BUSINESS BRIEFS [Oman Economic Review (OER)]
(Oman Economic Review (OER) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)
PORT OF SALALAH AND VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL JOIN FORCES
Port of Salalah and Virginia International Terminals have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU that will see the ports closely cooperating in areas of business development and knowledge sharing. The alliance aims to draw further investment at the ports and appeal to investors and businesses to utilise the incentives provided by the US-Oman free trade agreement (FTA introduced in 2009. The wide-ranging agreement allows investors to generate export opportunities, strengthen intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, and bolster the investment climate in Oman. "Our ports have complementary assets, both in current trade arrangements and geographical positioning, and through this MoU the Port of Salalah and Virginia International Terminals have agreed to explore initiatives to develop these current trade links and connections," said Peter Ford, CEO of Port of Salalah, in a comment on the ceremony.
BANKMUSCAT POSTS RO63.1MN NET PROFIT IN Q2
Bank Muscat announced its preliminary results for the first half of 2013. The bank posted a net profit of RO 63.1mn for the period, compared to RO68.4mn reported during the same period in 2012. An exceptional operating loss provision of RO15mn relating to the Prepaid Travel Card fraud incident (as disclosed to the market on February 25, 2013 and February 26, 2013) was considered in Q1 2013 in accordance with the IFRS. The bank says it is working on various channels to recover the loss arising from this exposure and will update the market on any material developments in this regard. The bank's key business lines continued to perform well and in line with expectation and market potential. The financial results of the bank's Islamic banking window "Meethaq" are consolidated in the financial statements for the purpose of consolidated financial reporting with appropriate disclosures.
AL OMANIYA'S FIRST HALF PROFIT UP BY 14.9 PER CENT
Al Omaniya Financial Services announced its approved unaudited half yearly results for the period ended on June 30, 2013. The company has announced a pre-tax, pre-provision profit of RO4.504mn as compared to RO3.76mn in the same period in 2012. The company made a net profit after tax and provisions of RO2.733mn as compared to RO2.378mn in the same period in 2012, resulting in a growth of 14.9 per cent. The net hire purchase assets of the company has grown up by 17.8 per cent and stands at RO218.248mn as compared to RO185.23mn for the same period in 2012. The company provided RO1.4mn towards allowance for impairment for the period. The total provision stands at RO8.154mn as of June 30, 2013. The company's current net worth for all regulatory purposes is RO57.712mn. "In view of the company's high net worth, it is well poised to meet the new paid-up capital requirement of RO25mn as stipulated by the Central Bank of Oman," said Aftab Patel, CEO.
OMANTEL ENHANCES 4G LTE COVERAGE
Omantel has announced that its 4G LTE network is now covering areas in 37 wilayats across 11 governorates in the Sultanate including the vast majority of inhabited areas in Muscat. The 4G LTE technology is the latest and fastest mobile wireless technology. With speeds up to 100Mbps, it is optimised to provide superior broadband speeds for any 4G-enabled mobile device. "We are committed to provide the best broadband experience to our customers," says Abdullah al Hamer, general manager, network planning design at Omantel. "In April, we announced our commitment to build our broadband networks to cover 95 per cent of the population. That plan is being actualised with more than 400 sites enjoying 4G LTE coverage across the Sultanate so far. Our build follows the plans, and we are proud to announce that our 4G LTE network is now covering areas in the governorates of Muscat, South and North Batinah, Dhofar, Musandam, Buraimi, Dhahirah, Dakilyiah, South and North Sharqiyah, and Wusta. In preparation of Khareef festival, 4G LTE is now available in many areas in Salalah, providing both residents and visitors an amazing experience in mobile broadband."
PAIPED CELEBRATES EMPLOYEE EXCELLENCE
The Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED) honoured its employees who have demonstrated reliability, team spirit and quality performance. HE Dr Salem ben Nasser Al Ismaily, chairman of PAIPED, recognised employee performance, professionalism and exemplary work ethic at an award ceremony recently held at the Crowne Plaza Muscat. In line with PAIPED's culture of employee engagement, providing staff with the leadership, environment, resources and accountability to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently, the staff were asked to vote for colleagues who excel in the work environment. "We're committed to nurturing the talent that exists in PAIPED and acknowledging our achievements as a team," said Sheikh Ali bin Rashid Al Balushi, PAIPED's director general of administration and finance. "This is the first time we've honoured employees. There's no doubt that our people are our greatest asset and the driving force behind PAIPED's success."
BANK SOHAR OPENS FIRST SOHAR ISLAMIC BRANCH
Bank Sohar officially opened the first dedicated branch for its Islamic banking window 'Sohar Islamic' in Falaj Al Qabail, coinciding with the holy month of Ramadhan. In a ceremony that marked the flag off of Islamic banking services from Bank Sohar, the guest of honour at the event, HE Sheik Hilal bin Ali bin Saud Al Habsi, Wali of Sohar declared the branch open. Present at the event were Dr Mohamed Bin Abdulaziz Kalmoor, CEO of Bank Sohar, Mohammed Haris, AGM of Sohar Islamic, Mazin Al Raisi, AGM of marketing and Talib Al Balushi, branch manager of Falaj Al Qabail branch. "The opening of this branch mirrors our commitment to provide customers with sharia-compliant banking products that meet the needs of customers across the Sultanate," said Bank Sohar's CEO Dr Mohamed Bin Abdulaziz Kalmoor.
BANK NIZWA INTRODUCES ISLAMIC DEBIT CARDS
Bank Nizwa is preparing to launch the Sultanate's first ever sharia-com- pliant suite of debit cards, offering its customers a wide range of lifestyle benefits. Launched in partnership with MasterCard, it offers the customers the opportunity to choose a debit card to best suit their needs, be it Stand- ard, Titanium or Platinum. Each card comes with a myriad of benefits and services for cardholders to enjoy, including worldwide acceptance, special discounts and offers and world-class security features. Bank Nizwa Mas-terCard cardholders can enjoy peace of mind while shopping, travelling and making day-to-day purchases with ease and convenience. "Our suite of Debit cards is a response to the growing demand and interest shown by customers for exclusive and outstanding financial services," says Dr Jamil El Jaroudi, CEO of the bank. "All of our debit cardholders can make purchases with convenience and style, be it at home or abroad while re- maining true to the values of sharia and the principles of Islamic banking."
UES'S P38 BOATS COMPLETE SEA TRIALS
P38 Fast Interceptor boats, by United Engineering Services (UES), have successfully completed customer sea trials recently. Under- taken between a prestigious Middle East Navy and UES off the coast of Oman, the week-long trials included manoeuvring tests at various speeds, maximum speed, endurance, acceleration and handling tests applicable to interdiction, board and search and high speed pursuit missions. The P38 is a high performance interceptor craft designed for interdiction of hostile vessels in coastal and offshore waters. It is an open boat well suited for boarding, beaching and interdiction opera- tions. It features advanced deep V step design hull which is 3D infused with advanced composite materials in epoxy resin for optimum power to weight ratio and maximum strength. The hull form and design affords maximum comfort for this type of craft allowing the crew to operate effectively with minimum fatigue. The P38 is designed to accommo- date up to 12 crew and is equipped for missions of 12 to 24 hours.
NEW SHIPPING SERVICE BETWEEN SALALAH, MOGADISHU
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has launched a new service between Salalah and Mogadishu, with the first vessel, the 1,344 TEU MV JAS Express, making the inaugural call in Salalah recently. This newly launched fortnightly service will connect Somali shipments to / from various global markets at Salalah. Salalah is already the main hub for Omani trade with Somalia and this MSC service will further boost the ongoing trade between the two countries, which is presently estimated to be valued at about $116mn. "It is a great milestone for Somali trade in general, and for trade between Oman and Somalia in particular, to have a large shipping line like MSC to call at Mogadishu," said Suban Mahd, commercial attaché to the Somali Embassy in Oman. "After two decades we are delighted with this major step towards reconnecting Somali trade with the rest of the world." Peter Ford, CEO of Port of Salalah, said that Port of Salalah was thrilled to be the hub for MSC's new connectivity to Somalia.
FITCH REAFFIRMS BANK SOHAR RATING AT BBB
The globally renowned credit agency Fitch Ratings has reaffirmed Bank Sohar's long-term rating at investment grade BBB+ with a stable forward outlook. In a short span of six years, Bank Sohar has emerged as one of the leading banking institutions in the Omani Market, setting new benchmarks for market growth and customer satisfaction. This rating underlines Bank Sohar's position as one of the most prominent players in the banking and finance sector in the Sultanate. Fitch pointed out the bank's strengthening profitability is due to the successful deployment of its strategy, and its capable and experienced management. The rating body went on to note the solid growth in earnings and profitability in 2012 and the first quarter of 2013, with net income rising by 58 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, year-on-year. It may be noted that the 58 per cent growth in profits in 2012 was the highest among local banks.
BANKDHOFAR VOTED BEST RETAIL BANK IN OMAN
BankDhofar won the prestigious award of "Best Retail Bank Oman 2013" at the Global Banking & Finance Review Awards 2013. Created to honour companies of all sizes that stand out in particular areas of expertise within the banking and finance industry, Global Banking and Finance Review awards recognise the innovative banking, investment strategies, achievements, progressive and inspirational changes within the financial sector. BankDhofar also won Platinum award - Middle East region, an initiative by Newgen Worldwide, the renowned global provider of software solutions, for its Business Process Management (BPM) system; and the Silver award in the banking and financial sector at the seventh Oman Web Awards for its comprehensive and well-designed website.
OMAN AIR LAUNCHES WEEKLY SERVICE TO MADINAH
Oman Air has launched a new weekly service between Muscat and Madinah, in Saudi Arabia. The new service will offer flights from Muscat to Madinah on Tuesdays (departing 15:40, arriving 17:50) and returning from Madinah to Muscat on the same days (departing 18:40, arriving 22:35). To mark the launch of the new service, Oman Air has invited senior government officials and leading Omani journalists to a ceremony held at Muscat International Airport. The new service builds on the recent launch of Oman Air's Salalah to Jeddah service and marks the airline's 43rd destination worldwide. Madinah is Oman Air's fourth destination in Saudi Arabia, the other three being Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. In addition to travelling to and from Madinah passengers using the new service will also be able to travel in one direction to/from Madinah and return from/to Jeddah in the other, which offers the perfect flexibility especially for passengers travelling on religious pilgrimage.
NAWRAS GOODWILL JOURNEY CONCLUDES IN DHOFAR
The ninth edition of the Nawras Goodwill Journey, a 10-day and 5400- kilometre journey by Nawras Goodwill messengers to provide donations and gifts to over 4000 Omanis during the holy month of Ramadan, concluded in Dhofar governorate, by distributing sewing machines and household items to the Omani Women's Associations in Al Mazyoona and Mirbat. This year's journey adopted the slogan of 'Multaqeen', meaning 'we will see you again', to ensure that projects supported by Nawras are developed into long term programmes that benefit local communities for many years. During the second leg of the Nawras Goodwill Journey the team has travelled from Muscat to Salalah in five days, stopping in Ibra, Al Qabil, Wadi Bani Khalid and Al Duqm before reaching Al Mazyoona and Mirbat in Dhofar. The volunteers have provided air conditioners, washing machines, water coolers, sewing machines and kitchen utensils to assist with the services offered by the Omani Women's Associations which improve the daily lives of people in these areas. Donations of vital supplies and equipment to charitable organisations will support long term education and skills training programmes run by the Ministry of Social Development for the benefit of those who need a helping hand.
PAIPED HOLDS TRADE-UP SEMINAR
More than 70 Omani companies along with members of government entities attended the first trade-up best practice seminar and workshop organised by the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED) to gain insights on how to cater for international buyers. The attendees gained in-depth knowledge from industry experts into the direct correlation between creative marketing and packaging and a product's shelf life.
"PAIPED is focused on increasing the market share of Omani products in economies around the world," said Nasima Yahya Al Balushi, PAIPED director general of export development. "Every year we participate in dozens of exhibitions and it is through these events that we have been able to assess how global companies successfully create their niche. Taking back these learnings, we have specially designed our latest series of trade-up seminars to help raise the profile of national products and increase non-oil exports."
STUDY SAYS OMAN ENJOY LOW-PRICED BROADBAND
Broadband and voice service costs in Oman are amongst the most competitive in the region, according to an independent report issued by AREGNET, the Arab world communications regulatory network. The 2012 telecoms retail price benchmarking report for Arab countries published in March 2013 shows that high usage residential and business broadband packages in Oman are provided for the lowest cost in the region, while mobile broadband in the Sultanate is the second cheapest out of the 22 countries surveyed. The study also shows that broadband in Oman in the 2 Mb/s to 8 Mb/s speed range is ranked most competi- tive in the region for both business and residential customers. The high rating shows that there has been a huge drop in tariffs, as well as nearly twice as many service options since the last report in 2010. The recent launch of 4G services in the Sultanate has further enhanced broadband competiveness and taken communications in the country to the next level. This jump in technology took place after the report had been researched; and Oman is likely to score even higher in the 2013 results.
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