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No 135

October 2011

EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief HH Sayyid Tarik Bin Shabib Group Editor Mayank Singh Assistant Editor Visvas Paul D Karra DESIGN Senior Art Director Sandesh S. Rangnekar Senior Designer M. Balagopalan Senior Photographer Rajesh Burman Photographer Motasim Abdulla Al Balushi Cover concept Chanjeet Singh Production Manager Govindaraj Ramesh MARKETING Business Head Jacob George Senior Advertising Manager Avi Titus Advertising Manager Arif Abdul Bari Assistant Advertising Manager Sanjeev Rana CORPORATE Chief Executive Sandeep Sehgal Executive Vice President Alpana Roy Vice President Ravi Raman Senior Business Support Executive Radha Kumar Business Support Executive Zuwaina Said Al-Rashdi

AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT

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ndividual capacity is vital for a person entering the corner office. But the fact remains that currently the overwhelming majority of people occupying these offices are male. OER’s annual, ‘The Most Powerful Women in Business (MPW)’ issue celebrates women luminaries who have made it to the top despite daunting odds like cultural barriers and deep rooted prejudices. Employing more women is not only in the interests of women but also of companies. Research has shown that employee diversity improves corporate performance. For example, The Fortune 500 companies which are in the top quartile in employing women outperform those in the lowest quartile by a large percentage. Understanding women as consumers is also crucial for companies, and who better to do so than a company’s female employees? Getting more women into the workplace who understand the buying preferences of women consumers is important. Thus companies that hire and retain more women are not only doing the politically correct thing but also giving themselves a competitive edge. On an average women employees are more loyal and stay back in organisations for longer periods of time than men.

So should organisations make an extra effort to retain their female employees? Not many companies allow flexi-hours, feeding hours and similar enablers to help women employees through their overworked periods. Probably not, if women want to rise to the top they should not bank on chivalry, kid gloves or affirmative action to help their cause. The touchstone of excellence should be pure meritocracy and nothing else. Our MPW exhibit a killer work ethic and determination. But the least that companies can do is to shed their prejudices. There are also some means that women can use themselves to prosper professionally, such as projecting themselves better. Tapping into informal networks or finding themselves mentors also works to women’s advantage. Finally, family support is critical for women to build a career. Are men listening?

Distribution United Media Services LLC OER Presentation Guide Published by United Press & Publishing LLC PO Box 3305, Ruwi, Postal Code - 112 Muscat, Sultanate of Oman Tel: (968) 24700896, Fax: (968) 24707939 Email: publish@umsoman.com Website: www.umsoman.com

Mayank Singh

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. The publisher does not accept responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person or organisation acting or refraining as a result of material in this publication. OER accepts no responsibility for advertising content. Copyright © 2011 United Press & Publishing LLC Printed by Oman Printers Correspondence should be sent to: Oman Economic Review United Media Services PO Box 3305, Ruwi 112, Sultanate of Oman Fax: (968)24707939 Email: editor@oeronline.com Website: www.oeronline.com

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October 2011

OER -magazine

To read, click on link at: www.oeronline.com


EVENT

Achievers All The Al Mar’a Excellence Awards 2011 will honour achievers from different fields

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ook around you and you can see women achievers everywhere. Omani women have made inroads in every field and have become role models for generations to come because they are not only super achievers but pioneers as well. The Al Mar’a Excellence Awards 2011 is a humble salute to the women who have not only excelled personally and individually, but also made immense contributions and enriched the society we live in. The Awards have been designed to range across 12 categories, namely: Corporate Leadership, Fashion Design, Performing Arts, Fine Arts, Educational Services, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Health Services, Science and Industry, Technology, Sports, Petroleum Services and Social Responsibility. The final ranking process with be appraised by our official assessment partner, Ernst & Young. If you wish to nominate yourself or any other women who you think deserve to be honoured for making a mark in their respective fields and thereby impacting society, all you have

NEED TO FILL THE GLASS Apropos your cover story ‘A return of c o n fi d e n c e ’ , where the writer is talking about a momentum in the economy of Oman through creation of new jobs, higher salaries and enhanced government spending. The writer goes on to say that the empty half of the glass is occupying more mind space while the glass is actually half or more full. I fully agree that the empty half of the glass is the talk of the town. And why not. Oman’s business environment is not that rosy as thought by many.

to do is log onto www.almaraonline.com or fill up the nomination forms also available at selected retail outlets, which will then have to be submitted with your (or your nominee’s) supporting documentation at United Media Services, Ruwi. Winners of the Al Mar’a Excellence Awards 2011 will be announced at a glittering event to be held at The Amphitheatre, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, on October 25, 2011. Join us in celebrating and applauding these inspring leaders. The Al Mar’a Excellence Awards 2011 is an Al Mar’a Initiative. Strategic Partners: MercedesBenz (Zawawi Trading Company, the authorised general distributor for Mercedes-Benz in Oman) and BankDhofar. Assessment Partner: Ernst & Young. Media Partners: Times of Oman & Al Shabiba. Radio Partners: Al Wisal FM and Merge 104.8 FM. Printing Partner: Ruwi Modern Printers.

under pressure,’ hits the nail on the head. The net profit of MSM 30 companies during H1’2011 stood at RO215.60mn – a decline of 19.7 per cent on a YoY basis. The net profit of the industrial sector was the worst hit reporting a decline of about 38.9 per cent on a YoY basis. This is the alarming bit, because the manufacturing sector is considered the next big bet for the growth of the Sultanate’s economy. In view of the fact that the government’s long term vision is diversification of resources to non-oil revenues, confidence is low on the industrial front as managers and CEOs are facing a new set of challenges. As you rightly said, the sudden creation of jobs for Omanis is creating an attrition problem for various companies and productivity has become a major issue. Daniel K, Ruwi

I would like to take the example of the manufacturing sector, just to highlight the condition of the economy. Your statement that ‘though most companies experienced good topline growth, margins remained 4

October 2011

SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS Abdullah Al Salmi, executive vice president, Capital Market Authority has placed his finger on the pulse when he

raises a pertinent question in the story ‘Nowhere to run’. When large financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and others went bankrupt, the governments were able to bail them. But when governments go into the red, who will rescue them? The side effects of this financial sickness that has gripped many governments in the European Union are being felt in the Middle East. For instance, Oman’s fundamentals are strong but the Muscat Securities Market is bleeding despite most companies, across all sectors, posting some good H1 results. So how long will all this go on? Financial markets are still under the weather with the silver lining in the cloud still hidden behind the glint of uncertainty, as instability in Europe scorches holes in investors pockets. Its really a complicated situation presently and nobody is sure when all this will end. Narasimhan V, via email


INSIDE

PERISCOPE

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Oman Debate 2011 will feature top class interactions between government representatives and Oman’s corporate world

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STOCK MARKET

Promising steady returns SMN Power is confident that its stable cash flows and attractive dividend forecasts will attract investors to its IPO

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BEYOND BOARDROOMS An unending quest

Relentless discipline and dogged persistence have been the hallmarks of Deepak Kumar Srivastava’s professional success October 2011

It is better for investors to examine the outlook for equities, crude oil, foreign currencies, gold, debt and emerging markets

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LEGAL

Fair play As female employees became one of the most significant icons of change, protecting their rights at workplace has also assumed importance

EVENT

Tim Sebastian to host Oman Debate 2011

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Taking a threemonth call

C O V E R

S T O R Y

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INSIDE

AUTO TALK

Striking the right note

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ECONOMY

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Close Up

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Economy Watch

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Auto News

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Business Briefs

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Environment

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Executive Movements

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Billboard

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In the News

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Market Watch

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Golf Update

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Gizmos

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Editorial

CARTOON CORNER

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October 2011

By Kannan Murali

Stronger role for women During the last 40 years, Omani women have seen their political rights steadily increase and their roles expand in government, business and education

BOOK REVIEW

Simple but not simplistic Th book is a readable introduction to many aspects of economics and how they play out in everyday life

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SPOTLIGHT

Vibrant mode Real estate sectors in the region have recovered from the effects of the global financial crisis. This positive spin-off effect can be seen from the spurt in retail and commercial space activities in Oman


ECONOMYWATCH

NUMBERS

Islamic equity indices mirror regional and expansion trends Equity investing in 2010 mirrored the decoupling of certain emerging markets from the financial crisis fallout. It also mirrored the growing demand for commodities. In the meantime, the Islamic family of equity indices is expanding into new regions, demonstrating that, despite the industry’s boom during the last decade, there is still room for diversification. For the wealthy Muslim investor, putting faith in finance will provide more options to benefit from trends and to manage risks.

World GDP (% YoY)

USA GDP (% YoY) 4.8

4.8

3.5

4.5

2.8 2.1

2009 2009

2010

2011

2010

-2.6

Euroland GDP (% YoY)

China GDP (% YoY) 1.7

2.0 1.6

10.4 9.3

8.9

-4.0

2012

2012

-1.3

2009

2011

2010

2011

9.7

2012

2009

2010

2011

2012 Sources: Sarasin Alpen

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October 2011


BankMuscat wins best employer brand award AIR ARABIA TO FLY TO YANBU Air Arabia announced the introduction of a new flight destination in Saudi Arabia, from the carrier’s primary hub in Sharjah, UAE. Beginning on November 1, 2011, Air Arabia will offer three weekly flights (on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) to Yanbu, making it easier and more convenient for passengers to travel between the two countries.

VIRTUALISED INFRASTRUCTURE FROM HP HP announced HP VirtualSystem for VMware, a highly-optimised, turnkey solution that gives organisations a virtualised infrastructure that speeds implementation and provides a foundation for cloud computing. The solution includes virtualised HP Networking solutions, HP Converged Storage, HP BladeSystem servers and HP Insight software.

UAE TERMED INNOVATIONDRIVEN ECONOMY The Global Competitiveness Report 2011/2012 issued by the World Economic Forum, ranked the UAE 27th globally for competitiveness and classified it as an innovation-driven economy. The classification is based on factors that promote innovation in economic development.

NHI DIPLOMA GETS APPROVAL Edexcel, the leading provider of internationally recognised academic and professional qualifications, has recently approved the National Hospitality Institute (NHI), a leading Oman based provider of quality vocational training for the hospitality, travel and catering industries to provide BTEC. Edexcel’s exclusive BTEC qualifications provide a practical, real-world approach to learning, alongside theoretical background. 12

October 2011

For the second consecutive year, BankMuscat has won the prestigious Asia’s Best Employer Brand Award hosted by the Employer Branding Institute (EBI), CMO Asia. Salim Al Kaabi, assistant general manager, human resources, was also conferred with the HR leadership award in recognition of his creditable contributions, at a ceremony attended by over

200 senior corporate leaders in Singapore. The CMO Asia awards recognised 100 organisations across Asia which achieved excellence in building their brands as the employer of choice. Based on extensive research done by the (EBI), the criteria for the best employer brands included the creation of a culture of

innovation at work place and consistent improvement in human resources policy by measuring organisational health and inculcating values that help in achieving the vision of a social employer and future leader. HR leaders from 36 countries attended the event, using the forum to share the best practices in management, development and innovation of talent.

Sohar Port receives world’s largest iron carrier Sohar Port organised a celebration to mark the receiving the world’s largest iron carrier in the world ‘Vale Brazil’ – a 362-metre long vessel with a capacity of 400,000 tonnes. HE Said bin Hamdoon al Harthy, undersecretary of the Transport and Communications Ministry for Port Affairs said that receiving the largest iron carrier at the new iron ore terminal for Vale in Sohar Port is a milestone for the company reflecting the ports capability and readiness in terms of systems and equipment to receive such very large carriers. Jamal Aziz, deputy CEO of Sohar Port Company said that

receiving such vessels affirms that Sohar Port is the fourth in the world that can receive such vessels and the first in the Middle East. This marks the beginning of such vessels’

continuous call to Sohar Port. Sohar Port invested $250mn to build the new terminal for iron ore, which is managed by Vale Oman. The terminal is 25 metres deep.


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BankDhofar gets Moody’s A3, P-2, D+ ratings OMAN AIR RANKED TOP FOR ON-TIME PERFORMANCE Figures released by the British Airport Authority for July 2011 show that, for the third time in six months, Oman Air has been ranked top for on-time performance at London Heathrow, with 100 per cent of its flights taking off on schedule. Oman Air has consistently been ranked for on-time performance in the top five of airlines operating out of Heathrow and previously achieved first place in February and June 2011.

ORIGIN COMMUNICATIONS FORAYS INTO OMAN UAE-based Origin Communications Group has expanded into Oman through a strategic partnership with Sadaf Oman. Sadaf Oman was founded in1992 and has grown to be one of the companies of choice in construction, building materials, health, interior decorations, business agencies, and recently corporate communications. Origin is an international design firm that specialises in the production of high quality corporate literature and stakeholder communications.

Moody’s Investors Service has assigned A3/P-2 foreign currency deposit ratings and a D+ Bank Financial Strength Rating (BFSR) with a stable outlook to BankDhofar. The ratings capture the bank’s strong franchise in Oman, with around 11 per cent share in domestic market assets, as well as its adequate financial

performance, underpinned by a good recurring earning capacity, strong efficiency levels and adequate capitalisation. At the same time, the BFSR is constrained by the bank’s high reliance on the small Omani market, which remains vulnerable to the performance of the oil sector. In 2010, this sector contributed

a high 46 per cent to Oman’s GDP. Similar to other Omani banks, BankDhofar’s riskpositioning assessment is impaired by the sizeable loan and deposit concentrations in its books. The rating is also constrained by the bank’s liquidity indicators which, albeit well within regulatory limits, are relatively tight.

Oman ranked 32nd in competitiveness index Despite a year of global economic turbulence, Oman’s stable economic performance has seen it ranked as the world’s 32nd most competitive country in the 2011/12 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI). This ranking, a rise of two places from the

index of 2010/11, places the Sultanate above the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia and India and European Union member states Spain, Poland, Italy and Slovenia. The Public Authority for Investment, Promotion & Export Development and the Omanbased think-tank International

Research Foundation (IRF) which announced details of this year’s World Economic Forum’s GCI said this was a reflection of the institutions and policies in place in the Sultanate which are constantly working to maintain and improve the business environment in the country.

Muriya opens Sifawy Marina Boutique Hotel

VIMTO SALES CROSS 30MN Annual sales of Vimto in the Middle East and North Africa have crossed the 30 million bottle mark for the first time, according to the drink’s Saudi-based manufacturer, Aujan Industries. Driven by exceptional demand during the holy month of Ramadan, in 2011 to date, sales of Vimto are up by over 20 per cent year-on-year. Vimto has been the Middle East’s number one Ramadan drink for more than 80 years, with sales traditionally spiking in the build-up to the holy month. 14

October 2011

Marking its foray into the hospitality industry, Muriya has launched Oman’s first ITC (integrated tourism complex) hotel, Sifawy Boutique Hotel in Jebel Sifah. It is ideally located in the heart of the picturesque Marina Town, which will be the resort’s main entertainment hub

with a range of restaurants, cafés, shopping avenues and nightlife activities. The hotel is all set to welcome guests at its 55 elegantly appointed guestrooms – 25 standard rooms, 30 fully furnished suites and three suites equipped for physically challenged guests. All rooms have private balconies

with comfortable seating, overlooking the beautiful marina or the swimming pool. Marina suite guests may also avail the services of a private butler. Muriya’s reputation as a prominent player in the ITC sector has been strengthened recently with the handing over of its luxurious apartments at Jebel Sifah.


Silver Star organises ‘4th INDEXPO 2011’ BANKMUSCAT’S MUSCAT FUND APPOINTS STANDARD CHARTERED AS CUSTODIAN BankMuscat Muscat Fund signed an agreement appointing Standard Chartered Bank (Oman) as the fund custodian. BankMuscat Muscat Fund, launched in 1995 and regulated by the Capital Market Authority, is the first and only MSM index tracker fund in Oman. The custody services of Muscat Fund, rated ‘AA’ by Standard and Poor’s (S&P), was successfully handled by BankMuscat, the leading financial services provider in the Sultanate.

ORIGIN COMMUNICATIONS EXPANDS INTO OMAN UAE-based Origin Communications Group has expanded into Oman through a strategic partnership with Sadaf Oman LLC. Sadaf Oman was founded in1992 and has grown to be one of the companies of choice in construction, building materials, health, interior decorations, business agencies, and recently corporate communications.

CHI, THE SPA AT SHANGRI-LA BAGS CONDE NAST AWARD Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Muscat, Oman has been awarded runner up in the ‘Best Spa in an Overseas Hotel’ category, at the 14th annual Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Awards. The awards are a result of a questionnaire completed by the magazine’s 81,000 readers, who rate their favourite hotels, airlines and destinations. While voting, readers were asked to rate their choices to various criteria, such as service, culture and value for money. From the responses they calculated the average mark on each criterion.

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October 2011

Silver Star Corporation, in association with Oman Chambers of Commerce & Industries (OCCI) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FICCI), recently organised an exclusive Indian trade fair, 4th INDEXPO MUSCAT 2011, at Oman International Exhibition Centre. A 27-member business delegation from FICCI representing 21 companies which include Jindal Steel, Goa Shipyard, Shahnaz Hebals, Skipper Ltd etc. participated in the exhibition. FICCI has been working

relentlessly over the years to enhance economic cooperation between India and Oman. In its effort to boost trade and investment, FICCI

has been working with OCCI for decades through various bilateral platforms like joint business councils, exchange of delegations etc.

Bank Sohar receives Wells Fargo award Bank Sohar has once again received an award for its efficient and accurate ‘straight through processing’ of overseas payments. This time the award comes from the bank’s primary US dollar correspondent – Wells Fargo & Company. Wells Fargo’s award is an acknowledgment of Bank Sohar’s attention

to accurate, timely and thoughtful processing, which in turn allows the former to smoothly expedite the transactions between the two institutions. Just a few weeks ago, Commerzbank AG, a leading bank for private and corporate customers in Germany, had recognised the bank as one of the best

‘straight through processing,’ banks in Oman. Dr Mohamed Abdulaziz Kalmoor, CEO, Bank Sohar expressed his joy and satisfaction that the payments processing team at Bank Sohar had gained added recognition for their efforts to make the whole process of payments accurate and problem free.

Haya Water’s mobile exhibition unit on the road to educate the public about its world class water reuse project that is now being constructed.

Haya Water is taking its state of the art mobile exhibition unit back on the road in

September as the company continues its campaign to get out and about across Muscat

The mobile unit was first unveiled at the Muscat Festival in January and since then has been actively used to visit a number of locations across the area including visits to colleges, public areas, shopping locations and others as Haya Water takes it message to the people.


P.O. Box 1949, Jibroo, PC 114, Sultanate of Oman, Tel: (968) 24762000, Fax: (968) 24791357

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NBO launches Himayati insurance plan OMAN AIR OFFERS ACCESS TO NO 1 TRAVELLER LOUNGE Oman Air’s business class customers can now enjoy exclusive complimentary access to No1 Traveller’s brand-new ‘flagship’ lounge at London Heathrow’s Terminal Three. Gold and Silver members of Oman Air’s Sindbad frequent fliers programme will also have full access to the lounge’s superb amenities. The national carrier of the Sultanate’s partnership with No1 Traveller will ensure that customers can make the most of the lounge’s outstanding hospitality.

SMN POWER IPO OPEN FOR SUBSCRIPTION SMN Power Holding, a joint venture between International Power and Mubadala Development Company and Oman’s National Trading Co. announced that its initial public offering of 6,987,246 shares representing 35 per cent of the total share capital was open for subscription. The IPO is Oman’s first power sector IPO since August 2008. The offer price for each share has been fixed at RO3.520 per share, comprising a nominal value of RO1.000, premium of RO2.500 and Issue Expenses of Baizas 20 per share. The subscription is open to Omani and non-Omani individuals.

National Bank of Oman (NBO) has launched Himayati home insurance plan, the most comprehensive and simple home insurance plan

IndiGo introduces Muscat-Mumbai flights

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October 2011

with a promotional return fare of RO88. IndiGo has recently launched its international services with daily and direct flights from Delhi to Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore. The response to the flights has been good and the carrier hopes to replicate its domestic success.

IndiGo, India’s fastest growing airline has announced service on Muscat – Mumbai sector from October 10. Muscat will be the fourth international destination on IndiGo’s growing network. IndiGo will operate four flights a week between Muscat and Mumbai

QBG in JV for marketing of foreign securities announced the formation of a joint venture that will be owned by QBG, NSC and Geojit, India.

SARASIN-ALPEN TO PROVIDE ISLAMIC ADVISORY SERVICES Sarasin-Alpen, Oman, a subsidiary of Bank Sarasin & Co. Ltd, Switzerland, has received approvals from the Capital Market Authority to market Islamic securities, products and services to its clientele, along with its existing advisory services in private banking.

for NBO customers in the Sultanate. Himayati home insurance has been arranged by NBO in association with AXA Insurance, exclusively

for National Bank of Oman customers. Himayati home insurance provides families with an easy and complete insurance solution for household contents and personal belongings with premiums starting from as low as RO3 per month. NBO customers can take optional cover benefits for ‘important documents’, insurance of ‘domestic helpers’ and ‘building’ cover, all at a low cost. A free basic travel insurance is provided for those opting for the annual payment plan.

The joint venture, will address the distribution of foreign securities in Oman for Omani individuals and institutions, Indians and other expats. Qurum Business Group, National Securities Co and Geojit Bnp Paribas

This company will be positioned to compete in an increasingly dynamic and

competitive environment. The combination of these companies creates a leading marketing and distribution company of foreign securities in Oman within the MSM regulations with the proven capability to provide most effective and on-time delivery to the Oman market, anywhere. The joint venture will provide the broadest possible access to Indian stock market, mutual funds and later on to the other parts of the world.


Oman Air inks JV with Bahwan Travel Agencies To be known as Oman Air Holidays, the Sultanate’s first ever public-private partnership will result in the country’s largest travel and tourism business.

BANKMUSCAT LAUNCHES THEMAAR RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLAN BankMuscat, launched an innovative retirement savings plan offering a host of flexible options and rewards. Breaking away from conventional products, the Themaar Retirement Savings Plan introduces flexibility in choosing the monthly deposit amount, savings term, pension amount and pension term according to the convenience and financial ability of customers. Notably, the BankMuscat retirement plan also provides guaranteed bonus and chances to participate in al Mazyona prize draws, in addition to 10 holiday packages every year worth RO500 each.

Oman Air has announced a new joint venture with Bahwan Travel Agencies, which will promote inbound

Lifeline Medical Centre has appointed Dr Vidyashankar as the new Orthopedic Specialist. Dr Vidyashankar was previously working as chief of orthopedics for BEML Medical centre, a 100-bed hospital under the Ministry of Defence in India and has conducted many minor and major surgeries, majority of which are for hip joint cases and deformities of the foot. He is familiar with arthroscopic surgeries and able to perform diagnostic and therapeutic arthroscopic procedures for menisectomy, joint debridement, loose body removal, lateral release and also done few ankle arthroscopic procedures. 20

October 2011

tourism to Oman and outbound holidays to destinations served by the national carrier’s network.

Standard Chartered announced Jonathan Morris as the new CEO for the UAE. Jonathan succeeds Jeremy Parrish, who has been in the UAE for the past five years, initially as CEO for Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and more recently as UAE CEO. Jeremy will assume the role of the bank’s CEO in Switzerland. Jonathan moves to the UAE from Standard Chartered in Bahrain where he was the CEO. V Shankar, group executive director, says, “We are pleased to announce the appointment of Jonathan as CEO for the UAE, which is one of our most important markets globally.” Jonathan Morris comments, “Jonathan worked for Standard Chartered for many years, including the Middle East.”

The deal will see the airline’s Oman Air Holidays division integrate with Bahwan Tours for inbound holidays and with Bahwan Holidays for outbound holidays, sharing markets, personnel and systems to offer value for money products to clients in Oman and around the globe. Abdulrazaq Alraisi, Oman Air’s chief commercial officer, says, “Oman Air is pleased to announce a historic partnership with Bahwan Travel.”

Oman Air has appointed Captain Ali Hassan Sulaiman as deputy chief officer, flight operations. Captain Sulaiman assumes the role following 30 years of professional experience in civil aviation which includes a range of managerial positions at Oman Air and Gulf Air, including the position of chief operations officer at the Gulf Aviation Academy in Bahrain. On Captain Sulaiman’s appointment, Oman Air’s CEO, Peter Hill, says, “We are delighted to welcome Captain Ali Hassan Sulaiman back to Oman Air, where, as deputy chief officer, flight operations, we are sure he will make an invaluable contribution to Oman Air’s continued success.


EVENT

TIM SEBASTIAN TO HOST OMAN DEBATE 2011

As in the previous two editions, Oman Debate 2011 will feature top class interactions between government representatives and members of Oman’s corporate world

O

He has also won the Society’s Television Journalist of the Year award, as well as a British Academy award for contributions to factual television.

man Debate 2011, the third annual national debate organised by Oman Economic Review, will be anchored by renowned television host Tim Sebastian, the founder and chairman of ‘The Doha Debates’ and former BBC Hard Talk presenter.

After being recognised as BBC’s most prolific interviewer through ‘Hard Talk’, Sebastian became the moderator of the Doha Debates, a forum for free speech in Qatar. He won the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Richard Dimbleby award in 1982 and Britain’s prestigious Royal Television Society Interviewer of the Year award in 2001 for the second time in a row.

The annual debate encompassing key themes that form the business environment of today and tomorrow in Oman will be held on November 2, 2011 at Al Bustan Palace Ritz Carlton Hotel. Bank Sohar is the strategic partner of the event. Al Habib & Co. is the support partner. Times of Oman and Al Shabiba are the official media.

Sebastian began his journalism career at Reuters in 1974, moving to the BBC as foreign correspondent in Warsaw in 1979. He became BBC’s Europe correspondent in 1982, for Moscow in 1984 and then for Washington from 1986 to 1989. Sebastian is moderator of the Doha Debates, which he founded in 2004.

The hot topic of discussion for Oman Debate 2011 is how to cope up with the developments of the Arab Spring, which has had its repercussions on the Sultanate of Oman. The government has reworked on its priorities and policies and has taken measures to address various issues. This, in turn, has raised a number of questions/concerns among both the public and the public sectors. Key questions that will be raised by Oman Debate 2011 will be based on issues like job creation, raising salaries, sops and benefits and Omanisation. The Oman Debate 2011 will also discuss whether the Sultanate is at the crossroads of a watershed moment in Oman’s socio-economic history where everything that was held as sacred needs to be questioned and redefined. 22

October 2011

Oman Debate is expected to have audiences totalling over 400 movers and shakers from the government and Oman’s corporate world converging to witness the intense indepth discussions on the state of the economy.

Invitees to Oman Debate can expect a lot of excitement, thanks to Tim Sebastian’s experience in the Middle East. Sebastian is perhaps best known for being the first host of the BBC’s flagship interview programme Hard Talk – for which he was twice named Interviewer of the Year by the Royal Television Society.

Oman Debate 2011, is being brought to you by Oman Economic Review in association with the Capital Market Authority (CMA) and will continue to maintain its status as an unique platform where influential individuals will share stories of best practices, effective business case-studies and, most importantly, attributes of true leadership.


STOCK MARKET

PROMISING STEADY RETURNS SMN Power is confident that its stable cash flows and attractive dividend forecasts will attract investors to its IPO

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MN Power, owns Rusayl Power Company (RPC) and SMN Barka and is the largest power company in the Sultanate with a total generation capacity of 1,343 MW – representing around 35 per cent of Oman’s Main Interconnected System (MIS) capacity. The company is diluting 35 per cent stake in line with a contractual commitment with the government. Johan Van Kerrebroeck, CEO and Frederic Halkin, CFO, SMN speak to Mayank Singh about the IPO’s prospects. Excerpts: What kind of a reaction are you expecting from retail and institutional investors to the IPO? Kerrebroeck: We are looking at a good response from both category 1 (retail) and category 2 (institutional) investors. Halkin: The proportion is important – 60 per cent of the offering is reserved for retail investors and 40 per cent for institutional investors. If the retail component does not get subscribed do you have a choice of shifting the unsubscribed shares to institutional investors? Halkin: Yes, if this happens then the oversubscription by the institutional investors will compensate for the lack of subscription by retail investors. But we are hopeful that the retail investor will participate in this opportunity. Why should anyone invest in the IPO, what is your sales pitch? Kerrebroeck: We have two power generating assets and one is producing power and water as well. We sell our product to Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), which is 24

October 2011

in turn owned by the Ministry of Finance and these are contracts that stretch over very long periods of time, roughly over 15 years. Everyone knows that our reliability and respect for contracts is very high. Once you get a contract of this nature you can be sure about your revenue and cash flows on the input side of the company for many years. On the expenditure side, fuel is one of the major expenditures for a power generating company and the lions share goes into natural gas. Natural gas is again sourced from the Ministry of Oil and Gas, which is again a government owned body. The other terms of the contract too are aligned with each other. This means that when one expires the other expires as well, if one gets extended then the other gets extended as well. Thus the company gets its energy from the government and

SMN IPO – Ready Reckoner Size: RO24.59mn Shares on offer: 6,987,246 Price per share: RO3.520 Issue closing date: October 10, 2011 Retail investors: Minimum application of 100 shares going upto 5,000 shares Institutional Investors: Minimum application of 5,100 shares and in multiples of 100 thereafter Collecting Banks: BankMuscat, National Bank of Oman and Oman Arab Bank Issue Manager and Financial Advisor: BankMuscat Shareholders: Kahrabel, Mubadala Power Holding and National Trading Company

sells the water and power produced to the government. Therefore while there is an operational aspect, it is important to understand that such a business model leads to an extremely predictable and stable business and cash flows. There are a number of investors who have a appetite for such certain, reliable and forecastable investments and they can buy shares in a company like ours. From that perspective it is a welcome IPO in the market. While it is a stable stock to own, power stocks are usually seen as being defensive stocks without much of an upside. Given this background why should retail investors invest in the IPO? Kerrebroeck: Investors should be excited because the returns are extremely predictable and stable. Then you can look at whether the results are attractive or not, you could offer something with a low return or high return, if you look at the prospectus of the IPO, the returns via dividends and price setting given by BankMuscat our project manager is very favourable from the perspective of an investor. There have been some concerns about your pricing with analysts opining that the price of RO3.52 per share is on the higher side. What is the justification for such a high price? Kerrebroeck: There are different methods of arriving at a price, one is to look at the future cash flows and based on it you calculate the value of the stock, another approach is to look at various ratios like PE multiples, book values etc. And finally when we compare what we are offering to what has been offered in the past then we can say with all honesty


and clarity that a price of RO3.52 is not a high price to be paid. Halkin: The yield on the share is 12 per cent in 2012 with a 440bzs dividend per share and from 2013 it will be 380bzs per share, which translates to a yield of 11 per cent per year. The dividends that you are promising for the coming years is more than the EPS. Does this mean that you will be digging into your reserves to pay dividends. Secondly, are such high dividends being promised to justify your pricing? Halkin: The company already has had a track record and it has accumulated some retained earnings over the years. We were not able to distribute these to the existing shareholders, due to the technical specifications of the loan agreement, meaning that a series of conditions had to be reached for the company to get the permission of the lenders for the company to distribute dividends. Those conditions were reached by early August 2011 and so now we are in a position to deliver good dividends to our shareholders. You get paid by the government on your ability to maintain a certain generating capacity at any given time. Given that RPC is an old plant there are apprehensions about your ability to sustain generating capacity and a breakdown may impact your cash flows? Kerrebroeck: You may say that RPC is an old plant, but I would say that it is not a new plant rather than an old plant. When we look at the generating portfolio in GDF Suez there are many plants that are operating very well with a lifespan which is far more than that of RPC. On top of this RPC has been extended three times, so while the first generators and alternators date back to 1984, the most recent ones were installed in 2000. Secondly, we have the support of important shareholders like GDF Suez who have a long experience in operating plants. We are confident that we can maintain RPC upto the requisite standards by having a dedicated operations and maintenance programme. These plants can be operated for very long periods of time. In Belgium there

Johan Van Kerrebroeck, CEO (left) and Frederic Halkin, CFO, SMN

are plants which date back to 1966 and those plants operate in environments that are much harsher than Oman. The company is footing a certain part of the expenses of the IPO. Is this true and what is the rationale behind it? Halkin: The cost of the IPO and transfer of assets is being borne by the holding company, this was a decision taken by the board and the impact of this on the valuation of the company has been factorised. The investors subscribing to the IPO should take into account that the holding company is waving the cost. There are two reasons for doing this, when we speak about IPO costs we also have to talk about the cost being undertaken for the transfer of assets

from the existing shareholders to Omani investors. Secondly, practically it is better to centralise all costs at one place so that they are shared proportionally by the shareholders according to their participation in the company. The Gulf markets are not going through the best of times, are you worried about the timing of the IPO? Kerrebroeck: When the shareholders set up the company there were multiple contracts and in one of the agreements called the Project Founding agreement, there is a requirement that mandates the company to list 35 per cent of its shares before October 31, 2011. We have seen a lot of interest in the IPO and are not worried about the timing. October 2011 25


BY MATEIN KHALID

PERISCOPE

Taking a threemonth call Given the traumatic macroeconomic, financial and political events of August and September, it is better for investors to examine the outlook for equities, crude oil, foreign currencies, gold, debt and emerging markets in the next three months

The author is a renowned investment banker based in Dubai

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rystal ball gazing in financial markets is a dangerous business unless the gazer is forced to periodically swallow crushed glass when his forecasts go wrong. Unfortunately, investors are forced to discount the future in real time to have any hope of making money in the markets. The macroeconomic, financial and political events of August and September were so traumatic that it makes sense to project the outlook for equities, crude oil, foreign currencies, gold, debt and emerging markets in the next three months. The idea is to analyse the risk-reward calculus in each market and the relationships among them. The US stock market rally that began in July 2010, goosed by the Bernanke Fed’s $600bn bond purchases (QE2), ended with a vengeance in August as Uncle Sam’s credit rating was downgraded by S&P while economic data (jobs, exports, industrial production, home prices) slowed down. The recent fall from the S&P 500 peak was 18 per cent, significant technical damage on the charts. American

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equities are now priced for a mild recession in 2012 and $100 index earnings are unrealistic. Where will the S&P 500 index trade in the next three months? I believe earnings will be revised lower, the macro data will continue to be mediocre at best, we could well trade below the August lows at 1,120 on the S&P 500 index. The market will than struggle to find a bottom in the 1,0401,060 range. Recession risk in the US and Europe, a potential slowdown in China and the politics of the ECB, EU/IMF Greek bailout will keep investor uncertainty high. This will prevent a bullish rerating of valuation multiples. Net-net, I believe there is still 10-12 per cent downside risk in equities. As the dollar rises, the S&P 500 breaks below its August lows, offshore funds redeem, emerging markets will continue their downtrend. Yet a bottom in China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Korea could emerge this winter. Asia faces stagflation, as growth slows while inflation runs at three year highs. This is a negative milieu for emerging markets.

Reasons for Brent’s fall Brent crude could fall by $20 in the next three months. Why? Six reasons: One, the US economy has clearly entered a soft patch, though not yet double dip recession. GDP growth has been revised lower. The unemployment rate is stubbornly high at 9.1 per cent and the world’s largest economy, a $15tn monster, created no new jobs in August. Two, the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has now escalated into contagion risk in the bank funding markets. Three month LIBOR is rising. Deutsche Bank shares lost 30 per cent of their value in a month. Italian and Spanish bond markets are on edge while Greece has priced in a default. Germany is no longer the economic locomotive of Europe. Three, a higher dollar and higher volatility (Chicago VIX index above 40) forces hedge funds to slash leveraged exposures to risk assets, including oil. After all, NYMEX trades one billion barrels in paper oil (futures contracts), twelve times the global physical oil demand. Four, Libya will return to the oil export market in a year,


PERISCOPE

THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE MARKETS WILL SEE MAJOR CHANGES IN THE NEXT THREE MONTHS

according to the IEA. This means the geopolitical risk/ oil supply premium implicit in current prices will unwind. Five, OPEC production at 30 million barrels a day is the highest since 2007. Saudi Arabia basically abandoned the post-Lehman OPEC quota system at the last Vienna meeting. The Saudis have not cut output now that the Gaddafi regime has fallen. Six, the IEA demand forecast of 89.5 million barrels a day in 2012 is unreal. As Europe, US, China and India GDP growth decelerates, so will gasoline and distillates demand. The IEA will be forced to cut its demand forecasts. Brent can well fall to $80-85 by December. The foreign exchange markets will see major changes in the next three months. The Swiss National Bank decision to peg the Euro at 1.20 means the Swiss franc is no longer a credible safe haven for global investors spooked by the Eurozone debt crisis. Even at 0.85-0.86, the Swiss franc is “absurdly” overvalued against the dollar, according to the SNB. The peg means Swiss export share can significantly 28

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BEARISH PROSPECTS ¡ Brent crude could fall by $20 in the next three months ¡ The ECB policy rate can well fall to 1 per cent by early 2012 ¡ The Euro-dollar may fall to 1.30-1.32 ¡ The Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollar can fall by 5-8 per cent ¡ The Aussie dollar can well test parity against the US dollar, below its current 1.06 range

rise, as do the SNB foreign currency reserves. The dollar will finally begin to rise against the Swiss franc. I can envisage the Swiss franc at 0.92 to 0.94 in the next three months. It is also inevitable that the ECB can no longer tighten monetary policy as Europe’s economic growth decelerates sharply, led by Germany. A ECB rate cut in October or November is now

a highly probably scenario. Jean-Claude Trichet will be forced to reduce his inflation risk forecasts even as he is succeeded by Mario Draghi as the new ECB President. The ECB policy rate can well fall to 1 per cent by early 2012. This means the Euro-dollar can well fall to 1.30-1.32, particularly if the politics of the Greek bailout unravels or Chancellor

Angela Merkel’s coalition is further undermined in German politics. As global growth slows, the current bubble in commodities will unwind with a vengeance, particularly if Chinese GDP growth falls below 8 per cent as export orders fall and the PBOC monetary tightening bites. This means the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollar are extremely overvalued and can well fall by 5-8 per cent in the next three months. The Aussie dollar, for instance, can well test parity against the US dollar, well below its current 1.06 range. As global growth slows, the dollar rises, gold prices could move lower to the $16001650 range even though a ultra-accommodative Fed, zero real interest rates and the tail risk of a disruptive Eurozone sovereign default will ensure that the secular uptrend in the yellow metal will remain in place. Copper and silver, however, face significant downside risk as industrial production worldwide decelerates. This is a disaster for base metals.


COVERSTORY

THE MOST POWERFUL WOMEN IN BUSINESS Though they may have different backgrounds and world views, there are certain traits that every successful women has in abundance. Topping this list are attributes like competence, skills, attitude and ability to lead. The Most Powerful Women profiled in the following pages are not just exemplary exponents of these virtues but also role models for others to emulate. A report by Visvas Paul D Karra


COVERSTORY

Singular contribution Abla Al Riyami, gas director, Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO), is part of the steering committee of the The 7th Annual Meeting of Gas Arabia Summit which is being held in the Sultanate. A recipient of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Regional Service Award, Abla has made exceptional contributions to both at the local and regional level to the development of programmes, which highlight the importance of gas. She recalls how petrophysics had progressed from paper based interpretation when she first joined PDO to the current sophisticated methods. PDO delivers gas to the government gas system, which supplies fuel for most of Oman’s power stations and some of its industries, and to the Oman LNG and Qalhat LNG. “Continuing progress and change has now become a necessity since much of the ‘easy oil’ era is nearing the end, leaving the much more challenging ‘hard’ hydrocarbon for future developments,” she says.

AREEJ MOHSIN HAIDER DARWISH Joint Deputy Managing Director, MHD ABIDING BELIEF:

Quality aftersales service is key to retain customer loyalty

Strategic thinking

ABLA AL RIYAMI Gas Director, PDO ACCOLADE:

Recipient of the Society of Petroleum Engineers Regional Service Award

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It is a firm belief of Areej that quality after sales service is very important to retain customer loyalty. Working towards this, she has steered her team to chalk out plans towards restructuring the customer care function that would have specific action items linked to deliverables and performance indicator objectives. According to Areej, a leader’s obligation is to lay out clear-cut strategies and goals and to create a healthy working environment of mutual trust, respect and consideration for each other’s ideas and feelings. Areej plays a key role in the success of MHD as the joint deputy managing director handling the automotive division and internal audit and computer systems function of the company. She is actively involved in the decision making process charting business strategies and operational plans that align objectives with corporate goals.

The names are in alphabetical order


Crucial role Assilah Zaher Al Harthy is an Omani businesswoman with almost 20 years of experience at the senior corporate executive level. Currently, Assilah is the founder and CEO of Group 6 LLC, the first private equity firm in Oman. Earlier she was head of Economic and Business Research, Oman Oil Company. Assilah has received numerous accolades one of them being the recipient of the Young Global leaders in 2005 at Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In October 1999, Assilah was appointed as a member of the Kennedy School’s Dean Council and Ambassador for the School’s outreach efforts in Oman. She is a graduate of the Sultan Qaboos University and of the Owner/President Management (OPM) programme at Harvard Business School.

BARKA AL BAKRY Life Honorary Member of the Al Noor Association for the Blind HEARTFELT HOPE:

An eyebank will become a reality in Oman soon

On a mission

ASSILAH ZAHER AL HARTHY Founder and CEO, Group 6 LLC

As a founding member of the Al Noor Association for the Blind she has been working for the cause of the visually impaired in Oman for over a decade. She has worked selflessly for creating a society where each and every blind person will be able to lead a life to his optimum potential and be so empowered as to be able to work towards his own growth and development. A firm believer in the fact that every visually impaired and blind person can take up any job if they are properly trained, she is working towards making this goal a reality. She is hopeful that an eye bank will become a reality in Oman in the next five years.

ACCOLADE:

Chosen as the Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum in Davos

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USC COVERSTORY

The right count As the first woman on the senior management team of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), Fatma is one of the most experienced and respected businesswomen in the Sultanate. Fatma began her career as a payroll accountant at PDO in 1974, becoming one of the first woman to join the oil and gas major. Fatma’s appointment was a significant one, not only for Fatma who would see her career progress to a directorship, but also for the company which had the foresight to hire a local woman to work in Oman’s largest company. Presently, Fatma oversees PDO’s financial services, business controls, internal audits, legal advice as well as its contracting and procurement. She also serves as Secretary to the PDO’s Board of Directors in a career that spans more than 30 years.

HIND S BAHWAN Executive Chairperson, Bahwan CyberTek and Director, Suhail Bahwan Group NOTABLE CONTRIBUTION:

Making Bahwan CyberTek one of the biggest IT companies in the region

Driven by vitality

FATMA AL KHARUSI Finance Director, PDO HIGHLIGHT:

First woman to make it to the senior management of PDO

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Bahwan CyberTek has become one of the leading IT solutions provider in the global market with world-class products with offices in Oman, the UAE, India and the US. The credit to the phenomenal success of the company goes to Hind, the executive chairperson of Bahwan CyberTek. A graduate in Computer Science and a Harvard Business School alumna, Hind’s contribution to the Suhail Bahwan Group (SBG), the parent company of Bahwan CyberTek is unmatched. She stands on par with her contemporaries in not only Oman but across the Middle East as an enterprising and dynamic young businesswoman. She dons many roles in the SBG group which includes the directorship of Bahwan Travel Agency.

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Way to go From being an SQU lecturer to a Majlis as Shura member to being voted as one of 50 most powerful women in the region year after year by Forbes Arabia, Lujaina has a long way to go, thanks to her versatility and remarkable achievements. At MHD, Lujaina has built up a well trained and equipped workforce, which has cohesively worked together, to achieve and exceed targets. She tried out a strategic and coherent approach to the management of employees who she says “individually and collectively contribute to the objectives of the business”. She has deeply held belief that Omani women are emerging as a power to reckon with in business. It is not a far cry.

MAITHAA AL MAHROUQI Country Manager, Oman, Oman Air WORK EXPERIENCE:

Straddling across three major airlines – Emirates, Gulf Air and Oman Air

Go-getter

LUJAINA MOHSIN DARWISH Joint Deputy Managing Director, MHD ACCOLADE:

Being voted as one of the 50 most powerful women in the Middle East by Forbes

The charge of a country manager in a fast growing airline like Oman Air is by no means a walk over. And to grow the business in tough market conditions is still a greater challenge. But Maitha has risen to the occasion constantly and stamped her mark in the market. Her exposure to major airlines of the region enables her to wield her influence and competence to promote Oman Air. Maitha has experience in sales operations, reservation, ticketing, holidays-packaging, revenueoptimisations techniques and the related support services. A science graduate from the University of Oxford Brookes, UK, Maitha started her airlines stint with Emirates Airlines, then moved to Gulf Air as its business development manager. She was subsequently promoted as the general manager of Gulf Air for Oman prior to becoming the country manager for Oman in Oman Air in March 2010, a post she has been relishing ever since.

October 2011 33


COVERSTORY

Life is a school “When you give from one hand you get from another,” says Maryam al Zadjali. Having started Dar Al Atta’a with a small group of friends in 2002 she has helped it become one of the largest charitable organsations in the region. “We try to be the link between the giver and the recipient. As Islam stresses on sharing a number of people were doing charity, but most of them were repeatedly giving to the same set of people. We have helped them to reach out to a larger group.” She is quick to share credit with her colleagues stating that each board member has a specific responsibility and they work hard to fulfil their duties. She signs off, “I learnt the art of giving from my mother and have got support and encouragement from my husband. Today, my children are proud of their mother.” Things have surely come full circle.

MUNIRA MACKI DGM – HR & Corporate Support, Bank Sohar ADVICE:

Women should boldly voice their opinions

Thriving on challenges

MARYAM AL ZADJALI Chairperson, Dar Al Atta’a FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“When you give from one hand, you get from another”

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Switching from the public to the private sector midstream may be difficult but Munira Macki has successfully managed that transition. Having worked for 16 years in Ministry of Education she joined Alliance Housing Bank in 1997, as the bank was being set up she was involved in almost every aspect of the fledgling organisation. After ten years she decided to join another start up – Bank Sohar. “The bank was just set up and it was a challenge to put in all the experience and expertise that I had gained from my previous employment,” says Munira. Today she heads administration, training and the Human Resources Department at Bank Sohar. Her advice to professional women is simple, “To prove their worth in a world dominated by men, women should be bold to voice out their opinions. They have to be aggressive and just do what they think is right. Being shy or hesitant will not help them to reach the top.”


COVERSTORY

Dare to dream As the COO of the diversified Yahya Group, Natasha has been a trendsetter for women entrepreneurs in Oman. Natasha has faced so many challenges in the business field and feels that being a woman is no longer a hurdle. “Although it is a man’s world out there, I can simply tell my fellow colleagues that they need to remember that men cannot work without women. The business equation only completes itself with men and women working hand in hand. As long as a woman can say I can do anything she is most definitely almost half way there. Never give up on ones dreams,” she says. Natasha was appointed by Royal Decree as member of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry for a period of four years from 2007.

NEELIMA VYAS COO, Freezone Sohar EXPERIENCE:

Involved with setting up India’s first private sector port

Value driven

NATASHA YAHYA NASIB COO, Yahya Group Holding ADVICE:

Women should challenge their fears and hesitations

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Neelima Vyas is playing a seminal role in one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country – the development of the Freezone Sohar. Freezone Sohar is spearheaded by Sohar Industrial Development Company, a joint venture between the Government of Oman, the Port of Rotterdam in The Netherlands and SKIL Infrastructure in India. Development of the 4,500-hectare zone is planned in four phases. Given her past experience Vyas, brings to the table a wealth of expertise and knowledge. Prior to jo ining SIPC, she was involved in setting up the Pipavav Port, India’s first private sector port. She has specialised in Transport and Logistics in the Netherlands at Delft and Rotterdam and has a Master’s degree from the World Maritime University.


COVERSTORY

Exceptional status Sayyida Rawan dual role in two large financial entities – as CEO of ONIC and deputy chairwoman of NBO – will probably remain unmatched in the Sultanate and we dare say probably in the whole of the Middle East. Acknowledging this unique position, NBO stated that she is an asset to their Board of Directors. Her intellect, passion and management experience has been making a significant contribution to the bank. Sayyida Rawan distinguished career in banking and investments has won her the trust of stakeholders of both companies. “The opportunities given to me strengthen my resolve to implement the long term strategies of both companies to take them to greater heights,” she says. Sayyida Rawan earlier held key positions in Oman Oil Marketing Co and The State General Reserve Fund.

REEM ZAWAWI Chairperson, Muscat National Holding Company CONFIDENT ASSERTION:

We do not expect any adverse impact on liquidity

Insured against downturns

SAYYIDA RAWAN BINT AHMED BIN THABIT AL SAID Deputy Chairwoman, National Bank of Oman and Group CEO, ONIC Holding RESOLVE:

To take both organisations to greater heights

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Muscat National Holding Company Muscat (MNHC) is a public shareholding company listed on Muscat Securities Market, with a share capital of RO5mn. Besides dealing in general investment it controls an insurance business through its 100 per cent owned subsidiary companies Muscat Insurance Company and Muscat Life Assurance Company. In her chairperson’s annual report in 2010 Reem Zawawi states, “By the grace of God we have had minimal impact by the global economic crisis and recession. The sound local economy has resulted profits.” Gross Premiums in 2010 rose 2.1 per cent to RO12.39mn from RO12.13mn in 2009. Net profits after tax was RO1.08mn for 2010 compared to RO3.01mn in 2009. Talking about the future outlook, the chairperson’s report states, “We do not expect any adverse impact on liquidity in 2011. Our cash flow generation meets our obligations and we have sufficient banking facilities to draw down should the need arise.”


Legal eagle Sahar Askalan worked at top tier international law firms, Allen & Overy (London), Theodore Goddard (at present Addleshaw Goddard, London), Clifford Chance (Paris) and Richard’s Butler (Abu-Dhabi) before returning to Oman to set up her law firm. Sahar is the first Omani woman to open her own legal practice in the Sultanate of Oman. Being an Omani with international legal experience, she is striving to raise the standards of legal practice in Oman. She was educated in the US graduating from Boston University of Massachusetts and obtained her dual post-graduate professional qualification at BPP Law School, London. Her main area of expertise is in project finance where she has advised clients on a variety of structures for major projects. She is a member of the Inner Temple, London and the Law Society of England and Wales and the International Bar Association.

SHAKOOR BINT SALIM AL GHAMMARI President, Omani Women’s Association TRENDSETTER:

First woman to be elected to the Majlis A’Shura

A role model

SAHAR ASKALAN Principal, Sahar Askalan Legal Advocacy

The Majlis A’Shura elections in 2007 saw 23 women candidates in the fray and there are 82 women contesting the 2011 elections. If there is someone who can be counted as a trend setter, it has to be Shakoor bin Salim al Ghammari – the first women to be elected to the Majlis A’Shura in 1994. Winner of an award for the Arab world’s most distinguished female parliamentarian and public figure in 2004, Shakoor has been active in voluntary works for women, disabled people and children since 1975. She was re-elected to the Shura council in 1997 for another term and is currently a member of the Council of States.

INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE:

Allen & Overy; Theodore Goddard; Clifford Chance and Richard’s Butler

October 2011 39


COVERSTORY

Weighty handle MB Holding Company, with wide ranging interests in oilfield services, oil & gas exploration and production, mining and investments has spread its operations to 20 countries, growing its employee strength and generates revenues in excess of $1bn. Sharifa has an active role to play in the overall day-to-day functioning of MB Holding, a company which has over 6,800 employees. At one time, she was also head of two departments at the Institute of Public Administration. Sharifa possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Jordan University (Amman, Jordan) and Masters Degree in Business Administration from Texas Southern University (USA). Sharifa spearheads MB Holding’s corporate social responsibilities (CSR) activities, charity and participated and supported Women’s Leadership conferences in Oman and internationally.

SHEILA JAMAL CEO, Al Madina Development & Supply FAVOURITE CUISINE:

Sushi, Italian food and tofu

Nerves of steel

SHARIFA AL HARTHY Vice Chairperson, Shareholder and Board Director of MB Holding Company LEADERSHIP QUALITY:

Promoting the social conscience of the billion dollar company

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Soft spoken and demure, Sheila Jamal’s disposition hides a steely resolve. Since she took over Al Madina Development & Supply she has helped it to scale new heights. Al Madina offers complete Information Technology solutions, system integration, high-level security products and turnkey computer based projects. Al Madina also owns Security Printing Press - Oman, a security printing press specialised in printing of security documents and secure cards ranging from printing of MICR cheques and different type of ID cards to digital passport. Her varied background has helped her to imbibe the best from various countries and cultures. After her graduation in the US she worked as an assistant analyst with NASA International, later joining a Japanese company. In the region she has lived in Kuwait and Oman. Her hobbies include travelling and she likes Sushi, Italian food and tofu.


COVERSTORY

Green crusader Sayyida Tania is a founding member of ESO and has served as the President of the board of directors of ESO since its establishment in March 2004. A Bachelor of science in Marine and Freshwater Biology and a diploma in Early Childhood Education holder she has been in the vanguard of promoting environment consciousness in the Sultanate. She initiated the ‘Say No to Plastic Bags’ campaign, organises the annual fundraising ball of ESO, and regularly appears in the media representing ESO. Recognition for her efforts has been quick to follow – in 2009 she won the GCC Award for the best environmental personality in the Arabian Gulf Region.

YUTHAR AL RAWAHI Founder and Chairperson, National Association for Cancer Awareness MESSAGE:

Regular examination and early detection saves lives

Dedication personified

SAYYIDA TANIA SHABIB AL SAID President, Environment Society of Oman ACCOLADE:

Recipient of the GCC Award for The Best Environmental Personality

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A three times cancer survivor Yuthar al Rawahi has been leading the battle against cancer by spreading awareness about the deadly disease and ways to prevent it. Her Chairperson’s message on NACA site states – “I am not a doctor, I am not a psychiatrist – I am just a woman who went through an experience, and thought to help others who might find themselves in a similar situation. That idea of offering support and comfort turned into afternoons in my living room with like minded people, both men and women, who felt that something needed to be done about the lack of information available about cancer in Oman, especially with the growing numbers of Omanis affected by the disease. So we moved out of the living room and formed what is today the National Association for Cancer Awareness. Our function is simple. Our message is clear: regular examination and early detection saves lives.”


THE MOST POWERFUL WOMEN FROM THE PUBLIC SECTOR HE AISHA BINT KHALFAN AL SIYABIYAH Chairperson, Public Authority for Craft Industries

HE DR MADIHA BINT AHMED AL SHAIBANIYAH

HE HUNAINA SULTAN AHMED AL MUGHAIRY Oman’s Ambassador to the US

MANAL MOHAMMED AL ABDWANI

Minister of Education

Chairperson, Oman Flour Mills and Director General, Ministry of Commerce and Industry

DR SAYYIDA MONA BINT FAHAD AL SAID

HE RAHILAH BINT AMIR AL RIYAMI

Assistant Vice Chancellor for External Cooperation, SQU

HE RAWIYAH BINT SAUD AL BUSAIDIYAH Minister of Higher Education

HE DR SHARIFA BINT KHALFAN AL YAHYA’EYAH Minister of Social Development

Member of Majlis A’Dawla

DR SAIDA BINT KHATIR AL FARSI State Council Member

ZAMZAM AL RASHDI Editor-in-Chief, Oman News Agency

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COVERSTORY

IN THE VANGUARD OF TRANSITION A record number of 82 women are in the fray as the Sultanate is all set for the seventh Majlis A’Shura elections this month. OER catches up with a few of them to understand their concept of democracy, vision for future and the challenges ahead W e call upon Omani women everywhere, in the villages and the cities, in both urban and Bedu communities, in the hills and mountains, to roll up their sleeves and contribute to the process of economic and social development. We have great faith in the educated young Omani women to work devotedly to assist their sisters in their local communities to develop their skills and abilities in order to contribute to our Omani Renaissance which demands the utilisation of our entire national genius, for the realisation of our country’s glory and prosperity.” – His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said

‘Mother of Believers’ is a historical fiction revolving around the life of Aisha, Prophet Muhammad’s wife, who was a scholar, a politician and a military commander. The beautifully crafted book, the debut novel of Kamran Pasha, a writer and producer for NBC’s highly anticipated new television series Kings, is an attempt to bring to life the remarkable voice of Aisha, whose life single-handedly challenges the prevalent stereotype of the oppressed and submissive Muslim woman. In a country which is proud of its religious 44

October 2011

QUICK LOOK Number of women candidates – Majlis A’Shura 2007 – 21 2011 – 82

ethos and culture, the impressive legacy of Aisha continues to encourage woman even after centuries to step out of their comfort zones and take up challenging and responsible roles. As Oman is all set for the seventh Majlis A’Shura elections this month with unprecedented fanfare and increased awareness about political rights among the public, one of the phenomenal aspects that make this election different is the exceptional increase in the number of women running for the elections. Eighty two women are contesting the elections this year, whereas in the previous elections held in 2007, there were only 21 female candidates in the fray. This can definitely be attributed to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s efforts at increasing

the role of women in society, including their participation in the elections. His Majesty has repeatedly called upon women to offer their full support to the continuing development of the country, describing them as representing “half of Oman’s potential”. Says Khadija Al Lawati, head of Cultural Cooperation Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a candidate from the Wilayat of Muttrah, “The elections this year come in the wake of His Majesty granting more legislative and regulatory powers to the Council of Oman of which Majlis A’Shura is an important part. Therefore, the elected members of the seventh Shura will have more responsibilities than their predecessors. Moreover, people have become more vocal and expressive of their demands and perceived rights. It is the responsibility of the representatives of Majlis A’Shura to express the needs and demands of their constituents.” Khadija, who was once the ambassador of the Sultanate to the Netherlands for ten years, adds that Omani women comprise roughly half of the population. Historically they have always been


active in all aspects of social life. “I feel that a woman would be better able to understand the specific needs of other women and the demands of society at large; and therefore their contribution in Majlis A’Shura is very important. Women representatives in the Majlis would make it more dynamic and representative.” Suad Fayal Mubarak bait Maghra, a candidate from Salalah, observes that the election comes at a time when the youth of the country are conscious of the changes going on everywhere in the world. “The way they protested was an excellent sign of their political maturity which was aptly recognised and supported by the government. This is not something new to the government which has always respected the rights of the citizens. Moreover, my trust in open-minded people and the encouragement and support of my government made me believe that together we can make a difference with all kind of changes going on around us.” According to Shamsa bint Abdullah al Hosni, a candidate from Seeb, the hallmark of this election, unlike the previous ones, is the quest for justice, transparency and the increased democratic awareness of Omani citizens to choose the right candidate who can represent their dreams and aspirations.

Dispelling misconceptions But despite being increasingly aware of their political rights, women contestants have to fight against many odds to secure a victory, unlike their male counterparts, a fact exemplified by the conspicuous absence of female members in the existing Shura Council. Apart from convincing people about their electoral programmes and manifestoes, women candidates had also to work hard to dispel misconceptions about their credibility to run for the elections and serve the country and people. Says Raya Hamoud Al Rawahi, who is contesting from the wilayat of Wadi al Ma’awil, “As a woman candidate, one of my biggest challenges has been to fight against people’s wrong perceptions about woman’s candidacy. I don’t understand why even the educated people could not think differently.” Raya

Aziza Al Habsi, Media Expert, The Research Council (Contesting from Bowshar) feels that dispelling such misconceptions in the society is as important as creating awareness about political rights. “If I win the elections, I will do my best to communicate with all sections of society, especially women and youth, so that I can convey their views and requirements to the Majlis,” adds Raya. According to Suad Maghra, lack of funding for campaigns, economic dependence and their preoccupation with household responsibilities are some of the biggest challenges for women candidates. She casts aspersion on the role of media in promoting the values of male dominated society and keeping women captives of some conservative views and prejudices. This will discourage women from participating in public activities. “Tribal pressure is another factor forcing women to withdraw their candidatures. Some tribes believe that participation of women

in politics and their representation in decision-making bodies will cause damage to the prestige of their family. In addition, women are not aware of their political rights and the importance of electing women to the council. She expects that though woman failed to win a single seat in the previous elections, this is a fresh opportunity for them to prove that they are more powerful and consistent in the pursuit of their goals, however difficult it may be. “There are many challenges we still try to overcome; but young people in the country have become more politically mature, giving a strong signal that much of these obstacles will not remain there forever,” she adds. Aziza Al Habsi, who works at The Research Council and is contesting for the second time from the Wilayat of Bowshar, feels that lack of support even from among women and lackadaisical October 2011 45


COVERSTORY

Shamsa Bint Abdullah Al Hosni, Business Women (Contesting from Seeb) attitude of civil society organisation were some of the reasons for the failure of all women candidates in 2007 elections. Aziza thinks that the debacle in 2007 has not really discouraged women; but it has prompted more women this time to come forward to prove their mettle. “As exemplified by the recent protests, people are in need of more qualitative changes in all aspects of their life. They believe in the strength of parliament in bringing out this change,” avers Aziza. She also believes that participation of a large number of qualified candidates makes the election this year more competitive. Shamsa al Hosni is of the opinion that since ensuring women’s representation in all houses of the parliament is very important, a constant mechanism should be developed to ensure that they are getting enough seats, whether it be by means of reservation or through some consensus. Shamsa admits that there are some people who, driven by certain prejudices, are biasing others against women’s candidature. “They still believe that women do not have the capability to 46

Suad Fayal Mubarak Bait Maghrab, Head of Quality Assurance, Sultan Qaboos Hospital (Contesting from Salalah) take up such responsible jobs because of their physical features. But if God has entrusted woman with more responsible jobs such as bringing up children, what prevents her from taking up social and political responsibilities?”, she asks.

Beyond gender equations However candidates from urban areas rule out the possibility of such discrimination. Asks Dr Al Yusriya al Jamil, who is contesting from Muttrah, “If women’s presence in government posts and responsible jobs has become ubiquitous, why do people hesitate to elect them to Shura council and other decision making bodies?” Al Yusriyah feels that the society is more community conscious rather than being gender conscious. She makes it clear that she has not encountered any problem at all as a woman candidate. Says Dr Ayidah Bint Sulayyim Al Hijri, who is a candidate from Amerat, “People in Amerat can think above such gender equations. The biggest challenge I am facing is the attempt of certain candidates to woo the electorates with the promises of money and other offers. Such practices definitely pose a serious blow to the dem-

ocratic process in the country as a whole. Elaborating on the challenges faced by women candidates, Khadija says, “While some countries have introduced reservation of certain seats for women to ensure their equal representation in parliamentary bodies, the Sultanate has preferred to allow all candidates an equal footing. While this makes it more challenging for women candidates in the first few elections, it forces us to work hard to overcome these barriers and make our representation all that more valuable. I feel that people are more positive towards women candidates and are confident in the representation of women and their capabilities.”

Reaching out to people Most of the candidates are of the opinion that they have to campaign aggressively if they want to win seats in the election rather than waiting to acquire power on a silver platter. ‘Shura is a responsibility; so let’s become partners in shouldering it’ is the campaign motto of Dr Jokha bint Suleiman Al Hosni, who is contesting from the Wilayat

October 2011

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TOGETHER WE CAN


COVERSTORY

the development of the Wilayat. Shamsa promises to her voters that once elected, she will work diligently in association with the constituents for the development of the Wilayat. She also plans to work for facilitating more interaction among people in the locality and to give voice to their dreams.

Online campaigns Most of the women candidates are making use of advanced technology to reach out to more voters. Al Yusriya who works at the Ministry of Education, uses Ozv Specialist (Technology) and various websites for her campaign. “I designed my own website which helps me communicate with a large segment of society. It provides a better opportunity for me to disseminate my vision and objectives to more people,” she says. Yusriyah presents to the public two comprehensive lists of her priorities which includes her projects for lowincome families, plans to upgrade health and other public services, elimination of literacy, measures for the development of Muttrah market etc.

Dr Jokha Bint Suleiman Al Hosni, Retired from the Ministry of Education (Contesting form the Wilayat of Bowshar) of Bowshar. Her manifesto speaks about the necessity of reforming and upgrading the educational system in the country in order to improve the quality of graduates from colleges and universities across the Sultanate. She also emphasises the development of small-scale industries in achieving the targets of sustainable development. Other areas of import in her agenda include infrastructure development and making service sectors more efficient.

their work and know their problems better than men.”

Says Khadija, “At present, I’m meeting a lot of people in my house to introduce myself, my objectives and electoral programmes. I’m also making use of the electronic and internet to campaign and reach people. In addition to that I’m also visiting people in their communities to hear and discuss their immediate worries and problems. People are very positive, and they believe that women are more dedicated in

Backed by 30 years of activities for social development and her vast experience as a member of various national committees and panels, Dr Aydah is very much confident about her plans for people. She visits houses, meets people in order to convey to them her dreams and aspiration for their development. Her election manifesto comprises a lot of visionary projects for the welfare of people and

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Friends and family members are active in the election campaign of Suad. Her campaign includes face-to-face meeting with people, putting up campaign posters, and communicating with people via Facebook and other social media websites. “However certain people harbour a grudge against putting up women’s photos in public,” she says.

“The underlying message of all campaigns is to make people believe that you can serve them as a servant. I am using all social media websites such facebook and twitter for the campaign, “says Aziza al Habsi. She has in mind a lot of projects for the youth, retirees, people from social security families, fishermen, disabled people and various other marginalised people in the society. However, as Noora Al Zadjali who contests from the Wilayat of Muscat made it clear, the candidates have a long way to go to make people conscious about the significance of this elections and what it hold in store for them in terms of their political rights, economic and social development and stability. Speaking at a media session orgainsed by Tawasul, Noora exhorted the voters to study the list of candidates properly before they exercise their electoral franchise. “We are in a transition period. Therefore, select only those who can better serve you and the country,” says Noora who is the director of information department at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.


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COVERSTORY

STANDING TALL A number of young women achievers are leaving their indelible imprint in

companies across sectors in Oman. Mayank Singh speaks to six of them about their strengths, aspiration and challenges

PARTICIPANTS: Aisha Abdullah Al Kharusi Executive Manager, Corporate Communications & CSR, National Bank Of Oman

Amaal Al Lawati Head of Billing & Collections

Can you share your educational and professional background with our readers? Aisha: I work for National Bank of Oman (NBO). Prior to joining NBO, I was the deputy director of Strategic Analysis at Boeing, covering ten Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, I was the Corporate Citizenship representative for the MENA region. I received my Master of Arts degree in Communication Design, from Central Saint Martins, University

Mobile & Fixed, Nawras

Ilham Murtadha Al Hamaid Head, SME Credit & Marketing, BankMuscat

Wisam Al Said Corporate Affairs Manager, Oman Oil Marketing Company

Ghada Al Yousef Director of Corporate Affairs, Al Yousef Group

Dr Fatma O Ali CEO, Emirates Medical Centre 50

October 2011

Aisha Abdullah Al Kharusi

of the Arts London and my Bachelor of Arts degree from American University, Washington DC. I also hold a postgraduate degree in business administration from University of Liverpool – Distancelearning Programme. Amaal: I passed out from the College of Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in 1995 and decided to join the private sector. I worked with NBO as a trainee graduate and in a year’s time


where I graduated with a BSc (honours) in Managements from Royal Holloway University of London. I started my career at NBO as a Corporate Communications officer. I then moved to HSBC to take over the Corporate Communications function. Over three years at HSBC I was selected to undergo HSBC’s Group Graduate Development Programme in Bricketwood, UK for seven weeks. I concluded my banking career in Personal Financial Services in June 2010. Since last year, I have joined Al Yousef Group as director of Corporate Affairs, looking closely at the telecom, logistics and hospitality sectors of the group. In terms of my community work, I participated in the Oman Chamber of Commerce as a deputy chairperson of the Women in Business Forum and participated in the Ministry of Social Development’s Symposium in Sohar.

Amaal Al Lawati

got promoted as a manager. After that I worked with Majan International Bank and BankDhofar. Nawras offered me a job as a section head in the billing and collection department and I joined the company in December 2004. In 2008 I became the head of Billing & Collections Mobile & Fixed.

five years ago and got a job at Oman Oil Marketing Company. Ghada: I passed out from the Sultan’s School, after which I decided to go to the UK to pursue my higher studies

Dr Fatma: I established Emirates Medical Center (EMC) in the year 2000. After receiving my MD & Msc (UK) degrees and undertaking numerous training courses in Cosmetic Dermatology in California and Texas, US. I practised as a specialist dermatologist in Oman from 1998. In the late 1990s, I discovered an unfulfilled niche in Oman’s skin and

Ilham: I completed my Bachelor of Science from SQU in 2001 and joined BankMuscat. I started as a relationship trainee and did my MBA simultaneously from SQU. Over ten years I have served on a number of committees in BankMuscat. As the head of the SME Credit and Marketing I am in charge of evaluating the financial needs of SME’s and lending to them. Wisam: I completed my high school diploma at the international school of Paris and proceeded to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in International Corporate Communications from the American University of Paris. I briefly worked with UNESCO and International Chamber of Commerce both in Paris then obtained a Masters degree in Strategic Marketing from Cardiff University in the UK. I moved to Oman for the first time

Ilham Murtadha Al Hamaid October 2011 51


I never started out to meet huge success; I started out to meet the purpose Many Journeys. Many Inspirations. One Spirit.

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COVERSTORY

skills in my career together with hard work and determination. Moreover, My father’s achievements always inspire me towards doing more and reaching greater heights. After being exposed to various industries, I have learnt that success in any area requires knowledge, passion and the ability to execute or get things done! Dr Fatma: I believe that my integrity, perseverance and strong will to succeed have helped me a great deal to achieve business success. I realise that it is not possible to achieve anything on my own and that only teamwork can make things happen. As a leader, I try to help others to believe in themselves.

Wisam Al Said beauty care sector. In order to fill this market gap, I set out to establish my own centre to answer to such needs. What are the attributes that have enabled you to succeed in life? Aisha: I believe it’s a combination of many factors including determination, environment and at times luck. Additionally, having a mentor has helped me move forward and on track to reach my career and personal goals.

play etc. I’ve carried this habit to my professional life. I always start off my day with list of goals and tasks I would like to achieve for that day and end my day by ticking all items on the list. Ghada: I believe success for me was the ability to combine values, interests and

Amaal: Self inititiave, being organised and driven have helped me to reach where I have in my professional career. Ilham: I believe that the attributes of success are – a never say die spirit, self motivation, patience and an ability to work well in a team. Personally, I have never been worried about any challenge that comes my way, rather whenever I take on a new role or responsibility, I think about the difference I can make to the job. Wisam: I’ve always had the habit of setting goals for myself and working towards achieving these goals. They started off as places I wanted to visit, art exhibitions I would like to attend, instruments I would like to learn to 54

October 2011

Ghada Al Yousef

Is there a glass ceiling for women in Oman’s corporate sector or are there enough avenues for growth? Aisha: In my opinion it all depends on the leadership of an organisation, organisational culture and the women’s leadership attribute. Unfortunately, the reality is glass-ceiling barriers exist at all levels of an organisation and affect women at different levels globally. And while Omani CEOs increasingly recognise the value of work force diversity, particularly at the management levels, I believe that glass ceiling barriers


Is there any advice that you would like to share with young Omani women who are embarking on a career in the corporate sector? Aisha: Knowledge is your weapon in life. Whatever you do, you should always be looking to improve yourself. Graduating from university does not guarantee you a job for life. Never try to be an equal to a man. Men may be physically stronger. By nature, they are usually more daring and externally oriented. On the other hand a woman usually embodies inner dignity. Some may confuse this with weakness; in truth, it is stronger than the physical force. My advice is to embrace your femininity and bring out the inner woman within you at all times. I also believe it’s critical for women not be afraid to ask what they want when it comes to making their career and family lives succeed.

Dr Fatma O Ali continue to deny women the opportunity to compete for and hold executive level positions in the private sector. In our society, more men than women, due to cultural reasons, are willing to commit themselves to the course of action demanded by such a difficult goal – such as working eighty hours a week instead of forty. However, we must not assume that women are not capable. Some women may not be family-oriented and more work-oriented. Amaal: I do not think so, if women are ready to work hard and keep their focus then they can do well. We have women ministers and ambassadors so it would be incorrect to say that women lack opportunities in the Sultanate. I have seen women doing as well as men and it all boils down to one’s performance. Ilham: While there is no glass ceiling, I think that women have to work harder than men to prove themselves. Previously there were a lot of prejudices against women, but His Majesty has supported the cause of women, this has ensured that there is no discrimination against women. Though there are a few women CEO’s in Oman, things are changing as there are more women head of departments and

in future you will see more of them in senior positions. Wisam: If there was a glass ceiling then it is certainly broken. There are so many powerful and inspirational women present in all sectors here in Oman. These women are paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps. I believe that Omani women are becoming more and more empowered with each generation. Ghada: I do not believe that there is a glass ceiling for women in Oman, whether in Corporate or other sectors. There are many opportunities for those who are dedicated and determined. Oman is a young country and you will find women who will recall the days when opportunities were very limited for women. I believe men and women are different, and therefore approach business differently, but in my experience it is not gender that matters, but it is ultimately merit and performance that open avenues for growth. Dr Fatma: Oman, as a developing country, has endless opportunity for Omani women. Women have the power to set the pace for tomorrow, but they need to start acting now.

Amaal: My advice to youngsters is simple – Take on challenges and be responsible for your work. If there are gaps in your personality, overcome them by knowledge and training. Ilham: Women should take responsibilities and work hard prove themselves. They should underestimate their capabilities or anyone discourage them

on to not let

Wisam: Work hard, prove yourselves and set achievable goals and in time you will get where you want to be. Ghada: I believe, first and foremost is to believe in one’s ability – always do what you enjoy doing and make it a life, not a living. Second, is education and training. I am a strong believer that a ‘good’ education is the strongest foundation for any future goal whether you are a homemaker or you want to pursue a career. Once you are ready to pursue a career you need to have a master plan complemented with patience and commitment. Dr Fatma: My message to Omani women is to believe in their dreams, to believe in themselves and to start implementing actions today! Oman has a SME forum where they can obtain a lot of support to get off the ground. October 2011 55


BY JAMES HARBRIDGE

LEGAL

Fair play As female employees became one of the most significant icons of change, protecting their rights has also assumed importance

The author is a Partner at Curtis, MalletPrevost, Oman

T

he working culture in Oman has significantly changed since the Renaissance in 1970. As Oman began to liberate its economic system and become a part of the international trade community, female employees became one of the most significant icons of change. This article will briefly outline some of the Labour Law articles which relate to female employment.

Working hours Article 81 of the Labour Law stipulates that an employer shall not require women to work between 7 pm and 6 am, except when otherwise authorised by a Ministerial Decision relating to female working hours. It can be anticipated that this provision will change sooner rather than later.

Maternity leave According to Article 83 of the Labour Law, a woman who has completed one year of service with her employer shall be entitled to this leave. The leave is limited to a maximum period of six weeks, which includes both the predelivery period and the post delivery period. It is crucial for the woman applying for maternity leave to present a 56

October 2011

ARTICLE 81 OF THE LABOUR LAW STIPULATES THAT AN EMPLOYER SHALL NOT REQUIRE WOMEN TO WORK BETWEEN 7 PM AND 6 AM, EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE AUTHORISED BY A MINISTERIAL DECISION

medical certificate stating the expected delivery date. With regards to pay during the maternity leave period, a female employee is given the right to choose between two options. First, she can opt for the maternity leave to be treated as a leave without pay or, alternatively, she can elect for the maternity leave to be deemed as sick leave, subject to Article 66 of the Labour Law which sets out the entitlement to 10 weeks’ sick leave during any given year.

Nature of work Article 82 of the Labour Law stipulates that female employees shall not be required to carry out any type of work that is considered to be harsh work or harmful to health or any other works so determined by a ministerial decision.

In conclusion, the Omani Labour law has noticeably outlined some of the major issues concerning the employment of women. The recent employment figures indicate that the number of female employees in Oman has increased dramatically, suggesting that the laws regulating the employment of women will be amended to cover more substantial issues concerning the female workforce. Indeed, a quick look at employment legislation for women in other countries shows that the topics covered include anti-discrimination laws, absence from work due to fertility treatments, sexual harassment in the workplace and the issue of overtime for pregnant women and nursing mothers. In time, these types of scenarios may well be covered by Omani labour statutes.


BY OLIVER CORNOCK

Stronger role for women During the last 40 years, Omani women have seen their political rights steadily increase and their roles expand in government, business and education

The author is Regional Editor, Oxford Business Group

T

he best clue to a nation’s growth and development potential is the status and role of women,” David S. Landes, economics Professor Emeritus at Harvard, wrote in his book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Credible research on the topic points in one direction: as women in a country become better-educated and betterrepresented in the economy, that country reaps major economic and social benefits. In fact, educating women is one of the highest-returning investments a nation can make, according to a World Bank study conducted by thenchief economist Lawrence Summers. His research found that more educated women can moderate birth rates, improve national health and raise education standards. In business settings as well, women tend to thrive. To take one example, a 2008 study jointly produced by Columbia University and the University of Maryland looked into the affect of women decision-makers in business. After studying 1,500 top US companies, the project concluded that companies with women in their uppermanagement showed stronger performance, especially in

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fields that required creativity and collaboration. The positive effects of a stronger role for women in society and business have not been felt equally around the world, however. For a number of reasons, women’s rights in the Middle East have come to the fore as an issue more recently. As a result, women represent a largely untapped source of economic and social value in the region. A World Bank study on Middle Eastern labour markets, for example, indicated that increasing the number of women in the workforce could boost average household incomes by up to 25 per cent without causing additional unemployment. Oman has been developing women’s rights at a quick pace relative to its neighbours. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said’s coming to the throne in 1970 offered women a serious boost, and ongoing reforms have been encouraging women to participate in government, start their own businesses and seek better educations. Although advances have been incremental, Omani women have seen their political rights steadily increase. In 1994, His Majesty made Oman the first country in the region

to offer limited women’s suffrage, upgrading those rights to provide universal suffrage in 2003. In the same year’s elections 16 of the 584 candidates for the Council of State were women, two of whom were elected. In addition, the Sultan currently has a number of women in his cabinet, including Minister of Higher Education HE Rawiyah al Busaidiyah and Minister of Education Madiha al Shaibaniyah. Women’s progress in the civil service is also growing steady. Between 1995 and 2008, the number of women in government jobs has nearly quadrupled, increasing from 12,193 to 47,390, according to the Ministry of National Economy’s Statistical Yearbook. That ratio comes out to be about a third of government workers.

Woman entrepreneurs Women have also increased their presence in private firms. Of the 158,315 workers registered with the Public Authority for Social Insurance, 29,273, or 18.5 per cent, are women, according to the Ministry of National Economy. The growth in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should help boost private sector participation. In 2001, the Sultanate created an organisation called SANAD


ECONOMY

OMAN HAS BEEN DEVELOPING WOMEN’S RIGHTS AT A QUICK PACE RELATIVE TO ITS NEIGHBOURS to provide loans and other support to start-up businesses in Oman. The organisation offers loans of up to RO20,000 ($52,000) with governmentsubsidised interest rates of 2 per cent. Additional funding is available to collective projects (those involving more than one person) and high-priority sectors with high start-up costs (such as tech and IT companies). Women have made impressive gains in taking advantage of SME assistance, making up 50 per cent of recipients, SANAD told OBG. A high ratio of female small-business owners could do much to boost

female employment, because SMEs are a powerhouse of job-creation. In OECD countries, SMEs provide twothirds of employment, while in developing economies they represent up to 97 per cent, according to OECD secretarygeneral Angel Gurria. As drivers of jobs growth, SMEs have the potential to not only boost the Sultanate’s ratio of female employees but also its ratio of female employers.

Empowered by education Many of these gains have been made possible by the government’s commitment to provide education for women. Before His Majesty came to

the throne in 1970, there was virtually no public education offered to women. Now, however, the system is split roughly down the middle up through grade 12. Female students represented 49 per cent of total enrolment during 2009-2010 school year, according to official statistics. The situation is similar in higher education. Women made up 48 per cent of students at Sultan Qaboos University last year. Under the leadership of His Majesty, Omani women have seen their roles expand in government, business and education. The ruler has repeatedly made

clear that he places great value on increasing women’s rights, an indication that further progress can be expected. “We have given our full attention, since the beginning of this era, to the participation of Omani women in the march of the blessed Renaissance, so we have provided them with education, training and employment opportunities and supported their role and status in society,” he said in a 2009 speech to the Council of Oman. “We are convinced that the country, in its blessed march, needs both men and women [like a] bird in relying on both of its wings to fly high in the horizons of the sky.”

October 2011 59


INTHENEWS

On the right track The four-day Oman Transport Infrastructure Summit deliberated on the opportunities and challenges in the Sultanate’s transport sector

O

ver 30 high-profile speakers and 120 local and international industry professionals attended the Oman Transport Infrastructure Summit, the firstever event dedicated to the roads, airports, ports and railways in the Sultanate as the government embarks on massive transport and infrastructure development throughout the country. The four-day event was held recently in co-operation with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and was officially inaugurated by Said bin Hamdoon Al Harthy, undersecretary for ports and maritime affairs at the Ministry of Ports and Communications. The formal opening ceremony was attended by officials from ministries, diplomats, senior executives of constructionrelated companies and industry experts in the region’s transport and infrastructure sector. Says Al Harthi at his inaugural address, “The government is looking to link all the three modes of transport – roads, sea ports and airports. The interior roads will also be linked with the main highways. Moreover, major ports will 60

October 2011

have connectivity to domestic ports. He also revealed that the proposed shifting of all commercial import and export activities from Muscat port to Sohar, would be in a phased manner to make it smooth. Addressing the summit, Mohammed bin Aref Abu Zaki, road expert at the Directorate General of Roads And Land Transport at the ministry of transport and communications says strategic road projects totaling more than 2,000 kilometres in length are currently under various stages of design and development across the Sultanate. “Expanding road network is not only designed to cater to traffic growth, but also enhance connectivity with remote and isolated communities, some of them located deep in wadis or mountainous regions of the country. Oman’s road network has more than quadrupled over the last 15 years, from 6,591 km in 1996 to 25,926 km by the end of 2009. The total length of graded roads soared from 24,800 km in 1996 to 30,435 km in 2009. New projects add on average 1,000 kilometres of new blacktop to the country’s network every year,” Abu Zaki adds.

According to Dr Syed Anisuddin, expert – training and development at the Ministry of Defence engineering services, there is a need to scientifically plan the future of Oman transport system for providing a better level of service, an environmentfriendly sustainable light rail transport seems to be the most viable solution for resolving the transport woes in Muscat. He observes that the rapid urbanisation in the past few years in Oman has resulted in abundant increase in housing and vehicular population, which is one of the highest in the world. “Every year, the road length is increased by 20 per cent. However, the road space becomes scarce and the passengers are witnessing difficulties,” he adds. Throughout the four days, the attendees discussed the main challenges faced by Oman’s transport infrastructure sector, exchanging best practices and strategies to overcome those challenges and learning about the latest technologies and materials available in the transport infrastructure industry.

OER, AIWA and Dossier were the media partners for this event.


REAL ESTATE

SPOTLIGHT

VIBRANT MODE

In spite of the unsettled political and economic climate in some parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the real estate sectors in the region have recovered well from any effects of the global financial crisis. This has had a positive spin-off effect on the Sultanate as well, as can be seen from the spurt in both retail and commercial space activities in the country

October 2011 61


SPOTLIGHT

REAL ESTATE

O

man’s real estate and construction sector is set to derive the maximum benefits as the government is ramping up spending on infrastructure and development. The current influx of construction projects, combined with major projects in the information technology (IT) segment, has ably positioned Oman in a strong and steadfast position along with other emerging economies. The Sultanate of Oman has a vibrant sector with 2.1 per cent growth and over RO1.2bn worth of construction projects underway or in the planning stages, according to a recent report from Business Monitor International, a leading business research and intelligence firm. The BMI report also reveals the significant potential of Oman’s infrastructure sector with a number of contracts having been awarded in 2011 and substantial new investment planned. The momentum in infrastructure sector is expected to bring in an overall 5.06 per cent real growth towards the end of the year. The confidence in the construction segment is backed by Oman’s five year spending plan, which covers 2011 to 2015 and predicts over RO30bn worth of spending with a

113 per cent increase. Significantly, of this total figure, RO6bn will go to the oil industry and RO3bn will be spent on property developments.

Office space Demand for office space in the capital area has remained relatively steady over the last 18 months, although the unrest in the Sultanate at the start of the year has seen a marked decline in demand recently. However, the majority of demand remains for smaller spaces of up to 500 square metres, whilst flexibility in office design is vital to cater for smaller space occupiers. One of the key points in the report indicates that the vast majority of office stock in Muscat is currently Grade B or C, with a limited availability of Grade A space. Cluttons expects that this will soon change as a number of large scale, Grade A office developments are due for completion in the near future. Among Grade A office developments that are due to be released onto the market during the year include the Al Rawaq building in Qurum, Beach Plaza in Shatti Al Qurum, Saud Bahwan Plaza

GLOREI

Building the nation

G

lobal Omani Development & Investment Company GLOREI is a leading real estate developer in Oman. It is a closed shareholding company established in 2008, with a paid capital of RO43.5mn. In terms of paid-up capital, GLOREI is the largest real estate development company in the country. GLOREI started the development of a five-star hotel - Shaza Muscat Hotel which is coming up next to the Tilal Al Khuwair complex in the Al Khuwair area of Muscat. It is about 16 km away both from the Muscat International Airport and the Central Business District (CBD) in Greater Muttrah. The project is built-up on a stretch of land of about 12,566sqm, and is being developed by GLOREI along with its strategic partners. This property will be operated by one of the well-known international hotel brands, maintaining very high standards in hospitality. It will strive to provide exclusive and modern services and facilities which will be matching the needs of the target segments of society who seek privacy and distinction.

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In addition, it has also established a new project in Oman with full services, the modern and sophisticated Business Centre (Maktabi Al Khuwair) which located in the heart of the city of Muscat in the prestigious business district and diplomatic Area. The business centre provides premium serviced office space with managed facilities on a short, medium, or longterm basis. The office space is fully furnished, equipped with desks, chairs, telephones and internet connectivity. The centre also provides assistance to the tenants in administering the affairs of their rented offices, including the provision of essential secretarial support. Another project under construction is an environmentally friendly commercial project – Maktabi Al Wattayyah – which is located in Wattayyah and is placed right between the traditional commercial hub Ruwi and the new commercial area Al Khuwair. Its proximity to major residential and other commercial areas plus a 20 km drive to the Muscat International Airport makes

Watiyah a preferred location for offices. Addressing different needs of clients, GLOREI will offer options for end users in terms of ownership and leasing. Construction for this project is underway and the company’s offices could be contacted for more information on leasing or buying office spaces. The first project of the company is to develop and own an integrated mix-use real estate project to include residential, commercial and hotel units in Wilayat Baushar which will provide the residents with services and facilities that fit with the requirements of modern life style and commensurate with the targeted segments in the community. GLOREI has also contributed to the establishment of Omani integrated logistics company, an Omani closed joint stock company with a group of investors from within and outside the Sultanate. The company has commenced its operations in the year 2009 providing internal logistics solutions. During last year, it worked towards strengthening its fleet of trailers and cooling trucks in order to meet the market demand.


SPOTLIGHT

REAL ESTATE

in Ghubrah and the Tilal Complex in Bausher. In total, these developments alone will add approximately 158,000 square metres of Grade A office space to the market. Cluttons Oman, one of the well known realty firm in Oman foresees rental values for office space continuing to soften as new office space enters the market. The premium for Grade A space in comparison to Grade B space in the same area ranges from 12.5 per cent to 33 per cent. It is evident that the supply of Grade A office space in the Muscat capital area will accelerate significantly over the coming year. However, in an increasingly competitive market, and with strong interest in Grade A office space, many tenants appear unwilling to pay a significant premium in comparison to the rental values for Grade B space in the same area. The report signals the proposition that landlords of Grade A office space will need to adopt pro-active leasing strategies in order to secure tenants, such as initial rent-free periods or stepped rents over the term of the lease. In addition, Cluttons emphasizes that high quality, professional property management will be vital in attracting and retaining tenants.

Residential According to Savills Oman, the first half of 2011 saw healthy and increased activity in the residential leasing sector. Demand was sustained for all types of property, particularly villa options within the new ITC developments. Rentals remained under pressure to some degree owing to corporates generally tightening their housing budget allowances. The move of many companies away from the traditional “expatriate package” which included housing allowance to an all in gross salary has resulted in tenants becoming increasingly demanding in terms of value for money. Values for most property types appear to have reached their ‘true levels’ and further declines from existing rates are not predicted over the next quarter. Whilst medium level apartment rentals have held firm over the quarter, there is likely to be some downward pressure throughout the rest of the year owing to the completion of a significant amount of new stock. With some larger companies developing their own staff accommodation, release of formerly rented apartments into the market could potentially result in an oversupply and a consequential softening of rents, a report by Savills Oman stated.

CLUTTONS

Cluttons in Oman – upgrading its property and facilities management software to keep pace with market demand

F

ollowing the boom years in Oman, 2006 -2008 the number and quality of projects being delivered has changed dramatically. Many projects are now of a size and scale that can no longer be managed by the usual locally adopted methods of occasional visits by inexperienced technicians and an on-site caretaker. Tenants are demanding higher standards and there is now an emerging two tier market with strong demand for quality well managed buildings but with poorer unmanaged buildings remaining empty. This is driving demand for experienced property management companies. Cluttons has recently upgraded its software to meet such changing market conditions, and now offers an advanced automated property and facilities management package: TRAMPS. This system integrates tenant details, lease details and the asset

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register within the helpdesk functions. This market leading software has been developed by TRACE solutions for the demanding British market and ensures that a building can be optimally managed to deliver maximum benefits to the tenants and owner. The help desk function records and analyses faults and complaints, and ensures service personnel comply with service level agreements and key performance indicators. The benefits of this means that the owner gets better reports, the tenants get better service and contractor performance can be better monitored. The asset register is a record of all plant, equipment and fixtures. It is automatically integrated with the helpdesk, and also generates planned preventive maintenance programmes. These features enable health history

tracking and it ensures 100% uptime and the extended life of the asset as well as the property as a whole. The system offers a secure and systematic approach to property accounting operated by experienced and qualified professional staff operating to international standards. Full automation means that critical dates are not missed. The Cluttons team in Oman is highly experienced in managing a wide range of properties, from large residential, commercial, office, retail to mixed-use developments. The team is driven by a desire to offer optimum client service, and by using this software, can improve the bottom line of building owners by attracting high levels of occupancy and extending the life of the equipment and building. www.cluttons.com


SPOTLIGHT

REAL ESTATE

The impact of the new Integrated Tourism Complexes, The Wave and Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club particularly has been significant for the rental market. With both these developments offering high quality housing options in managed communities, rents consistent with those prevailing in more central areas continue to be achievable and demand remains high.

represents an 8 per cent growth rate from Q3 2010 which also saw the Average Revenue Per User (APRU) increase to R0.17.810 per month for Fixed Post Paid users, an increase of 8.6% against Q3 2010. Whilst these levels head towards the saturation points experienced by other GCC countries, such levels of growth remain good news for operators and their shareholders.

As the enhanced facilities of hotels, shopping and recreational amenities are completed in both these developments it is predicted that there will be healthy rental growth and values will outstrip those of the central areas. Older housing in the traditionally favoured areas that has not been upgraded to modern day standards is now failing to rent quickly and vacancy rates are climbing.

Slow initial investment into fixed line technology has been overshadowed by improved mobile technology, connectivity, 3G technology and smartphones. Existing restrictions to VOIP services such as Skype are anticipated to be relaxed within the region. As such, the report indicates that operators will be required to revise their pricing approach and be creative with future data services that they offer.

Telecom sector

Combined with Government support and initiatives, which hope to increase the ICT development and knowledge of end users, this will be a key driver in continued growth along with guidance

Mobile penetration rates were 171 per cent at Q4 2010 with 4,606,133 subscribers by the end of December 2010. This

THE ZUBAIR CORPORATION – REAL ESTATE DIVISION

Building Foundations

T

he Real Estate interest of The Zubair Corporation was established in its very early days when ‘self reliance’ was the motto and all its commercial and residential premises were owned and maintained by the Group. Many of these buildings have become landmarks and are readily recognizable with a unified theme incorporating Islamic and Omani architecture. Today this division is known as The Zubair Corporation – Real Estate Division, with capability to extend its property management services to outsiders. It now owns and manages a large portfolio of properties. Key activities include Property Management and Development, Project Management, Leasing and Maintenance, and Property Sourcing. The portfolio includes villa complexes, apartment buildings, warehouses, offices and showrooms and, the Division currently manages over 375 Residential, Commercial and Industrial units in the country. The Zubair Corporation – Real Estate Division also develops properties within its portfolio, as well as upgrades existing

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properties. It provides comprehensive maintenance services apart from advice on market research, design, real estate networking and negotiations. The Zubair Corporation – Real Estate Division also provides Property Management from concept to completion for its clients. Till date it has successfully executed and completed several projects which are showrooms, warehouses, museums, restaurants, office buildings, villas etc. Currently, the division is looking at developing more Residential/ Commercial properties, logistics and Warehousing Centres, showroom and services Centres, retail malls, Hotels, Leisure and entertainment complexes. Some of the prestigious projects executed by The Zubair Corporation – Real Estate Division include The Zubair Corporation’s Corporate Office building, which is modern and stylish, and reflects traditional Omani design, architecture and detailing. The internal offices are designed so that most of them face the beautifully landscaped gardens that feature palm trees, lush shrubs, flowerbeds, lawn, fountain and

a waterfall. Another landmark structure is Bait Al Zubair Museum located in Muscat, which received His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Architectural Excellence Award. It is the first building in Oman to receive this award and the only Museum. The Real Estate Division has come a long way from playing a support role, constructing buildings and leasing them as needed. It is well set to lead the market on where Real Estate should be in Oman in terms of quality and service. Over four decades, The Zubair Corporation has expanded and diversified, bringing new business thinking from around the world into the Sultanate of Oman to help build a vibrant and modern nation. Today it is a group with over 60 wholly owned companies, subsidiaries and associates in Oman, the Middle East, India, the Far East, Europe and the USA. The Zubair Corporation’s portfolio comprises of Investments, Energy, Real Estate and construction, Electric, Tourism, Furnishing, Home and Business solutions, Information and Communication Technologies, Cultural Heritage and Publishing.


Welcome to the premium lifestyle 2 & 3 Bedroom Apartments

FOR RENT

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For Booking/Enquiries contact: 92502497 / 24527817 email: Mohsin.Zaidi@zubaircorp.com REX ROAD

• Modular Kitchens

L&T

• Telephone/Internet and TV points in all rooms • Separate drying balcony • On-Site Maintenance service • Garbage Chute

NEW RUWI TOWER

MHD GULF AIR

CHURCH R/A LULU DARSAIT

FROM OC CENTER

HAFFA HOUSE

• Reserved Car park

P.O Box 1127, Ruwi 112, Sultanate of Oman. Tel: +968 - 24527815 / 17 Fax: +968 - 24527889 email: realestate@zubaircorp.com website: www.zubaircorp.com


SPOTLIGHT

REAL ESTATE

from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). As a result, consideration is required to real estate strategy and portfolio flexibility in order to drive future market position. Operators are likely to adopt a more organic approach to their wider real estate needs, supported by professional property advisors. This will include appropriate estate management services during network deployment such as site acquisition and commercial tenancy agreement management. Furthermore, corporate strategy is likely to see additional real estate requirements in the form of retail outlets to improve customer experience/service and office expansion/consolidation as a result of previous growth or changes in market position.

Hotel rooms to increase STR Global figures report the average occupancy rate for Muscat hotels in 2010 as being 55.8 per cent. While a slight

improvement on 2009 performance, this figure is significantly below the 67 per cent achieved in 2008 and 69 per cent in 2007. Accordingly it is evident that the hotel sector in Muscat has suffered from the global recession. The Ministry of Tourism figures for the Muscat capital area for 2010 show that supply stood at 95 hotels and serviced apartments. The supply of hotel rooms in the capital is currently dominated by the four and five star sector which provides 51.7 per cent of hotel rooms and 48.6 per cent of hotel beds. Despite some fluctuations, development in the number of hotels and hotel rooms in the Sultanate has progressed at an average rate of around 7 per cent per annum over the last five years according to Ministry of Tourism figures. In comparison, the average year on year growth rate between 2000 and 2005 was 12 per cent for the number of hotels and 11 per cent for the

BETTER HOMES

Most preferred real estate company

B

etter Homes, founded by Linda Mahoney in Dubai in 1986, has grown by leaps and bounds and currently has a workforce of more than 450. It has franchisees in many countries including all GCC countries. MUSCAT is the Head Office of the Oman office which operates under Alkhonji Real Estate LLC, The Master Franchise holder for the Sultanate.

Their Managing Director, Qaboos Al Khonji complements the team with many years of experience in the construction industry, which is adding a new dimension to the services that can be offered. Better Homes Oman is now not only creating the market plans for developments but also assisting in the construction and fine tuning of designs.

Within a short period after launching its operations in Oman, Better Homes has become one of the most preferred real estate agents in the country. Its quality residential and commercial properties and unmatched services have met the expectations of customers and it has set new standards in the market.

The driving factors behind the rapid success of Better Homes Oman are its transparency in operations, a warm and friendly approach. This has been proven recently when Better Homes Oman exclusively marketed the Rimal Project and sold some 92% “off plan� in just 8 weeks. The best result since 2006 in the Sultanate at any developments.With the success of Rimal, Better Homes Oman have had many more enquiries to manage the whole marketing programme from the very start of the project to the end. Better Homes Oman is looking forward in the very near future to revealing some exciting news of a number of new key developments in Muscat, exclusive to them.

The Better Homes (Oman) team have quickly established themselves in the market place. General Manager, Glenn Meek is extremely experience in the field of Marketing, Sales and Customer Service. He ensures his team of experts operate at an extremely high level of professionalism. Karen, the Assistant General Manager, brings a wealth of lettings and operating experience to the team along with her extensive knowledge of the local Muscat Market. Karen’s guidance keeps her team at the top of their game.

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Now with their conveniently located showroom in Qurum City Centre. It is that much easier to experience the Better Homes experience.

Taking advantage of the fact that Oman has shown a high degree of resilience and maintaining a steady rate of growth despite the global financial downturn, Better Homes continues to undertake sales and leasing in both commercial and residential segments. Apart from short term leasing, Better Homes manages properties on behalf of landlords by providing a comprehensive service including an entire spectrum of tenant management, maintenance, lease management and legal and financial advice. With an extensive network of operations across the Middle East, India and Asia, Better Homes has a unique competitive advantage of a large pool of database of prospective buyers and tenants. It has a highly experienced team of professional consultants who can help buyers identify properties best suited to their requirements. Also featured high on Better Homes Oman agenda are the Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITCs). With staff not only being very highly trained on the ITCs but also experiencing at first hand the desire to live themselves in an ITC, which is paramount in passing on to clients a real experience and knowledge base of those exciting developments.


SPOTLIGHT

REAL ESTATE

number of hotel rooms. It is evident that the comparative rate of hotel development in Oman has slowed from 2006 to 2010 in comparison to 2000 to 2005. Two areas in Muscat have, however, witnessed marked development. Over the last two years alone, the Al Khuwair area has seen the opening of the 4 star Platinum, City Seasons and Park Inn hotels and the 2/3 star Ibis, Rotana, Samara and Tulip Inn hotels which have added approximately 1,000 rooms to the area’s stock. In addition, there are a large number of unbranded, owner-operated, moderate to low standard hotel apartments being developed in the central to western areas of Al Khuwair, Bausher, Ghubrah and Azaiba over the past couple of years aimed primarily at the budget market. Hotel projects that we have identified as having a moderate to high chance of being built over the next five years would, in our estimation, add 5,000 to 6,000 rooms to the 3 to 5 star sector in the Muscat capital area: this compares to a total of 3,777 rooms in the 3 to 5 star sector in Muscat in 2010 and equates to a potential average annual growth rate of approximately 18 per cent to 21 per cent over the coming five years. In comparison, it is evident that the number of hotel guests is closely linked to the number of inbound tourists and that these have both grown at an average annual rate of around 7% over the last 5 years. It would appear that the rate of growth of inbound tourism will need to accelerate significantly from current levels just to maintain average occupancy levels as the projected pipeline of hotels comes into the market.

New technologies The adoption of new technologies plays a crucial role in the development of infrastructure and transportation, also highlighting an urgent need for more cost effective and energy efficient building practices. Many companies have launched new software and technologies. Omnix International, the leading Building Information Modeling (BIM) solution provider, is one such solutions provider. The 2012 Autodesk BIM solutions will help in executing more complex projects, reducing environmental impact and achieving better results in Oman. The company has teamed up with leading architects, interior designers, structural and MEP consultants to showcase the significance of ‘Autodesk 2012 Building Information Modeling’ solutions within the country’s booming construction industry. Autodesk 2012 Building Information Modeling solutions can help project teams across various disciplines to innovate, monitor energy performance and increase productivity. The ‘Autodesk 2012’ portfolio includes Revit Architecture, Structure, MEP and Navisworks software solutions. The XPEDEON, Construction and Project Management Software is another technological product which is expected to make waves in the real estate sector. Qurum Investment Group (QIG), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Qurum Business Group 70

October 2011

(QBG),has partnered with Algorithms Software, to promote XPEDEON – Estimating and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software in the Oman market. The software is designed to provide companies in Oman, a powerful tool to efficiently manage multiple processes, projects, resources and cost. XPEDEON Software is an integrated business management solution that includes key features for takeoff estimating; bids and proposals; management of projects, procurement, financials, equipment’s, employees and payroll; and intelligent dashboards and business critical reports for timely analysis of projects and the business overall. XPEDEON provides endto-end control of all critical business operations. Using this solution, construction companies can improve productivity, reduce costs, monitor and control cash flow, and confidently increase profitability on every project. Algorithms Software are experts in business solutions developed specifically for the construction industry, providing end to end software, consultancy, data migration, support and training. Since 1994, software and solutions from Algorithms Software have helped more than 10,000 users across leading construction companies, contractors and developers improve their operational efficiencies and enhance their bottom line. The software embraces leading technology to deliver rich GUI and Web user interfaces, built on the Microsoft.Net platform on a scalable N-tier architecture with an NLB Cluster resilient application server. It supports multiple companies and multiple currencies. It has all the essential modules which supports both pre and post contract activities, from estimating through to final account.

American hardwoods Oman has witnessed an increasing demand for American hardwoods amidst stable real estate growth, which marks an important turning point as customers, manufacturers and other industry players become active again. Positioning itself as a growing market for American hardwoods in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, Oman saw over $93,000 worth of imports entering the country directly from the US during the first half of 2011, according to a statement issued by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry. The value of American hardwood lumber shipped to the MENA region from January to June 2011 increased by 1.3 per cent over the same six months of last year and reached a total of $24.35mn. In addition, the first two quarters have seen exports of US hardwood veneers to the MENA region increase by 15 per cent to $10.66mn, while exports of flooring increased by 5 per cent to $603,217 and logs by 4 per cent to $14.25mn. The Omani construction industry, which was valued at $3.7bn in 2010, is expected to key in more growth and development via the influx of major projects in the construction and other segments. The American hardwood industry is confident that this will lead to even greater demand for US hardwoods in the coming months and years.


GOLFUPDATE

PANORAMIC SETTINGS VERDANT LAWNS BECKON Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club proves that you can have intense competition amidst beautiful green settings

T

he Eighth edition of OER CEO Golf will take place at Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club, Oman’s first PGA-certified green golf course. Presented by Nawras Business Solutions, OER CEO Golf will be held on January 12, 2011 with a promise to be bigger, better and grander this time around thanks in part to the beautiful settings provided by Muscat Hills.

OER CEO Golf is a unique opportunity for the leaders of Oman’s corporate community to link up over an 18-hole game of golf at the country’s finest, and one of the Middle East’s most exciting PGA-standard courses. For those new to the game it is a good chance to get acquainted with the CEO sport. Golfersto-be will get an opportunity to get a quick induction to the game with tips and tricks from an expert, followed by a trial game over a few holes. The naturally undulating terrain of Muscat Hills looks like as if nature has sculpted it exclusively with a golf course in mind. The developers of the golf course built the course on this natural settings. Built in its own distinct corner of Muscat’s rugged hills and etched by canyon-like wadis, the eighteen holes have been designed to complement all of the natural features, while the lush green fairways and greens provide a startling contrast to the rugged desert terrain. The wide green fairways offer some relief for the ‘errant’ tee shot but to score consistently well, the generously 72

October 2011

sized greens demand accurate approach shots from the correct position on each hole. When set up for normal play Oman’s first green golf course provides a fair and exciting challenge for players of all abilities. Muscat Hills golf course has been designed by the internationally acclaimed golf course designer, Paul Thomas, of David Thomas Associates. The company’s design portfolio is impressive and includes golf courses at La Manga West (Spain), Seve Ballesteros Golf Club and the Top Players Golf Club (Japan). The previous editions of OER CEO Golf have been a resounding success in terms of the profile of the attendees, engaging activities, sophisticated ambience and the strong partnerships forged during the day. The event has broken new ground every year with formats, activi-

ties and entertainment. OER CEO Golf is an annual event organised by Oman Economic Review, the Sultanate’s premier business magazine.


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International Association

of Exhibitions and Events


DR JASIM HUSAIN ALI

Competitiveness of GCC economies The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) rankings suggest all GCC countries have room to improve their positions if attention is paid to education, training and economic integration

The author is an eminent economist and Member of Parliament, Bahrain (jasim.husain@gmail.com)

T

he recently released Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 confirms continued success of at least some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies in sustaining progress of competitiveness of their global rankings. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait made headway in the rankings of their economies. Bahrain maintained its earlier ranking. However, the UAE saw its rankings plummet among the 142 economies ranked in the latest report.

Three categories The World Economic Forum (WEF) publishes the annual report which ranks reviewed economies on the basis of their performance on the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI). In reality, GCI is noted for taking a comprehensive look into reviewed economies by relying on a set of variables. More specifically, the index ranks economies on the basis of their achievement on three broad categories, namely basic requirements, efficiency enhancers and innovation and sophistication factors. In 74

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turn, the basic requirements category is subdivided into institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education. Still, the efficiency enhancers category comprises higher education and training, goods and market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market sophistication, technological readiness and market size. Yet the innovation and sophistication factors category is made up of business sophistication and innovation. The three categories of basic requirements, efficiency enhancers and innovation and sophistication factors are brought together in the formation of GCI, which comprises a maximum seven points.The index is developed by using publicly available data and WEF’s own opinion surveys. Hundreds of business leaders are polled for the purpose of gathering data for the report.

Qatar on top The report ranks Qatar the 14th most competitive economy in the world, the best within the GCC, Arab and Middle East

and North Africa region. The achievement partly reflects budgetary surpluses, in turn allowing for the absence of debt, hence macroeconomic stability. In fact, only last week, Qatari authorities increased the salaries and allowances granted to nationals working in civil and military establishments by 60 per cent and 120 per cent, respectively. Undoubtedly, this increase adds to the wealth of Qatari nationals, who interestingly enough are already regarded as the wealthiest in the world. According to the IMF, per capita income in Qatar stands at about $90,000, second to none. With its abundant oil and gas resources, Qatar has benefited substantially from firm energy prices of the recent past. In fact, Qatar is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world. Output capacity stands at 77 million tonnes. Qatar managed to expand its gas business through joint production agreements with international oil firms. It means that Qatar is reaping fruits of exceptional economic policies.


CLOSE UP

INTEGRATING GCC ECONOMIES VIA THE GULF COMMON MARKET SCHEME SHOULD SERVE THE CAUSE OF ALL MEMBER COUNTRIES Saudi’s focus on education Of all GCC countries, Saudi Arabia made the biggest stride in the competitiveness index, with its ranking rising by four notches to No. 17 worldwide. The Saudi advancement partly reflects government’s determination to spend on education and training. Saudi Arabia’s ninth development plan, covering the period 2010 to 2014, released last year, calls for developing 25 technical colleges and equipping many other institutes with latest technologies. Other schemes include opening some 117 hospitals and a number of clinics. Saudi Arabia is ahead of other GCC countries in attracting foreign direct investments (FDI), as demonstrated in the World Investment Report 2011. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s FDI amounted to around $28.1bn in 2010, which accounts for 48 per cent of the total FDI inflows in the entire West Asia, which includes the GCC countries, Turkey and Iran. Undoubtedly, this phenomenon serves as testimony of the strength of Saudi Arabia’s economy. The UAE was the only GCC

GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS RANKING ¡ Qatar is ranked the 14th most competitive economy in the world ¡ KSA’s ranking rises by four notches to No. 17 worldwide ¡ UAE is the only GCC country to suffer decline in ranking from 25 to 27 ¡ Oman’s competitiveness went up by two notches to 32 ¡ Kuwait advanced its ranking by a single notch to 34 ¡ Bahrain is the least competitive GCC country remaining at 37

country to suffer decline in the ranking of its economy on the competitiveness index by two notches to number 27 in 2011-2012 report. The development partly reflects lingering problems related to Dubai’s debt problem, originally uncovered in late 2009. Amongst other debacles, the crisis has undermined competitiveness of Dubai’s economy vis-à-vis other regional economies.

Oman’s advance Oman saw competitiveness of its economy grow steadily by two notches, clinching number 32 worldwide, indeed

a record for the Sultanate. Furthermore, the Sultanate stood out amongst other GCC countries with a significant rise in its inward FDI in 2010, as illustrated in Unctad’s latest report. Oman’s inward FDI grew from around $1.5bn in 2009 to over $2bn in 2010. The positive development, an exception compared to the rest of the countries in the group, is owing to the growing appreciation of international investors of the opportunities in Oman, a country with immense potential in the tourism sector. Kuwait succeeded in advancing

its ranking by a single notch to number 34 globally reflecting absence of deficit threats thanks to firm oil prices in international markets. Still, Bahrain remained the least competitive GCC economy by virtue of its ranking remaining unchanged at number 37 globally.

Towards integration The GCI rankings suggest all GCC countries have room to improve their positions with particular attention paid to education and training and economic integration. In fact, a key drawback for several GCC countries like Bahrain and to some extent Oman relates to limited market size. Yet, integrating GCC economies via the Gulf Common Market (GCM) scheme should serve the cause of all member countries. Commenced in January 2008, the GCM calls for free flow of factors of production amongst member states. In practice, the GCM focuses on finding a unified regional market through which nationals can benefit from opportunities available in regional economies. October 2011 75


AUTOTALK

STRIKING THE RIGHT NOTE

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he Panamera has yet again strayed well outside Porsche’s well-trodden sports car heritage to become one of the world’s best sports sedans. The 2011 Porsche Panamera is no fourdoor coupe but a true ‘gran turismo,’ with tremendous power, great handling, and ample room for four real-old adults. Our adoration of the Panamera’s begins with its broad appeal, because this fourdoor Porsche truly can be everything to everybody. First, the Panamera can accommodate four full-sized adults with exceptional comfort, as its interior space, materials and design give passengers 76

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the feeling that they’re travelling in a private jet rather than driving on the expressway. Second, the Panamera delivers astounding levels of performance for driving enthusiasts. Acceleration from the V8-powered Panamera is impressive, while the performance of the Turbo model is rocking. The car’s handling limits are also surprising, as it corners like a much smaller sports car. Even the ride quality doesn’t suffer, as this athletic sedan can insulate its occupants from the travails of the outside world just like a fine luxury car. The front and rear fender styling

are sleek. The interior, on the other hand, is a stylish upgrade compared to the dull, drab Porsche interiors of the past. And while the Panamera feels intimate and sports-car-like in front, the back seat is positively limo-like, with excellent space to sprawl out, as well as good ride comfort.

The powertrain The 2011 Panamera models for enthusiasts and true Porschephiles and track hounds remain the Panamera S, with its 400-horsepower, direct-injection 4.8-litre V-8 engine, making a peak 369 pound-feet, and the Panamera Turbo,


THE PORSCHE PANAMERA COMBINES THE FEATURES OF A LUXURIOUS GRAND TOURING SEDAN WITH AN ENGAGING, HIGHPERFORMANCE CAR. AN OER REVIEW

which makes a stout 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. There’s scalding performance at hand; the base engine in the Panamera S and 4S vaults the sedan to 60 mph in either 5.2 or 4.8 seconds. The Turbo charges to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds or less. Power in this front-engine car is sent to either the rear wheels or all four wheels through a seven-speed, dual clutch PDK automatic transmission that uses Porsche’s push-pull shift levers. Equip the Sport Chrono package and you’ll be able to change gears in manual mode, running the car right up against its 6,700-

rpm redline. Open the Panamera up on a road course at 140 mph and you’ll find the 911’s flat-six ripple replaced with a more industrial-sounding whir that’s still distinctly Porsche. In addition to the seating room in back, the Panamera has the benefits of a hatchback, as the backseats also flip down to expose 44.6 cubic feet of cargo space, enough for two bicycles with front wheels still attached. If you’re the passenger in front, looking back, the Panamera can also feel like two cars in one. From the front seats forward it doesn’t take much imagination to think

that you’re in an exceptionally plush Porsche 911. Though the engine sound obviously isn’t quite the same, the view out ahead is remarkably similar. The Panamera can also be had with nearly every option ever imagined for a production luxury sedan, cruise control; dual-zone climate control; leather seating; a panoramic sunroof; a navigation system also used in the Cayenne that has crisp displays and customisable maps; and Bluetooth control for hands-free phone operation. As always, Porsche has again set new trends and benchmarks with the Panamera. October 2011 77


OTE launches new models

OTE Group and Hyundai unveiled two sensational new models – the all-new 2012 Azera a premium large sedan and the all new Veloster, a new concept in a car that combines the style of a coupé with the functionality of a hatchback. The launch function also witnessed the raffle draw of 1 kg Gold for the recently concluded ‘Strike Gold with Hyundai’ Ramadan promotion. HE Jonghyun Choe Ambassador of Korea, graced the occasion with B T Shin - Head Hyundai ME headquarters being present on the occasion. Azera, Hyundai Motor’s top-selling premium large sedan, with

over 1.25 million units sold worldwide, returns with technology-rich features for enhanced comfort, convenience and safety; as well as sharper, more graceful styling, premium materials and detailed craftsmanship. The all new Veloster, a new concept in a car would be one that combines the style of a coupé with the functionality of a hatchback. The Veloster is that concept made real. A crossover utility vehicle with a unique, innovative presence, it’s where dynamics meets practicality.

Supercharged Camaro ZL1 The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1’s supercharged 6.2L engine is SAE-rated at 580 horsepower and 754 Nm of torque – making it the most powerful Camaro ever. The ZL1’s outstanding power is complemented by advanced powertrain and chassis technologies, including exclusive performance traction management and third-generation magnetic ride control. 78

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“The Camaro ZL1 delivers supercar performance and technology in the sports-car segment,” says Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “For sheer power, the ZL1 delivers more horsepower than a Ferrari 458, more torque than an Aston Martin DB9 V12, and a better power-to-weight ratio than a Porsche 911 Carrera GTS.”

Land Rover DC100 to debut at Frankfurt show The Land Rover DC100, a modern interpretation of the iconic Land Rover Defender will make its debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Land Rover also confirms that production of a new Defender is intended for 2015.Commenting on the Land Rover DC100 concept car, Gerry McGovern, director of design, Land Rover says, “Replacing the iconic Defender is one of the biggest challenges in

the automotive design world. This isn’t a production-ready concept but the beginning of a four-year journey to design a relevant Defender for the 21st century.” John Edwards, global brand director, Land Rover adds: “Known for its simple and distinctive design, we are determined that the new Defender will be true to its heritage, while meeting the requirements of a changing global market.”

The sporty new BMW M5T This November sees the fifth generation of the world’s most successful highperformance saloon arrive in the Middle East region. The new BMW M5 combines compelling track performance with the comprehensive practicality of a luxurious business saloon. The new BMW M5 is an exceptionally dynamic high-performance sports car with four doors and five seats, a further development of the concept originally initiated in 1984 with the first generation BMW M5. It features the world premiere

of a newly developed BMW M high-performance, highrevving, 4.4-litre V8 engine with an M Twin Power Turbo package. With twin-turbo technology, direct petrol injection and fully variable valve control, the V8 engine produces 560 hp from 60007000rpm and a maximum of 680 Nm of torque from 1500rpm. The new BMW M5 is capable of accelerating to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h, but can be raised to 305 km/h with the M Driver’s Package.


A blend of many concepts

Audi gets top rating for passive crash safety The Euro NCAP consortium has awarded the new Audi A6 the maximum five-star rating for passive crash safety. The results for adult occupant protection in a frontal, rear or side collision and for child safety and pedestrian protection make the new Audi A6 one of the safest cars in its class. The demanding test requirements of the Euro NCAP far exceed

The new Peugeot 3008, distributed exclusively in Oman by European Motors, is positioned at the crossroads between several existing vehicles - especially the SUV and the hatchback. The car draws its strengths from this blend of motoring concepts while adopting new and original technologies such as dynamic rolling control, hill assist, head-up display, etc., enabling it to combine specifications often labeled

incompatible (driving pleasure inside a “high” vehicle, improved traction while being eco-friendly. The 3008 offers simple and hightech solutions for pleasure, serenity and security. Apart from its innovative concept, the 3008 is designed as a pioneering vehicle that is endowed with technologies that are not often seen in other cars such as the head-up display, hill assist and many more high-end innovations.

Zara Phillips receives first Evoque Land Rover ambassador Zara Phillips is the first person to take delivery of a new Range Rover Evoque, driving away the 5-Door Stornoway Grey Evoque from the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, where she was competing. Land Rover UK marketing director, Laura Schwab, who showed Zara around her new car says, “Zara has been excited about the new Evoque ever since we revealed the first pictures over a year ago and 79

the standards of European lawmakers. The scores awarded by the testers to the A6 for driver and passenger protection in frontal and side impact collisions easily earned the car the top rating of five stars. Children are also well protected in the new Audi A6. But ensuring protection for pedestrians and cyclists is also an important concern for Audi.

GM breaks August sales records General Motors’ dealers in the Middle East reported a total sale of 12,849 vehicles in August 2011, a 24 per cent increase compared to the corresponding month in 2010. The outstanding sales result represented GM Middle East’s highest August sales ever and the best retail sales month on record as demand continues to grow for the company’s line-up of passenger cars, crossovers, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickups

across the Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac brands. Total sales of Chevrolet in August rose by 24 per cent yearover-year, while sales of GMC experienced a 27 per cent increase. Meanwhile Cadillac’s August sales grew by 45 per cent and represented the second best sales month for the luxury brand in the past 32 months. The biggest gain in sales was achieved by GM’s crossover vehicles, which increased by 45 per cent in August.

indeed she was one of the very first people to order one. We have a huge presence at Burghley this year, with over 60 Land Rover vehicles in action at the event.” On receiving the keys to the new Evoque, Zara says: “I’ve grown up around Land Rovers and have been an ambassador for the brand for several years – I am really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of my new Evoque.” October 2011 79


ENVIRONMENT

COMMITTED TO A GREEN HABITAT The green initiatives of National Pharmaceutical Industries Co have been a motivating factor for other companies in Rusayl Industrial Estate in terms of cleanliness and greenery, a fact appreciated by visitors to the company

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double reverse osmosis plant. The well controlled effluent treatment plant (ETP) ensures the effective management of waste water disposal.

he National Pharmaceutical Industries Co (NPI) has demonstrated its concern for preserving water by utilising the treated waste water to maintain greenery in its premises consistently over the past 10 years. Since water is a scare resource, this effort by NPI has thereby been serving a dual purpose – maintaining greenery around its premises while at the same time conserving water. Apart from the saving and preserving water, NPI has an ongoing staff training programme on personal hygiene, cleanliness, cross contamination, good manufacturing practices, all of which lean towards making their environment safe and clean. The main goals of this concern for environment are to provide the most environment-friendly and healthy work place and at the same time, ensure purity of air and water both incoming as well as outgoing.

Green habitat NPI has a land area of 30,042 sq mtrs. Except for the built-up area, all the other open land has been covered with lawns and trees. The quality of air is also monitored to constantly ensure that

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HSE policy

the factory complies with class 100,000 specifications. NPI’s main customers are invited to plant a tree in the factory lawns to mark their visit to the plant. This serves both as a token of remembrance of the customer as well as improves the greenery of the environment. As a commitment to green habitat, the maintenance of the lush green lawns is a priority all throughout the year. The size of green land is 20 per cent as compared to the total site area and it is 40 per cent when compared to open land with five palm and other flowery trees. The waste water generated by the plant is purified constantly through a regular filtration process as well as through a

Health and safety of the staff is a key objective for NPI. All the air is filtered through high efficiency particulate air filter with controlled humidity and temperature. Drinking water is purified and distributed through an in house supply system avoiding the accumulation of plastic containers. Water for all industrial use is purified in house as a first step, then the water is treated and analysed as per Oman Environmental Regulations and then used for irrigation of the green parts of the site. The air expelled into the atmosphere from all the 35 air handling units is very clean as it is filtered through very fine filters that capture particles of more than five microns. Further, all sanitary waste water outlets are connected to the underground Al Rusayl Industrial Estate System for treatment outside the plant. NPI has a Central Industrial Vacuum System for cleaning the whole plant. The dust collected in this system is not released into the atmosphere or discarded. Instead it is passed through a scrubber and treated and dissolved in water.


NBO team visits children at Royal Hospital

Shoe Mart rings in ‘Back to School’ At the onset of a new academic year, Shoe Mart, the region’s leading retail haven for shoes and bags, has launched a unique ‘ Back to School’ campaign for every little boy and girl. The campaign entitles every purchase of school shoes or school bags from Shoe Mart’s new collection a funky stationery set. The unique colourful set includes a pen, pencil, eraser, sharpener, whistle, ruler and a tape dispenser- indeed

an essential school kit for every child making a new start. The Shoe Mart ‘Back to School’ range includes pumps and Mary Jane’s in straps for girls and court shoes. For boys it has moccasins adorned with buckles or straps. A vivid range of colours and cartoon characters are seen on various school bags in the range. Also available in store are school essentials such as lunch bags and water bottles.

E-Travel partners with Kesari Tours A team of volunteers from National Bank of Oman’s (NBO) visited children admitted at Royal Hospital, on the occasion of Eid Al Fitr. Aisha Al Kharusi, NBO’s head of corporate communications and CSR along with staff members from different divisions, visited the children at the cardiac surgery, paediatric, cancer, casualty and emergency wards. Head nurse Rahima Al

Harthy accompanied the NBO team, on their visits around the hospital. Speaking on the occasion Aisha Al Kharusi says, “The intention of our visit was to cheer -up the children. It was a delight to see the smiles on all their faces especially prior to the Eid festivities. We were happy to make a small difference and provide them with a change from their usual daily routine.”

GTC purchases HIGER V92 buses has a fleet of more than 45 buses. The keys of the buses were handed over to Sheikh Ahmed Said Al Rawas, and Sheikh Ahmed Salam Al Meshikhi, partners of GTC, by Riyadh Ali Sultan, general manager of TAC at Towell Auto Centre’s premises in Salalah. Gulf Transport Company (GTC) in Salalah has taken delivery of a fleet of HIGER V92 super deluxe buses from Towell Auto Centre (TAC) recently, in order to boost its transportation services in the Sultanate. Based in Salalah, GTC is one of Oman’s major bus operators and 82

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Sheikh Ahmed Said Al Rawas, managing partner of GTC says, “At GTC vehicles are frequently upgraded to ensure that only models of the latest quality are used for our ever expanding customer base.” The HIGER V92 coach offers superior luxury along with exceptional performance and enhanced safety.

E-travel, one of Sultanate’s premier travel solution providers has tied-up with India’s Kesari Tours to serve the holidaymakers in Oman. Kesari Tours is the only travel company in India to be certified for ISO 9001 & OHSAS 18001. Kesari Tours operate holiday packages to destinations like USA, Europe, Mauritius, China, Japan, Thailand,

Malaysia, Singapore, Australia & New Zealand. This adds strength to the product lineups of E –Travel & Tours which is strong in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, Middle East, Russia, Jordan, Lebanon , Kenya, South Africa, Seychelles and Fiji Islands. Kesari Tours also operates various tours within India to explore the subcontinent.

A’Saffa honours blood donation volunteers A’Saffa Foods presented awards to individuals who organised a highly successful nationwide blood donation campaign the company sponsored, in partnership with the Blood Services Department in Muscat and the Blood Bank Department in Dhofar. The initiatives in Muscat and Salalah were initially held as part of the Renaissance Day celebrations and to encourage citizens and expatriates to donate

blood to help save the lives of people across the nation. A’Saffa Foods chairman Saleh Mohammad Al Shanfari gave away the certificates of appreciation to the participants in the campaign. Commenting on the success of the initiative, Al Shanfari says: “A’Saffa Foods was delighted to be supporting this worthwhile initiative to encourage individuals to donate blood and help save the lives of others.”


BankDhofar announces winner of Afkar Programme

BankDhofar has recently announced the winners of its Afkar Programme, which is introduced in 2009 to recognise innovative ideas from employees to enhance the work process, and improve the quality of products and customer service. Mubarak Al Hasni and K Jayaraman won the latest edition of the award. The Afkar Programme aims to encourage staff to think out-of-the-box and come up with new ideas to raise the bar, for products, services and customer

care. This also fosters teamwork and thereby, improves productivity in the bank.

Winners galore at Lulu’s Toyota Dream Drive Lulu’s Toyota Dream Drive promotion has evoked a strong interest across the country during the recent festive season. With ten swanky Toyota Land Cruisers pegged to the campaign held across the Lulu stores in the county, shoppers at Lulu had a plethora of offers during Ramadan. The fourth and fifth draws of the campaign was held during the festive season picking Shabana and Ahmed Said Saleh Al Shukaily respectively, as the winners of the two Land Cruisers. As with the

previous draws, these two draws also picked up 18 more winners for an array of gifts from Samsung. Lulu has catapulted the imagination of its loyal customers with the Dream Drive campaign, which has been touted as the biggest one of the season. “The increase in the number of cars as well as gift hampers this year has meant a fulfilling shopping experience for every person walking into our store.” says a senior official form Lulu.

The prize -giving ceremony was held at the bank’s Al Khoud branch under the patronage of Khaild Sulaiman Al-Siabi, the first Omani to climb the Mount Everest. “We are sure these ideas will contribute to improving the products and services of the bank”, says Hani Habib Macki, AGM, strategy & planning, BankDhofar.

Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bite Remix version A blockbuster across the globe, from US and UK to Korea & Mexico, the most irresistible pizza treat from Pizza Hut is here in Oman as well. Making pizza eating a tantalising experience, the new Cheesy Bite Remix is all set to get you asking for more. All the fun is bundled with the goodness of cheesy bites that are stuffed with dripping melting mozzarella and Philadelphia cream cheese seasoned with a tinge of

garlic-butter. Now, the Remix brings ‘Three Times the Fun’ to the pizza experience while adding exotic seasoning like Spicy Mexican, Sesame and Parmesan to the array of golden crusty bakes. The Cheesy Bite Remix will be available in two sizes, medium with 22 Cheesy Bites and large with 26 Cheesy Bites. To be in the know of the buzz at Pizza Hut follow on Facebook, Khimji’s Blog or log in to pizzahut-me.com.

Ready-to-eat chapati from Al Naba Al Naba Supplies and Catering Services, a subsidiary of Al Naba Holding, has rolled out the Middle East’s first-ever chapati brand – a move that promises to come as cheery news to flatbread-loving consumers in the Sultanate. Readyto-eat chapatis have already been introduced in leading supermarkets and stores across Oman, offering Omanis and expatriates a perfect accompaniment with their favourite curried and non-curried dishes. Made of whole wheat grain, the chapatis are manufactured with minimum oil and no added preservatives, colour or flavour. Besides the use of fresh ingredients, the consumer is additionally

guaranteed a quality product with the shelf life of the chapatis being a maximum of two days. The chapatis are produced in an automated process starting from the dough ball cutting right through to the baking and puffing. October 2011 83


EFFORTLESS WAY OF CLEANING G Samsung Electronics Co. has announced its latest innovation in vacuum cleaning technology, the Samsung Jupiter SW7500 series. Designed to combine unparalleled eled suction power with a suite of convenient features, the Jupiter SW7500 series is sett to make cleaning easier than ever before. With a uniquely designed Twin Chamber er SystemTM, the Jupiter SW7500 series offers a strong suction power and largest dust ust capacity of 20 litres which can be completely utilised without losing suction power. r. The three steps of inhalation, separation and exhaustion ensures that there will be no dust clogging, allowing superior performance to be achieved. The cleaner also o incorporates a whole suite of convenient features, enabling for easier movement with a wider action radius. The design further enables users to engage in easy disposal by separating the head section and the chamber from the device.

STRAIGHT FROM THE AMAZON Dumond delved into the mysteries of the Amazon Forest and brought all the riches from that place to its 2011 winter shoes and handbags. Bright colours and leather featuring exotic prints take us straight to the culture and biodiversity of the local nature. The collection includes a rich color swatch totally inspired by the native elements of the forest, like purple acai, blue macaw, yellow cashew, red guarana, green leaf and pink orchid. For those who favour softer hues, there are shades of Bamboo and Riverbank green, Vine and Harpy gray, Straw nude and Clay off-white. The classic black and brown simply had to be there, and can be seen in all its lines. New materials feature leopard, jaguar and pirarucu fish prints developed to look as much like the actual skins of the wild animals as possible.

URBAN MASCULINITY Urban perfume brand Dueto Parfums launched its third unique perfume ‘Golden Boy.’ Diffusing the magic scents of today and tomorrow’s trends, this aroma represents pure urban masculinity. Its dynamic blend of exquisite ingredients of saffron, leather and suede instantly draws you in. Each and every scent has a story, an identity and a feeling; ‘Golden Boy’ is no exception. This fine fragrance initiates a dialogue of power and seduction with all it comes into contact with. To set the scene, envision a room where smooth aromas blend softly with the smoke of a rich cigar. Ease into the leather couch and breathe deeply, the scent is all around you. Its unique formula contains some of the most exotic spices on earth; saffron, leather, cedarwood, suede, musk and vanilla incenses lift you to heaven. Men around the world in turn will begin to discover the secret behind ‘Golden Boy,’ its fine ingredients, dynamic long-lasting scent and masculinity. 84

October 2011


SYMBIAN TRIO Despite plans for Windows Phone 7, Nokia isn’t saying farewell to Symbian just yet. The company has announced three new phones, the Nokia 700, Nokia 701 and Nokia 600 – all featuring NFC technology and all running the upcoming Symbian Belle OS. The three phones appear to be similar, but all have slight differences. The above, is one of the thinnest phones Nokia has ever produced. It features a 3.2-inch display, 1GHz processor, 2GB of internal memory (with microSD card slot), 5MP camera with full HD video recording and LED flash, and of course the NFC technology. The Nokia 701 also is a clamshell but with more of a rounded shape. It has a 3.5-inch display, noise cancellation technology, 1GHz processor and 8MP rear camera with dual LED flash. The Nokia 600 appears to be a successor to its music-centric phone lineup.

SMART AND BIG Samsung has announced the GALAXY Note, a brand new smartphone with a big 5.3-inch AMOLED display. Yes, you heard that – a phone with a 5.3-inch smartphone. Because apparently, Samsung believes there is a market for a smartphone with such a big size screen.And when you thought the pen was dead, the phone will reintroduce it. The device will let you freely capture and create ideas while on the go with a pen. However, whatever you may think, a pen is a much better option to quickly scribble down notes rather than typing it on the onscreen keyboard. Other hardware specs include a 1.4GHz dual core processor and support for 4G technologies. In addition, it has an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash at the rear, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, GPS, Bluetooth, 2GB of storage and a microSD card slot to expand the size of the memory.

SHOOT AND PRINT IN EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY Canon Middle East unveiled an exceptional new range of digital still cameras and inkjet printers, including a selection of PowerShot and IXUS cameras, and five new PIXMA models. Designed to deliver exceptional quality from the second the image is captured to the moment it’s printed, all products feature Canon’s unique imaging technologies, combining precision-quality components with new and enhanced features. The two new additions to the IXUS range include the IXUS 1100 HS and the IXUS 230 HS, two impressively compact cameras packing a powerful range of technologies and features that deliver outstanding still images and Full HD video with stereo sound. October 2011 85


BROWSINGCORNER

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he promise of The Undercover Economist is that it shows you the world through the eyes of the economist. On the face of it that doesn’t sound like a thrilling prospect. After all, economics is about abstract and arcane matters like exchange rate policies, interest rates and monetary policy. The surprise of course is that far from being a dull affair, the book offers a pretty interesting experience.

SIMPLE BUT NOT SIMPLISTIC THIS BOOK IS A READABLE INTRODUCTION TO MANY ASPECTS OF ECONOMICS AND HOW THEY PLAY OUT IN EVERYDAY LIFE. AN OER REVIEW

Day to day affairs The book opens by wondering about the price of a cup of coffee at Waterloo Station, in London. Why does a cup of coffee cost what it costs there? What factors govern the price? What influence does the fact that it’s a busy station have on the price? These everyday considerations lead directly to thinking about the basic economic principles at play all around us. And, with concrete situations as examples Harford uses everyday language to explain and illuminate the surprising ways in which economic interactions manifest themselves. It’s not just coffee bars that get the ‘undercover’ treatment. Ever wonder why supermarket ‘value’ brands look so awful? There’s an explanation here for that too, and it too relates to coffee bars and the proliferation of different types and sizes of coffee on offer to the confused customer. The examples that the author gives are engaging and interesting.

The publication featured in Browsing Corner is provided by WHSmith Bookstore

An interesting chapter Why Poor Countries Are Poor evaluates the role corruption and kleptocracy play in keeping countries poor. Harford points out that corruption is not only unfair, but it’s also ineffective at distributing resources and growing a country’s economy. As one resident of a poor country notes, even if the country receives massive financial aid to improve infrastructure, it doesn’t matter, because the dictators tend to pocket the money. And, what is actually spent on infrastructure is often wasted. People have little incentive to get an education in a corrupt country, because people don’t receive jobs based upon meritocracy. Jobs are given to political cronies. Governmental institutions then become dysfunctional. The institutions tend to become more corrupt. The lesson: institutions do matter, and an objective rule of law is crucial to a country’s economic well-being. The citizens of a country ultimately pay for political corruption.

THE UNDERCOVER ECONOMIST By: Tim Harford Publisher: Abacus Pages: 368

Higher ground More weighty matters are not ignored. Having grounded the reader in the rudiments of economic thinking early on, Harford tackles some of the bigger issues. Globalisation, develop-

ment economics, poverty, the rise of China as an economic super-power are all tackled. And it’s not just international issues, he also looks at domestic British issues such as the National Health Service.

While the book is clearly aimed at the general reader, there are plenty of pointers and references for those who are intrigued and want to learn more. Like Freakonomics, the book is intellectually engaging and goes a long way to show that economics is not some dry academic discipline but a vital tool for understanding the world as it is. This book is, needless to say, highly recommended.

Cut out this coupon from OER and present it at the WHSmith’s bookstore in Jawarat Al Shatti to claim a 10 per cent discount on the book featured in the October 2011 issue, or 5 per cent discount on all other books.

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*This coupon cannot be combined with any other in-store promotions. Offer valid until December 31, 2011.

October 2011


BEYONDBOARDROOMS

An unending quest Relentless discipline and dogged persistence have been the hallmarks of Deepak Kumar Srivastava’s professional success. Mayank Singh reports

this can either be a casual conversation or a peek into something that they want to do. This is followed by checking mails, attending to priority work followed by doing regular jobs like financial planning, making payments or signing cheques and supervisory work.

Influencing factors The two people who have left an indelible imprint on Srivastava are Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom struggle and Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group. Though these two leaders represent different era’s and generations he counts them as his guiding lights. If he has learnt the values of truth and courage from Gandhi, he admires Tata for his integrity, self discipline and risk taking ability. Having started his career with Tata Motors, he has had a chance to see the company from close quarters. “They inculcate a professional value system across the organisation. They want to be industry leaders (e.g. Tata Steel, Tata Tea, Tata Motors) if they are not able to achieve this then they are ready to walk out of the sector as they have done in mining and textiles. Over my professional life I have nurtured the seeds that were planted during my stint with the company.”

WORK EXPERIENCE

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he first thing that strikes you about Deepak Kumar Srivastava, financial controller, Oman LNG is his serenity and gentle demeanour. An alumni of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, he has worked across sectors and geographies over a 35 year career. Speaking about managerial must haves he says, “Self management is important, unless you manage yourself well you cannot lead others. Second, one needs to be persistent as they say, ‘Tough times do not last but tough people do.’ Knowledge in your chosen field is of paramount importance as is discipline, unless one is an artist or a scientist. Finally, integrity is important to succeed in the long run. One may get away with dishonesty for a

Aluminium Bahrain – Manager, Management Accounting Manganese Ore India – Director Finance ITI – Chief Internal Auditor Philips India – Regional Administrator Tata Motors – Senior Accounts Officer short while, but it is unsustainable over a period of time.” Apart from these he believes that while leading a team with people of varying knowledge levels, background and skills one needs to have empathy for them. “You can get the best out of your colleagues if they have trust in you, they will take risks if they are sure that you will stand by them.” Every morning when he walks into office he makes sure to spend five to ten minutes speaking to his team members,

A constant quest for learning has been a defining trait of Srivastava’s career. Apart from an MBA, his other qualifications include a CIMA from the Chartered Institute of Mangement Accountants, UK; FCCA from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, UK; CIA from the Institute of Internal Auditors, USA and CISA from the ISACA, US. In 2000 he acquired an ACCA with IAS stream and has since become a Fellow member. In an effort to share his knowledge, he gives lectures regularly at ACCA’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes and various other forums in the Middle East. Despite having achieved various laurels educationally and professionally, Srivastava is in no mood to hang his boots yet. “The best is yet to come. I want to do two things in life one, become an independent director and second join the audit committee of companies.” And if his past record is any indication one can rest assured that he will get there sooner rather than later. October 2011 87



OER-Oct2011