Kingdom leads GCC in nonoil production

Updated 17 July 2013

Kingdom leads GCC in nonoil production

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are strenuously working to diversify income sources and minimize reliance on oil through investment in leading industrial activities, local media reported.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, is leading the GCC region to develop nonoil sector where the value of the ongoing nonoil projects is estimated at $ 17 billion (SR 63.7 billion), Al-Riyadh daily said quoting a report by Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC).
The Kingdom has reportedly occupied the 12th rank among the world's biggest 40 countries concerned with renewable energy sources.
In other GCC countries, the UAE has spent $ 5 billion in solar energy projects, currently under construction, whereas the value of nonoil projects is estimated at $ 2.1 billion, which are mostly concentrated in Abu Dhabi Emirate.
The Kingdom recently announced four solar energy projects, notably the solar energy project in Makkah, announced in the last quarter of 2012, whereby the holy city will become the first area to use an alternative energy source in the Kingdom, the local media said.
In Qatar, meanwhile, nonoil projects captured some $ 2.8 billion, mostly in iron and steel industries. Cement industry is predicted to lead business sector in the next five years at the growth rate of 11.2 percent followed by consumer industry sector at 7.7 percent.
On the other hand, the GCC countries will continue to achieve high rates of economic growth in the current year despite a slight decline in the oil prices and lower exports, which dropped by 5 percent compared to last year’s figures, the local media said.
Based on the above situation, levels of personal incomes have steadily increased, which led to the expansion of bank deposits, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, and encouraged the banks to expand banking credits.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has topped the MENA countries in terms of solar energy projects where it got 4.1 points out of 5 points, according to a report released by VtM, a US solar research firm.
Turkey came second at 3.9 points, followed by Abu Dhabi and Morocco jointly at 3.6 points in the third rank, Jordan in the fifth rank (3.2 points), Dubai in the sixth rank (3.1 points), Algeria and Egypt jointly in the seventh rank (3 points), and Qatar in the ninth rank (2.4 points).
The MENA region has the biggest solar energy potentials globally whereas Saudi Arabia and Turkey will lead the regional countries in terms of the highest energy demand and will become the first two countries to use the electric scale of GigaWatt (or billion watts) by 2015, according to the VtM report.


Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.