Stansted looks beyond Ryanair to add touch of class from Gulf

Stansted looks beyond Ryanair to add touch of class from Gulf
People disembark from a Ryanair flight to board a bus at Stansted Airport in London. Emirates planes will also soon become a familiar sight at the airport that is better known for the budget end of the aviation business. (Reuters)
Updated 29 December 2017

Stansted looks beyond Ryanair to add touch of class from Gulf

Stansted looks beyond Ryanair to add touch of class from Gulf

LONDON: The London airport best known for budget travel is targeting the big carriers of the Middle East for its next phase of growth.
A plan unveiled by Dubai-based Emirates last week to launch a new daily air service between the emirate and Stansted Airport from next June marks a breakthrough in the campaign by London’s third airport to attract more long-haul carriers.
Best known as a base for Europe’s short-haul budget airlines, Stansted will also see two low-cost carriers start trans-Atlantic services from the airport next year.
But the launch of Emirates’ service to Dubai will greatly extend Stansted’s global reach across the Middle and Far East and add to its appeal for business travelers, particularly those visiting the nearby Cambridge-Oxford high-tech corridor.
“It’s a really strong development for Stansted,” said air transport consultant John Strickland of JLS Consulting. “It puts them on the worldwide map with Emirates’ direct access to the Gulf, Asia and Africa. It also reflects the growing strength of Stansted’s business catchment area.”
The new Emirates service also recognizes that with Heathrow and Gatwick airports operating close to capacity, Stansted is one of the few entry points to Britain’s prosperous South East region where there is still scope for airlines to expand.
Emirates will operate its new three-class Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on the new service, largely outside the budget airlines’ peak hours. Landing charges at London Stansted also tend to be significantly lower than at Heathrow.
Although it has a single runway, London Stansted currently handles around 26 million passengers a year but has planning permission to expand to 35 million and ambitions to grow to 43 million by the late 2020s.
Located some 39 miles north of the city in Essex and with a 47-minute express rail link to central London, Stansted is building a new £130 million ($175 million) arrivals terminal and a new £11 million aviation skills college.
As well as business travelers across north east London, Emirates’ new service is targeting around 7.5 million people living in the Stansted catchment area who currently have to travel to Heathrow or Gatwick via central London or on the city’s congested M25 outer ringroad.
According to the airline, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore and Mumbai are the most popular business destinations from the East of England which Emirates serves through Dubai.
At CAPA — Center for Aviation, chief airports analyst David J. Bentley sees Emirates’ new service from Stansted as very significant.
He said: “This service is long-haul, full-service and eastbound, killing three birds with one stone. And there is no reason why Emirates could not extend it into a Middle East-Europe-North America service as it has done selectively with other routes via Milan, Athens and Scandinavia though there is no evidence it will do that. It is also daily; business travelers do not like long-distance services that are less than daily.”
For Middle Eastern travelers, the new service will provide a convenient entry point close to the Oxford-Cambridge corridor which is home to a cluster of “knowledge-based” tech businesses and where the UK government is targeting new infrastructure investment, including a rail link.
Emirates said that more than 25 of the world’s largest corporations — including Airbus, Astra Zeneca and GSK — have operations in the wider Cambridge and Peterborough area, close to Stansted.
Laurie Berryman, who is responsible for Emirates’ UK operations, said the service would also prove useful to the new startups and existing SMEs which form a growing section of the Cambridge business community.
Stansted’s growing cargo operation will also be significant for the airline’s freight division, Emirates SkyCargo. Rival carrier Etihad Cargo is now also operating from Stansted and this time last year used the airport to ship 72 racehorses from England to Kuwait for the winter.
Other airlines have also viewed Stansted as a gateway to the Middle East. Turkish carrier Atlasglobal launched a new daily flight from Stansted to Istanbul toward the end of 2016 which allows passengers to connect to onward flights to Dubai.
London Stansted’s position in the long-haul sector should also benefit from the launch of other new services. From next April, Danish airline Primera Air will start offering daily flights from Stansted to New York’s Newark Airport and four times a week to Boston Logan in May using its Airbus A321 NEO aircraft. Primera Air is also launching a new direct service from Stansted to Toronto from next June.
Announcing these plans recently, London Stansted CEO Ken O’Toole said: “We have the ambition and runway capacity to enable us to offer more flights to more destinations across North America, the Middle East and further afield and satisfy the growing demand from businesses and passengers across the region to fly long-haul from their local airport.”
Meanwhile, low-cost Iceland airline WOW air is also planning to launch a new service from Stansted to New York JFK via Reykjavik from next April with fares starting at £99 one way.


First Abu Dhabi Bank completes Bank Audi Egypt takeover

First Abu Dhabi Bank has gained legal and regulatory approval to complete the acquisition of a 100 percent stake in Bank Audi Egypt. (Reuters/File Photo)
First Abu Dhabi Bank has gained legal and regulatory approval to complete the acquisition of a 100 percent stake in Bank Audi Egypt. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 22 April 2021

First Abu Dhabi Bank completes Bank Audi Egypt takeover

First Abu Dhabi Bank has gained legal and regulatory approval to complete the acquisition of a 100 percent stake in Bank Audi Egypt. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Following the transfer of shares, the acquisition will make First Abu Dhabi Bank one of the largest international banks operating in Egypt

CAIRO: First Abu Dhabi Bank has gained legal and regulatory approval to complete the acquisition of a 100 percent stake in Bank Audi Egypt, a subsidiary of the Lebanese Bank Audi Group, the bank announced on Thursday.

In a statement, the bank said that after the completion of the share transfer process, First Abu Dhabi Bank will begin merging the assets and operations of Bank Audi Egypt and First Abu Dhabi Bank — Egypt, with the merger process expected to be completed in 2022.

Following the transfer of shares, the acquisition will make First Abu Dhabi Bank one of the largest international banks operating in Egypt, with assets exceeding EGP 130 billion ($8.5 billion) after consolidating on Dec. 31, 2020.

“This step represents a strategic achievement that supports First Abu Dhabi Bank’s development aspirations at the international level and will accelerate the expansion of its business in one of the most important markets with high growth potential. This acquisition will play an essential role to enhance the volume and momentum of First Abu Dhabi Bank’s business in Egypt,” Hana Al-Rostamani, CEO of First Abu Dhabi Bank Group, said in a statement.

The banking services Bank Audi Egypt provides to individuals and companies through its wide network of branches will support the operations of First Abu Dhabi Bank in Egypt, which has operated in Egypt since 1975.

Mohamed Abbas Fayed has been appointed CEO of the combined entity. He joined First Abu Dhabi Bank in 2019 and was previously CEO and managing director of Bank Audi Egypt, which helped him gain extensive experience over three decades in the sector and in the Egyptian market.


Saudi Arabia sees 110% rise in flight searches in March

Saudi Arabia sees 110% rise in flight searches in March
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi Arabia sees 110% rise in flight searches in March

Saudi Arabia sees 110% rise in flight searches in March
  • The Skyscanner data showed that domestic flights within Saudi Arabia were the most searched for last month

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded a 110 percent month-on-month surge in people searching for flights in March, according to global online travel platform Skyscanner, as the Kingdom’s travelers get ready for international flights to reopen from May 17.
The Skyscanner data showed that domestic flights within Saudi Arabia were the most searched for last month, followed by international destinations in India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Egypt.
Flights were grounded in the Kingdom in March 2020. Domestic traffic resumed at the end of May 2020 and the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) recently announced that international flights will resume by May 17, 2021.
In a bit to capitalize on this, Skyscanner has launched an Arabic language version of its platform on desktop and mobile web.
“We’re pleased to be able to offer travelers in the Middle East a far more relevant experience on desktop, allowing them to plan and book travel in their local language and currency,” Gavin Harris, director of strategic partnerships, Skyscanner, said in a press statement.
“Arabic is one of the 5th most spoken languages in the world and outbound travel from Saudi Arabia and the UAE accounts for a significant proportion of the total travel market,” he added.
In December, the “Global Holiday Intent” survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Reed Travel Exhibitions — organizer of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) exhibition in Dubai — found that 46 percent of those surveyed in Saudi Arabia said that they intended to travel internationally once restrictions were lifted.
Additional research released this week by global travel services company Collinson found that more than four fifths of business travelers in Saudi Arabia had seen their job affected in some way by a lack of cross-border business travel, and about one third of survey respondents said that they felt unable to do their job effectively.


Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts

Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts
Updated 22 April 2021

Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts

Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts
  • $74 million of loan will finance construction of fertilizer plant in Sadat City
  • Mashreq Bank and National Bank of Egypt led 12-bank syndicate

RIYADH: Egyptian fertilizer company Evergrow has signed a $400 million loan agreement with a syndicate of 12 banks led by Mashreq Bank and the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), who acted as the facility arrangers, Asharq reported citing a joint statement on Wednesday.

The plan consists of $326 million that will be used to restructure previous debts Evergrow owes to the same banks, while the remaining $74 million will finance the construction of the third phase of the company’s fertilizer plant in Sadat City, slated for completion within nine months.

The financing is one of the largest dollar loans granted by banks to private sector companies in the Egyptian market in the field of potassium fertilizers during the past 10 years.

The deal is part of Evergrow’s financial reform program sponsored by the Central Bank of Egypt.

The new funds will help raise the annual production capacity of all the company’s products from 817,000 tons currently to 1.15 million tons annually, said Evergrow Chairman Mohamed El Kheshen.

Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Neveen Gamea in March said that Egypt aims to increase its exports — especially to EU, African and Arab markets — to $100 billion, through the implementation of a strategic plan.


Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn

Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn
Updated 22 April 2021

Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn

Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn
  • Launched aggressive campaigns to lure investors
  • Founder reported to have flown to either Albania or Thailand
ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors on Thursday opened an investigation after the Istanbul-based founder of a cryptocurrency exchange shut down his site and fled the country with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets.
The Thodex website went dark after posting a mysterious message saying it was suspending trading for five days on Wednesday because of an unspecified outside investment.
Turkish security officials then released a photo of Thodex founder Faruk Fatih Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an unspecified location.
Local media reports said Ozer — reported to be either 27 or 28 years old — had flown either to Albania or Thailand.
HaberTurk and other media said Thodex shut down after running a promotional campaign that sold Dogecoins at a big rebate — but did not allow investors to sell.
Reports said the website and the entire exchange had shut down while holding at least $2 billion from 391,000 investors.
“The victims are panicked,” investors’ lawyer Oguz Evren Kilic was quoted as saying by HaberTurk.
“They are lodging complaints at prosecutors’ offices in the cities they reside.”
Prosecutors launched an investigation into the businessman on charges of “aggravated fraud and founding a criminal organization,” the private DHA news agency said.
Thodex has launched aggressive campaigns to lure investors.
It had first pledged to distribute luxury cars through a flashy advertising campaign featuring famous Turkish models.
The platform then launched its Dogecoin drive.
The cryptocurrency is getting particularly popular among Turks who are looking to preserve their saving in the middle of a sharp decline in the value of the local lira.
The Turkish crypto market remains unregulated despite growing skepticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government about the safety and use of digital currencies.
The Turkish central bank has decided to ban the use of crypto currencies in payments for goods and services starting from April 30.
It warned that cryptos “entail significant risks” because the market is volatile and lacks oversight.
“Wallets can be stolen or used unlawfully without the authorization of their holders,” the central banks warned last week.

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall
Updated 22 April 2021

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall
  • Mortgages rise, underpinning demand
  • Office sector remains under pandemic pressure

RIYADH: Property prices in the Saudi capital edged higher in the first quarter even as rental rates eased, JLL said.
Riyadh’s residential sale prices registered an annual increase of 2 percent for apartments and villas. By contrast, rental rates reported yearly declines of 1 percent for apartments and villas, it said. Some 7,700 homes were handed over during the period, the broker said.
“Looking ahead, the government initiatives that are pushing Riyadh to be the business hub of the region are expected to spur local and international demand,” JLL said in the report.
It said that strong government support helped to boost demand for residential property in the first three months of the year.
New mortgage loans for individuals jumped by 33,000 contracts in January 2021, it said.
The total value of mortgages increased to SR16.4 billion, according to the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency (SAMA).
The Riyadh office market remains under pressure with average lease rates across a basket of Grade A & B office spaces in the city falling by 2 percent over the quarter compared to a year earlier.