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Upbeat Jordan looks to the oil rich Gulf

Jordan: Wednesday, May 24 - 2006 @ 14:55

Much has changed in the intervening time, not just at the Grand Hyatt, but in Jordan as a whole. The forum marked the latest move by the determined Jordanian government to encourage investment from other Arab nations and their efforts are certainly starting to bear fruit.

Property investments

On the sidelines of the forum, one of the conference’s platinum sponsors, Kuwait’s Bayan Investment Company, announced a $1.2bn real estate project in Jordan.

Bayan’s Chairman, Faisal Al Mutawa, outlined the plans for the four phases of development to the Jordan Times. The first project will be a residential development in Shafa Badran, north of the capital, which will cater for mainly medium and low income groups.

The second will be the construction of an entirely new town in the Tareq area, at a cost of around $150m. The third phase will be a mixed use housing project and commercial centre near the Royal Scientific Society; the fourth will be a $220m investment in the massive downtown Abdali regeneration project, where Bayan plans to build office towers and shopping malls.

A holding company, Petra, will be the owner of the various projects and capital should be raised from GCC investors over the next few months.

$500m fund

The GCC’s interest in Jordanian investment continues to grow; in the week leading up to the Gulf in Jordan forum, a $500m investment fund, to be run by a joint Saudi Jordanian holding company, was launched.

The head of the Jordanian Chamber of Commerce, Haider Murad said, at the launch, that he hoped the private sectors of the two nations could work increasingly together to generate further projects. Jordan already imports some $2.5bn worth of Saudi goods every year.

Privatisation prospects

The Gulf in Jordan forum was also the location for the CEO of Jordan’s Executive Privatisation Commission, Mohammad Abu Hammour, to reveal his keenness for Gulf Arab investors to take part in a raft of upcoming privatisation projects in the kingdom, which, it is hoped, will raise over $1bn.

The sell offs will generate much needed income, with Jordan’s Q1 trade deficit growing by over 30 % to more than JD1bn, and should also raise standards of some key public utilities. One of the first assets on the block is the remaining 41.5% unsold portion of Jordan Telecom.

France Telecom bought a 40% stake back in 2000 and is very keen to purchase an extra 11% to give it a controlling interest. Meanwhile, according to Reuters, a 49% stake in national carrier, Royal Jordanian, could be sold by early 2007.

It is the big money investors from the GCC that Jordan is especially keen to attract to their assorted sell offs. Hammour told Reuters that he was aware of a number of Gulf Arabs who wanted to utilise their excess liquidity, due to the currently inflated oil prices, by investing in Jordan.

After the erratic performance in recent weeks by the Saudi stock market, the Jordanian government will be hoping that serious amounts of petrodollars will be staked in their raft of ongoing developments and upcoming sell offs.

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Wednesday, May 24- 2006 @ 14:55 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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