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Master plan for Medical City

The master plan of The Medical City project in Salalah has been completed by Atkins, design and engineering consultants for the US$1bn project. The 800,000sq m site, which is being developed by Saudi Arabia-based Apex Medical Group, is the largest private healthcare infrastructure development opportunity in Oman, according to Apex president Dr Abdulla Aljoaib.

Aljoaib added that the project, which is designed to boost medical tourism into the sultanate as well as act as a centre to serve the local community, will also feature a diagnostic centre, health resort and a healthcare education complex.

BEJV signs contract

Bechtel Enka Joint Venture (BEJV), the developer responsible for construction of the new Muscat International Airport terminal, has signed a RO9.2mn deal with Yummi Yummi Catering and Hospitality to provide catering, housekeeping, laundry and janitorial services to the project's 8,000-strong workforce - the largest-ever contract of its type in Oman, according to executives.

The contract will see Yummi Yummi serve 13.7mn meals, wash 13.7mn pieces of laundry, clean 2.95mn rooms and provide services for ten different nationalities over three-and-a-half years. The company will also run facilities including a supermarket at the BEJV camp, next to the project site in Seeb.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Gerald Fonseca, general manager of Yummi Yummi, said that the contract is the 'biggest catering contract' in Oman, and a key step in the company's expansion plans.

MoU to study retail windows

Qatar-based Al Meera Consumer Goods Company has signed an MoU with National Investment Funds Company (NIFCO) to study plans to set up retail outlets across the sultanate. Signed by Al Meera deputy CEO Dr Mohammed al Qahtani and NIFCO CEO Rashid al Sa'adi, the deal will meet 'the needs of the market and consumers,' Sa'adi is quoted as saying by the Qatar News Agency (QNA).

The signing ceremony follows reports in December that Al Meera had tied up with French retailers Group Casino and Retail Arabia to develop and operate supermarkets and hypermarkets under the Geant and Geant Easy brands in Qatar and Oman. Al Meera currently operates 22 retail outlets in Qatar, posting sales of QR914mn (RO96.6mn) and a profit of QR63.9mn in 2012.

OAB launches insurance

Oman Arab Bank has launched three insurance products under the brand name Al Musaned in partnership with National Life & General Insurance, the sultanate's market leader in life and medical insurance. Bishara Qafiti, DGM - retail banking & operations of OAB, and S Venkatachalam, CEO of National Life & General Insurance were present on the occasion of signing of the contract. This bancassurance tie-up between Oman Arab Bank and National Life & General

Insurance was entered to achieve the shared objective of serving the clients with customised value added products that aim at meeting specific demands," said Jamil Abdul Qader; Head of Retail Marketing & Business Development.

PAEW sets aside RO390mn

Mohammed bin Abdullah al Mahrouqi, the chairman of the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) said the allocations for the electricity and water sector for 2012 to meet the expansion in the provision of these services amount to RO390mn. He added that the construction of new power plants in Salalah and Duqm are currently under consideration and that work is under way to complete four power plants in different governorates in the sultanate.

Mahrouqi said that the independent water and power project in Salalah will produce 450MW and 15mn gallons of water per day once completed. The partial operation of the project already started in mid-2011 with full completion and commercial operation expected in April 2012.

Sohar 2 and Barka 3 power stations will produce 750MW each, with "the operation of the first stage of the two plants is expected to start in the second quarter of 2012."

SFZ eyes more investment

The Salalah Free Zone (SFZ) participated in the fifth round of the biannual Arab-Chinese Busi-nessmen's Conference on trade and economic co-operation, which was held this week in Sharjah. The two-day conference, which was established in 2006, alternates venues between China and participating Arab nations. It is a high-level gathering of prominent business leaders, academics and investors focused on expanding economic relations between China and the Arab world.

SFZ chief commercial officer Ali Tabouk, who represented the free zone at the conference, said the event is an opportunity for major importance to SFZ, which occupies a strategic position on the east-west trading route.

German firms seek JV in Oman

A high-level German delegation led by the country's former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder is aiming to tap into the growth potential of Oman's energy, infrastructure, water and transport sectors and set up joint ventures within two years.

Under the leadership of Dr Schroder, who is also the honorary chairman of German Near and Middle East Association (NUMOV), the 14-member business delegation visited Oman for three days from January 15 to discuss and get first-hand information about the investment and joint venture opportunities available in the sultanate.

Comprising of executives from the energy, infrastructure, water, transport and automotive sectors, the delegation includes some of the biggest firms in Germany, such as Wintershall Holding AG, Martin Systems AG, Deugro Group, AZUR Solar GmbH, Helene Rang & Partner, Hochtief Solutions AG and Berlin Airports.

Qurm Hills sales office opens

Qurm Hills, a RO51mn residential and commercial complex currently under development by Kuwait-based Alargan International Real Estate, has opened its sales office as it looks to tap into the growing Omani middle-income segment.

Infrastructure for the 165,000sq m project, which is situated behind the Al Harthy Complex, will be completed within eight months, but company executives stated that the development is now open for bookings, viewings as well as for organising sales.

The first phase of development has been identified for the 109-plot scheme, with an introductory price offered for early investors. Prices have yet to be revealed for plots or for subsequent housing units.

Oman ranked 47th in index

Oman has been ranked 47th in American think-tank The Heritage Foundation's 2012 Global Index of Economic Freedom - as its score drops slightly on concerns over labour freedom, government spending and freedom from corruption. Placing Oman in the 'moderately free' group of countries, the sultanate's score of 67.9 is 1.9 points lower than last year, although the report adds that "its overall score is above the world and regional averages."

Despite coming fifth out of 17 countries in the region, the report states that 'Overall economic freedom remains constrained by state involvement in the private sector and public enterprises. 'The lack of market competition has gradually inflated price levels. Reliance on a large state-owned energy sector has left the economy vulnerable to external shocks,' it adds.

Bahrain topped the list of GCC nations coming 12th overall, followed by Qatar in 25th place and the UAE in 35th position. Kuwait was ranked 71st and Saudi Arabia rounded off the Gulf nations in 73rd place.

Delegation from Sweden visits

A Swedish delegation consisting of the head of one of the biggest industrial families in Europe met with officials at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as part of a two-day visit to Oman to explore potential areas of co-operation.

Through its Investor AB vehicle, the Wallenberg family owns stakes in Electrolux, the aviation and military sector of Saab, AstraZeneca, Ericsson and a host of other banking, telecommunications and pharmaceutical companies with assets worth RO1.2bn and a profit of RO169mn in 2010.

The five-person delegation is being led by Marcus Wallenberg, the head of the family, as well as senior officials from Saab, which announced its intention to open an office in Oman in June 2011. Magnus Scholtz, the senior adviser to Wallenberg, said the delegation was here "to make a thorough analysis of where we could establish close industrial co-operation with Oman", through Investor AB.

Delegation from Italy visits

Representatives of six Italian companies were on a visit to the sultanate in January in a trade delegation promoted by the Chamber of Commerce of Vicenza in collaboration with i-Gulf Ltd, the first international business development agency set to enhance commercial relations between Oman and Italy.

The companies represent manufacturers of high-quality Italian products, such as furniture (Blumont); paving for swimming pools and industrial tiles (Giaretta); passenger/material hoists, working and transport platforms (Maber); scaffolding and high capacity towers (Amadio), valves for ventilation, refrigeration and heating systems (Mut Meccanica); locks, cylinders, handles and accessories for doors (Tagliapietra), i-Gulf. The Italian firms are interested in venturing into the Omani market and are looking for local agents and distributors or potential business partners for joint ventures.

Oman Air signs deal with SITA

Oman Air has announced the adoption of ICT company SITA's resource management solution for planning, rostering, management and real-time scheduling of work tasks for its 2,500 employees at Muscat International Airport.

The new system allows tasks to be communicated to staff using mobile communications and captures operational status and billing information in real-time. Implementation of the system will be completed early in 2012 and the agreement extends for five years, Oman Air said.

Don Hunter, Oman Air's chief officer, Airport Operations, said, "SITA's sophisticated resource management solution will help Oman Air to optimise all ground operations and lead to a significant increase in productivity.

OIFC stake in Bank Sohar

In line with its long term strategy to acquire stakes in Omani companies through equity purchases, Oman Investment and Finance Company (OIFC) has acquired a 9.9 per cent shareholding in Bank Sohar, according to the company's disclosure on Muscat Securities Market (MSM). Recently, the company also acquired a 9.9 per cent stake in Taageer Finance Company.

Earlier in 2011, the company bought an additional 5.6 per cent stake in Fincorp to take its shareholding in the company to 20 per cent, while it acquired a 15 per cent stake in National Bureau of Commercial Information. However, due to adverse market conditions last year OIFC made a loss on its investments. During the first nine months of 2011 the company made a total investment loss of RO224,000.

UAE on Duqm investments

The UAE has a 'long-term vision' for ongoing investments in the Duqm project starting with its recent investment in the upcoming oil refinery, according to H E Eng Sultan bin Said al Mansoori, the Minister of Economy for the UAE.

On a two-day visit to the sultanate with an accompanying business delegation, H E Mansoori held official talks with Omani counterparts led by H E Sheikh Sa'ad bin Mohammed al Sa'adi, the Minister of Commerce and Industry.

H E Mansoori said Duqm has a strategic importance for both Oman as well as the UAE, and the UAE has a long term vision for investments in the project. He said, "It is a huge project and it will take few years to start getting benefits from this, but we have a long term vision for Duqm project and have already started to invest in the Duqm refinery. "The UAE investment in the refinery will be a milestone for us for future investments in Duqm. This refinery project will attract more investments from other investors."

Reports state that the Duqm oil refinery and petrochemicals project could be worth up to US$7bn.

Fund invests in BankMuscat

IFC Capitalization Fund will invest US$170mn in subordinated debt in BankMuscat to strengthen its capital base and help increase access to finance for small and medium enterprises (SME) and middle-income home buyers. The loan agreement was signed between IFC Capitalization Fund and BankMuscat on 29 December, according to a press release.

The investment will provide long-term capital resources to BankMuscat as it continues to expand its financial services. The facility is focused on expanding operations of Al Wathbah, the Bank's small and medium enterprises (SME) division, and baituna, the housing finance unit. It will also support cross-border investments within the region, facilitating greater economic and financial integration.

OSC takes delivery of VLCC

Oman Shipping Company (OSC) took delivery of one of their latest Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), the DABA, at Hyundai Heavy Industries Company (HHI) Yard in Ulsan.

DABA has a 317,000 deadweight ton (DWT) capacity, is 333m long overall, 60m in beam and a design draft of 21m.This is OSC's third VLCC delivery out of an order of five from HHI and it is the company's eleventh out of a future fleet of 17 VLCCs.DABA is going to be operated in the VL8 Pool, managed by NAVIG8 of which OSC is shareholder.

OSC now has a fleet of 30 vessels,and an order book of 11 vessels to be delivered between now and 2013.The DWT capacity of the current fleet is around 4.6mn DWT, increasing to around 8mn DWT once the order book is delivered.

Maersk Line to up capacity

Danish shipping company Maersk Line has announced that it will more than double the capacity on its service to the Kenyan port of Mombasa from its Middle East transhipment hub at Salalah.

With its Mombasa Express service currently running two vessels, Maersk Line will be adding three more on the route to take the total number of ships up to five. As a result, reports state the frequency of vessels on the shuttle will drop from nine days to five as the company adds its own ships to the two ships currently running the route from Safmarine, its own subsidiary, with an average capacity of 2,497 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Peter Ford, the CEO of Port of Salalah, said the decision by Maersk Line reflects the growing strength of the Indian Ocean rim economies - as well as the Middle East - and how the port benefits as a result.

Omantel unites brands

Omantel has introduced a fresh new identity with the launch of a new unified brand. The new brand communicates a bold, fresh vision for the company's continued evolution, 'building on our 40-year history of serving the sultanate.' "Our new brand is more than an enhanced logo and represents an exciting opportunity to show our customers what we stand for and what makes us different as a provider of fixed, mobile and Internet services for consumers', said Haitham al Kharusi, VP, consumer unit.

Omantel's main brands will be united under a common identity, and Oman Mobile will be represented as an Omantel Mobile word mark. The logo will be retained and used for all official communications.

IDB on Islamic banking sector

Islamic Development Bank (IDB), an international financial institution based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is ready to provide equity capital to Oman's upcoming Islamic banking industry, development projects in the sultanate and private-sector businesses. IDB provides equity capital and loans for projects and enterprises in accordance with Sharia law and provides financial assistance to member countries for economic and social development.

On the sidelines of the Islamic Finance and Banking Conference, Dr Ahmed Mohammad Ali, IDB president and chairman of the board of executive directors, said the bank is willing to provide capital assistance in Oman.

Bank Sohar profits up 42%

Bank Sohar's unaudited results for 2011 released to the Muscat Securities Market (MSM), show profits have risen 42 per cent over 2010 levels. Profits have grown from RO10.2mn in 2010 to RO14.5mn in 2011, with the operating income rising 22.6 per cent from RO35.2mn to RO43.2mn over the same period.

Operating expenses also grew 18.3 per cent from RO19.6mn in 2010 to RO23.2mn in 2011, with the total assets growing 13.8 per cent from RO1.26bn in 2010 to RO1.43bn in 2011 as customer deposits also grew from 17.2 per cent to RO1.17bn.

NBO 2011 profit up 26%

The National Bank of Oman (NBO) has posted a 26 per cent growth in full-year net profit, despite sluggish net interest income growth. In a statement posted on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) website, the bank said net profit for 2011 rose to RO34.2mn from RO27.2mn in 2010. Fourth-quarter profit rose 26.6 per cent from RO5.5mn in 2010 to RO6.9mn in 2011.

The bank did not post any significant growth in its net interest income during 2011, mainly due to the decline in net interest margins. Net interest income grew five per cent in the full-year to RO58.2mn, while in the fourth quarter of 2011 it fell 0.8 per cent to RO13.6mn year-on-year. Other operating income touched RO92.2mn in 2011, recording a year-on-year growth of 18 per cent.

BankMuscat profits up 15.6%

BankMuscat's net profit for 2011 has jumped 15.6 per cent to reach RO117.5mn on the back of higher loan book growth and improved net interest margins, according to the bank's unaudited financial results released to the Muscat Securities Market.

The figures show that net interest income has increased 13.3 per cent from RO187.2mn in 2010 to 212.1mn in 2011, with other operating income also rising five per cent from RO78.3mn to RO82.1mn over the same period. Customer deposits grew 31.5 per cent to RO4.85bn compared to RO3.68bn the previous year, and net loans and advances also rose 20.2 per cent from RO4bn in 2010 to RO4.82bn in 2011.

Operating expenses increased 17.5 per cent from RO102.9mn in 2010 to RO120.9mn in 2011, which the bank, in its initial statements, said "is attributable to higher manpower cost and operating expenses related to investment in technology and facilities."

Oman Chlorine's profit rises 3.6%

Profits at Oman Chlorine, one of the leading chemical manufacturers in the sultanate, grew by 3.6 per cent over their 2010 results, according to the company's filing to Muscat Securities Market (MSM). The unaudited figures show the company has posted a net profit of RO2.65mn for the financial year ended December 31, 2011 against a net profit of RO2.5mn in the previous year with the company's profit before tax growing by 15.3 per cent to reach RO3mn, compared to RO2.6mn in previous year.

The results come after the company announced the successful commissioning of its new US$8mn calcium chloride plant in Sohar industrial area on December 24 last year. The plant, which will have a monthly capacity of 900MT, is expected to produce high quality calcium chloride.

NFC profits jump 52%

In its unaudited year-end financial statements released to the Muscat Securities Market (MSM), National Finance Company has announced a 52 per cent jump in net profits. The MSM figures show profits for the non-banking finance company grew from RO2.3mn at the end of 2010 to RO3.5mn at the end of 2011, with total assets growing 32 per cent from RO85mn to RO111mn.

Income from financing activities has risen 30 per cent from RO8.6mn in 2010 to RO11mn in 2011, as operating expenses grew 39 per cent from RO2.1mn to RO2.9mn.

Al Anwar profit rises 8%

Further demand from small retail and residential units should help to continue the growth of Al Anwar Ceramics, which reported an eight per cent rise in profits for 2011 in its unaudited financial statements released to the Muscat Securities Market (MSM). The statistics show that the Nizwa-based company, which produces the popular Al Shams range of tiles, saw an increase in profits from RO5.3mn in 2010 to RO5.7mn in 2011.

The MSM figures also reveal that total income also rose ten per cent, from RO17.4mn in 2010 to RO19.1mn in 2011, with expenses also growing 11 per cent from RO11.4mn to RO12.6mn over the same period.

OFM net profit falls 65%

Higher wages and raw material prices led to a 65 per cent drop in Oman Flour Mills' net profit during the six-month period ending December 31, 2011.

In its unaudited financial statements released to the Muscat Securities Market (MSM), the company reported a net profit of RO1.17mn for the six-month period down from RO3.33mn in the corresponding period of the previous year. OFM's revenue increased by 28 per cent to RO29.6mn as compared to RO23mn in the corresponding period of 2010.

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