PIF, Dubai businessman Alabbar launch $1bn e-commerce platform

Noon.com will launch operations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in January, according to Mohammed Alabbar.
Updated 14 November 2016
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PIF, Dubai businessman Alabbar launch $1bn e-commerce platform

JEDDAH: The online shopping experience in the Middle East is set to forever change with the launch of Noon, described as the region’s largest-ever e-commerce company, in January.
Noon is designed to be a driver of innovation, which will offer a vast product selection and fast delivery across all categories.
With an initial investment of $1 billion, Noon will launch in the Saudi and UAE markets, and will soon cover the entire Middle East region. 
Noon aims to grow online sales in the region from 2 percent of the total market ($3 billion), to 15 percent ($70 billion) within a decade. 
Emaar Properties Chairman Mohamed Alabbar, who is leading the venture with prominent GCC investors, described Noon as “nothing less than a quantum leap in retail in the region, and the world.” 
Alabbar added: “We come with the endurance to build a customer-centric business for the long-term. For us, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I am pleased to announce that the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia will take 50 percent equity in Noon. In addition, the head office of Noon will be based in Riyadh.”
“With Noon, we are offering the most customer-centric ecommerce experience available anywhere,” he said. “In one move, we are launching a future-focused company, which is the biggest online shopping platform ever seen in the region. Noon is a company born in the Middle East and serves customers in the Middle East.”
Noon is claims to bring a number of impressive firsts for the region. It will have the biggest selection, with 20 million products covering fashion, books, home and garden, electronics, sports and outdoor, health and beauty, personal care, toys, kids and baby products, among others.
It will have more than 10 million square feet of warehousing. At 3.5 million square feet, the UAE fulfillment center will cover more than 60 football fields.
Same-day delivery through Noon Transportation, an in-house express delivery service, and NoonPay, a secure and innovative payment gateway, are its other features.
Noon’s CEO Fodhil Benturquia said a commitment to customer-centric service and innovative technology will be key to Noon’s success. “The customer is the purpose of our being, and we are here to win their hearts and their trust. Our customer experience will be driven by state-of-the-art technology that will power everything from product discovery to purchase and delivery.”
Noon, through its mobile app and noon.com website, will be an end-to-end e-commerce retailer. “We want to be the partner of choice for sellers, whether they’re big or small. We invite them to be part of our ecosystem, working together to change the online shopping landscape for the Middle East customer.”
“Our team not only comes with exceptional backgrounds, but also with an all-consuming passion to change the way things are done,” he added.
Noon boasts that its team has a wealth of e-commerce experience earned at sector leaders, including Amazon, Apple, PayPal, eBay, Google, Flipkart and others.


Saudi Arabia seeks stable, not soaring, oil prices

Updated 22 September 2018
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Saudi Arabia seeks stable, not soaring, oil prices

  • Due to market tightness, Brent rose to nearly $80 per barrel but deteriorated to $78.80 on Friday.
  • The average price for Brent crude per barrel over the past five months has been between $72.11 and $76.98

RIYADH: Oil prices rose this week on continuing market tightness. With the price rise, some Saudi-bashing has begun. Bloomberg reported that increasing prices were due to Saudi Arabia’s comfort with Brent crude above $80 per barrel. Such “analysis” is hogwash.

Due to market tightness, Brent rose to nearly $80 per barrel but deteriorated to $78.80 on Friday. WTI rose above $70 per barrel for the first time in three months and settled at $70.78 per barrel by the week closing.
The average price for Brent crude per barrel over the past five months has been between $72.11 and $76.98. As may be noted in those numbers, the Brent crude price has been resisting the psychological barrier of $80 per barrel. The fact is that, since October 2014, the Brent monthly average has never gone above $80.
The oil price outlook might be raised as a result of this upward tendency and the continuing tight oil market. For instance, with the latest numbers in hand, HSBC has revised its oil price forecast upward with Brent to average $80 per barrel in 2019 and $85 in 2020, before settling at about $75 in 2021.
Bloomberg was inaccurate about Saudi Arabia’s comfort with a Brent price above $80 per barrel. The Kingdom has never been among the bulls when it comes to oil prices. Again and again, Saudi Arabia has been a major advocate for stable oil prices, not increasing oil prices, which it views as unsustainable and damaging to the global economy. Bloomberg is also predicting that Saudi Arabia will follow its allegedly bullish nature and refrain from ramping up production to compensate for the oil lost once the US sanctions on Iran come into effect.
US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has confirmed that Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US are well able to add enough crude oil supply into the market to compensate for Iran. Indeed, the Kingdom has begun to increase output to adjust for market needs, from 9.87 million barrels per day (bpd) in April to 10.42 million bpd in August.
The upward movement in oil prices came after strong fundamentals showed market tightness that spurred record levels of speculative traders, with nearly all betting on higher prices. The price rise also recognized that total US inventories are below the five-year average for the first time since May 2014. Oil prices have been gradually trending upward with gentle fluctuations. There have not been any steep surges or declines. There is nothing artificial about the trend. In reality, it is boringly predictable.
Last month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported OECD commercial crude oil inventories at 32 million barrels below the five-year average. Stocks at the end of Q2 2018 were up 6.6 million barrels versus the end of 1Q 2018, the first quarterly increase since 1Q 2017. The IEA also noted that global refinery throughputs in the second half of 2018 are expected to be 2 million barrels higher than in the first half of the year. These refined products stocks will draw down before building again in 4Q 2018.
Global crude oil inventories peaked in 2016. The OPEC+ agreement that worked for market balance was the reason for a fall in inventories. Since May 2017, global oil stocks have been on the decline and now global crude oil stocks are below the five-year average. Product stocks are also below that level, with strong demand and healthy refining margins.
Inventories have kept falling despite American producers pumping at all-time highs last month. It is only the massive flood of oil from the US which has kept crude oil prices at low levels from early 2015 to the end of 2017 — along with a resulting lack of upstream investment in the oil industry. Therefore, the IEA predicts that in 2022 spare production capacity will fall to a 14-year low.
Global oil markets are rebalancing. Oil prices started their upward momentum from the end of October 2017. They went above the psychological barrier $60 a barrel after 10 consecutive months of tireless efforts by OPEC and non-OPEC nations that started on January 2017. The market rebalancing will continue through the end of 2018, and beyond.
Such upward momentum in oil prices isn’t artificial movement because it came after many months without steep price fluctuations. In 2016, the Brent price average was $43. The 2017 Brent price average was $54, and prices just surpassed $60 in October 2017. The Brent average surpassed $70 in late March 2018 and has been hovering between $72 and $78 since. There is no evidence of a steep fluctuation or an artificial movement.
The claims of an artificial price movement have come just at the time when OPEC and the world are reaping the positive outcomes of 24 nations collaborating in output cuts that managed to successfully rebalance the oil market in a situation where global oil inventories were running at record highs. Also, these false claims came when the oil industry needs capital inflows to reactivate upstream investments for major international oil companies. Such investments are essential for the price stability that benefits oil producers and consumers globally. Low oil prices result in low investment in discovery and production of petroleum resources, which damages various industry sectors and energy needs. That leads to a vicious cycle of up-and-down price fluctuations.