UK retail sales slide on ‘Beast from East’ icy weather

Britain suffered freezing temperatures in late February, and to a lesser extent last month, as blasts of icy weather from Siberia engulfed Europe. (AFP)
Updated 19 April 2018
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UK retail sales slide on ‘Beast from East’ icy weather

LONDON: British retail sales slid 1.2 percent in March, as “Beast from the East” freezing weather sliced demand for car fuel but boosted online purchasing, official data showed Thursday.
“The month-on-month growth rate fell by 1.2 percent due to a large fall of 7.4 percent from petrol sales; a likely consequence of adverse weather conditions, which impacted travel,” the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.
Analysts’ consensus forecast had been for a drop of 0.6 percent.
The ONS added that “department stores were the only sector to show positive growth in March at 0.8 percent, with feedback from retailers suggesting that online offers for Mothering Sunday and Easter boosted Internet sales more than usual during the adverse weather.”
Britain suffered freezing temperatures in late February, and to a lesser extent last month, as blasts of icy weather from Siberia engulfed Europe.


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

Updated 52 min 51 sec ago
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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.