Coronavirus: Airport passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific to post first-quarter decline

Coronavirus: Airport passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific to post first-quarter decline
The International Air Transport Association last week said the coronavirus epidemic could rob passenger airlines of up to $113 billion in revenue this year. (AP)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Coronavirus: Airport passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific to post first-quarter decline

Coronavirus: Airport passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific to post first-quarter decline
  • Coronavirus outbreak to cause a $3 billion decline in airport revenue, place pressure on growth projects
  • IATA last week said the coronavirus epidemic could rob passenger airlines of up to $113 billion in revenue this year

SYDNEY: Airport passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to take a 24 percent hit in the first quarter from the coronavirus, leading to a $3 billion decline in airport revenue and placing pressure on growth projects, an industry group said on Monday.
Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific said the cancelation of flights had led to lower airline landing and parking charges, a decline in passenger and security charges and a drop in retail spending that was hurting airport operators.
“Unlike airlines, who can choose to cancel flights or relocate their aircraft to other markets to reduce operating costs, airport operators manage immovable assets that cannot be closed down,” Stefano Baronci, Director General of ACI Asia-Pacific said in a statement.
“They are faced with immediate cash flow pressures with limited ability to reduce fixed costs and few resources to fund capacity expansion efforts for longer-term future growth,” he said.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents airlines, last week called for rules governing airport slots to be suspended immediately in light of the disruption to flight schedules caused by the coronavirus epidemic that first broke out in China in December.
Takeoff and landing slot rules mean airlines must fill at least 80 percent of their slots in any given season, or risk losing their allocation next time round.
ACI Asia-Pacific said it was sympathetic with the airlines’ needs to avoid flying empty planes simply to retain airport slots, but it said it wanted an evidence based, market-by-market review rather than blanket permission to cut flights without the risk of losing slots.
It said the IATA proposal would give airlines the freedom to cancel flights to and from congested airports not necessarily linked to the coronavirus outbreak, jeopardizing the ability for countries to stay connected with the world, which in turn would have knock-on effects on their economies.
IATA last week said the coronavirus epidemic could rob passenger airlines of up to $113 billion in revenue this year.


Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
Updated 16 min 6 sec ago

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
  • Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity

SINGAPORE: Chipmaker GlobalFoundries said on Tuesday it will spend $6 billion to expand capacity at its factories in Singapore, Germany and the United States amid a chip shortage that is hurting automakers and electronics firms globally.
The US-based company, owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned fund Mubadala, said it will invest more than $4 billion in Singapore, and $1 billion each in the others over the next two years. The unlisted company’s Singapore operations contribute about a third of its revenue.
“I think the next five to eight years, we’re going to be chasing supply not demand as an industry,” GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield told a media briefing. He added that the company was prioritising automotive customers.
Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity.
The chip shortage, which began in earnest in late December, was caused in part by automakers miscalculating demand for semiconductors in the pandemic. It was aggravated by electronics manufacturers placing more chip orders as work-from-home practices fueled a surge in sales of computers and other devices.
Large chipmakers including Intel Corp. have warned that the shortage will last well into next year. Intel announced in March a $20 billion plan to expand its advanced chip making capacity, while Taiwan’s TSMC said in April it will invest $100 billion over the next three years.
As well, governments, including those of the United States and Japan, have intervened to urge faster supplies. Earlier this month, the United States approved $54 billion in funds to increase US production and research into semiconductors and telecom equipment.
Caulfield said funding for GlobalFoundries’ expansion plan included investments from governments and pre-payments from customers.
The $4 billion investment in Singapore is the first of a phased expansion program planned by the company for the next five to 10 years, the CEO said. He did not specify a total amount.
The new Singapore fab will add capacity of 450,000 wafers per year, taking the campus’s total to 1.5 million, and the company expects to begin production in early 2023. Most of the added production will come online by end 2023.
The factory will make chips for cars and 5G technology, with long-term customer agreements already in place. It will add about 1,000 jobs in Singapore.


Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate
Updated 20 min 21 sec ago

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate
  • The customs dollar exchange rate has been problematic for importers historically as it has valued the local currency at a higher rate

RIYADH: Sudan has taken the decision to abolish the official customs dollar exchange rate, Asharq Business reported, citing unnamed sources.
Sudan’s Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim earlier pledged that the government was committed to canceling the so-called customs exchange rate used to determine import duties. It comes amid ongoing fiscal reforms that have been encouraged by the International Monetary Fund and other donors.
The customs dollar exchange rate has been problematic for importers historically as it has valued the local currency at a higher rate than reflected by the black market.
Ibrahim said the government would press ahead with its liberalization program until the country’s economy recovered from previous distortions.
He also said that the subsidy for wheat, cooking gas and fuel oil that is used in the production of electricity will not be canceled this year.
Devaluing the currency is one of a number of economic reforms that Sudan hopes will help it emerge from an enduring economic crisis.

 


Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate

Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate
Updated 27 min 9 sec ago

Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate

Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate
  • Tourism 365 will support ADNEC’s broader rule to position Abu Dhabi as a key tourist destination in the region

DUBAI: The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) has launched a new company to develop the UAE capital’s tourism sector, state news agency WAM has reported.
Tourism 365 will support ADNEC’s broader rule to position Abu Dhabi as a key tourist destination in the region.
It will work with big industry players in Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s tourism scene, including the emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism, as well as private firms locally and abroad.
The new company aims to increase leisure visitors in the emirate, and ultimately enhance guest experiences.
While Dubai has long been the UAE's dominant tourism market, other emirates within the country are raising their profile and positioning themselves in slightly different segments. Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE's northernmost emirate is also heavily investing in the sector and targeting outdoor adventure-seekers while Abu Dhabi has in the recent past focused on its cultural offering.
“Over the coming months, Tourism 365 will collaborate closely with other tourism-focused entities, helping to collectively grow the future of the tourism sector,” its executive director, Roula Jouny, said.
“Our subsidiaries will bolster the wider tourism offerings of not just Abu Dhabi, but the UAE as a whole, increasing visitor numbers and promoting the nation’s tourism assets across the globe,” she added.
It comes as the UAE gradually eases travel restrictions for both incoming and outgoing travelers


Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis

Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis
Updated 10 min 34 sec ago

Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis

Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis
  • Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s economy ministry on Tuesday raised the price of subsidized bread for the fifth time in a year amid the tiny country’s worsening economic and financial crisis.
The ministry said the reason behind the latest increase is that the central bank has ended sugar subsidies, which adds to the cost of bread production. 
Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history — one that the World Bank has said is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in the past 150 years.
The World Bank said in a report this month that Lebanon’s gross domestic product is projected to contract 9.5 percent in 2021, after shrinking by 20.3 percent in 2020 and 6.7 percent the year before.
Lebanon’s currency has lost 90 percent of its value, breaking a record low earlier this month of 15,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market. The official exchange rate remains 1,507 pounds to the dollar.
The central bank has been cutting back on subsidies as foreign currency reserves have dropped from $30 billion at the start of the crisis in October 2019, to nearly $15 billion at the present time.
Most Lebanese have seen their purchase power drop and more than half the population now lives below the poverty line. There are severe shortages in gasoline, medicines and other vital products. Electricity cuts last for much of the day.
The government in June last year raised the price of flatbread, a staple in Lebanon, by more than 30 percent — for the first time in a decade. It has since raised the price three times before Tuesday.
The Ministry of Economy says 910 grams (2 pounds) of bread will be sold for 3,250 pounds. It used to be sold for 2,750 pounds before the latest increase.


Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget
Updated 53 min 24 sec ago

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget
  • Parliamentary guards entered the hall to restore order as opposition and pro-government MPS quarrelled

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s parliament approved the 2021-22 state budget in a tense session that managed to temporarily break a deadlock with the government that has blocked reforms in the Gulf state.

But chaos broke out after the vote, supported by 32 out of 63 lawmakers in attendance including 50 elected members and government ministers. Parliamentary guards entered the hall to restore order as opposition and pro-government MPS quarrelled.

The session had gone ahead despite opposition lawmakers once again occupying seats reserved for ministers, a tactic they have used in recent weeks to try to highlight their demand to question the prime minister.

Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim called for a special session to discuss the budget at a time when the OPEC nation is trying boost state finances and support an economy that shrank 9.9 percent in 2020 due to low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget, proposed by the government in January, had projected 23.05 billion dinars ($76.65 billion) in expenditure for the fiscal year that started on April 1, and a deficit of 12.1 billion dinars.

“We have the right to request a special session because all regular sessions have been disrupted,” Ghanim said.

Ministers stood at an entrance to the hall after MPs took their seats and some lawmakers had rapped on tables to try to disrupt the discussions.

Frequent rows between the government and assembly have over decades led to successive cabinet reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament, hampering investment and reform.

Lawmakers want to question Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah over the constitutionality of a motion passed in March delaying any questioning of the premier until the end of 2022 along with other issues such as corruption.

Although the emir has final say over state matters, Kuwait is the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament, which can block laws and question ministers.