Phone firms look beyond the handset at top mobile fair

Updated 01 March 2015
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Phone firms look beyond the handset at top mobile fair

MADRID: Phone makers will seek to seduce new buyers with even smarter Internet-connected watches and other wireless gadgets as they wrestle for dominance at the world’s biggest mobile fair starting Monday.
Along with the launches of numerous new smartphones — dominated by South Korean giant Samsung — tech firms are trying to conquer users’ bodies and connect their environments.
Several makers are set to unveil new “smartwatches,” some of which will have users chattering into their cuffs or getting on-wrist e-mail updates, at the four-day Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in northeastern Spain.
Tech executives and regulators will meanwhile seek to chart a course for a new age of wireless networks that could lead to billions of objects being connected, from cars to refrigerators.
“It’s a showpiece for smartphones in the short term, but it’ll go way beyond smartphones,” said Nigel Major, a top executive at tech group Laird.
“The most exciting trend we can see is the proliferation of connected devices everywhere we go. Ten years from now, virtually everything you’re looking at will have the potential to be connected.”
On Sunday evening, Samsung is expected to unveil its Galaxy S6 smartphone, the larger Galaxy S6 Edge “phablet,” and the latest in its series of watches.
Samsung is the world’s biggest seller of smartphones but saw its share of the world market fall in 2014 from 34 percent to 20 percent, according to research group IDC.
It faces a squeeze by Chinese phone makers on one side and on the other by US titan Apple, which released its iPhone 6 last year.
Apple, as usual, is steering clear of the show in Barcelona, but is set to launch its own smartwatch in April.
Several other Asian heavyweights also plan launches of “wearable” gadgets on the eve of the congress, such as Korean firm LG, Chinese contender Huawei and Taiwanese makers Asus and HTC.
Designers have come up with numerous gadgets that can connect to an application on your mobile, from popular “fitness tracker” wristbands to measure your heart rate to sex toys.
Now they hope some big product launches this year can make smartwatches a mainstream gadget and boost sales of other wearables.
This year could be a “tipping point for wearables,” research firm CCS Insight said in a report.
In Barcelona, “low-cost smartphones will feature prominently, as will wearables,” it said. “We expect an avalanche of new products.”
Mobile telephones are a massive business — 2.1 billion people, or one person in three in the world, owned one in 2014, according to Linda Sui, an analyst at global tech consultancy Strategy Analytics.
But the battle for profits is shifting away from the handset to other connected objects, experts say.
“The wearable market is really going to expand because the smartphone market has reached a saturation point in developed markets,” said Kevin Curran, a telecom specialist at the University of Ulster.
“So they have to be seen to be doing something else.”
On a larger scale, companies and experts in Barcelona will be mulling what leaps forward in wireless coverage and technology are needed to create a new “5G” generation of super-fast and secure wireless connections.
“The path to 5G and the battle for early leadership will be one of the show’s hottest topics,” said Wood.
Standards have yet to be hammered out, but the mobile consortium organizing the congress, GSMA, says future 5G connections could support functions such as connected cars and traffic systems.
It “will further transform the lives of individuals, businesses and societies around the world,” said the GSMA’s director general, Anne Bouverot.


Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

Updated 23 April 2019
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Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

  • The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios
  • SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year

RIYADH: Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. (SRC), modelled on US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, aims to issue up to 4 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) of long-term sukuk this year, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios from mortgage financing companies and banks to boost the Kingdom’s secondary mortgage market.

SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview.

“Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said. “We are really looking at probably issuing something between ... 2 and 4 billion riyal that we may be issuing in two tranches.

He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10 to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said.

He said the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the local riyal.

In March, SRC completed a 750 million riyal sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to 11 billion riyals of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.

“The rule of the game for us is, like many projects across the Kingdom, attract liquidity from foreign investors,” Susini said.

He said SRC had spent 1.2 billion riyals from its balance sheet buying mortgages from local mortgage financing companies and provided liquidity to these firms.

It has also signed initial accords with several commercial banks to acquire housing mortgage portfolios.

Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry is targeting the mortgage market to reach a total value of 502 billion riyals by 2020 from around 300 billion riyals now.

The government wants to increase activity in the real estate market as it moves to revitalize the economy and is taking steps to reform the sector as part of its 2030 reform plan.

It has been working with developers and local banks to counter a shortage of affordable housing — one of the country’s biggest social and economic problems. Saudi Arabia wants 60 percent of its nationals to own homes by 2020, up from 47 percent in 2016.

The size of real estate financing relative to its gross domestic product is 5 percent in Saudi Arabia compared to 69 percent in the United States, 74 percent in the United Kingdom and 43 pct in Canada, the housing ministry has said.

“The goal of SRC in this market was to make sure that we will be able to refinance at least around 10 percent of the market in 2020, and 20 percent of the market by 2028,” Susini told Reuters.