Majid Al Futtaim boss: ‘We’ll be everywhere’ in Saudi cinema expansion

Majid Al Futtaim boss: ‘We’ll be everywhere’ in Saudi cinema expansion
Speaking on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Alain Bejjani, chief executive of Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), unveiled the latest stages of a $4 billion investment plan. (Social Media)
Updated 24 January 2019

Majid Al Futtaim boss: ‘We’ll be everywhere’ in Saudi cinema expansion

Majid Al Futtaim boss: ‘We’ll be everywhere’ in Saudi cinema expansion
  • Alain Bejjani gives details of multibillion-dollar investment plan
  • In discussions with producers to help ‘lay ground for viable movie industry’

DAVOS: A leading foreign investor in Saudi Arabia signaled his confidence in the Kingdom’s economy and investment prospects with a multibillion-dollar expansion program and a rollout of innovations in leisure and retail.

Speaking on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Alain Bejjani, chief executive of Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), unveiled the latest stages of a $4 billion investment plan.

This includes the first Vox cinema in Jeddah — part of a rollout that will see 300 new screens in the Kingdom within 18 months — and a plan to introduce Saudi-only workforces in the Carrefour chain of supermarkets that MAF operates in the country.

“What Saudi Arabia has gone through in the past three years is unparalleled. It has a great story to tell. It’s a country dealing with its issues, and these won’t derail what’s happening,” Beijani said.

The Vox cinema will open in the Red Sea Mall later this month with 12 screens, of which three will be “gold” luxury venues, complementing existing Vox screens in the capital’s Riyadh Park. A further three locations will be opened elsewhere in the Kingdom in March.

“We promised we’d be everywhere in Saudi Arabia, and we’re keeping our promise,” Bejjani said.

MAF has been at the forefront of opening leisure facilities in the Kingdom, in support of the aims of the Vision 2030 strategy to reform the economic and social environment.

“The Saudi government and its people will see fast that the reforms have a reality in their everyday lives,” Bejjani added.

“What’s important is that people come up with great ideas. We’re helping lay the ground for a viable movie industry”

Alain Bejjani

He also revealed that MAF, as the leading cinema operator in the Kingdom, is considering plans to get more involved in the film-production side of the movie industry, and is in discussions with Saudi producers.

“What’s important is that people come up with great ideas. We’re helping lay the ground for a viable movie industry,” he said.

Another part of Vision 2030 is to increase employment opportunities for Saudis in the private sector, and MAF’s plan to increase the proportion of Saudis employed in its Carrefour chain is a further example.

Stores in Madinah and Al-Jouf in the northwest already have 100 percent Saudi workforces, and Bejjani said the scheme will be rolled out across the rest of its 18-strong chain.

“It requires a big commitment in training, but Carrefour believes in a culture of merit. It will take more effort and it will have a cost, but you have to be serious about the plans to make any difference,” he added.

Bejjani was at Davos for bilateral meetings, and to take part in panel discussions on subjects ranging from the strategic outlook for the Middle East to the “experience economy,” in which consumers pay for unique leisure experiences rather than physical goods.

He backed calls by Saudi policymakers for closer integration and trade relations between the UAE and the Kingdom, a structure that he hoped could spread to the rest of the Middle East.

“I believe the region needs more frictionless trade — more harmonization of norms in business,” he said.

“Trade flows, mobility, payments and free movement of people are all areas where we could benefit from closer integration.”

But he stopped short of calling for a common currency, partly because the fact that many regional currencies are pegged to the US dollar means they are already closely connected.

“Maybe ideally we’d have a common currency, but that’s quite a sophisticated thing and there are complications to that,” he said.

The Middle East would benefit greatly from greater economic integration, and could rival big trading blocs such as the EU, he added.

“If we want to really drive growth in the Arab world, we have to have scale. The total market of the region is 500 million people, but the individual economies are comparatively small,” he said.

“The reason American startups are so successful, for example, is that they can do business across the whole country.”

Bejjani called for a reduction in regulation in the Middle East, both within and between economies.

“The Arab market can do better by doing less. There are historic reasons for the regulation and some legacy issues, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UAE is a fantastic model,” he said.

MAF is behind some of the biggest retail, leisure and tourism ventures in the UAE, and Bejjani said the Emirati economy is “very strong.”

He added: “There have been challenges driven by negative consumer sentiment, but these have been acknowledged by everyone. There’s a great commitment in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to overcome these.”

Consumer sentiment has balanced out and will move back into positive territory early this year, he said.


Why we are paying more for tires, timber and tiles

Why we are paying more for tires, timber and tiles
Updated 8 min 40 sec ago

Why we are paying more for tires, timber and tiles

Why we are paying more for tires, timber and tiles
  • The latest IHS Markit Dubai Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) highlights a surge in input price inflation in recent weeks

LONDON: Global product shortages are starting to push up prices as consumers are forced to pay more and wait longer for everyday items.

The latest IHS Markit Dubai Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) highlights a surge in input price inflation in recent weeks “driven by mounting input shortages, restocking efforts by companies and an intensification of global supply delays.” It reported the largest rise in prices in the emirate in 28 months.

It is part of a global trend as the world’s manufacturing engines struggle to keep pace with accelerating consumer demand pushing up prices from hardware stores to garages.

Builders merchants from the US and Europe have started to flag shortages of materials that are already adding to the cost of new homes.

The UK’s Builders Merchants Federation and the Construction Products Association have warned that building material shortages are likely to get worse, especially for timber, steel and roof products.

They said concrete tiles are now taking as long as 36 weeks to be delivered, forcing some projects to be redesigned to use products in better supply.

Timber prices are also being driven by surging demand from the US construction sector, where prices have already jumped by around 150 percent over the last year.

Containers that previously cost $2,100 at this time last year are now costing between $15,000 and $30,000, the trade bodies said.

The Gulf states, which rely heavily on imports that arrive in such containers, are feeling the impact as prices climb and delivery times lengthen.

“We are seeing supply constraints impact on economic activity, and it is also impacting on inflation,” Doug Bitcon, Rasmala Investment Bank’s head of credit strategies, told Bloomberg TV on Monday.

He shared his experience of trying to buy a set of new tires for his vehicle in Dubai this weekend. He was only able to source a set made in 2020 but still had to pay full price.

“This is just one example of the supply constraints you are seeing in the PMI numbers for Dubai,” he said. “This is just the start of what we are going to see in economies around the world.”

China factory gate prices are now running at more than a two-year-high according to March data, while the latest US inflation data is expected on Tuesday.

“We are set to see the first evidence of the much anticipated surge in inflation that is widely expected through the coming months as base effects from a year ago begin to take effect as the sharp declines post-COVID start to fall out of the annual calculations,” said MUFG analysts.


Wizz Air Abu Dhabi offers flights under $55 to Belgrade, Luxor and Sohag

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi offers flights under $55 to Belgrade, Luxor and Sohag
Updated 31 min 3 sec ago

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi offers flights under $55 to Belgrade, Luxor and Sohag

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi offers flights under $55 to Belgrade, Luxor and Sohag
  • Fares to Luxor start from 129 dirhams ($35) with Sohag flights from 179 dirhams and Belgrade from 199 dirhams
  • Regional airlines are gradually adding new capacity as vaccinations programs are rolled out worldwide and more people resume flying

DUBAI: Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has announced three new routes connecting the UAE capital to Belgrade, Sohag and Luxor.
Fares to Luxor start from 129 dirhams ($35) with Sohag flights from 179 dirhams and Belgrade from 199 dirhams, it said on Monday.
"The new connection between the capital of the United Arab Emirates and these three new cities within Europe and the Middle East will continue to stimulate air traffic demand and support the growth of Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector and economic agenda," said Kees Van Schaick, managing director of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi.
Regional airlines are gradually adding new capacity as vaccinations programs are rolled out worldwide and more people resume flying.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is a joint venture between ADQ, one of the region’s largest holding companies and Wizz Air Holdings, the fastest growing European airline which operates a fleet of 137 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft.


Dubai’s Alabbar to lead new digital-only UAE bank

Dubai’s Alabbar to lead new digital-only UAE bank
Updated 52 min 24 sec ago

Dubai’s Alabbar to lead new digital-only UAE bank

Dubai’s Alabbar to lead new digital-only UAE bank
  • Online banking has become increasingly popular in the UAE, especially as a result of restrictions as a result of the pandemic

Dubai businessman Mohamed Alabbar is to lead a new digital bank set to be launched soon in the UAE.

Zand is being billed as “the world’s first combined digital corporate and retail bank” and is currently going through final approvals ahead of its launch, according to an announcement issued on Monday.

Alabbar is the founder of Emaar Properties — the Dubai developer behind The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa — and also teamed up with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) to launch the Noon online shopping platform in 2017. As part of his latest venture, he will take on the role of chairman of Zand.

“The UAE combines progressive regulations with commercial, financial, and technology hubs. This provides the perfect environment for a world-leading digital bank that can launch in the UAE and scale beyond,” Alabbar said in a statement.

“As the first fully independent digital bank in the country, with a full UAE banking license, Zand will provide innovative, effective financial solutions that help simplify businesses and lives, addressing the needs of both retail and corporate customers.”

Online banking has become increasingly popular in the UAE, especially as a result of restrictions as a result of the pandemic, which made it harder to get to a physical bank branch.

A survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) last October found that 70 percent of respondents said that they are actively searching for a new bank and 87 percent said they would be willing to open an account with a branchless digital-only lender.

The same BCG survey found that 53 percent said that they were using banking mobile apps more often as a result of the pandemic and half of those surveyed had started using digital banking for the first time.

“UAE’s banking customers’ have a strong appetite for digital banks, and we see more growth in the demand of digital products during the pandemic,” Mohammad Khan, partner at BCG, was quoted as saying.


Bahrain Bourse expects to attract two more listings, says CEO

Bahrain Bourse expects to attract two more listings, says CEO
Updated 57 min 14 sec ago

Bahrain Bourse expects to attract two more listings, says CEO

Bahrain Bourse expects to attract two more listings, says CEO
  • The pandemic had prompted some companies to shelve planned offerings

RIYADH: Bahrain Bourse is expected to attract two new public offerings this year, its CEO told Asharq Business.
The first is a logistics company and the second an oil company, Sheikh Khalifa bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, told the website
However, he said that the pandemic had prompted some companies to shelve planned offerings.
He said that the exchange was focused on easing the entry of investors into the market.
He also highlighted the launch of the Bahrain Bourse environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting guideline for listed companies, in response to rising appetite for such investments from global institutions.
The stock exchange applies the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) to classify listed companies, he said, highlighting continued cooperation with Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul stock exchange, the largest in the region.
He said the bourse’s main objective was to diversify its investor based which is currently dominated by institutions, unlike some other regional exchanges where individual investors are more strongly represented,
Al-Khalifa pointed to the adoption of new listing rules that better guarantee the rights of investors, including those directed at companies with large accumulated losses.


We are happier at home say UAE workers

We are happier at home say UAE workers
Updated 12 April 2021

We are happier at home say UAE workers

We are happier at home say UAE workers
  • The Life and Beyond 2020 research after polling 10,000 workers in 11 countries to discover the impact of COVID-19 on their wellbeing

DUBAI: UAE workers are happy working from home according to a new study.

The Life and Beyond 2020 research, conducted by US-based technology company Avaya, revealed the UAE as “among the fondest of work-from-anywhere models,” after polling 10,000 workers in 11 countries to discover the impact of COVID-19 on their wellbeing.

The research found 64 percent of those polled in the UAE would support government policies aimed at adopting modern working practices, including remote working, adding it would contribute to their happiness.

The biggest worry for 51 percent of the country’s workforce was returning to work in the office full-time, the survey also revealed.

The UAE was also identified as the world’s best equipped country for remote working, with 64 percent claiming they have access to technology to be able to work from anywhere. Only 62 percent in the US said the same, and 55 percent inthe UK.