Saudi Aramco signs new augmented reality deal with PIF-backed US startup Magic Leap
Magic Leap’s technology has already proved useful during the pandemic in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and health
Updated 27 January 2021
JEDDAH: Magic Leap, the US-based augmented reality startup backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund (PIF), has signed a collaboration with oil conglomerate Saudi Aramco, its CEO Peggy Johnson announced on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative (FII), the two-day event taking place this week in Riyadh, Johnson said: “We just announced a partnership with Saudi Aramco to work with them on using the technology for remote collaboration and 3D visualization.”
The technology can be extremely helpful in “bolstering the economy” post-coronavirus (COVID-19), Johnson continued. Similar to virtual reality (VR), the device allows a smooth exchange of content between users in different parts of the world.
“It’s very hard to build augmented reality; it’s not virtual reality. You’re actually placing digital content in the physical space around you,” she explained to FII delegates.
Magic Leap’s technology has already proved useful during the pandemic in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and health.
Johnson gave the example of a medical case of conjoined twins in California, where the device was used to train surgeons for the separation procedure.
While the CEO did not give any more details about Magic Leap’s agreement with Aramco, the American startup already has strong Saudi links, with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) announcing in 2018 that it was part of Series D equity funding in the company, with the investment valued at $400 million.
Johnson moved from Microsoft to Magic Leap during the pandemic. The executive spoke about her career shift and how she had only met some of her team virtually, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Workplace challenges were discussed in a separate FII session entitled “The new CEO playbook: How are leaders reinventing work for the post-COVID world?”
Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) Vice Chairman and CEO Yousef Abdullah Al-Benyan said that speed, agility and effective communication were essential during these trying times.
“Before COVID-19, SABIC looked at a clear strategy for a seamless and engaged communication platform for its growth and competitive positions, which is why we invested heavily on digital mobility,” said Al-Benyan.
Consequently, the company’s transition to remote working was extremely seamless, carrying through 8,000 consecutive meetings for their agile platform since then.
With more than 33,000 employees around the globe, SABIC has had to pay attention to its employees’ well-being, socially, physically, mentally and financially, the executive said.
BNY Mellon CEO Todd Gibbons in the US said that the pandemic has made everyone turn more fluid when it comes to technology, but he can see the office experience changing with introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and voice-recognition.
“Ultimately, what’s not going to change is empathy. This experience has reinforced the importance of empathy around leaders recognizing what’s going on around them,” he said.
Kingdom is moving toward Vision 2030 by developing the trade sector and ensuring its sustainability
Updated 13 August 2022
CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s bank loan portfolio rose by SR289 billion ($77.1 billion) in the second quarter of this year from the same quarter a year ago, according to a recent statistical bulletin released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.
Bank loans totaled SR2.42 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2022, up from SR1.95 trillion in the second quarter of 2021, showed the SAMA report.
The SR289 billion increase was led by an SR191.1 billion growth in miscellaneous activities. Its share increased by 2 percentage points to 52 percent in the second quarter of 2022.
The data showed that the value of Saudi banks’ aggregate loan portfolio totaled SR2.24 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2022, up 14.8 percent from the year before and up 4 percent from the previous quarter.
The annual growth in bank loans dropped to a negative in 2017 and remained below zero until the third quarter of 2018. However, bank loans have been seeing an upward trend ever since, according to the SAMA report.
From the third quarter of 2018 until the end of 2019, the value of Saudi bank loans grew at an average rate of 3.7 percent year on year; between 2020 and the second quarter of this year, it grew at an average rate of 14.8 percent year on year.
The dominating segment in the Kingdom’s loans was miscellaneous economic activity, which acquired 52 percent of the total loans this quarter.
Commerce came in second, holding 17.2 percent of total loans in the country, recording SR385.7 billion in the second quarter, showed the data.
The Ministry of Commerce in the Kingdom has been moving toward the Saudi Vision 2030 by developing the trade sector and ensuring its sustainability, according to the Kingdom’s Unified National Platform.
The platform stated: “The Ministry of Commerce’s mission focuses on improving the business environment in Saudi Arabia through enacting, developing and supervising the implementation of flexible and fair trade policies and regulations.”
Even though total bank loans expanded this quarter, two economic activities saw a quarterly decline in bank credit in the second quarter of this year: manufacturing and processing and transport and communication.
Bank loans to transport and communication fell by SR6.2 billion in the second quarter of 2022 from the same quarter the previous year.
Compared to the previous quarter, the sector dropped from 2.1 percent of total loans in the first quarter to 1.9 percent, showed the SAMA bulletin.
Bank loans given to manufacturing and processing fell by SR4 billion in the second quarter of 2022 from the same quarter the previous year.
The data showed that the sector dropped from 7.2 percent of total loans in the first quarter to 6.9 percent compared to the previous quarter.
Platform currently operates in 72 countries: Managing director Burak Karapinar
Updated 13 August 2022
RIYADH: UAE-based global food trade startup QS Monitor has created a platform for food traders to ship their goods risk-free.
Established in 2020, the company mitigates the risk for exporters as they streamline their shipments to avoid food loss by providing traders with the requirements for their goods to pass security measures.
Burak Karapinar, the managing director and founder of QS Monitor, told Arab News that the platform currently operates in 72 countries, which amounts to almost 90 percent of the global food trade industry.
“We are in 72 countries and growing, but this represents almost 90 percent of the global food trade. So, the ones we don’t have on the platform right now are either small countries or ones that are not big in the food trade,” Karapinar said.
Calling it the “Google for food trade,” Karapinar explained that traders input the product along with the destination, and QS Monitor will provide a complete list of requirements.
But that is not at all. Joe Hawayek, the board member of QS Monitor, told Arab News that the platform also links users to testing laboratories in their country.
“We are linking them with a testing laboratory in their country that can conduct these tests, issue them with the relevant certification that says they have passed, and they take it and travel with it for their product from the start,” he added.
By linking these players, Karapinar is trying to mitigate the food loss in the supply chain caused due to contamination.
• As the Ukraine-Russia war affected the global food trade sector, the company plays a huge role in ensuring importers are still connected with exporters.
• Saudi Arabia and the UAE import most of their eggs from Ukraine, and because of the platform, importers could find alternative sources for their products.
“To give you an idea, 72 percent of global food loss happens in the supply chain, not at home or on the consumer’s plate,” he pointed out.
As the Ukraine-Russia war affected the global food trade sector, the company plays a huge role in ensuring importers are still connected with exporters.
“That’s another beauty that we can provide to this platform. The onboarding of a supplier takes months. You need to be able to verify all the information and make sure the supplier meets your criteria and standards.
“Through our platform, you don’t need to do that. You can gather this information. And you can make your decision. So, we also add the trust element between the buyer and the seller,” Karapinar said.
Hawayek also added that Saudi Arabia and the UAE import most of their eggs from Ukraine, and because of the platform, importers could find alternative sources for their products. With a network of over 400 laboratories, the company provides several services through its platform and certification for Halal requirements for certain foods.
“We did more than 10,000 transactions last year; this includes certification testing, inspection, product registration, and supplier audits,” Karapinar added.
With 6,000 traders on the platform, Karapinar stated that the company currently has 1,000 traders on QS Monitor from the Kingdom and is planning to grow that number by a minimum of five times.
In addition, the company is currently in series A funding stage and is on its way to raising $8 million and expanding its staff from 18 to 60 people in the next five months.
QS Monitor also won UAE’s FoodTech Challenge provided by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, which features almost 600 companies.
Gazprom ramps up gas flow to Hungary via Turkstream pipeline, official says
The agreement with Gazprom is for 15 years, with an option to modify purchased quantities after 10 years
Updated 13 August 2022
BUDAPEST: Russia’s Gazprom has ramped up flows to Hungary via the Turkstream pipeline that brings gas to Hungary via Serbia, a Hungarian Foreign Ministry official said on Saturday.
EU member Hungary has maintained what it calls pragmatic relations with Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, creating tensions with some EU allies keen to take a tougher line.
Hungary, which is about 85 percent dependent on Russian gas, firmly opposes the idea of any EU sanctions on Russian gas imports and Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also lobbied hard to secure an exemption from EU sanctions on Russian crude oil imports.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow last month, seeking a further 700 million cubic meters of gas on top of an existing long-term supply deal with Russia.
Under a subsequent agreement, Gazprom started ramping up gas flows to Hungary on Friday, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Tamas Menczer said in a statement.
Menczer said Gazprom would add 2.6 million cubic meters of additional gas per day to previously-agreed deliveries via Turkstream through August, with the amount of September deliveries being negotiated.
Hungary’s reserves stored 2.84 billion cubic meters of gas by the middle of July, the lowest level for that period over the past five years based on data by the national energy regulator.
Under a deal signed last year, before the start of the war in neighboring Ukraine, Hungary receives 3.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year via Bulgaria and Serbia under its long-term deal with Russia and a further 1 bcm via a pipeline from Austria.
The agreement with Gazprom is for 15 years, with an option to modify purchased quantities after 10 years.
KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency on Thursday continued its bullish trend and appreciated 1.38 percent against the United States dollar amid easing balance of payment pressure and expected inflows from the International Monetary Fund, traders and analysts said.
The Pakistani rupee gained Rs3.03 to close at Rs218.88 against the greenback in the interbank market following eight consecutive appreciation trading sessions. The rupee has recouped its value by 9.3% or Rs21 against the greenback in the continued uptrend, according to State Bank of Pakistan data.
“There are couple of reasons for the current appreciation of the Pak rupee against dollar including easing off balance of payment pressure and declining demand at home after government’s administrative measures to curtail imports,” Tahir Abbas, Director Research at Arif Habib Limited, told Arab News.
“Declining current account deficit and price cut of oil and other commodities also eased off pressure on the rupee. The expected inflows from the IMF by the end of this month and undervalued currency are also the key reasons of rupee appreciation.”
Following austerity measures by the government and a restriction on imports, the import bill has declined from $7.8 billion in June 2022 to $4.8 billion in July 2022, which has not only reduced the trade deficit but also eased pressure on the national currency.
The rupee in the open market also appreciated from Rs218 to Rs216 for selling during trading on Thursday. The currency in the open market has appreciated by over 11% or Rs28 since July 29, 2022, according to the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP).
“There are only sellers in the market after the sentiments have changed following the measures taken by government and the central bank,” Zafar Paracha, General Secretary of ECAP told Arab News.
“The central bank has taken action against the banks’ treasuries departments which were involved in maneuvering of dollar in interbank market. In addition, the expected reduction in the import bill of August has also played appreciation role.”
The pressure on the Pakistani rupee eased off after the government took steps to curtail imports and meet preconditions of the IMF for the revival of a $6 billion program signed in 2019 to stave off a balance of payment crisis.
The IMF said last month it had reached a staff level agreement with Pakistan that would pave the way for the disbursement of $1.17 billion after its board approval later this month. Islamabad also has to convince the fund about the availability of funds for a $4 billion financing gap.
Last week, the UAE’s state news agency had reported that the country intended to invest $1 billion in Pakistani companies across various sectors, which include gas, energy infrastructure, renewable energy and healthcare.
Following the current bullish trend in the currency market, Pakistani analysts said the currency was likely to appreciate further to around Rs200 against the greenback in the near future.
Stocks, however, on Thursday, remained bearish mainly due to profit taking that kicked off during the midsession. The benchmark KSE-100 index closed at 42,243 points, down by 251 points.
“Stocks fell sharply lower on political noise and hike in power tariff. Mid session support remained on strong rupee and falling Pakistan dollar bond yields,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News. “Investor concerns for weak earnings outlook played a catalyst role in bearish close.”