Gwadar critics see lessons in Hambantota debt woe

Gwadar critics see lessons in Hambantota debt woe
Beijing and Islamabad see Gwadar as the future jewel in the crown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. (Reuters)
Updated 17 December 2017

Gwadar critics see lessons in Hambantota debt woe

Gwadar critics see lessons in Hambantota debt woe

GWADAR, Pakistan: China is lavishing vast amounts of aid on a small Pakistani fishing town to win over locals and build a commercial deep-water port that the US and India suspect may also one day serve the Chinese navy.
Beijing has built a school, sent doctors and pledged about $500 million in grants for an airport, hospital, college and badly needed water infrastructure for Gwadar, a dusty town whose harbor juts out into the Arabian Sea, overlooking some of the world’s busiest oil and gas shipping lanes.
The grants include $230 million for a new international airport, one of the largest such disbursements China has made abroad.
“The concentration of grants is quite striking,” said Andrew Small, author of a book on China-Pakistan relations and a Washington-based researcher at the German Marshall Fund think-tank.
“China largely doesn’t do aid or grants, and when it has done them, they have tended to be modest.”
Pakistan has welcomed the aid with open hands. However, Beijing’s unusual largesse has also fueled suspicions in the US and India that Gwadar is part of China’s future geostrategic plans to challenge US naval dominance.
“It all suggests that Gwadar, for a lot of people in China, is not just a commercial proposition over the longer term,” Small said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Beijing and Islamabad see Gwadar as the future jewel in the crown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build a new “Silk Road” of land and maritime trade routes across more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.
The plan is to turn Gwadar into a trans-shipment hub and megaport to be built alongside special economic zones from which export-focused industries will ship goods worldwide. A web of energy pipelines, roads and rail links will connect Gwadar to China’s western regions.
Port trade is expected to grow from 1.2 million tons in 2018 to about 13 million tons by 2022, Pakistani officials said.
But the challenges are stark. Gwadar has no access to drinking water, power blackouts are common and separatist insurgents threaten attacks against Chinese projects in Gwadar and the rest of Balochistan, a mineral-rich province that is still Pakistan’s poorest region.
Security is tight, with Chinese and other foreign visitors driven around in convoys of soldiers and armed police.
China’s Gwadar project contrasts with similar efforts in Sri Lanka, where the village of Hambantota was transformed into a port complex — but was saddled with Chinese debt.
Last week, Sri Lanka formally handed over operations to China on a 99-year lease in exchange for lighter debt repayments, a move that sparked street protests over what many Sri Lankans view as an erosion of sovereignty.
The Hambantota port, like Gwadar, is part of a network of harbors Beijing is developing in Asia and Africa that have spooked India, which fears being encircled by China’s growing naval power.
But Pakistani officials said comparisons to Hambantota are unfair because the Gwadar project has much less debt.
On top of the airport, Chinese handouts in Gwadar include $100 million to expand a hospital by 250 beds, $130 million toward upgrading water infrastructure, and $10 million for a technical and vocational college, according to Pakistani government documents and officials.
“We welcome this assistance as it’s changing the quality of life of the people of Gwadar for the better,” said Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the parliamentary committee that oversees CPEC, including Gwadar.
China and Pakistan jointly choose which projects will be developed under the CPEC mechanism, Sayed added.
The scale of Chinese grants is extraordinary, according to Brad Parks, executive director of AidData, a research lab at the US-based William and Mary university that collected data on Chinese aid across 140 countries from 2000 to 2014.
Since 2014, Beijing has pledged more than $800 million in grants and concessional loans for Gwadar, which has fewer than 100,000 people. In the 15 years before that, China gave about $2.4 billion in concessional loans and grants across the whole of Pakistan, a nation of 207 million people.
“Gwadar is exceptional even by the standards of China’s past activities in Pakistan itself,” Parks said.
But there are major pitfalls ahead.
Tens of thousands of people living by the port will have to be relocated.
For now, they live in cramped single-story concrete houses corroded by sea water on a narrow peninsula, where barefoot fishermen offload their catch on newly paved roads strewn with rubbish.
Indigenous residents’ fear of becoming a minority is inevitable with Gwadar’s population expected to jump more than 15-fold in coming decades. On the edge of town, mansions erected by land speculators are popping up alongside the sand dunes.
For its investment in Gwadar, China will receive 91 percent of revenues until the port is returned to Pakistan in four decades’ time. The operator, China Overseas Ports Holding Company, will also be exempt from major taxes for more than 20 years.
— Reuters


RAK Ceramics Saudi business booms on anti-dumping move

RAK Ceramics Saudi business booms on anti-dumping move
Updated 40 min 40 sec ago

RAK Ceramics Saudi business booms on anti-dumping move

RAK Ceramics Saudi business booms on anti-dumping move
  • Net profit rose to 60.6 million dirhams compared to 25.7 million dirhams in the year earlier period

DUBAI: RAK Ceramics, one of the world’s largest tile makers, reported a jump in Saudi sales as it benefited from anti-dumping measures on imports from China and India in the Kingdom.
The company’s wider business surpassed pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter, as it recorded its strongest start to a year since 2016.
“Looking ahead for the remainder of 2021, our priority will be to invest in brand equity, grow our business in Saudi Arabia and protect our market share in the UAE and Bangladesh,” said CEO Abdallah Massaad.
Net profit rose to 60.6 million dirhams compared to 25.7 million dirhams in the year earlier period.
Total gross profit margin also reached an all-time high of 35 percent driven by an increase in revenue, an improvement in efficiencies and the optimization of production lines. Total revenues were also at a five-year high, rising almost 22 percent to reach 722.8 million dirhams.
Revenue growth was strongest in Saudi Arabia where sales jumped by 78.5 percent, followed by India with sales growth of 67 percent.
“In Saudi Arabia, the Company’s strategy continues to yield results,” the company said in a statement. “The imposition of anti-dumping duties on tiles from India and China in the Kingdom initially led to an increase in demand for RAK Ceramics’ products. Capitalizing on this demand, the company invested in differentiated tiles and new showrooms, developing significant brand equity in the market,” it said.
In the UAE, despite the impact of COVID-19, workforce was not reduced, and production reached the highest level in five years due to increased demand from Saudi Arabia, it said.


Emaar Malls Q1 profit falls 16% but sees retail on recovery path

Emaar Malls Q1 profit falls 16% but sees retail on recovery path
Updated 48 min 43 sec ago

Emaar Malls Q1 profit falls 16% but sees retail on recovery path

Emaar Malls Q1 profit falls 16% but sees retail on recovery path
  • Profits improved on a quarter-on-quarter basis as net income gained 169 percent from the previous three month period

DUBAI: Dubai operator Emaar Malls said first quarter profit fell 16 percent from a year earlier to 318 million dirhams ($86.6 million).

However the company behind the world's most visited shopping mall highlighted a recovery in the retail sector.
Profits improved on a quarter-on-quarter basis as net income gained 169 percent from the previous three month period.
The retail group said that its e-commerce subsidiary Namshi recorded sales of 258 million dirhams, as it continues to grow in other Gulf markets such Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar
The operator has also focused on expansions and new developments to buffer the blow of the pandemic, Emaar boss Mohamed Alabbar said in a statement.
“We are committed to delivering transformational retail and entertainment experiences that exceed expectations of constantly evolving customer demands,” he said.
The retail and entertainment sector in Dubai has been seeing positive signs of recovery as the emirate embarks on a massive vaccine program which has helped to buoy consumer confidence.
Emaar expanded its Dubai Mall Village in February, bringing in 21 new sports and lifestyle stores with an additional gross leasable area of 79,000 square feet.
It also partnered with Time Out Group to open the region’s first Time Out Market in the emirate’s downtown area.
A new mall – Dubai Hills Mall – is in the works, the Dubai Financial Market filing said. It will have a gross leasable area of 2 million square feet that will feature about 600 shops. It will open in the second half of the year.
Tenant rental performance improved over the period with overall occupancy at 91 percent.


Saudi property liquidity higher ahead of Eid

Saudi property liquidity higher ahead of Eid
Updated 10 May 2021

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 10 May 2021

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.