Lebanon to start drilling oil wells in Mediterranean Sea in 2019

Exploration drilling of oil and gas in the Mediterranean Sea will begin in 2019, Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abi Khalil said in an interview with the Russian news agency Sputnik.

The minister also held a news conference in Dec. 2017 announcing plans to begin exploratory drilling in 2019.

“If commercial drilling does not take place as we plan, we will continue the exploration of the oil fields,” Abi Khalil told the news outlet.

If the country begins successfully drilling for gas and oil, the Energy Minister said it could be used to fulfill Lebanon’s energy needs, or be delivered to Europe “by sea, through Egypt or via the Arab pipeline.”

Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abi Khalil announced the plans to begin drilling oil wells in 2019. (Twitter/Cesar Abi Khalil)
Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abi Khalil announced the plans to begin drilling oil wells in 2019. (Twitter/Cesar Abi Khalil)

RELATED: Lebanese banker buys Colorado Springs bank as part of U.S. expansion

Hydrocarbons, an early indicator if oil exists in an area, were originally discovered near Lebanon in the eastern Mediterranean in 2009.

In August of this year, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil asked his Russian counterpart to encourage Russian energy companies to take part in the upcoming bidding round of foreign investments.

Sputnik reported that tensions have grown between Lebanese and Israeli governments over territorial claims of the oil reserves.

Help get signatures to make Paypal payment services available in Lebanon

A petition is circulating on Change.org asking Paypal to expand their payment services to Lebanon.

Paypal is currently available in other Middle Eastern countries like Yemen and Somalia but not Lebanon.

Jason Karim, the petition organizer, is asking for only 500 signatures before he forwards the petition to the tech giant.

“PayPal is one of the essential payment services around the world, and still, it has not been deployed in the Lebanese market,” Karim wrote.

RELATED: Subscription box company launches products for Lebanon lovers

He believes if the app is made available, it would help local businesses make safe and secure transactions with consumers.

Paypal is a fast, safe way to send money, make an online payment, or receive money, according to the company website. (File photo)
Paypal is a fast, safe way to send money, make an online payment, or receive money, according to the company website. (File photo)

“This petition will help Lebanese (YouTubers), small business owners, the general public, artists, and many more get (paid),” Karim added.

In 2013, a senior Paypal manager promised to bring the service to Lebanon by the end of the year, but the initiative later fizzled out.

“This is a must service for Lebanon,” wrote one of the petition supporters. “Technology is increasing and the demand to pay online is growing, so Paypal is a must!”

To learn more about the petition or to add support to the initiative, click here.

Lebanese-run ‘Vero’ app becomes most downloaded in 18 countries

The Lebanese-run social media app Vero recently surged in popularity, and became the most downloaded social app in 18 countries, including in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain and France, according to Forbes.

Launched in 2015, Vero is an ad-free social app that connects users to their friends with pictures, links and videos. The content sharing is intuitive, and is separated by Close Friend, Friend, Acquaintance and Follower.

The founders describe the app as a “social network for anyone who loves anything enough to share it – and wants control over who they share it with. Just like we do in real life.”

Instead of advertisers, Vero runs on an annual subscription fee model and promised to keep the app free to its first million users.

Ayman Hariri, son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, is the CEO and co-founder of the app. He said he aims to grab the market share of some of his largest competitors, including Facebook and Twitter.

Related: Subscription box company launches products for Lebanon lovers

Ayman Hariri is the CEO of the Riyadi-based Social Media app Vero
Vero allows users to post to their close friends, friends, acquaintances or followers. (Website screen grab)

Unlike other companies in the social media space, Vero creators said the system is not based on algorithms and data mining to cater to advertisers.

Vero can be downloaded on the Apple or Google Play stores.

Subscription box company launches products for Lebanon lovers

A subscription box company created to promote Lebanese culture has launched new boxes perfect for any lover of Lebanon.

The ‘Koullouna‘ concept aims to connect Lebanese expats with local products that celebrate Lebanese culture, tastes, smells and sounds.

According to its website, Koullouna sends surprise themed boxes to a subscriber’s doorstep every month.

The boxes can include:

day3a box 1

The Day3a box

  • Dark chocolate by Eshmoon
  • Strawberry and rose petal jam by Mymoune
  • Sumac by Adonis Valley
  • Amareddine by Al-Rifai
  • Wild thyme by Shams Permaculture
  • A pillowcase by Art7ake
  • A postcard designed by Hoda Adra

jam3a box 1

The Jam3a box

  • A bottle of Almaza
  • Two coasters by Images d’Orient
  • A bag of nuts from Castania
  • A bowl for your nuts by Verdi
  • Zaatar crackers and other nibbles by Rural Delights Cooperative
  • A tote bag by Inoui

sobhiyeh box 1

The Sobhiyeh box

  • 3 healthy bars from Freekeh Bites
  • A Labneh bag from IRAP
  • 2 coffee cups made with recycled glass by GGRIL
  • A pack of Zaatar by The Good Thymes
  • A jar of honey by Miel Du Levant
  • A pack of Coffee by Cafe Najjar
  • A postcard by Mimo Quirks

kankaneh box 1

The Kankaneh box

  • A pair of socks by Sikasok
  • The book “L’Etoile Phoenicienne” by Tania Bonja Honein
  • A bookmark by L’Artisan du Liban
  • A suitcase tag by 10452 DNA
  • A soap by the Soap Museum in Saida
  • A pack of Anis seeds by Abido spices
  • A postcard designed by Cindy Daccache

The subscription cost is about 39 euros, or $45 per month.

Koullouna also has gift options available on their website.

See photos of new five-star Lancaster Eden Bay hotel in Beirut

Photos inside Beirut’s newest five-star hotel showcase the luxury at Lancaster Eden Bay near Ramlet al-Baida.

According to its website, Lancaster Eden Bay has 144 guest rooms with a view of the Mediterranean sea.

“This luxurious retreat by the sea boasts exquisite accommodation, superior amenities, unmatched hospitality and the exclusivity of your own private community in the city. Stretching along the sandy white shoreline, in the vicinity of high-end Ramlet El Baida, it is a haven overlooking the tranquility of Beirut’s seafront. Its prime location in the heart of Beirut but shielded from the bustle of the city, makes it the perfect getaway that offers families, couples and business guests the best of both worlds. A unique experience in the capital of Mediterranean hospitality.”

Investment in the hotel exceeded $100 million, according to Lebanon Business News.

(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)
(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)
(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)
(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)
(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)
(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)
(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)
(Lancaster Eden Bay Hotel)

Lancaster Hotels are owned by Achour Holding, led by company chairman Wissam Ali Achour.

Lebanese banker buys Colorado Springs bank as part of U.S. expansion

The Chairman and CEO of Société Générale de Banque au Liban (SGBL) Antoun Sehnaoui has bought the Pikes Peak National Bank in Colorado Springs, according to a spokesperson.

Sehnaoui is new the chairman of the Colorado-based bank and plans to use it as a hub for expansion across the United States.

He entered negotiations for the acquisition two years ago as an opportunity to expand around the world.

“(It’s an) excellent opportunity based on the bank’s solid management under an experienced, professional leadership team,” Sehnaoui said in a statement.

Currently, the bank has three locations around the Colorado Springs area with total assets held at almost $89 million. The bank has about 30 employees.

Antoun Sehnaoui is also a film producer of over 40 films (imdb.com)
Antoun Sehnaoui is also a film producer and avid collector of the arts. (File photo/Imdb)

Sehnaoui was born in Lebanon in 1972 and moved to the United States during the Lebanese Civil War to study International Finance and Banking at the University of Southern California.

RELATED: British-Lebanese banker now executive vice-chairman of Swiss Bank UBS

He returned to Lebanon and set out to make the country “once again the banking, finance, media and tourist hub of the Middle East.”

Sehnaoui has been credited ten times as a film producer for Lebanese movies, including the Oscar-nominated foreign film The Insult.

Chinese company to fund renovation of railroad from Tripoli to Syria

A Chinese construction company will soon submit a proposal to finance the reconstruction of a railway from the city of Tripoli to the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Daily Star reported.

Eliana Ibrahim, president of the China Arab Association for Promoting Cultural and Commercial Exchange, told the Daily Star the project was in the initial stages, and she could not name the company.

Lebanese Economy Minister Raed Khoury recently attended the Arab States Cooperation Forum hosted by China and received positive feedback about future Chinese investment in Lebanon.

Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi met with several of his Arab counterparts, including Raed Khoury of Lebanon (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China)
Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi met with several of his Arab counterparts, including Raed Khoury of Lebanon (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)

The railroad would provide a route to transport goods from Syria to a port on the Mediterranean Sea and help solidify Chinese involvement in the region for years to come.

RELATED: Beirut’s airport to receive simulation technology from New Zealand

This comes three days after the President of China Xi Jinping pledged $1.6 billion in financial aid to countries in the Middle East, that included Jordan, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

British-Lebanese banker now executive vice-chairman of Swiss Bank UBS

British-Lebanese banker Paul Raphael is now an executive vice-chairman of the Swiss multinational investment bank UBS, a source told finews.asia.

According to the website, UBS said it was discussing options to terminate Raphael earlier in the year but he made a comeback. He will now be Head of Europe and Emerging Markets for the company.

The 56-year-old banker is fluent in Arabic, French, Portuguese, and Spanish and English. Raphael received a bachelors in Economics from the University of Maryland and a Master of Science in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Raphael is now the head of Head of Europe and Emerging Markets at UBS Wealth Management (finews.com)
The latest move marks a dramatic shift from news reported earlier this year (finews.com)

Paul Raphael previously served as a managing director for Credit Suisse and Merill Lynch. His experiences include Chairman of Central Europe, Middle East and Africa & Head of IBD for the Asia-Pacific Region.

A spokesman for UBS did not confirm or comment on the story.

Report: Arab newspaper Al-Hayat closes office in Lebanon

Pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat closed its office in Beirut Saturday in an effort to cut costs and downsize its operations, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Saudi-owned news organization was founded in Lebanon in 1946, and survived multiple bombing attempts before the Lebanese Civil War forced its shut down in 1976.

The newspaper reopened its Beirut offices in 1988, but was quickly bought out by Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan.

After 30 years in business, a source told AFP the office closed this weekend as a result of downsizing and “financial reasons.”

“This closure is part of a decision to close all foreign bureaus for financial reasons and transfer the headquarters to Dubai,” the source told AFP.

Al-Hayat shut down its office in Beirut. (File photo)
Al-Hayat shut down its office in Beirut. (File photo)

Al-Hayat has been experiencing changes in its news operation since the beginning of 2018, when the newspaper closed its main headquarters in London and moved to the Gulf.

The newspaper stopped printing in Lebanon, and could soon change its operation to serve readers in the Gulf only, AFP added.

Al-Hayat was founded by journalist Kamel Mroueh, who was later assassinated, as a daily Arabic newspaper.

The newspaper’s Beirut office employed about 100 people.

Two Lebanese women among Forbes top 10 entrepreneurs in Middle East

Forbes Middle East recently released a list of the top 10 women entrepreneurs in the Middle East that “have championed the most innovative ideas and received the most external funding” in 2017.

Two women from Lebanon made the list at numbers 6 and 9!

The list included women of Arab origin based in the Middle East who were “making waves” in their respective industries.

Nadia Moussouni, named number 6, is the co-founder of her startup Energy 24 that raised $3 million.

Founded in 2011, Moussoun’s Beirut-based startup seeks to create alternative energy storage and generators and currently consists of two technicians, plus four technicians on contract basis.

Nadia and co-founder Antoine Saab (Executive Magazine)
Nadia and co-founder Antoine Saab (Executive Magazine)

RELATED: Carla Haddad: From 14-year-old model to ‘Dancing with the Stars’ celebrity

At number 9, Loulou Khazen Baz raised $1.8 million for her startup Nabbesh.

Founded in 2012, Baz’s startup is the Middle East’s first online freelance work marketplace.

Loulou previously won the TV show “The Entrepreneur” in 2012 for the Nabbesh idea and oversaw the planning of new startups in the healthcare, education and technology sectors.

You can check out the full list, by clicking here.