Thursday, May 27, 2010

And the lucky winners of free tickets to HiFM's Amer Zahr comedy night are....

Lucky Draw
Last night the draw was held for those free tickets to the great HiFM! comedy night at the Crown Plaza next week, 2nd June, starring Amer Zahr. Most people entered via email this time.

The draw was again done by the unimpeachable Ms Dragon, supervised by ISS. And the winners were:

Cath Crowley


Anne Kurian

You'll be sent an email with the details on how to collect your 2 free tickets at the door. Congratulations ladies!

Unlucky entrants can buy tickets by calling the HiFM booking line on (+968) 955-55699 but be quick as its almost sold out.

Thanks to Darren Shortt and the team at HiFM.

In other news:

Minister of Tourism at Majlis Al Shura
The Minister of Tourism was questioned by the Majlis Al Shura earlier this week in one of the regular Q&A sessions between the elected body (albeit with no real power) and Ministries. I wish someone would send me a translated transcript. From the generally factless articles in the media it seems the old 'Global recession/collapse in world tourism' was at the forefront of excuses for all the stalled projects and lower occupancy numbers. Was she quizzed about the poor Omanisation numbers or the preponderance of unsuccessful large scale ITDs? It seems her main response was promises and good intentions going forward.

The drop in the Euro against the dollar won't help either, I must admit. Oman is not a low cost destination, as anyone who's gone out to dinner at the Chedi or Bar Al Jissa Shangri La can verify. IMHO, Oman does need to broaden its tourism base to more value facilities if it wants to compete.

Anees and Blue City in the news again
Global business news organisation Bloomberg did a story on Blue City and the mess with the bonds and the court cases. "Oman’s Blue City Teeters as Bondholders Debate Future"

Some highlights from the article below. Not surprisingly, Omran is sniffing around too. LMAO. Like that's just what the project needs - the involvement of another failed property developer!

The Government clearly doesn't know what to do. Economy Minister Macki says - tellingly - that he has "nothing to do with it". At the moment it seems HH Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al Said is swinging in the breeze.

I like the part where Blue City security guards actually follow the reporters back to their hotel after they tried to visit the site.

Anees Zedjali - the owner of the other 50% of Cyclone LLC - is obviously unable to even proactively handle the PR mess he's in. I'd have assumed the brilliant Marketing dept. could give him a positive spin to release. 'No Comment' and bullying security guards is not the best response to international financial news agencies when you're in a $900 million hole...

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- Oman’s Blue City, a $20 billion real estate project central to the country’s economic transformation, is on the brink of liquidation and its fate may hinge on talks between bondholders trying to salvage their investment.
Owners of $661.5 million worth of Blue City bonds are discussing measures to push the project ahead, including trying to reduce the number of bondholders involved, a person familiar with the talks said. A vote on liquidating the project, proposed by holding company Al Sawadi Investment & Tourism LLC, has been put on hold, the person said.

Four years after construction contracts were signed with Turkey’s Enka Insaat ve Sanayi AS and Greece’s Ellaktor SA, idle yellow cranes hover above skeletons of buildings with dark holes for windows. Security guards turned Bloomberg reporters away from the site and one followed them to a nearby hotel.

Blue City turned down requests for interviews with its executives and declined to comment for the story.

“The business model was to keep building with the purchase payments received; now there are no buyers and those that did buy are no longer paying, so there’s no cash flow,” Dubai-based Khalid Howladar, senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, said in a May 5 interview.

As of November last year, only $75 million worth of sales had been made, compared with a forecast of $860 million, according to Howladar. Mohamed Ayjaz, general manager of Hamptons International in Oman, which was responsible for selling the project from 2007 to mid-2009, said about 400 of the 5,000 properties on offer had been sold.

Legal Battle
What happens next depends on what the bondholders decide as well as the outcome of a three-year legal battle between owners AAJ Holdings Company B.S.C. of Bahrain and Oman’s Cyclone LLC. Cyclone is 50 percent-owned by Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al Said, minister of culture and heritage in Oman and a member of the royal family, according to the bond prospectus. Al Said laid the ceremonial first stone for the project in December 2007.

The dispute between Cyclone and AAJ over ownership of the project is headed for the country’s highest court. If AAJ loses, it will appeal to the London Court of International Arbitration and the ICC International Court of Arbitration in New York, Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Janahi said. Cyclone Chairman Anees al-Zadjali declined to comment when contacted on his cell phone.


About 75 percent of the holders of Class A notes in Blue City are in discussions over amending the terms of the bonds, according to the person familiar with the talks. A liquidation of the project may limit the amount that debt holders could recover. The government can buy the land back at market value if Al Sawadi fails to complete the tourism elements of the project in six years, according to the bond prospectus.

Government Silent
Officials from Oman’s government, which endorsed the 34 square-kilometer (13.1 square-mile) project and agreed to sell it land for $83.2 million, were reluctant to speak about the current state of Blue City. Essdar Capital, an investment vehicle owned by members of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, last July offered to buy Class A bonds for 57 cents and 54 cents on the dollar, according to a company filing.

Economy Minister Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki said on April 25 that he had “no idea” about Blue City, and has “nothing to do with it.” Asked whether the government would step in to help struggling real-estate projects, he said, “we have no plans for that purpose.”

Oman’s tourism minister, Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali, said on May 3 that she didn’t want to talk about Blue City because “the situation is still unclear.”

Wael Lawati, CEO of Omran, the investment arm of the ministry of tourism, said one option is to re-evaluate the market that it’s targeting.

“Now it’s time to see what the Omani investor is looking for, what he’s willing to buy and at what condition and what design he prefers.”

Lawati said Omran hasn’t been told whether it will have any future role in Blue City.
“Maybe this discussion is taking place at a higher level, but we haven’t received anything in Omran’s board about preparing to enter or that our role would include that.”


  1. Thanks once again, Dragon, Mrs. Dragon and ISS! Am over the moon and still jumping!(as you probably would have realised from my mail) :-D

  2. One questioner implied that there were too many Ministry of Tourism projects based on wasta...

    Its a start.

  3. And a big hand of applause goes to Mr. Anees for his very diplomatic way of making himself look like a complete jackass in front of the international media!!! Ironically, he is a chief editor to one of the news papers in Oman and should be competent when it comes to handling the media!!

    And I must say who are even worse than Anees are the ministers. In the prospectus it clearly shows that the Concession Agreement is signed by Rajha and ratified by Maki "Sorry but they don't deserve to be called HE" and now they don't know anything about it!!!! I am sure they don't know who are Bloomberg news and how serious this article is for the reputation of Oman in front of the foreign investors...

    I am stunned by the level of intelligence from the Omani side in the whole story... looking at the whole case and what is happening on the ground and now reading the comments of the 2 ministers I suspect they are plotting against there own Country "Unintentionally off course"!?!?!?

    UD, Next time I fear that someone will be shoot down instead of being followed to the hotel...

  4. It was interesting to read the reporting of Dr Rajha bint Abdulamir bin Ali Al Lawati’s talk about tourism on the front page of the Oman Observer on Tuesday.
    She said that some of the projects continued to be implemented and these include The Wave in Muscat Governorate, Salalah Beach project in Dhofar Governorate, Jabal Seifah in Muscat, Dunes project in Muscat and Al Madina A’zarqa (first phase).
    Fortunately that is a turnaround from May 3rd when Arabian Business had Dr Rajiha quoted as saying that she didn’t want to talk about Blue City because “the situation is still unclear.”

    In the Observer she was reported to have said that compared to 2008 figures 2009 figures showed a decline in hotel and restaurant income from Rial Omani 188.3 to Rial Omani 187.5 million
    And that hotel revenues dropped from 2008 Rial Omani 164 million to 2009 Rial Omani 144 million.
    My poor maths say that means Restaurant revenues (apart from those in hotels) would therefore have increased from Rial Omani 24.3 in 2008 to Rial Omani 43.5 in 2009 – well done .

    Dr Rajah stated that there was a 1.8% decline in tourist arrivals from 1,633,000 in 2008 to 1,604,000 in 2009 but hotel occupancy rates dropped from 58% (2008) to 50% (2009) .
    The Observer quoted her as saying that ‘some discrepancy exists in the (tourism) data so far’.

    One can also be heartened by the report also in the Oman Observer on the same day that said the “Sultanates Tourism continues to flourish in the face of international economic meltdown”. They continued “ in 2008 alone the visitor (tourist) turnout (arrivals) exceeded three million” and they further continued “the Sultanates tourism sector is booming right now’.
    Perhaps the reason Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki was quoted by Arabian Business/Bloomberg on April 25 saying that he had “no idea” about Blue City was that the name the reporter used should have been Al Madina A’zarqa – it would be inconceivable that a finance minister was unaware of a $900million project
    OMRAN whose only currently directly managed operating projects are the 12 bedroom Ras al Jinz Hotel (unfortunatly not a sign of any permanent management let alone Omani Manager trained by Omaran in its 5 years of life) and 10 Bedroom Uwaifiyah Hotel (no sign of any Omani working in it ) , hadn’t been told if they would have any future role in (the $900milion) Blue City project according to Wael Lawati, CEO of Omran, the investment arm of Dr Rajha bint Abdulamir bin Ali Al Lawati’s Ministry of Tourism.

  5. UD,

    Hats off to you mate for your continued pursuit in search of answers from the Omani partners on the Blue City issue. Clearly your blog is read by key people from all walks of life. Bloomberg failed to get comments from Anees and the ministers. Strange they didn't attempt talking to Haitham, may be he would have spoken (after all he is the Minister of Culture in Oman!) and Omani culture demands truth to be spoken.

    Aren't you surprised (like all of us) that none of the Omani partners are talking (they could comment in this blog as anonymous), at least we will know both sides of the story. We only get to read Bahraini side because they seem to have their facts ready.

    Comon Oman, wake up and speak up.

  6. what would happen to those people who bought lands in the wave area keeping in view the project ? who would compansate them

  7. Slightly off the Blue City topic, but on the Tourism subject:

    I have not seen any references in the local "press" but spanish press has the following story: (I have Google translated it)

    Paradores will select the first buildings of Oman in which it will replicate the model chain

    Oman has become the first country to sign an agreement with Paradores in order to reach its territory replicate the business model of the chain. On a previous selection of 17 buildings by the local government, members of the Spanish hotel will identify the top five to have the best conditions for conversion to hotel.
    "This is likely to recover its historical buildings and at the same time become a profitable business model that requires no contribution by the general state budget, as is the case of Paradores, which does not receive a single euro budgets. We self-financed with the management of facilities and the benefits generated by the company, "says Carlos Abella, chief marketing officer of the chain.
    Abella added that this initiative represents a business opportunity, to include the sale of know how. Asked about the economic contribution it has made the company adds that "so far has not contributed anything because it is at an early stage."
    The idea is to continue in line with other countries also expressed interest Sehan, as is the case, as published Hosteltur, Saudi Arabia. In fact, the president of Parador, Miguel Martinez, is currently in the country. Abella also highlighted in the list are Morocco and some Eastern European state.
    "These are complex processes because you can not replicate the model as it Paradores. You have to see what is there and that first step they have to give them. The governments of these countries have to consider what assets are and what they do with it. They are very slow processes that are time consuming. Conversations with some two years ago we began, "says the general director of Marketing.


    Paradores are Spanish "inns", normally located in buildings of historical significance or beauty.

    I'm pretty sure Omran are involved (oh-oh).

    My comments - there aren't too many historic buildings here! I believe Bahla Fort is on the shortlist. I wonder if the concept of "self financing" will be adopted here. Lol.

    With regards to Maki's "no comment - I know nothing" in my experience of projects here this is entirely consistent with the way projects "belong" to individuals here. For eg Duqm is entirely Maki's baby and nearly all other Ministries say "no comment" with regards to it.


  8. The Spanish suggestion works well in many other countries , Britain (country houses etc) in Yemen there are a few notably the mud brick Bugshan and Hawta ones. Here the glacial pace of approvals and building will probably mean that the mud bricks (as most will be) will return to dust before the first guest checks in .
    The Ministry of National Economy /Finance however feel that they should be setting the pace in the hotel business and yes Duqm is their first run.
    Unfortunately nobody seems to have included in the mega project the need for high powered management visiting it (people like the CEO of Dawoooooooo or even the Minister in charge of National Economy / Finance himself) and no hotel was built to open with the start of the initial project.
    The Ministry of National Economy / Finance new hospitality unit is an exciting range of portacabins (about 12 rooms I would say) managed, like the Ministry of Tourisms own 12 room Omran projects, by a flotilla of non-Omanis (nautical term to fit in with the Dry Dock theme) unfortunately the Ministry of National Economy / Finance also overlooked pay day I couldn’t find a bank in Duqm to pay the bill.
    Let’s see which Government Ministry manages to appoint an Omani manager to their own hotel


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