Aramex, the Dubai-listed logistics and transportation provider, launched yesterday its “Value Express” service for express shipments within the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia regions. The company has contracted with budget carrier Air Arabia to transport parcels at economical rates. The service allows customers the option to transport less urgent parcels at more economical rates, and was developed to support the region’s commercial sector in achieving greater cost efficiencies in the current downturn. According to Aramex Gulf Chief Executive Hussein Hachem, the demand for cheaper freight transport has naturally increased during the recession. Moreover, he expects that the new service will particularly benefit small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)–which represent 75% of total operating companies in the Middle East and which are looking for reliable and cost-efficient solutions.

Both Aramex and Air Arabia are considered two of the stronger “defensive” plays in the UAE, a concept that could one again garner fancy assuming the World Bank’s recent dire forecast for the global economic recession is anywhere on point. Other defensive picks include telecoms Etisalat and du, and foodstuff and mineral water firm Agthia (which back in March announced 90% net profit growth).

Defensive stocks are considered to provide relatively more stability in earnings than high growth companies, and moreover do not experience high volatility quarter-over-quarter in terms of losses, write-downs or uncertainties coming from investments or provisions. That said, defensive plays are not primed for long-term growth, and thus many portfolio managers may still prefer the better risk adjusted opportunities offered by real-estate and financial firms, should markets correct.