Sunday, December 6, 2009

NBP to open S Arabia branch early next year

LAHORE: National Bank of Pakistan is among five leading global banks which have been granted permission to open a branch in Saudi Arabia which has kept a ban on entry of foreign banks for the last 25 years.

“We will be opening our branch in Saudi Arabia in early 2010,” said NBP President Syed Ali Raza in an interview with The News.

He said presence of the bank in the holy land would enable it to maximise flow of worker remittances through official channels. “This will also facilitate the bank in attracting Saudi investment into Pakistan.”

He said the bank would be able to inform Pakistani exporters about export opportunities present in Saudi Arabia. Above all, “the bank will be able to introduce Hajj and Umra packages for the pilgrims.”

Raza said the NBP had made tremendous progress over the last decade and came out of the shadow of government deposits which were over 70 per cent of the total in 2000. “Now private-sector deposits are well above 60 per cent of the total, which shows confidence of the private sector in the NBP.”

As far as government deposits were concerned, private banks were competing with the NBP and those offering better returns were given preference by government departments, he said.

He said NBP’s assets, which were Rs371 billion in 2000, had increased to over Rs900 billion. Over 80 per cent of lending by the NBP in 2000, he said, was to the government, state-owned corporations and for commodity purchases by federal and provincial governments. “Now 80 per cent of financing go to the private sector.”

Ali Raza said the NBP was the only bank in Pakistan with triple A rating and its pretax profit had increased from Rs1 billion in 2000 to Rs28 billion in 2007. Though decline in economic activities had impacted the bank’s earnings, its pre-tax profits were still in the vicinity of Rs24 billion, he added.

The bank, he asserted, weathered the economic storm over the past two years better than contemporary banks and its written-off amount was only 0.83 per cent of total assets compared to 3.61 per cent of the next largest bank and 5 per cent of the third largest bank of the country, both of which were in the private sector.

He said the bank in recent years embarked on enriching its human resource. In the exercise, 150 MBAs were added to the workforce every year in a transparent manner through the Institute of Bankers. Currently, the bank has over 1,100 MBAs which have enriched the quality of the human resource. He said at least 25 per cent of the new MBAs were from the fair gender. In 2000, there was one woman branch manager in the NBP and now there are 90 women who are heading its branches.

The NBP, he added, was investing heavily in technology and within two years the bank would be on a par with world’s best banks technology. He said with presence in 26 countries the NBP was the only multinational bank of the country.

Ali Raza claimed the NBP was currently the largest corporate bank of the country. Its exposure to the agriculture sector was the highest among commercial banks. The bank had also the distinction of being the largest retail bank in the country with retail loans of Rs75 billion compared with Rs55 billion by its nearest rival.

He said the bank was also instrumental in putting Pakistan’s name in the Guiness Book of World Records this year by sponsoring the planting of 550,000 plant saplings in a day. That eclipsed the record earlier held by India.

Saudi monetary official plays down Dubai impact on bks

Saudi Arabia's top monetary official on Friday sought to reassure investors and play down the impact of Dubai's debt crisis ahead of the first day of stock market trading in the kindgom since the news broke.

"The group's (of Saudi banks) exposure to Dubai World is very limited," Muhammad al-Jasser, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television.

"If we look at the total balance of all Saudi banks ... exposure to Dubai World is less than 2 in a thousand," he said, without clarifying the comparison.

The Saudi bourse opens on Saturday, its first trading day since government-owned Dubai World requested a payment standstill on Nov. 25 for USD 3.52 billion worth of Islamic bonds maturing this month as it looks to restructure USD 26 billion worth of debt.

"What happened in the markets outside of the Arab region is much worse than what has happened and what will happen in the Arab region," Jasser said. "If there are any concerns ... there are no risks (and no reason) to exit the market or sell any shares because of this problem."

Fallout from Dubai's announcement impacted markets worldwide and spread across the Gulf as the region's markets began to reopen after an extended break for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi extended losses on Dec 1, shedding 5.6% and 3.6% respectively. Stocks in Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain all suffered steep falls after trading resumed on Dec 1 but have since stabilised.

"There is no danger for the banking sector in the kingdom," Jasser said, adding it would be up to the banks to decide on provisions they may need in the future.

Saudi Arabia's index is the best performing market in the Gulf Arabia region this year.

Saudi Arabian continues missile attacks on Yemeni territory

Sanaa, 5 December – Houthi movement sources say they are engaged in heavy fighting with invading Saudi troops inside the al-Jawf provinc, aided by the local population. Sources from the Yemeni Houthi movement report that Saudi Arabian armed forces are continuing their offensive in northern Yemen targeting the civilian population far inside Yemen with at least 13 air strikes which released as many as 115 missiles yesterday and today. These reports, although they could not be independently verified, correspond with actions taken by the Saudi armed forces on their side, where they have practically emptied more than 200 villages deemed to near to the border, deporting the Saudi civilian population into refugee camps, which government sources say are very well equipped. By contrast, on the Yemeni side the mainly three refugee camps, to which the up to 175.000 displaced and expelled Yemeni citizens have fled, are in terrible conditions and many children are reported to have died from lack of food and medicine. The Saudi move is in line with the government's declarations that it wants to create an empty strip on both sides of the border to prevent Houthi fighters from crossing into Saudi Arabia.

Oil prices stable and perfect says Saudi

CAIRO: Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia yesterday described the current oil price as stable and "perfect" for consuming and producing nations as he led talks in Cairo with other Arab oil ministers.

With oil around $75 a barrel, ministers said there was no need for the Opec to change its output targets when it met in Angola later this month.

"Everything is very good now," Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi said at a meeting of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC).

"Inventories are coming down, the price is perfect and investors, consumers, producers are all very happy," he added. "There is nothing to worry about." Kuwaiti Oil Minister Shaikh Ahmad Abdullah Al Sabah echoed him. "There will be no increase in production whatsoever," he said, adding he believes there is a consensus among all Opec members to maintain status quo.

Opec cut 4.2 million barrels per day of its production quotas in December, bringing down the total output of the 12-member group - excluding Iraq - to 24.84m bpd.

It took the measure to support flagging oil prices, which slumped from historical highs above $147 a barrel in July last year to just above $30 after a sharp decline in demand due to the global financial crisis.

Oil prices have rebounded strongly over the past months and are currently ranging between $70 and $80 a barrel. In October, prices jumped above $80 a barrel before easing.

Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem said there are no objections among Opec members to a production rollover in Angola.

"I don't think there are objections," to maintaining output quotas, he said.

Qatar's Energy Minister Abdullah Al Attiyah also said Opec will roll over current production levels but will monitor the market next year.

"I believe the decision will be to maintain the current production levels and then wait until 2010," to assess the situation.

A conference of the 12 Opec members on December 22 in Luanda will wrestle with the task of balancing oversupply against the risk any rise in oil demand could drive up prices and derail the world economy.

Yar’Adua Returns Home Next Week, Says Saudi Doctor

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is billed to return to Nigeria next week, one of the medical doctors attending to the President at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, said yesterday. The doctor told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, a German news agency under anonymity yesterday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that Yar’Adua was no longer in the intensive care wing of the hospital and was undergoing routine medical tests.

This development corroborates the claims of the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Abdullahi Garba Aminchi, that the president was fit enough to return to Nigeria anytime next week. Aminchi told newsmen in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, that the call on the president to resign from office as a result of his ill-health was out of place. “President Umaru Yar’Adua has been attended to by his doctor.

He was given a week to recuperate after which he will be examined again. From the one week, he has just spent two days (Thursday). So, he still has five days to recuperate. “After one week rest, if he is certified fit and capable to return home and resume his work, God willing, he will be back in Nigeria by next week,” Aminchi said. He dismissed insinuations making round among Nigerian pilgrims in Makkah that the president was brought to the Mount Arafat by Saudi medical officials to pray and take part in the Hajj rites.

The ambassador frowned at the spate of criticisms going on in Nigeria and the call on the president to resign from office, describing the euphoria generated by the president’s trip for medical check-up as uncalled for. According to him, Yar’Adua could not become president of Nigeria if it has not pleased God or if God did not approve it, advising critics of the president to wait for their own time. Aminchi thanked all Nigerians who had been praying for the president, especially Nigerian pilgrims currently in Saudi Arabia and government officials. When contacted on the development, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, yesterday said he had no information to give.

Gombe State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Goje and his Edo State counterpart, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday took a swipe at politicians and other Nigerians calling for the resignation of the president from office. Speaking at Okada, Edo State, yesterday, during the 7th graduation ceremony of Igbinedion University, the governors said those making the call were seeking easy way to power. Goje said: “If democracy is to be sustained, we should not be sentimental.

We should pray to God to speedily give better health to Yar’Adua.” He said anything that would bring instability to the country was unpatriotic and admonished Nigerians to pray for the President because, “God who gives life and everything will save His people.” On his part, Oshiomhole said:“All of us have the duty to pray for our president. Yar’Adua has made contributions to ensuring the peace and stability of this country at very difficult times.

I do not belong to the same umbrella with him but we belong to the same country. “Yar’Adua is an asset to this country. He is a statesman. We are in a democracy and we have people who look at issues in terms of immediate political calculation. Unknown to many Nigerians, Yar’Adua has demonstrated certain qualities of leadership that are uncommon. I am speaking with authority because I have been privileged to interact with many leaders.

That is critical to the growth and development of this country,” he said. Yar’Adua, 58, had suffered severe chest pain a fortnight ago and medical examination revealed that the President is suffering from acute pericarditis, (an inflammatory condition of the coverings of the heart).

Saudi Arabia ‘will have 20% more rain this year’

RIYADH: The recent heavy rains and floods in some regions do not signify a major shift in weather patterns in the Kingdom, according to a scientist of climate studies in Riyadh.

“We have just witnessed an unpredictable weather phenomenon in Jeddah and it is not possible to predict what havoc such events would wreak. Thunderclouds breaking into heavy downpours as happened in Jeddah is an annual event in the Kingdom,” Nasser Sirhan, assistant professor of climate studies at the King Faisal College, said while speaking to media.

However, the scientist added that a difference in the Jeddah rain last week was the increase in the volume of rain compared to previous years and that too after a long dry spell, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported on Friday.

“But that rain, in my view, could not have caused a huge tragedy if there was adequate infrastructure to drain the water,” Sirhan said.

The devastations were further deepened by the lack of preparedness of local residents, he added.

He also said that the weather changes and outrages occurred in the Kingdom almost in a cyclic manner, once in 20 years as happened in Riyadh in 1994.

“People are not prepared for such unexpected events as they do not occur annually. The phenomena is not related to other weather phenomenon observed in other parts of the world,” he said.

The scientist said that the Kingdom would get more rains this year than in the past three years. “The rain fall will be 20 percent more than normal in the northern, western and central regions.”

He also predicted that spring rain would be less in the western region compared to previous years.

Saudi hospital needs 300 male OFWs—labor chief

MANILA, Philippines—A government-owned hospital in Saudi Arabia is now recruiting 300 Filipino male medical workers, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said Sunday.

In a statement, he said the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) had placed a job order for 300 medical workers with the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA).

He said that the SRCA needs 200 nurses and paramedics and 100 physicians.

Reminding applicants that this is a government-to-government arrangement, Roque reminded applicants that applications and inquiries should only be made through the POEA.

“The SRCA prefers Filipino nurses and physicians because they are dedicated and competitive in their craft,” said Roque noting that the hospital, as a pioneer institution, gives emergency response and first-aid support in Saudi Arabia.

Roque also reported that the POEA deployed 275,933 OFWs in Saudi Arabia in 2008.

Qualified to apply for nurses and paramedics positions are male applicants not more than 50 years old. They must have diploma in BS Nursing and/or certification for paramedic training, license from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), and high school diploma. Applicants must have worked as a member of an emergency support or ambulance team and has mastery of resuscitation techniques and medications.

For physicians, applicants must have specialization in emergency medicine, general surgery, traumatology, anesthesia, and intensive care. They must be males not more than 50 years old, must have license authorized by the PRC, and must have at least two-year experience/ training in emergency medicine and intensive care.

Among the documents required are comprehensive and latest resume with job description, photocopy of school credentials, employment certificates (old and latest), photocopy of the first page of passport, and six copies of 2X2 photos taken within 10 days before filing of the application.

Complete requirements must be submitted at the Window 1, Manpower Registry Division, ground floor, Blas F. Ople Building (formerly POEA Building), in Ortigas Avenue corner EDSA, Mandaluyong City. Applicants may also register online at the the POEA website.