Fly private more than 200 hours each year? Buy a jet, says Empire Aviation boss

As glitzy as the Middle East is, corporate executives flying to meetings in private jets isn’t the established norm.

“In this part of the world, the buyers of business jets tend to be principals at corporations who use it as a private jet, not necessarily as a business tool. This is in contrast to the rest of the world where a jet is used as a corporate tool,” according to Paras Dhamecha, managing director at Dubai-based private jet operator Empire Aviation Group (EAG).

However, despite economic tightness regionally, Dhamecha expects that dynamic to transform soon.

Founded in 2007, Empire Aviation group operates private jets for owners under an asset under management model, charters them to others in the market to fly private, and buys and sells aircraft for the owners it works with.

“Just in terms of aircraft sales, this is the best year we’ve had since we began with the business,” Dhamecha said in an interview with Arabian Business this week.

Pinpointing why the particular section of the business is doing well is hard, according to Dhamecha. Aircraft sales are cyclical and sales can vary considerably across geographies depending on their economic health.

However, Dubai’s last economic downturn in 2008 could hold some answers.

“I’d put it down to aircraft values, they were so good that people interested in buying earlier but unable to then jumped in,” he said. “We grew a lot that year.”

Something similar could be looking to happen again in the region.

“Things aren’t as bad as everyone is making them out to be,” said Dhamecha, referring to a slowing in the UAE, and the GCC’s, growth rate that began in 2014.

Despite oil prices recovering from historic lows, the region’s economy has yet to regain the lustre that made it one of the world’s fastest growing. However, Dhamecha argues, “everyone is still making money. Just not as much as earlier,” he says.

In fact, “corporate executives that charter more than 200 hours each year on private jets are best poised to look at ownership options,” says Dhamecha. “The prices right now are just right for that.”

As businesses adjust to “a new normal” one that involves lower margins and larger volumes, the Middle East could see a greater focus on saving time, Dhamecha ventures.

“Try flying with commercial carriers and you lose a whole day waiting to check in, more because you’re early or late to the meeting, then more again waiting for the return flight,” he says.

“It makes a lot more sense for three VPs to go from Dubai to Muscat, have a one hour meeting and be back in the office by the afternoon.”

Mature markets “like the US, Europe, and South Asia” have realised this for a while, he says. The key difference there is that private jets are used as a corporate tool. “In the region you mostly see jet owners being principals at a large business, and they tend to use their jets as private jets,” says Dhamecha.

“As the market opens up, high volume businesses will begin realising even more that corporate jets are a formidable corporate tool.”

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‘No death’ for traditional TV, says Fox after streaming service launch

Consumers in MENA will continue to use traditional linear TV despite the rise of streaming services, according to the head of Fox Network Group for the Middle East and North Africa (FNG MENA).

Speaking to Arabian Business following the announcement of streaming service Fox Plus, Sanjay Raina said television networks will ‘reinvent’ themselves and co-exist with on-demand video streaming platforms.

“All traditional networks will reinvent themselves. There is no death visible on the landscape and everyone will coexist. There will be millions of people who will have both. No one will die. Everything is delivering values,” he said.

Last week, FNG MENA announced it will offer Fox Plus on MBC subsidiary Shahid Plus. The three-year agreement will see Shahid add new international content including National Geographic documentaries, Fox Lifestyle shows, Baby TV and global TV series and movies.

Raina said that while the younger generation may prefer online streaming over traditional television, many consumers continue to enjoy the latter.

“A lot of young people are gravitating towards online streaming, but people are rushing to the conclusion that traditional TV is dying. Pay TV may have seen a shift in many markets, but there are also markets where it hasn’t seen a shift. For example, in India, China, the UK and even the US, the cable business is still very strong,” he said.

“The disruption will give rise to people whose preference to consume content is online, but there will still be many who want to go back to linear TV,” he added.

In April, the CEO of Dubai-based streaming service StarzPlay said online streaming services will not replace traditional television.

Maaz Sheikh said some formats will continue to attract consumers to television.

“The behaviour shift is there. Will it completely eliminate traditional television? The answer is ‘no’, in my opinion. There are certain types of content that people still watch on traditional television, such as sports and news, and that will continue to remain on traditional linear television,” he said.

The online subscription video market in the MENA region is expected to increase over 50 percent by 2020.

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Spy case Brit arrives home after UAE pardon

British academic Matthew Hedges returned to London on Tuesday, his family said, a day after the UAE pardoned his life sentence for spying in a case he described as “very surreal”.

He was welcomed back to Britain by his wife Daniela Tejada and other members of his family.

“I don’t know where to begin with thanking people for securing my release,” Hedges said in the statement.

“I have not seen or read much of what has been written over the past few days but Dani tells me the support has been incredible.”

He thanked the British embassy in the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Office and especially his wife for their efforts in securing his release.

“I thank you all once again. This is very surreal.”

Britain thanked its Gulf ally after he was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan for next month’s National Day.

The UAE showed footage at a news conference in the capital Abu Dhabi in which Hedges purportedly confessed to being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the oil-rich state, which London considers a strategic Middle East ally and supplies with arms.

Hedges, a 31-year-old researcher at Durham University, was detained while researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

He was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport.

He was sentenced to life in jail by a court in Abu Dhabi last week after he was convicted of spying for a foreign country.

UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon allowed the two countries to refocus on developing relations.

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Revealed: plans to turn Jumeirah into Dubai arts, sports hub

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has launched a project to transform Jumeirah into a cultural destination and a hub for artists.

The Jumeirah Project is an initiative of Brand Dubai, the creative arm of the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO).

To be implemented in partnership with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai Municipality, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Dubai Sports Council, the project aims to turn Jumeirah into a centre for local, Arab and international artists and creative professionals.

According to state news agency WAM, the project plans to create a fresh new identity for the area, which has been a witness both to the city’s past and present.

The Jumeirah Project will see the implementation of 30 artistic projects in 30 locations along Jumeirah Road in partnership with 30 artists.

The themes of the murals include the links between the city’s past and present, and Dubai’s distinctive character that combines modernity with its strong heritage. As part of the project, a number of unique artworks will also be created at bus stations along Jumeirah Road.

Several events including the Dubai Fitness Challenge and the Gov Games will be held under the umbrella of the Jumeirah Project in future.

Sports events to be held as part of the project include a marathon, a swimming competition, a triathlon, children’s competitions, a yoga event and a beach football tournament. The Project will also feature a traditional Dhow competition, boat races and a food festival.

Sheikh Mohammed commended the idea behind the project and its objective of supporting the larger objective of enhancing the UAE’s profile as a regional and international tourism destination.

“We need a strong vision and a clear set of objectives to transform our ideas into reality. The UAE’s model for development, which is centred on the happiness of its people, has earned the appreciation of the world. Our objective is to ensure that we transition towards a future where we can achieve global leadership by harnessing our innovative capabilities and ensuring the highest global excellence in our endeavours,” he said.

“We want all our initiatives and projects to be driven by innovation. We will provide all the support and resources necessary for turning promising creative ideas into reality,” he added.

Jumeirah Road is home to a number of iconic tourist landmarks like the Burj Al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah, and the Wild Wadi Water Park.

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Watch: orchestra performs the UAE’s national anthem in Dubai desert

Musicians representing about 190 nations have been brought together in the Dubai desert to perform an unprecedented rendition of the UAE national anthem.

The performance is part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s celebrations to mark the 47th UAE National Day and the Year of Zayed – honouring the country’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The orchestral performance of Ishy Bilady – which translates as Long Live My Country – also included seven Emirati musicians, symbolising each of the UAE’s emirates.

It was filmed by the UAE’s first female director, the award-winning Nayla Al Khaja..

The multinational orchestra is a vivid illustration of Expo 2020’s global impact, days after it was announced that 190 countries have confirmed participation, a statement said.

It added that this number surpasses the 180-nation commitment set out in Dubai’s successful 2013 bid to host the World Expo in 2020.

The video begins with a shot of the Dubai desert landscape where, nestled between the dunes, sits an empty stage. The seven Emirati musicians take their position before being joined onstage by a choir made up of a diverse group of people from across the UAE, and the rest of the orchestra, who begin to tune their instruments.

The orchestra then performs a stirring rendition of Ishy Bilady, while an Emirati Expo 2020 volunteer presents the lyrics of the national anthem in sign language.

Dr Hayat Shamsuddin, vice president – Arts and Culture, Content and Programming, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Watching this beautiful rendition of our national anthem was so moving. Nayla Al Khaja has captured the spirit of tolerance and unity that exists in the UAE, where more than 200 nationalities live in perfect harmony.”

Al Khaja added: “The film was on a completely different scale than anything I’ve ever worked on. The sheer size of the production was astounding. I absolutely loved the challenge.”

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Where to see UAE National Day fireworks in Dubai

Dubai has unveiled its plans to celebrate the 47th edition of the UAE National Day this weekend.

From special concerts, mall shows, city attractions and fireworks to promotions and traditional entertainment across the emirate, Dubai is set to put on a “stunning display” of activity to honour the UAE milestone, state news agency WAM reported.

Residents and visitors to Dubai will be able to witness special fireworks events taking place across the city.

The skies above The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence, Al Seef and La Mer will glow as fireworks take place at 8pm (The Beach), 8:30pm (Al Seef) and 9pm (La Mer) consecutively on December 1 and 2.

Dubai Festival City Mall will also be celebrating with fireworks at 8pm and 10pm on December 2, as part of its IMAGINE show.

Also on December 2, Burj Khalifa will showcase a customised LED show in sync with dancing water at the Dubai Fountain, choreographed to the UAE national anthem at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm while Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation will present live Poetry Nights at Burj Park.

Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of Dubai Tourism, said: “This National Day, we want everyone – from Emiratis to Dubai’s residents and visitors – to embrace this momentous occasion.

“We are delighted to announce a vast array of activities taking place all over the city to mark the festivities, and are grateful to our citywide strategic partners that have really pulled out all the stops to ensure that everyone gets to celebrate this great nation.

“With a host of events and celebrations taking place across Dubai, we anticipate a lot of footfall over the National Day weekend and encourage visitors to get to the venues as early as possible to really maximise their experience.”

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Five Palm Jumeirah lends helping hand for heart operations in India

FIVE Palm Jumeirah has helped 201 underprivileged children in India through its Project Udaan, which aims to save a life every other day.

In India, FIVE Palm Jumeirah has teamed up with its partners, the Diya India Foundation, for the third annual Children’s Heart Day, its 200th operation.

Launched in 2017, Project Udaan – which means ‘flight’ in Urdu – funds critical heart operations for children born with congenital heart defects whose parents could otherwise not afford the necessary operation.

“We are really proud to have contributed to saving over 200 lives through Project Udaan,” said Mashenka Anand, Co-Founder of Project Udaan. “I believe it is our duty to give back to those who cannot take care of themselves.”

“Giving without any expectation of a return is the essence of our work at FIVE, including service to our guests, colleagues as well as the charities we support. It is an honour to be a part in this worthy initiative and we look forward to continuing this success together to save even more lives,” said Jaydeep Anand, COO of FIVE Hotel FZCO.

According to doctors, eight of every 1,000 births have a congenital heart disease and half of them require heart surgery within the first few months after birth.

“We work with a lot of families who could not otherwise afford such life-saving surgeries and it is a pleasure to be able to work with FIVE team to make an incredible difference,” said Dr. Raja Joshi, Chairman Department of Pediatric Cardiac Sciences at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

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Abu Dhabi nature reserve is first to win international IUCN status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi on its Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas.

The global recognition is a realisation of the vision of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to provide a safe environment for migratory birds and breeding area for the Greater Flamingo.

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, the first area to be designated, is home to over 4,000 flamingos and 260 other birds, 320 invertebrates, 35 plant species, 16 reptiles and 10 mammals.

It is the only site in the Arabian Gulf where the Greater Flamingo breeds regularly. This year, 601 flamingo chicks hatched at the Reserve – the highest number ever recorded at Al Wathba.

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary-general of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said: “To see Al Wathba secure its status as a globally recognised Green List Area is a matter of great pride for Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

“The conservation of protected areas, natural resources and local biodiversity continues to be a key priority for the Agency. Biodiversity is an integral part of our cultural identity too, and something we want to preserve for present and future generations to come.”

The IUCN Green List is a global standard for protected areas that ensures all certified sites fulfil three major criteria – good governance, effective management, and sound design and planning.

“Al Wathba is an amazing example of what can be achieved with hard work by men and women working to protect and manage the environment,” said James Hardcastle, IUCN’s lead on the Green List programme.

Since opening to the public in October 2014, Al Wathba has attracted approximately 20,000 visitors keen on bird watching, hiking and photography.

It re-opened for the 2018-2019 season on November 1 and is welcomes visitors from 8am to 4pm (last entry at 2pm) every Thursday and Saturday.

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What oil at $50 a barrel means for the global economy

Just a couple of months ago, major oil trading houses were predicting the return of $100 crude. Now, with oil prices at half that level, here’s a look at what the slump means for the world economy.

Energy importers like India and South Africa will benefit; oil producers such as Russia and Saudi Arabia will hurt. Central banks under pressure to raise interest rates will get a reprieve; those looking to revive prices, such as the Bank of Japan, face another headwind.

Ultimately, much depends on how world oil demand shapes up as it gets battered by a stronger dollar and global trade spats, and how the biggest producers react.

Saudi Arabia sits between Russia on one side, its ally in managing production to support prices, and the US, where President Donald Trump is sending Twitter messages to the producer to get prices down.

All eyes are on the Group of 20 meeting this week to see if a consensus on output emerges between the Saudis and Russians, and if that can carry through to the OPEC gathering next week.

What does it mean for global growth?

With the northern hemisphere winter approaching, the oil-price slump will cushion households and businesses during a period of slowing economic growth. Countries that import oil and have current-account deficits, such as South Africa, will also stand to benefit. China is the world’s biggest importer of oil and is already battling a broader moderation in its economy amid a trade war with the US and domestic challenges.

What does it mean for inflation?

Lower oil prices mean less pressure on inflation and less pressure on central banks to raise interest rates. One example: Bloomberg Economics says the energy slump is a game changer for India and could mean the Reserve Bank of India shifts to a neutral outlook.

How will emerging markets handle the price drop?

Every $10-per-barrel fall in oil prices boosts incomes by about 0.5 to 0.7 percent of gross domestic product in major emerging market oil importers, Capital Economics analysts estimate. The same discount will cause a 3 percent to 5 percent loss of GDP in most of the Gulf economies, and a slowdown of 1.5 percent to 2 percent of GDP in the UAE, Russia and Nigeria, all on an annualized basis, according to the analysts.

What does it mean for the world’s biggest economy?

Trump has described the slump in oil prices as the equivalent of a tax cut. Still, diminishing American reliance on imported oil due to the emergence of shale production will erode the positive economic consequences at the industry level.

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Saudi’s Sabic has team scouring world for M&A deals

Saudi Basic Industries Corp is targeting acquisitions and partnerships with oil majors as the petrochemicals giant seeks to expand in faster-growing markets such as China and India, according to CEO Yousef Abdullah Al Benyan.

The CEO has a team scouting for potential MA targets and Sabic is regularly in talks with companies such as Royal Dutch Shell about investing in joint ventures, he said in an interview in Dubai on Monday. With the volatile oil price and demand booming for electric cars, crude producers are keen to diversify.

The plan builds on Sabic’s acquisition of a 25 percent stake in Switzerland’s Clariant AG earlier this year, and Al Benyan plans to use the alliance to further develop a portfolio of specialty chemicals, he said. The CEO was speaking at the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association forum in Dubai, where a year earlier he and Clariant counterpart Hariolf Kottmann struck the deal.

“This is just the beginning, we want to be one of the top five specialty companies in order for us to maintain truly very strong competitive positions,” the CEO said. “We looked at different options. We cannot grow it just organically, we have to go through MA activity.”

Set up about 40 years ago to capture lost value from flaring oil wells, Sabic has been a key element in Saudi Arabia’s plan to expand into petrochemicals.

The company’s current search for investments also fits the bill as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman seeks to overhaul the largest Arab economy.

The company itself is the subject of an acquisition plan by state-owned Saudi Aramco, which is planning to buy the stake owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Aramco has no plans to acquire any publicly held shares in Sabic.

The deal is expected to cost the oil giant about $70 billion, Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg in an interview last month. Al Benyan said he doesn’t expect the deal to affect the company’s plans.

“We are a publicly traded company and have other shareholders,” he said. “You have to focus on your current plan.”

The CEO also declined to discuss whether the political fallout from the murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi would affect his company’s plans.

Sabic announced the Clariant deal in January. Shares in the Riyadh-based company have gained 13 percent this year, giving it a market value of 346 billion riyals ($92 billion). Saudi Arabia’s benchmark Tadawul All Share Index increased 4 percent this year.

The company is also seeking to combat the growth in North America’s shale-gas industry, which has revitalized chemical plants in the region. A trade dispute between the US and China also poses a threat.

China opened up its polymers market to Saudi Arabia in return for oil and gas supplies, and the Asian nation is now seeking to be more self-sufficient in plastics and chemicals used widely in consumer goods to car parts.

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