VFE to offer 3G services
ALTHOUGH Egypt's leading mobile phone operator MobiNil said will not apply for a 3G license since it is not economically feasible in Egypt, its sole competitor Vodafone Egypt (VFE), signed on Monday a contract for the license at a cost of LE3.4 billion. According to the contract signed with the National Telecommunication Regulator Authority, VFE will also pay 2.4 per cent of its 3G annual revenue in return for the 15-year license.
Under license terms, VFE will begin offering 3G services after Etisalat Misr begins its operations, by the end of the first quarter of 2007. While VFE said it will offer the services as soon as Etisalat Misr starts its operations, a clause in the contract gives it the right to launch services anyway if Itisalat Misr does not begin until 21 May. VFE should have full coverage of 3G services in Egypt within a maximum of five years, according to the license conditions.
Vodafone is planning to start trial operations of 3G services during the Cairo Information and Communication Technology (ICT) fair next month, February; Etisalat Misr already started trial operations earlier this month.
Unidentified senior officials at MobiNil have been quoted as ruling out any plans to apply for the 3G license, citing the costliness of the service which will only serve a limited category of affluent customers. Instead, MobiNIil plans to inject more investments to expand its subscriber base in Egypt and lower its cost.
Since launching Egypt's second mobile network in 1998, VFE has invested some LE15.5 billion. This includes the LE3.4 billion fee for the 3G license, in addition to a similar amount channelled to upgrade network infrastructure during 2005 and 2006 alone.
Power shift at Davos
OVER 2000 business, political, academic and the civil society leaders will meet at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland from 24-28 January. This year's gathering, held under the theme 'Shaping the Global Agenda, The Shifting Power Equation', shifts focus from the notion that world economies are in transition to the fact that very distinct new influences have emerged recently, shaping politics as well as economies.
These include the growing prominence of emerging economies, the increasing leverage of commodity suppliers, the enhanced voice of individuals and small groups over institutions, and the stronger role of consumers over producers. Meanwhile, the issue of climate change has also gained more importance this year than ever before. A questionnaire conducted by the event directors revealed that twice as many respondents placed climate change as the most important global issue.
As a regular participant in the event, Egypt will be represented by a high calibre delegation headed by Minister of Foreign Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid. Rachid told Al-Ahram daily that the forum is a good venue for Egypt to demonstrate it successes in applying a number of deliberate reforms that targeted investment, customs and taxes.Egypt hosted the regional meeting of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in June, 2006.
THE VOLUME of tourists recorded unprecedented figures in 2006, despite terrorist attacks in Dahab and instability in the region writes Rehab Saad.
Minister of Tourism Zoheir Garanah announced this week that Egypt received 9.082 million tourists in 2006, compared to 8.6 million in 2005, which is a 5.5 per cent increase. Tourist nights also grew by 4.9 per cent, recording 89.3 million nights in 2006 compared to 85.1 in 2005. Tourism revenues also rose from $6.8 billions in 2005 to $7.6 billions in 2006, recording an 11.8 per cent boost. The largest number of tourists in 2006 was recorded in April while the lowest figures were in June.
The list of top ten countries exporting tourism to Egypt also radically changed from previous years.The UK topped the list for the first time in a decade, with the unprecedented figure of 1,033,761 tourists. Only Italy, in 2004, recorded a similar volume. The UK was in third place in 2005, sending 837,000 tourists, this in turn signalling a 23.4 per cent growth in the British market in 2006.
Russia maintained second position in 2006 from the previous year, by increasing visitors to 998,149 -- a 28.4 per cent rise. The German market withdrew from first position in 2005 to become third in 2006, recording about 996,000 tourists compared to 979,000 in 2005. This amounts to a 1.4 per cent decrease.
Despite a 4.5 per cent drop from 823,000 tourists in 2005 to 786,000 in 2006, Italy was still able to preserve fourth position. Meanwhile, Libya displaced France in fifth place, with the latter retreating to seventh after a 24.8 per cent plunge since 2005. Libya exported some 443,000 tourists in 2006 compared to 376,000 in 2005, which is a 17.5 per cent climb, making it the top Arab country exporting tourists to Egypt.
Saudi Arabia also advanced from eighth position in 2005 to sixth in 2006 through a 7.5 per cent, namely 388,280 tourists instead of 361,000 in 2005. Palestine took Saudi Arabia's former position of eighth, recording 228,881 tourists in 2006; whereas the US came in ninth place -- making the top ten list for the first time -- by sending 228,183 tourists in 2006 compared to 195,800 in 2005, which is an increase of 16.5 per cent.
Despite coming last, the Netherlands also made the list for the first time by exporting 201,585 tourists in 2006 compared to 206,800 in 2005 -- a growth of 2.3 per cent.
DANA GAS, the first regional private sector gas company in the Middle East has announced that it has acquired Centurion Energy International Inc, at a value of $950 million. The company intends to expand its operations into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The acquisition provides Dana Gas with a strong platform to grow its upstream activities in natural gas exploration and production, throughout these regions.
"We are very pleased with the smooth completion of the Centurion transaction process," declared Dana Gas Executive Chairman Hamid Dhiya Jafar. "This acquisition gives Dana Gas an important strategic entry into the region's upstream natural gas sector, and provides it with a unique growth platform based on a solid base of existing assets, and a strong team of experienced exploration and production professionals," added Jafar.
Centurion Energy, which has now become a wholly-owned subsidiary and the upstream division of Dana Gas, is currently involved in 10 development leases and four exploration licences in Egypt, Tunisia and offshore West Africa. Moreover, Centurion Energy's team of over 150 management and technical staff will now contribute to Dana Gas's exploration, development and production of natural gas reserves.
The transaction fulfils Dana Gas's aim of accelerating its growth strategy in the MENA region, particularly in Egypt where the past decade has seen a boom in the natural gas and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) operations. Egypt's proven reserves have jumped to 70 trillion cubic feet in the past few years.
According to the Ministry of Petroleum, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors have hit $9.5 billion in the past five years. The ministry stated that the target for the next five years is to secure FDIs worth $25 billion in the petroleum sector. By 2010, annual exports of gas and petrochemicals are set to reach $10 billion.