Saudi Arabia's Banan Real Estate Co. has $83.7m investment portfolio — chairman

The CMA approved the listing of Banan Real Estate's shares on the Tadawul's parallel market Nomu on June 28. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 June 2021

Saudi Arabia's Banan Real Estate Co. has $83.7m investment portfolio — chairman

  • Chairman spoke after receiving approval for IPO this week
  • Company has SR200 million of capital

RIYADH: Banan Real Estate Company has a strong financial position, with SR200 million ($53.3 million) of capital, and profits and reserves exceeding SR100 million, Chairman Abdulmohsen Alhakbani told CNBC Arabia.

“The size of the company’s investment portfolio is about SR314 million,” he said. “We have agreements for banking facilities aimed at providing the necessary liquidity for expansion.”

Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) approved listing the shares of Banan Real Estate Company on the Saudi Stock Exchange parallel market Nomu, according to a bourse disclosure on Monday.

“The listing in the parallel market aims to diversify the base of investors with experience in the sector and increase the company’s financing capacity from local banks,” Alhakbani said. “The listing also aims to raise the level of governance and transparency of the company’s business by applying the CMA’s constantly developed instructions and regulations.”

“The timing of the listing is very appropriate, coinciding with the current economic transformation in the Kingdom,” he said.


QIA CEO says exploring opportunities in blockchain

Updated 28 June 2022

QIA CEO says exploring opportunities in blockchain

  • Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund chief says not interested in crypto investment

DUBAI: The chief executive of Qatar Investment Authority said on Tuesday that the sovereign wealth fund is not interested in crypto investments but it is exploring opportunities in blockchain.

Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud was speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum organized by Bloomberg.

The $300 billion sovereign wealth fund owns stakes in Credit Suisse and Volkswagen AG as part of its European portfolio.

Russian exemption

On the other hand, Russian lawmakers approved a draft law that would potentially exempt issuers of digital assets and cryptocurrencies from value-added tax.

Russia has long voiced skepticism of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets, with the central bank citing concerns over financial stability.

But in February the regulator gave blockchain platform Atomyze Russia the first license to exchange digital assets. A license for dominant lender Sberbank soon followed.

Unprecedented Western sanctions have hit the heart of Russia’s financial system over events in Ukraine and lawmakers have scrabbled to bring in new legislation to soften the blow.

The draft law, approved by State Duma members in the second and third readings on Tuesday, envisages exemptions on value-added tax for issuers of digital assets and information systems operators involved in their issue.

It also establishes tax rates on income earned from the sale of digital assets.

The current rate on transactions is 20 percent, the same as for standard assets. Under the new law, the tax would be 13 percent for Russian companies and 15 percent for foreign ones.

The draft must still be reviewed by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.

Bitcoin miners

Bitcoin miners have been forced to tap into their cryptocurrency stashes as a plunge in prices, rising energy costs and increased competition bite into profitability.

The number of coins miners are sending to crypto exchanges has been steadily climbing since June 7, researchers at MacroHive noted, in a sign that “miners have been increasingly liquidating their coins on exchanges.”

Several publicly listed bitcoin miners collectively sold more than 100 percent of their entire output in May as the value of bitcoin tumbled 45 percent, an analysis by Arcane Research found.

“The plummeting profitability of mining forced these miners to increase their selling rate to more than 100 percent of their output in May. The conditions have worsened in June, meaning they are likely selling even more,” said Arcane analyst Jaran Mellerud.

The crypto mining space rapidly expanded in 2021 as bitcoin more than quadrupled in value, but this growth has further pressured margins as the process is designed to grow more difficult as the number of miners increases.

“Over the past six months, hash rate and mining difficulty have increased while the price of bitcoin has dropped. These are both negatives for existing miners as both work to compress margins,” said Joe Burnett, analyst at bitcoin mining firm Blockware Solutions.

High energy prices are also hitting miners, which by some estimates use more electricity than the Philippines, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.

“If you’re not at a very low-cost electricity area at this point, you’ve got to shut down,” noted Chris Brendler, senior research analyst at D.A. Davidson.

Daily trading

Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Tuesday, falling by 1.77 percent to $20,811.95 as of 9:15 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ethereum, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $1,192.89 falling by 1.73 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.

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G7 considering ways of capping Russian oil price — German official

Updated 26 June 2022

G7 considering ways of capping Russian oil price — German official

  • The proposal is part of broader G7 discussions on how to further crank up the pressure on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine without stoking global inflationary pressures

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany: Leaders of the Group of Seven rich democracies are having “very constructive” discussions on a possible cap on Russian oil imports, a German government official said on Saturday shortly before the start of the annual three-day G7 summit.
The proposal is part of broader G7 discussions on how to further crank up the pressure on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine without stoking global inflationary pressures.
The Ukraine war, energy and food shortages and the darkening global economic outlook are expected to dominate the agenda of the summit that is taking place this year in Schloss Elmau, an alpine castle resort in southern Germany.
The United States, Canada and Britain have already banned imports of Russian oil while European Union leaders have agreed an embargo that will take full effect by end-2022 as part of sanctions on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine.
With energy prices soaring though, the West fears such embargoes will not actually put a dent in Russia’s war chest as the country earns more from exports even as volumes fall.
A price cap could solve that dilemma, while also avoiding further restricting oil supply and fueling inflation, officials say, but for it to work, it requires buy-in from heavy importers like India and China.
“We are on a good path to reach an agreement,” the official said.
The official said the G7 was also discussing the need to combine ambitious climate goals with the need for some countries to explore new gas fields as Europe rushed to wean itself off Russian gas imports.


Inflation sparks global wave of protests for higher pay

Updated 25 June 2022

Inflation sparks global wave of protests for higher pay

  • Economists say Russia’s war in Ukraine amplified inflation by further pushing up the cost of energy

NEW YORK: Rising food costs. Soaring fuel bills. Wages that are not keeping pace. Inflation is plundering people’s wallets, sparking a wave of protests and workers’ strikes around the world.

This week alone saw protests by the political opposition in Pakistan, nurses in Zimbabwe, unionized workers in Belgium, railway workers in Britain, Indigenous people in Ecuador, hundreds of US pilots and some European airline workers. Sri Lanka’s prime minister declared an economic collapse Wednesday after weeks of political turmoil.

Economists say Russia’s war in Ukraine amplified inflation by further pushing up the cost of energy and prices of fertilizer, grains and cooking oils as farmers struggle to grow and export crops in one of the world’s key agricultural regions.

As prices rise, inflation threatens to exacerbate inequalities and widen the gap between billions of people struggling to cover their costs and those who are able to keep spending.

“We are not all in this together,” said Matt Grainger, head of inequality policy at antipoverty organization Oxfam. “How many of the richest even know what a loaf of bread costs? They don’t really, they just absorb the prices.”

Oxfam is calling on the Group of 7 leading industrialized nations, which are holding their annual summit this weekend in Germany, to provide debt relief to developing economies and to tax corporations on excess profits.

“This isn’t just a standalone crisis. It’s coming off the back of an appalling pandemic that fueled increased inequality worldwide,” Grainger said. “I think we will see more and more protests.”

The demonstrations have caught the attention of governments, which have responded to soaring consumer prices with support measures like expanded subsidies for utility bills and cuts to fuel taxes. Often, that offers little relief because energy markets are volatile. Central banks are trying to ease inflation by raising interest rates.

Meanwhile, striking workers have pressured employers to engage in talks on raising wages to keep up with rising prices.

Eddie Dempsey, a senior official with Britain’s Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, which brought UK train services to a near standstill with strikes this week, said there are going to be more demands for pay increases across other sectors.

“It’s about time Britain had a pay rise. Wages have been falling for 30 years and corporate profits have been going through the roof,” Dempsey said.

Last week, thousands of truckers in South Korea ended an eight-day strike that caused shipment delays as they called for minimum wage guarantees amid soaring fuel prices.

Months earlier, some 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) away, truckers in Spain went on strike to protest fuel prices.

Peru’s government imposed a brief curfew after protests against fuel and food prices turned violent in April. Truckers and other transport workers also had gone on strike and blocked key highways.

Protests over the cost of living ousted Sri Lanka’s prime minister last month. Middle-class families say they’re forced to skip meals because of the island nation’s economic crisis, prompting them to contemplate leaving the country altogether.

The situation is particularly dire for refugees and the poor in conflict areas such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar and Haiti, where fighting has forced people to flee their homes and rely on aid organizations, themselves struggling to raise money.

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Boeing expects demand to be back to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, says top official

Updated 26 June 2022

Boeing expects demand to be back to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, says top official

DOHA: Boeing anticipates global demand to see about 4 percent annual growth year over year for the next two decades, expecting to be back to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, said Omar Arekat, the company’s Middle East and Africa VP of commercial sales and marketing. He added that the growth for the Middle East would be slightly above that at 4.2 percent year over year.

During the Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association, Arekat told Arab News that the market is growing, and there is a demand for roughly 3,000 cargo and freighters in the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

“We see that there is a recovery coming and our market is a very resilient market,” he added.

Despite a recovery, Boeing is still not quite at pre-pandemic levels, Arekat said. “We are seeing the recovery move much quicker than anticipated, especially on the regional and domestic fronts,” he informed.

Airlines returned to almost 100 percent of their operational capacity for regional and domestic travel, Arekat said. Internationally, it is growing, but it isn’t completely there yet, he added.

Based on peak season base, Boeing is 70 to 75 percent behind 2019, Arekat said.

He believed that the GCC is doing better than the rest of the world in terms of recovery. There has been strong growth in intra-regional travel, and international travel is increasing quickly, he said. “So we anticipate that we would see a recovery to 2019 levels by the year 2024,” Arekat added.

According to Arekat, the GCC region and the Middle East are important markets for Boeing.

Boeing and Qatar Airways signed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year for the purchase of up to 50 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, he said, adding that by 2024, the aircraft will begin being delivered.

“Qatar Airways announced a MoU for the purchase of 25 Boeing 737 Max with an option for another 25,” he said.

Arekat informed that Qatar Airways was the launch customer for 777-8 Freighter with a firm order for 34 jets earlier this year.

Boeing is currently working with Saudi Arabia on different opportunities. “The Saudi market has a lot of potential for growth,” he added.

Being a pioneer in sustainability, Boeing also plans to add the Boeing 777-200 to the sustainability program in 2023, he said. The company also has the Boeing 737 Max, which runs on sustainable fuel, and Etihad’s Boeing 787, the Greenliner. Boeing has been investing continuously in expanding its fuel-testing platform and leads the way in that area, he concluded.

“It’s in early stages right now and the demand will grow but the focus right now is on making sure that it’s affordable, and it’s available and produced widely,” he said.

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Global supply chain impairs even as Saudi logistics industry shows signs of recovery

Updated 26 June 2022

Global supply chain impairs even as Saudi logistics industry shows signs of recovery

  • China’s COVID-19 restrictions, surge in oil prices and demand shock have shaken global services

RIYADH: China’s stringent rules to curb COVID-19, the surge in oil prices and the worldwide demand shock have shaken the tectonic plates of the international supply chain and cast a long shadow on the global logistics business.

The troika has exposed not only the fault lines in companies’ distribution strategies but also the lack of resilience among logistics firms to cope with the vagaries of the global economy.

“China is sadly passing through another lockdown, impacting our volumes. The challenge has nothing to do with us; it is from China itself,” Abdulaziz Busbate, country general manager of DHL Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The leading logistic firm has seen a 20 percent rise in the cost of operations since the outbreak of the universal pandemic. The same holds true even for smaller supply chain companies. 

“Before the pandemic, it took about $2,000 to import one container from China. Now it takes almost $7,000. Product prices are increasing daily,” said Muhammad Omer, co-founder and CEO of Aiduk Trading, a Riyadh-based company established in 2015.

According to Bloomberg Economics, a leading macroeconomic research service, China’s supply chain significantly dropped since April and is expected to worsen. What’s even worse? China’s port activity has fallen back to 2020-lockdown levels.

Global inflationary winds

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has impacted inflation rates of many food, commodities and raw materials. Countries neighboring Russia and Ukraine have been hit the hardest — Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia have endured inflation rates of 14 percent, 12 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

“The combination of the war and the supply and demand imbalances, especially in energy, will push up base metals, precious metals and energy together,” Paul Christopher, head of global market strategy at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, told Bloomberg Television.

According to Jadwa Investments’ inflation report, the Kingdom’s inflation is expected to rise 2.4 percent in 2022 as the Russia-Ukraine war, COVID-19 lockdowns in China and higher food consumption will add to the price pressure.

“Inflation globally is impacting us as well as the increase of fuel prices,” Busbate added. 

Abdulaziz Busbate, country general manager of DHL Saudi Arabia.

The lockdowns in parts of China are adding more challenges to the already affected global supply chains, resulting in higher import costs from key trading partners such as Saudi Arabia.

Although the Kingdom’s inflation rate is expected to increase to 2.7 percent in 2023 — a 0.5 percentage point increase from 2022 — it will achieve the lowest inflation levels among the G20 economies and the third lowest worldwide, following Japan and Switzerland.

Within the G20, the Kingdom outperformed its peers, decreasing the annual inflation rate from 3.1 percent in 2021 to 2.2 percent in 2022.

Changing market dynamics

According to Busbate, the sector is seeing a growing demand in the business-to-consumer segment.

“During COVID-19, we took advantage of our e-commerce and B2C services as most people wanted to purchase online, while consumer behavior has completely changed in this current scenario,” he said.

DHL Saudi Arabia had a successful year in terms of revenues in 2020, thanks to a remarkable increase in their B2C operations. 

Mohammed Omer, co-founder and CEO of Aiduk Trading.

Aiduk Trading also booked a significant increase in sales during the pandemic as people could not go out, and the online delivery market was booming.

“The industry of last-minute delivery during the pandemic was working day and night delivering goods to different consumers,” the CEO of Aiduk told Arab News.

However, business-to-business demand decreased heavily in 2020 as most industries were negatively affected by the pandemic.

“In 2020, we were 90 percent performing in B2C, while B2B was nearly 10 percent,” DHL’s Busbate said.

In 2021, businesses started to get back on track, and the B2B volume increased to 40 percent of their operations.

The company nearly doubled its crew in the call center to accommodate the number of calls they received and increased its drivers’ network by about 60 percent to deliver their shipments daily, pointed out Busbate.

Wading off the headwinds

Starting in 2015 with a 1,000- square-meters warehouse, Aiduk’s warehouse today is more than 20,000 square meters, offering e-commerce fulfillment services to their clients.

Meanwhile, DHL built three gateways in the major cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, investing more than $50 million in the Kingdom since 2014.

A gateway is a point at which freight moving from one territory to another is interchanged between transportation lines.

The gateway in Jeddah is around 15,000 square meters, while Riyadh is about 12,000 square meters.

The German logistics behemoth is in no mood to stop as it plans to invest $8.5 million in its expansion plans in Riyadh.

The new expansion is expected to come into operation by the end of the year, said Busbate.

DHL today has a 58 percent market share in the Kingdom, managing around 20,000 shipments daily.

Turnaround strategy

According to Riyadh-based Saudi Market Research, the Kingdom plans to inject $147 billion into the development of the transportation and logistics industry to turn the country into a transportation hub.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic location has attracted foreign players into the Kingdom’s logistics industry.

For instance, the US logistics giant FedEx has announced its decision to invest $400 million into domestic logistics operations to attract other foreign players to contribute to the vast developments, said the report.

The Kingdom is already the leading transportation and logistics operator in the Middle East and North Africa, earning $27.6 billion annually.

Also fueling the Kingdom’s supply chain ambitions is the development of new trade zones such as Jazan Economic City, NEOM Airport, SPARK zone, and the Red Sea Gateway Terminal.

The forecast exceeds the Kingdom’s pre-pandemic levels and is expected to continue its growth until 2025, when the industry reaches $50 billion in value.

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