Varoufakis wants ‘clear decision’ from Merkel on rescue deal

Varoufakis wants ‘clear decision’ from Merkel on rescue deal
Updated 20 June 2015

Varoufakis wants ‘clear decision’ from Merkel on rescue deal

Varoufakis wants ‘clear decision’ from Merkel on rescue deal

FRANKFURT: Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said German Chancellor Angela Merkel must make a clear decision at a euro zone summit Monday on whether to negotiate a rescue deal with Athens or heed populist calls to jettison the debt-wracked country.
Merkel can "enter into an honorable agreement with a government, which has rejected the 'rescue package' and is seeking a negotiated solution, or follow the calls from (those in) her government who want her to throw overboard the only Greek government which has been faithful to its principles and which is able to take the Greek people on the road to reform," said Varoufakis.
"The German chancellor has a clear decision to make on Monday," he wrote in an op-ed to be published Sunday in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
"On our side, we will come with determination to Brussels to agree to further compromises as long as we are not asked to do what the previous governments have done: Accept new debt under conditions that offer little hope for Greece to repay its debts," he wrote.
Varoufakis did not specify what compromises Greece was willing to make.
Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in an interview released on Saturday, the Greek government must make tough fiscal decisions and quickly reach an agreement with international creditors and fellow members of the euro zone, or it risks devastating both the country's economy and people.
"I think we're at a moment now where the burden is on Greece to come back with a response that's the basis for reaching an agreement as quickly as possible," he said in an episode of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" program that will air on Sunday, according to a transcript.
"What we know is the best solution is for Greece to make some tough decisions and for this to be worked out," he said.
Greece needs to secure a cash-for-reforms deal in order to avoid defaulting on a 1.6 billion-euro International Monetary Fund loan at the end of June, but talks have stalled and the long-struggling country faces being drummed out of the euro zone if it fails.
The United States is turning up the heat on the Greek government to break the deadlock. Last Tuesday Lew called Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to emphasize "the urgency of Greece making a serious move to reach a pragmatic compromise with its creditors," and on Wednesday the State Department sent the same message.
Depositors shaken by the rapid deterioration of negotiations have been rapidly pulling money out of Greek banks, raising the specter the government may soon impose capital controls.
"The risk of contagion obviously is different than it was in the past because Greek sovereign debt is no longer sitting on the balance sheets of financial institutions. It's mostly sitting in sovereign places," Lew told Zakaria.
But he cautioned that markets' reaction to a default, or to the country's withdrawal from the euro zone, cannot be foreseen, adding "I don't think anyone should want to find out."
"It's clear that within Greece, the consequence of a failure here would mean a terrible, terrible decline in their economic performance," he said. "It will hurt the Greek people. They will bear the first brunt of a failure here."


Saudi property liquidity higher ahead of Eid

Saudi property liquidity higher ahead of Eid
Updated 36 min 30 sec ago

Saudi property liquidity higher ahead of Eid

Saudi property liquidity higher ahead of Eid
  • The market primarily benefited from a 15.6 percent weekly increase in the value of the commercial sector deals

RIYADH: The Saudi real estate market recorded a 6.2 percent rise in weekly activity to reach SR4.1 billion ($1 billion) after earlier declines.
The market primarily benefited from a 15.6 percent weekly increase in the value of the commercial sector deals, to just under SR1.2 billion by the end of last week, Al Eqtisadiah reported.
Housing sector deals recorded a 2.8 percent weekly increase to nearly SR2.6 billion.
Agricultural and industrial deals also increased by 2.3 percent to SR344 million.
The number of real estate transactions gained 1.4 percent to 5,600, the newspaper reported.



 


Riyadh to get ten BinDawood superstores over five years

Riyadh to get ten BinDawood superstores over five years
Updated 50 min 16 sec ago

Riyadh to get ten BinDawood superstores over five years

Riyadh to get ten BinDawood superstores over five years
  • The company said it would open the branches over five years from 2022 to 2027

DUBAI: BinDawood Superstores said it would open ten new branches in Riyadh as the retailer expands its footprint in the Kingdom.
The company, a unit of BinDawood Holding, said in a stock exchange statement that it would open the branches over five years from 2022 to 2027.
BinDawood Holding on Monday said first-quarter profit fell by more than half to SR62.1 million ($16.5 million) compared to a year earlier.

Revenues declined by a fifth to SR1.12 billion because of “non-recurring pantry buying” at the start of the pandemic when consumers stocked up on purchases.

That rush was not repeated in the first quarter of this year.

“It has been a tough start to the year as the local Saudi grocery retail market continues to remain subdued.It is heartening to see some green shoots of recovery but overall, we see a return to pre-COVID sales only in the second half of 2021,” said Ahmad AR. BinDawood, CEO of BinDawood Holding.
However the group remains cautiously optimistic as its sales in Makkah and Madinah pick up and are expected to benefit from the gradual return of pilgrims to the Kingdom.
At the same time it has been able to reduce its costs associated with COVID-19, it said.
BinDawood said the company’s store opening program would result in more jobs for Saudis in the supermarket sector.


Oil gains after cyberattack forces closure of US fuel ‘jugular’ pipeline

Oil gains after cyberattack forces closure of US fuel ‘jugular’ pipeline
Updated 10 May 2021

Oil gains after cyberattack forces closure of US fuel ‘jugular’ pipeline

Oil gains after cyberattack forces closure of US fuel ‘jugular’ pipeline
  • Pipeline moves 2.5 million bpd of gasoline and other fuels
  • Network is source of nearly half of the US East Coast’s fuel

TOKYO: Crude prices rose on Monday after a major cyberattack forced the shutdown of critical fuel supply pipelines in the United States and highlighted the fragility of its oil infrastructure.
Brent crude was up by 38 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $68.66 a barrel by 0443 GMT, having risen by l.5 percent last week. US West Texas Intermediate futures rose by 34 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $65.24 a barrel, after gaining more than 2 percent last week.
Signaling the seriousness of the situation, the White House was working closely with Colonial Pipeline to help it recover from the ransomware attack, which forced the biggest US fuel pipeline operator to shut a network supplying populous eastern states.
“The major takeaway is the bad guys are very adept at finding new ways to penetrate infrastructure,” Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates told Reuters. “Infrastructure has not developed defenses that can offset all the different ways that malware can infect one’s system.”
Colonial’s network is the source of nearly half of the US East Coast’s fuel supply, transporting 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline and other fuels, and the company had to shut all its pipelines after the cyberattack on Friday, which involved ransomware.
US gasoline prices jumped nearly 2 percent on Monday, while heating oil was up by more than 1 percent.
It was not clear who carried out the attack, but sources told Reuters the hackers were likely a professional cybercriminal group.
Colonial said on Sunday its main fuel lines remain offline but some smaller lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. It didn’t say when the network might return to full operational capacity.
A prolonged shutdown of the line, described as the “jugular of infrastructure” in the United States by one analyst, would cause retail prices to spike at gasoline pumps ahead of peak summer driving season, a potential blow to US consumers and the economy.
“The big unknown is how long the shutdown will last, but clearly the longer it goes on, the more bullish it will be for refined product prices,” ING Economics said in a note.
The attack has prompted calls from American lawmakers to strengthen protections for critical US energy infrastructure from hacking attacks.
The Department of Energy said it was monitoring potential impacts to the nation’s energy supply, while the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Transportation Security Administration told Reuters they were working on the situation.


African nations eye Dubai Expo for image overhaul

African nations eye Dubai Expo for image overhaul
Updated 10 May 2021

African nations eye Dubai Expo for image overhaul

African nations eye Dubai Expo for image overhaul
  • Africa witnessed 25 years of growth before falling into a COVID-induced recession

DUBAI: African nations are attending this year’s Dubai Expo 2020 in force, hoping to project an image of a modern and ambitious continent and shed stereotypes of conflict and underdevelopment.

The six-month mega-event, delayed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, is a milestone for the wealthy Gulf emirate. It has spent some $8.2 billion transforming a barren stretch on the outskirts of the city into an eye-popping site bristling with high-tech pavilions.

As the huge project nears completion ahead of the scheduled October 2021 opening, African delegates touted their ambitions to generate trade and investment at a high-level meeting this week.

With nearly all African states represented for the first time, Expo provides a stage to advertise a “continent that is ready to move forward” and “a secure place to do business,” Levi Uche Madueke from the 55-member African Union (AU) said.

“The time has come for us to actually reach out to the world, and for the world to understand us, and also see how they can collaborate with us,” said Madueke, the AU’s head of strategic partnerships.

Since the first World Expo was held in London in 1851, global fairs have been used to showcase innovations and as a branding exercise for participating countries. And in its quest to gain influence on the international scene, the UAE has increased its political and economic presence in Africa in recent years, particularly in the eastern Horn.

Africa witnessed 25 years of growth before falling into a COVID-induced recession in 2020. It continues to dominate the bottom half of the global Human Development Index.

Aside from exceptions such as Rwanda, Morocco and Kenya, African states also fare poorly on indices that measure the ease of doing business. But Madueke said that despite the need to develop infrastructure and the existing barriers to international trade, Africa has “a lot to offer” thanks to its rich natural resources and youthful population.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, long seen as a country marred by conflict and corruption, is looking to attract investment from around the world.

“Often when we talk about Africa, about Congo, people will say — there is war in the east, there are rebels ... No!” said Eugene Manga Manga, DR Congo’s general commissioner for Expo 2020. “We have everything we need. If you go out at night in Kinshasa, life is good.” Known for its rich mineral resources, DR Congo will showcase its culture and landscape in promotional videos in a bid to attract tourists, from its pavilion that that will also promote the country’s agricultural potential.

“The Congo has 80 million hectares of arable land. We exploit only 10 percent,” Manga said, adding that the country has taken steps to ease property ownership hurdles and improve the business climate. “This image of Africa that is sold — of misery, suffering, war — that’s in the past!” he told AFP.

At the Dubai meetings, members of the Benin delegation said the country was working overtime to promote tourism by rehabilitating cultural sites and improving its business potential through economic reforms. “The objective is to sell the destination,” said Ines Monwanou, the country’s main delegate at Expo 2020.

While expectations are high, even the continent’s heavyweights acknowledge that selling a revitalized image at the Dubai Expo will be a challenge.

The Egyptian pavilion, featuring pyramids and hieroglyphics, will showcase the country’s ancient history and vast tourism appeal, but the main objective is to draw in business investment and cooperation, particularly in new technologies.

“The world has started to look at Africa and rediscover it,” said Ahmed Maghawry Diab, an official from Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry who is representing the country at Expo 2020.

“The continent has a lot of difficulties, but it has also started to develop.”


KSA travel sector set for recovery as Saudis prepare for holidays

KSA travel sector set for recovery as Saudis prepare for holidays
Updated 10 May 2021

KSA travel sector set for recovery as Saudis prepare for holidays

KSA travel sector set for recovery as Saudis prepare for holidays
  • 80 percent of those surveyed plan to go abroad within 6 months of borders reopening

JEDDAH: Saudis are as eager as ever to explore other countries, with a survey by travel operator Almosafer finding that 80 percent are planning  to go abroad within six months of the borders reopening on May 17.

Speaking to Arab News in mid-April, Capt. Ibrahim Al-Koshy, CEO of Saudia, the Kingdom’s state-owned flag carrier, said initial bookings were healthy but “people are still a bit cautious about long-distance traveling.”

This was supported by Muzzammil Ahussain, executive vice president of the consumer travel business unit at Seera Group, the parent company of Almosafer, who found that initial interest among travelers was for locations predominantly within the Middle East and North Africa, especially nearby countries like Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, and Egypt, as well as new locations like Bosnia, Georgia, the Maldives, and Morocco.

“This is what customers told us in Q1 in the survey, as the borders open soon, and this is exactly what we saw, there is a spike in the traditional countries that Saudis usually travel to in terms or searches and bookings,” Ahussain told Arab News.

Before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, European destinations like France, Italy and Switzerland were popular in the summer. “However, Europe now is not as safe as places like the Maldives,” Ahussain said. 

Muzzammil Ahussain, Executive VP, Seera Group

He added that Saudis have shifted their interest away from Turkey to alternative locations like Georgia and Bosnia.

Another recent trend Ahussain noticed is an increased preference for boutique hotels and alternative accommodation with a more personal touch.

Previously known as the Al-Tayyar Travel Group, Seera Group is the largest travel and tourism group in the MENA region. It was hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic, with net profit down around 91 percent in 2020. While various subsidiaries of the company are recovering at different rates, Ahussain believed it would take time to get back to pre-pandemic levels. “Collectively, we are looking at a full recovery by 2023,” he said, while adding the general consumer travel division will “reach 50 to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels this year.”

FASTFACTS

• Saudis are taking interest in visiting countries like Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, and Egypt, as well as new locations like Bosnia, Georgia, the Maldives, and Morocco.

• Before the pandemic, European destinations like France, Italy and Switzerland were popular in the summer.

Seera Group invested in Dubai-headquartered ride-hailing app Careem in December 2014 and when the company was sold to international rival Uber it received a large cash injection when it exited in 2019. 

Ahussain said the Careem exit provided it with timely liquidity for the company’s balance sheet of around SR1.78 billion ($470 million). This helped it focus on Lumi, its homegrown car rental division.

Lumi was the key division for Seera in 2020, with its gross book value increasing by 27 percent year-on-year to SR434 million.

“Lumi, The group’s car rental unit is increasing, year-on-year, it is already above the pandemic numbers, it has not slowed down,” Ahussain said. “It increased its profit last year and it is expected to increase this year.”

Ahussain added that there are plans to expand Lumi’s digital offerings through rentals, used car sales, mobile workshops, and pick-up and drop-off services. The new platform is expected to be launched within two months. “We are heavily investing in the digital solution of Lumi,” he said.

The Saudi Interior Ministry recently announced that vaccinated Saudis and those who have recovered from COVID-19 would be allowed to travel abroad as of 1 a.m. from May 17.