New Taxes Inform New Appointment at DLA Piper

Dubai and Saudi Arabia are adding a VAT.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia will both be implementing a value added tax as of January 1, 2018, In anticipation of that event DLA Piper, a global law firm, appointed a new Middle East head of tax in the company’s branch in Dubai.

Ton Van Doremalen began in his new position on December 3. He has more than 16 years of experience in international tax structuring in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, Luxembourg, UK, the UAE, the GCC and Egypt.

Roderik Bouwman, global co-chair at DLA Piper, said, “We are delighted to have Ton on board as the founder of DLA Piper’s Middle Eastern Tax practice, at a time of highly anticipated tax changes and regulation in the Middle East. Ton is widely respected within the industry and brings energy, business acumen and an entrepreneurial spirit to the role.”

DLA Piper is an award-winning law firm, having been recognized as the “International Law Firm of the Year” at last year’s Middle East Legal Awards.

Regional managing partner Peter Somekh said that, “last year has seen us further consolidate our already strong presence in the Middle East. We see the creation of a dedicated Tax practice as invaluable as the region continues to develop as a major international business hub, with Ton’s arrival further reinforcing our ongoing commitment to delivering clients a full-service local offering.”

UAE Wins First Place in ME Best Place for Business

Dubai, UAE

The World Bank recognized the United Arab Emirates as the best place in the Middle East to do business. Among the cities of the world it was ranked 21st.

The ranking is based on a study conducted by the World Bank. According to the study the rise to first place of the UAE was due to its economic policy reforms enacted over the past year which reduced bureaucratic hurdles for business. Four significant reforms were undertaken, including improved construction quality control and shortening the time to get building permits.

The World Bank added that during the course of the 15 years in which it has ranked cities for their business friendliness, the UAE has made the largest number of changes to its business structures in the region, with a total of 33.

Other countries in the Gulf ranked as follows:
• Bahrain-66th
• Oman-71st
• Qatar-83rd
• Saudi Arabia-92nd
• Kuwait-96th

Self-Driving Pods Coming to Middle East

Careem, an app-based car hiring service, announced that it will be partnering with Italy-based NEXT Future Transportation to bring self-driving vehicles to the Middle East and North Africa.

The deal comes in the wake of the joint announcement by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the vice president of the UAE that they will be setting as a goal for 25 percent of vehicular travel in Dubai to be driverless by the year 2030.

The pods are being developed by NEXT with unique features making them an intriguing solution for the development of this up and coming technology. They are battery powered, can drive individually or can attach to form bus-like vehicles, and will allow passengers to move between pods.

The company said that the pods will make transportation safer, more efficient, and better for the environment than today’s means of transportation. They will also facilitate less road congestion.

The primary function of this technology is to provide door to door mass transportation resulting in faster and more efficient daily commuting to and from work in the UAE, according to Careem.

“We are honored to create a strategic partnership with such an innovative company as NEXT,” said Careem co-founder and managing director Mudassir Sheikha. “NEXT offers a unique and compelling vision for mass transit. We look forward to working closely with NEXT to pioneer their solutions in the region.”

Post Saddam Hussein, Crescent Petroleum Thrives

Saddam Hussain Iran-Iraqi war 1980s. Photo by AFP/Getty-images

Saddam Hussain Iran-Iraqi war 1980s. Photo by AFP/Getty-images

Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with an iron fist from July 1979 until April 2003. Saddam was finally forced out of power by the combined armies of the United States, Britain and their allies. During this time of upheaval and the downfall of Saddam Hussein, Crescent Petroleum continued to grow.

Crescent Petroleum began as Buttes Gas & Oil Co. International Inc, which was a subsidiary of Crescent Petroleum. Buttes was a holder of a concession first granted in 1969 by the Sharjah Government in the United Arab Emirates. In the early 1970s the Mubarek Field was discovered off the coast.

Headquartered in Sharjah, the 1980s proved beneficial to the growth of the burgeoning oil company. By this time, as Saddam Hussein began to flex his muscles, Crescent Oil truly established itself as a full-fledged oil company. The company was re-organized at this time, and began to assert influence on the international energy economy.

During the disruptive years of the Gulf War brought on by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Crescent Petroleum added concessions in Yemen, Pakistan and Egypt.

Today, in the post-Saddam Hussein era, Crescent Petroleum continues to explore new opportunities for expansion and growth. One of its most promising areas is in the development of natural gas as a valuable asset in the region. It is speculated that the Gulf region of the Middle East holds more than 40 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves. In order to benefit from the richness of the area, Crescent implemented two cross-border pipeline deals. These deals are expected to create a new paradigm shift on the determination of the price of oil. It is expected that the gas business in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf area will develop quickly, stimulating growth in economies around the world.

Apple Making Moves to Open Retail Store in Middle East

Apple Inc, the wildly successful consumer electronics mega company, has no retail outlets in the Middle East. All that is about to change, however, at least according to rumors circulating around the region.

Outside of Istanbul, Turkey, Apple has no stores in the Middle East; yet, according to updated jobs listings on their website, Apple is indeed looking for employees in the United Arab Emirates for a few key retail positions. The most likely candidates for Apple stores are Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Apple is looking for workers to fit the descriptions of creative, expert, genius and store leader.

In a related development, Apple posted a listing in March to find a candidate who can forge ahead with retail hiring in the UAE.

Apple gets its products into the ME market via third party outlets and online shopping. Apple has had an online store in the UAE since 2011.

Exactly when and where consumers can expect to see these stores is still a mystery. Rumors are pointing to August 2014 for a possible opening date for Apple, while the Mall of the Emirates is a possible location for Apple’s first store.

Malaysian Company Bioalpha Heading to Middle East

Datura stramonium

Datura stramonium: Herbal treatment for asthma

Managing director of Bioalpha Holdings Bhd announced that the health supplements company will be soon entering the Middle East market by mid-2015.

Bioalpha was listed for the first time on the Ace market of Bursa Malaysia on Tuesday. Hon Tian Kok, the managing director, announced after the company started trading that Bioalpha had signed a memorandum of understanding last year with the Fatima Group of the United Arab Emirates. The Fatima Group has more than 20 hypermarkets all over the UAE. With this much penetration they will be able to act as the distributor for Bioalpha’s products all over the country.

“We are now in the midst of registering our herbal products with the relevant department in Dubai and once approved, exports to the UAE will begin. Since Malaysia is seen as the global halal hub, we feel it is right for us to exploit this position and are currently working hand-in-hand with the government,” Hon said.

Bioalpha’s IPO offered 100 million new ordinary shares to the public at an issue price of 20 sen per share. The company’s market capitalization is estimated to be about RM 9.7 million.

The company manufactures health supplement products including processed herbs, functional foods, formulated ingredients, herbal and non-herbal supplements.

Salalah Guests Fill City for Eid Holidays and Beyond

Salalah Hilton Resort

Tourists not only from Oman but from all over the Gulf Cooperation Council states descended on Salalah for the four days of Eid, many of them remaining even after the conclusion of the holiday.

Restaurants, hotels, and the streets of Salalah were full of happy visitors whose numbers were estimated by officials to reach 94,713. Said Rafeet of the Ministry of Tourism in Dhofar said that tourist began arriving in the resort town between August 19 and 22. Omani citizens comprised the majority of visitors at about 65 percent, with about 30 percent coming from the UAE.

"On the second day of Eid alone, 33,522 people came to Salalah,” explained Said. "This is the biggest in the season! The tourists meant exceptionally good business for hotels and restaurants, but also caused shortages. The petrol station at Haima, on the way to Dhofar, ran out of fuel, as did a second one along the road.”

Apparently the tourist industry was not prepared for such a huge inundation of guests to their city.

"There was a shortage of food. Our suppliers were short on chicken, beef and bread. The number of tourists affects all the normal services here,” said Shady Morgan, Assistant Director of Sales at the Hilton Salalah Resort.

The huge number of people also created unpleasant traffic jams.

“It takes at least hour to get through the traffic lights at Lulu Hypermarket. We're like Dubai at this time,” said Morgan "You should plan before you go or take shortcuts.”

Most of the Omani visitors have returned home to get back to their usual schedules, but a large number of Emirate visitors stayed for a bit longer. The Salalah Hilton reports that this week they were operating at between 85 and 100 percent capacity, and businesses elsewhere are still crowded.

"Still most of the people from the GCC are here,” commented Said. "The restaurants, the hotels and stores are still busy. Business is still good.”

UAE Federal National Council Requests Dress Code Law from Minister of Culture

Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais

One member of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates, Hamad Ahmad Al Rahoumi from Dubai would like to see a law in place which would require residents and tourists to adhere to a modest dress code which respects the culture and sensibilities of the people of the UAE.

Al Rahoumi was speaking with the Minister of Culture Abdul Rahman Mohammad Al Owais with the goal of persuading him that such a law is needed to protect the culture of decency and modesty that is practiced in the UAE.

“There has to be respect for the people in the UAE. Residents and tourists should dress modestly and not spread their bad habits for our children to see and imitate,” Al Rahoumi said.

“I am not demanding that visitors and residents wear our clothes, but their dress should be respectful and not revealing,” he added.

Al Rahoumi also said that the law should include other “unacceptable” behaviors like kissing in public places.

The FNC represented said that visitors should be told in advance about the law; that it is offensive to dress in mini-skirts and shorts in the UAE, in shopping malls or outside on the streets.

“Dress code brochures should be given out at the airport and when the passport is stamped with the visa. Also, there should be big posters in malls and everywhere showing the rules and how women should dress decently.”

Middle East Investors Anxiously Awaiting Facebook IPO

The excitement about the upcoming Facebook Inc IPO, scheduled for May 18 is about to go up several notches as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of the Facebook empire, embarks on the roadshow this coming Monday.

In the financial world a road show is designed to drum up interest in the company which is going public among investors. Company officials travel from investor to investor, explaining the potential value in backing their company. In the case of Facebook it is hard to see how interest can increase, as it already has reached borderline hysteria.

Investors from the UAE have been watching Facebook’s developments, anxiously waiting the launching, said by many to be the most awaited tech-related IPO since Google’s in 2004.

One investor, Rai Gaga from the UAE, has already informed his fund managers to get ready for the moment.

“I have been waiting since the first announcement was made in December. I have filled out the form. Although I am not sure of getting it due to such high demand. I am planning to invest anywhere between $150,000 to 200,000,"said Gaga.

Emax Expanding Its Presence in GCC and UAE Countries

Neelesh Bhatnagar, CEO of Emax

Neelesh Bhatnagar, chief executive officer of Emax, announced that the consumer electronics retailer is planning on opening ten more stores throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council states employing an additional 500 people by the end of 2012.

Bhatnagar said that Emax already has stores in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. The only GCC country where there is no Emax yet is Kuwait, but according to Bhatnagar they are just looking for the right opportunity to open there as well.

"Currently, we have 32 stores in the GCC and by the end of the year we'll have 40 to 42 stores,” Bhatnagar said. "Four will be opened in the UAE and the rest mainly in Saudi Arabia."

The plan is to employ about 200 more workers at the four new outlets in the UAE.

"In the UAE, we have now nine stores. We opened two recently – one in Dubai Mall and one in Fujairah City Centre. We are expecting to open another four – if not more – in UAE this year – one each in Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah and two in Dubai. We are constantly looking for space, for example in existing malls we don't have stores like Deira City Centre and Ibn Battuta Mall. We have been talking to landlords and leasing people; in case something comes up there those will be incremental," the Emax CEO added.