Mike Martin/DUBAI

If you think that sea bream and sea bass are naval missiles, you should change your diet. They play a modest but important role in the $3.4-billion deal in which the UAE is buying 30 Dassault Mirage 2000-9s.

Fish farming, not to mention flowers and a business centre, are the first fruits of the major offset deal negotiated between Dassault and the UAE government. It calls for 60% of the value of the deal to be created in business ventures in the UAE.


"Our responsibility is to come up with the ideas for business ventures, to create partnerships and try to attract investment. Of course, we invest ourselves but we remain a minority partner," says Bernard Durin, UAE offset office director.

"The one thing the country does not need is money but they want ideas for developing the economy and to create wealth outside of the oil business."

Before launching business ideas, Durin set out to understand the economy, the culture and the laws of the region and began by opening an office in the UAE in early 1997.

The biggest of the five projects launched so far is the Asmak company based around the fish farming, processing and export business. The $100-million venture has seen the creation of fish farms at several locations around the UAE, drawing heavily on a similar offset venture in Greece.

The aim is to produce 6,500 tonnes of sea bass and sea bream a year, for local consumption and export to Europe. Local species such as hammour and grouper would also be farmed.

The venture has involved considerable technical challenges, says Duran. "The high salinity of the Gulf is a problem but we have found suitable locations. We have a good aquaculture specialist from our Greek venture working on this."

Another venture that became an instant success was the creation of a dedicated business centre in Abu Dhabi. Opened in January, it was full within nine months and is now being expanded. Used by business-start-ups or business people needing a base while travelling in the Gulf, the idea may be expanded into Dubai.

Source: Flight Daily News