Albaik fried chicken opens first branches outside Saudi Arabia

Albaik fried chicken opens first branches outside Saudi Arabia
Albaik is also a popular draw for pilgrims to the holy cities, who often fondly associate the taste with their pilgrimages. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 December 2020

Albaik fried chicken opens first branches outside Saudi Arabia

Albaik fried chicken opens first branches outside Saudi Arabia
  • The two new branches are located in Sultan Mall, and at the Bahrain International Airport
  • The restaurant chain was created in 1974 as the Kingdom’s answer to American brand Kentucky Fried Chicken

RIYADH: The west coast’s famous fried chicken has made its way to foreign shores, as one of Saudi Arabia’s most popular fast-food brands — Albaik — opens two new branches in the kingdom of Bahrain.

The company originally made the announcement in November of 2018 via Twitter. “In line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which encouraged local businesses to expand internationally, Albaik was able to sign a lease for the first branch of the restaurant in the Kingdom of Bahrain,” the statement said.

The two new branches are located in Sultan Mall, and at the Bahrain International Airport. While the Sultan Mall branch is officially open for business, the chain announced on Twitter that the airport location would be open soon.

The restaurant chain was created in 1974 as the Kingdom’s answer to American brand Kentucky Fried Chicken. For the majority of those 46 years, Albaik operated purely on the west coast of Saudi Arabia, with locations in Jeddah, Makkah, and Al-Madinah.

Travelers to those cities would often stock up on tinfoil packets of fried chicken, the brand’s famous spicy nuggets, and piles of golden, crispy-fried shrimp before boarding their planes. It was not uncommon to see them transporting the food in carry-on luggage, or in tightly tied plastic bags, taking them back to other parts of the Kingdom, often to the chagrin of other passengers as the smell permeated the planes.

The exclusivity also created a new trend of hawkers in the capital who would carry out “chicken runs.” Opportunist buyers would often drive to a city with a branch of Albaik, stock up on produce and drive back to Riyadh with boxes to sell at exorbitant prices out of the backs of trucks on the side of the road.

However, both trends died out when Albaik began expanding outside the western region, with branches opening in Riyadh and Alkharj in 2018, a pop-up in Jubail during the March 2019 “Sharqiah Season,” and another branch in Dammam in August 2019.

Albaik, similarly to KFC, has a “secret blend” of herbs and spices they use to flavor their chicken, giving the products a unique taste that has yet to be successfully replicated — although it didn’t stop people from trying. Prior to the first branch opening in Riyadh, a number of copycat restaurants operated in the capital, sporting red-and-yellow signs with names like “Albaak” or “Albaiq.” Some even featured similar-looking chickens, and in one case, a duck wearing a top hat.

Albaik is also a popular draw for pilgrims to the holy cities, who often fondly associate the taste with their pilgrimages to Makkah and Al-Madinah.

Taking all the above into consideration, it’s no surprise that the Kingdom is one of the world’s largest consumers of poultry products. According to GlobeNewswire, the Saudi Arabian poultry market is expected to grow at a compound rate of 3.47 percent over the next five years.


Saudi Aramco investors expect profit surge after strong first half

Saudi Aramco investors expect profit surge after strong first half
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Aramco investors expect profit surge after strong first half

Saudi Aramco investors expect profit surge after strong first half
  • Investors looking for news on size of dividend
  • JP Morgan predicts $23.7bn of net income

DUBAI: The oil reporting season will reach a climax next week with the announcement of first half results from the biggest company in the sector, Saudi Aramco.

With strong crude prices for most of the six months to June 30, and rising output as OPEC+ constraints were steadily lifted during the period, analysts are expecting a big increase in profits from the Saudi oil giant.

Analyst Christian Malek at JP Morgan is forecasting around $23.7bn of net income, a huge jump on the $6.6bn Aramco reported last year after the oil price collapsed as the COVID-19 pandemic severely hit demand.

“Against a positively trending demand/price backdrop, we expect a robust quarterly net income print from Aramco,” Malek said in a recent report to investors.

Higher oil prices, seasonally higher gas volumes, strong conditions in the petrochemical business and higher throughput from the start up of the Jazan facility will contribute to a strong first half performance, he added.

But analysts will also be looking for news on the dividend. At the time of its flotation in late 2019, Aramco promised at least $75bn per year in payouts to shareholders, but there is increasing speculation that the company might pay a higher special dividend for the first half, buoyed by strong financials. Other big oil companies like Shell, BP and Total all announced measures to boost shareholder returns in results this week.

“There is a logic to the argument for a special dividend this time round,” Malek told Arab News. “Aramco has done fantastically well consolidating fiscally. The majors in the oil sector have all been looking at ways of returning cash to shareholders, and there is no reason Aramco should be an exception.”

Other analysts agreed that there was scope for Aramco to boost its dividend.

“Aramco has had a fantastic year so far, and the results will be good,” said Ranjith Raja, head of MENA oil and shipping research at data group Refinitiv. “Other oil companies announced dividend increases or share buy-backs, so why not Aramco? They would not only be meeting the $75bn promise, but going beyond that, which would be very good for investor sentiment.”

In a program of investor and media calls after the results are announced on Sunday, analysts will ask CEO Amin Nasser about plans for further asset sales after the disposal of a stake in its pipeline business earlier this year, and for an update on the renewed talks about a link-up with Indian refining and petrochemicals group Reliance Industries.

They will also seek guidance on the progress of plans to sell another tranche of shares in Aramco, believed to be under consideration at the company.

Aramco’s finances are regarded as especially strong in a global oil sector that is just beginning to recover from the pandemic recession.

Last week, ratings agency Fitch upgraded Aramco’s status from negative to stable, explaining “Saudi Aramco’s financial profile is conservative compared with that of international integrated oil producers.”

Aramco’s Tadawul-traded shares fell 1.9 percent on Aug. 3 to SR38.25 a piece.


Standard Chartered posts highest half-year MENA profit in 5 years

Standard Chartered posts highest half-year MENA profit in 5 years
Updated 03 August 2021

Standard Chartered posts highest half-year MENA profit in 5 years

Standard Chartered posts highest half-year MENA profit in 5 years
  • MENA operating profit reaches $476 million, up from $91 million a year earlier
  • MENA income was flat, rose 6 percent in Africa

JEDDAH: Standard Chartered Bank reported its biggest half-year operating profit in the Middle East and North Africa for five years as wealth management income increased and credit impairments fell.

The emerging market-focused lender posted an operating profit in MENA of $476 million in the six months to the end of June, up from $91 million a year earlier, it said in a statement. Globally, it reported a 57 percent increase in pretax profit to $2.55 billion, announced a $250 million share buyback and a $94 million dividend.

Income in the MENA region was flat year on year after being impacted by rate cuts and currency devaluation, which provided a drag of about 8 percent, the bank said. Income in Africa grew by 6 percent on a constant currency basis.

There was a significant improvement in the bank’s return on tangible equity in the region, and it reported a “great turnaround story in the UAE, with significantly improved returns.”

“This is the result of all the hard work the team has put in over the years and the execution of some tough decisions we made to drive efficiencies and reduce risk,” said Sunil Kaushal, regional CEO, Africa and Middle East. “This has happened during a period when the backdrop, while improving, remains uncertain and challenging and is a true testament to the resilience of our underlying business.”

“We are excited about the recent expansion of our network into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We will leverage our presence in the Kingdom to promote trade, investment and capital flows in support of the Saudi Vision 2030.”

Standard Chartered has launched digital banking platforms in nine key African Markets – Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria – the adoption of which has been accelerated by the pandemic, the bank said.


Saudi Arabia’s financial wealth exceeds $1tn as next generation takes over

Saudi Arabia’s financial wealth exceeds $1tn as next generation takes over
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia’s financial wealth exceeds $1tn as next generation takes over

Saudi Arabia’s financial wealth exceeds $1tn as next generation takes over
  • Wealth to grow 4.1 percent annually through 2025
  • Saudi Arabia represents 45 percent of GCC financial wealth

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s financial wealth is expected to grow by 4.2 percent annually over the next five years, hitting $1.2 trillion in 2025 as the Kingdom sees more young people take over ventures, according to a study by Boston Consultancy Group (BCG).

The Kingdom’s wealth grew by 4.1 percent on annual basis from 2015 to hit $1 trillion in 2020, 84 percent of which is investable wealth, the report said, noting the Kingdom’s resilience in the face of the protracted COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Saudi Arabia represented 45 percent of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) $2.2 trillion in 2020 of financial wealth, which is forecast to reach $2.7 trillion in 2025, BCG said.

The rise of the next-generation affluent and high-net-worth clients will have impact on the business landscape, BGC said in the report. These individuals, between 20 and 50 years of age, have longer investment horizons, a greater appetite for risk, and often a desire to use their wealth to create positive societal impact as well as earn solid returns, it said.

However, many wealth managers are not yet ready to serve the new young business leaders.

“Saudi Arabia’s growth of wealth has proven to be robust, springing back from challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mustafa Bosca, managing director and partner at BCG.

“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 has been a driving force to increasing economic productivity, which also is allowing Saudis to participate in an ever-more-global economy which has enabled growth in wealth despite the many economic disruptions that have occurred in recent times,” he said.


Bahri profit falls 93 percent in H1 as oil transport revenue slumps

Bahri profit falls 93 percent in H1 as oil transport revenue slumps
Updated 03 August 2021

Bahri profit falls 93 percent in H1 as oil transport revenue slumps

Bahri profit falls 93 percent in H1 as oil transport revenue slumps
  • Profit decline attributed to 67 percent drop in oil-transport revenue

JEDDAH: Profits at Bahri, formerly The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, dropped 93 percent in the first half of the year as revenue from transporting oil slumped on lower volumes and prices.

Net profit after zakat and tax of SR82.5 million ($22 million) compared with SR1.18 billion in the same period a year earlier, Bahri said in a filing to the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul. Total revenue of SR2.48 billion represented a decline of 56 percent on the first six months of 2020.

The drop in profit was attributed to a 67 percent slump in revenue from shipping oil due to the sharp drop in transportation rates and operations.

However, an increase in bunker subsidies and other income along with decrease in zakat and income tax, financing expenses and the provision on trade receivables and contract assets, helped offset the fall in oil-related revenue, the company said.

Bahri, established in 1978 as a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and the Public Investment Fund, owns and manages a fleet of 89 tankers and container ships dedicated to transporting oil, petrochemicals, dry bulk and other cargo.

The company's shares fell 1.9 percent to SR38.25 as of 3:12 p.m. in Riyadh. 


Oman adjusts electricity tariffs to ease burden on citizens

Oman adjusts electricity tariffs to ease burden on citizens
Updated 03 August 2021

Oman adjusts electricity tariffs to ease burden on citizens

Oman adjusts electricity tariffs to ease burden on citizens
  • Oman has been pushing through reforms to ease pressure on public finances

DUBAI: Oman has adjusted its electricity tariffs structure to offer consumers on lower rates more supply, a government official said on Monday, following consumer complaints about steep summer bills.
Household energy costs are sensitive in a country that recently saw protests over unemployment.
The government also wants to keep the public onside as the Gulf state’s ruling sultan, who assumed power last year, continues to push through reforms to ease pressure on public finances in the debt-burdened state. They include a value-added tax, introduced in April, and overhauling an expensive subsidies system.
A Public Services Regulation Authority official told a news briefing that after receiving over 5,000 complaints, authorities had decided to expand consumption categories for households in a move that would be applied retroactively to cover May and June.
Under the adjustment, consumers paying a tariff of 12 baisas ($0.03) per kilowatt/hour (kw/h) will now be able to get up to 4,000 kw/h of electricity, up from a previous cap of 2,000 kw/h.
Consumers paying a tariff of 16 baisas per kw/h will now be able to get up to 6,000 kw/h, against up to 4,000 kw/h previously.
“Most citizens fall under these two segments,” Authority head Mansoor Al-Hinai told reporters.
He said the body has instructed licensed firms to restore services cut off due to late bill payments during the summer.
Protests in May by hundreds of Omanis seeking employment had subsided after Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, facing his biggest challenge yet, ordered acceleration of government plans to create thousands of jobs and amid a security crackdown.