Startup of the Week: Botola Meals offers healthy diets

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Updated 14 June 2021

Startup of the Week: Botola Meals offers healthy diets

JEDDAH: Obesity is a growing issue in Saudi Arabia. A study by the Sharik Association for Health Research found that the rate of obesity among Saudi adults totaled 35.6 percent in 2020.

Besides health issues, another study by the US-based University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in collaboration with Saudi Health Council and the World Bank, found that obesity increases the risk of death by COVID-19 by 48 percent, and may make vaccines against the disease less effective.

In a bid to help those suffering with their weight, entrepreneurs Mohammad Faden, Nofal Al-Jefri and Mohammad Al-Harthi in November 2019 set up Botola Meals, a healthy meal-prepping service. 

Botola is the Arabic word for heroism. “It may directly symbolize athletes and achievements, but in fact it is a deep philosophy,” Faden told Arab News. “Whatever the individual’s ambition to reach that goal is, it is in itself an achievement and a mark of heroism,” he added. Al-Jefri highlighted the fact that consumers are prone to purchasing meals that are quick to prepare. “We believe that the market needs and lacks this type of project specialized in healthy fast food, and when you specialize in a particular field, it enhances consumer confidence in your product,” Al-Jefri said. “Clean Eating Matters” is the restaurant’s slogan. Al-Harthi said that Botola Meals offers healthy diets that are not about depriving yourself, but about balance. “We also want to educate people about the importance of investing in themselves and their health in an easy and convenient way,” he said. Botola Meals also prepares customized plans to cater to the specific needs of customers, such as monitoring ingredients that cause allergies and eliminating carbohydrates if a customer is following a paleo diet.

“We sit down with the customer and cooperate as much as possible in providing what suits them,” Faden said.

The startup meal service sold about 45,000 meals in 2020 — roughly 120 meals a day.Botola Meals has one branch in Jeddah’s Al-Salama district, and is planning to open a second branch in Riyadh in 2023. The startup’s long-term plan is to expand across the Gulf and beyond.


Tencent ordered to end exclusive music contracts

Updated 6 min 24 sec ago

Tencent ordered to end exclusive music contracts

  • Chinese regulators step up enforcement of anti-monopoly laws

BEIJING: Internet giant Tencent was ordered by regulators to end exclusive contracts with music copyright holders, adding to increased enforcement of anti-monopoly and other rules as Beijing tightens control over online industries.

Tencent controls more than 80 percent of “exclusive music library resources” following its 2016 acquisition of China Music Group, the State Administration for Market Regulation said on Saturday. It said that gives Tencent the ability to get better terms than competitors receive or to limit the ability of rivals to enter the market.

Tencent Holdings Ltd., best known abroad for its WeChat messaging service, has a sprawling business empire that includes games, music and video. It is among the world’s 10 most valuable publicly traded companies, with a stock market value of $680 billion.

In order to “restore market competition,” Tencent must end exclusive music copyright contracts within 30 days, the market regulator said in a statement. The company is barred from requiring providers to give better terms than competitors receive.

Tencent promised on its social media account to “conscientiously abide by the decision.”

Regulators are stepping up enforcement of anti-monopoly, data security, financial and other rules against Tencent, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and other companies that dominate entertainment, retail and other industries.

The enforcement has hurt the stock market value of some companies. Shares in ride-hailing service Didi Global Inc., which made its US stock market debut last month, are down 21 percent after regulators announced a probe of its “network security” and ordered the company to overhaul handling of customer data.

Regulators have publicly warned major companies not to use their market dominance to keep out new competitors.

Tencent was blocked by regulators on July 10 from combining its game platforms Douyu and Huya on the grounds that might reduce competition.

On Wednesday, the Chinese internet regulator reprimanded Tencent, Alibaba, microblog platform Sina Weibo and e-commerce service Xiaohongshu for allowing sexually suggestive stickers or short videos of children to be distributed on their services.


Stronger, faster recovery forecast for global insurance sector

Updated 10 min 39 sec ago

Stronger, faster recovery forecast for global insurance sector

  • Global commercial insurance prices rose 18 percent in the first quarter of 2021 from a year earlier

NEW YORK: The global insurance industry is poised to recover more quickly and forcefully from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic than it did after the 2008 financial crisis, despite such obstacles as low interest rates and inflation risk, insurer Swiss Re AG’s chief Americas economist said on Friday.

Unlike the prior crisis, the pandemic did not weaken insurers' overall capitalization or financial strength, which allows companies to write new coverage and increase revenue, economist Thomas Holzheu told Reuters.

Writing new policies was more difficult in 2009 and 2010 when insurers were reeling from capital losses, slow economic growth and depleted incomes of companies and individuals.

In contrast, businesses and individuals now have more money from government stimulus and support programs, and are more conscious of the need to buy protection against risks, he added.

“We see a much stronger, more resilient demand for insurance — last year, this year, and we expect for the next few years — compared with the financial crisis, when the industry was a part of the financial markets issues,” he said.

Swiss Re’s view aligns with other bullish signs. Global commercial insurance prices, for example, rose 18 percent in the first quarter of 2021 from a year earlier, on average, insurance broker Marsh McLennan Cos Inc. said in May. Rates have risen since late 2017.

Swiss Re said it expects annual growth for all premiums, not just commercial, to reach 3.3 percent this year and 3.9 percent in 2022, after falling just 1.3 percent last year. That compares with a 3.7 percent decline in 2008, during the financial crisis, and a slower rebound of 0.5 percent and 2.1 percent in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Sector bellwether Travelers Companies Inc. on Tuesday beat second-quarter Wall Street estimates by more than $1 a share.

Other large US insurers are due to report results over the next two weeks.


G20 split on climate goals as China, India push back on coal phaseout

Updated 24 July 2021

G20 split on climate goals as China, India push back on coal phaseout

  • Coal phaseout 2025 deadline too soon for some nations
  • Some wanted more aggressive global warming target than Paris 2015

NAPLES: Energy and environment ministers from the Group of 20 rich nations have failed to agree on the wording of key climate change commitments in their final communique after China and India refused to give way on two key points.

One of these was phasing out coal power, which most countries wanted to achieve by 2025 but some said would be impossible for them.

The other concerned the wording surrounding a 1.5-2 degree Celsius limit on global temperature increases that was set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Average global temperatures have already risen by more than 1 degree compared to the pre-industrial baseline used by scientists and are on track to exceed the 1.5-2 degree ceiling.

“Some countries wanted to go faster than what was agreed in Paris and to aim to cap temperatures at 1.5 degrees within a decade, but others, with more carbon-based economies, said let’s just stick to what was agreed in Paris,” said Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani.

The G20 meeting was seen as a decisive step ahead of United Nations climate talks, known as COP 26, which take place in 100 days’ time in Glasgow in November.

Italy holds the rotating presidency of the G20, and Cingolani, as chairman of the two-day gathering, said negotiations with China, Russia and India had proved especially tough.

The G20 nations, which includes Saudi Arabia, collectively account for some 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and some 60 percent of the planet’s population.

At the Naples talks, the United States, the European Union, Japan and Canada made clear they “firmly intend to go faster than the Paris agreement by the (end of) the decade, and below 1.5 degrees,” Cingolani said.

Cingolani said the G20 had made no new financial commitments, but added that Italy would increase its own climate financing for underdeveloped countries.

The urgency of climate action has been brought home this month by deadly floods in Europe, fires in the United States and sweltering temperatures in Siberia, but countries remain at odds over how to pay for costly policies to reduce global warming.

Despite the two points of disagreement, Cingolani said the G20 had put together a 58-point communique and that all the countries agreed that decarbonization was a necessary goal.

All G20 members agreed to at least meet the Paris goals.

US President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, participated in the Naples talks. Earlier in the week, Kerry called on China to join the United States in urgently cutting greenhouse gases.

The majority of the countries at the conference also backed a goal of moving faster to reduce the use of coal, the Italian minister said, without naming all of the nations.

But during the talks, China, as well as Russia and India, were “more prudent” in embracing more ambitious goals, Cingolani said.

“For those countries, it means putting into question an economic model,” he said.

Exactly what commitment nations, including those which heavily pollute, are willing to make toward fighting climate change will be also on display at UN climate conference taking place in Scotland in November.

The national leaders of the G20 countries will have the opportunity to thrash out the sticking points that emerged in Naples when they meet in Rome at the end of October.


Food commodities in Egypt ‘will not be affected by increase in fuel prices’

Updated 24 July 2021

Food commodities in Egypt ‘will not be affected by increase in fuel prices’

  • Head of Consumer Protection Authority warns that its inspectors would deal with those who raised any prices

CAIRO: The president of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, Ibrahim Al-Arabi, said on Saturday that the increase in fuel prices will not affect the price of bread and other food commodities, nor the flow of goods.
Al-Arabi said the decision of the Fuel Automatic Pricing Committee, which is concerned with following up and implementing the mechanisms of applying automatic pricing for petroleum products every quarter, recommended adjusting the selling price of the three types of gasoline products, starting Friday morning, raising prices by 25 piasters ($0.016), with the price of a liter of 80 octane gasoline rising to 6.75 Egyptian pounds ($0.43). The price of 92 octane gasoline is now 8 pounds per liter and high-quality 95 octane gasoline is 9 pounds.
The committee’s decision was based on the extreme fluctuation in global prices, mainly because of the economic effects of the coronavirus disease pandemic and production cuts.
Ayman Hossam El-Din, head of the Consumer Protection Authority, warned that its inspectors would deal with those who raised any prices, whether for foodstuffs or transportation costs.


Lebanon signs deal to sell Iraqi fuel in move to ease crisis

Updated 24 July 2021

Lebanon signs deal to sell Iraqi fuel in move to ease crisis

  • The swap is valued at between $300-400 million
  • Lebanon to offer Iraq unspecified services in exchange

BEIRUT: Lebanon signed a deal Saturday to broker Iraqi fuel sales in hopes of alleviating a crippling financial and energy crisis in the small Mediterranean country, Lebanese and Iraqi media reported.
The deal allows Beirut to resell 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil from Iraq — fuel that Lebanon cannot use in its own power plants — to companies who would then provide useable fuel to Lebanon over the next year.
Lebanon would offer Iraq services in exchange, Energy Minister Raymond GHajjar said, without offering details. Local media said Iraq would benefit from Lebanese health services and agriculture consultancy.
The swap, which GHajjar estimates is valued at between $300-400 million, could offer a brief respite to Lebanon’s worsening power cuts and bring funds to its cash-strapped government. But a structural power solution, in a sector steeped in corruption and political interference, is far from sight.
Blackouts have been a fixture in Lebanon since the end of its 15-year civil war in 1990, and the small country relies on imported fuel. But the problem has intensified as the government grapples with unprecedented financial problems, and considers lifting fuel subsidies.
“The Iraqi state agreed to open an account in Lebanon’s Central Bank in exchange for this fuel. This account is managed by the Iraqi Finance Ministry through which it buys services inside Lebanon... in Lebanese pounds,” GHajjar said. Then Lebanon resells the fuel in exchange for fuel it can use in its plants.
“We hope other Arab countries follow suit and give us this opportunity because it is really a golden opportunity for us,” GHajjar said at Beirut International Airport upon his return from Baghdad.
A statement from Iraq’s Prime Minister’s office said the 1 million barrels of fuel oil would be offered to Lebanon in exchange for services and products, although neither side immediately mentioned what these were.
Lebanon’s state electricity company has most recently been providing no more than four hours of power a day, leaving private generator operators as the main providers. Diesel supplies have dwindled, and long queues stretch outside gas stations each day.
Government officials have also complained of widespread smuggling to neighboring Syria, which is also facing an economic crisis following a decade of war.
Lebanon defaulted on its foreign debt last year and struggled to pay suppliers. The Central Bank has been limiting credit to purchases of basic supplies, including fuel and medicine.
The energy crisis has reached unprecedented levels in Lebanon. Generator operators warned Friday they would have to turn off their engines as diesel shortages have worsened and prices on the black market have reached exorbitant levels.
Hospitals are rationing their consumption, shutting off air conditioning in waiting areas, while bakeries in some parts of Lebanon have stopped their ovens altogether. Supermarkets have warned that the power shortages threaten their merchandise and endanger food safety.
The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, has warned that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks, putting more than four million people, including one million refugees, in immediate risk of losing access to safe water.