US tech giants plan to fight India’s data localization plans

US tech giants plan to fight India’s data localization plans
An Indian man takes a picture of the Taj Mahal. India wants to compel technology companies to store their data locally, triggering a backlash from some firms. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 August 2018

US tech giants plan to fight India’s data localization plans

US tech giants plan to fight India’s data localization plans
  • Global efforts to protect data on the rise
  • Technology giants plan lobbying offensive

NEW DELHI: US technology giants plan to intensify lobbying efforts against stringent Indian data localization requirements, which they say will undermine their growth ambitions in India, sources told Reuters.

UStrade groups, representing companies such as Amazon, American Express and Microsoft, have opposed India’s push to store data locally. That push comes amid rising global efforts to protect user data but is one that could hit planned investments by the firms in the Indian market, where the companies currently have limited data storage.
The issue could further undermine already strained economic relations between India and the US.

Technology executives and trade groups have discussed approaching Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office to appraise him of their worries. Separately, the industry is considering pitching the issue as a trade concern, including at the India-US talks in September in New Delhi, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Though a final decision hasn’t been made, the deliberations come while the US and India are locked in a dispute over US tariff increases and on the Indian policy of capping prices of medical devices, which hurts American pharmaceutical companies.

“This issue is important enough to be discussed at the India-US trade level,” said Amba Kak, a global public policy adviser at the Internet company Mozilla Corp.
“Data localization is not just a business concern, it potentially makes government surveillance easier, which is a worry.”

Stricter localization norms would help India get easier access to data when conducting investigations, but critics say it could lead to increased government demands for data access.

Technology firms worry the mandate would hurt their planned investments by raising costs related to setting up new local data centers.

Greater use of digital platforms in India for shopping or social networking have made it a lucrative market for technology companies, but a rising number of data breaches have pushed New Delhi to develop strong data protection rules.

Shamika Ravi, a member of Modi’s economic advisory council, said data localization was a global phenomena and India wasn’t an outlier.
“It’s in the long term strategic and economic interest,” said Ravi, who is also a research director at Brookings India.

The main government committee on data privacy last month proposed a draft law, recommending restrictions on data flows and proposing that all “critical personal data” should be processed only within the country. It would be left to the government to define what qualifies as such data.

Global companies are coming together to push back.

In a meeting last week organized by lobby group US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, executives from Facebook, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, PayPal , Amazon, Microsoft and others discussed plans to approach Indian lawmakers, including Indian parliamentary panels on information technology (IT) and finance, five sources said.
The industry also discussed approaching media and Internet groups to explain why data localization would be bad for India’s booming IT, e-commerce and payments landscape, the sources said.

“People are fairly stressed and scared,” said an executive working for a multinational technology firm.

The US-India lobby group said it was “nearly impossible” to implement “industry-specific regulations in our global data environment without the ripples being felt.” It didn’t comment on its recent meeting, but said it will continue facilitating policy discussions.

Mastercard, American Express and Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment, while Facebook, Microsoft, Visa and PayPal declined to comment.

The Indian bill, which was opened for public comments this week, will later go to parliament for approval.
The US-India Business Council, a lobby group that is part of the US Chamber of Commerce, has brought in the Washington-headquartered law firm Covington & Burling to suggest submissions on India’s data protection law.

The firm’s 43-page draft recommendations, seen by Reuters, listed removing data localization requirements as a top priority and called New Delhi’s proposed move a “protectionist approach.”

The US-India Business Council didn’t comment on how it would act on the recommendations of Covington & Burling, which declined comment.
The lobby group’s president, Nisha Biswal, however said India’s draft privacy law was of “great importance,” and that the group would share its concerns with the government directly.


SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase

SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase
Updated 30 min 49 sec ago

SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase

SABIC second-quarter profit jumps 57 percent as prices, volume increase
  • Net profit jumped 57 percent to $2.04 billion in Q2
  • Selling prices increased 10 percent, sales volumes rose 3 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) reported a surge in second-quarter profit as it sold more chemicals at higher prices than the previous quarter amid an increase in crude prices.

Net profit jumped 57 percent to SR7.64 billion ($2.04 billion) in the three months to the end of June as revenue rose 13 percent to SR42.42 billion, SABIC said in a filing to the Tadawul stock exchange.

The Middle East’s largest petrochemicals producer posted a SR12.51 billion first-half profit on sales of SR79.95 billion, compared with a loss of SR3.27 billion on sales of SR54.81 billion in the same period last year.

Selling prices increased by 10 percent in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year, while sales volumes rose 3 percent. Over the first half, sales prices were 48 percent higher and volumes were 2 percent lower compared with last year.

“SABIC’s financial performance in the second quarter was strong – continuing the margin improvement seen during the first quarter of 2021,” Yousef Abdullah Al-Benyan, vice chairman and CEO of SABIC, said in a statement to the Tadawul. “This was driven by higher sales volumes and prices, supported by a rise in oil prices and a healthy supply and demand balance for most of our key products as the global economy continued its path to recovery.”

SABIC achieved $230 million of synergies with Saudi Aramco since June 2020 when Aramco acquired a 70 percent stake in SABIC, driven by combining their purchasing power and sharing warehousing and logistics facilites.

In the second half of 2021, SABIC expects demand will continue to be strong in line with the recovery of the global economy. Margins will moderate, but remain healthy as oil prices and
feedstock costs remain elevated while existing supply constraints ease and new supply capacity comes on line, it said in the filing.


Saudi Arabia starts trial of the first wind turbine in Al-Jouf

Saudi Arabia starts trial of the first wind turbine in Al-Jouf
Updated 05 August 2021

Saudi Arabia starts trial of the first wind turbine in Al-Jouf

Saudi Arabia starts trial of the first wind turbine in Al-Jouf
  • Dumat Al-Jandal is poised to become the largest wind farm in the Middle East

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has started the operational trial of the first wind turbine at Dumat Al-Jandal wind farm, which once fully operational will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 1 million tons annually and supply 72,000 homes with clean energy.

The turbines comprise towers, blades, and nacelles, which will be assembled at the project site, 900 kilometers north of Riyadh in the Al-Jouf region. The project will include 99 Vestas wind turbines, each with a hub height of 130 meters and a rotor diameter of 150 meters.

The Kingdom’s first utility-scale wind-power source is being developed by a consortium led by EDF Renewables of France in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Masdar. The Renewable Energy Project Development Office of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy awarded the project to the EDF Renewables-Masdar consortium in January 2019 after a competitive tender.

Its tariff of $21.3 per megawatt-hour (MWh), the lowest bid submitted, was reduced to $19.9/MWh at financial close, making Dumat Al-Jandal the most cost-efficient wind-energy project in the world. According to the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council, the development of Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy sector could create up to 750,000 jobs over the next decade, as the Kingdom pushes to generate 7 percent of its total electricity output from renewables by 2030.

It will also benefit from a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Saudi Power Procurement Co., a subsidiary of the Saudi Electricity Co., the Kingdom’s power generation and distribution company. Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy program aims to contribute to a sustainable future, preserve nonrenewable fossil fuel resources, and safeguard the Kingdom’s international energy leadership, according to the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. That way, the program aims to ensure greater long-term global energy market stability.

Renewable energy projects, including wind and solar, are planned across more than 35 parks in Saudi Arabia by 2030.


Gulf economies expected to grow 2.2 percent this year, says World Bank

Gulf economies expected to grow 2.2 percent this year, says World Bank
Updated 05 August 2021

Gulf economies expected to grow 2.2 percent this year, says World Bank

Gulf economies expected to grow 2.2 percent this year, says World Bank
  • Most GCC countries are expected to continue to post deficits over the coming years
  • The countries that posted the largest deficits in 2020 — Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman — are expected to remain in deficit until 2023

RIYADH: Economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will likely grow at an aggregate 2.2 percent this year after a 4.8 percent contraction last year caused by the pandemic and lower oil prices, the World Bank said on Wednesday.

“With recent progress made with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine globally and with the revival of production and trade worldwide, the prospects for an economic recovery are firmer now than at the end of last year,” it said in a research report.

“Although downside risks remain, the forecast stands for an aggregate GCC economic turnaround of 2.2 percent in 2021 and an annual average growth of 3.3 percent in 2022–23.”

It remains vital for GCC countries — which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE — to diversify their economies, the World Bank said, as oil revenues account for over 70 percent of total government revenues in most GCC countries.

It said it expects Kuwait and Qatar to introduce a value-added tax (VAT) this year, following the example of other GCC states that have implemented the revenue-diversifying measure in different phases over the last few years.

On the fiscal side, most GCC countries are expected to continue to post deficits over the coming years, the World Bank said, after shortfalls intensified last year because of the coronavirus crisis.

The countries that posted the largest deficits in 2020 — Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman — are expected to remain in deficit until 2023, but with narrower ratios than in the 2020 downturn. While a rebound in oil prices may lift economic prospects in the short term, the World Bank said downside risks to its outlook are “extremely high” because of the region’s heavy exposure to global oil demand and the service industries.

“Mobility restrictions including for international travel may hurt attendance at future high-profile events in the GCC — the 2020 (rescheduled to 2021) World Expo in the UAE and the 2022 Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup in Qatar,” it said.


SABB records net profit of $504 million

SABB records net profit of $504 million
Updated 05 August 2021

SABB records net profit of $504 million

SABB records net profit of $504 million

JEDDAH: The Saudi British Bank (SABB) recorded a net profit after zakat and income tax of SR1,889 million ($504 million) for the six months ended on June 30, 2021.

This is an increase of SR7,785 million or 132 percent compared to the loss of SR5,896 million for the same period in 2020.

Operating income of SR3,984 million for the six months ended June 30, 2021, a decrease of SR703 million, or 15 percent, compared to SR4,687 million for the same period in 2020.

Lubna Suliman Olayan, board chair of SABB said: The bank’s “performance in the second quarter of 2021 builds on the progress made in the first quarter of the year, as we continue the implementation of our five-year strategic plan.”

She said the bank is now focused on supporting the Kingdom’s economic transformation.


Yemen central bank injects old riyal bills worth billions into market to challenge Houthi ban

Yemen central bank injects old riyal bills worth billions into market to challenge Houthi ban
Updated 04 August 2021

Yemen central bank injects old riyal bills worth billions into market to challenge Houthi ban

Yemen central bank injects old riyal bills worth billions into market to challenge Houthi ban
  • The Houthi ban has forced travelers to Sanaa and other areas controlled by the militant group into buying old banknotes from the black market at a higher rate

ALEXANDRIA: The Central Bank of Yemen in Aden has injected billions of riyals in old large-sized 1,000 banknotes into the market to address a chronic shortage of cash.

The bank also implemented several other economic measures to control the chaotic exchange market and put an end to the fall in the Yemeni riyal.

Since late 2019, the Iran-backed Houthis have banned the use of banknotes printed by the Yemeni government in Aden, creating a severe cash crunch in areas under their control which has led to local exchange firms and banks stopping paying salaries and raising remittance charges.

The Houthi ban has forced travelers to Sanaa and other areas controlled by the militant group into buying old banknotes from the black market at a higher rate and carrying Saudi riyals or US dollars.

In a challenge to the Houthis, the central bank has put billions of riyals in old banknotes into the market and started withdrawing the newly printed 1,000 banknote. Yemenis can get old banknotes from local banks and exchange firms.

However, the Houthis warned people against using the large banknotes and published copies and serial numbers of the newly circulated cash.

In a bid to regulate the exchange market and curb the plunging value of the riyal, the central bank has tightened regulations for opening new exchange shops or firms, demanding that applicants produce a three-year feasibility study prepared by a certified accountant showing estimated budgets.

Existing exchange companies must now send their annual financial statements to the bank, use an approved software for their financial activities, apply international financial reporting standards, and audit their accounts by accountants certified by the central bank.

Some Yemeni economists, however, have cast doubt over the central bank’s ability to enact the regulations after the Yemeni riyal on Wednesday broke another historic record low against the dollar.

Local money traders told Arab News on Wednesday that the Yemeni riyal was trading at 1020 to the dollar in government-controlled areas, compared to less than 980 a month ago. When the war broke out in late 2014, the Yemeni riyal was sold at 215 to the dollar.

The Yemeni government previously relocated the central bank’s headquarters from Sanaa to Aden, floated the Yemeni riyal to bridge the gap between the official rate and the black market, closed many exchange shops, and printed billions of riyals to pay public servants. But all the measures proved ineffective on the ground as the Yemeni riyal continued to drop.

Waled Al-Attas, an assistant professor of financial and banking sciences at Hadhramout University, told Arab News: “The central bank is required to control the market and close unlicensed exchange shops in parallel with tightening control and procedures on existing exchange entities.”

He noted that the latest injection of cash into the market had boosted foreign currency speculation activities and pushed up inflation.

“The large 1,000 banknote that the central bank pumped into the market represents an additional burden and additional liquidity that will cause more inflation, higher prices, and speculation on exchange rates,” he added.

The continuing devaluation of the Yemeni riyal has pushed up food and fuel prices in government-controlled areas and triggered protests.