Saudi Aramco Q3 profit slumps 44.6% as coronavirus pandemic chokes demand

Saudi Aramco Q3 profit slumps 44.6% as coronavirus pandemic chokes demand
Aramco said it would distribute a dividend of $18.75 billion for the third quarter of this year. (AFP)
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Updated 03 November 2020

Saudi Aramco Q3 profit slumps 44.6% as coronavirus pandemic chokes demand

Saudi Aramco Q3 profit slumps 44.6% as coronavirus pandemic chokes demand
  • Weaker refining and chemicals margins have also hit the company’s net profit
  • Company said it would distribute a dividend of $18.75 billion for the third quarter of this year

DUBAI: Saudi Arabian state oil group Aramco on Tuesday reported a 44.6 percent drop in third-quarter net profit, in line with analysts’ estimates, dented by lower crude oil prices and volumes sold as the coronavirus crisis choked demand.
Weaker refining and chemicals margins have also hit the company’s net profit, which fell to $11.79 billion for the quarter ended Sept. 30 from $21.29 billion riyals last year.
Analysts had expected a net profit of $11.89 billion in the third quarter, according to the mean estimate from three analysts, provided by Refinitiv.
“We saw early signs of a recovery in the third quarter due to improved economic activity, despite the headwinds facing global energy markets,” Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser said in a statement.
The company said it would distribute a dividend of $18.75 billion for the third quarter of this year, in line with its plan to pay a base dividend of $75 billion for 2020.


Saudi Arabia’s most popular, and expensive, scent comes with a warning note

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
Updated 24 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s most popular, and expensive, scent comes with a warning note

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
  • Oud sales are soaring in festive season, but some buyers are vulnerable to production scams and fraudulent sales practices

ALKHOBAR: Saudis’ love of oud — one of the most expensive scents on the market today — may run deep but when it comes to price and quality, many struggle to tell the difference.

The result, experts warn, is that some buyers are vulnerable to production scams and fraudulent sales practices.
Oud’s warm woody scent comes from the heart of the agar tree found mostly in India, Cambodia, Indonesia and nearby countries, with the cost of 1 kg of resin rising from SR2,000 to SR6,000 ($500-1,600) or even higher.
The oil is extracted from trees up to 150 years old, and Gulf countries are among the biggest importers of the product.
Considered a rarity, the oil is commonly used on special occasions, such as Eid celebrations.
Despite its popularity, many find it difficult to judge the quality of oud, with experienced salesmen agreeing that the buyer’s trust in the seller remains a key ingredient in any purchase.
Mamdouh Al-Tamimi, an Aramco employee, enjoys agarwood, amber, musk and rose water oud bought from stores at Al-Maaqilia and Deira markets in Riyadh. Recently he has switched to a single store because he believed the salesman was honest.
“I trust him, so I go to the store three or four times a year,” he said.

FASTFACT

Oud’s warm woody scent comes from the heart of the agar tree found mostly in India, Cambodia, Indonesia and nearby countries, with the cost of 1 kg of resin rising from SR2,000 to SR6,000 ($500-1,600) or even higher.

Al-Tamimi said that he prefers liquid oud, agarwood oil, musk and amber with fragrant perfumes, especially during summer, and also enjoys good-quality oud incense.
Video posts shared on social media recently claim to show how some stores cheat customers by using lead to extend oud’s storage time and make its scent last longer.
Dr. Hamad Al-Kathiri, a consultant at Lamsat Bakhoor Company, which specializes in oud products, said that fraud is a growing problem in wood and liquid oud manufacture, with lead or dye frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality.

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)

Some stores also add materials to dilute and compromise quality, he told Arab News.
“Of course, the common goal is greed as these stores want to make quick profits.”
Al-Kathiri said that in recent years online purchases of oud products have increased significantly, while customer preferences for types of oud have changed.
“One of the key reasons is the exorbitant price of the exquisite types of oud,” he said.
Trust in the seller is a major consideration for online shoppers, although many experts warn against buying online.
“The fact remains that it is difficult to know if an oud product is original because only experts know that and are able to protect customers from falling into fraudsters’ traps,” Al-Kathiri said.
He said that men are often interested in the quality of the oud, its name, size and scent, while women generally care only about the fragrance.
Al-Kathiri said that regardless of cost, buyers are advised to test no more than three scents in a single visit to an outlet.
Customers can ask for a sample to try at home in order to judge its quality, he added.
The scent of oud lingers for varying amounts of time depending on type and quality, with some types remaining on clothing for more than two days.
“I believe there is no such thing as original and non-original oud. It is all about quality. You can say this is a good quality oud and that is not,” he Al-Kathiri said.
Mahmoud Al-Falahi, manager of Malaysia-based Almoheet Oud Company, said that natural oud is produced from trees over 70 years old, without any improvements or enhancements.
However, some oud investors add lead or dye to add weight or to make the product “more dense,” he said, warning that it is extremely difficult to tell altered oud from the original.
The most common scam is increasing the weight of an oud product to boost its price, he said.
“Some stores would rather cheat to make quick profits than stay authentic.”
Al-Falahi advised buyers to test only two types of oud when they visit a store in order to judge the difference between the scents and to see if the fragrance lingers for the desired amount of time.


Pilgrims ‘do not need to test, isolate’ after Hajj

Worshippers perform the farewell tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Makkah on July 22, 2021, marking the end of this year's Hajj. (AFP)
Worshippers perform the farewell tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Makkah on July 22, 2021, marking the end of this year's Hajj. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Pilgrims ‘do not need to test, isolate’ after Hajj

Worshippers perform the farewell tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Makkah on July 22, 2021, marking the end of this year's Hajj. (AFP)
  • Nearly 24 million people in Saudi Arabia received a jab against COVID-19

JEDDAH: Pilgrims returning home from Hajj do no need to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or isolate upon arrival, said Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Health for Preventive Affairs Dr. Abdullah Asiri.

“Some returnees from Hajj this year are asking about the need for COVID-19 tests or isolation upon their return to their families,” he said. “Since all pilgrims and Hajj workers received vaccines, there is no need for examination or isolation, unless they show symptoms of coronavirus disease within the first two weeks.”
Meanwhile, 92 percent of those who said they would get the vaccine did so. “The three most important motives that persuaded the hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccines are: First, conviction and family support after one or more members have taken the vaccine. Second, national and societal sense of responsibility, and finally, economic reasons,” Asiri added.

Almost 60,000 pilgrims left Makkah after the completion the Hajj 2021. (SPA)

According to a report by Kaiser Family Foundation titled “Vaccine Monitor: In Their Own Words, Six Months Later,” people who did not get the vaccine were either teenagers because of their parents’ convictions, the least educated in society, ethnic minorities, or those who do not have health insurance.

INNUMBERS

515,693 Total cases

496,810 Recoveries

8,141 Deaths

10,742 Active cases

“There are three main reasons for refusing the vaccine: Fear of side effects, doubt about the adequacy of studies about the vaccine, and believing that there is no need for a vaccine,” Assiri added.
Speaking of the delta variant, Assiri said: “Delta reformulates the calculations; immunity from natural infections is no longer sufficient and completing the two doses has become a necessity.”
He added that the worst of the pandemic was over in countries that provided vaccines to most of their residents. “We will not witness, God willing, a return to waves of severe disease and deaths.”
The total number of people in the country who have to date received a jab against COVID-19 has reached 23,848,177, including 1,426,140 who are elderly.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 11 more COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, taking the overall toll to 8,141.
There were 1,247 new cases, meaning that 515,693 people in the country have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,742 cases remained active, of which 1,383 patients were in critical condition.
Of the new cases, 263 were in Riyadh region, 211 in the Eastern Province, 209 in Makkah region, and 68 in Madinah region.
In addition, the Ministry of Health said 1,160 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 496,810.
Saudi Arabia had so far conducted 24,195,410 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, with 90,128 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


What We Are Reading Today: Theory and Credibility

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Photo/Supplied
Updated 1 min 21 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Theory and Credibility

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  • This authoritative book covers the conceptual foundations and practicalities of both model building and research design, providing a new framework to link theory and empirics

Authors: Scott Ashworth, Christopher R.Berry and Ethan Bueno de Mesquita

The credibility revolution, with its emphasis on empirical methods for causal inference, has led to concerns among scholars that the canonical questions about politics and society are being neglected because they are no longer deemed answerable. Theory and Credibility stakes out an opposing view—presenting a new vision of how, working together, the credibility revolution and formal theory can advance social scientific inquiry.
This authoritative book covers the conceptual foundations and practicalities of both model building and research design, providing a new framework to link theory and empirics. Drawing on diverse examples from political science, it presents a typology of the rich set of interactions that are possible between theory and empirics. This typology opens up new ways for scholars to make progress on substantive questions, and enables researchers from disparate traditions to gain a deeper appreciation for each other’s work and why it matters.


Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate’s series of Eid celebrations brought community together

On the first day of Eid, ‘Party Buses’ were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to children. (SPA)
On the first day of Eid, ‘Party Buses’ were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to children. (SPA)
Updated 24 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate’s series of Eid celebrations brought community together

On the first day of Eid, ‘Party Buses’ were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to children. (SPA)
  • Throughout the week, the DGDA launched an exciting interactive QR activation in five of Diriyah’s parks

RIYADH: To celebrate Eid, the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) launched a series of initiatives to distribute gifts and run events for the enjoyment of the entire community.
Earlier in July, a cattle market was established in front of the Diriyah butcher shop to ease access to livestock for the sacrificial feast; wool was collected from the livestock in collaboration with Diriyah municipality, to be recycled.
On the first day of Eid, the DGDA distributed 1,500 first aid kits after Eid prayers to the community, anticipating that some may not have access appropriate medical supplies.
Eid prayers were held in the following six mosques in Diriyah: Imam Mohammad Bin Saud, Modi Al-Othman, Ibrahim bin Sulaiman, Abdulmohsen Al-Suailim, Munirah Al-Nasser, and Al-Khaliah, and following the prayers the DGDA distributed a boxes of chocolates to attendees in celebration.
On the first day of Eid, “Party Buses” were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to passersby to celebrate the joyous occasion. Chocolates were also delivered to houses across the area.

HIGHLIGHT

The Diriyah Gate Development Authority distributed 1,500 first aid kits after Eid prayers to the community, anticipating that some may not have access appropriate medical supplies.

Throughout the week, the DGDA launched an exciting interactive QR activation in five of Diriyah’s parks. Users could scan the code to download special content including information on the history of Eid in the Kingdom and in Diriyah specifically.
“At this time for reflection and starting afresh, we wanted to celebrate with the local Diriyah community by ensuring this Eid was one to remember,” said Ahlam Althunayan, director of community engagement at the DGDA.
“Eid is a momentous and joyous occasion shared with family and friends, and I’m delighted to see the success of these wonderful activations during the week of Eid.
“DGDA always looks to support and engage the local community; there’s no better time to bring people together than during this celebratory week.”


Bangladesh imposes strict COVID-19 lockdown after lifting rules for Eid

Security personnel positioned on the road to enforce a lockdown imposed by the Bangladesh's government to curb the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus in Dhaka on July 23, 2021. (AFP)
Security personnel positioned on the road to enforce a lockdown imposed by the Bangladesh's government to curb the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus in Dhaka on July 23, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 6 min 3 sec ago

Bangladesh imposes strict COVID-19 lockdown after lifting rules for Eid

Security personnel positioned on the road to enforce a lockdown imposed by the Bangladesh's government to curb the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus in Dhaka on July 23, 2021. (AFP)
  • A strict curfew for four weeks and acceleration of mass vaccination may help Bangladesh control the delta variant by September

DHAKA: Bangladesh on Friday imposed a two-week nationwide lockdown after having eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions to allow millions of people to travel for Eid Al-Adha celebrations.
Authorities had lifted measures on July 13 in consideration of “the need to maintain normal economic activity” and allow for the second-most important religious holiday in the Muslim-majority country to go ahead relatively unhindered, despite a surge in virus cases and deaths.
The highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 has contributed toward pushing up the rate of positive tests in the south Asian nation to more than 31 percent.
At least 1.14 million people among Bangladesh’s population of 169 million have contracted the virus since the pandemic outbreak and nearly 19,000 have died, 166 in the past 24 hours. However, figures on recorded cases and deaths are thought to be grossly underreported.
Farhad Hossain, state minister for public administration, said on Thursday the latest lockdown would be stricter than before, with not only all government and private offices shut, but also garment factories. During the previous lockdown, the garment sector, which is the country’s largest source of income, was allowed to operate.

FASTFACT

National 2-week shutdown will see all businesses, including garment sector, close as virus cases, deaths surge.

“Offices, courts, garment factories, and all other export-oriented industries, everything to be precise, will remain closed,” Hossain added.
He pointed out that those who had traveled to their villages for Eid, would not be allowed to return to the cities until Aug. 5.
Although the lockdown is now again in place, health experts fear damage will already have been done by the government’s decision to lift preventive rules for Eid.
Prof. Dr. Alamgir Chowdhury, principal scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told Arab News: “The lockdown restrictions were lifted at a moment when we just started noticing a downward trend in the positivity rate.
“But now it will increase again, as people from the cities rushed to their villages, flouting health and safety protocols in the last week.”
And Prof. Dr. A.S.M. Amanullah, a public health expert at the University of Dhaka, said that while the country was currently recording between 10,000 and 15,000 new daily infections, the real figures were likely to be “much higher.”
“In this situation, lockdown may not work to bring the infection rate down. A strict curfew for four weeks and acceleration of mass vaccination may help Bangladesh control the delta variant by September.
“It was not wise to relax the lockdown restrictions during Eid Al-Adha. Health authorities didn’t care about the advice of the national COVID-19 control committee. As a result, it is only a matter of time before there is a surge in new infections, probably in the next two weeks,” he added.
While businesses are expecting huge losses from the lockdown, especially in the garment industry, some economists claim the situation would have been worse had there been no restrictions.
Dr. Mostafizur Rahman, of the Center for Policy Dialogue, an NGO involved in economic research, said: “Bangladesh needs a circuit-breaker for this second wave of coronavirus. If this wave continues for a longer period, the country may face a negative branding as a hotspot of COVID-19 infections which will be even worse in the long run.”
He noted that the government had taken some difficult decisions, especially as the country had received numerous apparel orders for the coming winter season.
“To make up for the losses of this lockdown, manufacturers may consider increasing working shifts at their factories. Some factories may require air shipments to meet buyer delivery times and the government may facilitate this.
“Port facilities should also be prepared on a high-priority basis for exporting the garment products while the lockdown is lifted,” Rahman added.