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Jordan and BP sign gas exploration deal

Oct 30 2009 12:00AM



Jordan signed an agreement with British Petroleum (BP) to explore for natural gas reserves near the border with Iraq.
Under the agreement, BP plans to invest $237m to explore the Risheh field, which currently produces 21 million cubic feet a day. However, BP said it would spend $8bn to $10bn in the second phase if it discovers large reserves to develop the field to produce between 300 million cubic feet and one billion cubic feet a day.
Source: AFP


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Development and exploration initiatives worth over $196 billion on-going across the GCC oil and gas sector

Nov 3 2009 12:00AM



Development and exploration investments valued at over USD 196 billion are being undertaken across the GCC oil and gas (O&G) sector, according to latest published reports.
As the region remains on track with its massive oil and gas expansion initiatives, SAS, the leading provider of business intelligence and analytic software and services, is offering solutions that helps upstream, midstream and downstream companies in the Middle East O&G sector transform masses of data into operational intelligence. In addition, the critical and timely insight provided by the solutions can also fuel companies’ competitive advantage, proactive decision making and enhanced reserves exploitation.
The current economic crisis has prompted O&G companies in the Middle East, to enhance reservoir characterization and flow modeling based on geostatistical analysis to accurately estimate reserves. By using SAS’ solutions, companies can make reserves-exploitation decisions more quickly and accurately while ensuring consistency across silos and enabling geoscientists to perform interpretive assignments without being burdened by data preparation. In addition the company also offers solutions that provide O&G players a detailed view of integrated operations, subsurface and overall performance, with data management and predictive capabilities.
“In addition to multibillion dollar investments the region’s O&G players are undertaking at present, plans to expand the market through a massive investment worth USD 365 billion in the future are also in place. This reflects how oil and gas remain a very important economic driver and a critical resource for the region’s economy,” said Peter C. Venn, Regional Director - Oil & Gas, SAS - Middle East & Africa. “Leveraging the technologies we have developed specifically for this market, we are offering technology-driven solutions, which can bolster the exploration and development initiatives being undertaken by regional O&G companies. By using our solutions to draw valuable insights from the massive volume of data available, issues pertaining to declining reserves, deteriorating assets and long-term supply will be more efficiently addressed.”
One of the most important advantages SAS’ O&G solutions offer is their capacity to facilitate sustainable production improvements and enhance overall operational efficiency, safety and integrity by transforming planning and decision making into an open, well-documented process that can be replicated by a broad range of stakeholders. More relevant now than ever, the solutions also help lower maintenance costs by performing predictive, preventive maintenance on assets with minimal disruption to production. Companies can also gain foresight that can increase production uptime and ultimate profitability, thereby mitigating the impact of unplanned shutdowns.
“Many national oil companies in the Middle East are capitalizing on the lower construction materials and engineering costs and are now more open to adopting technology-driven solutions to power their development and exploration investments. With the current challenges in the market brought about by sheer size of the industry and the global economic slowdown, we believe that we can offer an excellent host of benefits through our predictive analytical solutions, which can further drive the growth of the region’s O&G sector,” concluded Venn.
Press release

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Jordan 9th best outsourcing destination

Nov 2 2009 12:00AM



Jordan has ranked 9th among the top 50 global outsourcing destinations in the 2009 A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index.
The report, titled, “The Shifting Geography of Offshoring”, called Jordan a “top performer”, noting that “it has solid capabilities in IT and is home to numerous successful outsourcing companies that compete internationally”.
A.T. Kearney also highlighted that the Kingdom has “one of the region’s most favourable business environments”, adding that the falling value of the US dollar has boosted Jordan’s competitiveness as the dinar is pegged to the dollar.
According to the report, the ratings were reached by evaluating each country against 43 measurements across three major categories: financial attractiveness, people skills and availability, and business environment.
The report also pointed out that the Middle East and North Africa region is emerging as a major outsourcing destination, noting that: “Home to large, well-educated populations, with low costs and proximity to Europe, the area has the potential to redraw the offshoring map.”
In 2004, only two Middle Eastern countries - Turkey and Israel - were included in the report, which now also includes Egypt (ranked 6th), Tunisia (17th), the UAE (29th) and Morocco (30th).
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Bassem Roussan said the A.T. Kearney report “is a testament to the considerable progress Jordan has made over the last few years” in becoming an investment destination, according to a statement from the USAID Jordan Economic Development Programme (SABEQ).
In the statement, Roussan emphasised that the government “will continue to focus on enabling the investment and regulatory environment, as well as building HR capacity as part of an effective partnership with the private sector”.
The statement also quoted Laith Al Qasem, SABEQ’s chief of party, as expressing the programme’s support for the Kingdom’s efforts to develop the outsourcing sector, saying: “Outsourcing can provide a large number of good-paying, high-value jobs for Jordanians in this particular sector of the knowledge economy.”
Also, a separate study compiled by Global Services Media and strategic advisory firm Tholons noted that Amman is poised to become a major hub for outsourcing within the next few years.
The “Top 50 Global Outsourcing Cities” report, sponsored in part by the Information Technology Association of Jordan, named the capital among its “Top 10 Aspirants”.
The list of aspirants includes emerging cities that did not make this year’s list, but have the potential to rank among the top 50 in coming years due to “their interest and recent efforts to develop outsourcing industry”, according to the Global Services-Tholons report.
Jordan Times


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Jordan’s foreign currency reserves surge by 31% in first 3 quarters

Nov 2 2009 12:00AM



Jordan’s foreign currencies reserves rose by 31.1 percent during the first nine months of 2009 compared to its levels at the end of 2008, showed figured released by the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ).
The figures showed that the country’s reserves of foreign currencies reached 10.15 billion Jordanian dinars (14.32 billion U.S. dollars) during the January-September period of this year.
Meanwhile, the CBJ figures said credit facilities extended by banks in Jordan during the first three quarters stood at 13.16 billion dinars, registering an increase of 0.9 percent compared to the end of 2008.
The figures also indicated that deposits at Jordan’s licensed banks rose by 8.9 percent during the first nine months to reach 19.66 billion dinars compared to the end of 2008.
Economists attributed the increase to cautiousness on part of clients, who are less inclined to invest in shares, real estate and other sectors in light of the global financial crisis. (1 U.S.dollar = 0.709 Jordanian dinar)
Xinhua


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The EIU forecasts real GDP growth in Jordan to rise by 3.0% in 2010 and 3.7% in 2011

Oct 28 2009 12:00AM



The Jordanian real GDP is forecasted to develop by 3.0% in 2010 and by a slightly higher 3.7% in 2011, as per country economic outlook released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The report signaled that because of a rein on expenditures and receding construction activities, the Kingdom is likely to witness a 2011 recovery lower than the highs of 2004-2008. Indeed, between 2004 and 2008, Jordan witnessed respectively the following growth levels: 8.4%, 8.1%, 8.0%, 6.6% and 5.6 %.
The said forecasts arise in an environment of weakening financial services and dropping foreign direct inflows as the Arab investors trim down their channeled oil wealth towards the country. On top, the complicated international financial conditions might set back consumer confidence, an impact expected to fade away in the latter stages of the forecast period.
The report also addressed inflation and forecasted that it would probably rise from 0.1% in 2009 to 1.1% by the end of 2010, and it shall also remain low at 2.5% in 2011. In fact, the EIU note that this decline in inflation is caused by falling oil prices and rising interest rates.

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Jordan’s King inaugurates first independent power plant

Oct 27 2009 12:00AM



His Majesty King Abdullah officially inaugurated the $300 million Amman East Power Project, which officials said will help increase Jordan’s electricity generation capacity by approximately 15 per cent.
The 370-megawatt (MW) combined cycle power plant, located 30 kilometers east of Amman, was built by AES Jordan PSC, a company owned by a consortium of AES Oasis Ltd. and Mitsui and Co. Ltd., which also owns and operates the plant.
The King also toured the plant and was briefed on its generation phases.
“The plant will help meet the surging demand on electricity in the Kingdom,” Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Khaldoun Qteishat told reporters.
According to the minister, demand on electricity in Jordan increases by about 7.4 per cent annually.
The facility, Jordan’s first independent power plant, runs on the natural gas provided by the pan-Arab gas pipeline from Egypt. The plant will be capable of switching to diesel fuel oil if needed, a statement by the company said, noting that the plant is an environment-friendly plant.
The strategic 270-kilometre gas pipeline between Jordan and Egypt was inaugurated by King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in July 2003. The line is the first phase of an inter-regional project that costs more than $1 billion.
According to the ministry, the Kingdom relies on natural gas for 80 per cent of its energy needs. In remarks at the inauguration ceremony, Qteishat said the project is an important demonstration of the success of the country’s energy strategy.
The Kingdom currently imports some 96 per cent of its energy needs, accounting for over one-fifth of its gross domestic product.
The minister said the financial closure for another independent plant, Al Qatraneh, is imminent, adding that the facility will generate about 370MW.
In their remarks at the ceremony, representatives of the consortium and implementing companies pointed out the benefits of the project, which, in the construction phase, hired 1,000 Jordanians and created about 40 direct jobs for local residents.
They also highlighted the potential of the project to help increase the Kingdom’s power generation and enable it to eventually export electricity.
The Amman East Power Project will deliver electricity to the National Electric Power Company through a 25-year power purchase agreement.
Jordan Times


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Real estate prices expected to rise in Jordan with falling dollar – experts

Oct 25 2009 12:00AM



Experts expect prices of residential apartments to rebound after a drop in their values this year due to the slowdown in the market.
Zuhair Omari, president of the Housing Investors Society, based his expectations on the decline in the US dollar exchange rate against the euro, which consequently affects the Jordanian dinar as it is pegged to the dollar.
“Construction material costs will increase because they are imported mainly from European markets,” he noted, adding that the cost of developing housing projects will also rise.
Economic expert Ali Tabbalat believes real estate prices are most likely to increase in mid-2010 if the value of the US dollar continues to decrease.
“The prices of residential apartments should be based on supply over demand criteria and not the value of the dinar,” Tabbalat said, noting that there is a slowdown in the market as supply is larger than demand.
According to investors in the market, demand on residential apartments increased during the past few months as buyers have benefited from a government decision, which is only valid until the end of this year, to exempt more apartments from registration fees upon purchase.
In May, the Cabinet decided to widen the exemption on the first 120 square metres of apartments sized 150 sq.m. or less, to apartments sized 300 sq.m. or less.
“The decision helped the sector recover, particularly in the third quarter of this year as buyers did not want to miss the opportunity to benefit from the exemption,” Omari said.
He told The Jordan Times on Thursday that the decision, which applies only to Jordanians, saved buyers an average of JD4,000 per apartment.
Mohammad Shobaki, marketing manager of Edraj Real Estate Company, agreed with Omari, noting that the number of clients has increased recently, particularly during the period when Jordanian expatriates were visiting the Kingdom.
Stating that the current cost of apartments is realistic, Omari indicated that prices of residential apartments this year have remained steady at about 15 per cent below last year’s.
“There is great competition in the real estate market as there are around 1,000 housing companies operating in the sector,” he noted.
However, Shobaki explained that the slight drop in property value, between 5 and 15 per cent, was less than expected when compared with the slowdown the sector underwent this year.
According to Nabil Hindi from the Abdoun Real Estate Company, demand was higher on rentals than sales despite the drop in apartment prices during the summer when expatriates return to Jordan.
A recent study conducted by Asteco, a regional and international real estate services firm, indicated that demand for rental properties was stable during the third quarter of 2009, compared with a 7 per cent drop during first and second quarters of this year.
Average rental rates decreased from JD2,400 to JD2,350 per year in most areas of Amman, while the most expensive area was Abdoun, with rents averaging JD6,475 per annum, the report showed.
The study indicated that the rental market for office space continues to see decreases, with annual rents ranging between JD90 and JD135 per square meter.
Jordan Times


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Jordan looking to export uranium by 2011

Oct 21 2009 12:00AM



Jordan is coming up with ‘strong results’ indicating the country would emerge as a key exporter of uranium by the end of 2011, Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) President Khalid Touqan said.
He said that a number of countries that use nuclear energy have ‘approached Jordan for importing the yellow cake, which represents the raw material for nuclear fuel.’
‘At the end of the first phase of the economic feasibility study, we are getting strong and encouraging results that pave the ground for moving to the second stage and obtaining the necessary financing from banks,’ Touqan was quoted by the official Petra new agency as saying.
He made the remarks during a tour of the uranium exploration operations, which are being carried out in central Jordan by the French atomic energy conglomerate, Areva, which is overwhelmingly owned by the French government.
‘Areva represents an element of strength for the Jordanian uranium project, given its political weight, guarantees and its long international experience in the field of nuclear security and safety,’ Touqan said.
Preliminary studies put reserves of uranium ore in central Jordan at about 65,000 tons.
In the first stage, the French firm plans to annually produce about 2,000 tons of uranium, the majority of which will be used to feed a nuclear energy plant that Jordan plans to build about 25 kilometers south of the Red Sea port of Aqaba, officials said.
Jordan so far has reached nuclear cooperation agreements with France, China, Russia, Canada, Britain, South Korea and Argentina, with the aim of obtaining the know-how to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Amman is involved in negotiations with the United States and Japan for similar deals, Touqan said.


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Palestinians launch $220 million housing project

Oct 15 2009 12:00AM



The Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) announced the establishment of the Palestinian territories’ most ambitious real estate project to date, with initial capital of $220 million. The goal is to create 30,000 new housing units in the next five to 10 years, PIF Chairman Mohammad Mustafa said.
“We want to see projects on the hilltops other than (Jewish) settlements,” Mustafa told reporters.
“The aim is to participate in building Palestine in the coming period, to create jobs and economic opportunities.”
The newly founded Amaar Real Estate Group, which will be listed on the Palestine stock exchange, will take over existing housing and tourism facility construction projects worth about $1 billion, Mustafa said.
He said the PIF, which administers public funds, expected to double the investment to $2 billion over the next five years.
The Israeli-occupied West Bank is home to 2.5 million Palestinians. Some 500,000 Jews live in the territory in settlements and in neighborhoods in Arab East Jerusalem.
Large-scale organized housing construction projects are new to the territory. Mustafa said the PIF also hoped to attract Arab and foreign investors. He said the company’s paid-up capital came from the fund’s $870 million in assets.
The PIF has investments in real estate, tourism, electricity and telecommunications projects but has recently put more focus on real estate.
In June, it started building 2,000 low-cost housing units for 10,000 people at Reehan in the central West Bank.
On Tuesday, it will lay the foundation stone for a project in the northern town of Jenin in the West Bank, with 1,000 units for 5,000 people.
A planned new town called Rawabi, which would create 5,000 homes for 25,000 people north of Ramallah, exists for now only on paper, as it will require the building of access roads that Israel has not yet granted.
Reuters


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Jordan to invest $750 million for development of International Airport

Oct 15 2009 12:00AM



Jordan plans $750 million investment in redevelopment of Queen Alia International Airport, or QAIA, in the capital, which will increase its capacity to 21 million passengers on completion.
This was announced on Tuesday by Curtis Grad, chief executive officer, Airport International Group, on the last day of an aviation conference called: ‘Low Cost Airlines World MENA 2009’.
“We expect Phase I of this terminal to be ready by early 2012. It will have a capacity to handle 9 million passengers. The Phase II will be able to handle additional 12 million passengers. We are looking at inbound traffic from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah and other parts of GCC markets to link up with QAIA and benefit from it,” Grad said in a statement.
“There are already six Low Cost Carriers, or LCCs, that have a total of 80 arrivals and departures a week to Amman, Jordan. These are Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, Bahrain Air, Sama Airlines, Nas Air and Fly Dubai,” he added.
During the year, QAIA has witnessed a 15 per cent increase in flight volumes, 10 per cent increase in passengers during summer peak and 4 per cent increase in passenger numbers.
Grad said that there is a strong link with the UAE considering that Invest AD, an investment company based in Abu Dhabi hold 38 per cent of its equity, followed by Kuwait’s Noor Financial Investments which owns 24 per cent equity.
In his presentation Tim Coombs, Managing Director, Aviation Economics Ltd mentioned that the barriers to start LCC will remain low considering that an airline operating 5 A320 aircraft can be set up with capital of just $10 million.
“The LCC model is well understood, easily copied and globally transferable today. And Hedge Funds / Private Equity industry has surplus funds of $150 billion. It is easy to start LCC even today,” he said.
He said that the development of 17 open-skies bilateral agreements between a number of Arab Civil Aviation Commission is an important step for LCCs further success in the region.
Sherif Attia, chief executive officer, Air Cairo, said that the year 2008 was very encouraging compared to the previous year.


Khaleej Times