Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ramadan food supply pledged

MANAMA: Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro yesterday toured Manama and Muharraq central markets.

Fruit and Vegetable traders confirmed the ample availability of both for the whole month of Ramadan.

Fruit and Vegetable supplier Redha Al Bustani affirmed that markets are loaded well above the market's needs.

Ibrahim Salman from Bahrain Livestock Company confirmed the availability of meat and said it would be enough for Ramadan, noting that next Friday a ship will arrive loaded with 21,000 Australian cattle.

Dr Fakhro also inspected Lulu Hypermarket in Dana Mall. The general manager assured him of the stability of food prices. He added that there are a lot of promotional campaigns for goods in high demand during Ramadan.

Thanks to Industry and Commerce Ministry's efforts to educate consumers, they are now not accumulating goods, but buying them day by day.

Source : Gulf Daily News

Moody’s assigns A3 long-term rating to Masraf Al Rayan

by Martin Morris
Moody's on Wednesday assigned A3 long-term and Prime-2 short-term local and foreign currency issuer ratings as well as a D+ bank financial strength rating (BFSR) to Masraf Al Rayan (MAR), with a stable rating outlook.

MASRAF AL RAYAN: Moody's begins ratings coverage on Doha-headquartered Islamic lender. (Getty Images)

This is the ratings agency’s first public rating assigned to an Islamic bank in Qatar.

The agency noted that with $4.6 billion of assets at December 31 2008, MAR is a small financial institution by domestic and regional standards and holds a market share of around 5% in domestic banking assets.

But it added that MAR is one of Qatar's most successful Islamic banks and commands around 25% of the country's Shari'ah-compliant banking assets.
Despite its small size, the agency says MAR enjoys a solid brand name and a strong reputation as one of the most dynamic Shari'ah-compliant financial institutions in the country.

It added that the D+ BFSR - which maps to a baseline credit assessment (BCA) of Ba1 reflects MAR's growing franchise as one of Qatar's few Islamic banks, its close ties with the government of Qatar, strong financial performance and asset quality, as well as ample capitalisation and satisfactory liquidity.

It noted though that the rating is constrained by a short track record and limited absolute size, high degree of concentration risks, rapid balance sheet growth, as well as a still imbalanced funding continuum that is heavily reliant on short-term customer deposits, generating both maturity mismatches and displaced commercial risks.

''Moody's assesses the probability of systemic support in the event of a stress situation to be very high, based on Moody's assessment of Qatar (rated Aa2) as a high-support environment, especially for domestic, retail deposit-taking institutions like MAR.''
The outlook on the ratings is stable - Moody's considering both an upgrade and a downgrade of the bank's current BFSR and issuer ratings to be unlikely over the medium term.
Source : Arabian Business

Road works add to Makkah’s traffic woes

Hamid Al-Sulami

MAKKAH: With the number of visitors to Makkah likely to see a huge increase during Ramadan, unfinished and ongoing road construction will add to the traffic problems that already exist in the holy city.

Work on some of the city’s arterial roads has forced the authorities to divert traffic, leading to a crush of vehicles not only at peak times but nearly around the clock.

The seasonal rush, in addition, will not only increase vehicular traffic but also the number of pedestrians on roads thereby leaving the authorities with a logistical nightmare.

The construction work is not only impacting traffic but also businesses, which generally wait all year for the Ramadan and Haj seasons in which they make the bulk of their sales.

Some businesses are already suffering be-cause of the ongoing projects. Trenches and diversions as well as construction material on the side of the roads are proving to be stumbling blocks for customers and businesses alike. Negotiating paths to these stores is difficult, something that puts off prospective customers. Store entrances are some times blocked by construction materials for these projects.

Business owners — who are hoping to make money after a lean period during the summer — say the projects are driving away customers and are calling for the municipality to complete the work at the earliest.

Despite construction companies repeatedly promising to finish the projects on time and before the summer vacation and Ramadan, the end is nowhere in sight. The fact that these companies are not accountable allows them to set their own schedule. There is also no supervision from the municipality. That is why many of these businessmen have called for an imposition of deterrents on construction companies — like hefty fines, punishment or both.

One example of the woes Makkah people face can be seen on the Al-Haj Street, which is under constant construction, something that has forced people to take different routes, leave earlier for their daily chores and plow through additional traffic.

Suleiman Fehaid, a Makkah resident, said there is much roadwork going on in and around the city. “It is frustrating for residents to be forced to use other roads just to get home. These roads should be ready for use because many pilgrims will be arriving and it will be a disaster if these roads remain closed, or dug up,” he said. Another resident, Mansour Al-Otaibi, said Makkah’s people are used to congested traffic. He said what is not acceptable is the delay in completing the road projects.

“On the ring road leading to Al-Awali, there is some construction work in the middle of the road. This is causing huge traffic jams,” said Al-Otaibi, adding that if this is the case now then what will be the situation when numbers swell during Ramadan.

“Road maintenance is important but what is more important is for companies to stick to deadlines and finish projects on time. Most of these projects started in the summer. The authorities must know the time frame for each project. If the project is going to take a long time, then why did they not begin them early to finish before the Ramadan rush,” he said.

Source : Arab News

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Orphans to receive Ramadan gifts

K.S. Ramkumar

JEDDAH: This year’s Eid Al-Fitr will be special for thousands of orphans in Saudi Arabia and their counterparts in certain Muslim countries.

Surprising them with their favorite toys will be the month long Ramadan effort by Makkah Charitable Foundation of the Muslim World League, which in collaboration with certain shopping malls Kingdomwide, will be collecting toys from donors at various shopping malls in different parts of the Kingdom.

“The Giving Box” campaign will benefit more than 31,000 orphans including 5,000 in Saudi Arabia and more than 26,000 living in various Islamic countries,” Marwan H. Zawawi, acting vice president sales and marketing at Kinan International Real Estate Development Co. of Savola Group, said at the launch of the campaign at Roshan Mall on Tuesday.

The drive kicked off with two Alawadi children, Omar and Ali, dropping toys in a huge box as their donation.

The campaign aims to collect toys from donors shopping at Kinan’s seven malls in Madinah, Riyadh, Jeddah, Yanbu and Jubail during the holy month and distribute them to the orphans sponsored by the foundation. “The idea of presenting toys to orphans is aimed at making them feel the joy of Eid like all children who have parents to grant them love, compassion and giving,” Zawawi said. Sudan and Yemen are among the countries whose orphans will benefit from the drive, described as the first of its kind.

The campaign’s objective is also to develop the spirit of giving among all members of society, especially children, and urge them to donate their extra toys to orphans so that they enjoy the festival and grow up to do good and provide a helping hand to the needy,” he added.
Source : Arab News

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dow Jones expands Islamic market measure

By Soren Billing

Dow Jones Indexes has expanded its Islamic Market Index universe with 11 countries.

Effective immediately, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia, Argentina, Colombia, Croatia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia and the Ukraine will be added to Dow Jones’ Islamic market indices, taking the total number of markets to 68.

In addition, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia will be added to the Dow Jones Islamic Market MENA index, which currently measures the performance of Shariah compliant stocks traded in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.
“The inclusion of these 11 thriving and competitive developing countries in the Dow Jones Islamic Market Index universe is a reaction to market demand but also reflects the growing importance of these countries for Islamic investors,” said Michael A. Petronella, president of Dow Jones Indexes.

The Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes were launched in 1999 and seek to measure the global universe of listed equities that pass screenings for Shariah compliance.

Conservatives prep for JCCI elections

By Galal Fakkar
JEDDAH: The election for a new board of directors of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in October is culminating in what is being viewed as a showdown between varied interests of reformists versus a unified bloc of conservatives.

The JCCI is the largest chamber in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region with the city of Jeddah alone home to 40 percent of commercial activity in the Kingdom.

“It is high time the conservatives run for the elections at the chamber, especially considering that the reformists have controlled the board of directors of the chamber for many long years,” a conservative candidate said on condition of anonymity.

“The JCCI is now our target after we have extended our role in the service of society and in promoting social responsibility of companies.”

The candidate said there was coordination and contacts between the sons and daughters of a number of famous trading families who had a long history in supporting the activities of welfare societies.

“They are familiar faces in the public service while at the same time they are successful traders,” he added.

Chamber member Abdullah Damas said the victory of the conservatives in the elections of the 12-member municipal council in its first session five years ago gave them more confidence to move ahead in the JCCI.

Half of the seats of the municipal council are filled by popular vote. The other half of the membership of the council is appointed. All adult men are allowed to vote. Conservatives won in those elections that some claimed were biased in favor of a so-called “Golden List” of predominantly conservative candidates backed by local religious leaders. The critics filed a lawsuit against the election results but lost the case.

Damas said that the conservatives vying for positions at the JCCI “are organized people with distinctive footprints in the world of business.”

According to chamber sources, the reformists are running in three blocs while the conservatives have coalesced into one bloc backed by the conservative members of the municipal council who have called for “infusing new blood into the chamber.”

Sources said current members of the JCCI board of directors will not constitute a bloc of their own but may join the blocs of either the conservatives, the reformists or the independents.

It is expected that more than 100 candidates from reformists, conservatives and independents will run in the elections. A number of the incumbent board members, including four women, have expressed their intention of running in the elections.

The Elections Committee will meet by the end of August to draw up its working plans for the elections. Chambers of commerce in Saudi Arabia are powerful commercial organizations that act as quasi-governmental organs that issue licenses and notarize official documents. They are comprised of various committees that lobby for different interests, such as lawyers, manufacturers or fisheries.

The JCCI has about 20,000 members, but those who have not renewed their membership six months before the election date will not be allowed to vote.

An analyst, who did not want to named, said if a reformist group, headed by Dr. Abdullah Saddiq Dahlan, won, he might allow foreign investors to run for the elections of the chamber in the future.

Dahlan is Saudi Arabia’s current representative to the International Labor Organization. He was a former secretary-general of the JCCI and once served on the Shoura Council.

Source : Arab News