Month: December 2007

Just say it

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Just say it
By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary, Staff Writer GULF NEWS Published: December 28, 2007,

They are two simple little words – thank you – but put together, with complete sincerity, they are so powerful that they can change lives, situations, even the future. With 2008 around the corner, how about getting some attitude – of gratitude?

A fortnight ago, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend at a resort in Umm Al Quwain. Thanks to the kids and their activities the day’s schedule was hectic and by late evening, almost all the adults were tired and those who could stay awake were relaxing by the pool.

I decided to go for a stroll on the beach to take in the cool breeze and reflect on the activities of the day.

I chose a nice spot on the beach and sat down to watch the sunset. The colours that lit up the sky were simply breathtaking. Tracers of pink and swatches of purples lay in artless abandon on a backdrop of bleeding crimson … I wished I had taken along a camera but my mind’s eye
came in handy.

Slowly, the colours bleached as though the sky had been sprayed with a giant hose of a decolorant and scraps of greys and faded pinks clung on as the backdrop paled into slate.

Soon night swept in draped a voluminous black cloak and in a swish revealed the crystal work of stars. It was pure theatre and I was watching it free of charge.

The breeze soon picked up so I decided to resume my walk. The sand was cool under my feet, the sea like a vast spill of ebony ink and the moon hung almost full as though held at that spot by an invisible puppeteer’s hand. Nature was putting on another spectacular show. Once again, free of charge.

The only sound was the lapping of the waves. I was sure that if I concentrated hard enough, I would be able to hear the beat of my heart.

And that’s when a familiar but not-so-regular emotion washed over me – the feeling of absolute gratitude for the moment. The sheer beauty of nature that was all around me, giving me everything and asking for nothing in return, except to be in the moment.

I felt blessed for having the chance to be a part of that night.

Back in my room, the calming experience I had just enjoyed kept returning to my mind and set me thinking: would it sound silly if I thanked Life for the evening? After all, how many such evenings had I experienced in the recent past? In fact, when was the last time I was overcome with gratitude for the free abundance of so many things life offers me every day, every week?

I thought of the way we say ‘Thank you’. It is specifically for something we have received or in general for nothing really; just politesse, because it’s so easy to say it without really thinking about it.

And to me that was like a thorn in the flesh. Did I really think through my expressions of gratitude?

Were they simply reflexive responses or had I said some ‘Thank yous’ that were as deeply felt as other emotions like the anger when someone cuts you off on the highway or jumps the queue with impunity or arrogance when someone does not return your call? It’s so easy to feel some emotions so strongly.
You know the ones I mean. But what about a ‘thank you’?
Quite often, we seem to miss the wood for the trees. We expect a lot of things to be the way they are and forget to acknowledge the fact that someone, somewhere, known or unknown, is responsible for making it easy for us.

We take things for granted to the extent that when we wake up, the coffee should be brewing and the croissant shining with a buttery glaze. And warm. Better still, served to you on a plate with a monogrammed napkin tucked in by its side.

You think I am going too far?

Well, I have the right to pontificate on my life and I don’t think I am not guilty of that charge. Quite often I fail to see the silver lining in the clouds and focus instead on the grey … and grumble and groan and whine about it all.

Cicero, the Roman philosopher, got it right: “Gratitude is not only the greatest virtue but the parent of all others.”

New-age psychologists believe that more than anything else, a feeling of gratitude for all the things we enjoy in life can fill us with happiness.

When you count your blessings, you actually tend to discount the inconveniences in life. You tend to grumble less, feel less stressed out and thus produce less stress hormones in your system.

Fewer negative thoughts mean your mind is free … to think of more and better ways to improve your state.

It’s called positive psychology, says Dubai-based clinical psychologist Maya Selisel Sidani.

Till recently, psychology was focused on the treatment of a particular mental ailment. It essentially meant taking a patient who was in, let’s say, a ‘minus 5’ state of mind to a condition where he/she became normal or achieved a state of mind termed zero.

But positive psychology does not involve any treatment procedures as such. It examines the individual’s
state of mind and focuses on lifting his/her mood from, for instance, zero to plus five.

“Gratitude definitely affects our sense of happiness,” says Sidani. She quotes the theory put forward by American Psychology Association president Martin Selignan who explains how gratitude impacts our sense of happiness.
According to Selignan there are three components
to happiness:

A pleasant focus on things that give us pleasure – such as listening to beautiful music, watching a play, enjoying a dinner … basically activities that provide us direct sensory pleasure.

Engagement: This is about the depth of our involvement and commitment to relationships such as (with) our spouse, family, romance, hobbies. When we do things with passion and are involved in these, there |is a natural sense of fulfillment and happiness.

The meaning of life: Doing things that give a larger, greater meaning to life such as using (your efforts) to serve a larger social end.
According to Sidani, the last category is the one that deals with feeling a sense of gratitude … by trying to find meaning to life through doing noble deeds, participating in charity drives, etc.

So, how important is it be grateful for small things in life? Does it take a life-changing experience to make people realise the value of expressing gratitude? In what way can a person express gratitude?

To find out, Friday met a few people:

A humbling experience
Brian Senelwa’s life changed for ever when he learnt that he had lost his first child, a baby boy. “That’s the time I realised how fragile life is,” says the export manager in
a Dubai FMCG company.

“The experience (I underwent) was humbling. It made me appreciate and be grateful for (everything),” he says.

Senelwa, who hails from Kenya and has two children, Christina (5) and Antony (2), is keen to instill the value
of gratitude in his children as they grow up.

“I believe in the power of gratitude. I once read a book called The Attitude to Gratitude, which pointed out the importance of appreciating what one has in life.

“Of late, with the kind of mechanical lifestyles (we lead), we are rushing through the day and I think I have forgotten to thank God for the beautiful and important things he has given me.

“When I watch television – the tragedies, the violence, pestilence, murders – I feel fortunate to be in Dubai. Of course I have had my share of ups and downs in life, many financial and personal problems, but I am thankful to God for having given me some friends who have stood by me and given me the strength to bear it all.”

Senelwa, who had a very tough childhood in Kenya, is all praise for his mother for having instilled in him the right attitude to gratitude.

“My mother, Margaret, was a source my inspiration. She brought up my sister and me single-handedly after my father passed away (I was nine years old at the time). We lived frugally, but she taught me humility and an appreciation for what we had in life.

“Eight things I will always be grateful for and thank God for…

My kids.
My health and well-being.
To be surrounded by friends.
The beauty of nature. I often travel to Hatta and Oman and am awestruck by the beauty of the desert.
My job. I love doing what I do.
For having hope. I have always looked forward to better things.
Second chances in life. Very often we commit mistakes and I am grateful I have been given a second chance to improve on them and redeem myself.
For every new morning in my life.
I had a near fatal accident in Kenya, but escaped unhurt!

* * *

Shemsah Musabih, an accredited Life Coach, specialising in relationships, says: “People sometimes focus on bad times and forget the pleasant and positive things in their lives. I truly believe a sense of gratitude ignites positive feelings in you.”

She has experienced many things in her life that fill her with a very positive feeling.

“I was born in USA but spent most of my life in the UAE. One of the strongest memories I have of my childhood is of my mother showing pictures of starving children to my brothers and me whenever we refused our food. She used to remind us of what they didn’t have and all the things that we had to be grateful for.

“My father always reminded us to thank God whenever we saw people who were suffering, sick, or poor and for us not being that way.

“We also grew up being told that there’s a blessing and wisdom behind everything that we go through – the good and the bad. We may not understand it now, but someday, when we look back upon our lives, we will realise the truth.

“I believe that we get what we deserve and we have to earn what we want in life. The only way we can prove that we will be grateful for the things we want and won’t take them for granted, is by being grateful for the things that we have.

“By being grateful, we realise that we have so many reasons to celebrate and share happiness. It puts life into perspective and keeps us going.”

One of the fondest memories she has of childhood is of spending a summer with her father in London.

“It was just him and I. I felt very close to him and he made me feel very special. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. We went shopping, to the park and simply hung out together.

“I’ve spoken about it so many times, however, now that I think about it I never actually thanked him, so I’d like to take this opportunity to say “Thank you Baba for making me feel special”.

Shemsah’s lists things she is grateful for:

The family that I grew up in. (That experience moulded me into who I am today).
My husband and son (my inspirations and support).
My friends and relationships (my balance in life).
My health and beauty.
My experience through postpartum depression (It taught me to be more compassionate and grateful. I am a better woman, wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, and citizen because of it).
My knowledge and Islam (My empowerment).
Being half American and half Emirati (I got the best of both worlds).
My safety and security (I’m grateful that I’m living in a
place like Dubai).
My time (I am grateful for each day that I am able to wake up and do the things that I want to do and share my time with the people that I love).
My food, clothes, house, wealth and nannies (I am grateful for not having the stress of not knowing where I am going to sleep tonight, or how I am going to get my next meal).
* * *

Lillian Yordi has wonderful memories of a warm Venezuelan home filled with family that makes her so full of gratitude for all the nice times she had. I crib about things and I think it is human nature to do so.

But I (am always brought back to reality) when I see things around me and I realise how lucky I am to be alive; that makes me reflect and to be grateful just for being healthy and happy.

“I am happy when I am surrounded by my family, friends and people that I care about and love. I thank God for all the beautiful things in my life – my kids, my husband and family.

Zordi recalls the happy memories of Christmas: “I can remember how every year my mother would purchase all the ingredients and then gather all of us around to begin preparing and making ‘Hallacas’ (a Venezuelan dish for Christmas) and special desserts, treats and decorations.

“She had a magic touch that made our lives special. I don’t recall saying ‘thank you’ to her but I carry that feeling of gratitude in my heart and I share it with my kids. I hope to follow my mother’s example by making my children’s lives special.”

Reliance plans $24 bn investment in petrochemicals

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Reliance plans $24 bn investment in petrochemicals
IST, PTI

DUBAI: Reliance Industries, India’s largest company by market value, plans to spend $24 billion over the next ten years in setting up petrochemicals projects in the Middle East, company Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani is reported to have said.

“We plan to set up a number of petrochemical plants in the next decade, with each costing $4-6 billion,” the Dubai-based Gulf News quoted Ambani as saying.

Ambani had yesterday told a conference here that building five billion dollar petrochemicals plants in the Middle East will be the best way for Reliance, India’s biggest producer of chemicals, to meet India’s quadrupling demand of chemicals in the next 10 years.

Reliance wants to tap the growing demand for chemicals in Asia, especially in China and India.

“Dubai will be the gateway to our future investment in this part of the world and beyond,” Gulf News quoted Ambani as saying. “We will increase our headcount in Dubai, which will be the nerve centre of our international operations.”

Ambani, who had yesterday at the petrochemical conference said that Reliance would aggressively pursue acquisitions as part of a new strategy to grow, told Gulf News his company was not yet ready for big-ticket acquisitions.

“We will need to grow and invest in our own expansion for at least 10 more years, before entering into big-time acquisitions,” he was quoted as saying.

4 Indians win media awards in Dubai

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4 Indians win media awards in Dubai
29 Dec, 2007, 1235 hrs IST, PTI

DUBAI: Four Indians have been awarded by a Dubai-based media group for excellence in fields like animation and photography.

Among the total 11 winners of Ibdaa Media Student Awards 2007, presented at a gala ceremony held at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre here, were Santosh Nayak from Sir J J Institute of Applied Art who won in the Animation category and Sagar Pitale from L S Raheja School of Art for Graphic Designing.

Besides, Varun Dahisaria from Rachana Sansad College of Applied Arts, India, came first in Digital Photography and Derryk Mas carenhas from Rizvi College of Arts, India won the award for Print Advertising.

Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority presented the awards on Thursday evening.

The students were selected from more than 2,200 media student entries across the globe, including from Egypt, India, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Philippines, the UK and the UAE for the sixth edition of the award.

Besides cash prizes, the winners were also awarded internship opportunities with leading media organisations such as CNN, MBC, CNBC Arabia, Xische, Team Y&R, Motivate Publishing, Nikon, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Arabian Radio Network (ARN).

Mohamed Al Mulla, director, Dubai Media City, and coordinator general of the Ibdaa Awards, said, “The awards mark the pinnacle of achievement for the talented youngsters and their remarkable creative skills. This recognition will lead to promising careers with top media organisations, not just for the winners but for all the short-listed participants as well.”

Be wise in what you ask for

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Be wise in what you ask for
29 Dec, 2007, 0003 hrs IST,Vithal C Nadkarni, TNN

On New Year, be careful of what you ask. You might actually get it! That warning has been variously attributed to Vyasa and Valmiki. In the Mahabharata, for instance, Vyasa narrates an intriguing ‘explanation’ behind Draupadi’s becoming a common wife to the five Pandava princes. She’s supposed to have propitiated Siva with her austerities in her previous incarnation. When the blue-throated Lord asks his devotee to choose a boon, she begs for a groom with all the great qualities.

Not being content to voice her request once, the pushy girl goes on to repeat her wish five times. “So be it,” says the Lord. “Since you spoke five times, five husbands you shall have, but in your next life.” Now why didn’t the Lord grant her wish immediately? Perhaps he wanted to spare his devotee the agonies of the Great War, which was certain to occur once his heroic bratpack made its bid for kingly spoils from older, entrenched bloodlines. Nor does Siva excuse his devotee’s excess in the story as narrated by Vyasa. His motto seems to be, “You have only to ask and you shall have it.”

This is not unlike what the Australian TV-producer Rhonda Byrne has articulated in her best-selling The Secret, namely, for better or worse, you’ll get what you wish for. So, be very careful.

Valmiki’s version of the power of misplaced wishing involves Ravana and his brothers. The Danava brood wins over Brahma with their tapasya and is asked to make their wishes: Ravana asks for immunity from all the gods, anti-gods, the nagas and other semi-divine beings in the seven worlds. His attempt is to cover all the major bases from which he anticipates attack. But he neglects to include puny humans, which proves to be his nemesis. He might have been saved had he eschewed toxic thinking and chosen as his youngest sibling Vibhishana did, namely, constant proximity to the Lord and His good cause.

The mighty Khumbhakarna, too, slips in his unseemly hurry to ask for the Indrasana or sovereignty over the gods. He asks for Nidrasana instead, which involves suzerainty over inordinate sleep and inertia.

Closer to our times watch the paradox of “millions longing for immortality who do not know what to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon,” writes the novelist Susan Ertz. Just think of the prospects of living forever in a world gone to pot from pollution and perverted nature. Mere quantity isn’t enough. Think of the quality. Strive for it.

Cheer up, the outlook is not so bad

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Cheer up, the outlook is not so bad
27 Dec, 2007, 0548 hrs IST,T T Ram Mohan, TNN

The year ends on a sombre note for the world economy. The impact of the subprime crisis in the US is stretching out. Whatever the prospects of an economic depression, the barrage of morose comment is certain to generate pervasive mental depression.

Cheer up, the outlook is not so bad. The US economy will slow down appreciably but still looks unlikely to go into recession, that is, two successive quarters of negative growth. The global economy too will slow down but growth will still be good by past standards. The Indian economy will continue to grow strongly and the stock market should provide attractive returns over the coming year.

The fundamental basis for optimism about the world economy is this: major economic crises have their roots in big supply shocks (e.g., a sharp rise in oil prices) or a currency crisis (caused by foreign investors’ lack of confidence in an economy) or a banking crisis. None of this appears likely today.

The world economy has shown an uncanny ability to live with high oil prices. But prices above $100 still have the potential to cause damage. During the year, prices inched towards the $100 mark but they have since shown signs of softening. A big factor is the US intelligence agencies’ assessment that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 and is still quite far from acquiring the bomb. This renders a neocon-inspired strike on Iran rather difficult in the coming year. That is good news for oil prices.

The US is hugely indebted and foreigners hold a huge amount of US government securities. The US is theoretically vulnerable to a currency crisis. But currency crises are more common when debt is foreign currency-dominated. This is not true of the US.

The US enjoys an even bigger advantage. As the world’s sole superpower and the biggest economy, the US will remain the choice of central banks and other investors for some time to come. While investors may lower their US holdings in their portfolios, a big sell-off that could trigger a currency crisis is just not on the cards.

What about a banking crisis? Banks’ losses are expected to rise in the months to come as the crisis unfolds. Many of the off-balance sheet vehicles floated by banks are now coming on to their balance sheets. As banks are expected to carry a minimum of regulatory capital against balance sheet assets, it is argued that their ability to extend credit will be impaired and we could see a credit crunch.

This is true, of course, but a credit crunch does not imply a banking crisis. A banking crisis involves the failure of several banks, that is, the net worth of several banks gets wiped out. There is nothing so far to suggest that such a crisis threatens American banking. Large banks operate with a capital adequacy ratio of over 12% against the regulatory minimum of 8% or so. They are well placed to absorb the impact of the subprime crisis and also to boost their capital.
That is because, as Citibank and UBS have shown, there are overseas investors willing to provide capital.

US banks have non-core assets that could be sold off at a pinch. Secondly, as the Financial Times points out, the global US banks are sitting on a gold-mine in the form of their investments in Chinese banks — the nine biggest stakes are worth $81 billion compared to the write-offs announced of $50 billion. So, yes, banks’ ability to lend will be constrained but this falls well short of a banking crisis.

The prospects, therefore, are of a slowdown in the US economy but not a recession. A US slowdown will drag down global economic growth, of course, but strong domestic demand in emerging markets can be expected to mitigate this impact. Despite what is believed to be a crippling credit crisis, world economy growth in 2008 in PPP terms will not be much lower than the rate of 4.4% seen in 1999-2008.

India’s own growth prospects remain bright. In 2008-09, we can expect growth of the order of 8%-8.5%. Exports are bound to be impacted by external conditions and the appreciation of the rupee. But investment will remain strong.
The big change in the Indian economy in recent years is that it is becoming investment-driven: investment has outstripped consumption in its contribution to growth every year since 2002-03. Businessmen are looking far beyond the present global conditions and they like what they see in India, so they will invest and invest.

India’s stock market should continue to deliver good returns. The earnings outlook remains good. Moreover, the Indian stock market is showing signs of attracting new classes of investors (US pension funds, oil wealth, Japanese retail investors, etc). The combination of strong fundamentals and FII flows augurs well for the market.

There is an economic crisis in our midst alright. But it is not formidable in relation to crises we have seen in the past. On balance, it is still amenable to concerted policy action. Not a bad note on which to usher in the New Year.

Stocks to buy: Kotak Mahindra Bank, Titan Industries, Salora Intl, 3i Infotech, Colgate Palmolive

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Stocks to buy: Kotak Mahindra Bank, Titan Industries, Salora Intl, 3i Infotech, Colgate Palmolive
28 Nov, 2007, 0719 hrs IST, TNN

Kotak Mahindra Bank
CMP: Rs 1,122.35
Target Price: Rs 1,363

Motilal Oswal Securities has initiated coverage on Kotak Mahindra Bank with a buy rating and a price target of Rs 1,363. “Kotak (Bank) is aggressively building up its banking franchise, with focus on affluent customers and retail services. Its asset management business should see exponential growth,” the Motilal Oswal note to clients said.

“Though its insurance business has been losing market share, we expect better utilisation of Kotak’s distribution strength to change this. We believe KMB deserves premium valuations, given the strong growth expected across its businesses, fast traction in earnings, and quality management,” the note added.

Titan Industries
CMP: Rs 1,531.70
Target Price: Rs 1,850

Merrill Lynch has initiated coverage on Titan Industries with a buy rating and a price target of
Rs 1,850, terming it a “high growth domestic consumption story.” “We expect Titan’s watch business to benefit from mix up-trading and distribution moving more towards high margin channel of ‘World of Titan’”.

“In jewellery, we expect volume growth to remain explosive at around 40% as Titan forays into second-tier cities with the new value format “Gold Plus”,” the Merrill note to clients said. “In the premium “Tanishq” format, larger stores and higher efficiencies should drive margins. Lastly, we expect the new venture of prescription eyewear to take off and account for 4% of EBITDA (earning before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) FY10,” the note added.

Salora Intl
CMP: Rs 223
Target Price: Rs 312

Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services has assigned a buy rating to Salora International with a price target of Rs 312. “The company derives 85% of its revenues from the telecom & infocom distribution business and more than 90% of the EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) from the business of distribution, thus making it a clear contender for a re-rating from a CTV components manufacturer to a full-fledged distributor,” the PPFAS note to clients said.

“The company has active plans to get into retailing of products that it is already distributing; the modalities of the same will be out very shortly. The company is very well placed to show a topline growth of above 35% for some time in our expectations,” the note further said, adding that the recently initiated restructuring of the CTV components business will keep overall profitability intact.

3i Infotech
CMP: Rs 134.60
Target Price: Rs 175

ICICI Securities (I-Sec) has initiated coverage on 3i Infotech with a buy rating and a price target of Rs 175. “3i Infotech, with a balanced mix of software products and services (~1:1), has differentiated itself from peers by adopting a diversified business model with a strong foothold in high-growth areas.

With software services providing stability to revenue stream, products add non-linearity to the overall business model,” the I-Sec note to clients said. Additionally, the sharp rupee appreciation, which has baffled the whole software sector, is relatively a lesser concern for 3i Infotech as it derives around 31% revenues from the domestic market and the net dollar exposure is estimated to be less than 10%. Also, 3i Infotech remains comparatively aloof from other sectoral worries such as the subprime issue, impending economic slowdown in the US, wage inflation, attrition,” the note added.

Colgate Palmolive
CMP: Rs 410.35
Target Price: Rs 482

Citigroup Global Markets has assigned a buy rating to Colgate Palmolive with a price target of Rs 482. “Colgate’s business has demonstrated strong growth over the eight quarters, with sales growing in excess of 15%. It has gained share in rural areas through its ‘Cibaca’ brand and has also rolled out innovative toothpaste variants at the higher end, which have gained strong acceptance and helped accelerate growth,” the Citigroup note to clients said.

“With major capital expenditure behind it, and incremental tax and excise savings from its new plants, cash generation is likely to accelerate. We estimate about Rs 1,230 crore of free cash generation over the next three years, more than two times of what was generated over the previous three years and as such, dividend payout could increase,” the note added.

Disclaimer: The above stocks are picked up at random from research reports of brokerage houses. Investors are advised to use their own judgement before acting on these recommendations. ET does not associate itself with the choices.

OVL hits oil in Najwat block off Qatar shores

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OVL hits oil in Najwat block off Qatar shores
28 Dec, 2007, 0448 hrs IST,Rajeev Jayaswal, TNN

NEW DELHI: ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) has struck black gold in Arabian Gulf block off Qatar. The Najwat Najem block is the first overseas project executed by OVL wherein the company has both 100% ownership and is the sole operator.

“As per preliminary indications, oil has been encountered in the Shuaiba and Arab formations. The second well will also be completed by January 2008. We are hopeful that this will lead to the development stage,” a source in the petroleum ministry said.

The exact size of the discovery is not known yet as it has not been formally approved. OVL spudded its first appraisal well in the Najwat Najem structure on July 6, 2007. OVL had firmed up two locations for evaluating the structure and assessing and proving its commerciality.

OVL signed an appraisal, development and production sharing agreement (ADPSA) with the Qatari government on March 2, 2005 for the Najwat Najem oil structure appraisal in the country as an operator. The agreement came into effect on May 19, 2005 with the signing of the Emiree Decree (termed the effective date).

ADPSA is for a period of 20 years from the date of the Emiree Decree and comprises of an initial two year appraisal phase followed by a development phase. The minimum work committed during the appraisal phase is reprocessing and interpretation of 200 sq km of seismic data, a preliminary G&G study, drilling of two appraisal wells and an integrated multi-disciplinary study to assess the potential of the area.

The Najwat Najem oil structure is located in the Arabian Gulf in offshore Qatar at a distance of about 100 km north east of Doha Port. It lies at a distance of about 18 km off the Halul island in the state of Qatar. The Jurassic lime stones are the main reservoirs of this structure.

The Najwat Najem oil structure is in the Persian Gulf, at a water depth of approximately 135 feet.