Air Arabia eyes 100-jet order this year after record 2017 profit

Updated 07 March 2018
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Air Arabia eyes 100-jet order this year after record 2017 profit

BENGALURU: Middle East budget carrier Air Arabia will add more destinations and could order around 100 narrow-body aircraft this year, thanks to rising demand in Egypt and other hubs, Chief Executive Adel Ali said on Wednesday.
The expansion from the United Arab Emirates’ only publicly listed airline comes amid rising oil prices and after a year in which Air Arabia’s profit increased 30 percent to a record 662 million dirhams ($180 million), as it flew more passengers and operated more routes.
The airline is considering placing new orders for the first time in several years to support future growth.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a purchase order. The leasing market is pretty good,” Ali said in an interview in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.
In November, Air Arabia announced a leasing agreement for six Airbus A321neo long-range jets from US-based Air Lease Corp.
“Our technical team and financial team are working with both Boeing and Airbus,” Ali said.
The Sharjah-headquartered airline currently operates an all-Airbus A320 narrow-body fleet of around 50 jets.
Ali did not rule out a deal for CSeries jets made by Canada’s Bombardier, though suggested a preliminary agreement by an airline Air Arabia now partly owns was no longer valid.
Petra Airlines, in which Air Arabia bought a 49 percent stake three years ago, signed a letter of intent with Bombardier in 2014 to buy up to four CSeries jets in a deal worth up to $300 million at list prices.
“Petra as an airline was finished a long time ago. That’s history. Everything that was there is gone,” he said.
Petra was rebranded Air Arabia Jordan in 2015 with the opening of Air Arabia’s fourth hub in Amman.
Ali said Air Arabia would sharpen its focus on Egypt this year as demand increases.
“We see the tourists coming back, trade is coming back. We have slowed down in Egypt for some time now because of geopolitical and economic uncertainties. We now see certainty there,” he added.
The carrier also expects to grow in Russia and some former Soviet states this year. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia, which is expected to spur demand.
Air Arabia plans to add more routes in India, Ali said. The airline already operates a handful of routes in the country, a booming aviation market.


Undersea gas fires Egypt’s regional energy dreams

Updated 18 November 2018
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Undersea gas fires Egypt’s regional energy dreams

  • In the past year, gas has started flowing from four major fields off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast
  • Gas production has now hit 184 million cubic meters a day

CAIRO: Egypt is looking to use its vast, newly tapped undersea gas reserves to establish itself as a key energy exporter and revive its flagging economy.
Encouraged by the discovery of huge natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, Cairo has in recent months signed gas deals with neighboring Israel as well as Cyprus and Greece.
Former oil minister Osama Kamal said Egypt has a “plan to become a regional energy hub.”
In the past year, gas has started flowing from four major fields off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, including the vast Zohr field, inaugurated with great ceremony by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Discovered in 2015 by Italian energy giant Eni, Zohr is the biggest gas field so far found in Egyptian waters.
The immediate upshot has been that since September, the Arab world’s most populous country has been able to halt imports of liquified natural gas, which last year cost it some $220 million (190 million euros) per month.
Coming after a financial crisis that pushed Cairo in 2016 to take a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the gas has been a lifeline.
Egypt’s budget deficit, which hit 10.9 percent of GDP in the financial year 2016-17, has since fallen to 9.8 percent.
Gas production has now hit 184 million cubic meters a day.
Having met its own needs, Cairo is looking to kickstart exports and extend its regional influence.
It has signed deals to import gas from neighboring countries for liquefaction at installations on its Mediterranean coast, ready for re-export to Europe.
In September, Egypt signed a deal with Cyprus to build a pipeline to pump Cypriot gas hundreds of kilometers to Egypt for processing before being exported to Europe.
That came amid tensions between Egypt and Turkey — which has supported the Muslim Brotherhood, seen by Cairo as a terrorist organization, and has troops in breakaway northern Cyprus.
In February, Egypt, the only Arab state apart from Jordan to have a peace deal with Israel, inked an agreement to import gas from the Jewish state’s Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs.
A US-Israeli consortium leading the development of Israel’s offshore gas reserves in September announced it would buy part of a disused pipeline connecting the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon with the northern Sinai peninsula.
That would bypass a land pipeline across the Sinai that was repeatedly targeted by jihadists in 2011 and 2012.
The $15-billion deal will see some 64 billion cubic meters of gas pumped in from the Israeli fields over 10 years.
Independent news website Mada Masr reported that Egypt’s General Intelligence Service is the majority shareholder in East Gas, which will earn the largest part of the profits from the import of Israeli gas and its resale to the Egyptian state.
Kamal said he sees “no problem” in that, adding that the agency has held a majority stake in the firm since 2003.
“That guarantees the protection of Egyptian interests,” he said.
Ezzat Abdel Aziz, former president of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Agency, said the projects were “of vital importance for Egypt” and would have direct returns for the Egyptian economy.
They “confirm the strategic importance of Egypt and allow it to take advantage of its location between producing countries in the east and consuming countries of the West,” he said.
The Egyptian state is also hoping to rake in billions of dollars in revenues from petro-chemicals.
Its regional energy ambitions are “not limited to the natural gas sector, but also involve major projects in the petroleum and petrochemical sectors,” said former oil minister Kamal.
Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla recently announced a deal to expand the Midor refinery in the Egyptian capital to boost its output by some 60 percent.
On top of that, the new Mostorod refinery in northern Cairo is set to produce 4.4 million tons of petroleum products a year after it comes online by next May, according to Ahmed Heikal, president of Egyptian investment firm Citadel Capital.
That alone will save the state $2 billion a year on petrochemical imports, which last year cost it some $5.2 billion.
Egypt is also investing in a processing plant on the Red Sea that could produce some four million tons of petro-products a year — as well as creating 3,000 jobs in a country where unemployment is rife.