Daimler’s major partner BAIC plans to upstage rival Geely

Daimler’s major partner BAIC plans to upstage rival Geely
Workers on an SUV production line of the BAIC in Beijing. BAIC Group has started buying Daimler’s shares from the open market. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Daimler’s major partner BAIC plans to upstage rival Geely

Daimler’s major partner BAIC plans to upstage rival Geely
  • The group sets in motion a strategy to double its stake to around 10 percent

FRANKFURT: Daimler’s main China joint venture partner BAIC Group has set in motion a plan to double its stake to around 10 percent and win a board seat in the German luxury carmaker, as it aims to upstage rival Geely, sources said.

State-owned Beijing Automobile Group Co. Ltd. (BAIC), which already owns a 5 percent shareholding in Daimler, has started buying the German company’s shares from the open market, said the sources who were briefed on the matter.

BAIC is currently Daimler’s third-largest shareholder but a stake of 10 percent will make it the biggest shareholder, surpassing its Chinese automaking rival Zhejiang Geely Holding Group which owns 9.69 percent of the German automaker and is seeking to expand its partnership with Daimler in China.

With the shareholding of around 10 percent, BAIC is looking to secure a seat at Daimler’s supervisory board, which Geely does not currently have, the sources said.

HSBC, which advised BAIC on its 5 percent stake purchase in Daimler earlier, is helping the Beijing-based group in the new investment, one of the sources said.

Daimler said in a regulatory filing last month that HSBC held 5.23 percent in Daimler’s voting rights directly as well as through instruments such as equity swaps as of Nov. 15.

Daimler said it had not received any notification about BAIC having raised its stake. Daimler’s China chief Hubertus Troska said on Friday “we welcome long-term investors in Daimler.”

Asked about BAIC and its potential to become a larger shareholder, he added, “we like each other. Let us see how things develop.”

A third source familiar with BAIC’s thinking said that BAIC wanted to be a bigger shareholder than Geely in Daimler in order to be seen as the German automaker’s senior-most partner in China. Reuters reported in November that BAIC had signaled intentions to extend its investment in Daimler, citing sources familiar with the matter. BAIC has been Daimler’s main partner in China for years and operates Mercedes-Benz factories in Beijing through the two automakers’ main joint venture, Beijing Benz Automotive.

Two months before its 5 percent stake purchase was announced in July, sources said that BAIC wanted to invest in Daimler to secure its investment in Beijing Benz Automotive.

The partners also planned to revamp manufacturing facilities to make Mercedes Benz-branded trucks via their commercial vehicle joint venture Foton Daimler Automotive (BFDA), Reuters reported in August citing a document and sources familiar with matter.

BAIC built its 5 percent Daimler stake after Li Shufu, chairman of Zhejiang-based private automaker Geely, built a 9.69 percent stake in Stuttgart-based Daimler in early 2018.


KPMG: 98% of Saudi CEOs set to invest in cloud technology in 2021  

KPMG: 98% of Saudi CEOs set to invest in cloud technology in 2021  
Updated 29 min 8 sec ago

KPMG: 98% of Saudi CEOs set to invest in cloud technology in 2021  

KPMG: 98% of Saudi CEOs set to invest in cloud technology in 2021  
  • Artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and 5G also set for more investment, according to survey
  • 88% of Saudi-based CEOs see technological transformation as an opportunity rather than a threat

JEDDAH: Senior company executives in Saudi Arabia are embracing the digital revolution, with 98 percent planning to raise their investments in cloud computing this year, according to a new survey.
Cloud computing is at the top of the technology agendas for CEOs in the Kingdom, with investments in artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and 5G also popular, according to the global consultancy firm KPMG’s 2020 CEO Outlook survey.
While technological advances can bring security challenges, 88 percent of Saudi-based CEOs see technological transformation as an opportunity rather than a threat.
“The pace of technological adoption has quickened this year as organizations react to the new working reality. Most of the CEOs believe the pandemic has accelerated the creation of a seamless digital customer experience and [that the] creation of new digital revenue streams has advanced during the pandemic,” said Mazhar Hussain, chief disruption officer at KPMG in Saudi Arabia.
“Nonetheless, the pandemic has seen an uptick of cyberattacks, which has increased awareness and investment into cybersecurity. The number of vulnerabilities in most organizations’ operations has increased with remote work. Hence, companies must resist the urge to direct budget cuts toward preventative cyber measures and [view] the sharp increase in global cybercrime as a reason to keep advancing their cyber defenses,” he added.
At the same time, the pandemic has shaken CEO confidence in global economic growth, according to the KPMG survey. Almost 32 percent said they are less confident about global growth prospects in the next three years than they were at the beginning of the year.
While cloud computing investment is a priority, a survey in January by German business software company SAP found that while more than four-fifths (89 percent) of Saudi senior public sector executives agreed that data sharing helped them to improve on how they connected with citizens, many had not invested in training to implement this.
SAP found that while 83 percent of respondents said data sharing improved their innovation in current goods or services, only 22 percent did this with partners. And when it came to training, only 33 percent of respondents had retrained employees on how best to analyze data. This skills shortage was cited by 61 percent of respondents as being a barrier to meeting strategic change initiatives.


Saudi fast-food chain Herfy expands in Bangladesh

Saudi fast-food chain Herfy expands in Bangladesh
Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi fast-food chain Herfy expands in Bangladesh

Saudi fast-food chain Herfy expands in Bangladesh
  • Herfy inaugurated its first branch outside the Middle East under a franchise system in Bangladesh in December 2017
  • Herfy Food Services Company was established in 1981, and the first Herfy restaurant opened in Riyadh that same year

JEDDAH: Herfy Food Services Company, Saudi Arabia’s largest fast-food chain, has opened its fifth restaurant in Bangladesh, following the success of previous branches in the capital city.
The financial impact from the opening will reflect in the first quarter of 2021, the company said in a Tadawul statement.
Herfy inaugurated its first branch outside the Middle East under a franchise system in Bangladesh in December 2017. 
According to an agreement signed with Bangladeshi private-sector company Greenland Services Ltd. in 2016, Herfy aims to open 30 outlets within “a few years.”
In 2020, Herfy reported an estimated annual net profit after zakat and tax of SR 53.6 million ($14.29 million), a drop of 73 percent year-on-year, as revenue for the year fell 16.6 percent to SR 1.074 billion.
Herfy was hit by the closure of its restaurants in malls and shopping centers. Moreover, working hours at stores had been reduced while administrative and general expenses had increased.
At its Bangladesh branches, Herfy offers training for employees and provides its franchisees with its own products, including meat, chicken and sauces — all made in its Saudi-based factories.
Herfy Food Services Company was established in 1981, and the first Herfy restaurant opened in Riyadh that same year. As of September 2020, the company owns a total of 40 restaurants and leases 345.


Huge surge in GCC demand for Ivy League university coaches

Huge surge in GCC demand for Ivy League university coaches
Updated 28 February 2021

Huge surge in GCC demand for Ivy League university coaches

Huge surge in GCC demand for Ivy League university coaches
  • Companies like Crimson Education coach students on how to improve their chances of being one of the few who receive an offer letter
  • Demand can differ from country to country, with those in the UAE preferring British institutions

DUBAI: Getting into a prestigious Ivy League university is no easy task. 
According to the latest figures, California’s Stanford University was especially picky, with a 2019 acceptance rate of just 4 percent. Columbia and Harvard followed with 5 percent, while Princeton and Yale were slightly easier with 6 percent of applicants getting offers.
The race to get these coveted places is also getting harder as the number of applicants has gone up and universities have become even stricter. Dubai-based Crimson Education has reported a surge in clients looking for help to gain access to institutions in the US, as well as into Oxford and Cambridge.
“The number of students who joined Crimson Education in the region over the past six months was 200 percent up from the same period the previous year,” Soraya Behesti, regional director for the Middle East and Africa at Crimson Education, told Arab News. “The company had a big push to hire new strategists in order to meet the surging demand. Crimson grew 250 percent from 2019 to 2020 and is projected to grow more than 150 percent this year.” 
The demand makes sense. 
A 2015 report from the US Department of Education found that the average salary of Ivy League graduates a decade after they finished university was $70,000 a year, compared to the average salary for non-Ivy League graduates of $34,000.
Companies like Crimson Education coach students on how to improve their chances of being one of the few who receive an offer letter, and Behesti said the acceptance rate among their clients was three times the global average.
There are also a number of trends which has seen demand for such services skyrocket in recent years.
“The number of students who applied early to Ivy League colleges skyrocketed in 2020, although the acceptance rate reached record lows,” Behesti added. “Applications to Columbia and Harvard’s early rounds increased from the previous year by 49 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Applying early to their top-choice university usually gives students an advantage but last year, the early round acceptance rate was closer to that of the regular round, with Harvard admitting just 7.4 percent of early applicants, from 13.9 percent in the previous year.”
Students have started enrolling for help earlier because of the increased competition, and Behesti said Crimson had seen a rise in demand from clients as young as nine.
“When we work with students from a young age, our sessions and objectives are not focused on universities per se, but building really strong foundations, developing a growth mindset, cultivating good study habits, learning entrepreneurial thinking and even developing core skills such as coding, debate or languages.”
Demand can differ from country to country, with those in the UAE preferring British institutions, while Saudi students show a preference for US ones, especially Columbia, Harvard and Yale. 
Having the right aptitude is good, but money also really counts. Crimson said that studying at an Ivy League university cost between $30,000 and $45,000 per year, although between 40 and 60 percent of students received some form of financial aid.
“For GCC students, governments offer attractive scholarships — but usually only for students who gain admission to the top 100 universities. We have worked with Emirati and Saudi students of all abilities, from A-grade academics to students struggling at school, to ensure their admission to the top 100 schools through academic tutoring, admissions support and extra-curricular coaching, thereby allowing them to receive government scholarships,” Behesti said.


South African mobile operator MTN eyes $65mn deal for Syrian business

South African mobile operator MTN eyes $65mn deal for Syrian business
Updated 28 February 2021

South African mobile operator MTN eyes $65mn deal for Syrian business

South African mobile operator MTN eyes $65mn deal for Syrian business
JOHANNESBURG: MTN Group remains committed to negotiating a $65 million sale of its 75 percent stake in its Syrian unit, the South African mobile operator said on Sunday, despite the business being placed under judicial guardianship last week.
MTN Syria was placed under guardianship by a court in Damascus over alleged MTN violations of the terms of its licensing contract, which the state says deprived the government of revenue.
MTN has denied the allegations and on Friday said that it intended to appeal.
The appointed guardian, who is chairman of MTN Syria minority shareholder TeleInvest, will be responsible for managing day to day operations while the guardianship order remains in place. The court’s statement did not indicate how long that might be.
TeleInvest had been lined up to buy MTN Group’s 75 percent stake in MTN Syria for a previously undisclosed price.
“MTN Group is still committed to executing on the agreed transaction with TeleInvest to dispose of its 75 percent shareholding and loans for a consideration of $65 million in total,” a spokeswoman for the South African company told Reuters.
The sale to TeleInvest is part of MTN Group’s plans to exit the Middle East in the medium term.
The group’s operations in the Middle East have been marred by allegations that it used bribes to win a 15-year operating license in Iran and that it aided militant groups in Afghanistan.
MTN denies the allegations.
In the six months to June 2020, MTN Syria accounted for 0.7 percent of the group’s core profit.

Tabreed weather-watching AI could cool homes from Dubai to Makkah

Tabreed weather-watching AI could cool homes from Dubai to Makkah
Updated 28 February 2021

Tabreed weather-watching AI could cool homes from Dubai to Makkah

Tabreed weather-watching AI could cool homes from Dubai to Makkah
  • It is one of four new pilot projects announced by Tabreed that will support its aim to boost plant efficiency and reduce operating costs

DUBAI: The UAE company that provides cooling to thousands of homes across the Gulf plans to use weather-watching technology to anticipate when demand will rise and fall.

It is one of four new pilot projects announced by Tabreed that will support its aim to boost plant efficiency and reduce operating costs, the company said in a bourse filing on Sunday.

Demand for district cooling varies widely from day to day depending on outside temperature, humidity, wind speed and other atmospheric factors.

The “Wet Bulb Forecasting” project aims to better forecast customer demand over the next 24 hours by analyzing some of these factors using artificial intelligence.

“Based on the simulation of this pilot project, we forecast a 25 to 30 percent increase in performance, compared to our industry benchmarks,” said François-Xavier Boul, Tabreed’s chief development officer.”

Gulf states including the UAE and Saudi Arabia are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint through the use of green technology and alternative energy sources.

Tabreed operates 86 district cooling plants around the region, including three in Saudi Arabia.

Among the developments it services are the world’s tallest building in Dubai and the Jabal Omar Development in Makkah.