London stock market facing blockbuster IPO year

Lone pedestrian walks through Leadenhall market in the City of London, as Britain enters a national lockdown in London on Jan. 5, 2021. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

London stock market facing blockbuster IPO year

  • So far this year, the shoemaker Dr. Martens, app-driven meals delivery service Deliveroo and online greetings card seller Moonpig have all outlined plans
  • The IPO market has also attracted interest in recent years due to the easier availability of financing

LONDON: London will enjoy a very strong year for stock market flotations, analysts say, arguing that both Brexit and coronavirus offer firms a unique opportunity to expand.
Various big-name businesses that have seen booming online demand from home-bound customers during Covid-19 lockdowns have revealed eye-catching plans for initial public offerings (IPOs) in recent weeks.
Clarity over Britain’s final departure from the European Union on January 1 acted as a catalyst for many companies to raise funds, according to specialists, while the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines also soothed investor concerns over the deadly pandemic.
So far this year, the celebrated shoemaker Dr. Martens, app-driven meals delivery service Deliveroo and online greetings card seller Moonpig have all outlined plans.
“Looking to the year ahead, we can expect 2021 to be a very strong year for the UK IPO market,” said Scott McCubbin at London-based financial services giant EY.
“An uptick in IPO activity may well intensify the competition for investment, placing greater emphasis on preparing early for IPO and raising profile with investors.
“Confidence continues to build with the Brexit deal now giving clarity around the future relationship with Europe and the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations.”
Added to the mix, online money transfer specialist TransferWise has reportedly appointed banks to coordinate a planned float.
British media report that others could include insurer Canopius, EDF-owned electric vehicle charging business Pod Point, and online fashion retailer Very.
The IPO market has also attracted interest in recent years due to the easier availability of financing, alongside ultra-low interest rates.
“Over the past few years we have also seen a strengthening in the financing available for UK and European companies in the early stages of their growth,” said Marcus Stuttard, head of UK primary markets at the London Stock Exchange.
“This means that there are now an increasing number of dynamic businesses at the stage and size of development that are ideal for an IPO.
“These factors coming together have contributed to the strong IPO pipeline we are seeing at the start of 2021,” he told AFP.
At the same time, investors have lots of cash, owing to low borrowing costs and several billion pounds worth of central bank stimulus funds.
London thus hopes to steal a march on rival IPO destinations such as Frankfurt, Hong Kong and New York.
Britain ranked only behind China and the United States in terms of the total amount of cash raised on the stock market last year, according to a recent EY study.
The British capital represented more than 40 percent of the total IPO amounts raised in Europe.
Brexit could deliver a further boost because the government wants to relax certain stock exchange regulations as it seeks to attract more big-name businesses to list.
The Brexit trade deal, which took effect on January 1, did not encompass the finance sector — but Britain and the EU aim to seal a memorandum of understanding about financial services by March.
The City of London Corporation revealed Friday in a study that the British capital still trails the United States and Hong Kong in attracting foreign company listings.
London now wants to compete more effectively against European rivals and EU officials are concerned it could dump highly-prized standards.
Catherine McGuiness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said: “The competitive strengths of London and the UK should mean that we are well placed to seize opportunities as we start a new trading chapter outside the European Union.”


Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses

Updated 54 min 9 sec ago

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses

  • Smallest vials sell for SR400 ($106).
  • Harvest falls during Ramadan this year

TAIF: Every spring, roses bloom in the western Saudi city of Taif, turning pockets of the Kingdom’s vast desert landscape a vivid and fragrant pink.
In April, they are harvested for the essential oil used to cleanse the outer walls of the sacred Kaaba in Makkah.
This year, the harvest falls during Ramadan.
Workers at the Bin Salman farm tend rose bushes and pick tens of thousands of flowers each day to produce rose water and oil, also prized components in the cosmetic and culinary industries.
The perfumed oil has become popular among the millions of Muslims who visit the Kingdom every year for pilgrimages.
Patterns of plants and flowers have long been part of Islamic art.
Known as the city of roses, with approximately 300 million blooms every year, Taif has more than 800 flower farms, many of which have opened their doors to visitors.
While workers pick flowers in the fields, others labor in sheds, filling and weighing baskets by hand.
The flowers are then boiled and distilled.
“We start boiling the roses on high heat until they are almost evaporated, and this takes around 30 to 35 minutes,” Khalaf Al-Tuweiri, who owns the Bin Salman farm, told AFP.
“After that we lower the heat for around 15 to 30 minutes until the distilling process starts, which lasts for eight hours.”
Once the oil floats to the top of the glass jars, the extraction process begins.
The oil is then extracted with a large syringe to fill different-sized vials, the smallest going for SR400 ($106).


Binladin International carries out largest debt restructuring in the region

Updated 16 April 2021

Binladin International carries out largest debt restructuring in the region

  • As much as 75% of Binladin's debts are held by Saudi banks
  • Formal agreement with creditors may be reached by end June

RIYADH: Saudi Binladin International Holding is carrying out the largest debt restructuring in the Middle East, close to SR33 billion ($8.7 billion), with as much as 75 percent involving Saudi banks, said CEO Khalid Al Gwaiz on Thursday.
The company has obtained principal approvals from creditors for the debt restructuring and hopes to reach a formal agreement with them by the end of June and a final agreement by September, Al Gwaiz told Al Arabiya.
Binladin has an integrated transformation program that includes budget structuring and changes to its business model with the aim of helping it cope with recent developments in the market, he said.
The regional construction sector has been hit hard by the weakening of oil prices since 2014 and the associated decline in the real estate sector which has plunged some of the industry’s biggest names into financial distress.
Binladin has identified about SR1 trillion of opportunities in the Kingdom’s construction market linked to huge government projects that will allow it to pay creditors, Al Gwaiz said.


Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified

Updated 16 April 2021

Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified

  • Insurer says it made a generous offer on April 12
  • Crew of Ever Given remains on board ship

RIYADH: The insurance company for the Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week in March, said it was disappointed by the court order to detain the vessel until $900 million compensation is paid after it had already made a generous offer to settle the claim.

The offer to the Suez Canal Authority was made in cooperation with the Japanese company that owns the ship on April 12th, Al Arabiya reported. However, the ship, its cargo and crew are being held until an agreement is reached, said the insurance company, UK Protection and Indemnity Club.

The Economic Court in Ismailia, Egypt, approved a request submitted by the Suez Canal Authority on Monday, to seize on the ship until $900 million is paid to cover the cost of freeing the ship and the disruption to traffic on the canal.

The insurer described the figure as “huge” and unjustified and said it is working with all concerned parties to ensure the release of the ship, its cargo and 25-person crew.

The Ever Given, currently in the Great Bitter Lake region, will move to Port Said for further examination, the insurance company said.


Saudi NESCO to replace 74,000 streetlamps with LEDs in Riyadh

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi NESCO to replace 74,000 streetlamps with LEDs in Riyadh

  • Replacing lights will cut power consumption by 70%

RIYADH: The National Energy Efficiency Services Company (NESCO) will replace 74,000 traditional “sodium” lamps with other smart systems (LED) lights, in 8 municipalities of the Riyadh region.

Agreements between NESCO, also known as Tarshid, and municipalities were signed on Wednesday, SPA reported.

The LEDs will reduce power consumption by more than 70 percent, avoiding more than 48,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to planting 810,000 trees.

The agreements aim to set unified standards for street lighting at the international level, in accordance with the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO).

Tarshid has completed 12 previous agreements with the region’s municipalities, and will soon sign 27 agreements to include the remaining 47 municipalities, CEO Walid bin Abdullah Al-Ghariri said.


Saudi Public Transport Authority launches 15 business centers across the Kingdom

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi Public Transport Authority launches 15 business centers across the Kingdom

  • Cities served will include Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Dammam

RIYADH: Saudi Public Transport Authority has launched business centers in 15 cities across the Kingdom, to provide licensing and customer support services.
The cities include Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Dammam and Al-Ahsa, as well as Qassim, Tabuk, Hail, Arar, Al-Jouf, Al-Baha, Asir, Najran and Jizan, SPA reported.
The Authority seeks to enhance the logistics sector in the Kingdom in line with Vision 2030 goals, said General Supervisor of Operations at the Public Transport Authority Fahad Albadah.
The business centers will allow clients to implement multiple services through the digital package provided by the Naql gateway, Albadah said.