IATA calls on Middle East governments to help airlines

IATA calls on Middle East governments to help airlines
Governments should consider providing support to airlines to help them manage the impact of the coronavirus, the airline body IATA has said. (AFP)
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Updated 03 March 2020

IATA calls on Middle East governments to help airlines

IATA calls on Middle East governments to help airlines

ABU DHABI: Middle East governments should consider providing support to airlines to help them manage the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to a raft of flight cancelations, the industry’s largest global body said on Monday.

Global airlines have warned of the toll on their business as passenger numbers fall due to the outbreak that first emerged in China in late December and has since spread to more than 50 countries.

Airlines have stopped flights to Iran, where the virus is rapidly spreading, and Saudi Arabia has temporarily banned tourists from 25 countries that have recorded cases the virus.

“The region depends on air connectivity, and support from governments will really help the airlines to get through this difficult period,” the International Air Transport Association’s Vice President for Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Ali Albakri said.

Albakri said that IATA was not calling for state bailouts, but that governments could help airlines with their operating costs.

Governments control a number of costs incurred by airlines, such as taxes and landing and overflight fees.

Most Middle East airlines are state-owned. In the past major Gulf carriers have come under scrutiny over allegations they
unfairly benefited from state funds, a charge they deny.

Albakri said that he did not expect other jurisdictions to criticize support given to airlines due to the coronavirus.

Emirates, the Middle East’s biggest carrier, is asking its staff to take paid and unpaid leave to help it manage a “measurable slowdown” due to the virus.

Air ticket sales to, from, and within the Middle East are seen dropping over the next few weeks, and airlines in the region stand to lose about $100 million in revenue at this stage, AlBakri said.

Middle Eastern carriers, most of which are unprofitable, have stopped most flights to China and cut or reduced flights on other Asian routes.

“Significant additional revenue is at risk to the Middle East carriers if the travel restrictions spread further to the rear of Asia Pacific,” Albakri said.

Roughly 50 percent of all Middle East airline capacity is flown on services to and from Asia Pacific, he said, highlighting the considerable risk to their business. 


Cruises set to return to Abu Dhabi in September 2021

Cruises set to return to Abu Dhabi in September 2021
Updated 20 min 6 sec ago

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)


Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
Updated 22 June 2021

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
  • Program aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises still struggling due to the pandemic
  • More than 106,000 contracts have benefited since it was launched in March 2020 with a value of approximately SR167 billion

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced on Tuesday that it is extending a deferred payment program for a second time to help support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are still struggling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
SAMA said the program — one of the bank’s initiatives to support private sector financing — will be extended for another three months from July 1 through Sept. 30.
The move is part of SAMA’s role in maintaining the stability of the financial sector, enabling it to promote economic growth and maintain employment levels in the private sector, especially within micro enterprises and other SMEs.
More than 106,000 contracts have benefited from the program since it was launched in March 2020 while the value of the deferred payments for those contracts has amounted to approximately SR167 billion ($44.5 billion).
SAMA has also offered a secured financing program for SMEs as more than 5,282 contracts have benefited from that program with a total financing value of more than SR10 billion, the bank said in a statement.
These programs are meant to support the private sector and the levels of liquidity in the financial sector. They enable financing agencies to provide support while mitigating the economic and financial effects on the SME sector, the bank said.
This is the second time SAMA has extended the two programs to support SMEs. It renewed the deferred payment program for three months last March, while it also extended the guaranteed financing program for an additional year until March 14, 2022.


Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
Updated 22 June 2021

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
  • Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai

DUBAI: Beirut has become the most expensive city for expats in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the third globally, based on the latest “Cost of Living” survey by consultancy Mercer.
Jumping 42 places in global rankings, Beirut has been at the center of Lebanon’s economic and political collapse, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the port explosion last year.
Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai. Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat ranked first, in the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, followed by Hong Kong.
Mercer comes up with the annual list by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each city, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
Riyadh has become the most expensive city in the Gulf at 29th globally. Jeddah ranked 94th, the report showed.
Dubai dropped to 42nd in the list, down from 23rd last year, and Abu Dhabi ranked 56th from 39th a year earlier.
Other cities in the Gulf also became more affordable this year, the report revealed, with Bahrain dropping to 71st from 52nd, while Muscat fell to 108th from 96th. Kuwait City dropped two places to 115th and Qatar at 21 places to 130th.