Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blue City Lawsuit - Janahi Speaks Out

For the first time since Cyclone (the Omani company that actually owns just 30% of Blue City) announced that they are suing AAJ Holdings to takeover their (70% majority) shareholding in the project, Ahmed Abubaker Janahi held a press conference in Bahrain yesterday to give his side of the story:

"An immediate intervention by the Omani government is now crucial, seeing as the minority shareholder is currently in full control of the project and has actively and independently started sales, disbursements and generating revenues - the whereabouts of which still remain unknown to AAJHC," Mr Janahi told a Press conference at the MÅ¡venpick Hotel yesterday.

"We have been wrongly and completely shut out with all references and our logo unduly removed from the project."

Prior to AAJHC entering into the project as a strategic partner, investment rights to the 32sqkm project were granted to Al Sawadi Investments and Tourism Company by the Omani government on an exclusive 75-year basis.

Mr Janahi said Al Sawadi failed to develop the land for almost five years, which is why AAJHC was brought in.

"It approached AAJHC, which developed the project concept by preparing the necessary business, feasibility and architectural plans with phased development implementation programmes and tapped into its international network of banking relationships to secure the $925 million required to fund phase one of the project," he claimed.

"Since then, AAJHC was the major stakeholder in the project - being the registered owner of 70pc of the shares of Al Sawadi Investments and Tourism Company, which it has acquired through documents legally registered at the Commerce and Industry Ministry in Oman.

"Cyclone was the Omani shareholder owning the remainder of the shares."

Mr Janahi claimed the dispute between AAJHC and its Omani partners began after phase one funding was secured.

"This funding resulted in the escalation of the project's land value from $83m to over $1bn for phase one alone and is further expected to increase to $20bn over the remainder of the life of the project, which in turn dramatically increases the value of the shares," he said.

Mr Janahi also claimed AAJHC would have negotiated with its Omani partners to sell 20pc of its shares, meaning it would become a 50-50 venture.

"Our investment, including the money generated from various sources for the project, will come to more than $100m," he added. [source]

Related post:

Blue City shareholders lawsuit

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Two day weekend for banks

Rumors are circulating that Oman's banks will officially switch to a two day weekend. The rumor goes that the switchover will be announced later this month and will come into effect the next month. I'm not sure what the details are, but the banks have jointly asked for it and this time they have the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Commerce. Last time when banks wrote to the Central Bank of Oman asking for an official two day weekend the CBO refused to take a decision and instead sent the matter for the Council of Ministers' approval. The council asked for the views of the Chamber which at the time replied saying that it's not in the interest of the economy for banks to be closed two days a week. End of Story.

Fortunately, the Chamber of Commerce is now run by a new proactive pro-business board of directors. I hope the rumor turns out to be true. I'm tired of having only Friday off every week for 12 years now. However, even if we do switch to a 5 day week, the weekend will be Friday-Saturday while my wife's job remains on a Thursday-Friday weekend unless the government switches their weekend as well.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Reblog: Come Back Soon: Oman is Full

From the travel blog Jaunted:
It must be fun to be a country just opening up to tourism, with all the excitement of tacky souvenirs and tourists getting in your way still to come. That's the position the people of the Middle Eastern country of Oman find themselves in at the moment. The tourism ministry had been aiming to increase visitor spending to 3 percent of the GDP by 2015, but it looks like they'll meet that target by the end of this year instead.

But don't hurry to book your Oman vacation just yet. There are just 9,000 hotel rooms in the country, currently enjoying close to 100 percent occupancy rates, so there's not much room at the inn. The plan is to double the number of rooms nationwide in the next seven years.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Parking Tickets

Ever since Muscat Municipality introduced paid parking in the CBD area I've been buying 3 or 6 months permits to avoid the hassle of having to have coins for the parking meters. However, when I'm not driving my car, I use Oman Mobile's SMS Parking service, which I think is one of the best services ever. Unfortunately it has one major shortfall: if you send the message to pay for parking during a free parking period it will just send you a reply "this is a free parking period." There's no option of sending the SMS before the paid parking period begins.

Ever since I changed cars in December I've been procrastinating in getting a new parking permit because I want to first re-register the car under my old number from the car that I sold. Otherwise, I'd have to get a permit under the present number and then go back again to the municipality when I change the number plate to amend the permit. I've been using SMS Parking every single day for over two months. But in the last week now that I've moved to the new house, I've been leaving home extra early to beat the morning traffic and I arrive at work before 7.30. Paid parking begins at 8am and I forget to send the SMS at 8am to pay for the parking. I got three parking tickets in the last week.

By the way, I've been to the police twice to do the number change and both times they found excuses not to do it. Now it looks that the only way to get it done is to have the car's ownership transferred, registered, and then transferred back to me without it's current number
and registered under my old number which is reserved for me in the system (for just two more weeks or I lose it). Sounds to me like an excuse to make me pay registration fees for the car twice (thrice actually). What a hassle.

Omantel 3G

In case you haven't heard, Omantel finally decided to join the rest of the mobile telecom world by upgrading to 3G. This is not new news, the tender was late last year and was awarded on January 23rd. Nokia bid RO. 77 million ($200 million), Ericsson's bid came in much lower at RO. 52 million ($135 million) and China's Huawei won the tender with an unbelievable bid of RO. 17.7 million ($46 million).

The mind boggles!