Sino Saudi Gas plans to drill again in Saudi Arabia\'s Empty Quarter in September but gas prices are still too low for companies exploring there, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco said. The joint venture between China\'s Sinopec and state-run Aramco has been prospecting for natural gas for years, but what little they have found has not been exploited largely because industrial gas prices are fixed far below international market prices. Nevertheless, the two partners have decided to press on with a second phase of exploration and will start drilling new wells, known as ‘spudding\', in the desert in southeast Saudi Arabia in the second half of the year. SEC Saudi Electricity, or SEC, the largest listed utility in the Gulf, said yesterday that its fourth-quarter net loss widened year on year to 514 million Saudi riyals (Dh503.24 million), missing most analysts\' expectations, due to an increase in energy costs. Kuwait-based Global Investment House analysts had seen SEC reporting a 155.3-million riyal net loss for the period. SEC, in a statement posted on the Riyadh-bourse website, said full-year 2011 net profit declined 2.5 per cent to 2.22 billion riyals, while earnings per share for the period fell to 0.53 riyals from 0.55 riyals in 2010. The utility said the full-year loss was due to higher energy costs. Alba Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) said sales volumes in 2011 rose 4.5 per cent in 2011, compared with the year before, as it ramped up metal production. Alba, in an emailed statement, said it moved 893,020 metric tonnes of metal last year, up from 854,593 metric tonnes in 2010. Sales in the fourth quarter of 2011 rose to 227,042 metric tonnes, from 224,054 in the corresponding period during the previous year. \"Alba\'s success is significant because 2011 was challenging for industries in Bahrain, and yet last year Alba\'s sales and production demonstrated a consistent upward trend. We are hopeful that Alba will witness another success story in 2012 with the active support of its workforce,\" said Alba\'s chief executive Laurent Schmitt. Alba had previously said production reached 881,310 metric tonnes in 2011 — the highest ever metal production in its 40-year history and a substantial leap from the 850,700 metric tonnes that was produced in 2010. Riyad Bank Riyad Bank, the third-largest lender in Saudi Arabia by market capitalisation, on Tuesday reported net profits of 778 million Saudi riyals (Dh761.71 million) for the fourth quarter, up 1.8 per cent on the year. The bank attributed the slight rise, which was in line with analysts\' expectations, to increased operating income. Earnings per share for the year were 2.10 riyals compared with 1.88 riyals for 2010, the bank said. Net special commissions for the year were 4.20 billion riyals, up 1.3 per cent from 2010. Total operating income rose to 6.3 billion riyals, compared with 5.98 billion riyals for 2010. Total assets at the close of 2011 stood at 180.1 billion riyals, against 173.56 billion riyals for 2010. Customer deposits increased 10 per cent for the year to 139 million riyals. Medinet Nasr Medinet Nasr for Housing, the Egyptian developer of middle- to low-income homes, said sales contracts increased in 2011 even as the country was roiled by political turmoil. The Cairo-based builder reached agreements to sell homes valued at as much as 250 million Egyptian pounds (Dh151.56 million), vice-chairman Hisham Akram said in an interview. The company collects 30 per cent of a home\'s value when a sales agreement is signed and the rest is paid in instalments with a final payment when the property is delivered to the buyer. The fourth quarter of 2011 \"will be the strongest quarter yet because we handed over properties worth around 100 million pounds during the period,\" Akram said by phone from Cairo. Arabia Investments Arabia Investments and Development and Financial Investments Holding, an Egyptian investment firm, said it agreed yesterday to buy a stake of about 20 per cent in Beltone Financial Holding. The transaction was agreed at 16 Egyptian pounds (Dh9.70) per share, and represents the sale of Beltone chairman Aladdin Saba\'s holdings in the firm to Arabia.