Petroleum Development Oman Attempts to Raise Green Economy Awareness

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) staged a Majlis stakeholder engagement session to raise awareness of the concept of the green economy as part of the Company’s “Green Week” initiative in Salalah. The thought leadership event, which was held under the auspices of Najeeb bin Ali al Rawas, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), focused on the theme of “Green Economy: Promising Opportunities for Investment”. The interactive panel debate and question and answer session aimed to respond to global demands to pursue low emission developments and the efficient use of resources as well as enhancing government endeavors to diversify the economy and identify investment opportunities across key sectors.

The wide-ranging discussion also addressed green investment barriers and potential obstacles and covered the need to develop a roadmap for implementing green investment opportunities in areas such as renewable energy within Oman. The Majlis followed the dialogue about a green economy the day before at a workshop organized by PDO in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program, which was attended by high-level stakeholders from various concerned entities. PDO External Affairs and Value Creation Director Abdul-Amir bin Abdul-Hussein al Ajmi said: “In the past few years, significant efforts have been carried out to maximize economic diversification alongside the oil and gas industry and we hope that this session will contribute to those efforts. There are many opportunities for Oman within the green economy and it is imperative that different sectors work together to translate them into a reality so that the country operates more sustainably.

“While it is true that PDO is primarily an oil and gas company, such initiatives which benefit economic diversification and the environment are part and parcel of our activities and efforts to be a good corporate citizen.” More than 170 people, including key representatives from the public and private sectors, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and academic institutions, attended the event which was held at the Millennium Resort Salalah. Guest panelists included Eng Ahmed al Hinai, Director General of Environmental Affairs at MECA; Dr Ahmed al Ghassani, Riyada Chief Executive Officer; Mohammed al Shuayli, PDO Head of Corporate Environment; and Eng Muhannad Al Juma, Manager of the Oman Environmental Services Holding Company (Be’ah) Academy. The session, which lasted two hours, was moderated by Shaikh Mohammed al Harthy, Executive Vice President, Strategic Development at Be’ah.


Wood Group Expects Increased Activity in Iraq

Scottish-based engineering firm Wood Group plc has said that its operations in Iraq will see increased activity.

In its half-year results for the six months ended 30 June 2019, the company said: “Growth in 2019 will be led by Operations Solutions, where we expect increased activity in Iraq with customers including Basra Gas, and in Papua New Guinea and Australia with Exxon.”

The company combined with Amec Foster Wheeler in 2017.


NOC & BPMC Report Libyan Fuel Distributors to GNA

In a letter addressed to the Presidency Council (PC), National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Brega Petroleum Marketing Company (BPMC) have alerted authorities about the failure of fuel distribution companies to collect and distribute allocated fuel.

According to government regulations, four companies – Highway Services Company, Sharara Oil Services, Alrahila Oil Services and Oilibya – are responsible for fuel distribution and station management across the country. Each company has failed to collect its full consignment of fuel for distribution to stations across Libya’s western, southern, and mountain regions. BPMC allocated 15 million liters of diesel and gasoline for the greater Tripoli region for the Eid al-Adha holiday (August 10-13), with only 6,450,000 liters collected from its depot.

National Oil Corporation’s (NOC) Board of Directors had previously instructed BPMC to distribute fuel directly to citizens via mobile fuel stations; these can be found at the former Girls College and Abu Salim area. Plans are underway to expand this project to additional locations.

“Distribution companies are failing to serve the needs of the Libyan people,” said BPMC chairman Imad Ben Koura. “Fuel supply is adequate but is not reaching the people. BPMC is gravely concerned about this development. We call on the government to investigate and potentially restructure the current arrangement if distribution companies continue to fail to maintain basic fuel supply arrangements. BPMC will continue to do everything within its power to ensure fuel reaches every Libyan – wherever they are.”

According to NOC chairman, Eng. Mustafa Sanalla: “NOC and BPMC are committed to ensuring continuous delivery of fuel across the country, for all Libyans, at official prices. Any party blocking deliveries, manipulating fuel prices, or smuggling fuel will be referred to the appropriate authorities. We call on the government to ensure proper oversight is in place to hold operators of companies and fuel stations accountable, and to safeguard adequate fuel supply and delivery.”


Radisson Announces New Hotel Openings in KSA

Radisson Hotel Group is set to reinforce its position as a hospitality leader in Saudi Arabia with plans expand its footprint in the kingdom. As one of the fastest growing companies in Saudi Arabia, Radisson Hotel Group currently has over 40 hotels, resorts and serviced apartments with 10,000 rooms in operation and under development.

Radisson had recently just announced the signing of its second Radisson Collection property in Riyadh, the Mansard Riyadh, while the Nofa Resort Riyadh, the first African-style resort in the kingdom has 57 luxurious bungalows and villas overlooking Nofa Wildlife Park, opened in November 2018.

Radisson Hotel Group is globally recognized for its expansive range of iconic hotels rooted in prime locations across the globe. The four-star Park Inn by Radisson Jeddah Madinah Road will open its doors in Q4 of this year and will be led by the first Saudi female general manager, which is also the first female general manager in the kingdom.

Tim Cordon, area senior vice president, Middle East, Turkey & Africa, commented: “Radisson Hotel Group aims to supplement the Saudi market with modernized and exceptional hotel experiences across leisure, dining, fitness, wellness and sustainability. Our aim is to become the go-to hotelier for local guests and business travelers whilst empowering the Saudi working population simultaneously.”

The recently opened Park Inn by Radisson Makkah Aziziyah is an upper mid-scale hotel situated at the heart of the holy city, built to facilitate the pilgrim travelers’ stay and experience in the kingdom. The hotel boasts 355 modern rooms and suites and offers a multitude of amenities.

The upcoming Park Inn by Radisson Hotel Riyadh is a midscale hotel which houses 193 rooms, two restaurants and five meeting rooms; while the Park Inn by Radisson Jeddah Madinah Road hotel will comprise 84 rooms in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah.

The recently signed Mansard Riyadh hotel is focused on meeting the demands of business travelers. The hotel will have 140 hotel rooms, 27 serviced apartments and 24 three-bedroom villas and offers a wide selection of fine dining Arabic, Italian and French cuisines.

Radisson Hotel Group manages over 95,000 team members worldwide at its global licensed hotel operators. Radisson Collection, part of Radisson Hotel Group, operates three key hotel segments in Saudi Arabia, which include: Radisson Blu, Radisson Park Inn by Radisson and The Radisson Collection.


MG Motor Named Official Partner of Saudi Club

British automotive brand MG Motor has signed a three-year deal to become Official Partner of one of Saudi Arabia’s most successful football clubs, Al Ahli, as part of the brand’s strategic initiative to engage with football fans and become a household name in Saudi and across the Middle East.

Al Ahli is one of Saudi Arabia’s top football clubs, having never been relegated from the top tier and holding three Saudi Professional League championships, 13 Kings Cup titles and six Crown Prince Cups among its many honours, said a company statement.

With a similarly prestigious and established record of achievements, through this new partnership MG Motor is taking the opportunity to build upon the sporting spirit both brands share. Throughout its 95 year history, MG Motor has collected multiple world records and it is that dedication, spirit and ambition which is shared with Al Ahli Football Club.

With mutual values of passion, performance and achievement, MG will activate its partnership with Al Ahli under the tagline #WeAreUpForIt. This tagline focuses on the notion that nothing is impossible within the right partnership. When the best come together, any challenge can be overcome.

At a press conference held at the MG Showroom in Jeddah on August 20, with the presence of Prince Mansour bin Mishaal, the General Football Supervisor for Al Ahli, Engineer Ahmad Al Sayegh, president of Al Ahli Club, and Tom Lee, managing director of MG Motor Middle East.

Along with several of Al Ahli’s star players appeared including Omar Al Somah, Hussain Abdulghani, Hussain Al Moqahwi and Abdulfattah Asiri in 2019/2020 season shirts sporting MG’s iconic octagon logo. MG Motor and Al Ahli plan to initiate a series of exciting activities in the Kingdom to invite football fans to be part of this historic partnership.

Ahmed Al-Sayegh said: “When visions combine and harmonise with each other, the path of progress becomes smooth, and challenges become achievements.”

“We are delighted to sign a sponsorship agreement with MG Motor; one of the world’s biggest automotive companies. By signing this deal we are significantly increasing financial revenues for the club and creating new investment opportunities for all Al Ahli sporting teams to benefit from,” he said.

Tom Lee said: “Football tests the limits of skill and endurance, and with the right teamwork, challenges turn into achievements. At MG Motor we see that every goal can become a reality – a value which we share with Al Ahli football club.”

“We are looking forward to supporting Al Ahli as they face the challenges of the forthcoming football seasons, and demonstrating that “together we are up for it,” he said.

“Football as we know it was born in Great Britain, and as a British-born brand ourselves, this partnership pays homage to these roots. We are passionate about providing drivers across the Kingdom with a winning combination of quality, style, performance and cutting-edge technology in each and every one of our cars. Through our partnership with Al Ahli we look forward to introducing MG to a new audience of football fans,” he added.

In July this year, MG Motor signed a contract with the 2019 Champions League winners, Liverpool FC, as official global partner, cementing the brand’s presence on the global football stage.

The MG brand is exceptionally well positioned to build on its growing product line-up in Saudi Arabia, having partnered with Taajeer Group as its retailer in the Kingdom since the end of 2017.

Last year, sales of MG cars were up by 453% across the Middle East, following the launch of three new models: the MG RX5, MG ZS and all-new MG6. Later this year, MG will further expand its range with the launch of three new models: the MG5 compact sedan, the brand’s first-ever 7-seater MG RX8, and the MG HS mid-size SUV, it stated.


Mandatory Health Insurance in Oman to Fuel Investments in Generic Drugs

The imminent introduction of mandatory health insurance in Oman is expected to drive up the domestic demand for pharmaceuticals, boding well for generic drugs investments in the Sultanate, according to a key report published by Fitch Solutions Macro Research, the primary distributor of Fitch Ratings. An estimated 2.1 million people — Omanis and expatriates, as well as their dependents, working in the private sector — are expected to be covered by the the Unified Health Insurance Policy (UHIP) — also known as ‘Dhamani’ — when it is rolled out in stages starting from later this year.

The scheme, formally unveiled by the Capital Market Authority (CMA) in March this year, will make it mandatory for private companies to provide basic healthcare coverage to their employees — a landmark move that also promises to unlock new investment and growth opportunities across the healthcare and related sectors in the Sultanate. “The launch of the mandatory health insurance scheme, coupled with a rapidly growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases in the MENA region, is expected to increase demand for medicines in the country,” said Fitch Solutions in its recent report on Oman. It noted however that “highly profitable opportunities for drug-makers will remain limited due to the country’s aggressive pricing and reimbursement regime and the relatively small population”.

“Nonetheless, foreign drug-makers will still seek to capitalize on opportunities in the Omani medicines market, albeit most likely via imports and partnerships with domestic producers. The steady growth in both the pharmaceutical and healthcare market as well as the high income per capita in Oman will ensure the country’s attractiveness to international drug-makers,” Fitch Solutions affirmed. The Dhamani scheme offers maximum coverage of RO 3,000 (~US$7,800) towards inpatient treatment encompassing hospital stay, treatment, medicines, and so on. For outpatient treatment, the maximum coverage is RO 500 (~US$1,300), which will include consultation, diagnostics, medicines and lab fees. The initiative has already spurred a strong uptick in investments in new private hospitals, polyclinics and diagnostic facilities, as well as an upsurge in insurance and third party service providers.

Side by side with these developments, Oman has also seen an exponential increase in investments in the pharmaceutical industry. Early last year, construction began on a mega pharmaceuticals manufacturing plant in Salalah Free Zone with an investment size of US$365 million (~RO 140 million). Felix Pharmaceuticals, set for launch in 2021, plans to produce around 100 different types of drugs. In March this year, Thaiba Pharma announced the commencement of construction of a specialty drugs manufacturing plant at Rusayl in Muscat Governorate. Menagene Pharmaceutical Industries is due to be operational in 2021. According to market experts, the generic drugs industry in the GCC was valued at US$1.55 billion in 2016, following CAGR of 15% between 2009 and 2016. Domestically produced generics account for around 45% of drug consumption in the Middle East.


QCB Sees Strong Economic Growth for Qatar in 2019

Qatar will likely maintain its position as one of the fastest growing economies in the GCC and will register a strong growth in 2019, the Qatar Central Bank (QCB) said in its 2018 Annual Report. It added that favourable movements in global oil prices, strong exports and improvement in fiscal balance are likely to provide overall macroeconomic stability in 2019.

While the Qatari economy remained robust and stable last year, real GDP growth has somewhat moderated to 1.4 % in 2018, from 1.6 % in 2017. With several FIFA World Cup 2022 related projects near completion stage, and as a result of the ongoing economic diversification strategy, sources of growth for non-hydrocarbon sector have been getting diversified.

Going forward, as per the Qatar Economic Outlook released by Planning and Statistics Authority, real GDP is projected to grow at average rate of 2.8 % during 2018-2020. The estimated budget surplus will fall to QR4.35 billion (US$1.161 billion) in 2019, from a surplus of QR15.1 billion (US$4.031 billion) in 2018, because of increase in expenditure on major projects by 15 %.

Total public revenue is estimated to increase by 1.5 % to QR211 billion (US$56.326 billion). Revenue from ‘oil and gas’ is budgeted at QR168 billion (US$44.847 billion), a decline of 3 % from the actuals of 2018. Revenue from ‘miscellaneous transferable’ is budgeted at QR43 billion (US$11.478 billion), an increase of 23.6 % over the actuals of 2018, reflecting the government efforts to diversify revenue from non-oil and gas sources.

Total public expenditure has also been budgeted at QR206.7 billion (US$55.178 billion) during 2019, an increase of 1.7 % and 7.2 % over the budget estimates and the actual of 2018, respectively.

According to the QCB report, payment systems in Qatar comprising of retail and wholesale segment grew in comparison to the previous year, both in value and in volume terms. The size of Qatar’s payment system was QR4.1 trillion in 2018.

Also, shares in the Qatar Stock Exchange (QE) have risen significantly as the world’s best performing performer, with the current account surplus increasing and the country’s large foreign exchange reserves rebuilt.

More recently, total reserves in the banking system remained stable at QR80.3 billion (US$21.436 billion) in July, which showed a 9.7 % increase from July 2018 and a 43.7 % increase since the second month of the blockade in July 2017, Al Byraq Center for Economic and Financial Studies noted in its weekly analysis.

The mandatory reserve also grew to QR 37 billion (US$9.877 billion) compared to QR36.6 billion (US$9.770 billion) a year ago, and QR35 billion (US$9.343 billion) two years ago. This reflects the steady increase in the volume of deposits in the commercial banks.

According to the annual comparison, the bank’s surplus from reserve balances, which was deposited with the Central Bank, stabilised at QR4.55 billion (US$1.214 billion) in July, compared to QR7.9 billion (US$2.108 billion) earlier last year, indicating improved liquidity management at banks operating in Qatar.

The net foreign assets increased by 52.3 % to QR139.97 billion (US$37.365 billion) in July 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. In its report, the QCB reiterated that the Qatari economy was completely out of the initial negative effects of the economic blockade imposed since June 2017.

This was reflected in the return of capital flows, the convenient liquidity position of the banking system, official foreign reserves that returned to pre-blockade level, healthy growth in private sector and reasonable growth in the non-hydrocarbon sector.


Oman to Digitalize Key Public Services by 2022

Public services provided by as many as 59 different Omani government ministries and institutions are proposed to be digitalized over the next four years as part of a wider strategic bid to drive the growth of a full-fledged Information & Communications Technology (ICT) industry in the Sultanate. The move is being spearheaded by the Information Technology Authority (ITA) with the support of a wide array of government agencies and institution. Importantly, the private sector will play a key role in the initiative, notably by financing this landmark project under a PPP-type framework.

Plans for the digitalization of key public services stem from a month-long ‘Lab’ hosted earlier this year by the ITA with the support of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) of the Diwan of Royal Court. The Lab produced a series of recommendations for invigorating the growth of a strong ICT industry — crucial to Oman’s economic diversification objectives. Outlining the rationale behind digitalizing public services, a recent report by ISFU explained: “The existing digital government services in the Sultanate facilitate many transactions for citizens, governmental and private institutions. They also save a lot of effort, time and money. Therefore, this project is intended to accelerate the digital transformation of the most important government services. This will be achieved through the implementation of the public-private partnership financing model.”

The digitalization drive will seek to “improve” the quality and demand for government services, according to the Information Technology Authority (ITA). “The project is also expected to improve the efficiency of government performance and raise the level of transparency, and will provide 490 job opportunities by 2022,” the ISFU report noted. Following the conclusion of the Lab in March, the ITA embarked on the implementation of as many as 11 initiatives that were proposed by participants as key to kindling the growth of an ICT sector in the country. These initiatives envisioned the potential for 28 projects categorized into Hardware & Software, Services, and Enablers.

Combined investments in these projects were estimated at RO 104 million (US$270.9 million), with the potential to create around 2,300 direct jobs and over 9,000 training opportunities for Omanis by 2024. ITA CEO Dr Salim Sultan al Ruzaiqi said the Authority is also currently reviewing the key directions of the National Strategy for the Omani Digital Society and eGovernment (e-Oman) until 2030 with a view to addressing new trends and developments impacting all aspects of Omani society and economy during the period of the 9th five-year plan. “The future changes will be addressed at Oman Vision 2040, and the necessary requirements to face these changes will be mentioned in the 10th five-year plan,” he noted.


Trump Unlikely to Support Macron’s Plan to Revive Iran Deal

French President Emmanuel Macron pitched US President Donald Trump on a plan to end the standoff over the Iran nuclear deal -- by allowing Iran to sell oil for a limited period of time in exchange for returning to talks and to compliance with the agreement.

The proposal was described by a French official after Macron and Trump sat down to an impromptu lunch that stretched for two hours at the Group of Seven Summit in Biarritz, France. A senior US official termed the plan a non-starter.

The US in the past has resisted any compromise that allowed Iran to resume selling oil, which is sharply restricted by US sanctions. That’s why ending the impasse and putting the deal back together is so difficult: Iran’s No. 1 demand to come back to the bargaining table is that it be allowed to sell oil to help its struggling economy.

The French official described a plan that would occur in two phases. Iran would be allowed to sell some volume of its oil in exchange for a series of commitments: return to compliance with the existing agreement, find ways to lower tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a spate of tanker seizures, and return to structured talks on missiles, regional issues and what happens after 2025, when the current agreement is set to expire.

The hope, this official said, is that this could create a de-escalation that allows the two sides to begin talking again, particularly knowing that both Trump and the Iranians have said they don’t want war. Macron met with an Iranian delegation on Friday, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to discuss this proposal.

Trump pulled out of the deal in May 2018, saying it didn’t do enough to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Iran remained in compliance with the deal for a time, but recently said it was enriching uranium at higher levels than allowed in the deal -- meaning it’s no longer in line with the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Macron has led a European effort to find a compromise that would get Trump back to the table with the Iranians. One struggle has been finding incentives for Iran to renegotiate a deal that took effect so recently, this time surely at worse terms for Iran.

Salvaging the Iran nuclear accord is one of the key topics of the summit at this beach resort town, which sees Trump in his customary role as the outlier to the European nations that still think the deal can be saved. Another potential stumbling block to compromise in Biarritz: Trump brought with him national security adviser John Bolton, the leading Iran hawk in his administration. - Bloomberg



Iran Mulling Discounts to Encourage More Activity at Chabahar Port

The Iranian government is planning discounts, along other measures, to encourage increased operations in Chabahar port in southeastern Iran. The deputy minister of commerce said on Thursday that the government was doing follow-ups on a promise to grant a 30% discount on customs duties for cargo unloaded at Shahdi Beheshti area of Chabahar port, Press TV reported.

Hossein Modarres Khiabani said that the government had also made it mandatory for two major state-run companies to unload and transport their imported cargo via the facilities at Shahid Beheshti area rather than their traditional destination at Imam Khomeini port in southwestern Iran.

The measures come amid reports that Iran has expedited efforts to increase activity at Chabahar port after India, a major partner for the development of the port city, said it was unhappy with the slow progress made to turn the port into a major shipping and trade hub in the region.

India has signed major agreements with Iran to build two terminals at Shahid Beheshti area and a railway connecting Chabahar to the city of Zahedan near the Afghan border as it seeks easier trade access to Afghanistan and countries in the Central Asia region.

The development programs, however, hit a snag last year after the US imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran over the country’s nuclear activities. Iran’s transportation minister said earlier this month that Tehran had accelerated construction activities at the Chabahar-Zahedan railway.

Measures adopted for increased port activity at Chabahar come a week after Iranian authorities denied media reports that they were seeking to replace Russia with India in development plans for the port. - Iran Daily


Iran's Oil Sales Not Banned by Any Intl Body: FM

"Iran is not committed to EU decisions and Europe will not seek to impose its decisions on any country outside the EU," the Iranian foreign minister said, stressing that Iran's oil sales were not sanctioned by any international body.

According to IRNA, Mohammed Javad Zarif after meeting with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto on Monday, told reporters in response to a question about the seizure of oil tanker Grace-1 (Adrian Darya-1): “We have always said that seizure of Adrian Daya-1 was illegal and had no legal basis.”

"Iran is not committed to EU decisions and Europe is not seeking to impose its decisions on any country outside the EU," he said, stressing that Iran's oil sales were not sanctioned by any international body.

The Foreign Minister continued: "The seizure of the Iranian oil tanker by Gibraltar and the United Kingdom has no basis. We are pleased that this seizure is over and hopefully will lead to a reduction in tensions, although we do see the United States seeking to raise the level of tension and has now received a purely political ruling from the court regarding the vessel.” Zarif said: "Because of the US sanctions, we cannot be clear about our tankers' destinations, because the US is illegally trying to persecute buyer countries."

Stating that the US sanctions were against the Iranian people, Mr. Zarif added: "In the economic war, ordinary people are the target. What the US is doing against us is a war. In military warfare, soldiers are targeted, although ordinary civilians on the periphery may be harmed, too.” - Shana


Stena Bulk Tanker Seized by Iran Could Be Released Soon

Sweden has received “very strong indications” that a British oil tanker seized last month by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz is to be released soon, Swedish public service broadcaster SVT reported on Thursday, citing sources within Sweden’s foreign ministry. The Stena Impero, British-owned but operated by Swedish company Stena Bulk, was captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, visited Sweden earlier this week for talks with Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom. He also met Erik Hanell, chief executive of Stena Bulk. The vessel is expected to be released within a few days, SVT reported, citing a source with insight into the talks that took place between Wallstrom and Zarif.

“We look positively at what Foreign Minister Zarif himself has said publicly about hopes for a possible quick solution for Stena Impero, but we do not disclose what is said in the meetings,” a spokeswoman at Sweden’s foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement. - Reuters


US Will Aggressively Enforce Sanctions over Iran Tanker: State Dept Official

The United States will aggressively enforce its sanctions to prevent the private sector from assisting an Iranian oil tanker that is travelling through the Mediterranean and that Washington wants seized, a State Department official said on Thursday.

“The shipping sector is on notice that we will aggressively enforce U.S. sanctions,” the official told Reuters days after warning countries not to allow the tanker to dock. Ship tracking data has shown the ship, Adrian Darya, formerly called Grace 1, last heading towards Greece, although Greece’s prime minister said it was not heading to his country.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned that the United States would act against anyone who directly or indirectly helped the tanker. “All parties in the shipping sector should conduct appropriate due diligence to ensure that they are not doing business with nor facilitating business for, directly or indirectly, sanctioned parties or with sanctioned cargo,” the official warned.

The ship was released from detention off Gibraltar after a five-week standoff over whether it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Soon after the detention order was lifted, a U.S. federal court ordered the seizure of the vessel on different grounds, but that petition was rejected by Gibraltar. Tehran said any U.S. move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences”. - Reuters


Iranian Tanker Wanted by US Not Heading to Greece: PM

An Iranian tanker which the United States wants seized is not heading towards Greece as it sails through the Mediterranean, Greek Prime Minister Kyrikos Mitsotakis told France 24 TV on Thursday.

The Adrian Darya, formerly called Grace 1, left Gibraltar on Sunday. Ship-tracking data on Tuesday showed it was heading towards the Greek port of Kalamata on the southern coast of the Peloponnese and was scheduled to arrive next Monday.

“The ship is not heading towards Greece. We have not received a request for it to dock in a Greek port,” said Mitsotakis, who was in Paris for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. The tanker was detained by Gibraltar after British forces seized it in July on suspicion of breaking sanctions on Syria, but it was released on Sunday.

The United States wants to detain it again on the grounds it has links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which it deems a terrorist organization. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the United States would take every action it could to prevent the tanker delivering oil to Syria in contravention of U.S. sanctions. - Reuters


Iran to Transfer Capital Market Knowledge, Experience to Iraq

A group of representatives from Iranian and Iraqi capital markets are set to cooperate in a joint project in which the Iranian side is going to share its knowledge and experience in this field with the Iraqi counterpart, the portal of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) reported.

According to Iran’s Securities and Exchange Organization (SEO) vice chairman for international and foreign affairs, Bahador Bijani, a 10-member delegation from Iraq’s capital market has recently visited Iran and held talks in this regard.

“There will be two working groups, one from the Iranian capital market and one on the Iraqi side. They will work on mutual projects and prepare them to be operationalized during a visit of Iranian delegation to Iraq in the next month,” Bijani said.

In these projects, SEO is going to help the Iraqi side in the financing structure, he added. The official noted that for the time being Iran is not financing any projects in this field in Iraq and the cooperation are only at the knowledge transfer level so far but the two sides could continue discussing such matters in the future. - Tehran Times


Iran Electricity Generation Capacity Rises

Iran’s electricity generation capacity of power plants in the current year (started March 21, 2019) hit about 85,000-megawatt. The electricity generation capacity of power plants in the country hit from about 69,134 megawatts in Aug. 2015 to 84,795 megawatts in August 2019.

Total electricity generation capacity of power plants of the country hit 12,631 megawatts during 11th and 12th governments dubbed ‘hope and prudence’. The electricity generation capacities of renewable wind and solar power plants in August 2015 reached 219 megawatts, the figure of which has hit 750 megawatts in August 2019, showing a 521-megawatt increase during the 11th and 12th governments. Currently, more than 95% of power plants’ equipment are manufactured in the country. - Mehr


How Iran Is Using Currency Reforms to Withstand Trump

US sanctions are battering Iran’s economy. They have all but stopped Western companies from investing in the Islamic Republic, sent oil production crashing to its lowest level in more than three decades and led to a dire scarcity of foreign exchange. Inflation has accelerated to more than 50%, and some foods and medicines are running short. So far, Tehran is hunkering down rather than buckling to US pressure to change its foreign policy, retreat from the region and renegotiate the 2015 nuclear accord abandoned by President Donald Trump. Iran’s latest attempt to ease the pain has been a reform of its currency system.

1. Why is Iran making changes to its currency?

The rial has come under severe pressure from tightening sanctions and the subsequent collapse in oil revenue. Iran has long kept a tight grip on its currency and has been reluctant to let it devalue, maintaining the official exchange rate at 42,000 per US dollar since mid-2018. As supplies of foreign exchange in the banking system dried up, Iranians increasingly turned to the unregulated black market to pay for everything from imported cars to overseas college fees. From the start of 2019 to early May, the rial plummeted almost 30% on Tehran’s streets to 156,500 against the dollar. That caused prices to soar and led to social unrest.

2. What has Iran done?

It essentially created a system of multiple exchange rates, with the aim of taming the black market. It introduced a currency-trading platform known as Nima for local businesses last year. But most exporters preferred to sell their euros or dollars on the unregulated market, since the rial’s Nima rate was too close to the official one, and thus seen as overvalued. In recent months, the central bank has allowed the Nima rate to weaken substantially to encourage more companies to sell foreign exchange. President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet has also announced that the rial will be redenominated by slashing four zeros off it.

3. Has there been any effect so far?

The plan has succeeded in bolstering the rial on the unregulated market. Since May, it has appreciated more than 30% to 118,000, which is more or less the same as the Nima rate, even though tensions have worsened in the period with Iran shooting down a US drone and seizing vessels in or near the Strait of Hormuz. That has helped slow inflation, according to Steve H. Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. By his reckoning, the annual inflation rate, which peaked at 400% last year, fell to 24% by early August.

4. Will it work in the longer run?

The redenomination might have a psychological effect, albeit a minor one, if Iranians perceive a currency worth 12 per dollar to be a better store of value than one worth 120,000, says Renaissance Capital’s chief economist, Charles Robertson. But Iran will struggle to keep the Nima and unregulated markets stable as long as it can’t access enough foreign exchange with which to supply them. And that won’t change until sanctions are eased and energy exports pick up.

5. Why doesn’t Iran float the rial?

Iranian officials worry that the rial would tank if its value were fully determined by markets, which would cause inflation to accelerate again. It’s also politically sensitive. Much of the establishment sees any weakening of the currency as a sign of the nation’s diminishing power and inability to stand up to the US In addition, the central bank’s system of allocating foreign exchange at the official rate is opaque. Analysts have said it fuels corruption, with politically connected Iranians getting cheap dollars while most legitimate business requests are turned down. Those vested interests are unlikely to readily accept a floating currency. - Washington Post


Iran-Qatar Shipping Line to Start Operation in Days

The first shipping service between the Iranian port of Bushehr and Qatar’s Hamad Port will start operation within days, said Director General of Ports and Maritime Directorate of Bushehr Province Siavash Arjmandzadeh.

Arjmandzadeh said on Wednesday that a large vessel named Grand Ferry will start sailing from the port to Qatar’s Hamad Port on August 24, He added that the shipping service will provide cargo transportation for pallets and various types of containers, including those meant for refrigerated transport. “Given the high costs of the air transport, it is expected that the Grand Ferry ... could open a new horizon for trade relations between Iran and Qatar,” said Arjmandzadeh.

Iran has offered a major lifeline to Qatar since the country was sanctioned by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others over a diplomatic dispute in June 2017. The gas-rich country of 2.7 million people is mostly dependent on imports for most of its food needs. Arjmandzadeh said that the new shipping service to Qatar could “significantly” increase Iran’s exports to the Arab country while it could open a new chapter in tourism activities. He said that the Grand Ferry, equipped with 500 beds and 1,200 seats in 250 rooms, would soon accommodate passenger transport between Iran and Qatar.

The launch of the shipping service comes less than a year after delegates from Qatar visited Bushehr to discuss possibilities for more imports and passenger visits from Iran. Authorities said in October that there was a need for a 200-400 TEU (20-foot equivalent units) freight service between ports of Bushehr and Hamad.

The Grand Ferry, a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ship built in western France in 1983, is 144 meters long and 26 meters wide. It has remained docked at the Port of Bushehr since June 19 when it arrived to start preparations for the new service. The ship is planned to carry out two trips a week between Bushehr and Hamad ports which sit over 400 kilometers apart on northern and southern tips of the Persian Gulf.

Late in May, Chairman of Iran-Qatar Chamber of Commerce Adnan Mousapour announced that trade between the two countries is being followed in a normal status, absolutely unaffected by pressures from the US and some regional states. "Despite the international pressure on Qatar, the two sides have always been determined to continue their trade relationship as far as they could and through many efforts have been made over the past few days all the problems have been resolved," Mousapour said on May 28.

Late in February, a leading newspaper in the UAE said Washington is fearful of the growing relations between Iran and Qatar, claiming that Qatar's all-out support and financial aid to Iran have weakened Washington's attempts to sanction Tehran. - Fars


Iranian Airline Resumes Flights to Afghanistan

Kish Airline has resumed flights between Iran’s Northeastern city of Mashhad and Afghanistan’s Northwestern city of Herat, as Afghans are demanding more for air travel to the Iranian destination. The Director General of Khorasan Razavi Airports Company Mohammad Bagher Ghasemzadeh announced on Friday the launch of Mashhad-Herat flight route by Kish Airlines.

The air route between Iran’s Mashhad and Afghanistan’s Herat was resumed by Kish Air due to the cultural, political, religious and economic commonalities of people of cities in Mashhad and Herat as well as in the wake of the growing demand of air travel via this route. The direct flight is scheduled for every Friday from Mashhad to Herat and vice versa, Director General of Khorasan Razavi Airports Company Mohammad Bagher Ghasemzadeh added.

Presently, international flights at Shahid Hasheminejad Intl. Airport of Mashhad are operating between the cities of Istanbul, Kuwait, Muscat, Doha, Dubai, Sharjah, Baghdad, Nasiriyah, Basra, Najaf, Kabul, Mazari Sharif, Dushanbe, Herat and Kandahar. Mashhad-Herat direct flight used to be in operation by Ariana Afghan Airlines and Iran’s KAM Airlines, but it was halted for a few months, he added.

In January, Head of Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization of Iran Abdulhashem Hassannia said that Tehran will reduce or remove motorway tolling between Iran and Afghanistan to increase bilateral trade, adding that improving shared roads and transportation corridors between the two countries should be top on the agenda. - Fars


Huawei CFO Allegedly Said Company Has Office in Iran

Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer allegedly told a Canadian border official that the company has an office in Iran -- an assertion potentially buttressing U.S. claims that the Chinese tech giant engaged in activities there that violated U.S. sanctions.

When Meng Wanzhou was detained last December on a U.S. extradition request, she was interrogated by a Canadian border agent about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran and whether the company sold products in countries that it should not, according to court documents released Tuesday.

Meng initially replied, “I don’t know,” according to an excerpt taken from an affidavit by the border agent, who then told her that it was hard to believe that the CFO of a multi-billion dollar company wouldn’t know such details. Meng then allegedly said, “that her company does have an office in Iran,” according to the document.

The U.S. has charged Huawei with operating a secret subsidiary in Iran that obtained American goods, technologies and services there in violation of U.S. sanctions. The company has denied that it committed any violations. It didn’t respond to questions Tuesday about Meng’s statement and what its office in Iran does.

The case against Meng -- daughter of the company’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei -- is part of a broader U.S. crackdown on the networking giant. The Trump administration has barred Huawei from trading with American suppliers, putting the company at the center of an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

On Tuesday, the court also released footage from Meng’s three-hour detention at Vancouver’s airport, showing her in a black jumpsuit and white sneakers with eight pieces of luggage piled on a cart. The documents and footage were submitted by her defense to back its arguments that Canadian authorities deceived Meng about the true nature of her detention in order to collect evidence for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Her defense seeks to have the court throw out the extradition case arguing that Meng was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated instead of being immediately arrested. According to the documents, Meng was only allowed to call a lawyer four hours after she was first detained and was told by a police officer, “Yeah, if you find a lawyer sooner, you can go to the United States faster.”

At the FBI’s request, Canadian border agents also compelled Meng to hand over her devices and passwords and store them in special bags to protect them from being tampered with remotely. “These authorities engaged in what might be described as a ‘covert criminal investigation,” said her defense, which is seeking the disclosure of all communications between Canadian law enforcement agencies, as well as between the Canadian and U.S. governments regarding Meng. Canada’s crown prosecution has until Sept. 17 to respond to those requests. The next round of hearings is scheduled to start on Sept. 23. - Bloomberg


Stena Bulk Asks Putin for Help to Release Tanker Seized by Iran

Stena Bulk LLC has written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking for help in the company’s efforts to have its tanker, Stena Impero, released by Iran, Chief Executive Officer Erik Hanell said in an interview with Dagens Industri.

Hanell told the newspaper that he is cautiously optimistic about recent reports saying that the Stena Impero may be released within days, although the company itself hasn’t been informed directly. The British tanker was last month seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

Letters were also written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and no reply had been received from either leaders. There are Russian and Indian crew members on board, and the company was hoping the countries could use their influence to hasten its release, Dagens Industri said. - Bloomberg


Iranian Rial Regains Value by 40% in 8 Months: CBI

Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnaser Hemmati said Iranian rial has been strengthened by over 40% against US dollar in the past eight months, IRNA reported. In an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt, Abdolnasser Hemmati noted that the country’s foreign currency market is stabilizing and under control.

Asked about the impact of the US sanctions on the country’s oil exports and economy in general, Hemmati noted that Trump certainly hasn’t managed to realize his plans for zeroing Iran’s oil exports.
"Iranian businesses have found ways around US sanctions, trading through channels that skirt Washington's penalties. We have economic stability in Iran and calm in the currency markets. This shows that the Trump administration has been unsuccessful in its economic war against Tehran."

"Our oil exports have actually increased, they are currently rising, and we are using 'unconventional methods' to sell our oil,” he added. Commenting on the legality of the unilateral US sanctions, Hemmati noted that the United States cannot impose its laws and sanctions on the world.  “Donald Trump cannot order other countries to do whatever he wants. Trump's sanctions are illegal. We have found ways of bypassing the sanctions," he said.

Commenting on how Iran imports goods which are on America's sanctions list, the governor of the CBI said, "Iran is not a closed country. According to official statistics of the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), we are the eighteenth most powerful economy in the world in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which is a metric for comparing economic productivity and standards of living between various countries." -  Tehran Times


Bahraini, Indian PMs Hold Key Talks

His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain, today received Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held talks on a wide range of bilateral and international issues. "Our talks were comprehensive and included a wide range of subjects concerning India-Bahrain relations," Modi said in his Twitter handle.

Modi is on an historic two-day visit to Bahrain, the first by an Indian Prime Minister. He will address the Indian diaspora at the National Stadium in Isa Town. About 18,000 Indian expats are expected to attend the event. On landing in Bahrain from the UAE, Modi tweeted: "This visit is historical and will improve ties between our nations. I look forward to meeting the top spectrum of leaders and interacting with the Indian diaspora."

Modi is expected to launch RuPay, the Indian card payments system, in Bahrain. he will also launch the US$4 million renovation of the 200-year-old Shreenathji (Sri Krishna) Temple in Manama.


OPEC Market Share Sinks

OPEC's share of the global oil market has sunk to 30%, the lowest in years, as a result of supply restraint and involuntary losses in Iran and Venezuela, and there is little sign yet producers are wavering on their output-cut strategy.

Crude oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries made up 30% of world oil supply in July 2019, down from more than 34% a decade ago and a peak of 35% in 2012, according to OPEC data.

Despite OPEC-led supply cuts, oil has tumbled from April's 2019 peak above US$75 a barrel to US$60, pressured by slowing economic activity amid concerns about the U.S.-China trade dispute and Brexit.

The decline in prices, should it persist, and erosion of market share could raise the question of whether continued supply restraint is serving producers' best interests.

OPEC and its allies have a deal to limit supply until March 2020.

The group tried to defend its market share under the previous Saudi oil minister, Ali al Naimi, who sharply ramped up production in a pump war campaign in 2014.

Naimi was hoping to win the battle, arguing that OPEC's output was the world's cheapest and would allow the group to outdo other producers such as the United States.

As a result of his strategy OPEC's market share rose, while oil prices crashed to below US$30 a barrel, triggering many bankruptcies of U.S. oil firms and over-stretching the Saudi budget.

Riyadh and OPEC were forced to return to output cuts in 2017 to support prices, and sources within OPEC say there is no sign of any willingness to return to a pump war at the moment.

"Saudi Arabia is committed to do whatever it takes to keep the market balanced next year," a Saudi official said on Aug. 8. "We believe, based on close communication with key OPEC+ countries, that they will do the same."

OPEC, Russia and other producers have been restraining supply for most of the period since Jan. 1, 2017. The alliance, known as OPEC+, in July renewed the pact until March 2020.

While helping to boost prices, OPEC's market share has fallen steeply in the last two years. World supply has expanded by 2.7% to 98.7 million barrels per day, while OPEC crude output has fallen 8.4% to 29.6 million bpd.

While OPEC agreements apply to production, OPEC's exports are also falling as a percentage of world shipments, according to data from Kpler, which tracks oil flows. Iran has led the decrease in recent months.

Nonetheless, Swedish bank SEB said that for now OPEC+ still has room to act, as the countries making most of the voluntary curbs - Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Iraq - are still pumping at relatively high rates.

Venezuela and Iran, under U.S. sanctions and being forced to curb shipments, have delivered the bulk of the cuts. Venezuelan supply was already in long-term decline before Washington tightened sanctions this year.

"The active cutters are not very stretched at all," SEB analyst Bjarne Schieldrop wrote in the report. "They have not lost market share to U.S. shale. Venezuela and Iran are the big losers."

While Saudi Arabia holds the biggest sway in OPEC as its largest producer, some in the group are not convinced further OPEC+ action to support prices will happen or would work.

"I really doubt there will be further action," an OPEC delegate said. "If it did happen, it will have a temporary impact because the driver is trade and the economy."


Rohani Says Iran Keen on Selling Petroleum Products than Crude Oil

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said his administration was keen on selling petroleum products rather than crude oil now that the US is targeting its exports. Speaking at the meeting of the cabinet with Supreme Leader, President Hassan Rohani said, “Despite the inclusive efforts of the United States to stop our exports and imports, we could create a balance and stability in the market”.
He appreciated the patience and resistance of the Iranian nation against pressures, saying, “Today, the United States is globally considered as an isolated oath-breaker, as we have been able to defeat them in international communities two times”.

“Today, the US is committing an economic terrorism against the entire Iranian nation, women, children and men,” he said as describing the sanctions. Hassan Rohani went on to refer to Iran’s move to reduce its JCPOA commitments, saying, “We have chosen the right path in reducing our commitments, and we have reiterated that there is a limit to our patience”. If the 4+1 negotiations are successful, it can change the circumstances, he said, adding, “If the negotiations are unsuccessful, we will continue this path”.

“World powers know that if Iran’s oil export is reduced to zero, international waterways will not have the same security they used to; therefore, unilateral pressure against Iran cannot be to their benefit and ensure their security in the region and the world,” he continued.

The President also mentioned measures taken by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) for market stability, saying, “The exchange rate has become somewhat balanced, and we are confident about supplying people’s basic needs”. On government’s policy to sell oil products instead of crude oil, Rohani said, “To do this, we will develop our existing refineries and build new ones”. He added, “If all organs and branches stand together and support each other, we will overcome the sanctions with a faster pace, and bring the United States to its knees”. - Shana



Tenaris Grabs Abu Dhabi Deal

Italian steel pipe maker Tenaris has won a 5-year contract worth US$1.9 billion to supply tubulars and services to Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), the company said on Thursday. The contract includes the supply of a full array of steel grades and connections to support ADNOC's onshore and offshore E&P expansion projects, Tenaris said. The contract may be extended for another two years, it added.


Oil Revenues Belong to Iranian Nation: 1st VP

First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri said that oil belonged to the Iranian nation and its revenues would be spent on developing the country. According to first vice president’s website, Jahangiri said on Thursday that the Islamic Revolution was standing firm because of the blood of the martyrs and the resistance of the Iranian nation which would continue on its path to independence and freedom.
"Today, we see the United States using all its satellite, air and maritime capabilities to track down an Iranian oil tanker to see where it wants to sell its oil,” he said. "The Americans thought that if the Iranians claimed that the tanker belonged to the Revolutionary Guards, the Iranian people might support them [the Americans], but they were mistaken and lying," the first vice president said. “Oil belongs to the Iranian nation and its revenues would be returned to the nation by spending it on developing the country.” - Shana




Iran to Counter Smuggling with Raising Diesel Price

The Iranian government is planning to increase the heavily-subsidized price of diesel to make it more realistic and to discourage smugglers who are trafficking the fuel to the neighboring countries where the price is astronomically higher by between 58 and 95 times. Faramrz Maddah, a member of the managing board of Iran’s department on road transportation, said on Saturday that the government is planning a hike in the price of diesel amid efforts to curb the trafficking of the fuel across the borders, adding that the planned rise would replace a scheme to ration diesel.
He added the government had originally planned to limit the amount of fuel given to truck owners through the use of smart electronic cards.

Diesel is currently pumped to trucks across Iran at two prices of 3.15 and 5.02 cents for each liter, much lower than prices charged in neighboring countries where the same unit of the fuel normally costs above US$0.3.

The gap has encouraged truck owners to sell the fuel to smugglers who mostly transport it across the borders to Afghanistan or Pakistan or on the sea to Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. Maddah said imposing restrictions on the delivery of diesel priced at US$5.02, which was the government's original plan, would lead to irregularities in the pumping stations.

“The most fundamental solution to reduce smuggling is to make prices realistic,” said Maddah, adding that truck owners possessing electronic cards would still be provided with quotas of diesel at the current minimum price of US$3.15. The planned hike in the price of diesel comes as the government has yet to announce measures to regulate the use of gasoline, the main fuel used by motorists across Iran.

It was announced last month that using smart cards for gasoline delivery would become mandatory at pumping stations across Iran in a near future. Authorities say that the domestic consumption of the fuel has exceeded 90 million liters a day while suggesting that trafficking across the borders is a main issue.

In mid-March, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy identified and arrested 56 members of a big gang of fuel smugglers in the Southern port city of Bandar Abbas, impounding 1 million liters of diesel, 2 bunker ships and 5 towboats.

According to an IRGC Navy official, towboats were transferring diesel to bunker ships and the fuel was then distributed to different ships and ports. IRGC is studying the case to find out the destination of smuggled fuel.

In a related front, earlier in March, the Intelligence department of the IRGC announced that it had disbanded a ring of fuel smugglers, impounding more than 10 million liters of subsidized fuel from the criminals’ hideout. - Fars