RAK eyes free trade zone expansion

Emirate to lure more multinational investors for infrastructure plans

Ras Al Khaimah is planning projects worth $5 billion (Dh18.36bn) to 2020 with the help of foreign investors, officials said on Sunday.

Its free trade zone -- RAK FTZ -- home to around 4,000 companies, is trying to turn itself into a business hub for small and medium enterprises and lure more multinational investors for its infrastructure and airport expansion plans.
 
“We forecast 2,250 additional companies in 2010," said Oussama Al Omari, CEO of RAK FTZ. In 2009, registrations and company revenue in the zone grew 10 and 11 per cent respectively despite the global crisis, he added.
 
Most new companies would come from Germany, France, Turkey, and India. "Some of the largest investments are from Knauf group from Germany, Dole Group; from the 'States, and Hyundai Group," Omari said without giving details.
 
Solar power, the nuclear energy sector and education would form the bulk of projects in coming years, he said.
 
The authorities in the emirate are launching large-scale projects such as a new international airport as a catalyst for growth.
 
"Looking at the next 5 to 10 years, there should be not less than $5bn in all the infrastructure projects," Omari said.
 
The emirate is focused on industries like cement, pharmaceuticals, and glass, and building a regional manufacturing and shipping hub.
 
Sheikh Faisal bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman of RAK FTZ, said a bond issue to finance the projects was unlikely.
 
"No bonds. At the moment it depends on the liquidity of the market. We are relying on our self-financing and foreign investors," he said.
 
"Our GDP grew 14 per cent every year between 2004 and 2008, and 9 percent last year,” he added.
 
Ras Al Khaimah's sovereign wealth fund Rakia said in July it plans an initial public offering for its port of Poti project in Georgia for 2011, without giving a specific date.
 
Omari also said overseas expansion was a top priority.
 
"We are opening offices in Washington, China, South Korea, Brazil. It will take us 24 months."
 
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