Fund managers gird for long trade war after FedEx slide

Fund managers gird for long  trade war after FedEx slide
FedEx business touches several industries across the globe. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2019

Fund managers gird for long trade war after FedEx slide

Fund managers gird for long  trade war after FedEx slide
  • Shares of the shipping company tumbled 13% after it said it planned to cut costs

NEW YORK: A profit warning and muted outlook from package delivery company FedEx Corp. is prompting some high-profile fund managers to prepare for the trade war between the US and China to last longer than many had originally anticipated.

Shares of the shipping company, whose business is often seen as a proxy for growth in the global economy, tumbled 13 percent Wednesday, a day after it said it planned to ground some planes and cut costs due to the effects of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

“We were hopeful of a trade deal and some sort of return to normalcy and that has not taken place,” FedEx’s CEO, Frederick Smith, said on its earnings call.

Companies ranging from parts supplier O’Reilly Automotive to network gear maker Juniper Networks have said the trade war is weighing on their earnings. Yet investors have focused more on FedEx because the nature of its business touches several industries across the globe, including consumer spending.

An extended trade war could take the wind out of the sails of the rally in the S&P 500 benchmark index, which has advanced in line with expectations for an imminent breakthrough in the trade war. High-level talks between the two countries are expected to resume again in October. The conflict between the two countries could take a decade to resolve, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned on Sept. 6.

As a result, fund managers are moving away from US industrials and technology companies that may be most affected by higher tariffs and instead are looking to pick up some out-of-favor companies and assets that offer long-term opportunities despite the trade war.

“It’s obvious that China will try to drag this out as long as it can and hope it disappears after the (2020 presidential) election,” said Brian Yacktman, whose YCG Enhanced Fund is up nearly 31 percent for the year to date.

Yacktman is moving more into the shares of European luxury goods makers such as Kering SA, whose brands include Gucci and Botegga Veneta, that have pricing power but have fallen on concerns about a slowdown in the Chinese economy. 

Shares of Kering are up 12.4 percent for the year to date, including a 10 percent drop over the last three months.

“These are companies that can just pass tariffs on because people want to buy the status symbol,” he said.

Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management, said her firm has been increasing its “measures of protection” against an economic downturn caused in part by an escalating trade war. Despite a 20.1 percent gain in the sector this year, she said she still sees opportunities in utilities companies due in part to their above-average dividend yields and growth potential.

“Rather than reacting and getting whipsawed by the sudden shifts in sentiment, we believe that investors can create diversified portfolios that seek to minimize downside risks from the trade war, however long it may last,” she said.

Not all fund managers are convinced the trade war is here to stay. “We still think one way or another Trump will end it before the election,” said Lamar Villere, a portfolio manager at New Orleans-based Villere & Co.

As a result, he has been moving more assets into sectors such as semiconductors, an industry which will be included in $50 billion worth of goods that will be subject to 30 percent tariffs starting Oct. 1.

“The market is giving you opportunities because we think that this is more of a blip than anything else,” he said.

Emmanuel Roman, CEO at bond giant Pimco, said Thursday at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference that he is seeing opportunities in emerging market bonds due to the pessimism from the trade war. “Obviously the big elephant in the room is the trade war with China and how it will resolve itself,” he said.


Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses

Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses
Updated 22 June 2021

Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses

Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses
  • Investors still digesting last week’s surprise hawkish shift by the US Federal Reserve

WASHINGTON: US stocks were higher on Monday and global stocks advanced in choppy trade after hitting a four-week low earlier in the session, with investors still digesting last week’s surprise hawkish shift by the US Federal Reserve.

The US dollar retreated from Friday’s 10-week high. Yields on 10-year Treasuries turned higher after sliding overnight to a four-month low of 1.354 percent. But the benchmark note was still trading well below its recent mid-point range of about 1.6 percent after traders reacted to Federal Reserve expectations for a rate hike.

Shares of banks, energy firms and other companies that tend to be sensitive to the economy’s fluctuations were higher, recovering some losses after have fallen sharply since the Fed’s meeting on Wednesday, when the central bank caught investors off guard by anticipating two quarter-percentage-point rate increases in 2023.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.45 percent, the S&P 500 gained 1 percent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.2 percent.

“Bulls are attempting to regroup this morning after last Friday’s plunge,” Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group said in a market note.

Stocks in Asia took their cue from Wall Street’s falls on Friday but European shares bucked the trend, with the pan-European STOXX 600 index up 0.6 percent.

“The situation in reality is actually pretty good — the Fed is stabilizing inflation,” said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management in Luxembourg. “Cyclical sectors may have overshot the market in the short term and so you may have a bit of pressure on the sector.”

Galy noted the “interesting part” of the correction was that it lagged as traders digested the news.

MSCI’s All Country World Index, which tracks shares across 49 countries, was up 0.5 percent after hitting its lowest since May 24.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei led declines with an over 3 percent drop and dipped below 28,000 for the first time in a month, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.2 percent.

The US dollar index was down 0.4 percent, off Friday’s 10-week high of 92.408, following its biggest weekly advance in more than a year.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard further fueled the sell-off on Friday by saying the shift toward faster policy tightening was a “natural” response to economic growth and particularly inflation moving quicker than anticipated as the country reopens from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe there is a limit to how much more hawkish the Fed can be given its inflation projections relative to the catch-up rates range,” BlackRock analysts said in a note.

“Our bottom line: We believe the Fed’s new outlook will not translate into significantly higher policy rates any time soon.”

Several Fed officials have speaking duties this week, including Chair Jerome Powell, who testifies before Congress on Tuesday. 

The euro was up 0.46 percent to $1.1915. Sterling recovered some ground, to trade 0.9 percent higher after sliding to its lowest since April 16.

Commodity-linked currencies have also suffered, with the Australian dollar hovering above a six-month low at $0.7495.

A stronger greenback has pressured cryptocurrencies, too, with Bitcoin falling 7.7 percent, while smaller rival Ether lost 11 percent.

In commodities, gold rebounded 1.0 percent to $1,781.41 an ounce on Monday, looking to snap a six-day losing streak, but remained near the lowest since early May.

Copper continued to fall on Monday, hitting its lowest level since mid-April after moves by China to rein in commodities price rallies and signals from the US Federal Reserve it will tighten monetary policy sooner than expected. 

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 0.8 percent at $9,070 a ton in official trading, after touching $9,011.

Crude oil rose, underpinned by strong demand during the summer driving season and a pause in talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal that could indicate a delay in resumption of supplies from the OPEC producer. Brent crude futures rose to $74.48 a barrel, up 1.32 percent on the day, as Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 1.9 percent to $73.


Startup of the Week: The Graze Board; Bringing together foods of every color and flavor

Startup of the Week: The Graze Board; Bringing together foods of every color and flavor
Updated 22 June 2021

Startup of the Week: The Graze Board; Bringing together foods of every color and flavor

Startup of the Week: The Graze Board; Bringing together foods of every color and flavor

JEDDAH: The Graze Board, established in 2019, is the first company in Jeddah offering cheese platters and charcuterie boards, presenting fresh, top-quality food in an artistic way.

It was founded by Heba Abed and her 15-year-old daughter Joory Khudary. Abed describes the family business as a “luxury catering brand.”

She said: “All employees of The Graze Board are either family or close friends. We keep the circle small so that we keep the secrets of The Graze Board a mystery.” The offerings are a combination of savory and sweet, with cheese, bread, vegetables and fruits. The boards look like a multi-color palette, with a variety of vibrant foods.

The business started with a tradition where Abed’s family members would gather together each week and bring cheese boards to share.

“We discussed that we should start it as a business. The Graze Board believes that family and friends cherish the moment they spend together eating meals in the dining room,” Abed said.

The family puts love and effort into each board, she said: “We choose the finest kinds of cheese, for instance. We also use the freshest bread we can find. The Graze Board creates a unique art piece from simple ingredients in each board.”

Many of the The Graze Board’s clients are repeat customers, too. “We have gained many loyal customers,” Abed said.

But the business did face some initial challenges, as the idea of cheese platters was fresh to the Kingdom and not many people understood the concept at first. “The biggest challenge was how to convince and attract customers to see, try, love and re-order our boards,” Abed added.

The Graze Board operates as a delivery service to clients, but Abed said that the company has ambitious plans to open a physical branch and spread across the Kingdom.


Wa’ed boosts investment in digital mapping startup

Wa’ed boosts investment in digital mapping startup
Updated 21 June 2021

Wa’ed boosts investment in digital mapping startup

Wa’ed boosts investment in digital mapping startup
  • Online applications for all Saudi-based entrepreneurs opened on Wednesday last week

RIYADH: Wa’ed, the entrepreneurship arm of Saudi Aramco, has boosted its investment in a digital mapping and indoor navigation startup in a bid to help it expand globally.

Alkhobar-based NearMotion provides mobile navigation tools for airports, hospitals, shopping malls, museums, theme parks and event stadiums, allowing users to get real-time information and services. This will be Wa’ed’s second investment in the company, having previously backed it in 2016.

Some of the startup’s clients include Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare in Dhahran, Dallah Hospital in Riyadh and MediClinic Middle East in Dubai.

The company also won a SR1.2 million ($320,000) contract for digital mapping services at the Saudi Ministry of Education’s 200,000 square-meter headquarters in Riyadh.

“We initially invested in NearMotion because its technology was unique and game-changing, and its success in the [Gulf Cooperation Council] has shown this,” Wassim Basrawi, managing director of Wa’ed, said in a statement. “With this second investment, we aim to help globalize this exciting Saudi success story.”

Wa’ed was established by Saudi Aramco in 2011 to offer loan financing activities to entrepreneurs, while its Wa’ed Ventures venture capital arm oversees a $200 million investment fund and a portfolio of more than 30 Saudi-based companies.

Wa’ed last week launched its first roadshow event to unearth and fund the next generation of Saudi entrepreneurs. With up to SR100 million at its disposal, Wa’ed is planning to hand out loans and venture capital investments to commercially feasible ventures that would fill existing gaps in the Kingdom’s economy.

The roadshow will visit Jubail, Yanbu, Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah. Online applications for all Saudi-based entrepreneurs opened on Wednesday last week.

“Seventy out of over 100 startups we supported were the first of their kind and received their first-ever investment from us, and this is what we are targeting now: Distinguished and not yet supported startups and ideas,” Basrawi said.


Saudi Ports appoints Omar Hariri as CEO

The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) board of directors has appointed Omar bin Talal Hariri as CEO. (SPA/File Photo)
The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) board of directors has appointed Omar bin Talal Hariri as CEO. (SPA/File Photo)
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Ports appoints Omar Hariri as CEO

The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) board of directors has appointed Omar bin Talal Hariri as CEO. (SPA/File Photo)
  • Hariri was Saudi Airlines Cargo and the Saudi Logistics Company “SAL” CEO, since 2018

RIYADH: The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) board of directors has appointed Omar bin Talal Hariri as CEO, effective early July 2021.

This appointment culminates 18 years of experience, which he started in 2004, as the new CEO proved his competency through the number of leadership positions he held in the transport and logistics sectors, Mawani said in a filing today, Monday.

Prior to this, Hariri was Saudi Airlines Cargo and the Saudi Logistics Company “SAL” CEO, since 2018. He led the two companies towards transformation by developing infrastructure, introducing the latest digital programs, modernizing systems and raising the Saudization rates to 95 percent, among other changes.

He also worked on developing and implementing the group's strategy in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

Hariri held the position of CEO in several companies.

He is also a member of boards of directors and committees, in the International Air Transport Association Consulting (IATA Consulting), the Logistics Committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, and others.

He also chairs the Board of Directors of the SkyTeam Cargo Alliance.


Apartment living, e-commerce centers the key trends as Saudi real estate rebounds from 2020

Skyscrapers stand in the King Abdullah financial district in Riyadh. (Getty Images/File Photo)
Skyscrapers stand in the King Abdullah financial district in Riyadh. (Getty Images/File Photo)
Updated 21 June 2021

Apartment living, e-commerce centers the key trends as Saudi real estate rebounds from 2020

Skyscrapers stand in the King Abdullah financial district in Riyadh. (Getty Images/File Photo)
  • CBRE report believed physical offices are here to stay, will get boost from Riyadh Strategy 2030 HQ announcement

RIYADH: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Saudi property market in many ways, with a number of trends emerging, such as a focus on apartment living, the growth of e-commerce impacting the warehouse and retail sector and the reopening of international movement spurring a rebound in the hospitality sector.

In its new report, real estate consultancy firm CBRE observed that in the residential sector there has been “increased demand witnessed across major markets for smaller residential typologies, with increased focus on community living environment. Developers are responding by introducing a greater proportion of apartments and townhouses within their mega projects.”

As part of its Vision 2030 program, the government is aiming to increase homeownership in the Kingdom to 70 percent, up from about 47 percent in 2017. One of the ways it is doing this is through the launch of Roshn, which is owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). Roshn is planning to start off-plan sales at its flagship project in Riyadh later this year, with the handover of the first homes to tenants likely in early 2022.

“Our communities are entirely inclusive, with homes to suit all tastes and budgets. Our aim is to provide a modern, aspirational living experience while giving residents the freedom to interpret what this means to them in their own unique way. Our communities have been designed to inspire a strong sense of neighborly spirit and genuine connection between residents,” Roshn’s Group CEO David Grover told Arab News.

CBRE said that millennials were emerging as a key consumer class for residential units and demand is high for “digitally enabled homes.”

Within the office sector, the report believed that the recent announcement of the Riyadh Strategy 2030, which aims to attract hundreds of companies to set up their headquarters in the Saudi capital, will benefit developers building office space. While the pandemic saw workers staying at home, CBRE believed that “physical offices are here to stay” but developers may need to move away from traditional models and offer more flexible spaces to accommodate hybrid working plans.

Within the retail sector, the surge in e-commerce in 2020 has led to the development of more fulfilment sectors, warehouses and collection points. “Rapid growth of online shopping is likely to result in more omni-channel retail, however, preserving the ‘physical experience’ will be a critical component of these omnichannel strategies, particularly in the KSA,” the CBRE report observed.

This was echoed by Ahmad BinDawood, CEO of BinDawood Holding, one of the Kingdom’s biggest supermarket operators, who told Arab News in May that while the company had seen a spike in online sales, he believed consumers still prefer to come to the stores to buy their produce.

“The primary way that the customer prefers to shop is actually visiting the stores, not through online. Online shopping is still going to be good for the future but so far we see that the customer prefers to shop in stores to have that experiential element when they come,” he said.

However, other retailers are adopting a more hybrid model. Dubai’s Majid Al Futtaim operates 21 Carrefour stores across nine Saudi cities and is aiming to double its store network by 2025. It saw online sales in the Kingdom rise by 285 percent last year, therefore, alongside the store network expansion, it is also adding fulfilment centers and boosting door-to-door delivery.

Hani Weiss, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Retail, told Arab News: “This included opening a large online fulfilment center in Riyadh and activating nine of our customer stores to also fulfil online orders. The opening of our automated fulfilment center in Jeddah is the latest in Majid Al Futtaim’s digital transformation of its Carrefour operations.”

The 9,000 square meter center in Riyadh is Majid Al Futtaim’s largest for its online Carrefour business and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, handling up to 5,000 orders a day.

Within the hotel sector, CBRE believed the recovery may take more time as borders only reopened on May 17. While there was little impact on the guest experience, CBRE believed that hoteliers did have to reduce costs and salaries, but these were coming back. Jochem-Jan Sleiffer, president of Hilton Middle East, Africa and Turkey, told Arab News that while the company is aiming to increase its presence in the Kingdom from 15 properties to 56 by 2025, the last year was tough. The company postponed some investment deals to preserve cash and it did make some layoffs, but it is now back rehiring staff at an accelerated rate.