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Arab Contractors wins $561m Kuwait road work

Egypt's Arab Contractors Company has won a KD170 million ($561.4 million) contract from the Kuwait ministry of public works to develop the strategic Nuwaiseeb Road.

The scope of work in includes construction of 37-km-long roads, which consist of three lanes in each direction, with two safety lanes and nine multi-storey intersections, reported Daily News Egypt.

As part of the project, a two-lane bridge will also be constructed. All the bridges along the main road and turns include an extra lane in each direction, which allows developing the road in the future, said the report.

Arab Contractors is currently carrying out the construction works of the fourth phase of the project to develop the Gahraa road in Kuwait, the first phase of which was inaugurated in January last year, stated the report citing a senior official.

"The Nuwaiseeb Road is considered one of the vital pillars of the Kuwait road development plan," noted Mohsen Salah, the chairperson of Arab Contractors.

The scheme will see four new bridges added for the passage of camels, beautification, and transferring and protecting services, including water, sewage, and rainwater networks," he said.

The project is being implemented under the supervision of Parsons Brinckerhoff International Advisory Office in co-operation with Gulf Consult, he added.


Accor Hotels to manage new Fairmont property in Egypt

Leading hospitality chain AccorHotels has partnered with real estate company Arabia Group to manage Fairmont Pyramids Hotel and Residences - Egypt's newest property which is set to open in 2020.

The management deal also includes a partnership with with the Ministry of Housing and developers of residential, retail, and commercial developments in Egypt and the UAE, said a report in Daily News Egypt.

Fairmont Pyramids Hotel and Residences will feature 250 rooms and 200 branded residences. It is located 4 km from the Great Pyramids, and three minutes from the Grand Museum, with easy access to the new ring road that constitutes a connection to the New Administrative Capital.

“We are excited to announce the addition of Fairmont Pyramids Hotels and Residences to our Egypt luxury portfolio,” said Sami Nasser, Accor’s chief operating officer of luxury brands in the Middle East. “This announcement highlights the group’s commitment to the destination and its envisioned potential,” he added.

Accor Hotels currently operates 20 hotels in Egypt, with 12 hotels under construction, encompassing 10,800 rooms and residences across the luxury, upscale, midscale, and economy segments.


Global giants head to Dubai for big property expo

Major players from some of the world's leading real estate destinations such as Portugal, Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, US, UAE and China will be showcasing their projects at the upcoming International Property Show in Dubai.

A focused B2B and B2C platform with a global reach that explores new real estate destinations with investment opportunities, International Property Show will be held from April 2 to 4 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

According to The Wealth Report, an annual publication by leading real estate expert Knight Frank, the chief Chinese city of Shanghai had experienced the biggest annual price hike for prime residential real estate.

Prices for prime properties in Shanghai jumped 27.4 per cent in 2016, solidifying its position as one of the top cities in the world, it stated.

Beijing saw the second-biggest increase, with price growth of 26.8 per cent, followed by Guangzhou, which experienced a 26.6 per cent gain, the report added.

“China's real estate market has strengthened over the past year due to the growing economy and increased demand for housing. In addition, international investments are driving more money into the country’s real estate,” remarked Dawood Al Shezawi, CEO, Strategic Marketing & Exhibitions, the event organiser.

The Los Angeles also ranked No.1 in North America in a survey of global real estate investors who have a combined total of $1.7 trillion to spend on property in 2017. Top choice cities for realty investment in other regions were London and Australia.

Dubai, he stated, has also proved to be an investor magnet ever since it opened its real estate sector to non-Gulf international investors.

"The emirate has not looked back from that point onwards and has maintained a commanding march in relation to business activity in its property market. Throughout 2016, investors belonging to India, UK and Pakistan topped the list of the biggest non-Gulf international investors in Dubai’s realty sector," he added.

With some of the world’s best realty destinations taking part in the International Property Show, it is an excellent opportunity for exhibitors to promote their existing and reveal their future projects, and for potential buyers to explore the best in properties, stated Shezawi.

“Dubai yet remains the top favorite realty destination for investors across the globe. Its stable political conditions and steady economic growth has supported the property market encouraging investors to diversify their investments and distribute their capital into the flourishing market,” he added.-TradeArabia News Service


RSG, Rotana to build new five-star hotel in Dubai

RSG International, a UAE-based global conglomerate, has partnered with leading hospitality group Rotana to build its new five-star hotel and serviced apartment project Sabah Rotana in Dubai, UAE.

The 534-room property will be managed by Rotana on behalf of RSG International and is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2020.

The agreement was signed by Raj Sahni (Abu Sabah), owner and chairman of RSG International, and Nasser Al Nowais, chairman of Rotana.

Also present at the signing ceremony were Sabah Sahni, vice chairman of RSG International, Sumeet Sahni, deputy vice chairman of RSG International and Jasjit Singh Jaaj, Group CEO of RSG International, Selim El Zyr vice chairman of Rotana and Omer Kaddouri, president and CEO of Rotana.

“We are very pleased to partner with RSG International, that brings over 25 years of experience in real estate and property development, on this new venture,” said Al Nowais.

Sahni (Abu Sabah) said: “We are proud to award management of one of our distinguished projects to the region’s premier hotel management company."

Rising up to 54 storeys, Sabah Rotana is located on Sheikh Zayed Road, towering over the Al Sufouh landscape and will offer majestic views of the Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah and neighbouring communities such as Emirates Living.

It is in the vicinity of Jumeirah Central district, Dubai’s new urban lifestyle capital, and is only minutes away from iconic city landmarks and major shopping destinations and business centres.

A key attraction of the property will be the business and recreational facilities including three fully-equipped meeting rooms, an executive lounge, and an ultra-modern gym, swimming pool and wellness lounge.

Further distinguishing the property will be its massive parking facility, which is spread across the basement and podium levels and can accommodate up to 800 vehicles. - TradeArabia News Service


65 per cent of GCC expats 'don't have a pension'

GCC expatriates are miles behind their counterparts in North America, Europe and Asia when it comes to retirement planning, a study by global financial firm Guardian Wealth Management (GWM) has found.

In fact, in the annual pensions survey conducted by GWM, it found that 64.21 per cent of GCC expats have no pension at all. This is compared to 14.49 per cent in North America, 43.85 per cent in Europe and 61.11 per cent in Asia, a statement said.

Guardian Wealth Management, who have eight offices around the world including Hong Kong, Geneva, London and UAE, surveyed 2,000 respondents online about the type of pensions that they have currently.

Hamzah Shalchi, regional manager in the Middle East, said of the findings: “From last year’s study we find out that most savers are not saving enough for their desired retirement lifestyle, but this year we discovered that over half of expats don’t have a retirement fund at all which is truly shocking.

“I believe GCC expats are quite far behind other expat regions such as Asia and Europe because the high salaries and tax-free incomes make it much easier to spend earnings rather than save them. As with most cases, people come to work here and before they know it, it’s been five years and they haven’t saved a penny”.

In addition to 65 per cent of GCC-based respondents saying they have no pension at all, 24.21 per cent said theirs was based in their home country such as the UK. This is still far behind expats in North America as the survey found 81.16 per cent of respondents still had an active pension in their home country, whilst 50.27 per cent of expats in Europe and 31.11 per cent of expats in Asia had home pensions.

Shalchi commented: “The reason for the worrying lack of pensions back home could partly be because of the demographic of expats in the GCC. As is the case with foreign workers in places such as the United Arab Emirates, many are under the age of 30 and certainly 40, meaning they may not have necessarily started thinking about saving for retirement.

“However as was seen in last year’s survey there is quite a disparity between what people think they need to save for retirement and what they actually need to save for their desired lifestyle. Due to compound interest, it is better to start saving earlier but for less time to allow the pension pot to grow naturally”.

Another option for expats is to transfer their pension offshore which is one area GCC expats are leading the way in, with 11.58 per cent of GCC respondents saying that they had moved theirs offshore. This is compared to 4.35 per cent in North America, 5.88 per cent in Europe and 7.78 per cent in Asia.

Due to the lucrative benefits such as greater tax efficiency, better returns and flexibility, transferring pensions offshore was starting to become a popular option for foreign workers in the GCC, particularly from the UK. However, recent changes to UK tax law has imposed a 25 per cent transfer fee on Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPs) making this avenue of saving much less attractive.

“The announcement of the pension transfer tax in the latest UK Spring Budget has largely killed the QROPs market and this will affect any transfers from March 2017 moving forward. However, there are various options such as Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) that may be better suited. The most important thing is to seek professional advice and actually start saving! With life expectancy and inflation going up year-on-year, this should be a priority for savers”, concluded Hamzah Shalchi.

Guardian Wealth Management offers financial advice, specialising in long-term financial planning for its clients, it said. - TradeArabia News Service


Indian Green Card holders eligible for UAE on-arrival visas

The UAE has announced that Indian passport holders with a valid American visa or a Green Card will now be eligible to obtain a UAE visa on arrival, said a report.

The decision, taken by the UAE Cabinet, is aimed at enhancing UAE-India relations in economic, politics, and trade, said a report in Gulf News.

The on-arrival visa will be valid for 14 days, with a single extension possible for a fee.

“Citizens of the Republic of India who are holders of normal passports with a six-month, or more, valid green card or visa issued by the United States of America shall be granted entry visas to the UAE from all ports for a period of 14 days, subject for a single renewal for the same period upon payment of applicable fees,” an official statement said.

The UAE received close to 1.6 million Indian tourists in 2016, and 50,000 UAE tourists visited India in the same year.

Strong bonds of friendship between UAE and India have found clear expression in the series of high-level bilateral visits between the two countries in the past two years, The move of granting entry visas to the UAE aligns itself with the close cooperation between the two countries, the report said.

Other countries

Currently, citizens of 47 countries apart from the GCC nations, can get visa on arrival. Citizens of the following countries do not require advance visa arrangements to enter the UAE and can obtain a visa upon arrival for 90 days:

Czech Republic

Citizens of the following countries do not require advance visa arrangements to enter the UAE and can obtain a visa upon arrival for 30 days:

Hong Kong
South Korea
New Zealand
The Vatican
San Marino
United States
United Kingdom
Russian Federation


Free Wi-Fi on 700 more Dubai taxis

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) on Sunday said 700 more taxis will get interactive screens and offer free Wi-Fi to passengers.

The second phase takes the total number of cabs to 1,314, which is equivalent to 26 percent of Dubai Taxi Corporation’s (DTC) total fleet.

Dr Yousef Mohammed Al Ali, chief executive officer, DTC, said that adding 700 taxis under phase II further promotes the transport and innovation technology in Dubai.

These smart touch screens enable users to browse promotional adverts of RTA services, and informs passengers about key tourist destinations in the emirate, he added.


dmg events opens office in Qatar, plans key events

Leading international exhibitions company dmg events - Middle East, Asia and Africa has established an office in Qatar.

The move is to support the growth of the country’s exhibition industry and to launch some of its most successful brands into the market, said the company.

The move comes after the company finalised an agreement with the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) to establish an entity within the authority’s regulatory framework, a process completed with the consultation and support of the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), it said.

“Establishing a presence in Qatar is an important strategic move for us,” said Matt Denton, the president of dmg events Middle East, Asia & Africa. “It brings with it access to a market of significant potential, as the country's preparations for the Fifa World Cup 2022 continue apace. We also have the honour of being the first events company to establish itself in Qatar under the new initiative from the QFC and QTA. This honour brings with it a considerable responsibility to contribute to the development of the nation’s events sector as a vibrant part of the economy, one that can attract a loyal following of international business visitors.”

dmg events will draw on its core construction portfolio, adapting established events to achieve a rapid roll out of well-known brands to the Qatari market.

First up it will introduce its interior design exhibition Index to the Qatari market, with the event set to debut at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center (DECC) from November 13 to 15, 2017. That launch will be followed by the arrival of Building Services Qatar in February 2018, which will bring together four event brands - Middle East Concrete, Windows Doors and Facades Expo, HVACR Expo and Community Management Week - under one banner.

Both events will attract an international audience of exhibitors and visitors numbering in the thousands to the city, which has identified the business events sector as an important area for growth, the company said.

“DECC has been working very closely with the Qatar Tourism Authority to facilitate dmg events’ entry into the Qatari marketplace,” said Jose Vicente, the CEO of DECC. “The prime location of our venue in the centre of Doha is just one of the business advantages we were able to offer their exhibitors. Most of all, Qatar’s attractiveness as a leading communications hub and a booming business environment within the Gulf will be key to the successful launch of the exhibitions. The establishment of dmg events in Qatar and the subsequent event launches are great news for the destination. We are very proud of the role we have had to play in this achievement and look forward to seeing our partnership develop further.”

Entry into the Qatar market is the latest in a growing line of strategic expansion initiatives that have seen dmg events adapt and launch events from its core portfolios in Morocco, across Africa and India and on to Indonesia. With 50 exhibitions now hosted in 15 countries across the MENASA region, dmg events is building a loyal audience of visitors for a select portfolio of sectors, each adapted to suit their location, while retaining the essence of the individual brands and their success, the company said. – TradeArabia News Service


Qatar to bring changes to property leasing law

The Qatar cabinet has approved a draft law amending some provisions of regulation regarding property leasing, according to a report.

Under the new amendment, the lease shall incorporate the names, nationalities and addresses of the property owner and the tenant, reported The Peninsula.

Also these lease agreements should have addresses of legal representatives of both the owner and the tenant, the lease term, the rent and mode of payment, a description of the leased premises and the purpose of the lease in addition to all terms and conditions agreed upon.

The owner shall, within 30 days of the effective date of the lease agreement, register the lease at the Real Estate Lease Registration Office, stated the report.

As per the amendments, applications submitted by the tenant to the committee or to the judicial authorities shall not be considered unless the lease is registered at the office.

The meeting, held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, approved the draft law and decided to refer it to the Advisory Council, it added.


Sharing accident photos in Qatar is now punishable by up to two years in jail

Qatar’s Emir has approved new legislation that metes out jail time and fines for those caught taking, recording or sharing photos and videos of accident victims.

Law No. 4 of 2017 amends some provisions of the Penal Code with regards to breaching someone’s privacy without their consent.

It increases the penalty for breaking the law from one year to up to two years in jail. It also doubles the potential fine to up to QR10,000.

Article 333 previously pertained to offenses such as opening someone’s correspondence, eavesdropping on phone calls and recording or transmitting private conversations.

High-profile cases

The Cabinet has been discussing amendments to the penal code for at least two years.

In September 2015, it approved legislation that explicitly criminalized taking photos of the deceased or injured without permission.

Such images are considered “human and moral” defamation and go against “social and religious” values, attorney Mohammad Al Hagri was quoted as saying earlier that year.

The draft legislation was recently revived, even though residents who take such photos or video can already be punished under Qatar’s privacy and cybercrime laws.

These laws apparently came into play during two high-profile incidents in 2015.

In October of that year, a person was arrested for sharing dramatic footage of a deadly traffic accident that involved two teens and a sewage tanker.

And a month later, two people were arrested for posting a video of a young man smashing into a Rolls Royce at the Sheraton Grand Doha hotel.

However, it remains unclear what those involved were charged with or what penalties they faced.


Travelers to face new security checks from Doha to Australia

Starting next week, passengers flying out of Hamad International Airport and heading to Australia will face “enhanced security measures” before traveling.

The Australian government announced the move yesterday, but clarified that there is “no specific threat” facing the country.

Instead, the checks are a safety precaution following the recent rollout of new electronics bans onboard flights from the Middle East to the US and UK.

However, Australia is not implementing an electronics ban onboard flights “at this stage,” officials said.

Qatar Airways currently flies non-stop from Doha to four Australian cities: Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. It plans to add a fifth route, to Canberra, soon.

Explosive detection

The enhanced screening will take effect on April 6. They are in addition to secondary checks already conducted on passengers flying to Australia.

In a statement, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the new security measures will apply to people traveling from Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Chester added that the changes are in line with the UK’s recent decision to subject travelers from the three Gulf hubs to random explosive trace detection (ETD) screening.

The UK’s ban is similar to the US, in that passengers must check any electronic device larger than a cellphone when flying directly from the Middle East.

However, unlike the US, the UK ban does not include Doha and the UAE.

For the Australia flights, the affected airlines include Qatar Airways, Etihad (including Virgin Australia codeshare passengers), Emirates and Qantas.

Passengers are being advised to “allot extra time” for the screenings when traveling.


Kuwait's Kamco buys Amazon's UK warehouse

Kuwait-based Kamco Investment Company on Sunday said it has purchased Amazon UK’s largest distribution warehouse for $77 million (AED281m).

The warehouse in Dunfermline, Scotland, has been leased to Amazon UK Services until October 2031. Amazon employs 2,100 staff at the warehouse, which handles 38 percent of the 143 million packages that e-retailer handles per annum.

Kamco said it aims to achieve a targeted cash yield of 6.50 percent per annum and an expected internal rate of return (IRR) of 7 percent per annum during the investment period.

Faisal Sarkhou, chief executive officer, Kamco, said: “This achievement marks yet another step towards reaching our strategic objectives and future vision to enhance our operational performance and expand our real estate investments platform on a regional and international scale, in a way that is beneficial to our shareholders.”

Company chief investment officer Khaled Fouad said the transaction highlights the acquisition of a new category of income-generating assets that are leased to Amazon, in aim of diversifying sources of income.

Kamco’s alternative investment team currently manages more than $250 million in real estate across 11 regional and international properties.


Oman plans new container terminal at Sohar Port

Oman is planning to build a new container terminal at Sohar Port with the capacity to process five million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) every year.

The basic infrastructure for the proposed terminal will be developed by the government, while the superstructure will be built by Oman International Container Terminal, Mahdi Al Lawatia, southern development director, Sohar Port told Times of Oman.

The newspaper said that the plan would need to be signed off by the government, and that construction would take almost 30 months.

Sohar’s existing terminal has a container handling capacity of around 2 million TEUs with the planned expansion increasing total capacity to seven million TEUs per year.


38 Qatar schools will be raising tuition in the coming year

More than three dozen private schools and kindergartens in Qatar are being permitted to raise their tuition fees during the 2017/2018 school year, the country’s education ministry has announced.

The 38 schools include the Filipino International School, SEK International, MES Indian School, the Finnish school and Doha College (West Bay), according to a list published by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

They will be allowed to raise fees between 1 and 15 percent.

Officials said yesterday that nearly half of all schools and kindergartens in Qatar requested fee increases.

But most of the 127 institutions were denied hikes, they added.

Long process

According to the education ministry, schools had to go through a multi-step process to win tuition hike approval.

This included filing their applications between Dec. 1 and 31 of last year and submitting up to four years of financial reports in Arabic.

Several schools were rejected for missing the deadline or because their reports were found to be lacking credibility and accuracy.

Additionally, the applications needed to be approved by several different ministry committees, as well as the minister himself.

Cost of education

Last year, the ministry approved fees increases for 55 schools, but only from 2 to 7 percent.

At the time, educators said they understood higher tuition fees can be a financial burden on parents.

But they argued that they need to at least keep teachers’ salaries in line with inflation to attract the best staff, as well as meet any other rising costs such as accommodation and facility rentals.

However, housing rental costs are dropping in Qatar and inflation has also slowed considerably. So it remains unclear why so many schools have applied for fee hikes this year.

Qatar to increase penalty for using a phone while driving

A QR500 fine is not high enough to deter Qatar’s motorists from using their phones while driving, the country’s traffic police chief has said.

Speaking to local media yesterday, Brig. Mohammed Saad al Kharji added that plans are afoot to raise the penalty so that drivers take the offense more seriously.

He did not say how much higher the fee would be, however.

Currently, motorists can incur a QR500 ticket for “using or holding a mobile phone or any other device while driving or becoming busy watching any visual object from a television set in the vehicle,” the Qatar Tribune reports.

Regarding exceptions, a police officer previously said it is OK to use a phone if your vehicle has come to a complete stop at a red traffic light.

But if the car is moving or waiting to cross a roundabout or an intersection without a signal, even holding the phone is a traffic violation.

Big problem

Phone usage has been a widespread problem on Qatar’s roads for years.

Officials say motorists are no longer texting or talking so much.

Instead, people taking selfies and using social media while driving were responsible for 80 percent of major accidents in Qatar in 2015.

However, better enforcement was cited as the reason for a drop in the overall number of traffic accidents and deaths last year.

But people still appear to be concerned about distracted driving.

A recent enforcement campaign over the summer came on the heels of an MOI survey that found 94 percent of people polled online were worried about mobile usage while driving.

Bahrain doubles foreign direct investment

Bahrain secured a total of $280 million of new foreign inward investment in 2016 from 40 new companies, including Ikea, the state economic development agency said.

A report from the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) said the total amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) was double that of 2015, when FDI stood at $142 million invested by 22 companies.

Last year, the tourism sector accounted for three-quarters of the investments, EDB said, while manufacturing and logistics accounted for 15 percent and financial services accounted for nine percent.

The companies that invested represent a range of regional and international organisations, including from India, China, the US and Germany.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea recently announced a $124.8 million investment to establish its largest flagship store in the Gulf in Bahrain, covering a total area of 37,000 square metres.

Foam insulation company Armacell plans to invest about $16million on a new production plant at Bahrain International Investment Park (BIIP).

The other companies include CIMC, Euroscot, Mukta A2 Cinemas, Ziraat Bank, Mastercard, Amazon Web Services and Palestine Investment Bank Bahrain.

Together they are expected to generate 1,647 jobs in Bahrain over the next three years, EDB said.

Khalid Al Rumaihi, CEO of the EDB, said: “We are proud of what has been achieved during 2016. Our success in doubling the investments during last year comes as a result of unifying our efforts with various government bodies to ensure Bahrain is truly business-friendly.

“Today, investors in Bahrain enjoy an attractive business environment that offers cost-effective operations, advanced physical and soft infrastructure as well as the abundance of an experienced bilingual workforce.”

Eagle Hills set to launch new mixed-use project in Bahrain

Eagle Hills has announced the launch of Marassi Boulevard, a residential mixed-use development located within Marassi Al Bahrain, the urban waterfront project.

Marassi Boulevard consists of four low-rise residential buildings of seven to ten floors, including more than 240 homes, from studios to three-bedroom apartments, and boasting 700 sq m of community retail.

Designed by global firm SSH, Marassi Boulevard features contemporary architecture that blends with the local climate and boasts views of the vibrant streetscape, combining community living with an urban feel, a statement said.

The official sales launch will be on Saturday, February 4, it added.

Daniel Hammond, general manager of Eagle Hills Bahrain, said: "No detail has been overlooked by our architects involved in the creation of Marassi Boulevard's design. We wanted residents to experience metropolitan living that suits a range of tastes, budgets and requirements, whilst retaining a sense of shared community."

Marassi Boulevard will also offer a gym, changing rooms, swimming pools for both adults and children, a playground for children and basement car park.

Spanning 875,000 sq m, Marassi Al Bahrain is being constructed on the northern shores of the master-planned community of Diyar Al Muharraq, forming a key luxury component of Bahrain's largest private urban project.

Oman to charge new air passenger 'security fee'

Oman will start charging $2.56 (OMR 1) per passenger as "security fee" from January 1, increasing total airport taxes by 10 percent in less than six months to $28.59 (OMR 11), according to a news report.

The country increased its airport tax from $20.79 (OMR 8) to $25.98 (OMR 10), with effect from July 1 2016.

The new charge will be included in the ticket cost and apply to "everyone buying an air ticket including transit passengers", Times of Oman reported.

In a statement, the Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC) said the Public Authority for Civil Aviation has instructed it to collect the new fee from airlines using airports in Oman.

The circular said that transfer passengers will also be required to pay OMR 1 each as a security fee and will is also be applicable per 200 kilogrammes of outbound international freight.

Infants under 2 years of age, aircraft crew on duty travel in uniform with valid airline ID cards and domestic departing passengers will be exempted from the new fee.

According to Oman airport statistics, 10,925,795 passengers passed through the airport in first 11 months of 2016 compared to 9,321,617 passengers during the same period last year.

Negotiations underway with Volkswagen for setting up factory in Tunisia

The President of the Tunisian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK) Raouf Ben Debba announced on Friday in Tunis that Tunisia is in advanced negotiations with the German car factory "Volswagen", with a view to achieving a unit in Tunisia destined totally for export.

He told TAP, on the sidelines of a news conference on a study on automotive components in Tunisia, that a Tunisian delegation composed of representatives of the AHK and businessmen will travel with Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in Berlin for further discussion on this subject.

The visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Tunisia next March will be an occasion to decide on the installation of Volswagen in Tunisia after having become aware of the political climate in the country, according to Ben Debba.

He said that consultations with the German car manufacturing giant started before the revolution and then stopped, following events in the country after 2011.

Negotiations resumed, he said, after the International Conference on Investment 2020 was held in Tunis on November 29 and 30, 2016.

"We have echoes confirming the firm intention of the German industrialist to invest in Tunisia, but the latter wants to know more about the advantages it can benefit, especially tax exemptions" added Ben Debba.

He considers, however, that the 10-year exemption period is insufficient and could block this operation, emphasising the need to amend certain sections of the Investment Law in order to attract not only in the automotive industry but also in other promising sectors.

Ben Debba stressed that officials and members of the House of the People's Representatives (HPR) must understand the situation, as the German investor is planning to set up a fully export-oriented car manufacturing unit. Investment in the country will last for decades.

Tunisia, he said, has traditions in the automotive components industry with 230 industrial units, the majority of which are foreign, adding that this sector achieves an integration rate of about 40%.

Hilton to build a hotel in Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca, Morocco (APO)- Hilton has signed a management agreement with Group Sadiki  to open its first hotel in Casablanca. The news follows the conclusion of a landmark year for Hilton in Morocco which saw it re-establish a presence in the country in March 2016, with the opening of Hilton Garden Inn Tanger City Center. The mid-scale Hilton Garden Inn brand will now be soon represented in Morocco's largest city, with construction set to begin this year.

Hilton Garden Inn Casablanca Sidi Maarouf will consist of an initial 118 guest rooms with space available on site for further expansion. The hotel forms part of a mixed use development with a 550sqm ballroom and Moroccan-oriental restaurant also to be built in the vicinity. The Hilton Garden Inn will contain three dining options on property, in addition to another 300sqm of event space to the complex. It is forecast that the hotel may welcome its first guests in 2021.

Carlos Khneisser, VP, Development, MENA, Hilton Worldwide said: "Casablanca is a market we've been looking at for some time and we're confident that we've now identified the right partner and the right location for our debut property. Sidi Maarouf is rapidly establishing itself as not only the gateway to the city center, with the construction of its new suspension bridge, but as a significant business district in its own right."

Sidi Maarouf is located in the South West of Casablanca and has emerged as the city's new business district with several multinationals establishing a presence in recent years. It enjoys an enviable location for hosting meetings and events, at just 25km from Mohamed V Airport and also directly accessible by tramway.

Guests and residents will get to enjoy breath-taking views of the Arabian Sea, Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai through the use of innovative architecture and design, said the developer.

Abderrahim Sadiki of Group Sadiki said: "It is a privilege for us to bringing the Hilton name to Casablanca for the very first time. As more and more businesses seek to locate their operations in Sidi Maarouf we see a demand for an increase in the levels of accommodation. In taking the decision to expand our existing operations at this site to include a hotel, we are pleased to be doing so in partnership with a major international operator such as Hilton, who we believe will help us achieve optimum results."

John Greenleaf, Global Head, Hilton Garden Inn, said: "Having successfully launched our brand in Morocco earlier this year we are confident that Hilton Garden Inn Casablanca Sidi Maarouf will serve the needs of travellers seeking a trusted yet affordable international hotel brand. Hilton Garden Inn is known across the world for offering amenities and services for travellers to sleep deep, stay fit, eat well and work smart while away from home."

The construction site of Hilton Garden Inn Sidi Maarouf will be located in close proximity to the interchange between three main highways, the N11, A7 and A5 making it an ideal choice for travellers with interest both in Casablanca and in greater Morocco.

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