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Also in news

Oman ranks 50th in IT report

Oman has been placed in the 50th position in the Global IT Report 2008-09 featuring 134 countries, published at the World Economic Forum.

In addition, Oman's efforts in procuring advanced technology products for its IT systems has been ranked at the 22nd position, thus increasing the overall government readiness index to the 39th rank. The position of Oman in government usage is at 45, and this is based on the government's success in ICT promotion, availability of government services online, presence and efficient use of ICT within the public sector and e-participation.

This Global IT Report is part of the global competitiveness report issued at the recently held World Economic Forum. With over 100 indicators along with a detailed profile for each of the 134 countries featured, this report is the most comprehensive assessment of its kind in global rankings.

A'Saffa ties up with Wally's
In a first of its kind venture, local chicken producer A'Saffa Poultry Farms has tied up with Wally's, the first Omani fast food chain. A'Saffa is the sole supplier for all their chicken products. Initiated in 2001 and engaged in the production of fresh and frozen chicken products, A'Saffa began commercial production in 2004 and is a household name today. After its recent expansion, this domestic brand has increased production capacity and accelerated production strength by increasing the number of hatcheries, process houses, machinery and slaughterhouses. It has been our constant endeavour to reach out to more people across the sultanate. Our new venture with Wally's asserts the same. We are sure that this association will bear good results. The new Arabiatta flavour beautifully blends in the goodness of the spices and the tender chicken," said Daeij al Hosni of A'Saffa Poultry Farms.

Blue City pact for golf course
Blue City Company 1 (BCC1), the real estate development company tasked to deliver Phase 1 of Al Madina A'Zarqa, has announced the appointment of Thomson Perrett & Lobb to design the initial golf course to be constructed at the project. As part of Phase 1, BCC1 will develop an 18-hole PGA standard course consisting of two par threes, two par fives and five par fours per nine.

Adjacent to the course will be a gated golf community, a clubhouse, restaurants and other ancillary amenities to complement the varied styles of high quality residences and hotels to be constructed. The balanced development will be situated in a natural environment of expansive views and extensive open space.

Richard Russell, managing director and CEO of BCC1, said, "We wish to create a dream course for the golfers of all skill levels and we are very pleased to be working with such a prestigious and globally recognised name like Thomson Perrett & Lobb. Their course design expertise will ensure a world-class signature course that supports the vision of both Al Madina A'Zarqa and Oman in creating a leading international tourism destination." NPA rebrands, it's Oxygen now
One of Oman's oldest and most successful advertising agencies, National Publishing & Advert-ising (NPA) has gone through a sea change, restructuring and rebranding itself with the agency's creative services now coming under the name Oxygen.

The name stems from the agency's philosophy of 'building brands that consumers can't live without'. Roopesh Bhatnagar, CEO, Oxygen, said, "Oxygen is not just a new name but a whole new philosophy for communication engagement to endear brands to consumers. Traditionally advertising has sought to win a share of mind. At Oxygen we aim to go far beyond that. Our intention is to win a share of the heart for our clients. Our endeavour is to find and fuel the vital connects that are inherent in a brand, its oxygen, through every interaction, expectation and experience the consumer has"

Oxygen has also strengthened its team to offer clients more dedicated service through independent groups. The new website can be visited at

Topaz Energy raises US$23mn
Renaissance Services subsidiary Topaz Energy and Marine has successfully raised US$23mn to finance the acquisition of the US$38mn 'Caspian Server' Platform Supply Vessel (PSV).

The loan is provided by DVB Bank of Germany. The vessel will be deployed in the Caspian Sea in support of a ten-year-long-US$225mn-contract recently signed with global oil major BP. The handover is the first in a series of vessel deliveries in support of the contract.

"Being able to secure finance facilities for the expansion of our fleet in this turbulent economic environment is a testament to Topaz's financial solidity, our blue-chip client base and the great trust placed in our growth by our bankers," said Topaz CEO, Fazel A Fazelbhoy.

The contract was won in September 2008 in competition with several global players. An Emergency Recovery and Response Vessel (ERRV) with three daughter craft and an Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel (AHTS) are currently under construction and will be delivered in 2010.

New chairman for NBO The board of National Bank of Oman unanimously elected Omar Hussain al Fardan as the bank's chairman and Sheikh Ahmed Suhail Bahwan as deputy chairman.

Al Fardan who was the deputy and acting chairman, holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in finance from Webster University, Geneva. Omar is the director of two well reputed banks in the Gulf, the Commercial Bank of Qatar and the United Arab Bank.

Crowne Plaza Sohar opens H E Dr Rajha bint Abdul Amir Ali, Minister of Tourism, has officially launched the new five-star Crowne Plaza Sohar Hotel at a gala ceremony recently.

The event was attended by H E Hilal bin Bader bin Ali al Busaidi, Wali of Sohar, H E Ali bin Ahmad al Shamsi, Wali of Liwa, John Bamsey, CEO Middle East & Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group and dignitaries from the government, diplomatic and corporate sector.

"Oman's tourism industry has consistently grown, hosting up to one million tourists annually. Having built its reputation as a holiday destination, the focus has now turned to developing its meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector that now accounts for 60 per cent of travel into the sultanate," said John Bamsey, chief operating officer of IHG MEA.

"The opening of Crowne Plaza Sohar, with its extensive meeting amenities, will further facilitate this market segment's growth. Hannah Macki, deputy managing director of Samco Hotels and Resorts, said the new Crowne Plaza Sohar offers business travellers and residents alike a luxury oasis that is unparalleled in the Batinah region. BankMuscat's 120th branch
The 120th branch of BankMuscat was inaugurated by H E Aliya bint Thuwaini al Said. The state-of-the-art branch is located at Abraaj al Sahwa building in Azaiba.

A large gathering of dignitaries, guests and senior bank officials, including Abdul Razak Ali Issa, chief executive of BankMuscat, were present on the occasion.

"The expanding branch network reflects BankMuscat's commitment to remain the nation's bank of first choice in all parts of the country. New branches are coming up in various areas in answer to population requirements, offering banking convenience at the doorstep of customers," said Issa. "With the widest reach of customers through the largest network of 120 branches in the sultanate, BankMuscat strives to exceed its customer expectations at all levels. The customer delight approach adopted by BankMuscat is focused on sustaining long-term relationship with loyal customers," he added.

New packages by Oman Mobile
Oman Mobile has launched a full array of mobile broadband packages for Mada subscribers, giving a customised solution for various connectivity needs.

"We are happy to bring our customers more choices and benefits, and our broadband packages have been built based on extensive market research in the Omani market. We listened to what our customers had to say based on their different needs for mobile broadband connectivity, ranging from occasionally checking e-mails to a living on-line status," said Ali Kashoub, core service manager at Oman Mobile. Customers don't want a one-size fits all approach from their telecom operators.

Lighter users preferred to be charged on time spent online which is more convenient for them, as compared to data download for heavy users, he added.

Oman Mobile developed tailor-made solutions based on feedback, catering to different mobile lifestyles with five unique packages. These are the RO5 monthly package with ten hours of internet usage and unlimited login and log out during the 30-day period, the RO10 monthly package with 30 hours Internet connectivity and also unlimited login and log out usage, the RO19 monthly package with 1GB of data download, RO34 monthly package with 15GB of data download, and RO59 monthly package with 30GB of data download.

All packages bring direct benefits to various users, while facilitating and enhancing their mobile experience. Oman Oil revenue up Oman Oil Marketing Company (Oman Oil) said that its total revenue grew by 11 per cent to RO170mn in 2008.

After providing for corporate tax, the company's net profit amounted to RO6.3mn, indicating 11 per cent increase over the previous year.

Volume also grew by ten per cent last year. At the annual general meeting, the proposed cash dividend of 35bz per share for the financial year ended December, 2008 was approved.

Oman Oil officials said the company remains committed to ensuring the highest possible standards of health, safety and environment (HSE) management practices which are applied throughout the organisation.

Award for Muscat City Centre Muscat City Centre (MCC) has won one of the industry's most prestigious international awards in Miami recently. MCC was presented with the highly coveted silver award at the International Council of Shopping Centre's (ICSC) MAXI Award ceremony, where it was recognised for its excellence in marketing.

The honour was in the category 'Grand Opening/Expansion and Renovation', for Muscat City Centre's 16-month campaign which promoted the mall's mega-expansion project through unique marketing approaches from customer service initiatives and promotional programmes to strong communications and public relations efforts. Save and earn scheme at OAB

In the light of the growing needs of the individual, Oman Arab Bank (OAB) has tailor-made a wide range of products to fulfil the financial requirements of the individuals during various stages of their lives.

The growth account was set up recently as an initiative to help its customers to save and earn, allowing them the opportunity to manage, monitor and grow at a fast pace.

All the clients at OAB enjoy the benefits of high interest rates of up to four per cent credited to their account on monthly basis, as well as 24 hours free cash withdrawal.

In addition, the bank offers free insurance of up to RO25,000. Rashad al Shaikh, head - retail marketing & business development, OAB, said, "We are constantly innovating to give our customers value-added products and services. The new growth account is a unique product to enable customers to earn high rates of interest while at the same time, giving them easy liquidity. A satisfied customer is our biggest reward." Customers can visit their nearest OAB branch for more details about the best ways to make their money grow.

The Wave adds workforce The Wave Muscat, Oman's US$ mixed-use beachfront development, is bucking the global economic and real estate industry downturns with the announcement of a workforce expansion across its portfolio.

With its first hundred villas delivered earlier this year, The Wave Muscat is moving steadily ahead with its plans to deliver luxury apartments and town homes, leisure and retail components on schedule. It has identified at least 27 immediate new openings across its functions to propel growth.

"The Wave's resilience and growth in difficult conditions is a measure of the confidence in its offering from investors across Oman and the GCC. We are proud to make this contribution to Oman's community, and look forward to securing the best available talent to strengthen our operations," said Nick Smith, CEO of The Wave.

The downturn, he added, is a signal of opportunity for carefully considered development projects like The Wave to boost resources and improve efficiency. More than 700 homes are currently under construction at The Wave, Muscat, with 300 scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2009. Golf team at Muscat Hills Oman's national golf team will increase its chances of success in international tournaments now the players can practice on grass in their home country on the newly completed fairways and greens of the Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club.

The three-man team was able to fine-tune their skills recently ahead of flying to Kuwait to compete in an international Pan-GCC tournament - benefiting from being able to play on grass instead of the traditional "browns" of the Omani golf scene.

They also received valuable coaching from Muscat Hills Pro, Jay Townsend. Everything was provided by Muscat Hills free of cost, to support the national team.

Muscat Hills group managing director Chandra Lahiri said, "For years the Oman team has been at a disadvantage in regional competitions because there were no grass practice facilities available at home. Now with the completion of the first nine holes of our 18-hole championship course we are proud to be supporting the Oman national team and helping encourage higher playing standards in the country.

"We will shortly be opening the first ever grass golf course in Oman and intend to make Muscat Hills the home of Omani golf and bring affordable playing fees to local Omani golfers, expatriates and visitors to Oman." Muriya design showroom Muriya Tourism Development Company has announced the opening of 'Muriya Home Design Showroom', keeping with the commitment to provide Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach clients with the highest level of after sales service. The new showroom is located in the Shatti al Qurm area, close to the company's head office and gives customers an opportunity to view the high quality of selected home finishing options and a diverse range of available upgrading options.

A vast selection of upgrades for interior, exterior and landscaping designs are available with materials sourced from Germany, Italy, France, Spain and various other countries.

The main focus is to provide customers with personalised options thereby creating the ideal home based on each client's unique preferences. The department will also have contacts with numerous Interior design experts.

Customers can benefit from the in-house design team who are able to advise on exclusive landscaping options if needed. The department is additionally equipped to provide landscape maintenance if requested.

"Muriya will not compromise on quality. We have sourced renowned international brands for home finishing providing customers with the best quality. Customers are becoming more aware of quality brands and their expectations will be exceeded when clients receive their quality homes from Muriya," said Sherine Metry, after sales engineering manager. Varsity head visits Blue City David Smith, president of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Canada, (NSCAD), visited the offices of Al Madina A'Zarqa recently.

The visit to Muscat was organised to commonly explore the possibilities of putting up a branch of NSCAD in Al Madina A'Zarqa, the new city development being built in Oman.

Richard Russell, managing director & CEO of Blue City Company 1, welcomed Prof. Smith to the offices and showcased the city's concept on education and the facilities that the new city will provide.

"Omanis are eager to learn and as such we would like to impart with them the quality of education that we can offer," commented Smith, adding, "We envisage Al Madina A'Zarqa as the ideal partner to turn this plan into a successful education hub for both Omanis and international students alike." Bond by Falcon Insurance Falcon Insurance Company is offering a Single Premium or Investment Bond, which combines guaranteed investment and life insurance products.

It is designed for the cautious saver looking for steady rates of return over a period of time without the worry that the investment will be worth less than the initial premium when the policy matures. The proposer makes a single payment at commencement of the policy.

Falcon offers a guaranteed maturity amount on expiry. An annual bonus is also added to the policy if there is a surplus or profit in the Policyholders fund.

Even if the experience of the company is negative, the guaranteed maturity amount will still be paid and the initial investment is therefore fully protected. The policy also provides the security of life assurance and should the proposer die before expiry of the policy his or her dependents will receive a lump sum payment based on guaranteed maturity amount plus declared annual bonuses earned up to the date of death.

The bond is available to both Omani and expatriate investors and the investment fund will be governed by Capital Market Authority regulations. It is aimed at investors saving for educational costs of children, as a lump sum for retirement or similar future requirements where the risk of large swings in share price values are unacceptable. Sohar Plaza launched
Jawad Sultan Group has launched Sohar Plaza, an entertainment and leisure destination in Sohar. Sohar Plaza is the leading mall in the Batinah region with state-of-the-art multiplex cinemas, food courts and shopping outlets.

On the occasion of the grand opening of the mall, Aqeel Jawad Sultan, group managing director of Jawad Sultan Enterprises said, "Sohar Plaza is one of the finest development projects of Jawad Sultan Enterprises that provides both leisure and entertainment at a single stop. It also marks a milestone among the development accomplishments of the group. As a step ahead in the business of entertainment and real estate, we extend opportunities to retailers to join in the venture and establish success both in returns and customer satisfaction."

The expected high footfalls arising from the multiplex will benefit the shopping arena significantly, thereby creating an atmosphere for retail businesses to flourish, he added. Sohar Plaza hosts City Cinema, a multiplex with four large cinema screens with a total seating capacity of 860. These screens are the first in the country to have a digital projection technology. This is a major milestone for the Jawad Sultan Group as well as Oman's cinema market. AHEC achieves RO2mn net profit
Al Hassan Engineering Company (AHEC) has achieved higher revenue of RO45mn for 2008, up by RO10mn from 2007 and attained a net profit at RO2mn despite high volatility in pricing of materials and recessionary market conditions, the company announced at a discussion forum held in the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) recently.

AHEC also has a healthy opening order backlog for 2009 at RO67mn. New orders received during 2008 totalled around RO68mn in value. These include EPC contracts for Nimr-C Full Field Water Injection and Burhan West - Harmal pipeline projects, both with PDO. Peter Hall, CEO, AHEC, opened the session with the screening of a video film highlighting the capabilities and expertise of Al Hassan in engineering, procurement and construction activities. He elaborated the first order the company has received in Dubai is for civil works for a 400/132 kV substation project from Siemens, UAE. Cash dividend announced The shareholders of the National Detergent Co have approved a proposal to distribute a cash dividend of 20bz per share (20 per cent) at an annual general meeting (AGM).

The company's sales revenue grew by ten per cent to RO13.67mn in 2008, from RO12.45mn in the previous year. The company's operating profit for the year was RO643,017 compared to RO449,399 in 2007. Profit before tax soared 64 per cent to RO530,033. The total accumulated profit, before this year's appropriation, is RO1.12mn after tax. National Detergent has witnessed mixed trends in terms of materials prices and rapid changes in the economic environment worldwide.

The operating costs and marketing support costs have shown an increasing trend in line with the market trend. The company has launched a few new products in the market last year, which were well accepted by the customers. There are a few more products in the development stage and would be launched in the near future. Double Your Salary' scheme BankMuscat has launched a unique daily 'Double Your Salary' scheme wherein customers maintaining a salary account with the bank can win daily a free bonus salary.

This is the first time a scheme of such value proposition and appeal is launched in Oman, offering daily chances to win additional salary.

There are no pre-conditions attached to the scheme, except that the salary must be transferred to any BankMuscat branch in Oman. All customers who transfer their salary to BankMuscat get a daily chance to double their salary through the new bonus salary prize.

While customers may earn their salary only once a month, with BankMuscat, they now have a chance to win an additional bonus salary on all bank working days.

The prize scheme is open to all customers with a minimum monthly salary of RO250. While there is no maximum salary amount, which can be transferred to the bank, the maximum bonus salary a customer can win is limited to RO2,000 per day.

"The Double Your Salary scheme marks the second phase of a unique savings campaign launched by BankMuscat. The salary scheme is expected to significantly add momentum to al Mazyona savings scheme, reinforcing customer delight merely by banking with BankMuscat," Sulaiman al Harthy, group DGM - consumer banking, said. Honda offer to customers

Honda has recently offered all owners of Honda outboard motors a free inspection at Marina Bander al Rowdha. The initiative was a great success.

"Our customers are our top priority," said Jon Wiseman, Honda national manager, after sales. "We have an ongoing commitment to giving them the best possible service."

The team used a special berth provided by Marina Bander al Rowdha for the inspection of the outboard motors of the owners who had made appointments to take advantage of the offer. "Our Honda trained technicians carried out a thorough specially designed 28 point check on all the motors," added Jagdish Rao, Honda national service manager marine, power products & motorcycles. "We also took the opportunity to give the owners personal advice on their engine's performance," Rao noted. Financing offer by HP ProCurve

HP ProCurve has announced two zero per cent financing promotions that make it simple and affordable for businesses in the sultanate to continue investing in the technology that can help them reduce costs, increase efficiency and grow their businesses.

Eligible equipment covered under the promotion include switches, wireless LAN devices, routers and network access controllers. Minimum transaction size depends on the country but starts at as little as US$15,000.

"In times like these, businesses face tough decisions and especially during economic downturns, you have to continue to invest in technology to stay competitive," said Alberto Soto, vice president & general manager, HP ProCurve. Mirbat Resort at Berlin show

Mirbat Beach Resort and Spa enjoyed a successful presence at the International Tourism Bureau (ITB) Berlin, the world's largest travel trade show.

The prestigious integrated tourism project was represented by project developer Dhofar Tourism Company under the umbrella of Ministry of Tourism.

With more than 180,000 visitors, among these 108,000 trade visitors, and over 10,000 exhibitors from 180 countries, ITB Berlin is the leading B2B-Platform of all tourism industry offers. In addition, this prestigious event provides unique opportunities to benefit from the leading think tank of the global tourism industry.

"Following our success in the recently held Oman Travel Market (OTM) in Muscat, we are extremely pleased with the response that we got at ITB. With the kind of world-class product that we have, we are in a good position to meet international demands," said Osama Mariam, CEO, Dhofar Tourism Company. "ITB is the largest exhibition worldwide for the travel and trade business and we had a very positive presence at the event," he added. Mirbat Beach Resort and Spa is the first phase of the development. Mirbat Beach is an RO1bn integrated development project by the Dhofar Tourism Company in Mirbat and covers an area of 2mn sqm with residential, commercial, tourism and entertainment facilities to be completed in five phases.

New Mazda service facilities Towell Auto Centre (TAC) has recently opened the doors of its state-of-the-art Mazda customer friendly service facilities in Ghala, Mabella and Falaj Al Qabail, Sohar.

Each service centre is fully equipped with the garage equipment and trained technicians. All the three Mazda service centres, which opened recently, are conveniently located, offer excellent customer lounge and boast of skilled, qualified and experienced staff. In order to offer its customers convenience and comfort, the service centres have a booking system that ensures enhanced service satisfaction. Zubair's offer on Mitsubishi Zubair Automotive Group, the official distributor of Mitsubishi cars and Mitsubishi Fuso trucks and buses in Oman, has managed to put together a plan that will see Mitsubishi owners pay less for servicing their vehicles.

In fact, on some of the models in the Mitsubishi range, service costs have been reduced by as much as 16 per cent over 100,000km period.

One of the ways Zubair has been able to achieve this is by negotiating better prices for lubricants bought from large oil companies. Zubair is passing on the savings to the consumer and this translates into significantly reduced service bills. Mitsubishi dealers also have a full inventory of spare parts available to their customers at competitive prices. Renna launches promotion As part of its 'Coming Soon' campaign, Renna, a mobile reseller, has launched a teaser promotion for its soon-to-be-launched services. The campaign kicked off on April 4 in Muscat and passed through the main cities in Oman. The 'red campaign' designed by Renna's marketing team aims to increase market awareness about the company. These activities include the creatively devised Renna voucher promotions where vouchers will be handed out by Renna's active teams to potential customers entitling them to enter a draw upon registering their new Renna SIM cards. Prizes include mobile phones, travel vouchers and valuable shopping vouchers at a supermarket of choice. "The Renna signature style is evident in our products and services, packaging and now we have taken it a step further to include our promotions," said Noor al Suwaid, Renna's image and communications manager.

Oman Oil sponsors MCFL
Oman Oil Marketing Company (Oman Oil), a leading fuel and lubricant marketing firm in the sultanate, showed its support to youth and sports development by becoming the main sponsor of the Muscat Community Football League (MCFL). To date, the MCFL has enrolled over 380 kids from more than 25 nationalities. As the sole sponsor of the league, Oman Oil is committed to exposing young football talents where MCFL represents one of its pioneering initiatives. The company will continue providing its leading coaches and expertise from Oman Oil Football School to train the children and create opportunities for both regional as well as international competitions. The league offers an opportunity for children to showcase and practice their talents and present a platform for corporations to come together to support sports.

New website launched The Oman Tunisia Friendship Association has launched their new website in a ceremony at the Oman Tourism College. The aim of the association and its website is to expand up the relationship between the two countries, in both economic and cultural sense.

Along with numerous bilateral trade initiatives, the association is also organising an Omani cultural event in Tunisia next month. Speaking at the launch of the website, Jamil Ali Sultan, chairman of the Oman Tunisia Friendship Association said, "The aim of this association is to enhance the good relations between Tunisia and Oman. There is a big scope for what can be achieved, and there is a lot to be discovered by both parties about each other." Sharakah holds tenth AGM The tenth annual general meeting (AGM) of the Fund for Development of Youth Projects, which is also known as Sharakah, was recently held at Radisson SAS Hotel.

Hani M al Zubair, chairman, Youth Fund, presided over the AGM and the extra ordinary general meeting (EGM). The meeting was attended by the board of directors, shareholders and officials from the concerned authorities. The EGM approved the proposed amendments in the Articles of Association. The AGM approved the audited financial statements for 2008 and the appointment of statutory auditors for 2009. The chairman said that during last year the fund had taken a complete rebranding exercise under the new name of Sharakah. The fund launched new financial products for achieving its goal and a few major events to promote SMEs had taken place in 2008. Sharakah programme is owned and operated by the Fund for the Development of Youth Projects. Its core objective is to provide equity and other means of financial support to small and medium enterprises owned by Omani entrepreneurs.

OBMU ties up with NBO
Successful branding can turn a country into a place where people want to live, work and visit, said H H Sayyid Faisal al Said, CEO, Oman Brand Management Unit (OBMU).

A strong identity is vital if the country is vying with other places for attention in tourism and business. In an effort to encourage public-private sector co-operation, OBMU has signed a series of agreements with leading domestic organisations. Recently Sayyid Faisal signed an MoU with National Bank of Oman (NBO) to help OBMU in its mission to promote Oman as a place to live, visit and invest in.

As per the agreement, both parties will work closely to enhance co-operation, undertake joint initiatives and exchange information. NBO, with its broad reach and expertise will positively contribute towards supporting OBMU's work in promoting the sultanate's inward investment offer. Omran launches media centre
Tourism developments in Oman will now be easily available to the wider world after Omran, the government-backed tourism development and investment firm, launched its media centre recently.

Every new advance in the billion-dollar industry across Oman will be documented on the website, which also has picture archives and a function to allow journalists to request background information for stories from the company online. The site, available in English and Arabic, has been developed by Four Communications, which specialises in government and community relations in the Gulf. Omran CEO, Wael al Lawati, said the site is "extremely important" in developing tourism in the country, and will eventually be translated into even more languages.

"The media plays an extremely important role in allowing us to share and communicate with the community. English covers most of our market and the site is also in Arabic for obvious reasons. There are no specific plans, but understandably it has to be expanded to other languages in the future," he added.

BankDhofar offer for cardholders
BankDhofar Platinum cardholders can now enjoy unlimited access to the exclusive Marhaba Lounge at Dubai International Airport. The new initiative reflects BankDhofar's commitment to customer satisfaction and demonstrates the bank's continuous efforts in providing innovative customised solutions to its customers.

"At BankDhofar, customer satisfaction is a priority and hence we are committed to introduce value-added services. This service will ensure a comfortable travel experience for all our Platinum cardholders," said Ali Taqi, senior manager, card services, BankDhofar. Platinum cardholders are able to access Marhaba Lounge, regardless of airline or class of travel and may allow entry for up to two people, the cardholder and a guest. By presenting the card at the entrance, customers will be able to enjoy a range of services and relax in style while enjoying the unique hospitability round the clock. The lounge offers a range of services for both departing and transit passengers and pre-bookng is not required.

Update issued by Bank Sohar
Bank Sohar has made remarkable strides since it opened for business on April 9, 2007. The new bank was determined to scale new heights of excellence and sophistication and to stand out among the others in the industry. In a short span of two years, the bank has been able to do exactly this.

At the close of two years, Bank Sohar is the fourth largest bank in Oman in terms of loans and advances. The bank has a customer base of over 50,000, a network of 11 branches and 21 off-site automated teller machines (ATMs).

Bank Sohar's initial strategy for retail banking was to cater to the expectations of all customers through products and services that complement life's milestones and to meet individual lifestyle requirements.

This strategy continues to be the thrust for business. Bank Sohar's 'life cycle' products have offered opportunities for new lending as well as for deposit mobilisation. Oman Air joins IATPA
Oman Air announced that it has joined the International Airlines Technical Pool Association (IATPA). Made up of over 100 member airlines and about 30 suppliers including aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing with over 400 members from the aviation industry on its roll, IATP gather twice yearly to discuss sharing of resources, reducing costs, while improving operating efficiency.

"The acceptance of Oman Air into the IATP is testament to the company's status and broad service offering. Oman Air will benefit from increased visibility among a prestigious group," said Peter Hill, CEO, Oman Air. "We look forward to working closely with all IATP members and contributing ideas and solutions to common issues," added Hill.

Oman Air has successfully renewed its IOSA registration. The renewal is an outcome of the IOSA audit the airline underwent, whereby the carrier remains among those airlines that reached this internationally recognised standard, after a thorough evaluation in all areas of organisation and management system, flight operation, operational control, flight dispatch, aircraft engineering and maintenance, cabin operations, ground handling, cargo operation and operational security.

Serious games are big business
Serious games are now a very grown-up business and both corporations and governments around the world are using gaming technology to get their messages heard.

From training armies, marketing cultural sites and promoting tourist resorts to increasing sales of fast food, the serious games industry has taken off as an innovative way of truly engaging and educating today's technologically sophisticated audience.

"Using virtual worlds, simulation and social networking platforms, serious games deliver real training, education and marketing benefits," said David Wortley, director, Serious Games Institute (SGI), Coventry University and keynote speaker at Knowledge Oasis Muscat's (KOM) annual Serious eGames Conference held at the Middle East College of Information Technology.

"If you thought video games were only for fun, then you had better think again," said Hilal al Ahsani, CEO, Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) and organiser of the Serious eGames Conference.

BankDhofar dividend The shareholders of BankDhofar have approved a cash dividend of 15.5 per cent on the paid up capital of the bank (15.5 bz per share) and bonus shares of 4.5 per cent of the paid up capital. The bank held its annual general meeting recently under the chairmanship of Eng Abdul Hafidh Salim al Aujaili. The share capital of the bank will increase from 707,738,306 shares to 739,586,530 shares.The bank's net interest income grew from RO30.36mn to RO39.90mn.

Shell celebrates graduation Shell Development Oman organised its Careers & Prospects 2009 recently under the patronage of H E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al Bakri, Minister of Manpower to celebrate the graduation of 42 young Omanis as 'Oil and Gas' technicians.

The graduation ceremony was held at the Oman Tourism College. The oil & gas training-for-employment programme was conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Manpower, Oman Society for Petroleum Services (OPAL) and Oman Refineries and Petrochemicals Company.

It was carried out over a period of one year and comprised comprehensive vocational and practical hands-on training and self-study. The graduates have already joined their employers, Oman Refineries and Petrochemicals Company and Oman Waste Water Management Company(OWSC).

COMEX 2009 from May 25
COMEX 2009, Oman's largest IT, telecom and technology expo is all set to be held from May 25 to 29 at the Oman International Exhibition Centre.

Driven by Oman's digital strategy, COMEX 2009 integrates new and enriched concepts such as e-governance and e-tendering, as well as e-health, e-learning, e-gaming, consumer electronics and high-end products.

COMEX 2009 Business Area is open from May 25-28, showcasing the latest IT, telecom, technology and solutions especially designed for businesses and demonstrated for decision makers.

Organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport & Communication, ITA and TRA and supported by Omantel and Oman Mobile, COMEX is also endorsed by UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry."

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