Blink and you'll miss it

Despite a minor glitch or two over the past few months, business has never been better in the Middle East. Just as Europe continues to add countries and capital raising initiatives to its 25-member state EU, regional CEOs continue to sign major deals with neighbouring nations and businesses that will have significant future benefits on what seems like one a day.

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By  James Bennett Published  April 13, 2006

Despite a minor glitch or two over the past few months, business has never been better in the Middle East. Just as Europe continues to add countries and capital raising initiatives to its 25-member state EU, regional CEOs continue to sign major deals with neighbouring nations and businesses that will have significant future benefits on what seems like one a day. Take the last few weeks, for example, where more Memorandums of Understanding between local organisations and companies were signed than the amount of times the words ‘port’ and ‘security’ were printed in the world’s media – a huge indicator of how progressive and ambitious the region has become. A vast number of sectors are opening up to inward as well as outward investors. The Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA), for example, signed an agreement with its Bahraini counterpart and is due to sign a series of further deals with Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The telecoms market is flourishing, and within it, generating great young business leaders. Take mobile network operator InvestCom’s CEO, Azmi Mikati, who told me that he would soon be hitting revenues of over a billion US dollars and pushing harder and harder for more over the coming years. Qatar’s Energy City signing at the end of last month was another groundbreaking move that will soon have the rest of the world flocking to its borders in search of natural gas – a resource that is decreasing at a rate of knots in other countries but being heralded as the new black gold throughout the Gulf. Alongside Energy City came the unveiling of the International Mercantile Exchange (IMEX) – the Middle East’s first dedicated energy trading platform based in Qatar. This will send even more foreign cash hurtling towards the Middle East – cash that can be re-invested into non-oil revenue generating sectors. Last, and by no means least, is the rise of Sino-Arab trade relations with a whole host of MOUs being signed between Chinese and UAE businesses. For example, China’s largest retail group, the Dashang Group, will soon enter Dubai with a duo of colossal stores costing millions to build but generating thousands of jobs and adding millions to the region’s growing retail reputation. From retail, to media, to oil, China and the Middle East, two of the globes most aspiring and fastest growing economies are beginning to help each other develop together – a real CEO profit generator if I ever saw one and one you should latch onto very quickly if you haven’t already. So, despite the rather limp blow caused by US representatives temporarily canceling Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the UAE, the region’s chief executives have more than adequately managed to swiftly get back up on their feet and look to generate even more money for their companies and the wider region. A “who needs them for the time being when others want to do business”? And “they will come back to us anyway”, are two phrases from a collection of positive attitudes I’ve heard from the region’s CEOs. This is exactly why businesses are expanding quicker here than at any other time. I just hope you manage to keep up with the deals signed throughout the rest of the year because if you blink, you’ll miss it.

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