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Abu Dhabi property prices stable in Q1

The property prices in Abu Dhabi, UAE, remained relatively stable in the first quarter of 2015 even as there was a significant demand for affordable residential units, said a report.

The real estate sector in the UAE capital saw a sedate start to the year with sales rates stabilising after a growth spurt in 2014, along with modest first quarter rental rate hike for specific projects in key locations, stated property expert Asteco in its Abu Dhabi Property Review Q1 2015 report.

The demand for high-end developments in the investment areas including Saadiyat Island and Al Raha Beach remained positive with Reem Island marked out as a strong performer in terms of sales transactions, it said.

This was reflected in the rental market where units located in prime projects maintained an occupancy rate of 100 per cent and overall stability in rates, with minor increases registered for certain developments with a number of popular projects registering a three per cent increase in rental rates.

"Prime and high-end residential units continue to dominate demand and command higher rental rates compared with other market locations, especially for one and two-bedroom apartments. We are also witnessing a significant increase in demand for affordable units this year," remarked Jerry Oates, the general manager at Asteco Abu Dhabi.

"However, we continue to see limited movement in overall villa sales transactions partly due to a shortage of available quality stock and the continued divide in price expectations between purchaser and vendor. However, with a number of new project announcements expected this year, both from large master-developers and sub-developers, this could prompt renewed market movement," he added.

Leading developer Aldar said its 283 villa land plots, which were targeted at UAE nationals, as part of its Al Merief project in Khalifa City, are sold out, and the upscale Hidd Al Saadiyat development, from the Saadiyat Development and Investment Company (SDIC), reached a major construction milestone at the beginning of the year.

The development registered robust demand for its phase 1 release of 488 villas, which are scheduled from end of 2016 onwards.

Asteco said the largest increases in apartment sales prices were found in Al Bandar, which saw a three per cent increase whereas Al Muneera, Al Zeina, Saadiyat Beach Residences all saw two per cent increases. Marina Square, Reef Downtown, Sun & Sky Towers and The Gate remained the same, stated the report.

According to Asteco, the villa sales prices in Raha Garden, Golf Gardens, Al Reef Villas, Saadiyat Beach Villas and Hydra Village saw no increase on the fourth quarter 2014 levels.

Comparing prime investment areas with lower-end Abu Dhabi island apartments, one and two-bedroom units in Shams Abu Dhabi are renting for up to Dh120,000 and Dh180,000 ($32663 and $48995) respectively versus Dh70,000 and Dh90,000 ($19,053 and $24,497) for apartments in Central Abu Dhabi.

Off-island the price drops even further with one and two-bedroom homes in Khalifa and MBZ City going for Dh55,000 and Dh80,000 ($14,970 and $21,775) per annum respectively.

A four-bedroom villa in Al Reef is currently renting for Dh155,000 ($42,190) per annum with a three-bedroom in Hydra Village leasing for around Dh95,000 ($25,858). By comparison a luxury three-bedroom property on Saadiyat Island would rent for up to Dh300,000 ($81,659) per annum.

Abu Dhabi's office market registered positive rental rate growth of 6-8 per cent for Grade A space in the first quarter of 2015 due to limited supply, especially of fitted and efficient space in new buildings.

"This in turn led to an increase in enquiries for better quality Grade B office space, although rental rates have not responded with increases due to the high volume of vacant office space currently available," remarked Oates.

Availability of office space for sale in Infinity Tower and Sky Tower on Reem Island will be further boosted this year with the addition of Addax Tower at City of Lights, he added.-TradeArabia News Service

Parking inspectors have right to fine even if driver is inside car

Sharjah Municipality's general parking management has said that inspectors can fine any car parked in the paid parking zone if the parking fee was not paid immediately.

Many people think that they have free 10 minutes to park without paying but this is actually optional and it is up to inspectors to give it or not, even if the driver was inside the car or standing next to it.

The municipality pointed out that there is no deadline for people who pay their parking fees via SMS, the person will be fined after one minute of the end of the ticket timing.

They explained that anyone who has any complaint against any of the parking inspectors, or any objection on any fines, should come to the administration, fill a complaint form, then it will be investigated in the presence of the inspector and review his career file, and clarify the situation from him.

In some of the parking areas, the driver might face broken automatic payment machines, in that case the driver should call the hotline number 993, to make a complaint about it by provide information about the machine's location and its number.

Pointing out that the numbers of automatic payment machines in Sharjah are 1060 machines and they are serviced every month.

Drivers in Sharjah had complained about inspectors of Sharjah Municipality for public paid parking giving them fines for parking in a wrong way, or because of non-payment of the parking fees, claiming that the inspectors fine them as soon as they park without giving them 10 minutes before fining them. Emirates 24/7

Bahrain issues edict on renting buildings

Bahrain's HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa (April 25) issued an edict adding an article to the executive bill of the Municipalities Law, a report said.

It stipulates that landlords shall notify the respective municipality when renting a building as a collective residence within 30 days after the signature of the contract, added the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

Landlords should also make sure that health and safety requirements are provided.

It also stipulates that eligible rooms for rent should be at least 10 feet high, and that each individual should be allocated 40 sq ft, with the maximum number of people within one room not exceeding eight. - TradeArabia News Service

Bahrain to award over $44bn development projects

Bahrain is set to award more than $44 billion worth of development projects this year with major focus on transportation, power and water sector, said a report.

Overall Bahrain's project market is valued at more than $65 billion, including projects planned and underway, according to a report by Meed Projects.

Sector-wise, the construction has the lion's share, with projects valued at $30.4 billion; followed by transportation ($10.9 billion) and power and water sector with $6.1 billion projects, stated the report released ahead of a key event.

The Bahrain Infrastructure and Finance Forum will be held on April 28 to 29 at the Crowne Plaza in Manama.

More than 80 delegates are expected to attend the forum, where experts will shed light on the plans and associated project opportunities across the kingdom's transport infrastructure, real estate, housing, tourism and healthcare sectors.

A comprehensive overview of Bahrain's reinvigorated projects market will be presented at the upcoming event, said Meed, the event organisers.

"There has never been a better time to enter a reinvigorated Bahrain projects market, and those looking to have a share of the billions worth of project opportunities will have a better appreciation of how to plan their strategies and address any challenges at the forum that is the only event in Bahrain to provide a comprehensive overview of the latest project developments in the kingdom," remarked Edmund O' Sullivan, the chairman of Meed.

Among the projects that will be put under scrutiny are Bahrain's latest land transport network initiatives, the $5-billion rail network and the $5-billion Saudi-Bahrain Causeway project.

Both are envisioned to promote the kingdom's Economic Vision, 2030 Masterplan, said experts.

Maryam Jam'an, the undersecretary for Land Transport, Ministry of Transport, will discuss in detail the developments about Bahrain's transport initiatives and investments to facilitate safer, faster, more efficient and convenient transportation network.

Significant investments are also being made in Bahrain's healthcare sector, with long-term healthcare development goals and related project opportunities such as the $18.4-million Diabetes Centre, the $29-million Dialysis Centre, and a $36.9-million long-term care facility.

Dr Waleed Khalifa Al Manea, the assistant undersecretary for hospitals, Ministry of Health will lead discussions on upcoming projects for hospitals and associated contractor opportunities over the coming years until 2023.

The other highlights include a construction leaders' panel session, which will identify the most lucrative opportunities in the kingdom's project market.

"This is expected to be of particular value for stakeholders in Bahrain's project market with insights from leading experts, who have been responsible for shaping many of the region's world-class projects," remarked Gabe Kobayashi, the general manager (Sales & Marketing) SULB Company, the headline sponsor of the event.

"We are delighted to partner with Meed on this important initiative to share views on what opportunities are available and the challenges that need to be addressed in Bahrain," he noted.

According to him, Bahrain's airport expansion programme and its role in the kingdom's economic diversification will also be a key focus of the forum, along with sustainability initiatives and the latest developments related to the overhaul of the country's sewage network.

With such massive opportunities at stake, financing will be a critical factor to ensure successful project delivery, he added.

Robert Ainey, the CEO of the Bahrain Association of Banks, will provide expert insights on the investment outlook in Bahrain, including assessment of market risks and mitigation strategies to safeguard investments, and requisites on liquidity for medium-and-large-sized projects and funding requirements.

Bahrain Infrastructure and Finance Forum has dedicated the second day of the event on the kingdom's real estate and tourism sectors, detailing various aspects of the planned 30,000 homes to be built next year.-TradeArabia News Service

Saudi to remain dominant in GCC construction market

Saudi Arabia is likely to remain the dominant construction market in the GCC for the foreseeable future, with an estimated $200 billion spend in construction planned over the next two years and much more in the pipeline, according to a report.

There are currently more than $2 trillion worth projects in GCC countries, with 60 per cent of which are taking place in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, said the Saudi Gazette report.

In terms of country spend, Saudi Arabia leads the way with $784 billion worth of projects, followed by the UAE with $669 million, it said.

Construction is a key economic driver in Saudi Arabia, providing a platform for almost every industry and strongly contributing towards the employment of Saudi nationals while providing growth potential to local businesses, Nathan Waugh, portfolio director, DMG events, the organiser of the recently concluded Big 5 Saudi 2015, was quoted as saying.

The construction sector showed the highest non-oil GDP growth rate at 6.7 per cent last year, and the 2015 budget demonstrates the continuation of the previous year's diversification plan, which provides major construction spending in key government segments, he added. -TradeArabia News Service

Arabtec eyes funding for big Egypt housing project

Dubai builder Arabtec said on Wednesday it was in talks with several local and international banks on financing the first phase of its project to build one million housing units in Egypt.

Arabtec, which has yet to sign a final deal on the project with the Cairo government, did not say how much it was looking to borrow or provide any other details.

Previously, Egyptian officials have said the entire project will cost about EŁ280 billion ($36.7 billion), and Arabtec has said the first phase will involve building 100,000 units.-Reuters

Qatar Rail completes 20km tunnel work for Doha metro

Qatar Railways Company (Qatar Rail), the company overseeing the construction of the country's integrated railway network, said it has completed digging nearly 20 km of tunnels for the Doha Metro project, a landmark that clearly highlights the progress of the tunnelling works underneath Doha city.

Qatar Rail,said it had already received the 21 tunnel boring machines (TBMs) assigned for the project, after being imported from Herrenknecht, the German world market leader in mechanised tunnelling technology.

Most of Qatar Rail TBMs are currently operational, with expectations to successfully accomplish the tunnelling phase by the second quarter of 2017, said senior officials at a press conference in Doha.

Announcing the metro work progress, Abdulla Abdulaziz Al Subaie, the managing director of Qatar Rail, said: "We have overcome many challenges to launch a successful tunnelling phase at Doha Metro project. Our philosophy is to talk about what we have achieved, rather than share intangible promises."

"Today, we are pleased to announce the completion of nearly 20 km of tunnels out of 113 km; a development that we at Qatar Rail are proud of. Thanks to all workers and stakeholders contributing to the success of this national project in alignment with Qatar's National vision 2030, the Doha Metro tunnelling works are progressing as planned in adherence to global standards," he stated.

Al Subaie said keeping the residents and citizens' convenience in mind, Qatar Rail was keen to implement most of the metro project underground where TBMs interfere very little with the vibrant city life through advanced technology and eco-friendly mechanism.

The TBMs, he stated, are a key component in implementing the Doha Metro innovative project - a high-tech mechanised alternative to conventional methods of design-and-build mining, drilling and blasting tunnels through everything from soft ground to hard rocks.

They form circular tunnels through the rock, and can install concrete linings along the drilled sections to reinforce the bored tunnel and stabilise the ground, he added.

The Doha Metro's Red Line has launched all tunnel-boring machines, which are Lebretha, Al Mayeda, Al Khor, Al Biddaa, Lehwaila, Al Wakra, Msheireb, Doha and Al Zubara. Tunnelling works are progressing according to plan where the total stretch dug by these TBMs reached 11,880 m for both the northern and southern sections.

In parallel, the Green Line also launched its six TBMs with an accumulative tunnelling of 6,653 m executed by Al Rayyan, Al Gharrafa, Al Messila, Al Sheehaniya, Leatooriya and Lijmailiya TBMs, while the tunnelling drive recorded 150 m until now at the Gold Line, which has received its six tunnel-boring machines, namely Lusail, Sharq, Al Sadd, Al Waab, Al Sailiya and Ras bu Abboud (Airport City North).

Qatar Rail CEO Saad Ahmed Al Muhannadi said: "During the past year, we have achieved remarkable milestones on the Doha Metro and Lusail Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects, thanks to the joint efforts of the company and its contractors."

"Particularly, the tunnelling phase for the Doha Metro was successfully launched as we achieved great records of 11,880 m of tunnel dug at the Red Line, 6,653 m at the Green Line and 150 m at the Gold Line. With skilled team and advanced machines, we were able to tackle obstacles and ensure works are moving forward," he added.-TradeArabia News Service

Qatar's Education City trams undergo testing ahead of summer delivery

The first trains designed to run on a new 11.5km tram network across Qatar Foundation's Education City campus have been built and are being tested in Austria ahead of an expected delivery this summer.

The US$412 million project is intended to facilitate a car-free campus and provide public transportation to key locations through 24 stations.

Students and staff will eventually be required to leave their vehicles in multistory car parks around the perimeter of the property and ride the tram to their classrooms and offices.

Qatar Foundation campus

When completed, the new people-mover system is expected to be one of the region's most energy efficient transport systems.

It is envisioned to transport an average of 3,300 people in each direction an hour, with trains operating at four-minute intervals during peak time.

QF announced in 2012 that it had signed a contract with German engineering company Siemens to build a total of 19 trams, although only 16 trams will be in operation at any given time.

Eight trams are scheduled for delivery to QF by this summer, with the remainder due to make their way to Qatar by the end of the year, a Siemens spokesman told Doha News.

Onsite testing is set to begin early next year, with the first passengers scheduled to ride the tram by fall 2016, QF previously said.

Climate tests

So far, at least four trams have been built and are undergoing rigorous climate testing in a specially built facility in Vienna to ensure that they can withstand the extreme heat and high humidity of a Qatar summer.

The trams are being tested to make sure that the on-board climate controls can maintain an interior temperature of 25C, even when they are fully loaded with passengers and when the weather outside is upwards of 40C Celsius.

Humidifiers and heating pads have been added to the trams to simulate passengers, while artificial light is being shone on the vehicles to replicate the intense summer sun Qatar receives, according to specialist website Railway Gazette.

The Rail Tec climate chamber is also testing the performance of the hybrid energy storage units, which will recharge from overhead conductor rails at stations. The batteries, meanwhile, which will store energy created when breaking.

This system will power the trams and will mean there is no need for unsightly and potentially dangerous overhead cables.

The low-floor Avenio trams will be wheelchair accessible and are also designed with sunshades to protect the electrical equipment which will be mounted on the roof, Railway Gazette added.

The vehicles measure 27 meters by 2.5 meters and have a capacity of 222 passengers: 60 seated and 162 standing.

The construction of the track, stations, depot and civil engineering work worth $124 million is being undertaken by Habtoor Leighton Group.

Education City

Last summer, QF said that the first tracks for the system were being laid, most of which will run at ground level. A 1km-long viaduct will connect the Qatar National Convention Center with Sidra Medical and Research Center, while a tunnel will create a link under the Dukhan Highway.

The trams will also be used during the World Cup to provide transport for football fans to the stadium at Education City, which will be used for matches through to the quarter-finals.

Eventually, the plans are for the system to link up to the Doha Metro through the Green Line.

QF did not respond to Doha News requests for an update on the latest progress of construction of the tracks and stations.Doha News

British expats in Qatar warned no passport extensions after April 10

Starting next week, Britons living in Qatar will no longer be able to apply for a one-year extension on their passports, the UK's Home Office has advised.

Instead, after April 10 they have been told they will need to apply to renew their passports "in the standard way," and should expect to wait a minimum of six weeks from when the application is received in the UK.

Those applying for first passports for adults and children, or the replacement of lost or stolen passports, face a wait of at least eight weeks, according to information posted on the Home Office website.

British authorities introduced the temporary one-year extension to passports in June last year while facing a severe backlog in passport processing.

The delays were prompted by a change in procedure for expats' passports, and the closure of regional passport offices around the world. Since March last year, British nationals have been required to send their passports to the UK for processing.

New advice

However, the Home Office said that as demand for passports are "returning to expected levels" the British home secretary had amended the extension procedures.

After April 10, there will be no appointments issued for passport extensions, although anyone with a confirmed appointment can still proceed with the extension.

Those who have existing passport extensions will be contacted by the British Passport Office at least two months before the expiry of their stamp to remind them to renew their passports, the statement on the Home Office website said.

Turnaround times for passport applications vary, depending on the type of passport applied for and the circumstances around it. According to advice on the Home Office website, expected waiting time for applications are:

The application could take longer if documents are missing or photographs are rejected, and applicants are warned not to book travel before they have received their passports. the advice adds.

A spokesperson for the British Embassy Doha said:

"Now that overseas turnaround time for passport applications has improved significantly, the Home Office has made the decision to end the temporary passport extension stamp from 10 April.

Applications from British citizens in Doha will take at least six weeks from the point they are received by the Passport Office in the UK, so we encourage all British passport holders in Qatar to apply well in advance of their holidays in order to avoid disruption to their travel plans."

Qatar reaction

While some of the 20,000 Brits currently living in Qatar expressed their disappointment at a potentially long wait, others said they had recently received their documents more quickly than expected:

Some Qatar residents pointed out that wait for a new passport for other nationalities is even longer:

However, the eight-week turnaround time could continue to be tricky for new parents in Qatar. Babies who are born here must obtain their residency permit within two months, or face daily fines. RPs cannot be obtained without a passport.

Emergency travel

Emergency travel documents can still be issued by the British Embassy in Qatar by appointment with the consular section, if a citizen needs to travel urgently and does not have a valid passport.

While such documents are not generally issued to babies without a British passport, applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, an embassy spokesperson told Doha News.

The emergency documents are only valid for one-way travel to the UK or other countries that accept them, and citizens seeking to travel to countries other than the UK should check first with the embassy if they will be valid.

For example, the only Gulf country that accepts such documents is Oman, so Britons traveling to the UK must fly directly there, or via Muscat. They cannot travel on an indirect flight via Dubai, for example, the embassy spokesperson said.

The emergency documents do not permit a person to return to Qatar, so the citizen must apply for and receive a new passport before they fly back into Hamad International Airport.

Meanwhile, there have also been recent changes to the registration of births and deaths of British citizens living abroad.

Previously, these could be done at embassies. However under the new regulations, births and deaths should be registered in the UK.

Payment for the service can be done online, and the required documents, which can be downloaded, must be sent by courier to the UK for processing, which takes around five working days from receipt of the documents. Doha News

RJ looks to restructure capital

AMMAN -- The senior management of Royal Jordanian (RJ), the Kingdom's national carrier, will propose restructuring the company's capital at a meeting with shareholders early next month.

In a disclosure to the Jordan Securities Commission, posted on the website of the Amman Stock Exchange on Thursday, RJ Chairman Suleiman Hafez invited shareholders to an ordinary session on May 2 to discuss the airline's financial plans.

The session will be followed immediately by an extraordinary meeting of the general assembly.

The disclosure said discussions at the ordinary session will focus on the 2014 financial year and the action plan for 2015 to be approved by shareholders, as well as RJ's budget, profits and losses in 2014, in addition to selecting an auditing company for 2015.

But in the extraordinary session, the general assembly will listen to a proposal to reduce RJ's capital by JD37.9 million, from JD84.3 million to JD46.4 million.

The move to lower the capital, the disclosure signed by Hafez said, aims at writing off part of the financial losses incurred in 2014.

However, the general assembly will also be briefed on plans to re-increase the company's capital by JD200 million to stand at JD246.4 million, the disclosure said, adding that part of the new capital will be allocated to the government or major shareholders who own over 10 per cent of the shares.

The government is the major shareholder with 26 per cent of the airline's shares, followed by the Mint Trading Middle East Limited (19 per cent), the Social Security Corporation (10 per cent) and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (3 per cent), while the remaining shares are owned by other Jordanian and non-Jordanian companies and individuals.

According to RJ figures, 70 per cent of the shares are owned by Jordanians.

Legally, the shares owned by Jordanians in RJ should be no less than 51 per cent for the company to be able to enjoy the traffic rights arrived at after signing deals with other countries. Zawya

Kuwait to deport expats driving without licenses

KUWAIT: Expats to be caught driving without licenses would face immediate deportation as of Thursday due to traffic safety reasons, the Ministry of Interior said yesterday. The decision came in line with the traffic law and executive bylaw, said a statement by the Ministry's Security Media Department.

It aims at curbing the phenomenon of expats driving without valid licences, posing hazardous threats to themselves and others on roads. The statement referred to the move as a preventive measure that seeks in the first place to guarantee full commitment to state laws and systems. It stressed seriousness by the concerned security and traffic bodies about implementing the decision. Zawya

Rotana signs new property in Nigeria

UAE-based hotel group Rotana has signed its first property in Nigeria under the brand Centro, located in Lagos, the country's largest city.

The 200 plus-key Hotel and Serviced Apartments, to be launched in partnership with Topwide Ventures Limited, will be situated on Glover Road, Ikoyi.

Rotana's debut in Nigeria furthers the group's strategic expansion plans in the African market and adds to its existing portfolio in the continent, which includes properties in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan, and Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.

"Despite being home to a flourishing hospitality industry, Lagos has the highest average rates on hotel accommodation in Africa. Centro Lagos fills this major gap in the industry and heralds a potential paradigm shift in the city's hospitality scene," said Omer Kaddouri, president and CEO of Rotana. "Africa is a vastly underserved market with huge potential for growth, and Rotana is very keen to expand its pipeline in the continent. The African region will remain a focus market for Rotana in the years to come as we move towards our goal of operating 100 hotels by 2020."

According to Chief, Senator Annie Okonkwo, The Chairman of Topwide ventures Limited, "Rotana is a true pioneer in the hotel industry who has established a global reputation for creating world-class hospitality environments, and we are very proud to be introducing such an acclaimed brand to the city of Lagos. Once open, the new Centro hotel and Serviced Apartments will provide travellers a more accessible and affordable option right in the heart of Lagos, with the same high standards of elegance, comfort and convenience that guests have come to expect from a Rotana property."

Centro is Rotana's affordable lifestyle brand that redefines the concept of economical comfort by offering superior class accommodation and hospitality. Young and fresh in its approach, the Centro brand caters to the demands of the new generation of travellers who seek both finesse and functionality at reasonable rates.

With the launch of the Centro, Rotana is expecting to benefit from the rising demand for affordable hotels in Lagos while capitalising on the continued strong economic activity across Nigeria.

Moreover, Rotana is currently developing a hotel apartment project in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; a five-star hotel and serviced apartments in Tanzania which will be part of the landmark MNF Square mixed-use project in Dar es Salaam; and a five-star hotel in Mauritania located within the Ribat Al Bahar project under Rotana's "Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts by Rotana" brand. - TradeArabia News Service

Samsung Launches First Digital Village in Nigeria

SAMSUNG Electronics West Africa is set to launch its first Digital Village in the Oban community in Nigeria, which is located in the Akamkpa Local Government Area of the Cross River State.

The project, which is part of the company's strategic Corporate Citizenship program, will provide access to innovative healthcare and educational needs for the community, with the aim of improving health outcomes, strengthening education delivery and increasing the economic potential of Oban.

Highlighting the unique features of this solution, Managing Director of SEWA, Brovo Kim, said that the Samsung Digital Village is innovative in its design due to its use of alternative energy, which remains a major challenge in Nigeria and is often an obstacle in implementing such initiatives in rural communities.

"The Digital Village demonstrates our innovative approach to investing in people and their communities. This initiative offers a complete educational infrastructure, comprehensive healthcare solution and power generation capabilities that will spur the growth of small businesses and harness the energy of the sun to minimise running costs, among others," Kim said. All Africa

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