Middle East Business News Review – A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Gulf, Levant and North Africa:
An Iranian newspaper report claimed US sanctions against Iran will force UAE to shut down its Jebel Ali refinery which uses only Iranian condensate as feed. Citing diplomatic and industry sources, Tehran Times said Dubai’s national oil company may have to stop importing condensate from Iran unless Washington grants it an exemption or temporary exception from this week’s tightening of sanctions.
Sanctions announced by the US State Department officials said that financial transactions that facilitate the import of Iranian fuel are liable to a new round of measures getting effective on 28 June.
The paper quoted two UAE-based sources close to the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) said the UAE oil company had already applied for an exception. Washington declined to confirm or deny the report.
Qatar’s statistics authority said on Sunday the economy grew 6.9% year-on-year in inflation-adjusted terms in the first quarter of this year thanks to soaring construction industry projects in the Gulf state.
The country’s real gross domestic product (GDP) also increased by 3% in January-March compared with the previous three months, the Qatar Statistics Authority said citing preliminary data while adding that figures for comparable growth rates for the final quarter of 2011 are not available due to revision of GDP data for 2011 and 2010.
The Doha stats bureau revised its figure to 14.8% in April after originally reporting GDP growth of 14.7% year-on-year for October-December 2011 in March. It put the quarter-on-quarter expansion at 4.6% in April.
Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi sought to downplay a European Union embargo on country’s oil that came into effect on Sunday, insisting Tehran has stored up imports and hard currency for a “battle” against “dastardly” Western sanctions.
Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi announced the Islamic Republic has stockpiled the population’s daily needs to reduce the impact of the embargo hitting the oil and banking sectors.
Former Tunisian dictator’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s wife claimed her husband was ousted in an “orchestrated” coup while offering “sincere condolences” to the people who died during the uprising. The former first lady also told French daily Le Parisien that her partner is ready to face a trial in his homeland provided it is ‘fair’.
Ben Ali, along with his wife, was provided sanctuary by Saudi Arabia after protests swept Tunisia on 17 December, 2010. He fled the country on 14 January, 2011, and faces a jail sentence of decades for the killing of hundreds of protesters in the central towns where the uprising began.
“I wouldn’t describe them as protests,” Leila Trabelsi told Le Parisien in an interview published on Sunday. “For me it was an orchestrated, masterminded and planned coup d’etat, but I don’t know who led it,” the Tunisian former first lady said adding that she did not believe “at all” it had been a spontaneous revolution born out of youth frustration.
Dozens of Omanis demanding jobs have staged peaceful protests in the industrial town of Sohar, witnesses said, in a sign of renewed discontent more than a year after waves of demonstrations died down.
Western ally Oman, a small oil exporter that flanks a major crude shipping route in the Gulf, was rocked by months of protests which started in Sohar in February last year, inspired by pro-democracy revolts that toppled long-serving rulers elsewhere in the Arab world.
Activists say the government has failed to implement the reforms it promised after the protests ended in May, 2011 and tension across the country is rising again.
he Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development ( KFAED ) hammered out Sunday an agreement with the Jordanian government to finance the third expansion project of Al-Samra power station.
As per the agreement, signed by Jordanian Director-General of Al-Samra power station Amjad Rawashdeh and KFAED Director-General Abdulwahab Ahmad Al-Bader, KFAED will offer KD 15-million loan to Jordan to finance the project.
Kuwaiti and Jordanian governments also signed a loan guarantee agreement. The guarantee agreement was signed by Jordanian Minister of Finance Suleiman Al-Hafez and KFAED Chief Al-Bader.
Egypt on Sunday signed an accord with the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank for $1 billion in funding for the purchase of energy and food products.
State news agency MENA said the deal was signed by International Cooperation Minister Faiza Abul Naga and an affiliate of the IDB, but the mechanism of the financing was not specified.
The funds are to be used to import fuel products and food imports, especially wheat of which Egypt is the world’s top importer.
The deal comes as Egypt’s economy has been hit by last year’s uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, a fall in tourism revenues, slump in foreign investment, decline in foreign currency reserves and widening of the budget deficit.