Monday, 16 November 2009

Albania can be easy hub for Liquid Natural Gas

2nd International Conference on Foreign Investments in Albania
Albania can be easy hub for
Liquid Natural Gas

Dr. Mozammel Haque

TIRANA, ALBANIA: Albania is a promising emerging country for investors to invest in different sectors of development of the country. More than 170 local and international companies registered themselves and 140 participants came from Member-countries and non-Member countries of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB), showed their interest and attended the 2nd International Conference on Foreign Investments in Albania organised under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Albania, Dr. Sali Berisha and the President of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, held from 2-5 November at the Tirana International Hotel, Tirana, Albania.

Among the non-Member countries were investors from Italy, France, Switzerland, England and Germany; whereas among the member countries, the investors came from Turkey, Bosnia, Qatar, Kuwait, Emirates, Libya and Saudi Arabia. More than 20 people came from Saudi Arabia at the Conference and according to the CEO of Bosna Islamic Bank, Sarajevo, 35 companies came from Bosnia to attend the conference.

“Our role is to see how we can support private sector in Albania. Our intention is to bring investors not just from the member countries but from all over the world. The idea is to promote Albania as a good destination for investment,” said to me by Mr. Khaled M. Al-Aboudi, the present CEO of the Islamic Corporation for Development of Private Sector (ICD), the private sector of the IDB.

There are lot of opportunities for investment in Albania. I think that there is no big deal given the situation, the location of Albania and the natural resources. Albania has very promising sectors, such as tourism and real estate. Agriculture is also a very good sector to finance and Real Estate development is one of the sectors. Albania is an emerging country; it has a very nice weather during the summer and has mild weather during winter. “It could be a very good resort especially down the sea-side and even the mountains. They have very beautiful mountains,” mentioned Al-Aboudi.

Fresh water for Gulf countries
in exchange for Gas – Agim Gjinali
“Albania can very easy hub for LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) in the European Market and Albania can be the hub for the natural gas market. Another opportunity which Albania has and we developed a project Albania can be the biggest exporter of the drinking water for Arab countries. That is the idea which we have all include in our project,” said to me in an exclusive interview by Mr. Agim Gjinali, CEO and President of the Board of Switzerland-based ASG POWER SA, an international consortium currently building a power plant and associated degasification terminal in south-western Albania. The group is made up of AET, a Swiss public utility and undisclosed European and U.S. investors.
The ASG POWER has already invested 20 million dollars on the technical documentation and on the studies, said Gjinali and added, “We have designed this project which can, first of all, create and then transfer gas from Albania. Albania can be the biggest exporter of Liquid Natural Gas and natural gas in watering countries in Europe and the Middle East.”

Mr. Gjinali also explained, “This project is very very interesting project. It is ready to offer to the Arab countries to have in Albania, a small friendly country, the possibility to storage liquid natural gas and to distribute this gas to other European countries by pipe and on the way back ships which are loaded here the Liquid Natural Gas will take drinking water.” There will be 200 ship-tanks per year that will ship gas to Albania toward the ASG degasification terminal. Those same ships can carry fresh water on their way back, hence increasing the efficiency of the whole project. He also mentioned that in summer Albania can be drilling minimum 250,000 cubic meter a year very nice quality water which can be sent to the Arab countries.

“ASG POWER from Switzerland has presented their projects six years ago. It has different phases and they are working on it Now they are in the seven phase. They are talking about Albania having hub for LNG. This is a very promising project which can make Albania a gate to export, first to import the LNG, store it and export it and it would be like controlling the flow from and to. Also he is thinking of having this new route,” mentioned by Mr. Hamza Abdur Rahman al-Saktawi, who joined IDB in late 2004 and now serving in the Office of CEO & General Manager of ICD in an interview with me.

Mr. Hamza also said, “This idea of bringing LNG from the Gulf and taking the water from Albania to the Gulf is a brilliant idea. ASG POWER has won the project six years ago and he said he has already invested 60 million on design, technicalities of the project and on the studies etc.”

It is also learnt that the cost of the ASG energy complex, which should be completed by the end of 2009, has been estimated at $1.9 billion. A significant portion of the project, in excess of $600 million has been financed by the US Import Export Bank. Since the project is big and huge, they have been talking with the Qatari investors and with the investors from Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and others.

The government of Albania is closely involved in the project, after negotiating with Qatar on several economic, trade and technical arrangements. “I personally negotiated with Qatar authorities to secure the gas supply contracts,” said the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha during the conference.

It is a fantastic project. “When you bring gas from Qatar, for example, to Albania and on the way back you carry the water to Qatar, you are doing double pipe line. This pipe line works in two directions: one direction brings gas and another water. It is fantastic. It is a highway, a bridge between the Arab countries and Europe through the Muslim-oriented small country in Europe,” said Mr. Gjinali.

Facilities extended by the Albanian Government
The investment department of Albania has improved a lot since the present Prime Minister Sali Berisha was elected. They have done a good job transforming the economy and changing the image of Albania. “The significant progress that Albania made in the process of integrating the European Union, the achievement of the rate of economic growth of 6% during the last two years, as well as the increasing flow of foreign direct investments in Albania, are all good indicators that the implementation of the country strategy and the government efforts have to fruition. This is an encouraging sign for everybody,” said Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of the Islamic Development Bank in his keynote speech on the opening session of the Conference on 3rd November, 2009.

The Albanian government is also offering lots of incentives to the foreign investors. There are assurances from the government officials. “I think they are keen to attract foreign investments, and the fact that they are giving the incentives, low taxes, easy processing, minimum government bureaucracy and I hope they also work on the legal aspects to make sure investors protect their investments,” said to me by Dr. Adil A. Bushnak, chairman Bushnak Group from Saudi Arabia which focus on water-related process technology projects and who has been in this business for more than 30 years. He is the co-founder of Al-Kawser industries which is still a good designer builder of factory to produce desalination. He came from Saudi Arabia to explore possibilities and to promote investment in Albania, firstly in the Balkans because originally his grandfather was from Bosnia.

“The government support and the high level presence of top officials of the government in the conference, I think, is a very good indication that the government of Albania is supporting foreign investment and also availing itself to any investors and this is what was presented in the conference from so many ministers and deputy ministers. They are talking about we are ready to sit with the investors and talk and negotiate,” mentioned Mr. Hamza.

Al-Rajhi Investment Fund in Tirana
The investment opportunities in Albania, the promising sectors for investment and the facilities extending by the government officials and the Prime Minister at his opening speech gave incentives to investors to invest in different sectors in Albania. “We are in the process of establishing investment Fund in Tirana and we have already signed the papers and Insha Allah we will get license to start and we are now looking for Head Office here, in Tirana, for Albania because we love this country; because they are our brothers and we like to live in our environment,” Mr. Abdulrahman AbdulAziz Al-Rajhi, Executive Manager of Al-Rajhi Investment Fund, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, told me.

The AlRajhi Groups of Saudi Arabia are in the business since 1973. Mr. Abdulrahman is a banker of the Rajhi group of Saudi Arabia. “Rajhi Investment Fund is investing for real estate, developing lands, housing for the public, economy houses and really I was impressed being in the conference because the conference was very well organised, especially the very good picture given by Prime Minister Sali,” mentioned Mr. Abdulrahman al-Rajhi.

Role of ISB
Already three/four investors committed themselves to invest in Albania and another three/four investors are in the process of making investment in Albania said Hamza of the ICD. Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank is no doubt facilitating, encouraging, funding and also providing funds if necessary. So IDB is doing a very good facilitation. Speaking about the role of IDB in the development efforts, Dr. Ali said, “So far IDB has approved an amount of USD 141 million in favour of 21 projects, mainly in the field of agriculture, public utilities, social services, and transport. The IDB group will continue to support the growth and development of Albania through its operations and technical assistance in accordance with the Government priorities.”

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