Berlin’s ill-fated new airport finally ready for take-off

Berlin’s ill-fated new airport finally ready for take-off
Berlin region’s new international airport has been dogged by one failure after another, becoming a financial black hole and a national laughing stock. (AFP)
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Updated 28 October 2020

Berlin’s ill-fated new airport finally ready for take-off

Berlin’s ill-fated new airport finally ready for take-off
  • The airport, located in the south-east of the capital, was originally due to open in 2011
  • BER initially projected to cost $2 billion but already was past the $7.6 billion mark

BERLIN: Nine years late and eye-wateringly over budget, the Berlin region’s new international airport will finally open on Saturday — in the middle of a global pandemic that has crippled air travel.
“We are ready for take-off!” insists the management team at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), set to replace the German capital’s aging Tegel and Schoenefeld airports.
But the mood is one of relief rather than celebration.
Ever since construction began on BER in 2006, the project has been dogged by one failure after another, becoming a financial black hole and a national laughing stock — not exactly an example of German efficiency.
The airport, located in the south-east of the capital, was originally due to open in 2011.
Now it is opening its doors in the middle of the worst crisis the aviation industry has ever seen, as COVID-19 restrictions continue to suffocate air travel.
And as if that were not enough, there’s also the climate crisis: pressure group Extinction Rebellion is planning acts of “civil disobedience” on the opening day to protest against the impact of aviation on global warming.
Against that backdrop, “We will simply open, we will not have a party,” according to Engelbert Luetke Daldrup, president of the airport’s management company.
Lufthansa and EasyJet will be the first two airlines to touch down on the tarmac of what will be Germany’s third-largest airport, after Frankfurt and Munich.
A few days before the opening, around 200 staff were busy disinfecting the 360,000-square-meter Terminal 1.
Some 100 alcoholic hand gel dispensers have been installed and robot vacuum cleaners hum over the floors.
The “Magic Carpet,” a huge, bright red artwork by American artist Pae White suspended from the ceiling, brings a touch of color to the check-in hall.
The airport has been designed to welcome 27 million passengers a year, but in November it will see only 20 percent of usual air traffic thanks to the pandemic.
Terminal 2 won’t open until spring 2021.
About 15 shops and restaurants out of just over 100 will remain shut, while the rest will be forced to keep “limited opening hours” because of low traffic through the airport, a spokesman said
None of this good news for BER, initially projected to cost $2 billion but already past the $7.6 billion.
The airport has been granted $353 billion in state aid to help safeguard the jobs of the 20,000 people who will eventually work there until the end of 2020.
The health crisis is already having an impact on employment at the hub: at the end of July, Berlin’s airports announced the loss of 400 jobs out of a total of 2,100.
EasyJet has said it will cut 418 jobs in the German capital, and Europe’s leading airline Lufthansa, Germany’s flagship carrier, is to shed 30,000 jobs worldwide.
“We fear even greater job losses in the future,” a spokesman for the Verdi union said.
Luetke Daldrup hopes the situation will improve “from the spring onwards.” But the International Air Transport Association does not expect global air traffic to reach pre-crisis levels until 2024.
In the state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, local leaders remain optimistic about the prospects for development.
“No hotel has so far postponed its investment plans because of the pandemic,” insists Olaf Luecke, president of the local branch of Germany’s hotel and catering trade union (DEHOGA).
Construction work began in September on two 14,000-square-meter (150,000-square-foot) hotel complexes, due to open in 2022.
And in anticipation of the opening of BER, US electric-car giant Tesla has chosen Brandenburg as the location of its first European factory, which is set to employ 40,000 people.
“Having new, modern infrastructure will be beneficial in any case, despite the pandemic,” according to Carsten Broenstrup of the state employers’ association.
But “if there is not a vaccine soon, it will be a very big problem,” he admits.


Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done

Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done
Updated 24 June 2021

Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done

Jeddah Economic City: 90% of road, landscaping work done
  • The project will consist of three sectors: A financial district, a residential district and Al-Balad

JEDDAH: Jeddah Economic City — one of Saudi Arabia’s flagship megaprojects, which will include the world’s tallest tower — is nearing completion on all road construction and landscaping work, according to a senior executive on the project.

Speaking at the Urban Landscape Saudi 2021 event this week, Fady Nassim, executive head of urban planning for Jeddah Economic City, said the main goal of the 5.3-million-square-meter project is to create a habitable, economically beneficial and environmentally friendly space. “Ninety percent of the work on road construction and landscaping in the city is done,” he told delegates.

The city will consist of 210 towers that will be over 30 floors high, the centerpiece being Jeddah Tower, which will be around 1 km tall and will take over from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building.

The project will consist of three sectors: A financial district, a residential district and Al-Balad, which will be a contemporary recreation of the old quarter of Jeddah.

Nassim said the landscaping will be done in a way that ensures plenty of green space and room for pedestrians, with less emphasis on cars and traffic.

Also speaking at the event, which was organized by the Saudi Contractors Authority, was Abdurahman Medallah, general manager for urban studies and policies at the Sharqia Development Authority.

He highlighted the fact that the rapid expansion of urban areas in the Kingdom is impacting agricultural land.

Medallah also highlighted the recently announced Saudi Green initiative, which aims to enhance rural areas and expand green areas in the Kingdom.

“Some of these targets are to increase the share of renewables, to reduce carbon emissions, to plant around 50 million trees, and to raise the percentage of protected areas to around 30 percent,” he said.


Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021

Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021
Updated 24 June 2021

Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021

Egypt-UK trade up 8% to $722m in Q1 2021

CAIRO: Trade between Egypt and Britain increased 8 percent year-on-year to £519 million ($722 million) in the first quarter of 2021, said Nasser Hamed, director of the EU Administration at the Egyptian Commercial Office.

Egypt’s exports to the UK during the first quarter of 2021 amounted to about £219 million, down 1.8 percent year-on-year, while its imports from Britain amounted to about £300 million, down about 14 percent, according to the Middle East News Agency.

Hamed said British investment in Egypt amounted to about $5.3 billion, accounting for 33 percent of total European investments.

He added that Britain is the third-largest investing country in Egypt after the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Hamed said despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on exports over the last year, Egyptian food exports to Britain surged by about 76 percent to £24 million, consisting mainly of molasses, vegetable oils and fats, chocolate, vegetables, fruits, nuts and spices.

He added that with gross domestic product of about £1.9 trillion and total imports in 2020 of £493 billion, the British economy offers great potential for Egyptian exporters.

Hamed said following Brexit, the terms of the Egyptian-British partnership agreement is the same as those of the European partnership agreement, except for minor differences on issues related to quotas or export seasons for some products such as grapes and strawberries.


Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO

Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO
Updated 24 June 2021

Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO

Catalyst Partners ready to raise more funds: CEO

DUBAI: Mubadala-backed fund Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners is ready to raise more capital after investing close to $1 billion over the last 18 months, its chief executive said.

The fund was set up by Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala and US alternative asset manager Falcon Edge Capital in 2019 with $1 billion in capital.

CEO James Munce told Reuters Catalyst Partners had so far made 21 investments with an average ticket size of $50 million, with some deals investing up to $100 million.

“The plan is to go again. I think we have gone faster than expected,” Munce said in reference to adding more capital.

No decision had been made on when or how much more capital would be committed, he said.

“My view on it is this can grow to be another $1 billion and we have $2 billion deployed over the next 18 months from here. That will be a four year-track record of a $2 billion fund and we would start to get some relevance in the region,” he said.

Catalyst Partners was set up to support the development of Abu Dhabi’s ADGM financial center, which opened in 2015, while also achieving financial returns, according to its website.

Its investments have included an American financial technology startup developing blockchain tools for banks and an Abu Dhabi-based aircraft leasing firm. 


Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes

Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes
Updated 24 June 2021

Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes

Yemeni riyal drops as Houthis renew ban on new banknotes
  • Economists are now warning that the Houthis will use the latest measures to snoop into exchange firms and people’s lives

ALEXANDRIA: Yemen’s currency on Thursday reached a new low after the Iran-backed Houthi militia renewed its ban on banknotes printed by the Yemeni government and banned people from moving cash from government-controlled areas to their territories, Yemeni officials and economists said.

Local currency dealers said the Yemeni riyal traded at 940 against the US dollar in the black market on Thursday compared to 930 last week, shortly after the Houthi-controlled Central Bank in Sanaa circulated an order that warned people against using new money that looks like the old banknotes available in their territories.

To evade the Houthi ban and address the shortage of cash in the market, the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen has recently pumped into the market billions of large 1,000-riyal banknotes similar to the banknotes used by the Houthis.

Local media reported that the Houthis stepped up security at their checkpoints, searching for the new banknotes.

On Thursday, Hamed Rezq, a journalist loyal to the Houthis, accused the US of launching an economic war on the Yemeni economy by allowing printing and circulating new banknotes.

“This is part of the US economic war on Yemen after Washington ran out of military options and (its) deception and political pressures have failed,” he tweeted. 
In December 2019, the Houthis banned the use of banknotes printed by the legitimate and internationally recognized government, giving residents a month to hand over their cash or face punishment.

The Houthi decision sparked outrage across Yemen, pushed up transfer charges from government-controlled areas to Houthi-ruled areas, and led to a halt in the payment of salaries to thousands of public servants.

Travelers from government-controlled areas to Sanaa told Arab News that they were forced into buying Saudi riyals or exchanging the new banknotes with old ones at inflated prices.

Economists are now warning that the Houthis will use the latest measures to snoop into exchange firms and people’s lives.

“This step will allow the Houthi group to interfere more in the work of banks, exchange companies and even ordinary citizens. Using its security grip, the group will find a justification for confiscating money and interfering in people's privacy in search of ‘fake currency’ as it describes it,” Mustafa Nasr, director of the Economic Media Center, said.

He added that the current economic war between the legitimate government and the Houthis would have implications on the country’s troubled economy and people’s lives.

Nasr also criticized the Yemeni government for printing money without coverage and its loose grip on the exchange market in the liberated provinces.

“The injection of the new cash by the Central Bank aggravates the problem in terms of inflation and it weakens the currency,” he said, advising the government to increase revenues and curb speculative activities by local money dealers in areas under its control.

“The fall of the riyal in areas under the control of the legitimate government is caused by currency speculation and corruption, not due to a real demand for currency,” Nasr said.


Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing

Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing

Saudi bourse’s 2020 net profit surged ahead of listing
  • Net profit rose 227 percent in 2020 from a year earlier

DUBAI: Saudi Tadawul Group, the owner and operator of the country’s stock market, said its net profit rose 227 percent in 2020 from a year earlier, while revenue more than doubled with a boost from trading commissions.
It posted a profit after zakat or Islamic tax of 500.5 million riyals ($133.5 million), it said in a statement.
Unlisted Tadawul gave a peak of its earnings ahead of a planned initial public offering later this year that will allow it to expand and strengthen its position globally.
Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange has converted itself into a holding company ahead of the listing.
Tadawul is the ninth largest exchange in the world in terms of market capitalization which stood at around $2.6 trillion, partly boosted by the listing oil giant Saudi Aramco in 2019.