|Revenues rise, debts drop|
• The government’s local revenues in the first two months of 2004 increased by 40 percent to JD 350.9 million over the same period of 2003, due to increases in tax revenues and customs duties according to a statement by the Ministry of Finance. The Kingdom’s foreign loans also increased three folds to JD 56.4 million. Public consumption, meanwhile, reached JD 290.4 million, down from the JD 295.4 million registered in the first two months of 2003. Jordan’s debts also declined in February by JD 190 million to JD 6.9 billion, about 91.5 percent of the GDP.
ASE continues to flourish
• Foreign portfolios at the Amman Stock Exchange (ASE) rose in 2003 by 82 million over the previous year. A statement issued by the ASE’s general assembly indicated that the overall trade exchange at the stock market increased last year by 95.2 percent to almost JD 2 billion. ASE’s Chairman Mohammed Saleh Hourani said rapid developments in the market’s legislative and technical infrastructures served in enhancing the quality of the capital market in Jordan. About 161 companies are now registered at the ASE, of which half trade at the Primary Market. The ASE’s market value rose in 2003 by 54.6 percent to JD 7.77 billion.
Third GSM operator soon
• Three Arab telecom companies are competing for the third GSM license in Jordan. The winner will be named by the end of this month. Jordan’s Omniya Co, Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Oger and Invescom from Lebanon are the finalists in the bid, which was opened in November. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) closed the bid on April 4. According to TRC’s stipulations, the new GSM operator will have to present new technologies and services that conform to the international standards. This would help in lowering costs of mobile services.
Rosy Aqaba investment outlook
• A recent statement by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) predicts that investments would flourish in the zone to over $6 billion during the coming 15 years, creating more than 70,000 new jobs. The statement noted that $750 million of these investments would target the infrastructure. Since its official setup in February 2002, ASEZ witnessed rapid developments regarding the administrative and financial procedures that allow investors to set up their businesses through a more competitive business environment. The zone also includes a free trade area that enhances commercial ties with different countries. ASEZA is currently working on a JD 24 million project to develop the housing and infrastructure aspects in the area.
Local cigarettes production crosses borders
• The 2003 profits of the International Tobacco and Cigarettes (ITC) totaled JD 5.75 million, resulting from sales of JD 27 million. ITC’s Chairman Tawfiq Fakhouri said the company’s share of the local market rose to over 50 percent last year, despite the negative effects of fraud and smuggling that were noticed in the local market during 2003. Fakhouri noted that ITC would expand its operations to other markets to develop new types of products. He pointed out that the company is finalizing plans to produce in Egypt later this year, jointly with the Cairo-based Sharqiyah Cigarettes Co. This would serve ITC’s selling in the world markets, since both ITC and Sharqiyah have a strategic partnership with the US-based Philip Morris Co. ITC’s General Assembly agreed last week to distribute JD 4.5 million in dividends to shareholders.
Steel company balances act
• Jordan Iron Co made JD 4.1 million in net profits last year, 5.6 percent less than 2002. Mudar Badran, the company’s chairman, justified the decline in profits to the gradual rise in the international steel prices and the halt in the company’s exports to Iraq in 2003 due to the war there. He said the company enhanced exports to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Badran noted that the company’s exports to the two countries in 2003 increased to over 12,000 tons, while local consumption of iron rose to over 18,000 tons last year.