Kingdom: Transport projects going ahead as scheduled

Updated 25 October 2015
0

Kingdom: Transport projects going ahead as scheduled

ALKHOBAR: Saudi Arabia is proceeding with public transport projects as scheduled and companies may face penalties if there are delays, Transport Minister Abdullah Al-Muqbil was quoted as saying by a leading local newspaper.

With low oil prices slashing the government’s export revenues and forcing it deep into deficit, the finance ministry has said it is trimming expenses, and there has been speculation that the budget for public transport infrastructure could be one victim.
Spanish train maker Talgo Tsaid in July that Saudi Arabia had canceled a $201 million contract for six high-speed trains; neither the company nor the government gave a reason.
Some construction industry executives have reported delays in obtaining payment from Saudi government bodies, though others have experienced no problems and it is unclear if any delays are due to a tight budget rather than to the bureaucratic inefficiencies which are common in the region.
Speaking to the Al-Jazirah daily, Al-Muqbil indicated there would be no major cutbacks to transport projects, which the government considers important to limit growth in domestic energy consumption and create jobs.
He said the government had allocated SR200 billion ($53.3 billion) to be spent on public transport plans in cities with the highest population densities.
“Whether it is public transport projects or trains...the schedule of execution has been set by the Council of Ministers...Each project has a specific schedule and its execution is within an identified time frame with no delay,” Al-Muqbil said.
“Definitely, no delay is allowed on all the ministry’s projects, whether roads or public transport...Violations will be spotted and penalties will be imposed on companies in charge of these projects.”
Al-Muqbil said bids were under evaluation to procure and operate buses for a 10-year public transport project in Makkah.
Among the biggest projects is a $22.5 billion plan to build a metro system in Riyadh, to be completed in 2019; three foreign-led consortia were awarded contracts in July 2013.
Turki Al-Sudairy, project coordinator at one of the Riyadh metro contractors, told Reuters that the project had experienced no delays at all and it was now about 21 percent completed, with completion still likely in 2019.


South Korea-Japan trade feud engulfs tech giant Samsung

Updated 27 min 56 sec ago
0

South Korea-Japan trade feud engulfs tech giant Samsung

  • Company begins testing non-Japanese material for semiconductors as dispute deepens

SEOUL: Samsung has started testing non-Japanese materials used in producing state-of-the-art semiconductors amid a deepening trade dispute between Seoul and Tokyo.

According to company sources, the South Korean chipmaker has begun testing hydrogen fluoride etching gas from China, Taiwan and some local suppliers.

The etching gas — one of three materials that Japan has decided to restrict shipping to South Korea — is crucial for producing semiconductors since it is used in removing excess material around circuit patterns on silicon wafers.

“We’re testing hydrogen fluoride etching gas from companies outside Japan, such as Taiwan and China, in an effort to diversify supply sources,” a Samsung official told Arab News, asking not to be identified. “We’re also searching for local suppliers of the chemical.”

Testing from new suppliers, however, is to expect to take at least six months, and it remains to be seen if the quality of non-Japanese etching gas will be high enough to be used in the production of semiconductor, the official said, refusing to elaborate new supply sources.

SK Hynix and LG Display have also started testing of non-Japanese high-purity hydrogen fluoride to minimize the impact of Japan’s trade embargo, according to the company officials.

Binhua Group of China is known to be one of the Korean firms’ new suppliers for the etching gas. According to Shanghai Securities News, the chemical company based in Shandong has signed an agreement with South Korean chipmakers to supply etching gas.  

The gas needs to be 99.999 percent pure for it to be used in chipmaking. Companies in Japan maintain top technology levels in the field, taking up to 90 percent of the global market.

HIGHLIGHT

Samsung is the world’s largest chipmaker.

On July 1, Japan announced it would curb shipments to South Korea of three materials used for chip and display production — fluorinated polyimide, photoresists and hydrogen fluoride. The move is widely seen as punitive action for a recent court ruling here that orders two Japanese firms to compensate wartime forced laborers. 

With the Moon Jae-in administration rejecting Tokyo’s demand for third-party arbitration, Japan is expected to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice.

Japanese companies can still export high-tech materials to South Korea, but they are required to get a license from the government. The license could take 90 days to come through even if they are approved.

Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, the world’s two biggest memory chipmakers, have been hit hardest by the tougher export controls by the Japanese government, as both semiconductor manufacturers rely on Japanese supplies for the materials.

According to the Korea International Trade Association, South Korea imported about 92 percent of photoresists and 43.9 percent of hydrogen fluoride from Japan.

Analysts believe the Japanese trade restrictions will compromise Samsung’s next-generation semi-conductor businesses, such as those based on 7-nanometer chip fabrication. The 7-nano chips are made with technology involving extreme ultraviolet lithography, which requires the use of photoresists.

“Samsung was scheduled to mass-produce 7-nano-chips from the latter half of this year with the supply of photoresists from Japan’s supplier, JSR,” said Lee Mi-hye, a researcher at the Export-Import Bank of Korea.

“JSR-made photoresists are produced in Belgium, so it’s not subject to the restrictions for now. But the foreign branches of Japanese firms would be vulnerable to regulations in the near future.”