EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants

EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants
An activist from the global citizens movement Avaaz, wearing a mask of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, during a protest in Brussels. (AP)
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Updated 16 December 2020

EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants

EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants
  • The EU outlined its long-awaited sweeping overhaul of digital regulations

BRUSSELS: The EU on Tuesday unveiled tough draft rules targeting tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, whose power Brussels sees as a threat to competition and even democracy.
The landmark proposals, which come as Silicon Valley faces increasing global scrutiny, could shake up the way Big Tech does business by menacing some of the world’s biggest firms with mammoth fines or bans from the European market.
EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said the bloc’s draft laws to regulate the internet aimed to bring “order to chaos” and rein in the online “gatekeepers” that dominate the market.
“The Digital Service Act and Digital Markets Act will create safe and trustworthy services while protecting freedom of expression,” she told a press conference.
The EU says the legislation would see internet behemoths face fines of up to 10 percent of their turnover for breaking some of the most serious competition rules, or even risk being broken up.
It also proposes fining them 6 percent of revenues or temporarily banning them from the EU market “in the event of serious and repeated breaches of law which endanger the security of European citizens.”
The Digital Services Act and its accompanying Digital Markets Act will lay out strict conditions for doing business in the EU’s 27 member countries as authorities aim to curb the spread of disinformation and hate speech online, as well as Big Tech’s business dominance.
A source close to the European Commission said 10 firms face being designated as “gatekeepers” under the competition legislation and subject to specific regulations to limit their power to dominate markets.
The firms that would be subject to stricter regulation are US titans Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and SnapChat, China’s Alibaba and Bytedance, South Korea’s Samsung and the Netherlands’ Booking.com.
Search engine Google said it will carefully study the proposals, but complained that they “seem to specifically target a handful of companies.”
The draft laws will go through a long and complex ratification process, with the EU’s 27 states, the European Parliament, and a lobbying frenzy of companies and trade associations influencing the final law.
The Digital Services Act is being touted as a way to give the European Commission sharper teeth in pursuing social media platforms when they allow illegal content online, such as extremist propaganda, hate speech, disinformation and child pornography.
Under the Digital Markets Act, the EU is seeking to give Brussels new powers to enforce competition laws more quickly, and to push for greater transparency in their algorithms and use of personal data.
The rules are designed to update legislation that dates back to 2004, when many of today’s internet giants either did not exist or were in their infancy.
A Facebook spokesperson said the proposed regulations “are on the right track to help preserve what is good about the internet,” and insisted it looks forward “to engaging with EU lawmakers.”
The social network took aim at fellow tech giant Apple, insisting it wants the rules to “set boundaries” for the iPhone maker, with which it has tussled over privacy.
Activist group Avaaz said the legislation could prove a “bold and brave move,” but insisted Brussels must make sure it is fully enforced.
“This is a strong framework and the EU has the heft and democratic values to hold the platforms to account, regulate the reach of disinformation and protect the free speech of the users,” legal director Sarah Andrew said.
European Parliament member David Cormand, who sits on its internal market committee, said the legislation is a “step in the right direction” but lacks the ambition to “regain power over our digital services.”
For the past decade the EU has taken the lead worldwide in trying to grapple with the power of Big Tech, for example slapping billions in antitrust fines on Google, but critics believe the method has been too cumbersome and has done little to change behavior.
The EU has also ordered Apple to pay billions of euros in back taxes to Ireland, but that decision was quashed by the bloc’s highest court.
Tuesday’s moves in Brussels come as regulators around the world have increasingly become concerned about the financial and social power of Big Tech.
US authorities have taken up the call, with several major antitrust cases targeting Google in addition to a legal bid to strip Facebook of its Instagram and WhatsApp products.
Britain’s government was on Tuesday also expected to announce proposed legislation to tackle “online harms” by introducing the threat of fines for internet giants.


A year later, stc-Vodafone Egypt deal still making headlines despite fallout

A year later, stc-Vodafone Egypt deal still making headlines despite fallout
Updated 27 September 2021

A year later, stc-Vodafone Egypt deal still making headlines despite fallout

A year later, stc-Vodafone Egypt deal still making headlines despite fallout
  • Telecom Egypt doesn't have any knowledge of stc resuming acquisition negotiations with Vodafone Egypt

CAIRO: Almost a year passed since talks between stc, and Vodafone International Group ended without reaching an agreement on stake sales in the Egyptian unit to the Saudi largest mobile operator, however, the deal still makes headlines.

Few days ago, CNBC Arabiya TV quoted sources saying that negotiations between STC and the Vodafone Group are back on the table after negotiations fell through in December.

The network said that the Saudi company is looking to secure a soft loan of about $1.1 billion to finance the deal using part of the liquidity available to it, and another part of the global debt markets.

Telecom Egypt - the largest telephone operator in Egypt - denied knowledge of renewed negotiations between stc and the Vodafone Group to acquire its stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In a bourse filing, Telecom Egypt attached four previous statements it issued regarding the deal during the period from January 29, 2020 to June 7, 2021, denying its knowledge of any recent developments.

Ayman Essam, head of the External and Legal Relations Sector at Vodafone Egypt, denied the existence of any ongoing talks at the present time between the Vodafone International Group and stc.

In an official statement, Essam affirmed Vodafone's commitment to the Egyptian market and work to provide a distinguished service to its customers, pointing out that his company recently obtained a new frequency package to improve the service, in addition to pumping several investments in the field of network, digital transformation and a number of financial inclusion projects in Egypt.

Negotiations to acquire Vodafone’s 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt began in January 2020, for $2.39 billion, according to a non-binding preliminary agreement signed at the time with stc.

Vodafone International agreed to enable the Saudi company to carry out the due diligence process for a period of 75 days, which can be extended, and in April 2020 stc requested an extension until June due to the repercussions of the coronavirus, and then the deadline was pushed again to September 12.

In September of last year, stc said that the period of the memorandum of understanding signed with Vodafone Egypt ended without reaching an agreement but the dialogue was open between the two parties.


Saudi investment chief Al-Falih in Kazakhstan to strengthen economic ties

Saudi investment chief Al-Falih in Kazakhstan to strengthen economic ties
Updated 27 September 2021

Saudi investment chief Al-Falih in Kazakhstan to strengthen economic ties

Saudi investment chief Al-Falih in Kazakhstan to strengthen economic ties

RIYADH: Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih met Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Prime Minister Askar Mamin during an official visit to the country on Sunday. 
The two sides discussed ways to enhance bilateral ties and bolster cooperation in different sectors. 
The Saudi delegation met government officials and representatives of major Kazakh companies. 
The visit aims to enhance economic ties between the two countries. During the 5th meeting of the Saudi-Kazakhstan Joint Committee, Al-Falih stressed the importance of promoting mutual and joint investments in the two countries and taking advantage of the available opportunities, especially as the Kingdom’s economy opened its door to foreign investments in several areas.
Al-Falih will also attend the signing of an MoU between the National Companies Entrepreneurship Program of the Ministry of Investment and Kazakh Invest.

 

 

 

 


Saudi stock market inches higher

Saudi stock market inches higher
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi stock market inches higher

Saudi stock market inches higher

RIYADH: The Tadawul All Share Index ended Sunday’s trading 0.73 percent higher with 82.29 points while the parallel market Nomu declined by 195.17 points or 0.78 percent.

Liquidity in Nomu amounted to about SR35 million whereas liquidity in the main market “TASI” remained around SR6 billion with 169.4 million shares traded, in 243,8000 deals.
Shares of 115 companies increased while stocks of 71 firms declined.

Twelve out of the 21 market sectors rose with basic materials up 2.5 percent, media and entertainment 1.7 percent, long-term and capital goods 0.9 percent.

While the remaining 9 sectors declined. Shares in the investment and finance sector dropped by 1.2 percent, communications 1 percent, and applications and technical services 0.8 percent.


Oman Air seeks oneworld alliance membership

Oman Air seeks oneworld alliance membership
Updated 26 September 2021

Oman Air seeks oneworld alliance membership

Oman Air seeks oneworld alliance membership

DUBAI: State-owned Oman Air announced on Sunday its intention to apply to join the oneworld global airline alliance and said it had asked fellow Gulf carrier and member Qatar Airways to help it.

Oman Air said it had approached Qatar Airways, whose chief executive Akbar Al-Baker is the chairman of the airline group, for guidance in making its application.

“As the industry recovers from COVID, airline alliances are going to be more important than ever,” the airline said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

“This will provide us with excellent global connectivity, a seamless travel experience and more valuable loyalty offerings for our guests.”

A oneworld spokesman said the alliance was at any time in talks with prospective members but that it did not comment on specific airlines.

“As airlines recover from COVID-19, alliances will become more important by providing global connectivity, as airlines reshape their networks, many with reduced fleets when compared to their pre-COVID size,” the onewolrd spokesman said.

A Qatar Airways spokesperson earlier referred comment to oneworld.

There are 14 airlines in the oneworld alliance, including Qantas, American Airlines and British Airways.

Qatar Airways holds direct and indirect stakes in three oneworld members, including British Airways and Cathay Pacific.


Saudi Arabia’s real estate deals rise by 19%

Saudi Arabia’s  real estate deals rise by 19%
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s real estate deals rise by 19%

Saudi Arabia’s  real estate deals rise by 19%

RIYADH: The value of real estate transactions in Saudi Arabia increased by 19 percent to approximately SR15.59 billion ($4.1 billion) in the period between August and September, as compared to SR13.12 billion in the same period last year, Argaam reported citing figures issued by the Justice Ministry.
The number of real estate transactions recorded during the same period stood at around 20,900.
Commercial real estate deals rose by 93 percent to reach SR5.2 billion compared to the same period last year. 
Residential real estate deals represented 58.3 percent of the total transactions, commercial deals (33.4 percent), and agricultural and industrial deals stood at 8.3 percent.
Riyadh witnessed the largest number of real estate deals worth SR6.88 billion, followed by Jeddah at SR2.21 billion.