2013 by then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The program allows the GCC to purchase equipment as a bloc and start knitting together radars, sensors and early warning networks with U.S. assistance, but has been held up by distrust among some of the Gulf monarchies.The Obama administration is concerned about shortcomings in the Gulf states’ joint operational capacity exposed by a Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen that has failed to push back Iran-allied Houthi fighters.

It was unclear specifically what Washington would offer the Gulf nations – which already operate some of the most advanced U.S.-made weaponry – in order to advance the missile shield. Lingering rifts between GCC members, especially Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, would need to be put aside before a joint missile system would be viable.

Experts now believe the time is ripe for greater cooperation because of deteriorating security across the region.“Missile defense is absolutely critical to the GCC right now,” said Riki Ellison, founder of the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. “They’re not as efficient playing separately as they would be all playing as one team,” he said.Wary that Obama might keep any new security pledges vague, Gulf states have also made clear they want this translated into concrete steps.

“This summit can’t just be a big photo-op to pretend everybody’s on the same page on Iran,” one Arab diplomat said.Several arms sales are likely, including resupplying bombs and missiles depleted in the Saudi-led air assault in Yemen and in strikes against Islamic State militants in the U.S.-led air campaign in Syria, the sources close to the matter said.

But Washington is widely expected to stand firm on its decision for now to withhold sales of Lockheed’s new top-flight F-35 fighter jet, which has been promised to Israel to help maintain a long-standing U.S. commitment to its regional military superiority.

Via : Reuters

No.of Reads (244)

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid unveils details of first Arab mission to Mars.

UAE Mission to Mars

Dubai unveiled the blueprints for the first Arab mission to Mars on Wednesday, with the probe – named “Hope” – set to make the voyage to the Red Planet in 2020.

“This probe represents hope for millions of young Arabs looking for a better future. There is no future, no achievement, no life without hope,” HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said at a ceremony to officially launch the plans for the mission to mars. “The Emirates Mars Mission will be a great contribution to human knowledge, a milestone for Arab civilisation, and a real investment for future generations.”

The Hope probe is schedule to leave Earth in 2020 and aims to produce entirely new types of data that will enable scientists to build the first truly holistic models of the Martian atmosphere.The probe will be the first to study changes in the Martian atmosphere throughout its daily and seasonal cycles.

Hope will be a compact spacecraft the size and weight of a small car. It will blast off in a launcher rocket, then detach and accelerate into deep space. It will reach a speed of 126,000 kilometres per hour for the 600 million km journey around the sun to Mars, which will take around 200 days.

The probe will orbit the Red Planet until at least 2023, with an option to extend the mission until 2025. It will send back more than 1000 GB of data to be analysed by teams of researchers in the UAE, and shared freely with more than 200 institutions worldwide for the benefit of thousands of space specialists.

The Emirates Mars Mission is being planned and managed in the UAE by a 100 percent Emirati team.The team currently comprises 75 Emirati engineers and researchers and will grow to more than 150 by 2020.

 “The Emirates Mars Mission is a strategic investment in our human capital and an investment in our human capital is a winning investment. Future generations will reap the rewards of our investment in science and knowledge,” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said.

“We thank everyone who participated and wanted to be part of this great historic project to send the first Arab probe to Mars. Everyone who took part is a partner in this mission,” he added.

No.of Reads (190)

Top 10 Kuwait infrastructure projects.

1. AL-ZOUR NEW REFINERY PROJECT

Owner: Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC)
Budget: $15bn
Progress: Invitation to bid

The project involves EPC contract to build a new refinery at Al Zour with a capacity of 615,000 b/d, making it the biggest in the region. The contract has been split into five packages with a combined value of over $11bn. Last month, KNPC extended the deadline to bid for packages 1, 2 and 3 by nearly a month from the previous deadline of February 8, 2015 in an attempt to secure lower bids following the sharp decline in global oil prices. For Package 5 (marine package), a consortium comprising South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Italy’s Saipem and India’s Essar submitted the lowest bid of $1.55bn. The contract award is scheduled in May 2015, but it is expected that there may be delays due to the lowest bid coming in at nearly double the estimated budget of $850m.

2. CLEAN FUELS PROJECT

Owner: Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC)
Budget: $14bn
Progress: EPC awarded

The EPC contract for implementation of Clean Fuels scheme involves upgrading and increasing capacity at Mina Al-Ahmadi and Mina Abdullah refineries raising their total refining capacity to 800,000 b/d. Work has been split into three main packages in terms of process units at Mina Abdullah refinery, revamping the plant together with off-sites and utilities and revamping and installation of units and interfaces at Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery. Last year, a consortium led by Japan’s JGC Corporation won a contract worth $4.82bn to work on the Mina Ahmadi refinery; UK’s Petrofac won a contract worth $3.5bn to carry out work at the Mina Abdullah refinery, while the US-based Fluor Corporation owns another contract for Mina Abdullah valued at $3.4bn. The three consortiums have agreed on a time table with KNPC to complete the project in 45 months.

3. OLEFINS 3 PETROCHEMICALS PLANT PROJECT

Owner: Petrochemical Industries Company (PIC)
Budget: $10bn
Progress: Planning stage

The project involves the development of world-scale Olefins complex in Kuwait with a mixed-feed cracker in Al Zour area to produce 1mtpa of polyethylene and up to 600,000tpa of polypropylene. The economic pre-feasibility study for Olefins III was completed in 2009 while UK-based consultancy KBC Advanced Technologies completed a detailed feasibility study in 2011. PIC is in the early planning stages of developing the cracker and is yet to decide whether or not to go ahead with the integration of this project with the planned $14bn AlZour New Refinery Project (NRP). Start-up is estimated to be in 2017 or 2018, based on current status. Feedstock options being considered include ethane, off gases, propane, and other combinations with LPG, naphtha and condensate.

4. KUWAIT AIRPORT EXPANSION PROJECT

Owner: Directorate General of Civil Aviation
Budget: $4.8bn
Progress: Delayed

The project involves expansion of Kuwait’s international airport to increase capacity to handle 13m passengers annually by 2016; this will be increased to 25m passengers in the second phase and 50m in the third phase. The expansion includes construction of a new terminal building and extension of the existing runways, construction of a hotel, car parks and associated aprons and remote stands. In November last year, the CTC announced that a consortium of Kharafi National and Turkey’s Limak Holding was awarded the contract. Last month, KUNA reported that a tender committee of public works ministry has recommended that all bids to construct the new terminal be rejected. According to media reports, the lowest bid exceeded the estimated cost of the project by 39% and did not meet technical specifications.

5. LOWER FARS HEAVY OIL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT – PHASE 1

Owner: Kuwait Oil Company (KOC)
Budget: $4.2bn
Progress: EPC awarded

The Lower Fars field is located about 80km northwest of Kuwait City. The EPC contract covers drilling of hundreds of wells and data collection, as well as pilot schemes using various extraction methods. The consortium of Petrofac and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) overcame competition from 19 international contractors to bag the EPC contract in January 2015. When fully operational, the initial phase of the Lower Fars heavy oil project is expected to produce around 60,000 b/d. The scope of the contract covers main central processing facility (CPF), associated infrastructure, production support complex and a 162km pipeline which will transport the heavy crude from the CPF to South Tank Farm located in Ahmadi.

6. HEAVY OIL PRODUCTION FACILITIES PROJECT

Owner: Kuwait Oil Company (KOC)
Budget: $4.2bn
Progress: Invitation to bid

This oilfield-cum-refinery project, initiated by the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), is located in the north of Kuwait and includes transportation, storage and distribution of crude as part of exploration and development of oilfields. The heavy oil production facilities will have a capacity of 60,000 b/d and will play a very important role in helping Kuwait meet its oil production target of 4m b/d by 2020. Scope of work covers steam injection and production for heavy oil along with a support complex tank farms and a 270,000 b/d pipeline. Petrofac has emerged as the lowest bidder for the EPC contract followed by SK Group of South Korea. KOC has also invited international companies to bid for an enhanced technical service agreement to develop the field.

7. GAS TRAIN PROJECT MINA AL AHMADI REFINERY

Owner: KNPC
Budget: $1.5bn
Progress: Invitation to bid

The project involves an EPC contract for the construction of a fifth gas train with the capacity to process 805m cubic feet of gas per day and 106,000b/d of condensates. The gas train, which will separate associated gas produced in the north and southeast of the country into its basic components, will accomodate upstream capacity increase at Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (KGOC) and Kuwait Oil Company (KOC). UK’s Amec was awarded the FEED and project management consultancy contracts for the project. FEED has already been evaluated and KNPC is appraising the project’s economics in light of the changes in the amount of gases from KOC fields. Last year, nine contractors were prequalified to bid for the EPC contract. Kuwait’s Central Tenders Committee (CTC) has extended the deadline to submit bids from the previous deadline of March 3, 2015.

8. BUBIYAN PORT DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

Owner: Ministry of Public Works
Budget: $1. 2bn
Progress: Construction of Phase 1 underway

Bubiyan is Kuwait’s largest island separated from the mainland by the Subbiya Channel. Long undeveloped due to its poor soil conditions, the government approved a plan to develop Bubiyan in 2004 and turn it into commercial seaport with a total handling capacity of 2.5m containers a year. A local/Chinese joint venture of Gulf Dredging & Contracting, Shaheen Alghanim Roads & Bridges and China Harbour Engineering Company were awarded the $409m Phase 1 contract for the construction of a 34km road, a 1.4 km road bridge, landfill, soil improvement works and a railway embankment. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by 2018. In August last year, the ministry prequalified consultants for designing stages 3B and 3C of the project.

9. AL KHIRAN INDEPENDENT WATER & POWER PROJECT – PHASE 1

Owner: Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (KAPP)
Budget: TBA
Progress: Request for qualification

The Al Khiran IWPP will include a greenfield power and seawater desalination plant with a capacity of 1,500 MW and 125 MIGD respectively with the Ministry of Electricity & Water as the off-taker. The project will be located to the south of existing Al Zour South power and water project in Kuwait and include a 400kV substation. Low sulphur fuel oil, gasoline, crude oil and/or natural gas will be used for fire the plant. The desalination component will use multistage flash (MSF), multiple-effect distillation (MED) and/or RO technology. KAPP has invited interested groups to submit prequalification bids for the Build-OperateTransfer (BOT) contract by April 2, 2015.

10. KABD WASTE-TO-ENERGY PLANT

Owner: KAPP
Budget: TBA
Progress: Request for qualification

The plant will be located in Kabd, about 25 km from Kuwait City and will treat up to half of Kuwait’s municipal waste. The waste-to-energy plant will have an initial capacity of 3,275 tonnes a day. To be developed on BOT basis, the contract term will be for 30 years, in addition to a two-year period for construction and equipment installation. The electricity generated by the plant will be purchased by the Ministry of Electricity & Water. Last year, KAPP’s predecessor PTB invited companies to pre-qualify for the BOT contract, and received expressions of interest from 13 firms. It also appointed a consortium led by PwC to provide transaction advisory services. KAPP is expected to reveal the project’s status by March 2015.

No.of Reads (316)

Air Arabia plane diverted to UAE military airbase after blast threat.

An Air Arabia airliner flying from Kuwait to the United Arab Emirates was diverted to a UAE military airbase on Sunday after a passenger warned the plane was about to explode, the UAE state news agency WAM reported.

The aircraft was boarded after landing at the Al Minhad airbase by the authorities who resolved the situation using “appropriate standard procedures”, the agency reported, without elaborating.

The UAE-based budget carrier said in a statement that Air Arabia flight G9128 from Kuwait to the UAE emirate of Sharjah was diverted following instructions from air traffic control due to an unruly passenger onboard.

The “flight landed safely and the authorities are currently holding the necessary investigation”, the statement said.

Air Arabia is based in Sharjah, one of seven emirates that make up the UAE. The Al Minhad airbase near Dubai is a hub for US-allied forces in the Middle East.

Via : Reuters

No.of Reads (207)

Turkish President “Tayyip Erdoğan” calls for Kuwaiti cooperation on construction, banking.

Turkish President

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told Kuwaiti business people that Turkey is ready to take part in the construction sector in the Gulf nation, as Islamic banking remains a strong field of cooperation.

Erdoğan said April 28 during a meeting in Kuwait City that he had learned the Gulf country was preparing for a breakthrough in the construction sector.

“Turkey has a large experience in the sector and is ready to share it with Kuwait,” he said.The president also highlighted that three Turkish state lenders – Ziraat, Vakıfbank and Halkbank – were bidding to launch Islamic banking branches.

“With the foundation of these arms, participation banking will reach a nearly 25 percent share in the whole banking sector in Turkey,” he said.Erdoğan also welcomed opportunities offered by Kuveyt Türk, the Turkey-based Kuwaiti bank, to the Kuwaiti people in buying property in Turkey.

“No foreign investor has ever been disappointed or regretted the investments he made in Turkey,” Erdoğan said.Kuwaiti businesses have invested close to $2 billion in Turkey, he said. “It is far below target.”

He told Kuwaiti business leaders that the two countries aimed to increase the trade volume from $569 million this year to $1 billion in 2016.

Following a meeting with Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, Erdoğan said, “Kuwait is Turkey’s window to the Gulf and Turkey is Kuwait’s window to Central Asia and Europe.”

Source : AFP

No.of Reads (223)

Women of Dubai working hard to grasp more than 10% Dubai’s business.

About 21,000 women own investments worth AED40 billion ($10.9 billion) in the UAE while 10 percent of private sector firms are run by women, it has been revealed.

Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD) and president of Zayed University, told a conference that UAE women also account for 15 percent of the members of the boards of directors of chambers of commerce and industry in the Gulf state.

Sheikha Lubna in her speech before the 63rd World Congress of the World Association of Women entrepreneurs said the strong representation followed a 2012 decision by the UAE Cabinet to make it compulsory for all companies to appoint women to their boards.

She highlighted Emirati women’s achievements and noted that the UAE, Bahrain and all other GCC member states have put ambitious social and economic development strategies in place to boost diversification, national labour force, education and foreign trade.

The minister also told the conference that the leaders of the GCC supported plans to boost the assets of their countries, advance the status of women, empower them in education and protect their rights.The achievements of Arab women including those in the Gulf region, will contribute to economic development, she added.

Last month, the UAE announced plans to launch a new council to boost its efforts to close the gender gap and boost the role of women in building the future of the country.Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, revealed plans to establish the UAE Gender Balance Council.

 The federal entity will be chaired by Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Women Establishment and wife of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Last year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said Saudi Arabia and the UAE were two of the most improved countries in efforts to close the gender gap although both still remain near the bottom of its Global Gender Gap Report 2014.

It said the most improved country relative to its starting point nine years ago for economic participation and opportunity was Saudi Arabia while the UAE was the most improved nation for political empowerment.

However, the report painted a gloomy picture overall for the Gulf region, with Kuwait ranked highest at 113rd out of a total of 142 countries examined.

The three-day FCEM was organised by Bahrain Business and Professional Women International Federation under the auspices of Princess Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, and president of the Supreme Council for Women.

No.of Reads (140)

Amazing under water tennis stadium planned in Dubai.

Underwater-Tennis-2

A Polish architect is pitching designs for an underwater tennis center off the coast of Dubai and is currently seeking investment from local backers to make the concept a reality.

Krzysztof Kotala, who has a Master of Science in Architecture from Kraków Polytechnic and works at the 8+8 Concept Studio in Warsaw, has completed the initial designs, but admitted he had yet to source potential investors to launch the proposal.“There is not an investor but I would like to get interest as I think it is a good idea,” he told Arabian Business.

“This will be something original. This should be somewhere where there is the tradition of tennis. Dubai is perfect for this idea,” Kotala added, referring to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which has been staged in the emirate since 1993.Kotala said the idea had strong commercial potential and would combine the best of “technology, ecology and sport.”

Numerous underwater projects have been pitched in Dubai in recent years. This month, the developer of The Heart of Europe islands, which will form part of Dubai’s The World, announced more details about the underwater villas it plans to build. Kleindienst Group said it is to build 42 Floating Seahorses, a cross between a villa and a boat which has one floor submerged.

The Floating Seahorses, designed and developed in Dubai, will be located just offshore from St Petersburg and the main Europe Island which will be a short boat ride from the coast of Dubai. They were officially launched at the recent Dubai International Boat Show.

 Each individual Floating Seahorse will boast three levels, one underwater, one at sea level and an upper deck, according to developer Kleindienst.The master bedroom and bathroom will be totally submerged underwater and will command views of the surrounding coral reef and marine life.

The sea level accommodation will boast floor to ceiling windows, uninterrupted sea views, a fully-fitted kitchen with a dining area, an open plan living area and a sun deck.

The upper deck is described as the perfect place for alfresco dining and relaxation and features an external shower, an informal bed, a mini bar, a kitchenette and a glass-bottomed Jacuzzi.

The 1,700 sq ft villas will cost about AED5 million ($1.36 million), local media reported.Last year, US developer Reef Worlds said it was interested in building “sustainable underwater tourism sites” in Dubai and across the UAE.

The Los Angeles-based underwater tourism design company was reportedly considering a project on Nakheel’s The World islands, with the aim of creating a completely revolutionary tourism site “designed to capture the $3 billion dive and tourism market”.

The site would be created to look like an ancient lost city, with a focus for dive and snorkel tourism and further habitat creation in the region.In June 2013, the firms behind a plan to build an ambitious underwater hotel in Dubai also claimed that construction will begin “very shortly”.

The concept, known as the ‘Water Discus Hotel’, which was being developed by Drydocks World alongside Poland’s Deep Ocean Technology and Big Invest, was announced in 2012, before the project appeared to sink without a trace, with few further details being released.

Set to be built just off the emirate’s coast, the property will consist of several inhabitable discs, with the deepest being set 30m underwater. The module structure of the properties would allow them to be expanded according to their clients’ requirements.

“[The project will] bring to its guests a deluxe hotel combined with a real marine adventure and breathtaking views found only in the heart of the ocean,” Drydocks World said in a statement at the time. “The unique location in the heart of a vibrant coral reef will allow guests enjoy both the tropical weather as well as the colourful underwater world.”

None of the companies involved have provided an estimated timeline for the developments or details on investment.

Drydocks World said that it had also held discussions about taking the concept to more GCC countries, as well as other key destinations around the world.

Via : Arabian Business

No.of Reads (473)

“African Develiopment Bank” loans $140m to grow Sharm El-Sheikh Airport.

The African Development Bank Group has approved a $140m loan towards the expansion of Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh airport.

The $671m project includes construction of a new terminal, runway and control tower. It is expected to provide additional capacity for 10 million passengers per year, bringing the total capacity to 18 million annually.

Sharm El-Sheikh airport has been Egypt’s fastest-growing facility and is Africa’s third-busiest airport, with an average of 10% annual growth rate in traffic over the past decade.

The total number of passengers using the airport reached 8.2 million in 2010, which is above its design capacity. The expansion project is expected to take 44 months.

The Bank’s contribution to the project represents 21% of the total estimated cost of $671m.The project is co-financed with the Islamic Development Bank and the Government of Egypt.

No.of Reads (185)

$1trn oil, gas projects could be cancelled over oil price slump.

The steep fall in energy prices will hit investment in oil and gas projects worldwide and the industry may cancel about $1 trillion of planned projects globally in the next couple of years, a senior Saudi Aramco executive said on Wednesday”Challenges during down cycles are more complicated today than before… At this moment the global industry is poised to potentially cancel about $1 trillion in capital funding,” Amin Nasser, senior vice president for upstream operations at the Saudi oil giant, told a conference in Bahrain.

Speaking to reporters later, Nasser said the $1 trillion figure included projects that might merely be delayed, not just those that could be cancelled outright.”What we’ve heard from the industry is that there is $1 trillion of planned projects that will be dropped or deferred over the next couple of years because of what’s happening,” he said, without elaborating on the source of that estimate.

Since last June, the Brent oil price has collapsed from $115 a barrel to around $60 because of a supply glut fuelled by a sharp rise in U.S. shale oil production, as well as weaker global demand.The decline has left some smaller oil producing countries reeling and forced a number of oil companies to slash investment budgets.

Aramco itself has put on hold its deep water oil and gas exploration and drilling activities in the Red Sea and suspended plans to build a $2 billion clean fuels plant at its largest oil refinery in Ras Tanura, industry sources told Reuters.

The company’s chief executive Khalid Al Falih said in January that Aramco would renegotiate some contracts and postpone some projects because of cheap oil.

No.of Reads (217)

Emirates confirms $9.2bn Rolls-Royce deal to power new A380s.

Emirates Airline on Friday announced a $9.2 billion deal with Rolls-Royce for Trent 900 engines and a long-term Total Care package.The engines will be used to power 50 Airbus A380s ordered at the Dubai Air Show in 2013, which will begin entering service in 2016.

The deal, which is the largest ever for Rolls-Royce, and one of the largest ever export orders for a UK based company, is part of Emirates’ ongoing investment into the UK and Europe, the Dubai-based airline said in a statement.The partnership marks a significant milestone for aviation manufacturing in the region, securing jobs across Rolls-Royce’s supply chain, from Bristol to Scotland, it added.

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, said: “Rolls-Royce is a key partner for Emirates and we have been impressed with its commitment to continual improvements in the economic and operational performance of the Trent 900.

“These improvements have been decisive factors in our selection of the product for 50 of our A380s. Today’s announcement is significant not only because it cements the partnership between Emirates and Rolls-Royce, but also because of the large and sustained economic impact that this will have on aviation manufacturing in the UK and Europe.”

John Rishton, CEO, Rolls-Royce, added: “We are delighted that Emirates has again placed its trust in our technology, with the biggest order in our history.”

Emirates’ investment in the Airbus A380 programme has had a significant impact on the UK and wider European economies. A recent Frontier Economics report identified that in 2013/14 Emirates’ investment in the A380 created 7,000 UK jobs, equating to a $630 million GDP contribution. Across the EU, Emirates’ 140 A380 orders are estimated to have supported 41,000 jobs, equivalent to a massive $3.6 billion.

 The A380 programme sits at the heart of Emirates’ growth strategy with 60 superjumbos currently in operation, with a further 80 on order, making Emirates by far the largest purchaser of the aircraft.

Since its introduction in 2008, over 36 million of the airline’s passengers have flown on the aircraft.

Emirates currently operates 16 daily flights from the UK with nine of these operating as an A380; five daily from London Heathrow, two daily from London Gatwick and two daily A380s from Manchester.

No.of Reads (170)

Kuwait set to award $47 billion of construction contracts in the year 2015.

Kuwait is set to award about $47.2 billion (KD14 bn) of projects this year, almost double the value of those awarded in 2014 as the government concentrates on infrastructure, according to a new report.Observers say it is part of the new drive by the Kuwaiti government to move ahead with vital infrastructure projects.Yesterday is was revealed that Kuwait’s Central Tenders Committee has already awarded around $5bn (KD1.5bn) of tenders this year.

According to the official Kuwait News Agency, the Committee held 26 meetings which led to around 152 tenders being awarded though the vast majority of the tenders were in the oil sector with five worth $4.17bn, were issued by Kuwait Oil Company.Last year Kuwait awarded $25bn of contracts, four times as much as in 2013 and more than the last three years combined, stated the report by MEED Projects.

The total value of Kuwait’s projects market (planned and active projects) is estimated to be in the region of $212bn (KD64bn), it said.Last year, the authorities introduced a new law to regulate all public private partnerships (PPP), which, it is hoped, will accelerate the involvement of the private sector in Kuwait’s projects market.

A new law making it easier to invest in Kuwait alongdside sweeping new changes that allow new companies to be set up in just 30 days is already encoluraged an increase in foreign investment.The Direct Investment Promotion Law agreed by government at the end of 2014 aims to improve Kuwait’s business climate and reduce red tape. It coincides with a drive to bring private sector companies in to work on a series of billion-dollar infrastructure projects over the next five years.

According to a new report by business consultancy the Oxford Business Group (OBG), the change will play a key role in investment growth and “there are signs that investor interest is rising”.Law firm Al Tamimi & Co confirmed it had witnessed a rise in interest since the regulations were released.“We are aware that several applications have already been submitted to KDIPA, and we anticipate numerous more applications will be submitted based on the number of inquiries we receive from our clients on a daily basis,” wrote Sonia A Salah, a lawyer at the firm, in a February 2015 Kuwait Times article.

The OBG said: “Experts say that the new FDI law addresses flaws in the previous system, as well as encourages the creation of new, large companies in the country.”The law is very clever in the sense that it promotes diversity and reduces too much dependency on oil and gas.”The new law calls for a “one-stop-shop” where new businesses are approved and licensed.
It is responsible for preparing introductory guidelines and giving clear requirements for investors, which have caused concerns in the past.

In addition, the incorporation process will complete in 30 days as opposed to the six months faced previously.Kuwait has also revised its public-private partnership (PPP) laws from October 2014 – which superseded an older law and established a clear regulatory framework for implementing PPP projects – as well as the long-awaited New Companies Law, are expected to be instrumental in boosting the contribution made by the private sector to economic growth.

Under the new law, the Partnerships Technical Bureau (PTB) will be superseded by the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (KAPP), an independent government body with greater executive powers in order to more effectively manage all PPP projects, said the report.

No.of Reads (269)

Egypt signs $1.6bn energy deals with Kuwait Alghanim Group.

Egypt has signed preliminary deals with Kuwait’s Alghanim International for two energy-related projects worth a total of $1.6 billion, its prime minister said in a statement on Wednesday.

One initiative would see four gas-powered plants converted to operate on combined cycle, while the other would establish gas-powered plants with a total capacity of 900 megawatts.

The statement did not specify a timeframe for the Kuwaiti projects. Privately-owned Alghanim International is part of the Fouad Alghanim & Sons Group, one of the biggest conglomerates in the Middle East.

The government’s effort to encourage private investment to renovate the creaking national grid — which began with initial reforms to costly energy subsidies last year — seems to be bearing fruit.

Siemens won a contract last month to supply four turbines to a power plant, and days later General Electric Co said it had delivered a majority of the turbines for a project to provide 2.6 gigawatts of power by May.

Energy is a politically important issue in Egypt, where power cuts have become commonplace even in the capital Cairo. Blackouts deepened discontent with Islamist President Mohamed Mursi before his ousting in July 2013.

An ageing state-run infrastructure has total energy generation capacity of about 30,000 MW and is increasingly unable to handle the burden of rapidly growing demand in a country of 87 million people.

Gas shortages have also worsened as dwindling local production has failed to meet domestic demand and export commitments.

Rising energy consumption and decreasing production have turned Egypt from a net energy exporter to a net importer in the past few years

Via : Reuters

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Egypt, Saudi Arabia discuss launching a “major military manoeuvre” against Yemen.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday imposed an arms embargo targeting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels who now control most of Yemen as battles in the south of the country intensified.

Egypt said it and Saudi Arabia had discussed holding a “major military manoeuvre” in Saudi Arabia with other Gulf states, following talks on the progress of the three-week-old Saudi-led campaign of air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen.

The statement from the Egyptian presidency appeared to be a sign that members of the Sunni Arab coalition attacking the Houthis may carry through on threats to eventually follow their air campaign with a ground intervention or at least have a show of force next door.

Arab states have been bombing the Houthis in support of militias resisting an advance by the group and army units loyal to ousted former president Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The conflict, though rooted in local rivalries, has become a proxy battlefield for Sunni-ruled Saudi and mainly Shi’ite Iran, the main regional powers.The UN resolution also demanded the Houthis stop fighting and withdraw from areas they have seized, including the capital Sanaa.

On the ground, southern militiamen claimed gains against the Houthis on several battlefronts across southern Yemen, including districts of the port city of Aden, the last stronghold of loyalists to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Iran meanwhile prepared to submit a four-point peace plan for Yemen to the United Nations on Wednesday, state media said.Tehran’s proposal includes a call for an end to Saudi-led air strikes against the Houthis and is likely to anger Riyadh, which accuses Iran of meddling in the affairs of its southern neighbour.

The Security Council on Tuesday imposed a global asset freeze and travel ban on Ahmed Saleh, the former head of Yemen’s Republican Guard, and on Abdulmalik Al Houthi, a Houthi leader.Saleh’s father, former president Saleh, and two other senior Houthi leaders, Abd Al Khaliq Al Huthi and Abdullah Yahya Al Hakim, had been blacklisted by the Security Council in November.

The Security Council also expressed concern at what it called “destabilizing actions” taken by former President Saleh, including supporting the Houthis.The elder Saleh, who was forced to step down in 2012, is widely seen as having a behind-the scenes role in the conflict in league with the Houthis.

The resolution imposed an arms embargo on the five men and “those acting on their behalf or at their direction in Yemen” – effectively the Houthis and soldiers loyal to Saleh who are fighting alongside the Houthis.A statement from the Houthi leadership condemned the resolution, which it said supported “aggression”.

The council voted 14 in favor, while Russia abstained, saying some of its proposals for the resolution drafted by council member Jordan and Gulf Arab states were not included.”The co-sponsors refused to include the requirements insisted upon by Russia addressed to all sides to the conflict to swiftly halt fire and to begin peace talks,” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking in Madrid earlier on Tuesday, said Tehran’s peace initiative involved a ceasefire, humanitarian assistance, a dialogue between Yemeni factions and a broad-based government.

“This issue should be resolved by the Yemenis. Iran and Saudi Arabia need to talk but we cannot talk to determine the future of Yemen,” he told a news conference.

The Houthis, northern-based Shi’ite Muslims, seized control of Sanaa in September, confining Hadi to his presidential residence. He fled to Aden in February then escaped to Riyadh last month as Houthi forces closed in on the city.

Saudi Arabia and other powers accuse Iran of arming the Houthis and interfering in Yemeni affairs. Tehran denies giving military support to the Houthis.

Riyadh says it is protecting Hadi and his government-in-exile from the Houthis. But as the world’ largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is also unhappy at the prospect of protracted upheaval in its southern neighbour.

Nearby shipping lanes and the narrow Bab El Mandeb passage, through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily to Europe, the United States and Asia, could also be at risk from the fighting.

Al Qaeda, which has staged suicide bombings against the Houthis, also poses a threat to Yemen’s stability. The United States has poured aid and personnel into the country in recent years as part of its war on Islamist militants, but its military teams evacuated last month amid the worsening civil war.

Al Qaeda in Yemen announced on Tuesday that its spiritual leader was killed by a US air strike, according to a statement distributed by the group online.Ibrahim al-Rubaish was a Saudi national released from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in 2006.

His death may be a sign that a covert US drone programme against Yemen’s branch of the global militant group continues despite the American military withdrawal.

Separately, al Qaeda said it killed fifteen soldiers fleeing homeward from a military base near Balhaf in the east of the country. A local official told Reuters the men were captured and stabbed to death outside the nearby city of Ataq.

Southern militia sources said they wrested control of the army base loyal to the Houthis after heavy fighting on Monday night near the Balhaf liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, in southern Shabwa province on the Arabian Sea.

Yemen LNG, the company managing the facility, said it had halted production due to insecurity and was evacuating staff. The plant was intact and its surrounding area secure, it said.

After prolonged street fighting in the southern city of Aden, Houthi fighters withdrew on Tuesday from Aden’s Khor Maksar district, where the international airport and foreign missions are located.

The pull-out deprives the Houthis of a bridge to downtown areas where they face heavy resistance from local fighters.

Via : AFP

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LinkedIn buys online learning firm Lynda for $1.5bn.

LinkedIn has bought US online learning business Lynda for $1.5bn (£1.1bn), making it the professional networking site’s biggest acquisition to date.LinkedIn is trying to boost the business content it offers to its 300 million users.

Lynda, based in California, has made hundreds of videos that teach subscribers everything from coding to business skills.Subscribers pay $375 per year to access the tutorials.

Although the company was founded nearly 20 years ago, it has expanded rapidly in the past two years, adding several languages to its video offerings and increasing outside investment.

“The mission of LinkedIn and the mission of lynda.com are highly aligned,” said LinkedIn chief executive Jeff Weiner in a statement.”Both companies seek to help professionals be better at what they do.”

Shares in LinkedIn rose more than 1.5% on the New York Stock Exchange after news of the acquisition was released.

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Saudi special army, navy forces enter Yemen.

Saudi army and naval special forces are now involved in the military operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen and have carried out specific operations, said a top official.

Army special forces supplied weapons and communications equipment to militia loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the main southern city of Aden.Naval special forces provided ‘co-ordination and guidance’ to enable the loyalist fighters to launch a counter-attack on the rebels.

Special forces ‘will continue their engagements’ with the fighters loyal to Hadi, who has sought refuge in Saudi Arabia, said the adviser.A Saudi-led coalition began air strikes on March 26 against the Iran-backed rebels, but says it has no plans for now to deploy ground forces.

The adviser said army and navy special forces were also involved in operations against Houthi units that ‘invaded’ Myun Island in the Bab Al Mandab Strait, through which much of the world’s maritime trade passes.

The coalition announced earlier that air strikes had destroyed ‘military equipment and missiles’ on the island, which could have posed a threat to shipping.

‘Special forces have isolated the island as the operation continues to destroy all remnants of Houthi presence’ which was supported by ‘foreign military’ technicians, the Saudi adviser said.

Iran has dismissed as ‘utter lies’ claims that it supplied weapons to Yemen, but a Western diplomat said ‘there have been a lot of shipments’.

Meanwhile, former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has reportedly fled the country aboard a Russian plane that arrived in Sana’a to evacuate Russian diplomats, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper quoted Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyad Yassin as saying.

Via : Gulf News

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