EU-GCC free trade pact likely this year

April 17th, 2008 - 7:13 pm ICT by admin  

(Gulf Business Capsule)

Dubai, April 17 (IANS) A free trade agreement (FTA) between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising six Gulf nations, and the European Union (EU) is likely to come up within this year. “We made great progress on a number of important issues in 2007, and barring a couple of remaining issues, an FTA between the two blocs is likely to happen in 2008,” EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner told the Gulf Times newspaper.

Ferrero-Waldner, an Austrian, said the agreement got stalled in the 1990s because the GCC did not have a customs union.

“But since the establishment of the union in 2002, we moved forward very quickly,” she said.

On pending issues, such as the EU’s demands for GCC action on democratic reforms and human rights, Waldner said: “Only two to three technical details remain to be chalked out by the GCC.”

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US housing woes hit Emaar’s Q1 2008 profits

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) leading real estate developer Emaar Properties has posted its second decline in profit in three quarters, falling 3.8 percent to 1.66 billion dirhams ($451 million) due to a drop in revenues from its US subsidiary.

Earnings per share were 1.08 dirhams, unchanged compared with the year-earlier period. Revenue fell by 80 million dirhams to 3.96 billion dirhams, the company said.

The decline in revenue in the first quarter of 2008 as compared to the revenue of 5.141 billion dirhams ($1.4 bilion) in the fourth quarter of last year is due to decreased revenue from John Laing Homes by 1.2 billion dirhams ($0.327 billion), which is due to cyclical delivery pattern at the US subsidiary, the company said in a statement.

“Despite operating in an extremely challenging global economic environment, Emaar Properties continued to add value to our stakeholders through our focus on geographic expansion and business segmentation,” Emaar chairman Mohamed Ali Alabbar said.

“Emaar’s farsighted approach of investing in dynamic emerging markets and our ongoing commitment to creating trend-setting neighbourhoods in Dubai were among the prime drivers of our value creation for our shareholders.”

During the first quarter of 2008, the company recorded sales of 5.6 billion dirhams ($1.525 billion) in UAE, which is an increase of 20 percent as compared to sales recorded in the fourth quarter of 2007 of 4.681 billion ($1.274 billion).

The investment in resources for hospitality, malls and international businesses continue as Emaar targets to open The Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall and three five star hotels in the third and fourth quarters of 2008, the company said.

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New Islamic bank to start operations in June

Al Hilal, a new Islamic bank, will launch its operations in June with four branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

“We are committed to the launch date in June and we will be ready to receive clients according to plan,” Al Hilal’s chief executive Mohammad Jamil Dorrah told the Gulf News.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC) established the bank in March last year.

It is the second Islamic bank in Abu Dhabi, the first being the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.

“In the first phase we will begin with four branches, two in the capital, one in Al Ain, and one in Dubai,” Dorrah was quoted as saying.

“This will be followed by the second phase, when we will add six more branches with a branch in each emirate by the end of the year and thereby increase the total to ten.”

“We will introduce a real estate affiliate within the group to cater the growing needs and the unprecedented growth of the sector in the UAE,” he added.

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