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French Version

Business news in brief

* Al-Habtoor signs deal
with Dubai Investments Park

Al-Habtoor Group signed a pact
with Dubai Investments Park
on Sunday to acquire three plots for executing projects worth 100 million dirhams ($27 million).

Elaborating on the projects, Mohammed Khalaf al-Habtoor, chairman of Al-Habtoor Group, said: "Al-Habtoor Motors has acquired a 50,000 square-meter plot in the park to build an extensive training and service center to cater to the growing demand of customers. It will be the largest Mitsubishi service center in the Middle East; design concepts have been approved and construction will commence shortly."

"Metropolitan Hotels have acquired a 20,000 square-meter plot to build a unique accommodation facility for the Metropolitan Resort and Beach Club employees," Habtoor said. "This facility will ... accommodate new employees ahead of the opening of the Metropolitan Beach Resort and Towers by mid-2005.

"Diamond Lease, the automobile leasing subsidiary of Al-Habtoor Group, has acquired a 25,000 square-meter plot for its operational headquarters," he added.

Al-Habtoor Group, best known for construction, is now an internationally recognized group with successful businesses in hotels, real estate, education, insurance, automobile dealership and publishing. - The Daily Star


* Beirut forum will match investors, businesses

For the first time in Lebanon, a "live" investor-project-matching event will take place to respond to the vital need for facilitating connections between investors and entrepreneurs or businesses wishing to expand. The event, to take place as part of the Business Opportunities in Lebanon conference on June 16-17, will regroup a number of selected projects seeking equity- and debt-financing from Information Technology, hospitality, real estate, industry and financial funds.

Selected projects in each sector will be presented to qualified investors and financiers in a closed-room environment. The forum is well-suited for start-up companies, as well as growing small- and middle-sized companies seeking up to $5 million in equity or debt financing. It is also suited for individual investors, venture capitalists, financing companies, corporate finance officers, investment funds and merchant and investment banks. Companies and investors can sign up for the event at www.opportunities.com.lb/event.


* Curtain goes up on Showtime HQ in Dubai

The Middle East's leading pay-television network, Showtime, opened Sunday a major headquarters and broadcast center in Dubai, able to multiplex up to 200 channels.

Showtime's play-out and up-linking operations will shift from Cairo in mid-June with the Dubai broadcast center transmitting the flagship Home Cinema pay-per-view film services, the Disney Channel, MTV India, Zen, Hallmark, TXT.tv, Abu Dhabi Sports Channel and Abu Dhabi Television.

The headquarters at Dubai Media City has a staff of 220, and will rise to over 500 staff by 2005. Some 90 staff currently employed in London in operations, transmission, programming and production roles will also be transferring to Dubai.

In the Middle East, Showtime is the trading name of Gulf DTH, a joint media venture between the Kuwait Projects Company (Holding) and US giant Viacom Inc. Dubai has attracted 24 broadcasters to its Media City free zone.


* Qatar to start $1.2 billion gas-transport company

Qatar announced late last week that it would initiate a $1.2 billion gas-transport company, 50 percent of whose equity would be offered to Qatari individuals and companies early next year.

The company will acquire liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels to make deliveries to markets in Asia, Europe and North America. By 2010, the company will have acquired 77 LNG vessels.


* Lebanese industrial exports rise

BEIRUT: Lebanon's industrial exports reached $125 million in March 2004, up from $76 million recorded in the same month last year, according to figures from the Industry Ministry. In the first quarter of 2004, industrial exports totaled $355 million - a 59 percent increase compared to the same period in 2003. Electrical equipment and metallic products were on top of the list, accounting for 24.5 percent and 14.4 percent of the total industrial exports. Food products accounted for 9.3 percent.


* 70 percent of Dubai resort homes spoken for

More than 70 percent of the first phase of residential property at the Al-Badia Golf Resort - part of Dubai Festival City, the waterfront "city-within-a-city" being built on the banks of Dubai Creek - has been leased or reserved since the project's show homes opened at the beginning of April. Offering Dubai's only rental alternative on a golf course, the first 64 units at the Al-Badia Golf Resort Residential Community will be ready for occupancy this summer. The Al-Badia - which translates into "Land of the Bedouins" - championship standard golf course includes many lakes and streams. The 7,320 yard course was designed by master golf-course architect Robert Trent Jones II. The early success of one of Dubai's latest key projects showcases the impressive demand for residential units in the booming emirate.


* Bank Negara Malaysia awards Islamic banking license

Malaysia's central bank said Thursday it has awarded an Islamic banking license to Kuwait Finance House as part of financial liberalization to make the predominantly Muslim country a key Islamic financial hub in Asia. "Bank Negara Malaysia has approved the application of Kuwait Finance House to establish a full-fledged Islamic bank in Malaysia," it said in a statement. The new bank will be a wholly-owned unit of Kuwait Finance, which is the first to be awarded the license after Bank Negara announced in September it would issue three new licenses to foreign banks this year to fast-track the liberalization of the Islamic financial sector.

"The decision on the remaining licenses will be announced at a later date upon completion of the full evaluation process," Bank Negara said.

As of November last year, assets in Malaysia's Islamic banking sector stood at 80 billion ringgit ($21 billion), representing less than 10 percent of the overall banking system, but the government wants to enlarge this to 20 percent. Malaysian Islamic banks have voiced fears they may not survive the tough competition from larger and more established foreign institutions.


* Singapore strives to become region's health hub

Wealthy Middle Easterners have become the latest target of Singapore hospitals, which are cutting deals with hotels and travel agents to offer health tourism packages, media reports said Thursday. Singapore medical specialists traveled to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates last week to promote the city-state as it competes with Thailand and Malaysia to become the region's premier health hub, the Straits Times said. At least three hospitals have teamed up with hotels and travel agencies to offer package health deals, said the paper, including Raffles Hospital which is working with Raffles International Hotel and Resorts. The Raffles organizations are offering accommodation with health screening, cancer screening or Botox treatment in packages costing between 390 and 1,995 Singapore dollars (between $229 and $1,174), the Straits Times reported. While most Middle Easterners seeking foreign treatment still prefer to go to Europe or the United States, an increasing number are coming to Singapore because of the competitive costs, Singapore Tourism Board healthcare services deputy director Lee Kay Yin told the paper.

Beirut 07-06-2004
The Daily Star

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