Egyptian economy lifts off with turbocharged energy sector

Egyptian economy lifts off with turbocharged energy sector
Zohr gas field is a game-changer for Egypt as it will remove the need to buy in expensive foreign gas, thereby bolstering the nation’s depleted foreign exchange reserves. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2018

Egyptian economy lifts off with turbocharged energy sector

Egyptian economy lifts off with turbocharged energy sector

LONDON: Egypt is on a roll: The government has revised up its 2018 economic growth forecast to between 5.3 percent and 5.5 percent. And nowhere is investor enthusiasm more evident than in the energy sector.
The focus has been on gas that has begun flowing from Egypt’s Zohr gas field, the largest in the Mediterranean.
Zohr is a game-changer for Egypt as it will remove the need to buy in expensive foreign gas, thereby bolstering the nation’s depleted foreign exchange reserves.
And it means Egypt could eventually be a net exporter of gas to countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
But renewables are the latest target of the Egyptian government following a decision by IFC, the investment arm of the World Bank, to help bankroll the new Benban Solar Park, near Aswan, which will become the largest in the world.
According to a Wood Mackenzie report, a total of 16 development banks have agreed to provide debt, two other institutions have come through with equity and the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency has coughed up $210 million worth of political risk insurance to fund the complex.
“So far, there are 25 project developers and sponsors from all over the world in negotiations and planning to build at Benban,” according to WoodMac.
Last month, the American embassy in Cairo issued a statement saying a new curriculum developed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the Egyptian ministry of education would help more than 300 technical school students in Aswan and Hurghada specialize in renewable energy “and prepare them for employment in Egypt’s promising solar and wind power sectors.”
The embassy said the three-year diploma program was the first of its kind in Egypt and supported Egyptian government’s plan to meet 20 percent of its electricity needs through renewable energy by 2022.
“The program will provide skilled labor for power plants such as the Benban Solar Park in Aswan, where 40 solar stations will help meet Egypt’s increasing demands for electricity,” it said.
The curriculum is being piloted in three technical schools in Aswan and Hurghada and will eventually expand to 57 schools in nine governorates. The coursework combines classroom instruction and practical experience to produce technicians capable of immediately contributing to the renewable energy sector.
“The launch of this new curriculum could not be more timely,” said Sherry Carlin, USAID’s mission director, at the program launch at Benban Technical School. “Employers such as engineering companies and renewable energy firms need to hire people with skills and experience, and this new technical education program trains students to become skilled technicians who are qualified for these jobs.”
Egypt is also developing wind energy. The US government body export.gov said on its website: “Egypt possesses high wind speeds, making it a prime location for renewable energy sources. (Egypt) currently has about 500 MW of wind power plants in operation and 1340 MW under implementation and development. The plan is to generate 7.2 GW (12 percent of generated electricity) from wind by 2022.”
At the same time, the country’s economy, now the second-largest in Africa after Nigeria, is looking healthy, according to Wood Mackenzie.
Under a three-year economic reform program giving Egypt access to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) extended fund facility, the country has introduced changes expected to boost gross domestic product.
“Egypt’s reform program is yielding encouraging results,” said David Lipton, acting chair of the IMF’s executive board, in a statement late last year.
The IMF has said the economy has shown signs of stabilization, with inflation moderating and international reserves reaching their highest level for seven years.
Egypt is targeting a 20 percent rise in total investment for 2018-19, up from 646 billion Egyptian pounds ($36.58 billion) targeted for 2017-18, Egyptian planning minister Hala Al-Saeed Saeed told Reuters in January.
A recent IMF “health check” said: “The economy is recovering, supported by prudent macroeconomic policies and initial bold reforms aimed at addressing the major challenges that have confronted Egypt in recent years.”
The task now was to deepen reforms to raise economic growth, and spread the benefits to Egypt’s rapidly growing population, especially its youth and women, said the IMF.
“Reducing tax exemptions, making the tax system more progressive and tax administration more efficient would facilitate this process,” it said.


Dubai repays $500m bond certificates

Dubai repays $500m bond certificates
Updated 34 min 45 sec ago

Dubai repays $500m bond certificates

Dubai repays $500m bond certificates
  • Notes matured on June 22

RIYADH: The Government of Dubai, acting through the Department of Finance (DOF), announced that the $500 million Fixed Rate Note issued on 22 June 2011 under its Euro Medium Term Note Programme, reached maturity on 22 June 2021.

Upon maturity, all the notes have been redeemed in full, according to the Dubai Media office statement on Tuesday.

“The Government of Dubai’s ability to fulfill its financial obligations reflects its deep fiscal stability amidst the circumstances imposed by the current global crisis,” said Director General of DOF Abdulrahman Saleh Al Saleh. “The government’s solvency has allowed it to fulfill its past and current obligations and will continue to enable it to meet all future obligations on time.”

“We have been successful in overcoming the most challenging repercussions of the global pandemic, and have now entered a solid phase of recovery, thanks to the measures taken by the government to ensure rational prioritized spending, under the directives of our leadership,” Al Saleh added.


Saudi $48m culture fund may take stakes in private companies

Saudi $48m culture fund may take stakes in private companies
Updated 56 min 35 sec ago

Saudi $48m culture fund may take stakes in private companies

Saudi $48m culture fund may take stakes in private companies
  • Fund will begin receiving requests for beneficiaries in August
  • Financing, including crowdfunding, also being explored

RIYADH: The Saudi Cultural Development Fund may take direct stakes in private companies as it seeks to stimulate investment in the sector, said CEO Mohammed Bindayel.

Cultural projects in Saudi Arabia will receive SR180 million ($47.9 million) from the fund in 2021 and requests for beneficiaries will start to be received in August, he told Asharq.

Financing options being explored include crowdfunding, said Bindayel, who was appointed as the CEO of the fund last week.

The Cultural Development Fund, which was created to support projects of private-sector enterprises, NGOs and associations working in the cultural sectors and their supporting fields, is working within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, said Bindayel.


Cruises set to return to Abu Dhabi in September 2021

Cruises set to return to Abu Dhabi in September 2021
Updated 23 June 2021

Cruises set to return to Abu Dhabi in September 2021

Cruises set to return to Abu Dhabi in September 2021
  • About 500,000 cruise visitors arrived in the UAE capital in 2019, a 46 percent year-on-year increase

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi said it will resume receiving cruise liners in the emirate from Sept. 1, after the industry faced a global shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi) said it would work with Abu Dhabi Ports to regain the momentum it achieved before the pandemic – about 500,000 cruise visitors arrived in the UAE capital in 2019, a 46 percent year-on-year increase.

“This comes as part of the efforts to enliven the emirate’s tourism sector after the impressive results we have achieved in combating the spread of the pandemic, and yet another step towards strengthening the UAE capital’s position as a world-class hub for maritime tourism,” Ali Al-Shaiba, the executive director of DCT Abu Dhabi.

A series of initiatives throughout the year will be implemented to ensure a smooth return of the business, the department said, including joining international events to promote Abu Dhabi to global cruisers.


Italy’s Lamborghini eyes big opportunities in Saudi market

Italy’s Lamborghini eyes big opportunities in Saudi market
Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann says the region is a very important market for the manufacturer and has maintained its importance despite economic challenges. (Supplied)
Updated 23 June 2021

Italy’s Lamborghini eyes big opportunities in Saudi market

Italy’s Lamborghini eyes big opportunities in Saudi market
  • Super-car manufacturer said its Urus SUV has been a ‘game-changer’ for growth in the Kingdom

DUBAI: Lamborghini, the Italian super car manufacturer, sees Saudi Arabia as potentially its strongest market in the Middle East, its CEO Stephan Winkelmann told Arab News.

“The UAE is currently the biggest one, but we think that Saudi Arabia could become the biggest — it’s currently No. 2. We have the right partner today, so there is a big opportunity. We see growth and more potential,” he said.
Lamborghini has partnered with Saudi elite car dealership Samaco and now has outlets in Jeddah, Riyadh and Alkhobar. Winkelmann said that he saw the Urus, the Lamborghini SUV that has been a big success in the region and accounts for half of new sales, as a “game-changer” in Saudi Arabia.
He said that the region was a very important market for the manufacturer and had maintained its importance despite economic and geopolitical challenges.
He was in the Middle East to discuss with dealers and customers the recent $1.8 billion move by the Italian company to turn away from petrol engine cars later this decade, first with hybrid engines, then with an all-electric car.
Winkelmann said the company is also exploring the possibility of a new generation of synthetic fuels in its super-fast models.

HIGHLIGHT

Lamborghini has partnered with Saudi elite car dealership Samaco and now has outlets in Jeddah, Riyadh and Alkhobar.

Although Lamborghini is not the first super car manufacturer to consider going electric, its move away from the internal combustion engine is still a big challenge.
“For us, it’s even tougher because we not only have to reduce emissions but also maintain performance and make it even better than it was before,” Winkelmann said.
Hybrid plug-in versions of the Aventador and Huracan sports cars will be developed in the next couple of years, alongside the Urus. The first all-electric car — a brand new design — will be introduced in the second half of the decade.
Another challenge for Lamborghini will be how to replicate the famous exhaust “crackle” enthusiasts like in the petrol engine cars.
“We have time to think about this. I don’t think we should try to repeat the sound of the engine and exhaust in an electric car. Maybe we will find a new sound or have no sound at all,” Winkelmann said.
Despite the pandemic recession, Lamborghini had one of its most profitable years ever in 2020, as enthusiasts rewarded themselves for the deprivations of lockdown by splashing out on a new super car. The price of a new Urus, for example, starts at around SR1 million ($270,000), but can be much higher with customization and extras.
“People had time to think about their lives in lockdown and what was coming next,” Winkelmann said.


Saudi Cabinet authorizes finance ministry to issue licenses to STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank

Saudi Cabinet authorizes finance ministry to issue licenses to STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi Cabinet authorizes finance ministry to issue licenses to STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank

Saudi Cabinet authorizes finance ministry to issue licenses to STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank
  • Both banks are currently being established, according to the ministry

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday gave its nod to the Kingdom’s finance minister to issue licenses for the country’s first digital banks, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

“The finance minister will issue the necessary licenses for STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank, both under establishment,” the report said, quoting a Cabinet statement.

The Cabinet approved the proposal during a virtual meeting chaired by King Salman, it said.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said on Twitter that the cabinet’s approval is in line with the Saudi Financial Development Program, which is part of the Kingdom's massive economic reform plan known as Saudi Vision 2030.

These objectives seek to develop a more efficient digital infrastructure, while encouraging entrepreneurship and creating job opportunities in the financial sector, he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals include developing the digital economy and enabling financial companies to support the growth of the private sector.

Last year, the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) licensed 16 financial technology companies to provide payment services, consumer microfinance, and electronic insurance brokerage.

Similar digital banks had earlier been launched in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

(With Reuters)