Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research

A mock missile is carried by Houthi supporters in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 31, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research

  • British Chambers of Commerce: Commercial container prices up as much as 300%
  • Moody’s: Retailers could face ‘material impact on profitability by end of 2024’

LONDON: Disruptions to global trade caused by the Houthi campaign against shipping in the Red Sea is affecting more than half of all retailers in the UK.

Research conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce across more than 1,000 companies in the UK found that container shipping prices have jumped as much as 300 percent, while goods have been delayed for up to a month, prompting supply shortages and cash flow problems.

The Houthis launched their campaign against commercial vessels in November in a bid to end Israeli military strikes on Gaza, which began in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Air and sea strikes against the Houthis in Yemen by US and UK forces have so far failed to curtail the attacks. Eighteen Houthi targets were hit in airstrikes over the weekend.

The average cost of shipping goods from China to Europe has more than doubled, with most ships preferring to travel around Africa rather than risk attack by approaching the Suez Canal.

In 2023, around 22 percent of all commercial shipping containers passed through the canal, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. That total has since fallen by 82 percent, with 586 ships rerouting around Africa.

The BCC’s head of trade policy, William Bain, urged the UK government to provide more support to British retailers ahead of its budget next week.

“There has been spare capacity in the shipping freight industry to respond to the difficulties, which has bought us some time. And recent (government) data also indicates the impact has yet to filter through to the UK economy, with inflation holding steady in January,” he said.

“But our research suggests that the longer the current situation persists, the more likely it is that the cost pressures will start to build.”

Bain said new post-Brexit laws “adding to costs and delays” had made it “a difficult time for firms.”

Credit ratings agency Moody’s warned this month that retailers would experience a “material impact on profitability by the end of 2024” if the situation in the Red Sea did not significantly improve.

Bain said: “The UK economy saw a drop in its total goods exports for 2023 and, with global demand weak, there is a need for the government to look at providing support in the March budget.”

The crisis has also led to an increase in pressure on air freight companies, with delivery aggregator ParcelHero noting an uptick of 8 percent on spot rates between Europe and China, and 14 percent between China and the US.

Supply issues are expected to worsen in March as Chinese exports increase following the country’s New Year holidays, which concluded over the weekend.

David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero, said: “Initially, there was a scramble for aviation services as businesses rushed to get products out before the festivities began.

“Now the continuing demand for air freight on this route is because many ships are berthed for the duration and containers are stuck firmly in Chinese ports until manufacturing ramps up enough to restore full services.

“Air freight enables those companies manufacturing and operating in Asia to leapfrog the Chinese bottleneck.”


Lucid, EVIQ sign MoU to set up high-speed public charging infrastructure in Saudi Arabia

Updated 29 May 2024
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Lucid, EVIQ sign MoU to set up high-speed public charging infrastructure in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to activate high-speed public charging infrastructure to support the adoption of electric vehicles, thanks to a new agreement. 

The memorandum of understanding between the electric car specialists Lucid and Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Co., also known as EVIQ, aims to foster cooperation and the exchange of expertise in developing and enhancing the Kingdom’s EV sector.

This contributes to the growing adoption of EVs in Saudi Arabia and bolstering the Kingdom’s position as a leading hub for innovation and development in the industry’s technology. 

Under the MoU, Lucid and EVIQ will collaborate to develop a high-speed public charging offering for Lucid customers, utilizing EVIQ’s stations to provide fast-charging capabilities. 

“By combining Lucid’s expertise in electric vehicle design, manufacturing, and sustainable mobility with EVIQ’s extensive experience in developing and operating public charging networks, including fast-charging stations, the collaboration will serve to drive innovation and accelerate EV ownership in Saudi Arabia,” Faisal Sultan, vice president and managing director Middle East at Lucid, said.

He added: “The collaboration between Lucid and EVIQ represents a significant step forward in addressing one of the key challenges hindering the mass adoption of electric vehicles — access to convenient and reliable charging infrastructure.” 

Lucid is dedicated to enhancing the ownership journey and simplifying the process of acquiring and maintaining the finest electric vehicle in the world. 

“Our mission is to provide the best-in-class EV chargers and technologies to empower drivers in Saudi to buy and use EVs with confidence,” EVIQ CEO Mohammad Bakr Gazzaz said.

He added: “Through this partnership with Lucid, we have taken another big step toward our goal of establishing a national network of fast charging locations by 2030 to enable and encourage the use of EVs across Saudi Arabia, in line with the Saudi Green Initiative and Vision 2030.”


WEF warns of political risk, says global economy is brightening

Updated 29 May 2024
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WEF warns of political risk, says global economy is brightening

  • Cautioned optimism underscores challenges for businesses and policymakers
  • MENA region expected to improve despite regional political tensions

LONDON: The World Economic Forum said on Wednesday that the global economy is poised to improve or remain stable this year, but it also warned of potential dangers stemming from geopolitical and domestic tensions.

“The latest Chief Economists Outlook points to welcome but tentative signs of improvement in the global economic climate,” said Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the WEF.

“This underscores the increasingly complex landscape that leaders are navigating. There is an urgent need for policymaking that not only looks to revive the engines of the global economy but also seeks to put in place the foundations of more inclusive, sustainable and resilient growth.”

The report highlighted that while the proportion of economists who feel optimistic about the economic outlook nearly doubled from the previous survey conducted in January, 97 percent of respondents anticipate that geopolitics will contribute to global economic volatility this year.

Furthermore, 83 percent said domestic politics would be a source of volatility in 2024, a year when nearly half the world’s population will be voting.

Experts predicted a positive outlook for the US and Asian economies, driven by decreasing inflation and robust markets.

The Middle East and North Africa region is also expected to experience moderate growth, with slight improvements since the previous survey, despite unstable political developments due to the ongoing Gaza conflict.

Despite escalating challenges for businesses and policymakers, the report identified technological transformation, artificial intelligence, and the green and energy transitions as key contributors to global growth, also driven by looser or unchanged fiscal and monetary policies.

“Despite some brightening of the near-term growth outlook, the latest results point to growing challenges for businesses and policymakers,” the WEF said in a press release.

“However, the views on the long-term prospects for the global economy are encouraging, with many policy opportunities to boost growth across high and low-income economies.”


Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

Updated 29 May 2024
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Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Wednesday, gaining 36.57 points, or 0.31 percent, to close at 11,696.51. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.3 billion ($1.651 billion) as 128 of the listed stocks advanced, while 89 retreated.    

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index increased by 11.40 points, or 0.79 percent, to close at 1,460.84. 

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu climbed by 68.14 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 26,302.93. This comes as 24 of the listed stocks advanced while as many as 37 retreated.  

The top-performing stock of the day was the Saudi National Bank, with its share price surging by 5.76 percent to SR34.90. 

Other standout performers included The Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co., and Anaam International Holding Group, whose share prices soared by 4.98 percent and 4.59 percent, reaching SR27.40 and SR1.14, respectively.  

Saudi Chemical Co. and National Medical Care Co. also showed notable performance. 

The worst performer was the National Co. for Glass Industries, whose share price dropped by 4.31 percent to SR41.05. 

Other underperformers included Al-Babtain Power and Telecommunication Co., as well as Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries and Medical Appliances Corp., whose share prices dropped by 3.77 percent and 3.59 percent, to stand at SR37.05 and SR32.20, respectively.  

Additional laggards in the market were Thob Al Aseel Co. and CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. 

In the parallel market, Nomu, Knowledge Net Co. was the top gainer, with its share price surging by 15.97 percent to SR30.5. 

Other top gainers in the parallel market were Shatirah House Restaurant Co. and Nofoth Food Products Co., with their share prices surging by 8.70 percent and 7.23 percent to reach SR12 and SR19.28, respectively. 

Miral Dental Clinics Co. was the major loser on Nomu, as its share price slipped 10 percent to SR90.  

Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. and Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co. were other major losers on Nomu. Their share prices dropped by 9.50 percent and 7.23 percent, reaching SR40 and SR154, respectively. 


Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

RIYADH: Real estate development in the Eastern Province is set to receive a boost as two Saudi firms agree to launch a fund worth SR1.37 billion ($365 million) to drive investment in the sector.

Mohammed Al-Nahdi Real Estate and Alinma Investment, the investment arm of Alinma Bank, have announced the launch of the Alinma-Al-Nahdi Real Estate Fund, a property reserve to develop prime land strategically situated in the Eastern Province spanning an area of over 1.6 million sq. m.

In a statement, Abdullah bin Salmeen Al-Nahdi, CEO of Mohammed Al Nahdi Real Estate, emphasized that the fund’s launch reflects his company’s dedication to shaping the Kingdom’s property landscape.

He also underscored his firm’s dedication to enriching its investment portfolio by introducing unique projects to address the housing needs outlined in Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision.

The CEO explained that his property firm will develop the land to become the premier destination for housing and real estate investment in the EP. 

This development will encompass integrated residential communities, public buildings, commercial zones, and entertainment areas. It aims to provide a comfortable and safe residential environment for citizens while enhancing the region’s quality of life.

Al-Nahdi pointed out that the sales permit has been issued, and the project will be sold in stages during the implementation works. This will allow investors and buyers to benefit from diverse and flexible ownership options that suit their needs and aspirations.

The CEO highlighted that the sales permit has been issued, and the project will be progressively released during the implementation phase. 

Mazin Fawaz Baghdadi, CEO and managing director at Alinma Investment, said that the fund’s investment objective is to achieve medium-term capital growth through direct investments in the Kingdom’s real estate sector.

Additionally, Baghdadi emphasized the significant role of real estate development funds as tools that stimulate investment and increase the supply of established land through developmental and urban projects in the Eastern Province.

He stressed that this initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by boosting the supply of housing units.

As per the announcement, the land is situated along King Abdulaziz Road and GCC Road in Dhahran, adjacent to the Ajyal residential district, one of Saudi Aramco’s major model housing developments. 

This strategic location facilitates convenient access to key landmarks in Dammam, Alkhobar, and Dhahran.

Headquartered in Alkhobar and founded in 1993, Mohammed Al-Nahdi Real Estate is a property company with a rich portfolio of notable projects.

According to its website, Alinma Investment is a Saudi closed joint stock firm that was established by Alinma Bank with a capital of SR1 billion and a paid-up capital of SR500 million.

The business is a leading provider of a comprehensive range of Shariah-compliant investment products and services, utilizing the latest advancements in communication and advanced technological systems.


PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

Updated 29 May 2024
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PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

RIYADH: Airlines will now experience uninterrupted connectivity services via the aviation industry’s first open-architecture, multi-orbit global network powered by regional partners including Neo Space Group — a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Luxembourg-based satellite telecommunications company SES has announced a collaboration with several regional operators to launch its inflight network, promising seamless global connectivity for airlines.

According to a press release, this Ka-band platform will merge the geostationary earth orbit and medium earth orbit satellite networks of SES including Neo Space Group, AeroSat Link, a subsidiary of China Satcom, and Hughes Communications India.

The SES Open Orbits initiative aims to integrate regional satellite coverage into a global inflight connectivity service, allowing airline passengers uninterrupted connectivity. 

This technology is designed to link global and regional satellites to offer consistent inflight internet, enhancing the experience with high-quality video, data, and communication services comparable to ground-based offerings.

The Global Head of Aviation for SES, Elias Zaccack, emphasized the transformative potential of SES Open Orbits, stating: “By spearheading the creation of SES Open Orbits using an open architecture that supports multiple orbits and multiple waveforms, SES is enabling more satellite operators and inflight service providers to participate in the global market for inflight connectivity.”

Philippe Carette, head of the aerospace segment at PIF, expressed enthusiasm for NSG’s involvement, saying: “NSG is excited to be among the first global partners to join the SES Open Orbits inflight connectivity network.”

NSG was established in May to invest in local and international assets and capabilities, as well as promising venture capital opportunities, to catalyze the advancement and localization of sector-specific expertise. 

The company will contribute to the development and deployment of the latest cutting-edge technologies in the space industry through its four dedicated business segments: satellite communications, earth observation and remote sensing, satellite navigation and Internet of Things, as well as a satellite and space-focused venture capital fund.

China Satcom Vice President Yufei Shen noted the significance of SES’ partnership for the Asia-Pacific region, stating: “Connecting flights over, in, and out of China, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region is extremely important to most major airlines around the world. China Satcom is extremely pleased to partner with SES to help bring a whole new level of inflight connectivity by leveraging our Ka-band network.”

Shivaji Chatterjee, CEO, president, and managing director of HCI, added: “We will also bring our deep experience in providing end-to-end connectivity services in multiple verticals to our partnership with SES to help ensure the best possible passenger experience to airlines using this exciting, first-of-its-kind inflight connectivity network.”

As a managed service provider of Airbus’ HBCplus program, SES Open Orbits will also be accessible to participating airlines. Additionally, SES is working with Safran Passenger Innovations to offer SES Open Orbits on Boeing aircraft through the Boeing TSA process.

This collaboration represents a major step forward for the inflight process, aiming to enhance passenger experiences by delivering reliable, high-quality connectivity worldwide.