An Areva-constructed nuclear power plant at Civaux, France. Areva hopes to seal a major contract in the kingdom.
An Areva-constructed nuclear power plant at Civaux, France. Areva hopes to seal a major contract in the kingdom.

French in Jordan nuclear bid



AMMAN // The French atomic energy company Areva hopes to seal a major contract in Jordan, the next Arab state likely to build nuclear reactors, after losing out on a deal to sell its technology to Abu Dhabi last year. Areva has teamed up with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan to offer a smaller, cheaper reactor design in an effort to stave off competition from a number of rivals, including a group of Korean companies that succeeded in the UAE.

Areva is already involved in a partnership with the Jordanian government to explore and develop uranium reserves in the centre of the country, but is hoping to expand that co-operation to joint ownership and operation of at least one reactor of capacity of 1,000 megawatts (mw), said Henri Zaccai, an Areva vice president. "France and Japan are committed to support Jordan in its pursuit of nuclear [power]," Mr Zaccai told a nuclear conference in Amman. "Areva - is able to provide the security of supply for the front end. For the back end we are in a position to offer a very strong solution, which is the treatment of waste."

In Jordan, Areva is offering the ATMEA, a joint design with Mitsubishi that it launched in 2007 to sell to smaller markets. For Abu Dhabi, Areva offered to build an Evolutionary Power Reactor, its flagship design with capacity of 1,600mw that it has sold in Finland, France and China. But a 1,400mw Korean design ultimately won, helped by a price tag that was more than 30 per cent lower, outside estimates show.

Mr Zaccai declined to elaborate on the firm's strategy in Jordan and how it differed from the approach in Abu Dhabi, but experts at the conference said the ATMEA made more sense for the smaller Jordanian electricity market. Jordan intends to build only two reactors in the next 15 years, compared with Abu Dhabi's order for four larger units by 2020. Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) has also offered a smaller and older design with capacity of 1,000mw, reports in the trade press say. The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, the government body charged with choosing the country's foreign partner, will narrow the field of candidates to two by the middle of next month and make a final decision by the end of the year, said Dr Kamal Araj, the vice chairman of the commission.

The commission's choice between the two firms will be determined both by technology and the partner's capability to invest, co-own and help operate the reactors, Dr Araj said. KEPCO's win has overshadowed all discussions of nuclear business deals across the region, and the firm has said it is confident it will win additional orders in the Middle East. Khaled Toukan, the chairman of the commission, said KEPCO's contract with Abu Dhabi would offer a cost benchmark for Jordan's own programme.

But Areva's existing uranium mining partnership with the government could give it an advantage, as it could offer the Jordanians a complete, integrated process to take uranium ore from the country and enrich it into fuel for the reactors, and then take the reactor waste for processing, Mr Zaccai said. Dr Araj said on Monday that revenues from uranium would probably be included in the financing of the reactor.

@Email:cstanton@thenational.ae

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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Courtesy: Carol Glynn

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Name: Direct Debit System
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The Roundup : No Way Out

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Don Lee, Lee Jun-hyuk, Munetaka Aoki
Rating: 3/5

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

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