China calling on Etisalat and du

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By  Published  November 26, 2006

Everyone expects the battle of the telcos to begin shortly when du finally launches its mobile services in the UAE. This should be something worth looking forward to – after all, both du and Etisalat are run by two of the finest businessmen around, Ahmad bin Byatt and Mohammed Omran.

But is the real battle between these two? My sources suggest that we should look elsewhere, and in particular, at the growing importance of Chinese-based telecoms company Huawei. Who? Well, Huwaei was established in 1988 by Ren Zhengfei and is now a highly regarded private enterprise. Most impressively, of its 44,000 employees, a staggering 48% work purely in research and development, scattered across the globe.

Back in 2003 Huwaei began a partnership with Etisalat to develop commercial 3G services. Last year, its total sales were US$8.2bn, and with a 47% rise in 12 months, experts suggest it is set to take new markets by a storm.

“Technically they are not in the UAE or other Arab markets, but their influence is growing by the day. Etisalat and du both see them as the biggest competitor long-term, rather than each other,” my spy tells me.

Hotel trouble

To London for the launch of the fabulous Nakheel airship, flying all the way from London to Dubai in order to promote the first phase of the Palm Jumeirah. Fabulous stuff, and one of my colleagues was on the trip to witness first hand this great occasion. The Palms may be later than planned, but I doubt anyone could argue they are a piece of engineering brilliance, that will be remembered for centuries to come. So well done Nakheel.

That said, there were a few red faces from the property giant during the London leg of the trip. Several of Nakheel’s VIP and media guests were booked into the Jumeriah Carlton Towers in Central London, the same hotel where arch rival Damac was hosting its annual dinner. ‘Damac’ banners were placed all around the hotel to welcome their - and as it turned out, Nakheel’s - guests.

Good to talk

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was back in the UAE last week to speak at the Abu Dhabi Leaders Summit. And true to form, Schroeder stole the show.

Shortly after the event, he granted a half an hour exclusive interview to CNBC Arabia’s Ramia Farrage. Quizzed on trade agreements, terrorism and the highs and lows of his career, Schroeder gave many colourful answers.

Well, probably. No one is quite sure, as the former leader gave all his answers in German. At the end of the interview, Farrage told him: “I’ve really enjoyed speaking to you. Unfortunately I have no idea what you’ve been talking about.”

Racing ahead

It's a good four months before the start of the next Formula One season, but already rumours are flying of greater Arab involvement. My sources at Emirates Airline suggest a much bigger, longerterm sponsorship deal with McClaren Mercedes could be signed.

The last one was worth US$12m over one year. This one, I hear, could be a five year US$50m deal.

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