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Bahrain to launch big infrastructure projects

A report by UK-based publishing firm Oxford Business Group (OBG) seeks to map out the broad range of opportunities that Bahrain is offering investors, it was announced yesterday (June 29).

'The Report: Bahrain 2016' will pinpoint a raft of infrastructure, real estate and transport projects earmarked for roll-out in the country, in line with its Vision 2030 development plan, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication, quoting a statement by the firm.

Other sectors of the kingdom's economy that are being targeted for growth, such as information and communications technology (ICT), financial and professional services, manufacturing and education, will also be explored in detail.

The analysis of Bahrain's economic development will be supported once again by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), which has signed a second memorandum of understanding (MoU) on research with OBG.

UKTI is a government department that works with UK-based businesses to ensure their success in international markets through exports.

Under the MoU, OBG will work with UKTI to research and analyse Bahrain's latest business trends for next year's publication.

Outgoing British Ambassador Iain Lindsay said he was thrilled to be working closely with OBG for a second consecutive year.

"I am delighted to have signed this agreement again this year," he told OBG.

"Oxford Business Group's high-quality publications are a key tool to informing British companies of the many benefits of doing business in Bahrain.

"I look forward to building on the great relationship the British Embassy has with Oxford Business Group and working with them to identify new and exciting commercial opportunities in the market."

OBG's managing director for the Middle East Jana Treeck said the strong relationship between Bahrain and the UK was reflected in the group's earlier, 10th-anniversary report, which pointed to several successful collaborative ventures, ranging from housing projects and roads to health and education initiatives.

"Next year promises to be an exciting one for both Bahrain and the UK, with the countries set to mark 200 years of diplomatic relations," she said.

"I'm delighted that the embassy's UK Trade & Investment team will be contributing to our 2016 report against this backdrop and helping us to share Bahrain's myriad investment opportunities with our readers, who we know make up an integral part of the international investment community."

OBG expects that The Report: Bahrain 2016 will prove to be a vital guide to the many facets of the country, including its macroeconomics, infrastructure, and sectoral developments.

Foreign investment in Bahrain hits $1bn

Inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bahrain was nearly $1 billion at the end of last year, a report has found.

The United Nations Conference of Trade and Development's (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2015, launched regionally at the Ramee Grand Hotel in Seef yesterday, shows that FDI remained at a similar level in 2014 as in 2013, (2014: $957 million; 2013: $989 million), said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

As a percentage of GDP (55.4 per cent), Bahrain's inward FDI stocks, which reached $18.8 billion last year, remained the highest in the GCC and well above the global average, emphasising Bahrain's position as one of the region's most open economies, Economic Development Board (EDB) chief executive Khalid Al Rumaihi said at the launch.

He was joined by UNCTAD division of investment and enterprise head Mohamed Chiraz Baly, who presented the findings of the report to representatives from the private and public sectors, as well as the media along with Mena Centre for Investment chairman Dr Zakaria Ahmed Hejres.

The event was hosted in co-operation with the EDB and the Mena Centre for Investment.

"There is no doubt that the region, and wider world, still faces a challenging economic climate, as businesses and governments continue to recover from the economic shock of 2008 as well as the current oil price environment, as illustrated by the investment flows outlined in this year's World Investment Report," Al Rumaihi said.

"However there are a number of structural drivers which give cause for a more optimistic long-term outlook in the region, including connectivity, increasing economic integration, and the demographic dynamics."

Al Rumaihi also thanked UNCTAD for their efforts in preparing the global report, and highlighted that it has become an invaluable tool for policy makers.

The report says that global foreign direct investment fell by 16 per cent to $1.23 trillion last year, due to the fragility of the global economy, policy uncertainty for investors and geopolitical risks, as well as new investments being offset by some large divestments.

China became the largest recipient of FDI, and nine of the largest 20 investor countries were from developing or transition economies.

The shift towards FDI in services related sectors continued, due to increasing liberalisation and tradability of services, as well as the growth of global value chains in which services play an important role.

FDI into West Asia, which covers a number of countries in the Mena region including the GCC members, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, also fell by four per cent to $43 billion, reflecting the global economic issues and ongoing security risks.

Turkey remained the largest FDI recipient in the West Asia region, whilst investment into the GCC remained "sluggish" despite continuing robust economic growth. - TradeArabia News Service

New theme park projects coming up in GCC

The theme park industry in the GCC region is growing by leaps and bounds as several new projects are being developed in Dubai, UAE, to usher in close to 25 million tourists over the next five years.

"Entertainment and leisure projects within the UAE and across the GCC have boosted the confidence of the amusement and leisure industry manifold," explained Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, chairman of International Expo-Consults (IEC), organiser of the Dubai Entertainment, Amusement and Leisure (Deal) show, the largest platform for the theme parks and amusement industry in the Middle East and Africa region.

The 2016 edition of Deal will run from April 19 to 21 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

"UAE is experiencing this exponential growth because of its quality infrastructure and growing tourism and retail industry sectors. Another key factor is that Dubai is also becoming the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) capital of the world due to the year-long calendar of trade events. This also brings in considerable amount of footfall as families merge business with leisure activities and that further propels the theme park industry," Falaknaz added.

According to him, theme parks in Dubai are set to generate close to $5 billion in revenues by 2020 as the UAE aims to welcome close to 25 million tourists during the period.

Millions of tourists are set to flock theme parks in Dubai that are slated to open by the end of 2016. This is good news for amusement operators as they stand a chance to innovate and take the theme park industry to the next level, apart from attracting more tourists, said Falaknaz.

White Water, which has supplied the rides for Aquaventure Waterpark at 'Atlantis The Palm' in Dubai and most of the ones at Abu Dhabi's Yas Waterworld, will deliver a river rapids ride for the Motiongate theme park, which is scheduled to open in Dubai in October 2016, he noted.

"The leisure and attractions industry in this region is in a very good stage compared to other global markets. Several projects in this region are at different stages of development which should take shape in the next two years. As pioneers of this industry within the GCC, we have a unique product which has worked successfully for nearly two decades - our biggest USP (unique selling point) is that we have an original concept which appeals to the locals and GCC visitors, expat residents and international tourists," Ahmad Hussain bin Essa, chief operating officer, Global Village.

The GCC is set to witness a boom in tourism as new projects and developments are being planned and in the execution phase to usher in more tourists than ever before. One of the examples include Oman's biggest indoor theme park - Majarat Oman which will be able to accommodate 2,500 to 3,000 visitors a day.

Mohammad Attia,general manage, GCC - Al-Othaim Leisure said: "The theme park industry in the GCC is growing by leaps and bounds as more developments are taking place with a dedicated leisure and entertainment offering. Customers do visit the indoor theme parks more frequently as compared to the outdoor parks."

"The operators have revolutionised the industry by ensuring the best safety standards are adhered to and by offering more value to their customers. The industry in the GCC emphasises more on the rides and attractions mix as compared to the redemption and novelty games and merchandise offered by the operators across the world," he added.

Exhibitors at the Deal 2015 show signed contracts worth over Dh1.2 billion ($326 million). The show grew by 35 per cent over the previous year, as exhibitors signed contracts for innovative products and projects, amusement rides and other equipment. This was another industry growth indicator.

"Deal 2016 will now have an exclusive amusement operators pavilion within the show dedicated to theme park ideas, concepts and solution across all aspects of the theme park experience. It's a holistic approach that we are adopting with this new pavilion. It would be an exciting period for the amusement operators as the industry aims to provide them with umpteen benefits to establish themselves in these parts of the world," said Sharif Rahman, CEO, IEC. - TradeArabia News Service

Damac launches luxury hotel residences project

Damac Properties, a leading luxury real estate developer, has joined hands with Paramount Hotels & Resorts to launch a 826-key luxury hotel and residences tower on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, UAE.

The 'Paramount Residences' will offer a sky lobby with views across the Burj area, a private Paramount Pictures screening room, the most picturesque rooftop infinity swimming pool overlooking the Downtown area with a terrace and a fitness and wellness centre with a spa.

Damac said construction work has already begun on the 64-storey property and is due for completion in the third quarter of 2019.

The prices for the hotel residences, which will be located on the 36 to 64th floors, will start at Dh1,800 ($490) per sq ft.

The Paramount Tower Hotel & Residences also includes entertainment and dining options on the podium levels, with two contemporary and timeless restaurants, an intimate cinema modelled after the professional screening rooms of Paramount Pictures, luxury shops, art galleries and an all-day kid's studio club.

"As the number of tourists to Dubai continues to outpace most of the world, there is a huge demand for quality, stylish and luxury living experiences, both with hotels and the high-end hotel apartments sectors," remarked Ziad El Chaar, the managing director for Damac Properties.

"Paramount Tower Hotel & Residences will bring to life the Hollywood glamour and California cool lifestyle synonymous with Paramount Pictures in an environment which is stylish and aspirational," he added.

Damac said it has a number of projects under construction with Paramount Hotels & Resorts across the Middle East, including Damac Towers by Paramount Hotels & Resorts - a four-tower project in the Burj Area which is due to open in the last quarter of 2016; Damac Tower by Paramount Hotels & Resorts in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Paramount Hotel Dubai Jumeirah Waterfront in Maritime City, Dubai and serviced villas within the company's Akoya by Damac golf community.

"This sleek new addition to our portfolio will be the hot spot of this buzzing metropolis - boasting artistically infused exquisite design, with a premium on service," stated Paramount Hotels & Resorts' CEO, Thomas Van Vliet.

"This will be our boutique signature that reflects the infectious energy of Dubai," said Van Vliet.

"The selection of hotel rooms and suites are uniquely designed with reflections of the renowned Paramount Pictures brand throughout. Each fully furnished unit includes access to a film library of over 3,000 titles and offers tasteful décor and luxurious fittings to create a truly individual living environment," he observed.

"The residences have separate living and dining areas combined with Paramount Hotels & Resorts' amenities and service. Units are available in one-, two- and three-bedroom options, in addition to two exclusive penthouses," he added.-TradeArabia News Service

UAE's cost of living forcing expats to consider leaving the country

Around half of expats in the UAE are considers leaving the country due to the rising cost of living, according to new research published this week.

A YouGov study into the saving habits of Emiratis and expats, carried out for The National newspaper, found that while 42 percent say they have improved their position financially in recent years, 50 percent of employed expats would consider leaving the UAE due to the high cost of living.

"The majority of expatriates consider money and saving for the future as an important factor in moving to UAE," Alaeddine Ghazouani, research manager at YouGov, told The National.

"But the rising costs of living are increasingly holding them back from safeguarding the financial security they have been looking for, which makes moving out of the UAE a serious alternative."

Of the 1,104 respondents, 56 percent said rent was impacting most on their financial well-being, while 13 percent said it was education.

When asked how they were coping with the cost of living in the UAE, 56 percent either said somewhat difficult (40 percent) or very difficult (16 percent).

The cost of living (22 percent) was among the biggest financial worries, followed by rising rents (19 percent), not being able to save (15 percent) and becoming unemployed (12 percent).

Transferring money home is a common occurrence for expats, with 86 percent sending funds back for basic needs and expenses of family members, with 40 percent of expats doing so at least once a month.

When it comes to savings, 25 percent of those surveyed said they didn't save anything at all, while 30 percent managed to save between one and ten percent each month. Just 40 percent are happy with what they manage to save each month.

When it comes to job satisfaction, 74 percent expressed some level of happiness with their current position, with just under half receiving a pay rise during the previous year.

No new UAE visas without health insurance, says DHA

Dubai Health Authority has said any visa application, either new or a renewal, must have health insurance, under new measures being introduced.

The emirate's health authority has said the linking of the health insurance scheme to visa issuance and renewal will ensure all employers comply with the new directive.

The enforcement system will become live on August 1 this year, one day after the phase two (firms with 100 to 999 employees) implementation deadline. The linking of visa renewal or issuance to the mandatory health insurance will not be applicable for phase three companies (less than 100 employees) who have until June 2016 to comply with the regulations.

Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qatami, chairman of the board of the DHA, said: "We are pleased to see that a lot of companies have already complied ahead of the timeline and we encourage all those who have not to do before the deadline. We anticipate that in phase two 600,000 people will be insured.

"At the time that the law was introduced in November 2013, the insured population in Dubai was 1.1 million. Since the phased introduction, until now, an additional 1.2 million people are insured, bringing the total insured population in Dubai to 2.3 million. This shows that employers are responding very well to the scheme."

Fitness First opens 31st club in UAE

Fitness First Middle East (FFME), a leading health and fitness club chain and a franchise owned and operated under license by the Landmark Group in the Mena region, has opened its 31st club in the United Arab Emirates.

The new platinum club is spread across 21,000 sq ft is located at Vision Tower, Business Bay, Dubai and it is the first club which is in line with the new, vibrant and energetic look. The club will offer its members platinum facilities, best-in-class exercise equipment and free group exercise classes with certified instructors in an outdoor GX (Group Exercise) studio.

The expansive facility will also feature an impressive Cycling studio, a Core Juice Bar, extensive free weights, strength and exclusive freestyle and Fitzone areas purpose built for functional training.

Other facilities include an open area for Yoga, multifunctional exercises, Synergy 360 training system, Escape Octagon Olympic lifting platform, video wall, and Nutrition by Fitness First offering a complete solution for wellness and fitness.

Members can opt for personal training by world-class, internationally certified fitness instructors and trainers, and also avail of the luxurious changing rooms with saunas and a relaxation area, and the exclusive indoor members lounge with wireless internet and complimentary drinks or the outdoor member's lounge to socialize, play or watch games.

George Flooks, FFME chief operating officer said: "The demand for quality, effective and complete fitness solutions is on the rise in the UAE Business Bay is a bustling area in the heart of Dubai and our new mixed club will aim to cater to the demand for professional and expert advice with regard to comprehensive fitness regimes."

"As a leader in providing fitness solutions, making the facilities available and encouraging everyone to follow a strict exercise regime and diet plan is a realistic goal that we will continue to work towards. The results are there to see, and hence we want to focus on motivating our members to go further in life and inspire others to do the same," he added. - TradeArabia News Service

Dubai to build 400 solar-powered bus shelters

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced plans to construct 400 solar-powered air-conditioned bus shelters across the UAE emirate under the second phase of its ambitious project.

The project encompasses the construction of both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned bus shelters in various parts of Dubai, depending on the volume of demand, stated Mattar Al Tayer, the director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors of the RTA.

Al Tayer was speaking after unveiling the new model design of solar-powered bus shelters, rendering it the first creative solution for constructing this sort of shelters at places where there is no power supply.

These shelters will be powered by solar panels to generate electricity enough to illuminate the shelter as well as the attached advertising signs, he added.

On completion of the second phase, the total number of bus shelters will rise to 1,285, he added.

"Phase Two of bus shelters project is part of RTA 's continuous endeavours to maintain its excellence and pioneering drive through undertaking quality projects in Dubai," observed Al Tayer.

"It is also part of a masterplan to leverage the public transport sector along with associated infrastructure in the emirate with the aim of bringing happiness and comfort to riders especially during the blazing summer season," .

"Through this project, the RTA seeks to provide an attractive element enticing people to use mass transit means and accordingly push the share of public transport in the daily mobility of persons in the emirate from six per cent in 2006 to 20 per cent in 2020 and further to 30 per cent by 2030. In 2014, the RTA succeeded in raising this rate to as much as 14 per cent," said Al Tayer.

According to him, the newly designed crescent-shaped shelters will be made using high quality materials and paints resistant to heat, humidity and dust. "They will also be fitted with modern air-conditioning systems and eight seats custom-made to give added convenience to users," he explained.

The shelter, which can accommodate 13 to 16 individuals, is also designed with the physically challenged in mind, and will be fitted with screens directly linked with the control room of Public Transport Agency in order to transmit information about journeys and routes available," he explained.

"The RTA had already accomplished Phase One of air-conditioned shelters comprising the construction of 885 shelters at 635 bus stops. Surveys of bus riders indicated a high rate of satisfaction with these shelters," he said.-TradeArabia News Service

12,000 new homes to enter Dubai market this year

Nearly 12,000 housing units will enter the real estate market of Dubai, UAE this year, a report said, noting that the market showed signs of an efficient easing as well as sporadic gains in certain segments in May.

The trend in certain areas had given way to the notion that rents were on the decline across the market, added the UAE Property Market Report May 2015 released by Bayut.com, a leading real estate services company in the UAE.

"It also fanned talks of "off-grid" deals and brought criticism RERA's way. But we observed that off-grid deals - owners agreeing to rents outside RERA guidelines - were true in cases where either the anxious owners gave in to speculation about void periods or in areas where new units are already under development and tenants are likely to get fresher stock of offerings," Bayut.com said.

According to the report, RERA also found itself at the receiving end of analysts' jabs regarding its rental increase calculator, with many saying it did not reflect the prices prevalent in the market. "RERA has since revised its index in certain cases and we believe it will take further measures in the days to come to make the calculator more effective," Bayut.com said.

The price changes in the Dubai market are attributable to a number of factors analysed by Bayut.com.

The first reason is the easing away of the speculative pricing layer that accompanied the upwards trajectory of the market. A heightened demand over last two years did drive prices up rampantly, but as usually happens in demand-driven markets, the values correct themselves in the coming periods of stabilization.

Secondly, the regulations by Dubai government imposed last year to ease speculation and avoid market overheating have started to bear fruit. The effects of mortgage cap and hike in registration fees have now become pronounced and are pushing the market towards stabilization, while helping it lose some of the excess weight it put on earlier.

The third reason is the global period of slow growth as forecast by IMF. In comparison of March 2014 to March 2015, prime real estate in global power houses like New York and Singapore lost 4.4 per cent and 12.6 per cent of value, respectively, compared to only 1.1 per cent in Dubai.

Fourthly, the strengthening of dollar against the sterling and other currencies - Indian, Pakistani - has consequently made the dirham more expensive, effecting the buying decision and subsequently hampering demand. The oil price crunch has also affected demand from Russian, South American and Saudi investors, whose wealth has lost value due to the global crisis.

Although these factors contributed to price and rent correction in the market, there were areas like Deira and Karama that registered rental gains on the back of a strong demand. High-end areas like Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai have maintained their allure to the luxury seekers for now, and values there remained steady apart from marginal fluctuations.

The secondary apartment market, however, remains prone to value changes as it is in this segment that most new units are expected. Still, returns from large to small apartments in Dubai range from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent, while those in cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and London average somewhere between 2 per cent and 3.5 per cent.

The apartment buying market is likely to see a burst of renewed activity as developers close in on launching projects aimed at low income households and tenants look to make the jump to home ownership.

Though the outlook for apartment category remains majorly positive thanks to a growing job market and subsequent rise in population and housing demand, the villa market is likely to face pressure as a result of a heightened supply.

About 4,000 new villas will join the existing stock over the course of 2015 alone and the secondary villa market is likely to feel the heat. This means owners of villas upwards of Dh5 million ($1.36 million) will not only be affected by additional supply but also by mortgage figures. Loan-to-value ratio change to 65:35 past the 5 million mark from 75:25 below it. Still, activity is abundant in the Dh3 million to Dh3.5 million range.

Abu Dhabi

With expectations from the oil sector of Abu Dhabi remaining low throughout 2015, May saw the real estate market gaining foremost importance. The Abu Dhabi Planning Council approved 30 projects in May, as against a total of 76 projects approved last year.

Amongst the approved projects were the master planned developments spanning across approximately 11 million sq m of gross floor area (GFA) of Abu Dhabi. Among the more notable project launches in the capital were the two launches on Al Maryah Island - Sowwah Central Mall and Maryah Plaza - along with various developments on Yas, Sadiyaat and Reem Islands. Numerous mixed-use developments outside the central city were also approved with developers promising to begin work as soon as possible.

Al Ain launched 3.8 million sq m mixed-use development Wahat Al Zaweya along with World Desert Oasis to cater to the increasing demand of housing and recreational facilities.

The government launched new laws regulating real estate under which rights of buyers were secured regarding the off-plan properties, specifically. The law also announced the preparation of a real estate registry that would save all documents and data related to real estate development along with the creation of a project guarantee account which would be mandatory on all developers to deposit all funds paid by the buyers of an off-plan project.

Apart from that, owing to the slowdown in Dubai, Dubai-based property developers are planning to develop in Abu Dhabi noticing the emirate's resilient economy.

The emirate continues to plough on steadily through the current year and May 2015 showed stability throughout the property market. The government is also focusing on affordable housing, which will not only provide aspiring homeowners with reasonable accommodation, but also help those sharing apartments or rooms illegally find a space suited to their budget.


Considering the rate at which Dubai's market was growing over the past two years, Bayut.com feels the current slowdown can only be considered a much needed hiatus. The adjustment in prices has put fears of speculative bubble build-up and market over heating to rest and provided a sigh of relief to both the government and analysts who feared another market collapse.

The outlook for the market remains positive as the population continues to grow in numbers and we are likely to see the demand for accommodations and commercial spaces resurging in the near future.

With prices getting competitive by the day and prospects of a heightened demand very much assured, now could be good time to hunt for a bargain that one was so inclined to find earlier. The focus on affordable asset class must be persisted with, as it would not only open up the market to a great number of investors with shallower pockets, it would also let a large number of expats find a decent dwelling at affordable rental cost.

Abu Dhabi is likely to see more and more activity now that the government has taken steps to regulate the real estate market. This is likely to lure many an investor to the emirate who will feel more confident about their investment's security.

The realty in the two emirates is buoyed by governments willing to take the right decisions and enforce the right adjustments to make the whole better than the sum of its parts. - TradeArabia News Service

RTA introduces smart parking inspection apps

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has introduced new app enabling parking inspectors in the emirate to quickly identify vehicles in breach of the law governing the use of public car parking slots.

The procedure, which is done via smartphones fitted with this app to screen public parking areas, comes as part of RTA's relentless efforts to provide the best means of delivering services to customers, said a senior official.

RTA's Traffic & Roads Agency CEO Maitha bin Udai highlighted the benefits of the new app in raising the efficiency of public parking inspectors in Dubai as well as enhancing the efficiency of work at site.

"The smart parking inspection app has a host of smart and technical features including: storing the data of vehicles in breach of the law governing public parking, alerting inspectors to take appropriate procedures in respect of violating vehicles," explained Maitha.

"It smartly positions vehicles incompliant with the rules, and enhancing the quality of images of such vehicles; which in turn would reflect positively on the speed of responding to complaints and signing them off in a timely manner," she added.

According to her, the new app makes it easy for parking inspectors to make reports about any issues at site via a smart electronic environment, besides streamlining the administrative affairs of supervisors.

"It is a step forward towards realizing the strategic goals of the RTA which aims at fulfilling the requirements of the smart government in Dubai, especially as the scope of the sprawling public parking system in the emirate is one of the largest worldwide comprising 125,000 parking slots and five multi-level parking terminals managed by a single operator," she added.-TradeArabia News Service

First Solar in deal to power Dubai solar park

First Solar said it has signed an agreement to supply its photovoltaic (PV) modules to power the 200 megawatt (MW) AC second phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, UAE.

First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive PV solar systems based in Arizona, US.

Earlier this year, a consortium led by Acwa Power, a leading water and power developer, owner and operator based in Saudi Arabia, and TSK, a Spanish engineering and construction company, was selected by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) to develop, construct, own and operate the independent power project.

According to the consortium, the project's tariff of 5.84 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWH) establishes a new global benchmark, reducing the cost of solar electricity by more than 20 per cent.

Significantly, the utility scale solar plant will be the largest facility of its kind in the Middle East, when completed in early 2017.

The plant will produce enough energy to power 30,000 average homes in the UAE and will displace over 469,650 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The project will be powered by over 2.36 million First Solar modules, compared to the 152,880 that were installed in the 13-MW AC first phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The plant will be built over an area of almost 4.5 million sq m, sufficient to cover as many as 100 soccer pitches.

Paddy Padmanathan, the president and CEO of Acwa Power, said: "Our commitment to deliver reliable and sustainable electricity at the lowest kWH tariff is reflected clearly in the win it has secured in the second phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park."

"The technology we plan to implement has a proven advantage over conventional solar panels, delivering more annual energy for the same nameplate watts under the specific project conditions of the Dewa project," stated Padmanathan.

"The organic performance growth programme that First Solar is developing with their PV modules sets a benchmark in the PV industry, allowing us to benefit from a long-term reliable and durable power generation technology for projects of this scale," he added.

Alfonso Targhetta, the procurement managing director and board member, TSK, said the milestone Dewa project will establish a new benchmark for the reliable, affordable and sustainable generation of solar energy in the Middle East and around the world.

"By combining our world-class engineering and construction capabilities with First Solar's high-performance modules, this project will help define how utility-scale PV plants are developed throughout the region and beyond," he noted.

"This project's impact on the global energy transition cannot be overstated. It has effectively driven down the cost of solar electricity, marking a new milestone in solar PV's evolution as a mainstream energy resource," stated Targhetta.

Ahmed Nada, the vice president and region executive for the Middle East, at First Solar, said: "In this competitive environment, the decision to power the project with First Solar technology is testament to the ability of our high performance modules to reliably deliver energy, even in challenging operating conditions."

"In fact, with this win, First Solar will have earned the position of being the leading PV solutions provider in the Middle East, with a projected installed capacity of at least 270 MW across the region by 2017," he added.

First Solar modules already power the 13-MW AC first phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and will be installed at the 52.5-MW AC Shams Ma'an solar PV plant, currently under construction in Jordan and scheduled for completion in the second half of 2016.-TradeArabia News Service

Italian firm wins $200m solar project in Egypt

Italy's Building Energy, a leader in renewable power, has signed an agreement worth $200 million to build two 50 MW photovoltaic plants in Egypt.

The project was awarded by the New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) of the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy of Egypt.

Each plant in Benban, Upper Egypt, is expected to generate around 143 GWh per year, contributing to the reduction of over 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Construction of the project will start in summer 2016 and will last 12 months.

Under a 25-year power purchase agreement, the plants will be connected to the 220 kV high-voltage line linking Aswan to Cairo, meeting the energy needs of a total of 50,000 families. The project will create more than 1,000 jobs during construction and a further 70-80 long-term jobs during operation.

Building Energy has been present in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region since early 2014 with an office in Dubai, from which it manages and coordinates all the projects in the area.

"We are delighted to announce the kick-off of our first two projects in Egypt. The country is blessed with world-class solar and wind resources and has established an extremely well-managed programme under which it aims to produce at least 20 per cent of its total power from renewable sources by 2020," said Cornelius Matthes, Building Energy's managing director of Mena.

"This is why the Egyptian government has implemented a series of concrete steps to facilitate foreign investments, in order to meet the increasing energy needs and support the economic growth of the country.

"We are also glad that, through these projects, we will manage to positively impact the country, not only contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions, but also boost the local economy through the creation of over a thousand of new jobs. Other Mena countries will hopefully soon follow Egypt's important leadership to deploy renewable energy on a large scale."

Building Energy has teamed up with a local partner in Egypt, SolarShams, a renewable energy system integrator and local project developer. -TradeArabia News Service

SABB offers ATM service for Amex card holders

The Saudi British Bank (SABB) launched a new service whereby American Express card holders can make cash withdrawals from SABB's automated teller machines (ATMs).

The new service offers a great degree of convenience, and comes as a product of joint efforts between SABB and American Express.

Naif Alabdulkareem, general manager of Retail Banking and Wealth Management at SABB, said: "We are delighted by this collaborative effort with American Express. The arrangement came to light in consideration of SABB's state-of-the-art infrastructure technology, carefully designed locations and widely-distributed ATM network across the Kingdom."

The chief operating officer of American Express operations in Saudi Arabia, Fahad Mubarak Al Guthami, said: "The collaboration with the Saudi British Bank (SABB) will expand Amex cash withdrawal service to more than 900 ATM machines throughout the Kingdom, which will offer card holders more freedom and ease of use."- TradeArabia News Service

Expat remittances jump 7 percent to SR68bn in 5 months

RIYADH: Expatriates' remittances from Saudi Arabia to their respective countries rose by 7 percent in the first five months of the current year to reach SR68.4 billion compared to SR64.2 billion in the same period last year, according to a financial report.

Month-on-month basis, the remittances of the expatriates grew by a margin of 0.7 percent to SR13.6 billion in May (2015) compared to SR13.5 billion in April of the same year, the report published by the local media said.

Year-on-year basis, the remittances of the foreign workers grew by 9 percent in May 2015 compared to the same period last year (May 2014), which stood at SR12.5 billion, the report said.

Meanwhile, Saudis' remittances fell during May 2015 by 4 percent to SR7.7 billion compared with SR8.02 billion in April of the same year, while increased by 51 percent compared to May 2014 which reached SR5.1 billion, the report said.

In general, personal remittances of both expatriates and Saudis dropped marginally by 1 percent to SR21.3 billion in May, 2015, compared to SR21.5 billion in April but, however, increased by 21 percent to May figures in 2014 (SR17.6 billion), the report said.

Based on the latest data released by the Central Department of Statistics and Information (CDSI), the number of expats residing in the Kingdom reached 10.07 million by the end of 2014, or 33 percent of the Kingdom's total population, whereas the Saudi citizens constituted the remaining 67 percent of population, or 20.7 million.

Qatar launches healthy lifestyle drive

Qatar's Supreme Council of Health (SCH), the authority responsible for healthcare issues in the State, has launched an awareness campaign, aiming to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

The "Our Future lies in Our Health" initiative comes as part of the Supreme Council of Health's vision to build a healthy future for the Qatari community within its Nutrition and Physical Activity Scheme 2011-2016, in line with its plans to support the Human Development Pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid Al Qahtani, Minister of Public Health and Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Health, said: "The State of Qatar is keen on providing the finest healthcare services and technologies for all members of the society, and raise the level of health awareness among all individuals."

"The Supreme Council of Health seeks to bring about positive change in people's lives, encourage behavioural changes that would improve their health, and contribute to building a secure and healthy future health for generations to come. In this context, the 'Our Future lies in our Health' campaign came to life to transmit our message in strengthening the role of preventive healthcare as an integral element in the State's healthcare sector, as well as promote a healthy culture, which encourages quitting smoking, eating healthy and exercising," he added.

The "Our future lies in our Health" campaign sheds light on the SCH's integral role in developing and implementing national healthcare policies that benefit the community, and focuses on the following three key awareness messages: eat healthy, stop smoking and get active.

These messages aim to encourage behavioural changes among the community through demonstrating the importance of healthy foods and sports in the prevention of illnesses, and the dangers of smoking - in light of the high numbers of obesity, smokers and fast food consumption.

The campaign will be ongoing for a year, focusing on raising awareness on healthy diets. It also includes a number of programmes, activities and events aimed at encouraging all segments of society to adopt a healthy lifestyle, in collaboration with various public and private institutions and agencies within the state.

In order to deliver its messages to each and every member of the community, the campaign is being spread across all media: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards and text messages; as well as on buses, airport banners, airplane screens, and at cinemas.

The campaign also involves a variety of health-promoting activities, including seminars at public and private institutions, and distribution of pamphlets and brochures on the importance of proper exercise and foods in psychological and physical development, as well as social and educational events that address all segments of the community, taking into account the cultural diversity in Qatar. - TradeArabia News Service

Millennium Hotels launches new serviced apartment brand

Leading hospitality group Millennium & Copthorne Hotels has launched its new standalone serviced apartment brand with the opening of a property in Muscat, Oman.

Millennium Executive Apartments is the group's first property in the Omani capital and is a key part of the company's strategic growth plan that includes the introduction of Grand Millennium and Copthorne hotel brands to Muscat later this year.

Designed for the medium to longer staying guest, the new property offers upscale facilities blended with the ambiance and privacy of an own residence, making it suitable for both business and leisure travellers alike.

Guests can choose from one of the 115 spacious apartments to make their stay in Muscat memorable. All apartments feature wi-fi, open plan lounge/dining room, LCD flat screen TVs and ensuite for the master bedroom. The German designed kitchens by Poggenpohl are carefully designed to be as efficient as they are elegant.

Visitors can enjoy the flavours of the world from the all-day dining restaurant, or catch up with friends over coffee and a healthy snack in the stylish lobby lounge. For those who need to work, a fully equipped board room accommodating up to 12 is ideally suited to executive meetings.

Guests can also keep fit with access to the gym and outdoor pool, or relax on the sundeck or with a spa treatment.

Millennium Executive Apartments is located in the Al Khuwair area of Muscat city, close to the Minsitry area and accessible to a range of leisure activities. - TradeArabia News Service

Kuwait passes law to regulate domestic helpers

Kuwait's parliament has unanimously passed the first-ever legislation to regulate the status of thousands of mainly Asian domestic helpers.

The new law grants the 600,000 domestic helpers in Kuwait a 12-hour working day, a day off once a week, and 30 days' annual leave, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

It also obliges employers to open a bank account for maids and transfer their wages to the account to resolve the problem of delays or non-payment of salaries. - TradeArabia News Service

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