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Grounds for war

USA
For the past 10 years the preferred coffee-shop chain of US troops in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq has been Green Beans Coffee. The brand has been boosting the morale of military personnel with its Seattle-style espressos and cappuccinos on US bases around the globe. But what most of the troops probably don’t know is that the owners of Green Beans are of Iranian descent: brothers Jason and Jon Araghi.

The pair decided to start Green Beans after running a coffee shop in Saudi that became a hit with US military personnel stationed nearby. They now have more than 70 cafés in US military bases abroad and, thanks to a new franchisee the Army Airforce Exchange Service (an organisation that establishes retail operations on US military bases), will open two new cafés a month for the next six months at bases in the US. Revenue has increased from (€5m) in 2004 to €13m in 2006.

Green Beans will also offer franchising opportunities at discounted rates for former service personnel. “Our customers appreciate that a percentage of what they pay for goes to a charity that supports families of soldiers who have been killed or disabled,” says Jason. “A lot of soldiers want to have Green Beans when they go back to the US. Starbucks and our competitors weren’t on the frontline when they were fighting.”

Pressing issues

Barcelona
This year’s Mobile World Congress, the mobile phone world’s annual gathering in Barcelona, saw a market transformed, post-iPhone. While rivals made no mention of Apple’s handset, a glut of new phones with touchscreens made their debut.

To combat consumer resistance to the technology (people have grown used to conventional phone keys), LG has brought out the KF700, which has a touchscreen, a traditional keypad and a jog wheel. Only Nokia held back from touchscreens – its big announcement was the N78, which has an FM transmitter for playing MP3s through your car radio.

We also noticed that “haptics” – vibrations that tell users when a button has been pressed – are big news. They feature on the Sony Ericsson W980i music handset, due this autumn.

To buy or not to buy

Dubai
Dubai property prices continue their meteoric rise, with Cairo-basedHC Securities & Investment predicting the city-state will witness “unprecedented” price hikes this year. The problem is even if you can afford that penthouse in Dubai Marina with a view of the Persian Gulf, you might never be able to move in.

A whopping 40 per cent of Dubai’s €273bn worth of projects in development have been temporarily suspended, according to a report by Saudi-owned Rakaa Properties. The city’s breakneck pace of development coupled with high commodity prices means the cost of construction materials is shooting up faster than the Burj Dubai itself.

Developers usually sell new projects off-plan. Increasingly, they then find it difficult to complete construction within budget because costs have gone through the roof, says Niraj Masand, director of commercial advisory at Better Homes, one of Dubai’s largest real estate agencies. He predicts a number of developers will cover the difference by buying back their projects from the original buyers at a premium, then re-selling them in the future at an even higher price.

Pies in the sky

01 Burj Dubai - Thrown off schedule last year. Developer Emaar says the structure is due for completion late this year or early next.
02 Hydropolis - A creation of Joachim Hauser, the underwater hotel was due for completion late 2007. The €400m project appears dead in the water.
03 Ocean Heights - Damac was originally supposed to have delivered Ocean Heights, a residential skyscraper at the entrance to Dubai Marina, last year. Tenants have 2011 as a moving-in date.

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