Qatar National Bank’s link-up to Saudi payment network delayed: sources

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Updated 24 November 2017
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Qatar National Bank’s link-up to Saudi payment network delayed: sources

DUBAI: Qatar National Bank (QNB), the largest bank in the Middle East and Africa, has put on hold plans to connect to Saudi Arabia’s interbank payment network, as a regional political rift disrupts its growth plans in the kingdom, sources familiar with the matter said.
In May, the lender opened a branch in Riyadh, its first in the kingdom, offering retail and corporate banking services.
But while the branch is operational, QNB has not yet completed steps to connect to the Saudi Arabian Riyal Interbank Express (SARIE) system, which allows commercial banks in the kingdom to make and settle payments in riyals and is an important step for lenders operating there, the sources said.
They said the delay was prompted by the political rift, which led to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 suspending diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar.
In a statement, a QNB spokesperson said its operations in Saudi Arabia were operating as normal.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to be a strategic market for QNB and we still envisages that in the future the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be a significant opportunity for growth,” it said.
Saudi Arabia’s central bank, which is in charge of operating SARIE, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
After gaining a commercial banking license from the regulator, QNB inaugurated its Riyadh branch on May 4 in a ceremony attended by Saudi Arabia’s central bank governor Ahmed Al-Kholifey and QNB’s chief executive Ali Ahmed Al-Kuwari.
The sources said the branch had connected to the SWIFT messaging system, allowing it to make payments inside and outside of Saudi Arabia.
But SARIE is more commonly used among banks in the kingdom as it is faster and cheaper for money transfers.
At the time of the inauguration, Al-Kuwari said QNB planned to apply for an investment banking license in Saudi Arabia.
In the statement, QNB said that was “still under consideration.”
QNB has banking interests in two of the other countries Qatar has fallen out with. A separate banking source told Reuters that QNB’s unit in Egypt was operating as normal, while a QNB spokesman said last month the lender’s 40 percent stake in UAE-based Commercial Bank International was not for sale.


50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

Boom Supersonic co-founder, Blake Scholl, poses for a photograph in front of an artists impression of his company's proposed design for an supersonic aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, at the Farnborough Airshow, south west of London, on July 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 49 sec ago
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50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

  • Boom Supersonic’s aircraft is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year
  • The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people

WEYBRIDGE, United Kingdom: Luxury air travel faster than the speed of sound: A US start-up is aiming to revive commercial supersonic flight 50 years after the ill-fated Concorde first took to the skies.
Blake Scholl, the former Amazon staffer who co-founded Boom Supersonic, delivered the pledge this week in front of a fully-restored Concorde jet at the Brooklands aviation and motor museum in Weybridge, southwest of London.
Boom Supersonic’s backers include Richard Branson and Japan Airlines and other players are eyeing the same segment.
The company aims to manufacture a prototype jet next year but its plans have been met with skepticism in some quarters.
“The story of Concorde is the story of a journey started but not completed — and we want to pick up on it,” Scholl said.
The event coincided with the nearby Farnborough Airshow.
“Today... the world is more linked than it’s ever been before and the need for improved human connection has never been greater,” Scholl said.
“At Boom, we are inspired at what was accomplished half a century ago,” he added, speaking in front of a former British Airways Concorde that flew for the first time in 1969.

Boom Supersonic’s aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year.
“If we can’t continue where you left off, and build on that, then the shame is on us,” Scholl said, addressing himself to an audience that included retired Concorde staff.
“Our vision is to build a faster airplane that is accessible to more and more people, to anybody who flies.”
Boom Supersonic is making its debut at Farnborough and hopes to produce its new-generation jets in the mid-2020s or later, with the aim of slashing journey times by half.
The proposed aircraft has a maximum flying range of 8,334 kilometers (5,167 miles) at a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 kilometers per hour.
If it takes off, it would be the first supersonic passenger aircraft since Concorde took its final flight in 2003.
The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people.
Some analysts remain skeptical over the push back into supersonic.
“Supersonic is not what passengers or airlines want right now,” said Strategic Aero analyst Saj Ahmed, stressing that many travelers wanted cheap low-cost carriers instead.
Ahmed said supersonic jets were “very unattractive” because of high start-up development costs, considerations about noise pollution and high prices as well as limited capacity.

Independent air transport consultant John Strickland also noted supersonic travel was unproven commercially.
“Business traffic, on the face of it, is the most lucrative for airlines,” Strickland told AFP.
“But if there is an economic downturn or something happens where the market for business class traffic drains away, then you have nothing else left to do with that aircraft.
“I think it’s going to be some time before we see whether it can establish a large viable market... in the way that Concorde never managed to do.”
These concerns have not stopped interest from other players.
US aerospace giant Boeing had last month unveiled its “hypersonic” airliner concept, which it hopes will fly at Mach 5 — or five times the speed of sound — when it arrives on the scene in 20 to 30 years.
And in April, NASA inked a deal for US giant Lockheed Martin to develop a supersonic “X-plane.”