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Industry leaders gaze into their crystal balls and predict the region's fortunes for the year ahead.

TIM CLARK

President, Emirates

2013 WAS A YEAR IN WHICH WE laid the groundwork to achieve even bigger things.

The opening in January 2013 of Concourse A was a much-needed pressure valve for the growing numbers of travellers moving from west to east and vice versa across our Dubai hub. With 20 gates for double-deckers and the largest airline lounges in the world, the facility is a first for the industry, and shared of course, by our Kangaroo route partner, Qantas.

At the Dubai Air Show, held for the first time at the emerging aviation cityof Dubai World Central, we ordered 200 aircraft - 150 Boeing 777Xs and 50 A380s worth $99 billion. This is the largest order in civil aviation history, rewriting all previous records. Emirates' current order book of 381 aircraft- 214 Boeing 777s, 97 Airbus A380s, and 70 A350s - creates hundreds of thousands of jobs through the global aviation supply chain. Some of these new aircraft will replace the older ones in our fleet, and the others are for our future growth.

In between those two developments, 2013 saw the delivery of 24 aircraft and the launch of nine new routes, as far afield as New York to Milan, and Dubai to Tokyo Haneda. These routes reinforce our global network and expand the number of ways we can connect people and businesses to global markets and new possibilities.

By 2020, we expect to carry 70 million passengers. This date hasnow taken on a new significance with Dubai, UAE, landing Expo 2020, a remarkable achievement for a country only 42 years old.

August was an important milestonefor Emirates as we marked the fifth anniversary of A380 operations. We were bold ordering this double-decker when we did, and in the numbers that we did, but my goodness, it has proved to be a gamble worth taking.

Despite our longstanding nemesisof fuel costs, and the weakening of major currencies against the US Dollar, Emirates posted a modest two per cent profit growth to Dhs1.7 billion at the end of the half year to September 30.

2014 will be no less challenging. The resurgence of protectionist rhetoric in aviation policy-making could potentially undo all the benefits that competition brings to consumers and the global aviation industry.

We now fly to 138 destinations, the most recent being Kabul - while Kiev, Taipei and Boston are first off the blocks as new destinations in 2014. Watch this space for more new points. Throughout 2014, we will take delivery of 27 new aircraft. Half of these are Boeing 777s, joining what is already the world's biggest 777 fleet.

I take this opportunity to again salute Dubai government's progressive support for aviation - an industry that contributes a whopping 28 per cent of Dubai's GDP and supports, in one way or another, 250,000 jobs.

These are fascinating times for Dubai and for Emirates. Dubai has dusted off the ashes of the global recession and is now abuzz with a powerful commercial resurgence.

I believe the next 365 days will once again fly by at the world's most global airline.

"We were bold ordering the A380 when we did, and in the numbers that we did, but my goodness, it has proved to be a gamble worth taking."

FAST FACTS

[pounds sterling]Emirates placed a record $23 billion order for 50 of the Jumbo A380 jets at the Dubai Airshow.

[pounds sterling]The airline made a small profit with a two per cent year-on-year net rise in the first half of 2013 with figures of Dhs1.7 billion, while revenue was up 12 per cent from 2012 at Dhs39.8 billion.

[pounds sterling]In the four months between April and July this year, some 850,000 Australians travelled to and via Dubai on Emirates and Qantas services after the airlines signed a codeshare agreement in 2012.

GERALD LAWLESS

President and group CEO, JumeirahGroup

2013 WAS A GREAT YEAR ALL

round for the Jumeirah Group and very much a consolidation of the recovery that started in 2012, particularly with our business in Dubai.

Confidence returned to the Middle East in 2013 and Dubai in particular was well placed to take advantage of that renewed optimism. But we were also very pleased with performance across our 22 hotels globally - especially in Shanghai, London and Frankfurt.

We witnessed a strong recovery in our F&B business, predominantly in Dubai, where our restaurants benefitted from increased capital expenditure. While our hotel in Abu Dhabi has taken the market by storm, both in terms of accommodation and the F&B product.

Globally there is great movement at the moment in terms of international travel and tourism and as the economy begins to recover, this will only grow. At the end of 2012, in Davos, we celebrated with Hilton and Marriott after we reached the milestone of more than one billion annual travellers.

Jumeirah has been lobbyinggovernments to appreciate the valueof travel and tourism to the global economy for some time now. Figures show that about eight per cent of the global labour force is involved directly or indirectly in travel or tourism or about 260 million jobs worldwide. The sector also contributes to around 10 per cent of global GDP.It's important that leaders understand that by encouraging travel and tourism, it will be good for their economies and asa follow-up, we are also pushing them to look at providing better facilities to issue tourist visas.

Looking forward in 2014, we expect to announce a number of new management agreements. Discussions are ongoingin Saudi Arabia, and while nothing is formalised at this stage, we are hopeful that we will announce some signings later this year. We also recently signeda contract in Mumbai, and are expecting to look at other contracts in the Indian city in 2014.

Jumeirah has several new properties coming up; we recently signed a contract for two beautiful resort hotels in Muscat, we are developing in Aqaba in Jordan, and in Dubai we are building our new extension to the Madinat Jumeirah complex.

We also see lots of opportunities for the further development of the Jumeirah brand in Dubai, particularly now that the emirate has won the right to host Expo 2020. Dubai winning the bid is the best thing that could have happened for the local tourism industry and it will havean immeasurable impact on the sector.

Overall, Jumeirah Group will continue to focus on development in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and more on an opportunistic basis if something comes out of Europe.

We are also very keen to develop Jumeirah Living, which is our serviced apartments concept and are putting a lot of extra investment into our F&B facilities in Dubai due to the city's size and because we have lots of prime locations for our restaurants.

FAST FACTS

[pounds sterling] The Jumeirah group signed an agreement with Saraya Bandar Jissah SAOH, to operate a luxury resort in Muscat, marking the entry of the Dubai-based hotelier into Oman.

[pounds sterling] The luxury hotel chain announced in 2013 that it had raised a $1.4 billion unsecured syndicated loan for further expansion.

[pounds sterling] Jumeirah Group signed a management agreement with IFG Basis Proect LLC in 2013 to manage a luxury hotel on Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg, which is set to open by 2016.

"Discussions are ongoing in Saudi Arabia, and while nothing is formalised at this stage, we are hopeful that we will announce some signings later this year."

V.SHANKAR

Executive director and CEO, Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Americas, Standard Chartered

"What commentators often fail to note is that with a GDP of $9 trillion, even at 7.5 per cent growth, China will be "creating" a new India every three years! China remains an economic miracle."

2013 CONCLUDED WITH SOME

optimism for the global economy. We expect broader economic recovery in 2014, with global growth forecast to increase to 3.5 per cent from 2.7 per cent in 2013. Green shoots are emerging in Europe, and the American recovery seems to be on a firmer footing despite political gridlock in Washington and the economic impact of the federal government shut down in October.

Emerging markets continue to bethe engine of global growth. They now account for over half of global GDP on a purchasing power parity basis. Africa is widely emerging on everyone's radar as the next frontier. Witness the Obama administration's recent US efforts in Africa through the Power Africa and Young African Leaders initiatives. Asia is still growing, albeit slowing. The successful bid from Dubai to host Expo 2020 will provide a boost to the local UAE economy, its impact extending across the housing, infrastructure and hospitality sectors.

So what are some key themes, issues and questions as we enter the New Year? One, when is the US Federal Reserve

tapering going to happen? Will the incoming Fed Chairman be a dove or a hawk on monetary stimulus, and what are the likely consequences of that for debt, equity and currency markets in 2014?

Two, what will be the impact of the slowdown and rebalancing in China's growth on global trade patterns and commodity prices? Much has been written about China's slowdown, butit is the law of big numbers at work - growth will slow as you get bigger. What commentators often fail to note is that with a GDP of $9 trillion, even at 7.5 per cent growth, China will be "creating"a new India every three years! China remains an economic miracle.

Three, what will be the economic consequences of the 2014 electionsin India, Indonesia and Brazil? All three countries have economically underperformed in recent years due topolitical paralysis. Will the elections deliver the economic light at the end of the political tunnel?

Four, will Africa continue to deliver on its promise? How will Nigeria manage political tensions, while keeping a steady hand on its economy, in the run up to the 2015 Presidential elections?

Five, will we have a satisfactory resolution to the Iran imbroglio? If this happens what will be the implications for the geo-political landscape and power equations in the Middle East?

Six, what will Middle Eastern governments do to tackle job creation and youth unemployment? This isa particular challenge for the region because, with few exceptions, peopleare largely dependent on the government sector for employment.

Seven, as the renminbi continues its inexorable rise as a major currency, what are companies doing to ride this wave and rethink their approach to indexation of contracts? Already renminbi has replaced the Euro as the second most used currency in trade finance.

Eight, how will shale gas and nano- technology shape the re-emergence of the United States as a manufacturing powerhouse, and what will be the political ramifications of that for the Middle East? Will cheap energy lead to a pronounced pivot away from Middle East in US foreign policy?

FAST FACTS

.Standard Chartered makes more than 90 per cent of its profit in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

.The bank has reported 10 consecutive years of record income and profits but warned this may end in its 2013 results.

.In November 2013 Standard Chartered launched an online approval in principle service in the UAE for credit card and loan applications, claiming to be the first bank in the Middle East to do so.

SCOTT GEGENHEIMER

CEO, Zain Group

THE YEAR 2013 HAS BEEN ONE

of transformation and resilience for Zain Group. It represented my first full year as CEO of this dynamic company, and within this time we continued to face the challenges of operating in a hyper-competitive environment head- on and restructured the company's strategic initiatives.

It is clear that the days of runaway customer additions and revenue increases are behind us given the high penetration rates in most markets and the fierce competition between rival telecom players. With MVNOs coming into play, as well as the-ever growing revenue leakage from Over-The-Top players and unavoidable currency issues in some instances, it would be fair to say that current market conditions are challenging for telecom operators across the globe, Zain included.

One of Zain's key focuses acrossits eight markets in the Middle Eastand Africa has always been to utilise telecommunications technology to provide our customers with the best user experience available. Among many other requirements, this necessitates constant upgrading of our networks and thiswas no different in 2013 as we invested heavily in deploying commercial 4G LTE services in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, as well as 2G and 3G upgrades in our other markets.

Our significant investment, in the vicinity of $1 billion, in network upgrades during 2013 ties in directly with the tremendous uptake in mobile digital services that we are witnessing across the mobile telecom sector, of which Zain is also a beneficiary. Growth in data revenues for the company was impressive during 2013, averaging almost 22 per cent year-on-year, and contributing 13 per cent to Zain's overall revenues for the year.

This year we witnessed the announcement of the $130 billion acquisition by Verizon of Vodafone Group's 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless highlighting the tremendous value that has been made and remains in the mobile telecom industry today. There has been less consolidation in the Middle East and Africa region but

I believe it is inevitable that themerger and acquisition activities we see in other parts of the world, and in other areas of the sector such as device manufacturing, will begin to occur in our region as well in due course.

One of the main aims of Zain's strategy is to look to new servicesand delivery mechanisms to drive incremental income as witnessed bythe company's participation in the pan- regional Middle East-Europe Terrestrial System (MEETS) consortium in 2013, which was formed to build a high- bandwidth transmission cable system. This will enhance our operation's ability to roll out higher quality voice and data services. Also in the innovation area, we will be soon rolling out mobile money solutions across several markets as well as offering direct carrier billing.

Going forward, I see Zain moving into adjacent businesses, either through partnerships or acquisitions, and focusing more on ICT and enterprise solutions, moving from a sole mobile operator into an integrated service provider. This comes in addition to actively examining new business opportunities including M2M, cloud services and mobile money.

FAST FACTS

[pounds sterling] Scott Gegenheimer took the role of CEO at Zain Group in December 2012, he was previously CEO of Wataniya Kuwait.

[pounds sterling] Zain announced its participation in

the Middle East-Europe Terrestrial System (MEETS) cable consortium in September. The network runs 1,400km from Kuwait to Fujairah, via Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar and will later connect to Europe.

[pounds sterling] The group posted a net profit of $186 million and revenues of $1.1 billion for the third quarter of 2013.

"I see Zain moving into adjacent businesses, either through partnerships or acquisitions, and focusing more on ICT and enterprise solutions, moving from a sole mobile operator into an integrated service provider."

HUSSEIN HACHEM

CEO, Aramex

"We believe it is Africa's growing trade corridors with the Middle East that could prove most influential for the logistics industry this year."

FROM A MACRO-ECONOMIC

viewpoint, 2013 ended more positively than it began. Although persistently weak economic growth will continueto be a drag on global trade flows and therefore on growth across the industries that support these trade corridors, there is certainly room for more economic optimism than there was at this time twelve months ago.

We believe the global economic environment will continue to slowly ameliorate through 2014 and we are broadly predicting a commensurate increase in trade corridor growth - particularly across the Middle East and Africa - which will help support the further development of the vitally important logistics sector.

And we believe it is Africa- and Africa's growing trade corridors with the Middle East- that could prove most influential for the logistics industry this year.

I spend a significant amount of time in Africa and its positive economic trajectory is hard to refute. Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world, with favourable demographics (half the population is under the ageof 20) and annual GDP growth that is expected to average seven per cent over the next 20 years. As African economies have grown, Africa-Middle East trade corridors have expanded.

According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), African merchandise exports to the Middle East exceeded $21 billion in 2011, up from $19 billion in 2010; with Middle East merchandise exports to Africa exceeding $38 billion, up an impressive $10 billion over the previous year. This exciting trend is set to continue, in line with sustained African economic growth, the expansion of its export industries and increased domestic appetite for imported goods. The further strengthening ofthis trade corridor should result in a significant fillip for the logistics sector.

However, despite the clear opportunities for investors in Africa, there remain significant challenges that need addressing.

First, material investment is neededin Africa's infrastructure. The African Development Bank estimates thatthe total cost of bridging Africa's infrastructure deficit over the next decade will be over $93 billion a year. Thiswill be critical in ensuring goods and products can be moved efficiently and effectively to markets. Second, education systems across Africa will need to be strengthened. With 122 million new entrants into the labour force expected over the next ten years, it is imperative that African workers have the requisite skillsets to be able to compete- tobe able to access vocational trainingto meet market demands and access formal employment. Thirdly, access to finance, or rather the inability of millions of people in Africa to access finance remains a considerable drag on economic growth, often confining them within

the informal sector. And finally, intra- African trade needs to develop. Regional fragmentation and high trade barriers continue to prove costly for exporters. Coupled with poor infrastructure, producers and manufacturers struggleto access markets economically.

Should these challenges be successfully addressed, the significant economic benefits for the logistics sector will far outweigh the positives inherent within a global economic recovery.

In 2014, we believe that if Africa were to successfully tackle this reform agenda, our outlook for the industry - and indeed regional economies - for 2015 would be significantly more optimistic than it is for 2014.

FAST FACTS

Aramex's stock rose over 50 per cent in the twelve months to December 2013.

The company announced 13 per cent growth in net profit YoY in the third quarter of 2013 to Dhs59.9 million.

Aramex announced its participation in the EZStore.me e-commerce initiative in October 2013, designed to help companies go online, in partnership with Google, ShopGo and Paypal.

H.E. HAMAD BUAMIM

President and CEO, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

DUBAI FINISHED 2013 ON A HIGH.

As the year drew to an end, we were successful in winning Expo 2020 and are now looking forward to what this incredible opportunity will bring our city. Expo is forecast to add $23 billion to our economy, attracting 25 million visitors and creating over 275,000 jobs. This will be a fantastic boost acrossall economic sectors and we will see Dubai grow substantially as a result of the huge investments planned. Expo marks a new era for our city and Iam certain that we will put on an event that the world will remember.

It was a good year for Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We continued with our internationalisation strategy that seeks to promote Dubai

in key markets around the world.

This strategy saw us open our second international branch office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Africa is a major market for Dubai and we are positioning the emirate as a gateway into and outof the continent and seeking to increase two-way business and investment flows. Ethiopia is a gateway to the lucrative markets of east Africa and beyondand our office is already helping to facilitate business on the ground.

The first quarter of 2014 will see us open our third office, in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is another market that is experiencing considerable growth. Iraq as a whole, given its rebuilding efforts, has significant potential for Dubai businesses to increase trade and investment and the stability of the Kurdistan region offers a suitable base.

Throughout 2013, Africa and the Islamic economy were the two major themes for Dubai Chamber. First, we organised the Africa Global Business Forum in April, a major two-day event that attracted thousands of delegates and 40 government ministers from acrossthe continent. Then in November we organised the Global Islamic Economy Summit, the first conference of its kind to explore the full potential of this important, new industry. Not only did this consider Islamic finance, but halal food, halal tourism and lifestyle aswell as SME development in relation to Islamic industries and halal certification. In fact, both events were attended by

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and were successful in positioning the city at the forefront of developments.

The Islamic economy will continueto be an important theme for Dubai Chamber in 2014 as we won the rightto organise the 10th session of the

World Islamic Economic Forum in Dubai. This is one of the world'slargest gatherings to share knowledge, experience and expertise in Islamic finance and will see more than 2,500 global Muslim political and economic leaders in attendance in November 2014.

Looking ahead, 2014 promises tobe another solid year of growth and development. Overall, the outlook is confident; business confidence is high and expectations are positive. We have much to look forward to in the years ahead, but first comes the hard work in preparation. I am sure that Dubai is more than up to the job.

FAST FACTS

[pounds sterling] Between January and June, a total of 7,153 new members joined Dubai Chamber, up by 5.5 per cent from the corresponding period in 2012.

[pounds sterling] The total number of Dubai Chamber members rose to 145,000 by the end of June 2013.

[pounds sterling] Dubai Chamber members' exports

and re-exports amounted to Dhs145.2 billion between January and June 2013, compared to Dhs136.2 billion during the same period in 2012.

"Expo marks a new era for our city and I am certain that we will put on an event that the world will remember."

DR. JARMO KOTILAINE

Chief economist, Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB)

"Globally, we have to be mindfulof downward pressure on commodity prices, which provides added impetus to making sure that we can continue the challenge of diversifying the economy."

2013 MAY HAVE STARTED SLOWLY

for Bahrain in terms of economic growth, but following the midyear passing ofthe Kingdom's budget, government spending accelerated, the financialsector showed stability and growth, and inward investment across a range of sectors continued.

This maintained the momentum we saw in 2012, thanks in part to a clear rebound in the oil sector, which lastyear saw some unscheduled production disruptions, and we expect headline GDP growth for 2013 to come in fairly close to the five per cent mark.

To support growth through 2014,the EDB is committed to sustainingand strengthening the core business fundamentals of Bahrain as a part of our ongoing programme of economic reform, supporting the business community, and helping foreign investors to access the opportunities for doing business here. These actions build on our position asa natural business hub for the broader GCC region, a place where businesses can benefit from excellent connectivity, an established track record of regulation, and a skilled workforce.

Bahrain has gained repeated international recognition as the freest regional economy and the favourable regulatory environment available inthe Kingdom is not limited to specialfree zones or jurisdictions. Foreign investors have the option of 100 percent ownership and Bahrain offers an exceptional value proposition thanksto its highly skilled, bilingual local workforce. The vast majority of Bahrainis are employed in the private sector with 67 per cent of financial services jobs occupied by nationals.

It is also encouraging to see the response to managing the Kingdom's sovereign debt position. The significant oversubscription for July's issuance of$1.5 billion ten year bond, as bond yields and credit default swap (CDS) spreads have reverted to pre-2011 levels, highlights investor confidence in the steps being taken by the government.

Fiscal stewardship has also remained conservative with only modest deficits recorded in 2011 and 2012.

Globally, we have to be mindful of downward pressure on commodity prices, which provides added impetus to making sure that we can continue the challenge of diversifying the economy to support the creation of long-term, quality jobs for Bahrainis.

In our immediate future, the Bahrain International Airshow will provide a clear boost to the economy in January 2014 as more than 20,000 trade visitors all feed money into the Kingdom. The event also acts as a platform to showcase Bahrain's unparalleled regional connectivity asa major logistics hub with the closest links between road, sea, and aviation in the region. Its position in the logistics sector is being further strengthened with a major new port in operation, the expanded airport on the horizon and new rail links to supplement existing road links to Saudi Arabia.

The EDB is maintaining its integral role in developing the economy, attracting inward investment, in order to create jobs and overcome any challenges that could impede growth.

Given all this, Bahrain will enter the year confident that it remains a sound destination for global and regional business.

FAST FACTS

Sixteen new investment projects were approved at the Bahrain International Investment Park in the first half of 2013, bringing the total up to 86 companies building facilities at the site.

BEDB estimated in May that Bahrain's GDP had expanded 3.9 per cent in 2012 from 1.9 per cent in 2011. It forecast 4.2 per cent growth for 2013.

In October 2013, BEDB launched a new advertising and promotional campaign "See You in Bahrain" with the objective of emphasising Bahrain's position as a business, investment and family tourism destination.

JAMES HOGAN

President and CEO, Etihad Airways

ETIHAD AIRWAYS HAS JUST

celebrated its 10th anniversary. In justa decade, we have created from nothing a dynamic national carrier for a dynamic young nation, a world-class airline with a global presence and a company that continues to grow strongly in an industry known more for its challenges than its successes.

We are proud of our past and our achievements. But we are even more excited about our future and our opportunities, as new markets emerge, old markets reshape and the airline industry reinvents itself to meet changing economic and social requirements.

As the UAE continues to emerge as the next global business hub, Etihad Airways is building a global network to connect the world via Abu Dhabi.

Being one of the youngest airlinesin the world, it is simply not possible for us to achieve the same scale as our major competitors, most of which have been well-established for decades, even generations. So we have developed a fresh business model for the airline industry, based on collaborative growth through a mix of organic expansion, codeshare partnerships and minority equity investments in other companies.

By the end of 2013, we had launched or announced equity investments in seven other airlines, three of which will truly take off in 2014.

On January 1, we will acquire a 49 per cent stake in Air Serbia, the national carrier of the Republic of Serbia, of which we already have a five year management contract. We are acquiring 33.3 per cent of the Swiss regional carrier, Darwin Airline, which in January will also become the first member of our new "branded partnership" model, Etihad Regional.

We are preparing for major expansion of our India operations following the recent approval of our historic 24 per cent investment in India's Jet Airways, the

first investment by a foreign carrier in the Indian airline sector. And we continue to explore partnership opportunities where they make economic and strategic sense.

Parallel with our partnership strategy, we are building our own operations, and in 2014 will inaugurate eight new routes from Abu Dhabi - the US cities of Los Angeles and Dallas Fort Worth, the European gateways of Zurich and Rome, Perth in Western Australia, Jaipur in India, Medina in Saudi Arabia and Yerevan in Armenia - taking to over

100 the number of passenger and freight destinations which we serve.

To support our growth, we continue to invest heavily in a new, state-of-the-art fleet, and in 2014 we will take delivery of 20 new aircraft, including our first Airbus A380 super jumbos and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. We will also take delivery of five Boeing 777-200LR aircraft from India, to bridge our growth requirements until the arrival of our next wave of new long-haul aircraft beyond 2020.

Etihad Airways is an airline on the move, and an airline that is growingto meet changing traffic flows between established markets and emerging regions including India, Africa, China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Abu Dhabi, our home, is, in every way, the centre of the world, and in 2014 Etihad Airways will continue to ascend to both leverage and meet the expectations of the market.

FAST FACTS

[pounds sterling] Indian authorities approved Etihad's $379 million deal to acquire a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways in November 2013.

[pounds sterling] Etihad announced a deal worth $25.2 billion on the first day of the Dubai Airshow for 56 new Boeing wide body aircraft, with options and purchase rights for a further 26.

"Being one of the youngest airlines in the world, it is simply not possible for us to achieve the same scale as our major competitors, most of which have been well-established for decades, even generations."

ABDULAZIZ AL-SOWAILIM

ChairmanandCEO,Ernst& Young MENA

"By 2050, 600 million people will call MENA their home - nearly double today's population. Over 15 million young people will enter the workforce in Qatar, UAE, KSA and Egypt in the next decade."

2013 WAS AN IMPORTANT YEAR

for EY. We completed 90 years in MENA, reaffirming our position as the oldest and largest professional services organisation in the region. Mark Weinberger became our Global Chairman and our new purpose, building a better working world, brought over 175,000 EY people across the globe under a common goal.

Around us, the world continuesto change. The downturn in mature markets, and the increasing number of companies fighting for market share in rapid-growth markets (RGMs) has made 'improving efficiency' key to surviving intensifying competition.

Growth in many RGMs, from China and Nigeria to Kazakhstan and much of the region, still far outpaces growth in the US, Japan and, especially, Europe. We expect the Saudi economy to grow by over four per cent this year and next. Qatar will grow 5.8 per cent this year. The UAE will see a GDP growth of around four per cent in both 2013 and 2014.

The Middle East's large market potential, coupled with investment and infrastructure programs and abundant natural resources, make it a natural choice for investment. But challenges remain and the region must improve its technological readiness and regulatory environment to better compete with the larger rapid-growth markets for investment.

By 2050, 600 million people willcall MENA their home - nearly double today's population. Over 15 million young people will enter the workforce in Qatar, UAE, KSA and Egypt in the next decade. While a growing labour force adds to potential growth in the region, creating jobs for this next generation in MENA will be one of the most important economic developments and challenges.

Steps to addressing these challenges are promoting entrepreneurship and creating the right environment for new businesses, developing the non- oil economy, education and training and targeted public spending on infrastructure.

Global changes are bringing in new opportunities to MENA with exports from Africa and the Middle East poised to grow by more than 12 per cent over the next decade.

MENA trade flows will grow fastest along with Russia, India and China between now and 2020. Beating the global average of 9.4 per cent per annum, MENA trade with Russia will grow at 14.4 per cent, with India at 13.5 per cent and China at 12.5 per cent through to 2020. On the other hand, annual MENA trade growth with the US, EU and Japan will lag behind the global average.

The shift is clear. Upcoming global events like the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the Expo 2020 in the UAE are proof the world is turning its attention to the region. And importantly, that the region has the potential to deliver.

As the population increases, housing, education and health facilities needto take priority - we are focussingon advising policy makers on the development of social infrastructure. These are interesting times for usand present an opportunity for the professional services industry to be a key collaborator of change in the region.

We are confident that 2014 will be a very promising year for our region and for EY.

FAST FACTS

The firm completed 90 years of its existence in the Middle East and North Africa region in September 2013.

Ernst & Young was found to have produced eight per cent of the Middle East's research content, in a report released by Source Information Services in November.

Ernst and Young (EY) appointed Gerard Gallagher as its new managing partner for EY's advisory business across the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) in October 2013 and added 12 new partners to the business over the previous six months.

ANAN FAKHREDDIN

CEO,Damas

TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DUBAI'S

massive potential, Damas restructured its business in 2013, ensuring its growth strategy was closely aligned to thatof the city. We announced our new company vision focusing on luxury and we reviewed our product lines to suit customer tastes. Our focus for 2014will be to evolve from being a famous jewellery brand in Dubai towards becoming a famous international jewellery brand from Dubai. We have developed an expansion plan to meet this demand, whilst broadening our global consumer base.

Benefitting from some of the continuing trends in the UAE's luxury goods market, we changed our retail segmentation to a simpler two store format, allowing more opportunity to focus on cultivating deeper relationships with our high end customers. This will enhance the Damas shopping experience and cater to ever changing consumer interests. The Damas retail outlets will offer some of the most prestigious international brands globally, whilthe 'Damas Collections' retail outlets will showcase a variety of innovative in-house styles. Both store formats will offer gold jewellery, diamonds and pearls in an array of high-end designs, in line with the company's new vision.

We are also investing in our people by ensuring our employees receive training from the Gemological Institute of America. This will help prepare them

to handle precious gemstones, diamonds and other luxury jewellery. The company will also introduce a sophisticated customer relationship management system to strengthen our currentrapport with clients. To this end weare continuing to advance our position as an industry leader, strengthening customer service and opening new stores to reflect global consumer demand.

Despite the continuing global economic turbulence and political instabilityin many markets, the internationalluxury goods industry remained largely positive in 2013. On the back of these global trends, the Middle East became the tenth largest luxury goods marketin the world in 2013. Due to Dubai's status as the region's preeminent hub for trade, commerce and tourism, major luxury brands have also begun setting up operations in the city to benefit from these trends.

In 2014, the Middle East's luxury goods consumption is set for sustained growth. Dubai commands around 30 per cent of the luxury goods industry forthe region. The city's large and growing Arab and Asian population, with their traditional affinity for high-end goldand diamond jewellery, has driven an increasing appetite for leading luxury brands. Dubai has also become the destination of choice for international events and its recent successful bid win to host the Expo 2020 will significantly help drive consumption of these high- end luxury products.

When Damas opened in 1907, it was a small goldsmith. Now Damas is a determined multinational, competing against some of the most prestigious luxury companies globally. We have an ambitious vision to fulfil for 2014 and evolving into a truly global player will result in significant opportunities. With more than 160 nationalities living in Dubai and 12 million visitors arriving annually, we will remain committedto tailoring our products and services to a very cosmopolitan and constantly changing demographic.

FAST FACTS

[pounds sterling] In November 2013 Damas revealed plans to expand to the largest jewellery markets and fashion capitals of the world in Asia, the US and parts of Europe.

[pounds sterling] Damas expects to open 34 new stores in the first quarter of 2014, 28 in the UAE and six in Saudi Arabia.

[pounds sterling] The company was acquired in 2012

by Qatar's Mannai Corp and Egyptian investment bank EFG for $445 million.

"Our focus for 2014 will be to evolve from being a famous jewellery brand in Dubai towards becoming a famous international jewellery brand from Dubai."

ADEL ALI

Group CEO, Air Arabia

"The aviation sector in theArab world has changed beyond all recognition since we made our first flight in 2003. Forty million passengers have flown with us since then."

WITH GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNS

in the US, economic strife in Europe, slowdowns in the BRICs, Rupee devaluation and ongoing political unrest in parts of the Middle East, 2013 will

be remembered as another challenging year for airlines across the globe. Despite tough market conditions, however,this part of the world seems to always combine all the odds evenly!

As far as Air Arabia is concerned,we have again enjoyed a year of steady growth, solid financial performance and strong passenger volumes, led by our ongoing route and fleet expansion plans.

Air Arabia also reached a major milestone in 2013, as we celebrated completing a decade of operations, changing the dynamics of air travel in the region. The aviation sector in the Arab world has changed beyond all recognition since we made our first flight from Sharjah to Manama on October 28, 2003. Forty million passengers have flown with us since then, and we continue to witness robust passenger demand.

The biggest challenge facing airlines across the world stemmed mainly from soaring fuel prices. And in a region like the Middle East, every year carries even more surprises that one can anticipate. The business of aviation, by its nature, is affected by external factors, from politics to the economy to weather and natural disasters. Those airlines capableof overcoming such challenges are those that have mitigated with a robust business model, highly-focused operations team and proven commercial strategies.

From the industry as a whole, whileit is still too early to definitively call the market, I anticipate 2013 will prove to bea good year for the Middle East's airlines. While mature aviation markets continue to struggle, the Middle East aviation sector is increasingly recognised as a beacon for the wider industry. This was echoed recently by IATA, citing the Gulf as a model of industry-government cooperation, which has created an effective regulatory regime aligned to global standards.

Despite the challenges, there are still profits to be made. Accordingto IATA forecasts, in 2013 the global aviation industry will register a net profit of $11.7 billion, with Middle East airlines contributing $1.6 billion to that. 2014 is set to be even better, with $16.4 billion predicted to be generated globally, of which $2.1 billion will come from this region.

As the only publicly listed airline in the Middle East, Air Arabia is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the many exciting opportunities that the regional aviation sector offers. Helping us will be the introduction of creative new services allied to our proven ability to deliver value-for-money fares, service innovation and extensive geographic reach. We are also optimistic aboutthe potential for oil price stability,and anticipate an uptick in business and leisure travel across the region.

So, as we enter our second decade of operations, we remain full of optimism. As the aviation industry across the world continues to struggle, this region has become one of the most dynamic, underpinned by strong economic fundamentals, increasing passenger demand, and world-class airport infrastructure. Long may it continue.

FAST FACTS

Air Arabia was the Gulf's first low-cost carrier.

The carrier plans to serve three to four Chinese destinations from 2014 after securing traffic rights.

Air Arabia has also declared intentions to serve all airports in the Arab world in the next decade, and expects to launch at least five routes a year out of its Sharjah hub.

ALISON ROSE

Head of EMEA, markets and international banking - RBS

THROUGHOUT 2013, RBS

maintained its long-term strategy of supporting the UK economy and being the bank of choice for our global clients across our international network of

38 countries. We continued to helpour clients achieve their goals through our three product focus areas of debt financing, risk management, and transaction services.

2013 was also a strong year for RBSin the Middle East. We continued to demonstrate our commitment to the region, assisting a range of leading corporate and financial institution clients to raise over $35 billionin regional and international capital markets. We were also at the forefront of new developments in the capital markets having advised on landmark transactions including ADCB's $1.5 billion senior and hybrid capital bonds, DEWA's $1 billion sukuk, and the $1 billion bond for SABIC Capital.

Our transaction services division also played a key role in facilitating the local and international growth of our regional clients through our trade finance and cash management platforms.

With a growing pipeline of private companies showing interest in obtaining international credit ratings, the re-emergence of local equity markets and an ever-growing Islamic market, 2013 signaled the return of confidence in regional markets.

The global economy steadily stood back on its feet in 2013 and the Middle East, as a regional trade hub, benefited from the continuing economic recovery. Throughout the year we have witnessed a clear path towards more sustainable growth as confidence returned to financial markets.

As a larger number of institutions accessed the international loan and bond markets, more innovative transactions, such as hybrid capital and structured debt capital markets transactionshave emerged. Financial institutionsled the way in responding to the new regulatory environment with regional banks proactively addressing capital requirements via the issuance of subordinated debt.

The trends for both RBS and the financial services sector as a whole in2013 were very similar around the globe. Handling the emerging new levels of regulation and compliance standards, alongside public and political scrutiny were a key focus last year and will continue to be high on the industry's agenda for 2014 and beyond as part of the global evolution of the financial landscape.

The positive outlook for theregion is set to continue into 2014 asa result of sustained high oil prices, ambitious economic diversification plans, and a continuing trend amongst regional corporates to diversify their funding sources.

Additionally, Dubai's Expo 2020 winis another positive economic indicator that growth will continue in the UAE. The Emirates will benefit from increased business across all sectors over the coming years as a result of the successful bid, influencing tourism, trade, infrastructure and investment overall.

Moving forward, we will maintain our relentless focus on our customers. Understanding and delivering to their needs is vital in a competitive industry such as banking. Success depends upon the delivery of consistently high quality services and products. Wewill also continue to lead by example in adopting and complying with regulatory change, which remains a key dynamic of the industry.

FAST FACTS

[pounds sterling] At the end of 2013 RBS announced it had ended an Au8 billion contingent capital facility with the UK Treasury to protect its finances after strengthening its capital position.

[pounds sterling] The bank plans to boost funding to its cash management and trade finance businesses in the Middle East.

[pounds sterling] RBS sold its UAE retail business to ADCB in 2010 but still has 200 staff across eight countries in the Middle East and Africa.

"With a growing pipeline of private companies showing interest in obtaining international credit ratings, the re- emergence of local equity markets and an ever-growing Islamic market, 2013 signaled the return of confidence."

SHINICHI WAKITA

Managing director, Panasonic MEA

"2014 will be a year of resurgence for Panasonic in the region. I am excited at the prospect of the active involvement of government institutions

driving massive infrastructure developments."

THE WORLD ECONOMY CONTINUES

to emerge slowly from the most serious economic crisis of the post-WorldWar II period - one that has deeply transformed the global economy and highlighted the increasingly important role that emerging markets and developing economies play. As these advanced economies are searchingfor ways to speed up their economic engines, emerging and developing countries have been important drivers of world economic recovery.

Reports indicate that world economic growth will pick up to 3.1 per centin 2014 from an annual growth rateof 2.8 per cent in 2013. It is predicted that by 2025, emerging markets will capture just over half of the world GDP. Emerging economies, like the wealthy GCC states, are likely to see their oil and gas revenues drop next year but heavy government spending and increasingly energetic private sectors will keep economic growth robust.

Regardless of the overall economic situation, more and more consumers worldwide are using electronics. Many are also experimenting with traditional consumer electronics and other types of smart products. The bar of expectation of the electronics industry is constantly challenged with need for innovative products.

Consumers are seeking products that offer better connectivity, performance, speed, quality and convenience. The high degree of sophistication among consumers in Middle East and Africa is fuelling demand for new innovations and we at Panasonic are looking forward to building the confidence of our customers through products that are locally-fit,with the quality and service that our customers have come to expect from us.

With signature events coming to the Middle East, like World Expo 2020 and the Football World Cup in 2022, prospects are looking brighter andit augurs well for the region. I also foresee the African continent being a major driver of growth for business as

infrastructure continues to develop in leaps and bounds.

2014 will be a year of resurgence for Panasonic in the region. I am excited at the prospect of the active involvement of government institutions driving massive infrastructure developments.

It is inevitable that such developments will spur all industries. More so, the electronics industry since electronics plays a major part in our everyday lives.

By virtue of having products thatcater to every segment of the consumerbe it B2C or B2B, we are well placed to ride high on this tremendous potential. With the company approaching 100years in the electronic business in 2018, our deep understanding of customer needs and our local partner's network and expertise, we will pursue cross- value innovation to leverage the growth potential of this region.

We will focus on creating products and associated services that together meet consumer's demands for superior experiences, ultimately transforming the way they live, work and entertain themselves.

From Panasonic, I would like to say that we have more products than one can think of and more solutions and services than one can imagine. Our aim is to make, 'A Better life, A Better world'.

FAST FACTS

The company that was to become Panasonic (earlier known as Matsushita) was started in 1918 and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2018.

Panasonic's product launches in 2013 included the world's first 4K 20-inch tablet.

Panasonic ranks 83rd in the Fortune Global 500 list of companies in 2013 across the world.

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Publication:Gulf Business
Article Type:Company overview
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jan 13, 2014
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