GENERAL & ECONOMIC NEWS

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A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed to construct Medical City, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health (MoH).
The MoU was signed by the ministry and the Higher Council for Planning (SCP) with the Oman Investment Fund (OIF), to construct and develop the Medical City, which is one of the ministry’s projects for its 9th five-year plan 2016-2020.
The Medical City, a 5 million sq. m landmark located in Barka, will comprise several specialty hospitals consisting of about 1,200 beds, including general specialties hospital, pediatric hospital, trauma center, rehabilitation centre, neurology centre, diagnostic radiology center, medical laboratories center, and a center for education, training and research.
It will also include a college for health sciences and supporting facilities.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications announced on Sunday that 86 per cent of the third package (the passenger terminal) of the new Muscat International Airport has been completed so far. Once completed the new airport, will have an annual handling capacity of 12 million passengers expandable to 48 million passengers in the latter stages. With a total space of 580,000 sq m, the passenger terminal comprises 3-level three symmetrical wings attached to a 5-level central area with three main gates and VIP lounges. The passenger terminal has 118 check-in counters and 82 passport control desks for immigration clearance procedures by the Royal Oman Police officers.

Oman’s natural gas production and imports rose 5.6 per cent to 39,806 million cubic metres (MNCM) in 2015, up from 37,687 MNCM in 2014.
Of this, while non-associated gas and imports showed a growth of 6.2 per cent to 32,806 MNCM, associated gas production rose 3.1 per cent to 7,001 MNCM, according to the latest statistics released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).
A sizable portion of natural gas in Oman is used by various mega industrial projects, which stood at 22,036 MNCM last year, against 21,169 MNCM in 2014.
Natural gas is also used in oil fields, either for producing steam water or for reinjection, with as much as 8,773 MNCM in natural gas being used in oil fields, against 7,838 MNCM units consumed in 2014.

Oman’s oil production this year is targeted at around 990,000 barrels per day (bpd), said Minister of Oil and Gas, Mohammed bin Hamad Al Rumhy, adding it would be difficult to halve the economy’s dependence on oil in five years.

The target for this year is 980,000 to 990,00 bpd or slightly more than that, the minister told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony held at the Crowne Plaza on Monday.

The event was held to honour195 Omani job-seekers, who graduated to the highest international standard to work as welders at the Rabab Harweel integrated oil and gas mega project of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).

Dr Somkid Jatusripitak, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, arrived here yesterday on a two-day visit to the Sultanate. The guest was received by Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Darwish bin Ismaeel al Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs, Dr Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Dr Salim bin Nasser al Ismaili, Chairman of the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development... Source: Oman Observer

Oman plans to ask companies by June to submit bids to build the US$6bn Duqm refinery and petrochemical complex that can help the country diversify revenue amid a slump in crude prices.

The government will name the winning bidders by the end of the year, Oil & Gas Minister H E Mohammed al Rumhi said in an interview in Muscat on Thursday. Talks on a US$1bn natural gas pipeline from Iran are still ‘in progress’, he said.

Oman, the largest Arabian Gulf oil producer not in OPEC, is expanding its energy industry and developing new sources of revenue amid a drop in oil prices that has hurt government coffers. It’s building the Port of Duqm and planning a metals factory there as well. Oman Oil Co and Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co will jointly own the Duqm refinery.

H E Rumhi this month said Oman would be willing to cut oil production by five to ten per cent to help boost prices if OPEC member states and others also agreed to reductions. Omani production exceeded 1mn barrels a day in July for the first time, according to the Oil Ministry.

The country plans to buy natural gas from Iran, across the Arabian Gulf, and the two are discussing options for the pipeline, according to Omani and Iranian officials



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The total area of the Duqm special economic zone has been raised to 2,000 sq km from the present 1,745 sq km to accommodate oil storage activities in accordance with the Royal Decree No 5/2016 of January 28. The project aims to support and achieve the future vision of the Omani economy objectives and diversifying the sources of income. One important component of this is creation of facilities for storage and export of crude oil. This should result in bringing down production cost and also higher revenues, according to a company statement

The Oman government is planning to award one more oil block to an international oil company on a production sharing basis in the Al Wusta region this year, said a senior official from the Ministry of Oil and Gas.

“Hopefully, one more will be coming soon. We are in an advanced stage (to award the concession). This is an onshore block,” Dr. Saleh Al Anboori, director general of Management of Petroleum Investments at the Ministry of Oil and Gas, told journalists, after signing a concession agreement for block seven with Hydrocarbon Finder.

The Oman government on Thursday had signed an oil concession agreement with Hydrocarbon Finder to take over an existing block on a production sharing basis.

As per the agreement, Hydrocarbon Finder, a 100 per cent locally-owned independent oil producer, will take over block seven from Petrogas for producing oil from the concession area.

The concession area has a large area spanning around 2,331 kilometres in the Al Wusta region.

“This is an existing field. The new company will ramp up production. It will drill more horizontal wells, which will depend on the field development plan. They will also foresee production being ramped up to 5,000 barrels per day,” Al Anboori added.

The commitments of the company under this agreement include a reinterpretation of the existing data, acquiring 3D seismic surveys, conducting studies, providing operational support and drilling several development and exploration wells.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Mohammed bin Hamed Al Rumhy, minister of oil and gas, and Suleiman Mohammed Yahya Al Adawi, chairman of Hydrocarbon Finder.

The agreement is for a period of 15 years and the company will finalise the field development plan in the initial three years. “The potential is high and the company will relook to revamp production.”

Oman’s gross domestic product (GDP) at market prices registered a decline of 14.2 per cent in the first three quarters of 2015 at OMR20.09 billion, compared to OMR23.41 billion in the same period of 2014.

According to figures issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), by the end of third quarter last year, petroleum activities posted a sharp 38.5 per cent fall to record OMR6.95 billion as against OMR11.29 billion during the same period, a year ago.

Crude oil contributed OMR6,037.1 million, with a significant drop of 42.7 per cent as against OMR10,530.8 million in 2014 while natural gas posted a rise of 20 per cent to reach OMR912,300,000 as against OMR760,200,000 in the previous year.

Meanwhile, total value of non-petroleum activities registered a 4.7 per cent growth by the end of third quarter, reaching OMR14,085.3 million compared to OMR13,454.4 million last year.

The services sector witnessed a rise of 13.1 per cent at OMR12.81 billion in 2014 as against OMR11.33 billion in 2013, primarily driven by a 6.4 per cent growth in industrial activities that reached OMR4,259.2 million in the three quarters. Mining and quarrying posted an 8.5 per cent growth while manufacturing went down 1.6 per cent. Electricity and water supply grew by 13.6 per cent even as construction went up by 17.1 per cent.

Services too posted a growth of 4.0% to RO 9,512.2 million, with real estate services growing at 5.8% and financial intermediation posting a growth of 5.3%. Transport, storage and communication activities posted a growth of 4.0% while wholesale and retail trade grew by 3.0%. The growth rate in the hotels and restaurants segment was recorded at 3.2%. Public administration and defence grew 3.9%. Indirectly measured financial intermediation services posted a growth of 5.5%.

The Sultanate’s GDP at producer prices during the three quarters decreased 15.4 per cent last year to OMR20,545.3 million compared to OMR24,281.7 million last year.

Also, 35 per cent of the GDP was contributed by the petroleum activities while wholesale/retail trade, as well as public administration and defence contributed 10 per cent each during over the three quarters of 2015. Construction added 8 per cent to the GDP.

The Capital Market Authority (CMA) organised a workshop for employees of insurance companies and brokers on key legislative and technical developments in the insurance sector, according to a CMA statement. The conference organised in Salalah recently was held in the presence of Director General of Insurance Supervision Ahmed Ali Al Mamari. Ahmed Salim Al Harrasi from the department of compliance and examination explained the key indicators of the insurance industry such as the contribution of the sector in the GDP and per capita expenditure on purchasing insurance coverage. He said per capita expenditure on insurance has increased from 72.6 rials in 2008 to 96.9 rials in 2014 with 24 per cent annual growth. Takaful insurance contributed to 5.96 per cent in 2014.. Source: Oman Tribune

Telecom revenues in the Sultanate grew by 7 per cent during 2014 to reach 803.54 million rials compared to the previous year, according to the annual report of the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA). Of this, 76 per cent came from mobile services and the rest from fixed and Internet service. The average revenue per mobile subscribers improved to 10.8 rials by end of 2014. But it had to be noted that the average revenue from fixed services was experiencing constant reduction and reached 6.1 rials at the end of 2014. With Internet services gaining popularity, the average revenue from fixed Internet services went up to 35.5 rials which was a 24 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Total telecom investment during 2014 grew by 40 per cent to 219.71 million rials from 156.5 million rials in the previous year. Mobile subscribers reached 6.19 million by the end of 2014 with an increase of 577,000 subscribers.. Source: Oman Tribune

The sultanate’s sovereign wealth fund, the State General Reserve Fund (SGRF), has acquired a 90 per cent stake in the Marriott Ambassador Paris Hotel. The transaction was completed through a joint venture (JV) with Westmont Hospitality Group (WHG), which will own ten per cent of the stake, and will provide operational oversight to the hotel, an SGRF press release said on Monday. WHG has significant experience in managing budget to upscale hotels and currently owns and/or manages a portfolio of about 350 hotels across North America and Europe under multiple hotel franchise brands. The hotel is situated on the Haussman Boulevard in central Paris. Source: Muscat Daily

Slipping to its lowest level since end of March this year, the MSM30 index dropped 1.15 per cent on Monday to 6,219.77 on cautious sentiment and external factors. The Financial sub-index marked another day in negative territory, losing 1.23 per cent to 7,554.17. The Industrial gauge fell 0.96 per cent to 7,973.91 and the Services index gave up 0.72 per cent to end at 3,388.02. The MSM Shariah index declined 0.79 per cent to 962.53. Volumes jumped 73.44 per cent to 12.6mn while total turnover increased 16.44 per cent to RO3.57mn. Market breadth was largely negative with 34 stocks closing down, five posting gains and 12 remaining unchanged. Source: Muscat Daily

A major tender for building a service corridor between Duqm Refinery and a liquid jetty has been floated by the Special Economic Zone Authority (Sezad) here on Monday. The scope of work for the service corridor includes earthworks, security-related work and bridge work to allow Duqm Refinery to lay its pipes, connecting it to the Port of Duqm in the industrial zone. “This is an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) projectthat requires experienced contractors with previous experience in the design and construction of pipeline support,” said a tender announcement by Sezad. Tender documents for the project will be available for contracting firms from August 24, and the last date of submission is September 16. Source: Times of Oman

CORPORATE NEWS

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Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the nation’s dominant oil and gas producer, says it is weathering the oil price slump relatively well despite an estimated $1.6 billion shortfall in its 2016 spending plan.
According to Raoul Restucci, Managing Director, the majority Omani government owned company continues to deliver on its core objectives notwithstanding the belt-tightening prompted by the downturn.
“We’re doing pretty well,” Restucci said. “(Recently), we produced our highest production in excess of 600,000 barrels per day. Our performance is very strong, exploration is very exciting, and although the environment is challenging, PDO is delivering,” the Managing Director added in exclusive comments to the Observer.
PDO has acknowledged that a $1.6 billion deficit in its investment plan for the current year could potentially cause a degree of economic pain not only to the company, but to the wider contractor community as well. But it has urged contractors to make the most of the crisis to economise, improve efficiency, curb waste, and so on, in order to stay competitive.
For its part, PDO is doing what’s necessary to mitigate the impacts of the oil price slump, said Restucci. “We are adopting more efficient ways of doing our work,” the Managing Director said. “The commodities are cheaper, materials are cheaper, and services are in a more collaborative style of working together. We are removing inefficiencies and waste, and addressing every part of our business. We are delivering more for less,” he remarked.
PDO says its strategy is to try to stay the course despite the low oil price environment, while focusing on delivering maximum value

The Madinat Al Irfan Urban Development Project, which will create a new downtown area for the capital governorate of Oman, is expected to contribute an estimated $1.4 billion — $1.6 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, according to a top official overseeing the implementation of this mega-scheme. Saif al Hinai, Executive Director, said the project will also generate an estimated 80,000–90,000 new jobs when it is substantially in place over the next several decades.

Al Hinai made the comments during an exclusive presentation to a gathering of Omani real estate developers at Almouj Golf Course last week. Along with James Wilson, CEO of Omran, which is the master-developer of the project, the Executive Director sought to drum up investor interest in the upscale development from amongst local players. The vision behind Madinat Al Irfan, which is under development a few kilometres from Muscat International Airport, is to create a “new vibrant heart” for the capital city, said Al Hinai.

“We discovered there is a need for a downtown commercial hub in Muscat that will set new standards and elevate the quality of life for its residents, while maintaining Oman’s overall culture, heritage and values. It will also serve as a catalyst for local private investment and support the diversification of the Omani economy,” he stated. Offering a staggering 4.5 million sq metres in real estate distributed across an array of segments, Madinat Al Irfan is being billed as the largest urban development in the Sultanate to date.

We expect to execute the city in five to six phases over a roughly 30-year timeframe, said Al Hinai, adding that residential components will account for 49 per cent of the mixed use development, commercial spaces 27 per cent, retail 4 per cent, and hospitality 3 per cent, with government buildings and civic facilities included in the remaining 17 per cent. A master plan prepared by Omran of the ambitious scheme envisages an array of key districts that include the centrepiece Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC), elements of which are already under construction, Al Irfan Central, Al Irfan West, and the government district to the west. A ridge on the southern flank of the city will accommodate a number of residential neighbourhoods.

“Like any other modern city, Madinat Al Irfan will have all the ingredients of a smart city,” the Executive Director said. “In addition to the Convention Centre, there will be as many as twelve 4 and 5-star hotels, all kinds of residential and commercial mixed used components, business parks, shopping malls, theatres, water parks, district parks, hospitals and healthcare centres, schools, colleges, mosques, police stations, utilities and recreational facilities.”

Furthermore, as a model city Medinat Al Irfan will appeal not only to its residents, but business visitors and tourists as well, he stressed. “To visitors, the city will provide an excellent first impression of Muscat, rich in entertainment and retail components and ample green pedestrian areas. To business visitors, there will be a new business district and high-end business hotels with easy proximity of the Convention Centre and airport. To residents, the city will be a prestigious living area with lots of green spaces, while companies and its employees located with the city will enjoy all of the features of a new business district with one-stop-shop facilities.”

According to James Wilson, CEO of Omran, the project has attracted the interest of dozens of prospective investors. In support of its marketing efforts, Omran plans to set up a marketing office within the City. “We will put in a marketing suite on site so you can see the land, the fully serviced plots that are available to invest in immediately, and so on. We have lawyers working on special regulations for the new city to make it easy to do business and easy to build,” he added.

GE Oil and Gas has signed a long-term, multi-million dollar contract with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) to supply integrated reciprocating rod pump equipment (RRP) and related services commencing in the second quarter of 2016.

Joining hands with its local partner Edgo, this is GE’s first-ever contract awarded by PDO for the provision of integrated RRP equipment and services, and is aligned with PDO’s ‘In Country Value’ initiative.

The ‘In Country Value’ strategy aims to promote localised manufacturing, develop local community contractors (LCCs) and strengthen Omani talent development through training programmes.

As part of the deal, GE Oil & Gas will provide a wide range of specialised equipment including Lufkin C912, C1280 beam pumps, and Lufkin automation products.

GE Oil & Gas will also provide preventive and corrective maintenance for a number of inherited RRP systems; supervise their use in well interventions and provide technical training to the concerned team.

GE Oil and Gas will sub-contract the manufacturing and fabrication of specific pumping unit’s structural components in Oman and also assemble selected Lufkin Automation products in the country using local companies.

The local contractors will also be trained on the various aspects of RRP assembly.

The engagement of the LCCs and the sub-contracting of work to the LCCs is crucial to the success of the local talent development and local economy for the people of South Oman.

Omantel has announced a strategic partnership with BP Oman for a comprehensive telecommunications network to be constructed for the Khazzan Gas Project located between the Ad Dhahirah and Ad Dakhiliya Governorates, and provides for a communications network spanning an area of 2,800 square kilometres.

Commenting on the scope of the Khazzan Gas Project, Ahmed Mohammed Al Nasri, general manager of Sales at Omantel Business said, “Our partnership with BP highlights Omantel’s deep experience in meeting the needs of clients in the oil and gas sector, who are often located in very remote regions of Oman.”

“Deploying our technical experience and expertise on this project means that BP Oman will be able to conduct instantaneous well monitoring, while onsite staff will be reliably connected with high quality mobile and fixed solutions, and internet broadband,” he added.

Omantel’s project scope is to design, deploy and maintain a comprehensive suite of telecommunication systems, ensuring seamless voice and broadband connectivity to cover the populated Khazzan gas field catchment area. Once operational, the network will be delivering the highest quality of fixed and mobile voice and high speed broadband solutions (LTE and GPON) for BP Oman and its contractors on site.

During the project start-up phase, telecommunication services will be initially supplied through a series of microwave links due to its high flexibly in providing connectivity without getting impacted by the massive project work on ground. This setup will then transition to a permanently installed fiber optic network in a self-healing rings topology, with the microwave links retained as a system backup.

Gulf Arab equities trimmed their worst January in seven years after oil capped its second weekly advance.

Dubai’s DFM general index led gains in the region, climbing to the highest in more than three weeks as the number of shares traded was almost double the six-month average. Abu Dhabi’s ADX general index had the biggest increase in more than a year on a closing basis. Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul all share index rose a fourth day, the longest streak since November.

“We were sitting on the sidelines for most of January," said Muhammad Shabbir, the Dubai-based head of equities and funds at Rasmala Investment Bank. “We’re looking to enter the market again this week after the losses we’ve seen this month. February could well shape up as a positive month."

Equities across emerging markets rallied last week as risk appetite strengthened on bets the Federal Reserve will refrain from raising interest rates soon and as oil jumped on speculation an output cut may be on the way.

Brent crude for March settlement, which expired last week, rose 2.5 per cent to US$34.74 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange on Friday. The more-active April contract increased to US$35.99.

The Bloomberg GCC 200 index, a gauge of 200 of the region’s biggest companies, added 2.9 per cent in Dubai, gaining for a third day. The measure has lost 8.6 per cent this month, poised for the worst start to a year since 2009.

Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest lender, led the emirate’s benchmark index as just 211,000 shares were exchanged. The bank’s weight on the gauge was increased this month as part of a regular index review.

The DFM general index increased 4.9 per cent to the highest level since January 6, taking its three-day gain to 11 per cent. The measure’s 30-day volatility is near the highest in a year following the swings in January.

Abu Dhabi’s ADX general index advanced 3.7 per cent. First Gulf Bank was the biggest contributor to gains with a 12.4 per cent jump, the most since May 2005. Saudi Arabia’s benchmark added 3.6 per cent, taking its four-day gain to 8.5 per cent. Saudi Basic Industries Corp, one of the world’s biggest petrochemicals companies, rose 4.9 per cent, the most since August on a closing basis.

Oman’s MSM30 index added 3.3 per cent, the most since December 22. The index closed at 5,179.36. Bahrain’s BB all share index rose 1.3 per cent, also the most since December, and Qatar’s QE Index advanced 2.3 per cent.

Kuwait’s SE price index increased 2.1 per cent, the biggest jump in more than a year. Kuwait Finance House rose 5.3 per cent after the company’s fourth-quarter profit climbed ten per cent.



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Oman National Investment Corporation (Onic) will submit the final merger application to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for its merger with Oman International Development and Investment Company (Ominvest), according to a filing to the Muscat Securities Market (MSM). The creditors notice period ended on July 30 without receiving any objections, the Onic filing said. According to legal procedures, the final approval from the ministry on the merger is expected around August 19 and would entail Onic being deregistered from the commercial registry, it added. Consequently, Onic shares will be suspended from being traded on the MSM and shareholders will be issued shares in Ominvest under the agreed ratio where each shareholder will get 1.052 shares of Ominvest. Source: Oman Tribune

A consortium led by Port Services Corporation (PSC) has been shortlisted to participate in bidding for a contract to operate and manage the Sultanate’s first dry port coming up at South Batinah Logistics Area. “The consortium, led by the corporation, has been shortlisted to participate in the ‘request for proposal,’ which is expected to be floated in September 2015,” PSC said in its first half result posted on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) website.. Source: Times of Oman

Ooredoo announced that 70 per cent of its network across Oman has now been updated as part of its focused modernisation strategy which commenced three years ago. The announcement comes as part of the popular Khareef Festival in Salalah, where Ooredoo has deployed additional 2G, 3G+ and 4G sites to give visitors wider coverage, and improved mobile data speeds and voice quality. All Ooredoo base stations across Salalah, from Mirbat to Mughsayl, have been upgraded to provide almost two times more 3G+ capacity in addition to the already turbocharged network. This will ensure Ooredoo customers get high speed data access and a superior Internet browsing experience both indoors and outdoors…Source: Oman Observer

Nearly two years after BankDhofar made a merger proposal to Bank Sohar and in between making a swap ratio proposal, things have been pushed forward. Both banks announced on Wednesday that they had entered into a non-binding agreement on the proposed merger. In separate disclosures to the Muscat Securities Market on Wednesday, both the entities said that they had agreed to proceed with due diligence, subject to receiving regulatory approvals for merger. It was in 2013 that BankDhofar made the proposal and Bank Sohar had then said it would consider the proposal to combine operations..... Source: Oman Tribune

The benchmark MSM index ended Wednesday’s session with a 0.07 per cent gain to close at 6429.05. Turnover stood at RO3.24mn with 14.43mn shares traded. Market breadth remained neutral with a positive bias, as 13 stocks gained, ten declined and 19 closed unchanged. Phoenix Power continued to attract investor attention, with the stock topping the turnover and volume lists. The Financial and Industrial indexes closed in positive territory, adding 0.33 per cent and 0.02 per cent, respectively. The Services gauge, however, slipped 0.44 per cent. The MSM Shariah index rose 0.10 per cent.... Source: Muscat Daily