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DUBAI: Abu Dhabi Islamic lender Al Hilal Bank said on Sunday its owner, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, had appointed Alaa Eraiqat as the bank's chairman.
Eraiqat is currently group chief executive of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), which is expected to merge with Al Hilal Bank and Union National Bank (UNB) in the first half of 2019.
Eraiqat will serve as chairman at Al Hilal in addition to his current role at ADCB.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Council, a sovereign wealth fund which combined with Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala last year, also appointed Amr Saad Al Menhali as chief executive of Al Hilal Bank.
DUBAI: Saudi Aramco will acquire Royal Dutch Shell’s 50 percent stake in their Saudi refining joint venture SASREF for $631 million, the two companies said on Sunday.
The purchase, which is part of Aramco’s strategy to expand its downstream operations, will be completed later this year, they said in a joint statement.
Saudi Aramco Shell Refinery Co. (SASREF), based in Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia, has a crude oil refining capacity of 305,000 barrels per day (bpd).
“Saudi Aramco will take full ownership and integrate the refinery into its growing downstream portfolio. SASREF will continue to be a critical facility in our refining and chemicals business,” Abdulaziz Al-Judaimi, Aramco’s senior vice president of downstream, said in the statement.
Aramco aims to become a global leader in chemicals and the world’s largest integrated energy firm, with plans to expand its refining operations and petrochemical output.
For Shell, “the sale is part of an ongoing effort to focus its refining portfolio, integrating with Shell trading hubs and chemicals,” the company said.
Shell has sold over $30 billion of assets in recent years as it shifts its focus to lower carbon businesses such as natural gas and petrochemicals.
SHANGHAI: World leaders meeting in Beijing this week for a summit on China’s Belt and Road initiative will agree to project financing that respects global debt goals and promotes green growth, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a key policy of President Xi Jinping and envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending.
But it has proved controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington, which views it as merely a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt through nontransparent projects.
The United States has been particularly critical of Italy’s decision to sign up to the plan last month, the first for a G7 nation.
In an apparent nod to these concerns, the communique reiterates promises reached at the last summit in 2017 for sustainable financing — but adds a line on debt, which was not included the last time.
“We support collaboration among national and international financial institutions to provide diversified and sustainable financial supports for projects,” the draft communique reads.
“We encourage local currency financing, mutual establishment of financial institutions, and a greater role of development finance in line with respective national priorities, laws, regulations and international commitments, and the agreed principles by the UNGA on debt sustainability,” it added, referring to the United Nations General Assembly.
The word “green” appears in the draft seven times. It was not mentioned once in the summit communique from two years ago.
“We underline the importance of promoting green development,” the draft reads. “We encourage the development of green finance including the issuance of green bonds as well as development of green technology.”
The Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Friday that the Belt and Road project is not a “geopolitical tool” or a debt crisis for participating nations, but Beijing welcomes constructive suggestions on how to address concerns over the initiative.
A total of 37 foreign leaders are due to attend the April 25-27 summit, though the United States is only sending lower-level representatives, reflecting its unease over the scheme.
The number of foreign leaders at the April 25-27 summit is up from 29 last time, mainly from China’s closest allies like Pakistan and Russia but also Italy, Switzerland and Austria.
China has repeatedly said Belt and Road is for the benefit of the whole world, and that it is committed to upholding globally accepted norms in ensuring projects are transparent and win-win for all parties.
“We emphasize the importance of the rule of law and equal opportunities for all,” the draft reads.
Saudi logistics and transportation company Bahri has announced the expansion of its market presence in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region’s maritime industry. The stronger presence will help the company gain deeper insights into market trends as well as customer needs in chemicals and logistics sectors in Singapore and the wider APAC region.
The announcement took place at a ceremony held on April 5 at Regent Hotel in Singapore, in the presence of Abdullah Aldubaikhi, CEO of Bahri, and senior executives of the region’s oil majors, petrochemical trading companies and ship brokers.
The expansion will also enable Bahri Logistics and Bahri Chemicals, two of five business units of the company, to market their offerings, acquire new clients, serve existing clients, and channelize the communications. Bahri has plans to expand the services of its other business units to the APAC region in the future.
Bahri CEO Aldubaikhi said: “In our efforts to deliver on Bahri’s vision of connecting economies, sharing prosperity, and driving excellence in global logistics services, we have been actively pursuing the company’s ambitious long-term strategy to drive sustainable growth and expand its market footprint. As a result, we have established a solid presence regionally and globally. Our expansion in the Asia-Pacific region represents a key milestone in our journey, and with this, we have come even closer to our customers, allowing us to serve them better offering a wider range of industry services and unprecedented value.”
Over the past 41 years, Bahri has steadily expanded market presence to cement its position as a global leader in the maritime industry. The company currently has offices in Saudi Arabia, UAE, US and India, in addition to a vast network of agents across the Middle East and Africa, US, Europe, and Asia.
Bahri Chemicals is the largest owner and operator of chemical carriers in the Middle East, serving 150 ports worldwide. It owns and operates 36 chemical/product tankers with a capacity of 1.1 million DWT designed to the highest specifications, capable of carrying a wide range of chemical cargoes. The first business unit within Bahri, Bahri Logistics, is one of the top 10 breakbulk carriers in the world and operates six new state-of-the-art multipurpose vessels with 26,000 DWT each on a regular liner schedule.
Park Hyatt Jeddah is celebrating the upcoming holy month by elevating the experience of Ramadan for its guests through the nostalgia of Khan Al-Khalili, a historic Arabic souk in Cairo with an authentic soul and heritage of the Middle East.
“Iftar at Nafoura, an award-winning restaurant, will take guests to the ancient lanes of Khan Al-Khalili filled with rows of aromatic spices and vintage goods, including lavish buffets featuring live cooking stations and serving a selection of international, Mediterranean and traditional Hijazi dishes,” the hotel said.
In addition, Andalusia Restaurant will serve iftar featuring a rich selection of international and Mediterranean dishes.
These buffets will also offer a selection of Ramadan’s most popular mezza, soups and desserts.
Guests can extend their stay after iftar in the lounge and enjoy assorted desserts and beverage choices overlooking the Red Sea and the famous King Fahd’s Fountain.
For corporate clients, the resort’s events team will be on hand to assist in planning iftar or sahoor parties in the Lazurde or Al-Sohba ballrooms.
Both are located amidst gardens featuring spacious palm courtyards and facing the Red Sea and King Fahd’s Fountain.
Park Hyatt is also inviting guests to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with a memorable dining experience.
On the first day of Eid, guests can indulge in a lavish breakfast at the Lazurde ballroom and Nafoura restaurant or an Eid brunch at Nafoura.
For dinner, a special buffet awaits diners at Nafoura, available only on the first three days.
Andalusia Restaurant is offering an exquisite Moroccan experience to diners, also on the first three days only.
The hotel has announced Genesis, Nespresso and Radwa as its partners this Ramadan.
In a move to offer a range of experiences and greater choice for its customers traveling for business and leisure, Emirates will be operating its latest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft fitted with the “game changer” first class suites from Dubai to Riyadh starting from April 16 and Kuwait starting from June 1.
Adil Al-Ghaith, senior vice president commercial operations Gulf, Middle East and Iran, said: “Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will be the first countries in the Middle East and GCC to be served by the latest Emirates Boeing 777 aircraft featuring fully enclosed private suites inspired by luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz.
“Deploying the newest Boeing 777 to both Riyadh and Kuwait will cater to the significant premium demand we see on these routes, and is in line with our commitment to provide our customers across all classes with outstanding service and industry-leading onboard products for a better flying experience.
“The unique first class suites onboard the Boeing 777 will offer our premium passengers unparalleled privacy, comfort and luxury, with experiences tailored to their individual needs,” said the official.
Travelers to/from Saudi Arabia can experience the new Boeing 777 product on flights EK 819 and EK 820.
The new Boeing 777 aircraft will begin operating the route five times a week, and from June 1 will begin flying on a daily basis. Customers flying on the latest Emirates Boeing 777 are then able to enjoy seamless connections via Dubai to London Heathrow, Paris, Madrid, New York JFK, Hyderabad, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Geneva and Amsterdam.
Emirates will be expanding its premium Boeing 777 experience between Kuwait and Dubai on EK 855 and EK 856. The service will operate daily to Kuwait. The Dubai-Kuwait route was ranked one of the “World’s 20 Busiest Routes,” according to OAG Aviation, and is the busiest route across the Middle East and North Africa.
Emirates Boeing 777 private suites feature floor-to-ceiling sliding doors and ultra-modern design features against cool grey colorscapes. Offering up to 40 square feet of personal space each, the fully enclosed private suites are laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration, for a total of six suites.
The new suites include seats that recline into a fully flat bed that maneuvers into multiple positions and can be placed in a “zero-gravity” state inspired by NASA technology, for a feeling of weightlessness while flying. Passengers can also choose from a multitude of lighting colors and adjust the temperature of their suites. The industry’s first virtual windows can be experienced by customers seated in suites located in the middle aisle. The virtual windows project a view from outside the aircraft using real time fiber-optic camera technology. Emirates also provides binoculars to customers who want to explore the vistas and cities below during their journey.
DUBAI: "I’m having a fairly busy life at the moment," said Matthew Benson, a partner covering the Middle East and North Africa at auditing and consulting firm EY.
He had just presented the findings of a two-year-long study into one of the most high-profile events in the near half-century history of the UAE — the looming Expo 2020 trade fair that the country, and Dubai in particular, expects will be an economic and developmental game-changer.
“I think it’s going to be an amazing event,” Benson said, a couple of days after he had unveiled his report and had had time to assess reactions to the heavily researched work.
The headline findings were eye-catching, confirming that the UAE would get huge economic benefit from the event. Dubai won the right to stage the show back in 2013, to much fanfare, and the clock has been counting down ever since.
In 18 months’ time the doors will open on the event, which has been called the biggest gathering in the history of the Arab people. Some 25 million visits are expected to be made to the site in south Dubai, putting the UAE even more firmly on the map as a global destination.
The report by EY — formerly known as Ernst & Young — was commissioned by the organizers of the show to analyze the financial and economic benefits of the event, and confidently concluded that the Expo would indeed be a step-change in the country’s history.
In the 17-year period since the event was won up until 2031 — a decade after it closes its doors — EY found that some 122.6 billion dirhams ($33.4 billion) of gross value will be added to the UAE economy. At its peak, the Expo’s contribution will be equivalent to 1.5 percent of the UAE’s annual GDP.
A total investment of 40.1 billion dirhams will create more than 900,000 “job years” — nearly 50,000 new jobs per year — and leave the permanent legacy of a brand new mini-city between Dubai and the capital Abu Dhabi. The city, dubbed “District 2020,” will be a mixed-use conurbation with offices, residential, exhibition space and leisure facilities.
“It’ll be a new city south of Dubai, and the economic benefit will go on long beyond that time frame (2031) as well … You might get more economic benefit but that has not been included in this model,” said Benson.
What the UAE has done is they had a vision and knew that (they) had to do something bold.
What the UAE has done is they had a vision and knew that (they) had to do something bold.
However, some skeptics have argued that those benefits are not guaranteed. They point to the ambitious figure for visits — 25 million in a six-month period, with the Dubai government forecasting 20 million tourists per annum by 2020.
A viable “legacy” — a challenge faced by other Expos and big events such as the Olympics and FIFA World Cup — is not assured, the critics argue.
In addition, they point to EY’s reliance on official statistics to reach its conclusions, rather than building in other data and scenarios.
Benson, who has been working for the firm since 2013 as head of “transactional diligence” for the MENA region — rebutted those criticisms in detail.
“(The report) focuses on the impact of Expo 2020 and not on the development of the wider economy. So it’s maybe a fine distinction, but it’s based on a set of assumptions around Expo and how that would impact the economy.
“This is a forward-looking study. Really we focused on Expo and where that fits in the wider economy. It’s a macroeconomic model focusing on the incremental effects only, so it’s about what Expo has brought to the economy. It doesn’t focus on other investments that are happening. If Expo didn’t happen, this economic impact wouldn’t happen either,” he explained.
He clarified that the study — based on data from the Expo organizers and several other Dubai government departments like the transport and tourism authorities and official statistics department — is not a cost-benefit analysis of the event, weighing financial gains and returns.
“There are certain other questions that (the report) does not answer and which are not part of the aim of the study. he said.
In the early phase of the Expo project — which is currently nearing completion — the EY team expects a big boost to the UAE’s construction industry, the so-called “Expo effect,” in the UAE’s otherwise sluggish economy. “There are people working on the construction site and the Expo is happening. The impact is there. There are multiple effects going on, maybe counterbalancing the effect or maybe increasing it. Economies go through cycles over time as well,” Benson said.
When the event is up and running, the benefit will come from the spending by visitors at the site as well as in the wider Dubai economy, and also through the multiplier effect of employees specially engaged for the event.
When the curtain falls in April 2021, the Expo site will transform into District 2020, with its own internal economy. Two multinationals — German engineering giant Siemens and consultancy Accenture — have already said they will set up there, and Benson expects others to follow. The Dubai Exhibition Center will give the emirate even more capacity for the big forums and conferences, in which it is already a regional market leader.
•Chichester, Sussex, UK, 1973
•University of Bristol, mathematics
•Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, North Carolina, US
•Goethe Business School, Frankfurt, Germany
•With EY since graduation, working in UK, Germany and Dubai
•Currently partner and transactional diligence leaderfor MENA
The site will be “repurposed” — made ready for its long-term role — but that will not involve knocking down or removing many of the extravagant pavilions and facilities currently in place or under construction. The “construction” element of the final phase is relatively small, at 1.2 billion dirhams out of a total economic impact of 62 billion dirhams, Benson said.
In the detailed technical report which accompanied the study, EY set out the assumptions on which its findings are based. Some look optimistic, others not.
For example, a projected figure of 1.5 million local and 1.1 million international visitors for the new exhibition center, and that 55 percent of the center’s total available area will be used, look like conservative calculations in the legacy phase.
On the other hand, an 85 percent occupancy for offices, retail and food and beverage developments, in a city already bulging with such facilities, looks ambitious, as does a projected 80 percent occupancy for hotels in an already hospitality-rich environment.
And who can say with any certainty that local visitors — who make up the bulk of the total projected visitor numbers — will really stay an average of 2.4 days at the Expo, or that international visitors will visit for five days?
Similarly, the EY report says with certainty that “all Expo 2020 assets are assumed to be sold off” by the end of the event, but that forecast is surely subject to market vagaries.
Are the findings of the EY report too optimistic? “I don’t really have a view on whether they’re optimistic or not. I’d rather say they’re based on a set of assumptions as presented, and they have been modeled through,” said Benson.
Did the EY team look at the track record of previous Expos? “We haven’t focused on comparing this directly with those, on the basis that this is the first in this part of the world. Previous ones were in more mature parts of the world. For example Shanghai in 2010 was a much bigger economy,” Benson explained.
The report was also criticized for being based only on “best case scenario” figures prepared by the government, with no alternative factors — such as geopolitical or economic volatility — modeled through.
“It’s difficult to say what’s ‘best case’ and what’s not. This is all forward-looking and there’s no real range on outcomes. This is in the middle of what you’d expect to happen — it could be higher than this, it could be lower than this. The assumptions are set out as best we can. We have not assumed any real variation in the economic outlook. We haven’t taken a view on the UAE economy or the global economy. It’s based on today,” Benson said.
He did allow, however, that economic fluctuations might affect the outcome, although EY economists did not model these factors in preparing the report.
Benson, who spends a lot of time in Saudi Arabia as part of the EY team advising on various aspects of policymaking, believes that the Kingdom can learn and benefit from the Expo experience as it gets on with its own program of big events and projects.
“I think there’s a lot that Saudi Arabia is doing really well, but one can always learn. Saudi Arabia is already doing big projects and events. NEOM is one, but there are others like Formula E, the recent golf event and others. They’re much shorter than a six-month event like Expo. But they’re already doing quite a lot,” he said.
Benson expects the Expo will permanently change the way the world looks at the Middle East.
“What the UAE has done is they had a vision and knew that (they) had to do something bold,” he said. “It’s not just organic, it’s a big splash, a big push. It’s consistent with their vision to do something profound for Dubai.”
LONDON: Tunisia wooed more tourists in the first quarter of this year, which saw a 17.4 percent increase in arrivals compared to the same period in 2018, according to Tunisian Ministry of Tourism data quoted by Asharq Al-Awsat.
The tourism sector saw an influx of up to 787.8 million dinars ($262.6 million) of hard currency revenues — an increase of 35.1 percent on last year, the newspaper reported.
Minister of Tourism Rene Trabelsi said that the tourism sector was boosted by arrivals from Europe, which rose around 22.3 percent.
After several years of shunning Tunisia in the wake of a gun attack on a beach in Sousse that killed 39 tourists and one at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis that killed 21, major European tour operators have started to return.
Arrivals from France increased 24.7 percent, while the Dutch market developed around 13.5 percent, it was reported.
Trabelsi expects more positive growth in the coming period, based on the bookings of global travel agencies.
Tunisia seeks to attract 1 million French tourists, 640,000 Russian tourists, and 390,000 German tourists this season. It forecasts that it will host around 9 million tourists overall this year.
In 2018, Tunisia’s tourism revenues jumped to $1.36 billion as the country saw the arrival of a record 8.3 million visitors, according to data from the ministry.
The sector generates about 400,000 jobs and accounts for 8 percent of Tunisia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
BAKU: Oil major BP and Azerbaijan’s state energy company SOCAR signed an agreement on Friday to build a new exploration platform for the South Caucasus nation’s three major oilfields, BP-Azerbaijan said in a statement.
The Azeri Central East (ACE) platform, the latest phase of Azerbaijan’s giant Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) oilfields extension program, is expected to produce 100,000 barrels of oil a day and cost $6 billion to build, the company said.
The project is one of the biggest upstream investment decisions to have been signed in Azerbaijan so far this year.
The ACG fields, which to date have produced around 3.5 billion barrels of oil, are estimated to have the potential to yield another 3 billion barrels.
BP’s main aim now would be to maximize the extraction of remaining reserves, Robert Morris, senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said in a statement.
“ACE is central to those plans, adding 100,000 barrels per day of production at peak in the mid-2020s,” he said.
BP and the government of Azerbaijan extended their agreement to continue developing the ACG fields until 2050 in a major deal in 2017.
Separately, SOCAR and its partners at the BP-led ACG consortium plan to participate in a tender to acquire stakes being sold by two of its members, ExxonMobil and Chevron.
SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev made the announcement to reporters following a meeting of senior SOCAR figures on Friday.
PARIS/MOSCOW: Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, an adviser to the Saudi energy minister, said on Friday he expected the oil market to be “well balanced” this year.
“This year, we have seen the implementation of the OPEC Plus decision. It is possible to extend the cut until the end of the year depending on market conditions,” Al-Muhanna told an oil summit in Paris.
The OPEC+ group agreed last year to cut production, partly in response to increased US shale output.
Meanwhile, it emerged on Friday that Russia expects to use about 210 billion roubles ($3.3 billion) from its National Wealth Fund this year to pay back oil as part of a deal to keep down domestic gasoline and diesel prices.
The government and oil firms agreed to cut wholesale domestic fuel prices last year to keep a lid on petrol and diesel costs, a politically sensitive issue.
Under the deal, which runs from Nov. 1 until June 30, oil companies are allowed only to slowly increase petrol and diesel costs, which started to rise due to stronger global oil prices.
Russia is part of a global agreement to cut oil production aimed at propping up crude prices, a major source of state revenues. But that is hitting it back at home as the cost of gasoline is one of the key factors affecting inflation — and the central bank’s main policy rate.
Alexei Sazanov, head of the nance ministry’s tax department, told reporters that in February alone the state paid oil companies back 20-30 billion roubles for keeping fuel prices under control.
Russia is using the National Wealth Fund (NWF) as a buffer against potential external shocks and to pay out pensions or support some important large projects at home. The spending rules are strict as the state wants to preserve the fund.
Sazanov said that for 2019 as a whole, the payout from the NWF to the oil firms was estimated at 210 billion roubles.
“If we are paying the cash, we want to get a quality service in return. This service should result in the fact that the consumer should see prices at the fuel filling stations based on levels we pay back to the oil companies,” Sazanov said.
Under a “fiscal rule,” any revenue from oil prices higher than $40 per barrel goes into the NWF, which is part of Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves, held by the central bank.
The NWF currently stands at $59 billion and is expected to quadruple to over $200 billion, or 12 percent of gross domestic product, in 2021.
MILAN: Eni has signed an exploration and production sharing agreement with the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, the Italian oil company’s latest expansion in the Middle East.
The agreement covers Block A offshore Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was signed between Eni and the emirate’s RAK Petroleum Authority, Eni said in a statement.
Block A is an area of 2,412 sq km. Eni will be the block’s operator, with a 90 percent participating interest, while RAK GAS will hold the remaining 10 percent.
Earlier this year, Eni pledged $3.3 billion to buy part of the world’s fourth-biggest refinery in the UAE, increasing its own refining capacity by more than a third.
In January, the oil company of Sharjah, another emirate, awarded Eni concessions in three areas.
That same month Eni also signed an exploration and production agreement in neighboring Oman.
NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.