EU threatens Lebanese politicians with sanctions over crisis

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a press conference after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, June. 19, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 20 June 2021

EU threatens Lebanese politicians with sanctions over crisis

  • Lebanon’s economic crisis began in late 2019 and has intensified in recent months
  • Borrell said the EU stands ready to assist Lebanon and its people

BEIRUT: The European Union’s foreign policy chief Saturday berated Lebanese politicians for delays in forming a new Cabinet, warning the union could impose sanctions on those behind the political stalemate in the crisis-hit country.
Josep Borrell made his comments at the presidential palace near the capital Beirut after meeting with President Michel Aoun. It was the first meeting in a two-day visit to Lebanon.
Borrell said Lebanese politicians should quickly form a new government, implement reforms and reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund to start getting the tiny country out of its paralyzing economic and financial crisis.
Lebanon’s economic crisis — triggered by decades of corruption and mismanagement — began in late 2019 and has intensified in recent months. The World Bank said earlier this month the crisis is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in more than 150 years, adding that the economy contracted 20.3 percent in 2020 and is expected to shrink 9.5 percent this year.
A power struggle between premier-designate Saad Hariri on one side, and Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil on the other, has worsened the crisis despite warnings from world leaders and economic experts of the dire economic conditions tiny Lebanon is facing.
Hariri was named to form a new government in October and has not succeeded so far. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned days after a massive blast in Beirut on Aug. 4, that killed 211 people and injured more than 6,000.
“We cannot understand that nine months after the resignation of a prime minister, there is still no government in Lebanon,” Borrell said. “Only an urgent agreement with the International Monetary Fund will rescue the country from a financial collapse.”
“There is no time to waste. You are at the edge of the financial collapse,” he said in English.
Borrell said the EU stands ready to assist Lebanon and its people but warned that if there is further obstruction to solutions “we will have to consider other courses of actions as some member states have proposed.”
“The council of the European Union has been including other options, including targeted sanctions,” Borrell said. He added: “Of course we prefer not to go down this road and we hope that we will not have to but it is in the hands of the Lebanese leadership.”
Borrel rejected claims by some Lebanese politicians that refugees are the cause of the crisis, saying it is “homemade.”
“It is not fair (to say) that the crisis in Lebanon comes from the presence of refugees,” he said referring to a nearly 1 million Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country to Lebanon.

 

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Amazon to rebrand Souq.com Egypt site this year

Updated 27 July 2021

Amazon to rebrand Souq.com Egypt site this year

  • Souq.com sellers in Egypt encouraged to set up on Amazon.eg

CAIRO: Amazon said it plans to rebrand the Egyptian version of Souq.com as Amazon.eg this year, following similar moves in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Sales partners previously registered on Amazon’s Souq.com affiliate can access their accounts through the Amazon Seller Center in preparation for selling their products on the Amazon Egypt website immediately after its launch.

Amazon acquired Middle East etailer Souq.com in 2017 from Syrian entrepreneur Ronaldo Mouchawar.

On May 1, 2019, Souq.com UAE became known as Amazon.ae. On June 17 last year, Amazon launched its dedicated Saudi website Amazon.sa, rebranding the old Souq.com website.

Amazon announced plans in March to hire 1,500 new employees in Saudi Arabia and add 11 buildings to its network. The expansion will boost storage capacity in the Kingdom by 89 percent and its geographical delivery network by 58 percent.

The company operates an extensive logistics network and local operations across Egypt, which includes the main warehouse supported by 15 delivery stations across the country.


Sawiris creates $1.4 billion fund for gold mining assets, seeks outside investors

Updated 27 July 2021

Sawiris creates $1.4 billion fund for gold mining assets, seeks outside investors

  • Fund took $100 million from an unnamed strategic partner
  • Fund will be open to outside investors

LUXEMBOURG: La Mancha Holdings, owned by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, has launched a $1.4 billion fund to hold his gold mining assets and pursue new opportunities in precious and electric-vehicle metals.

The fund, La Mancha Fund SCSp, took on $100 million from an unnamed “strategic partner” and will soon be open to outside investors, Luxembourg-based La Mancha said in an emailed statement.

“Creating a fund is the natural consequence of what we have been doing since we vended-in our operational assets into Evolution and Endeavour in 2015,” Sawiris said in the statement. “Transitioning to a fund structure and welcoming new investors is timely when we are seeing opportunities in a gold mining sector which is fragmented and needs further consolidation.”

The fund will mainly be focused on gold and precious metals miners, but may also invest in EV battery metals. It will seek to acquire significant stakes in listed junior mineral resource companies with the goal of creating value over a three-to-five-year horizon.

As part of its mandate, the fund will seek to improve ESG metrics within its portfolio
companies during its investment tenure, it said in the statement.


Saudi Central Bank steps up efforts to increase locals in financial sector

Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi Central Bank steps up efforts to increase locals in financial sector

  • SAMA working with Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and Human Resources Development Fund
  • Initiative could create 200,000 jobs - economist

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) has signed an agreement with other government entities to increase the number of locals in the financial sector, a move that might lead to the creation of more than 200,000 jobs for nationals.

SAMA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD), in partnership with the Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf), SPA reported on Monday.

“This MoU aims to increase localization, provide human competencies capable of meeting the requirements of the financial sector, and create more than 203,000 jobs in the sector,” independent economist Fadhel Al Buainain told Arab News.

The measures will establish sustainable strategic steps to ensure the creation of more jobs and prepare young people to fill them, he said.

For decades, the Saudi financial sector was made up only of banks, but since the entry of new financial entities such as investment institutions, financial companies and the insurance sector, localization of jobs has become more important, to achieve sufficiency, strategic security and address unemployment, said Al Buainain.

Supporting specialized financial colleges and creating a college for banking sciences are among the tools that will help achieve the sector’s localization goals, he said.

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Global interest in clean hydrogen surges as Mideast works to boost supply

Updated 27 July 2021

Global interest in clean hydrogen surges as Mideast works to boost supply

  • Hydrogen could account for 25 percent of global energy consumption by 2050

DUBAI: Interest in clean hydrogen is rising across the globe, as countries explore ways to decarbonize, a new World Energy Council report showed.

Hydrogen could account for between 6 percent and 25 percent of global energy consumption by 2050, according to the publication titled Hydrogen on the Horizon: ready, almost set, go?.

Different regions play a role in the current hydrogen energy transition, the report said, with countries in the Middle East and North Africa focusing on the supply side.

Saudi Arabia, in July, unveiled plans for a $5 billion green hydrogen facility – the world’s largest such project at the time. Other Middle East countries, including the UAE, Oman and Egypt have also announced major projects to exploit the expected demand.

An earlier report by Dii Desert Energy and Roland Berger said the Gulf region alone could create a $200 billion green hydrogen industry by 2050.

The region also benefits from its strategic geographic location being between the European and Asian markets, which the World Energy Council report described as demand-focused markets.

Different countries also have different ideas of how to utilize clean hydrogen, the report said.

Asia shows a greater focus on hydrogen as a liquid fuel in the form of ammonia, and as a fuel for shipping and road transport, while Europe wants to use hydrogen to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy industries and mass transportation.

“How countries want to produce and consume clean energy, and their immediate national priorities, will shape large-scale hydrogen development and end-user uptake,” Angela Wilkinson, Secretary General and CEO of the World Energy Council said.

It is important to identify user priorities to “better understand hydrogen’s real potential,” she said.

Jeroen van Hoof, global energy, utilities, and resources leader at PwC said this decade is crucial to develop hydrogen projects – including infrastructure to produce, import, distribute and use hydrogen at a large scale.

“If we do this successfully over the next few years, it can pave the way for hydrogen demand to grow exponentially beyond 2030,” he added.

But the report identified several challenges in this global endeavor, including concerns on the cost of low-carbon hydrogen, which is still more expensive than other energy sources.

The report said countries need to collaborate to create a global value chain and unlock the potential of hydrogen for the global economy.


Global markets regulators team up to keep watch on SPACs

Updated 27 July 2021

Global markets regulators team up to keep watch on SPACs

  • SPACS may raise regulatory concerns, said the International Organization of Securities Commissions

LONDON: Global securities markets regulators said on Tuesday they have begun monitoring special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, due to potential regulatory concerns.
SPACs are shell companies that list themselves on the stock market and use the proceeds to buy other companies.
It is a form of investment that soared last year on Wall Street, gathered steam in Europe this year and is now spreading into emerging markets.
“While SPACs may offer alternative sources of funding and provide opportunities for investors, they may also raise regulatory concerns,” the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) said in a statement.
IOSCO, whose members include the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain and regulators in the European Union, Asia, Latin America and Africa, said its new SPAC network met for the first time on Monday to share information.
“I am pleased that so many members of IOSCO have joined the SPACs network to exchange experiences on non-traditional IPOs via SPACs and discuss emerging issues related to investor protection and fair, orderly and efficient markets,” said Jean-Paul Servais, chairman of Belgium’s markets watchdog and Vice-Chair of IOSCO’s board.
The markets watchdogs which are members of IOSCO have the power to take action to protect investors in their jurisdictions.