- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2012

UAE

Abu Dhabi developers start merger negotiations

DUBAI | Aldar Properties, the struggling Abu Dhabi real estate developer, said Sunday it is launching talks with its smaller rival, Sorouh Real Estate, about a possible merger.

It would be supported by the Gulf emirate’s government.

The proposed tie-up would unite the Emirati capital’s two most prominent property developers as they grapple with a deep property slump that has gripped the United Arab Emirates since prices peaked in 2008.

Aldar already received some $10 billion in government aid through two bailout rounds last year.

It is majority owned by the Abu Dhabi government and was a key driver of the sheikdom’s development, including its signature project, Yas Island, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix auto race.

The companies outlined plans for the possible merger in brief statements to the emirate’s stock exchange. They said the negotiations carry “the blessing of the government of Abu Dhabi,” though they did not outline what financial support, if any, the state would provide.

It was not immediately clear how the deal would be structured.

Haissam Arabi, chief executive and fund manager at Gulfmena Investments in Dubai, said a merger could benefit both companies.

“The combined entity would make a mega-master developer with solid financials and government backing,” Mr. Arabi said. Abu Dhabi might be willing to provide additional financial support to the merged company if needed, he added.

A working group will be formed to study the legal and commercial implications of the proposed merger. It is expected to make recommendations to senior management of both developers within three months, the companies said.

NORTH CAROLINA

Data-center construction under way for Apple Inc.

MAIDEN | Construction work is under way at Apple Inc.’s data center in North Carolina, which will be powered in part by a private solar farm being built by the company.

The Hickory Daily Record reports that environmental permits have been issued for construction at the data-center campus in the town of Maiden. Also, a contractor for work at the site has filed for a building permit. It’s not clear if the construction is for a second data center that was planned, or for something else.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., uses the data center to store information as part of its iCloud network.

Maiden town manager Todd Herms told the newspaper he couldn’t say exactly what the company was building.

INDIA

Government reverses move on banning cotton exports

NEW DELHI | India on Sunday reversed its ban on cotton exports in a swift U-turn just six days after the policy announcement was greeted with outrage from farmers.

The government of India, the world’s second-largest producer of cotton, unexpectedly banned all exports of the crop last Monday, saying it wanted to protect supplies for domestic mills.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a rapid review of the decision after fury from farming groups and complaints by the agriculture minister, who said he knew nothing about the ban before it was unveiled.

“Keeping in view the facts, the interests of the farmers, interest of the industry, trade, a balanced view has been considered by the Group of Ministers to roll back the ban,” Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said on Sunday.

Mr. Sharma added in a statement that the formal order to lift the ban would be issued on Monday.

The reversal comes after a series of policy setbacks for the government, including the withdrawal in December of major reforms to the retail sector in a move that was widely seen as a public embarrassment for Mr. Singh.

The export ban, which had taken immediate effect, sent cotton prices soaring on New York’s commodity markets and had been expected to send buyers in China flocking to the U.S. market.

When it was imposed on March 5, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused the commerce and textile ministries of keeping him “in the dark” over the decision.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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