By Gordon Platt
Bahrain’s Salman Industrial City is now open for business
Gas-rich Qatar and ExxonMobil signed an agreement in January to build the world’s largest polyethylene plant as part of a $6 billion petrochemical complex in Ras Laffan Industrial City. The output of the plant, to be completed by the end of 2015, is destined mainly for fast-growing Asian markets. It will use gas from Qatar’s North Field.
The combination of a young population, sizable hydrocarbon reserves and a relatively undeveloped infrastructure puts the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region among the most attractive destinations in the world for investments in the medium term, according to Cairo-based Beltone Financial. Sectors slated to receive big investments include power generation, desalination plants and real estate developments.
Salman Industrial City, an ambitious economic development project in Bahrain, was officially opened by prime minister Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa in January at a ceremony attended by 1,000 guests. The project already has attracted $3.5 billion of investments and is expected to eventually double that total.
Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the region, has a backlog of $400 billion worth of projects through 2013. The kingdom is willing to incur small budget deficits to maintain its fiscal stimulus program. In December it unveiled its largest budget in history, envisioning spending of $144 billion.
Meanwhile, debt-laden Dubai is undertaking a major restructuring of state-controlled entities in order to cut costs. Nasdaq Dubai, which was created as the Dubai International Financial Exchange in 2005 as a regional hub for foreign investors, has been sold to the local Dubai Financial Market. Nasdaq Dubai had been handling only about $3.8 million a day in stock trades, according to regional investment bank EFG-Hermes. New York-based Nasdaq OMX will swap its 33.3% stake in Nasdaq Dubai for a 1% stake in the Dubai Financial Market.