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Opening Of The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo Marks A New Era For The Majestic Property

Cairo, Egypt - The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo, the iconic luxury hotel on the shores of the Nile, opened its doors to a new wave of global travelers to the historic city today. The landmark property, which reopened under the stewardship of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., will offer leisure and business travelers to the city an opulent retreat in the heart of Cairo that is rich in history and intuitive in service.

The grand opening of the iconic property, offers visitors from around the world a stately vantage point to witness the resurgence of one of the world's most famous historic destinations. "Cairo is a city that fuses the majesty of the past with the pulse of the present and the promise of the future," stated Herve Humler, President & C.O.O., The Ritz-Carlton.

"Visitors over the centuries have been drawn by its ever-evolving mix of history, trade and culture, which continues to draw adventurists, as well as families and business travelers to this vibrant city. With millennial travelers seeking luxury as part of their travel experience, the Nile Ritz-Carlton Cairo marries this "bucket-list" city with world-class services. This has not only made Cairo more appealing but has also given us the opportunity to raise our first Ritz-Carlton flag in on the banks of the Nile."

Coca-Cola opens new production line for Cairo plant

US drinks giant Coca-Cola opened Thursday a new production line for its bottling plant in Cairo. The plant employs around 12,600 workers.

The inauguration ceremony was in the presence of Egyptian Minister of Manpower Gamal Sorour and Salam El-Hammamy - President and Chief Operating Offier of Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt.

Coca-Cola announced its commitment to invest US$500 million in Egypt within three years, during the Economic Development Conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh last March. The investment will fund new manufacturing, distribution, sales and marketing capabilities, which will include the opening of a new bottling facility in 6th of October City in 2016, while creating additional employment opportunities.

Coca-Cola exports 70 percent of its production in Egypt; while 30 percent is for domestic use, said Curt Ferguson, president of the company in the Middle East and North Africa, during a Euromoney conference held in Cairo in September 2015.

Arab Contractors to establish water network in Egypt's new capital city

Egypt-based Arab Contractors has started carrying out water and sanitation network project in the first phase of the country's new administrative capital, chairman Mohsen Salah said Thursday. The project is set to be finished within three months.

He added that the ministry of housing has officially assigned the company to execute and complete the project within the agreed timeline of three months.

The new capital which will be located 45 kilometres of the southern part of Cairo and it is among many projects that have been under new regime of president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi designed specifically to attract foreign investors in times that Egypt wants to create jobs to fit its fast-growing population which stands at 90 million.

Dubai residential prices on the decline in Q3

The residential prices across Dubai, UAE, continued to decline in the third quarter with a sharp drop in apartment lease and sales rates compared to the previous quarter, said a report.

Additionally, the quantity of announced residential projects in Dubai reached a saturation point in the third quarter, stated property expert Phidar Advisory in its residential research note.

"However, there is no reason to panic because some announced and even launched projects are not viable, so handover is not expected in the stated timeframe," remarked Jesse Downs, the managing director of Phidar Advisory.

"However, developers and other stakeholders should monitor this carefully and plan appropriately." she cautioned.

Based only on supply pipeline estimates, the five-year forecast for supply is 2.8 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) whereas the demand has a robust 5.8 per cent CAGR, largely due to jobs created by the development and running of the Expo 2020 project, which should start to ramp up in 2018.

Phidar's supply pipeline estimates include only those projects actively under construction. However, when supply estimates include launched or announced projects without site progress, the 5-year supply CAGR jumps to 5.9 per cent-6.7 per cent.

Compared to the first half, Phidar's Dubai Real Estate International Demand Index (REIDI) dropped eight per cent by the end of the third quarter, driven by exchange rate fluctuations.

Phidar's Dubai REIDI is not a measure of actual capital flows, but a real time indicator intended to assess the propensity for attracting capital inflows into Dubai real estate. It is a composite index of GDP and foreign currency z-scores for 22 countries.

In the third quarter, apartment lease rates decreased a nominal -0.5 per cent, while sale prices decreased 3.6 per cent, pushing yields up to 7.5 per cent.

Lease rates for single family homes, also referred to as villas, decreased 1.5 per cent and sale prices decreased 3.4 per cent, which pushed yields up to 4.8 per cent, according to Phidar's House Price Indices. The current yield expansion is necessary and healthy in the ongoing market correction.

"In the context of regional economic and geopolitical volatility, yield increase is a sensible trend in Dubai real estate," said Downs.

"Market transparency is crucial because it can reduce perceived and actual market risk, which can compress yields and thereby positively impact asset values," stated Downs.

"Of course, there are other sources of risk, but access to real time, high quality information will be a key step in our market maturation and Phidar is committed to contributing to that process," she added.

Abu Dhabi residential rents down on weak demand

The Abu Dhabi property market showed signs of fragmentation in the third quarter as average residential rental prices saw a slight quarterly decline with demand levels having weakened, said a report.

The average residential market rentals saw a marginal decline of around one per cent quarter on quarter, whilst maintaining around two to three per cent growth over the past quarters, stated global real estate consultancy firm CBRE in its Q3 2015 Abu Dhabi MarketView.

The emirate's residential market, however, enjoyed an annual growth rate of close to eight per cent during the period, it added.

The negative impact of the economic slowdown is evidently being felt in the Abu Dhabi residential market, with rents finally being checked after a series of quarterly rental growth, which stretched back to the third quarter of 2013.

Mat Green, the head of research and consultancy UAE, CBRE Middle East, said: "The market is showing some signs of fragmentation, with older and poorer quality apartments - particularly those in secondary locations - experiencing rental declines and these declines have dragged down the performance of the wider market."

"However, residential villas depict a contrasting trend, recording a small increase of one per cent during the third quarter of 2015. The limited supply, particularly within the main Abu Dhabi island, reinforced the steady performance of this segment," noted Green.

Amongst residential property types, smaller units such as studios and one-bedroom apartment units remain in strong demand. On average, the annual rentals for upper middle and high-end properties ranged from Dh60,000-105,000 ($16,331 to $28,580) for studios and Dh85,000-150,000 ($23,136 to $40,828) for one bedroom units.

In comparison, the rental prices for inferior housing units and those situated outside in tertiary locations ranged from Dh30,000-50,000 ($8,165 to $13,609)/unit/annum for studios and one bedrooms respectively, said the CBRE report.

The price differentiation is attributed to a combination of factors including quality, location, facilities and the proximity and accessibility of residential schemes to key commercial and social centres, it added.

According to Green, the higher income individuals and corporate occupiers continue to show a preference for master-planned developments, particularly established communities which offer residents access to facilities and services.

"As a result, prime developments across the capital have shown greater resilience to the emergence of more challenging market conditions during the quarter. This is reflected in the widening rental gap, as rentals for new leases remain unchanged from the previous quarter despite the prevailing market conditions," he added.

Whilst there are clearly some headwinds for the residential market, the low level of expected completions over the next three years will help provide a cushion against the ill effects of the declining commercial market and a slowdown in some other sectors of the economy which ultimately influences demand for housing, said the report.

On average, the emirate will see around 8,500 new housing units per annum over the next three years, in contrast to the 11,000 units which have been completed annually over the past five years.

Whilst the sales market has been somewhat subdued in recent quarters, key investment locations, such as Raha Beach and Reem Island, have witnessed marginal growth in annual terms. The prices for more affordable masterplan developments, such as Al Reef and Hydra Village, have remained unchanged during the quarter.

According to the MarketView, the local office market is starting to feel the strain of lower oil prices with declining demand and rentals.

With the oil and gas and public sectors serving as the primary office demand generator, demand for office space from both new occupiers and expansion of existing end-users has started to slow. These conditions have also had a knock- on effect on other parts of the office sector, including some professional service companies, such as law firms, which rely heavily on work from government and government-related institutions, said the report.

"Offices at Mubadala's Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Square are the notable exception to these rents, with asking rates starting from Dh2,900 ($789)/sq m/annum. However, we understand that leasing activities are currently on hold whilst the ADGM Regulatory Authority finalises the licensing and operational regulations," sated Green.

"Whilst the wider market is expected to face further deflation of rental rates, the prime segment is anticipated to show greater resilience to prevailing conditions. With the majority of Grade-A office developments achieving high occupancy rates and with more limited stock overall, prime rents are expected to remain broadly stable in the short-term," he added.

On the hospitality sector, CBRE said there has also been a slight increase in the average ADR ( average daily rate) which was recorded at just under Dh500 ($136)/room/night.

Abu Dhabi's year-to-date occupancy rate (up to August 2015) is around 72 per cent; which is marginally up on the same period last year when occupancy rates averaged close to 71 per cent, stated the expert citing data from STR Global.

According to the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA), total guest arrivals into the emirate during the first half reached close to two million, reflecting healthy growth of nearly 17 per cent as compared to the same period last year. This generated a total of 5,728,765 guest nights, up 11 per cent over last year.

The positive impact of higher visitor numbers also translated into higher revenues, with hotels recording a eight per cent increase to hit Dh3.346 billion ($911 million).

This was driven by a 11 per cent growth in room revenue and a smaller one per cent increase in food and beverage revenue.

Commenting on the outlook, Green said: "With on-going economic challenges brought about by a period of lower oil pricing, US dollar strength, and sustained global uncertainty, the outlook for Abu Dhabi's real estate market is for a period of further deflation in the short term."

"We expect to see a fragmented marketplace, with more pronounced declines to be experienced in secondary locations and for inferior products. As a result, we forecast that prime developments in the office and residential sectors, will see steadier performances across rentals and occupancy rates, aided by the availability of limited available stock, both currently and within the future development pipeline," noted the expert.

"Whilst the hospitality market performance has been steady in recent quarters, there may still be some short term negative impacts to be felt as a result of declining demand from government and corporate activity," cautioned Green.

"However, as yet the slowdown which has impacted Abu Dhabi's commercial market, has not manifested itself in the form of negative ADR or occupancy growth," he added.

UAE announces 5-day National Day holiday

The UAE has announced a five-day holiday for the National Day and Martyrs' Day, beginning December 1, for ministries and federal government departments.

Work will resume on December 6, Wam news agency said quoting a circular issued by the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources.

The UAE marks its National Day on December 2.

Expats to get new IDs when renewing Iqamas

RITADH - The new identity cards to be issued for expatriates starting Oct. 15 will not be compulsory for those whose current Iqamas (residence permits) have not yet expired, according to the director general of the Passports Department (Jawazat).

"The expatriates whose residence permits are still valid do not have to replace them with the new identity cards," Maj. Gen. Solaiman Al-Yahya said.

He said the carriers of valid residence permits can continue to use them until the time for their renewal has come. The new ID will be valid for five years. It will be renewed online every year.

The holders do not have to go to the Jawazat themselves but can do the renewal through the Interior Ministry's Absher or Muqeem electronic systems.

"The current iqama should be sent to the Jawazat through the Saudi Post. It will be changed into the new ID and sent back by post to the beneficiary on his/her postal address," Al-Yahya said.

He said the Jawazat is issuing the new Muqeem ID with the help of the National Information Center of the Interior Ministry and the Saudi Post.

"The five-year ID will bear no expiry date. It will carry the name of the expatriate, nationality, date of birth, occupation, religion, number of work permit (if there is any), employer's name and telephone number," he said.

Al-Yahya said the new Muqeem card is an identity document of the employee and the employer.

He said the Jawazat has completed all arrangements for the issuance of the new card.

The new cards have a number of features which make them tough to tamper with or forge. The annual fee to issue or renew a card will remain the same, but expatriates will have to pay for five years at one time.

Last month Al-Yahya said that expatriates caught committing minor residency law violations such as not carrying their Iqamas (residence permits) or carrying expired Iqamas will not be detained.

He said the Interior Ministry has started taking steps to reduce the number of cases of expatriates detained for petty residency violations.

"He said Jawazat is taking measures to expedite the procedures relating to expatriates.

"We are approaching a time when the Jawazat will not have any expatriates detained for passport violations," Al-Yahya said.

Danish company wins Saudi district cooling contract

Danish engineer Ramboll said it has won a major contract from Saudi-based Umm Al Qura for Development & Construction Company for a 500 MW district cooling project in Makkah.

As per the contract, Ramboll will act as technical advisor for the district cooling scheme in King Abdul Aziz Road Project and deliver conceptual design, employer's requirements and procurement assistance.

In executing the tunnelling works, the official said, the company has achieved a huge milestone by breaking the world record for the largest number of tunnel boring machines operating at the same time in one city. "This is simply a grand project. The project will need 150 MW power to produce the 500 MW of cooling and this has a significant impact on the power network. Our first deliveries will be the design, location and quantity of the chiller plants together with the piping design and advice on the buildings' connectivity to the pipeline network," remarked Jens Ole Hansen, the head of the international district energy department in Copenhagen.

"And in the second phase we will assist the client in the procurement of the chiller plants," he added.

The contract is part of a plan to build a pedestrian pathway along 3.65-km-long King Abdul Aziz Road, which runs from the city's western outskirts to the Grand Mosque.

The project includes the construction of two roads, a metro line, a grand mosque and over 200 plots that will house more than 100,000 people on a sprawling 6.3 million sq m area, said Ole Hansen.

Ramboll said over the last eight years, 3,600 dilapidated buildings had been demolished in Makkah in order to clear up space for a new central pedestrian pathway.

Bahrain public transport firm launches new services

Enhanced customer services have been announced by Bahrain's public transport network system. The hotline at the Bahrain Public Transport Company (BPTC), the operators of the network, will now be operational seven days a week, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

New 500-bed hospital to be built in Al Khor

A new 500-bed hospital and an emergency centre is set to be built in Al Khor, Qatar at a cost of QR3.6 billion ($1 billion), according to a report.

The Public Works Authority (Ashghal) will be handling the proposed hospital, which has been slated to begin by mid-2017, said The Peninsula report.

The 'New Al Khor Hospital' will also feature several operation theatres and out-patient departments (OPD), it said.

The details about the project was disclosed at a community event organised by Ashghal in coordination with the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning and members of the Central Municipal Council (CMC) at Al Khor Sports Club.

Qatar labour law changes 'a sham', says trade union ITUC

Labour law changes announced by the Emir of Qatar add a new layer of repression for migrant workers and leave the kafala sponsorship system intact, according to International Trade Union Confederation.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said "Promises of reform have been used as a smokescreen to draw in companies and governments to do business in Qatar as the Gulf state rolls out massive infrastructure developments to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup."

The ITUC said in a statement that the new labour law does not abolish exit permits, and workers still have to get their employers' permission to leave the country. It said migrant workers do not have the right to join a union while domestic workers remain wholly excluded from the labour law.

Under the new proposals approved by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, which will be introduced in 2017, workers will be able to leave the country after giving at least three days' notice to the interior ministry.

Officials will then contact the employer or sponsor for approval.

In addition, workers will be allowed to change jobs at the end of a contract, without the consent of their bosses.

Qatar had announced earlier this year that it was committed to reform of the "kafala" system, which has been the object of scorn from rights groups, ever since the country was awarded the right to host the football World Cup in 2022.

But Burrow said: "International companies doing business in Qatar can no longer be lured by Qatar's promises of reform. The threat to the reputation of international companies using an enslaved migrant workforce in Qatar has increased with the Governments sham reforms."

She said a meeting of the International Labour Organisation's Governing Body meeting in Geneva in November will consider a Commission of Inquiry into abuse of migrant workers in Qatar putting governments and companies under increasing pressure to protect migrant workers in Qatar.

The investigation would look at Qatar's failure to act on ILO findings that it is violating both the ILO's forced labour Convention and labour inspection Convention and have wide ranging implications for companies doing business in Qatar.

"The tragedy of 1.7 million migrant workers trapped in Qatar defines modern day slavery and the denial of trade union rights for workers in the Gulf states. Qatar continues not only to deny workers their rights, but to obscure and ignore the deaths of migrant workers building the 2022 World Cup infrastructure," said Burrow.

New census data released by the Government of Qatar last week shows the population has increased by 40 percent since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010 including 700,000 more migrant workers.

"More than 7,000 workers will die in Qatar before the start of the 2022 World Cup, based on data from the Qatar Supreme Council for Health on death rates of migrant workers of working age which reveal an annual death toll of over 1,000 migrant workers," added Burrow.

"Qatar has to stop covering up its treatment of migrant workers, and governments and business need to end their complicity with modern slavery. Qatar's migrant worker population is set to peak by 2017, to deliver the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. Only by ending the kafala system now, giving workers the right to freedom of association, can we ensure migrant workers in Qatar have a safe and secure future," said Burrow.

Qatar to provide health insurance for all expats next year

Qatar's Social Medical Insurance Scheme (Seha) is set to be extended to expats from next year, according to the local media agency.

The Minister of Public Health, Abdullah bin Khalid Al Qahtani told Qatar News Agency that the extension of health cover to expats is part of the third and last phase of Seha, which will include all resident employees, workers, domestic helpers and visitors.

"Adding workers to the third phase will coincide with the opening of new hospitals planned for single workers next year," he said.

Al Qahtani told the newspaper that the cost of providing the health insurance for workers will be borne by the employers and that the premium will not be deducted from their salaries.

The health insurance will come in varying packages, depending on the sector the expat is working in.

"For example, the insurance package for personnel will differ from workers and from domestic workers, while the insurance for visitors will only cover emergency services," Al Qahtani said.

The first phase of Seha was launched in July 2013, and included Qatari females aged 12 and above. The second phase was then launched in April 2014 to include all Qatari citizens.

Since its introduction, Al Qahtani said Seha has paid medical bills worth QR1.285 billion ($353 million).

Oman Air starts daily Dreamliner flights to Frankfurt

Oman Air, the sultanate's national carrier, will be flying daily to German city of Frankfurt on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner from its hub in Muscat starting from tomorrow (October 25).

Oman Air's CEO Paul Gregorowitsch said with this move Oman Air has become the only airline to offer direct, non-stop flights between Muscat and Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, London, Milan and Zurich.

"Frankfurt is one of Oman Air's most important international destinations and we are delighted to offer customers on this route an early opportunity to experience our wonderful new Dreamliner aircraft.

The direct flights depart Muscat at 2pm and arrive in Frankfurt at 6.45pm. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, the return flights will take off from Frankfurt at 8.20pm and land in Muscat at 6am, while the flights on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays will leave Frankfurt at 9.35pm and arrive in Muscat at 7.15am.

"Oman Air's Dreamliners offer extraordinary levels of style and comfort for our long haul passengers. Their unique technology and innovative engineering have ensured that the aircraft has fast become an icon of 21st Century air travel. Together with Oman Air's superb new cabins and seating, and our legendary Omani hospitality, it will offer our customers a tremendous passenger experience," remarked Gregorowitsch.

The Boeing B787 Dreamliner is the first commercial aircraft to utilise carbon composites in its airframe manufacture.

It is lighter and uses 20 per cent less fuel than similarly-sized aircraft. It also offers greater range, produces fewer In addition, its spacious cabins include large, electronically-dimmable windows that provide more natural light and improved views, even for those sitting in central seats, said the airline in a statement.

Gregorowitsch said Oman Air had initially ordered six Dreamliners, with the first two being delivered this autumn. Four more will follow before the end of 2018.

The carrier's expansion of its long haul fleet is part of a broader fleet and network expansion programme, currently underway. This will see Oman Air operate 25 wide-body and 45 narrow-body aircraft by 2020, he added.

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