East African nations approve individual trade pacts with EU if joint deal not reached

A worker delivers certified beef for export into cold storage at Kenya’s main abbatoir, in Machakos county in this April 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 02 February 2019

East African nations approve individual trade pacts with EU if joint deal not reached

  • The East African Community and the EU have been at loggerheads for years over signing the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement
  • The bloc launched a common market in 2010 but missed its target of having a common currency in place in 2012

DAR ES SALAAM: East African countries can individually sign separate trade agreements with the European Union (EU) if a joint deal is not reached within the next four months, according to a statement from a meeting of regional leaders.
The East African Community (EAC) and the EU have been at loggerheads for years over signing the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), designed to replace preferential trade deals struck down by the World Trade Organization.
“The summit ... decided that the EAC engages the EU on the matter in the next four months to get more clarification on the pertinent issues of concern. Thereafter, partner states who wish to, may or may not sign the EPA,” East African leaders said in a joint statement late on Friday.
The agreement was reached at the summit in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha on Friday. It was attended by Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the agreement in 2016 but it needs approval from all other members of the EAC bloc — Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi — to take effect.
At the summit, Museveni handed over the rotating chairmanship of the EAC to Kagame, who is also the current chairman of the African Union.
The bloc launched a common market in 2010 but missed its target of having a common currency in place in 2012. The stated goal was a political federation, although analysts say that is likely to be many years off if it happens at all.
South Sudan, which joined the bloc in 2016, was not part of initial negotiations on the EPA deal, which began in 2002.
The trade bloc has a combined gross domestic product of $146 billion, according to the EAC website.


Saudi mall operator Arabian Centres bucks retail malaise as profits surge

Updated 21 August 2019

Saudi mall operator Arabian Centres bucks retail malaise as profits surge

  • Mall operator defies online shopping pressure by lowering discounts to tenants, boosting occupancy and rental revenues

LONDON: Arabian Centres, the Saudi mall operator which went public in May, said first-quarter consolidated net profit almost trebled to SR227 million ($60.53 million) as occupancy edged higher across its shopping centers. Revenues increased by about 2.5 percent over the year to SR572.5 million.

The results helped to propel the group’s shares 3 percent higher on Tuesday.

The group said that it boosted performance by offering lower discounts to its tenants which helped to drive rental revenues. Like-for-like occupancy across all malls increased  to 93.2 percent from 92.4 percent in the year earlier period. Finance costs fell by about 65 percent from a year earlier to SR73.9 million.

FASTFACT

 

27 - Arabian Centres plans to expand its mall portfolio to 27 within four years.

Retailers across the Middle East are coming under increased pressure as more consumers shop online, while at the same time, tourists are spending less in dollar-pegged economies because their purchasing power has been cut by the strength of the greenback. Still, in Saudi Arabia, the under-served retail market is expected to receive a boost from rising investment in the entertainment sector, especially new cinemas.

“Faced with the rising challenge of online shopping, the brick-and-mortar retail segment has sought to diversify its offering to secure its customer base, providing an increased range of leisure and entertainment facilities,” said Oxford Business Group, in a report analyzing emerging trends in the Saudi retail sector.

“The reintroduction of cinemas to the Kingdom in April last year ... is expected to increase retail footfall,” it said.

Arabian Centres, majority-owned by Fawaz Alhokair Group, listed its shares on the Tadawul stock exchange in May — the first to do so in the Kingdom under Rule 144a, allowing the sale of securities, mainly to qualified institutional buyers in the US.

The group aims to expand to 27 malls within four years.