Tag Archives: United Arab Emirates

The world’s most expensive RV includes a fireplace, bar and ‘Sky Lounge’

EleMMent Palazzo

The world’s spendiest RV has just been sold, and its new home is the place where cops drive Bugatti Veyrons: Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Motor Authority is reporting that this monstrous mobile home, the 40-foot-long EleMMent Palazzo, was bought for a cool $3 million by a customer in Dubai. We know RVs can be expensive, but what exactly do you get for such a ridiculous asking price?

EleMMent Palazzo

Well, its not exactly good looks; the Palazzo kind of looks like a lunchbox that melted in the sun for a few hours. It’s obviously not a performer either (although it can reach speeds of 93 mph), so let’s hope the engineers at Marchi Mobile, the Austrian company that built the Palazzo, didn’t skimp on creature comforts … they didn’t.

Inside, there are two levels that feature an enormous master bedroom (with an ensuite lavatory), a fireplace, underfloor heating, 40-inch TV, and onboard bar. There’s also a pop-up ‘Sky Lounge’ terrace, complete with its own cocktail lounge.

EleMMent Palazzo

For the rare moment when you need to exit your mobile ivory tower, you can monitor and adjust the Palazzo’s lighting and temperature via a wireless control unit. Remote video access allows you to show off your yacht-on-wheels to friends, without letting their peasant folk garb spread dirt on your marble floors.

EleMMent Palazzo

As if it wasn’t ostentatious enough already, the nightmarishly capitalized EleMMent was covered in gold before it was painted. It can also clean itself, somehow.

As Marchi Mobile says, “You can go wherever the sun takes you, but all the while outshine everything.”

EleMMent Palazzo

A mobile home worth more than all the homes on your street? Only in Dubai.

EleMMent Palazzo

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10 Arab Nations Join US-Led Coalition against Islamic State

Isis: Ten Arab Nations Join US-Led Coalition against Islamic State
US Secretary of State John Kerry poses with his Arab counterparts in Jeddah.

Ten Arab nations have announced they are to join a US-led coalition against Isis (known as Islamic State) militants.

In a joint statement, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, said they “will do their share” to fight against the jihadist group that has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The development marks a major diplomatic success for Washington and US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had embarked on a Middle East tour to lobby for a greater Arab role in the fight against extremists. 

In fact, some of the ten states have tense diplomatic relations due to their rivalry on other regional issues.

Qatar and Turkey’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, has put the two countries at odds with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt.

The announcement came after Kerry met delegates from the ten countries in the Saudi government’s summer seat of Jeddah.

The group of states said they assessed plans to eradicate IS “wherever it is, including in both Iraq and Syria” and pledged to join in “many aspects of a coordinated military campaign” against the militant organisation.

They also promised to support the new Iraqi government and stop the flow of funds and fighters that have boosted IS power.

Representatives from Turkey attended the meeting but did not sign the agreement and refused to let the coalition use its bases to launch air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

“Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations,” a government spokesperson speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP.

Earlier, Russia condemned Washington plan to target IS militants in Syria, saying it would consider air strikes an “act of aggression” if carried out without a UN mandate and the assent of the regime of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad.

The US has already launched limited air strikes against IS in Iraq at the request of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

IS launched its offensive on Iraq from its heartland of north-eastern Syria, capturing key Sunni towns and cities such as Mosul and Tikrit.

It has now declared a “caliphate” that straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border and represents a greater landmass than that of the United Kingdom.

According to the UN, over 1.6 million people have been displaced by conflict in Iraq this year while 850,000 people fled their homes in August alone.

Ex-U.S. Envoy Khalilzad Money-Laundering Probe Leads to Austria

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, at UN HQ in New York on 10 August 2008

A U.S. probe into alleged money laundering by Zalmay Khalilzad has led Austrian authorities to freeze a Vienna bank account linked to the former presidential envoy to Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, allegedly transferred $1.4 million to his wife’s bank account in Vienna, Austrian magazine Profil reported today, citing court documents.

The money came from oil and building contracts in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates that allegedly violated U.S. laws, U.S. investigators told their Austrian counterparts, according to the papers cited by Profil.

Austrian court spokeswoman Christina Salzborn confirmed the documents’ authenticity in a telephone interview. Christian Bielesz, the lawyer of Khalilzad’s wife, Cheryl Benard, confirmed that the account was frozen and an investigation under way.

President Bush listens with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (left) and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad (right) at a Security Council meeting in 2007

The U.S. had asked Austrian authorities not to seize Benard’s account, Bielesz said in a phone interview. A decision on whether to unfreeze the account is expected “quite soon,” he said.

The documents alleging the misconduct were part of a cache of sensitive papers retrieved from a garbage bin earlier this year by a Vienna-based blogger. Austria’s courts have instructed workers to take better care of sensitive information, Salzborn said.

Since leaving the State Department, Khalilzad founded Gryphon Partners, which “advises companies and high net worth individuals on business opportunities,” according to its website.

Zalmay Khalilzad (third left) with his wife Cheryl Benard alongside executives from Italian industrial company Fata

 

He also sits on the board of Dubai-based RAK Petroleum, which operates in Iraq, and Guernsey, U.K.-based Tethy’s Petroleum, which produces in Central Asia. Khalilzad is a counselor to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Calls and e-mails to Khalilzad at Gryphon Partners outside of business hours weren’t immediately returned.

Goldman Sachs to issue its first Islamic bond

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs is reviving its plan to tap the growing market for Islamic bonds, by aiming to become the second global financial institution to issue a sukuk.

The US bank is to meet investors in the Gulf states of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates next week, according to a new issue mandate filed on Thursday. The issue, if successful, is expected to be $500m of five-year bonds.

Having tried, and failed, three years ago to launch a sukuk, Goldman Sachs is aiming to follow HSBC’s Middle Eastern unit, which became the first global bank issuer of Islamic bonds in 2011.

Goldman, which has a strong regional presence, has been seeking ways to diversify its sources of funding while expanding its expertise in Islamic finance – an increasingly important component of fast-growing Middle Eastern and Asian countries’ economies.

The bank has appointed itself, along with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s Emirates NBD Capital, and the investment banking arm of Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank as joint lead managers and book runners on the prospective issuance.

Goldman Sachs’s previous sukuk programme met with industry scepticism in 2011, after Islamic scholars criticised its structure.

The bank has changed the structuring of this potential new issuance to fall more in line with the current consensus of Islamic scholarly opinion, said one person familiar with the matter.

However, Mohammed Khnifer, an Islamic financial specialist who criticised Goldman’s aborted 2011 foray into the market, said there was one “potential flaw”, which Goldman must address: whether it was “using, eventually, the proceeds to fund its conventional activities”, which Mr Khnifer warned would not be compliant.

Rating agency Moody’s has suggested that 2014 will prove a landmark year for sovereign sukuk, following the UK government’s issuance of an inaugural Islamic bond, and debut sales by Hong Kong and South Africa that conclude this month.

Other global banks are expected to follow suit as Islamic finance starts to break into the mainstream.

“The fact that non-Islamic countries are joining Islamic nations in sovereign issuance is globalising the market,” said Khalid Howladar, Moody’s global head for Islamic finance.

“Given growth projections, Goldman and other non-Islamic institutions can – just like London and Hong Kong – also establish relevant Islamic finance structuring credentials,” he added.

Annual sukuk issuance grew from $32bn in 2010 to a record $83bn in 2012. It then fell back to about $64bn in 2013, as emerging markets witnessed a capital outflow following the US Federal Reserve’s announcement of a tapering of its bond purchasing stimulus.

But Moody’s expects global sukuk issuance to recover to almost $70bn by the end of this year, Mr Howladar said.

Russia has a deep-pocketed economic supporter that is also a staunch US ally

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin meets with United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

China’s economic support for Russia in the face of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and growing pressure from Western sanctions, is well known. But another deep-pocketed financial supporter has also been forging closer economic ties with Russia this summer: the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE ‘s most visible commitment to Russia is through the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a state-bank backed private equity fund with more than $10 billion in foreign capital that invests in Russian businesses.

It has some Western private equity giants on its board (pdf., page 12 and 13), including Apollo’s Leon Black and Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman.

But Middle Eastern nations, and particularly the United Arab Emirates, led by Abu Dhabi, have provided most of the money in recent years. Funds from the Middle East include:

  •  $5 billion committed by the Abu Dhabi department of finance in 2013, the “largest investment from the Middle East ever made into Russia.”
  • $1 billion from Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Companypledged in 2013.
  • $2 billion from Qatar’s Investment Authority, pledged this May.

There are investments from outside the Middle East too, including $1 billion from China Investment Corp., $500 million from the Japan Bank of International Cooperation, and about $200 million from France’sstate-backed Caisse des Depots.

The RDIF may be moved to Russia’s central bank to keep it from being touched by sanctions, Bloomberg reported this week. A RDIF spokeswoman said no decision has been made, and discussions about this change were started two years ago. 

And Republican-backed sanctions-related bill in the US Senate could force US private equity advisers to leave the fund’s board, and US companies from doing business with RDIF. Both moves could potentially have a serious impact on investors’ return—on top of any impact from the weakening Russian economy.

The RDIF investments happened before Russia’s incursion into Crimea, and are part of a growing relationship cemented by meetings between Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years, including the signing of a tax treaty and a nuclear agreement.

Abu Dhabi made the first Gulf sovereign wealth fund investment in Russia back in 2010 (paywall), when it invested $100 million in a Russia-focused hedge fund, and since then the seven emirates that make up the UAE have been forging alliances and investing large sums. Total United Arab Emirates investment in Russia stands at about $18 billion, the emirates’ economic minister, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansourisaid in February. 

Since the March annexation of Crimea, officials from the UAE have been pledging more economic support for Russia and pushing closer ties. In April, Dubai airport officials traveled to Moscow looking for investors.

In June, the UAE’s economic minister traveled to Moscow with 40 government and business executives and pledged to more than double bilateral trade between the two countries to $7 billion  in 2014, and cooperate with Russia on energy and agriculture projects. And in August, the UAE’s state-run carrier Etihad said it would start freight services between Abu Dhabi and Moscow. 

The UAE depends on Russia’s deep pockets too. In the past decade,Russians have flocked to Dubai to take advantage of the warmer weather and tax-free shopping, where they’re known as the emirate’s highest-spending guests.

Russian-tourist-arrivals-in-Dubai-Russian-visitors-to-Dubai_chartbuilder

With hundreds of billions of dollars in excess oil reserves, the United Arab Emirates are not likely to feel a real pinch from the falling value of any Russian investments, or a short-term decline in the number of wealthy Russian tourists.

But as a long-time ally of the US, the UAE could certainly feel some political heat—maybe as soon as this week, as nations gather to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although the emirates are not NATO members, a UAE representative will attend Thursday’s alliance summit in Wales as an observer.

OPEC Takes No Action to Ease Supply Glut as Oil Slumps

OPEC Takes No Action to Ease Supply Glut as Oil Slumps

OPEC took no action to ease a global oil-supply glut, resisting calls from Venezuela that the group needs to stem the rout in prices. Futures slumped the most in more than three years.

The group maintained its collective production ceiling of 30 million barrels a day, Ali Al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, said today after the 12 nations met in Vienna. Brent crude dropped as much as 8.4 percent in London, extending this year’s decline to 35 percent.

Oil tumbled into a bear market this year as the U.S. pumped the most in more than three decades and conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine failed to disrupt supply. While OPEC’s 30-million-barrel limit has been in place since 2012, the group actually produced almost 1 million barrels more last month, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“OPEC has chosen to abdicate its role as a swing producer, leaving it to the market to decide what the oil price should be,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets at BNP Paribas SA in London, said today by phone. “It wouldn’t be surprising if Brent starts testing $70.”

Brent, a global benchmark, is poised for the biggest annual decline since 2008 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. Futures fell the most since May 2011 and traded down $4.85 to $72.90 a barrel as of 6:25 p.m. local time.

Ruble Slumps

The Norwegian krone, the currency of Western Europe’s largest crude producer, dropped to a five-year low against the dollar. The Canadian dollar fell for the first time in three days and the Russian ruble tumbled. Shares of oil and gas companies were the biggest losers in global stock markets. BP Plc dropped 2.7 percent in London while Royal Dutch Shell Plc declined 3.7 percent.

“The change is that it’s no longer Saudi Arabia and OPEC that are going to be managing the supply side of the market,” Michael Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA, said in an e-mail. “That is so fundamental, it is hard to overstate.”

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries considered a cut of 5 percent in output, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. That’s about 1.5 million barrels a day based on the current ceiling.

“If you cut 5 millions, this will raise the prices of course,” Mahdi said. “No one discussed a large cut, maybe 5 percent was the utmost that some people wanted.”

The Lavan oil refinery quay on Lavan island off the south coast of Iran, pictured on May 16, 2004

Fair Price

OPEC will convene again on June 5 in Vienna. The decision not to change the production ceiling was anticipated by 58 percent of respondents in a Bloomberg Intelligence survey this week.

“We are not sending any signals to anybody, we just try to have a fair price,” Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said at a press conference. The group will abide by the limit, he said. El-Badri will retain his position until the end of 2015.

‘Not Angry’

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters after the meeting that he was “not angry” about the decision, but it was “not in line with what we wanted.”

Venezuela, whose currency reserves are close to the lowest in 11 years, planned to push for a production cut, Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela’s OPEC representative, said before the meeting started. “Everybody has to make some sacrifice,” Ramirez said, estimating the global oversupply at 2 million barrels a day. Kuwait put the glut at 1.8 million barrels.

Ministers from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Angola said they were concerned about the surplus in the market as they arrived at the group’s headquarters.

Iraq's largest oil refinery in the northern town of Baiji on August 5, 2003

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped as much as 8.1 percent, extending this year’s slump to 30 percent. Futures declined $4.64 to $69.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

OPEC pumped 30.97 million barrels a day in October, exceeding the ceiling for a fifth consecutive month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The group estimates the world will need 29.2 million barrels a day of its crude next year, according to a report on Nov. 12.

Isis ‘Less Than 10km from the Gates of Baghdad’ Despite Coalition Air Strikes

ISIS

Isis (now known as the Islamic State) are now less than 10km (6.3 miles) from Baghdad as clashes with the Iraqi army continue, according to the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq.

Fighting with the terror group is taking place on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital with Iraqi forces attempting to halt their advance on the city.

Conflicting reports have emerged of the proximity of the radical Islamist group to Iraq’s economic and political centre. 

Fighting has taken place in the key strategic town of Amariya al-Falluja, 40km (25 miles) west of Baghdad but Canon Andrew White, the vicar of Iraq’s only Anglican church, has claimed that the militants are now less than 10km (6.3 miles) from the capital.

“The Islamic State are on the verge of entering Baghdad. The Islamic State are now within 10km of entering Baghdad. Over a 1,000 Iraqi troops were killed by them yesterday, things are so bad.

“As I said all the military air strikes are doing nothing. If we ever needed your prayer it is now,” he said.

“President Obama is saying that he overestimated the ability of the Iraqi Army. It is so clear they have no ability. A hard thing to say but it’s true.”

An organisation supporting the work of White, the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, has claimed that the group are even closer to Baghdad – less than 2km away.

On a mission: The RAF jets seek out their terror targets in Iraq - which they failed to find and bomb, again

“The Islamic State are now less than 2km away from entering Baghdad. They said it could never happen and now it almost has. Obama says he overestimated what the Iraqi Army could do. Well you only need to be hear [sic] a very short while to know they can do very very little,” the statement read.

The IS advance on the city comes despite the US-led coalition’s air strike campaign on the group’s positions across Iraq, most recently in Anbar province 80km from Baghdad. 

US President Barack Obama has conceded that American intelligence did not take the growing threat from the group seriously enough.

“Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said in a televised interview.

Strong presence: Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria. But ISIS have held a number of towns and villages close to the Iraqi capital since earlier in the year, when government troops melted away following a lightning advance in the west of the country

The United States has conducted over 200 air strikes on the group’s positions in Iraq since August 2014, while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar have joined or supported the strikes in Syria.

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