Media storm engulfs Halliburton's Dubai move

Enter 'Halliburton+Dubai' into Google's News search, and you get 759 results in less than a second. The news that the oil services contractor's CEO's office is moving from Houston, Texas, to Dubai, UAE, is big news across the globe.

Democratic Senators including US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton have attacked the move as some sort of dereliction of patriotic duty. The US government is looking into the tax implications of the move. And prosecutors are assessing whether it has any implications for upcoming investigations into corporate irregularities.

It isn't the first time Dubai has hit the headlines this year. Dubai International Capital was all over the back pages of British newspapers earlier this year for its unsuccessful attempt to buy Liverpool Football Club.

That followed the fiasco of Dubai Ports World having to divest itself of any US port authority interests thanks to another politically motivated storm of protest.

Despite these seemingly difficult media events, and others like them, Dubai has emerged unscathed. In fact, its reputation has been enhanced, and its name has become indelibly linked to phrases that give people a positive impression across the world.

A quick trawl through the articles concerning Halliburton's move illustrates the point.

Halliburton's CEO David Lesar said: "My office will be in Dubai, and I will run our entire world-wide operations from that office." Thus making the city sound like it is at the epicenter of global business.

The New York Times refers to the city-state as a "regional hub". The International Herald & Tribune calls it, "a center for energy deal-making and commerce". MSNBC used the term, "Arab boomtown".

The venerable TIME magazine went furthest, using the Halliburton move to dedicate an entire feature to the delights of Dubai.

"The Houston Petroleum Club, now high atop the city's ExxonMobil building, had always been where oil executives and adventurers gathered to discuss "bidness." But these days, more and more energy executives are meeting at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, where Tiger Woods recently played, to discuss their deals," it began.

"So, it shouldn't have been too surprising when Halliburton Chairman and CEO David Lesar announced that he was moving the headquarters of the enormous oil construction and logistics company to the business capital of the United Arab Emirates. The rest of the industry was migrating that way already," it continued.

It used to be that Dubai had to pay for this type of publicity - often in the form of sport sponsorship deals for its government-owned airline, Emirates.

Now, it has reached a tipping point where private businesses, completely unconnected to government, get the message out for them.

"It's the sort of marketing that money can't buy," said British public relations guru Max Clifford during a recent Dubai conference. "People are far more influenced by what they read in newspapers and magazines and what they hear on television, than an advert. You can spend millions of pounds on advertising and receive nothing like the same impact or success," he concluded.

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