Digital payments in Saudi Arabia surge by 75% amid pandemic

 Digital payment transactions in the Kingdom jumped by 75 percent in 2020 as Saudi consumers embraced online shopping during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Digital payment transactions in the Kingdom jumped by 75 percent in 2020 as Saudi consumers embraced online shopping during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
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Updated 08 January 2021

Digital payments in Saudi Arabia surge by 75% amid pandemic

 Digital payment transactions in the Kingdom jumped by 75 percent in 2020 as Saudi consumers embraced online shopping during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Number of cash withdrawals fell by a third in 2020

RIYADH: Digital payment transactions in the Kingdom jumped by 75 percent in 2020 as Saudi consumers embraced online shopping during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, while cash withdrawals from ATMs and other payment points fell 30 percent over the same period.

Point of sale (PoS) refers to a place where customers can execute payments for goods or services. This can be a credit card in a clothes store, a digital payment in a coffee shop or through a food delivery app.

Speaking to Arab News, Talat Zaki Hafiz, economist and secretary-general of the media and banking awareness committee for Saudi banks, said: “The total number of the PoS operations in 2020 amounted to about 2.8 billion, an increase of 75 percent compared with the same period in the previous year.”

The value of operations amounted to about SR349 billion ($93.7 billion), an increase of nearly 24.1 percent compared with the same period in 2019, he said.

Consequently, the number of PoS devices operating in the Kingdom rose sharply by the end of 2020 to more than 700,000, an increase of about 70 percent since the beginning of the year.

As consumers turned to online and digital non-contact payments during the pandemic, the number of cash withdrawals carried out in 2020 across the Kingdom dropped by more than 318 million, or about 30 percent year-on-year.

“These statistics and indices confirm the increasing and steady demand by people and businesses to use e-payment technologies through PoS devices,” Hafiz said.

“The measures taken by the government in various sectors, including health and banking, to encourage e-payments have had positive effects and helped to reduce the negative impact of the coronavirus on the country and its people, including businesses.”

He said that the trend of increased online shopping and e-payment will continue even after the coronavirus crisis ends.

More than 60 percent of Saudis are under 30, “which means that society is more geared toward electronic dealings and electronic banking,” he added.

Hafiz said that a main objective of the Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) — one of 13 executive programs launched by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs to achieve the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 — is to reduce the amount of cash being used in the Kingdom by developing the national finance infrastructure to allow a transition to e-payments.

Moving toward a cashless society will deliver multiple benefits for the Saudi economy, including cost reductions associated with printing traditional money, as well as providing greater transparency in government monitoring of cash flows for taxation purposes and combating commercial concealment, he said.

Non-cash transactions are expected to make up to 70 percent of all transactions by 2030, Hafiz said.

Evidence of the growing preference for e-commerce over cash was seen during the Black Friday sales late last year. A survey carried out by advertising platform Criteo of 900 Saudi online consumers found that around 40 percent of respondents said they planned to buy more products online, with household products, groceries, and beauty and hygiene items proving most popular.

Alistair Burton, country manager MEA at Criteo, said: “The events of 2020 made it an extraordinary year for e-commerce. Our research shows that this year consumers will swap door-buster deals for online discounts that start sooner and last longer.”

Overall, the research found that 58 percent of Saudi respondents were more comfortable shopping online in 2020 than in-store.

The surge in online interest has not only helped the banking sector. In November, Amazon announced it had created 3,400 new jobs across the Kingdom, with 60 percent of the positions going to Saudi nationals.

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Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel

Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel
Updated 08 May 2021

Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel

Dubai hub private jet traffic quadruples as Gulf high fliers return to travel
  • After years in the doldrums, the private jet sector is rebounding strongly as Gulf operators report rising bookings and plane makers unveil new aircraft

DUBAI: Private jet traffic at one Dubai airport more than quadrupled in the first quarter as the sector rebounds strongly amid reduced commercial airline capacity.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub in Dubai South recorded a 336 percent increase in private jet traffic in the first three months of this year, totaling 4,904 charters, it said on Saturday.
"We look forward to sustaining the momentum of aircraft movements as Dubai gears up to welcoming the world to Expo 2020 in October," said Tahnoon Saif, CEO of Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub.

After years in the doldrums, the private jet sector is rebounding strongly as Gulf operators report rising bookings and plane makers unveil new aircraft such as Dassault's $75 million 10X that has been dubbed "the flying penthouse."

The Falcon 10X will be the company’s most powerful model when it goes into service in late 2025, with a range of 13,890 kilometers, and compete with high-end models offered by Canada's Bombardier and General Dynamics unit Gulfstream. It will come equipped with Rolls-Royce Pearl engines designed to run entirely on sustainable aviation fuel.

Regional carriers including Qatar Airways are also promoting their private jet charter units as scheduled air travel remains under pressure because of pandemic-related flying restrictions.

Charter jet movements at the Dubai hub’s VIP Terminal come from its four operators Jetex Executive Aviation, Jet Aviation, DC Aviation, and ExecuJet Middle East.
US-based firm General Dynamics said last week it recorded a surge in demand for private jets, in part due to increasing hopes of economic recovery following mass COVID-19 vaccination drives.
The company’s business jet deliveries increased to 28 units from 23 a year earlier, as travel restrictions gradually ease.
India has also become a lucrative market for private jet charter companies as wealthy expatriates seek to escape the deadly spike in COVID-19 infections in the country.
New Delhi-based JetSetGo has seen rising demand among the country's rich.
The company’s bookings jumped 900 percent in recent weeks, CNBC reported


Egypt’s economy to rebound from 2022, S&P Ratings says

Egypt’s economy to rebound from 2022, S&P Ratings says
Updated 08 May 2021

Egypt’s economy to rebound from 2022, S&P Ratings says

Egypt’s economy to rebound from 2022, S&P Ratings says
  • Real GDP growth will average 5.3 percent between 2022 and 2024

DUBAI: Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth will begin to rebound from 2022 onward on its foreign reserve buffers and debt market access, ratings agency S&P Global said, as it affirmed the country’s credit rating at “B/B” with a stable outlook.
Real GDP growth will average 5.3 percent between 2022 and 2024, S&P forecasts, due to higher public and private investment.
That compares to an expected 2.5 percent growth in 2021, where the impact of the pandemic was felt in full force, affecting major sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, and construction.
Still, S&P’s rating of the North African country is constrained by its wide fiscal deficit, large public debt and low-income levels.
But ongoing fiscal and economic reforms present strong medium-term growth prospects for Egypt, the new report said, and recovering growth and lower domestic interest rates will put the debt ratio back on a downward path.
“We expect Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves and access to domestic and external debt markets will allow it to cover higher external financing needs and upcoming maturities,” the report added.
Remittance inflow into the country will remain at high levels, and higher oil prices this year will have a balanced impact on its hydrocarbon exports and imports.
Egypt’s main sources of foreign exchange will remain under pressure, the report warned, as tourism and Suel Canal receipts still struggle amid the pandemic.


US job growth far below expectations

US job growth far below expectations
The unemployment rate rose to 6.1% in April from 6% in March. (Reuters)
Updated 08 May 2021

US job growth far below expectations

US job growth far below expectations
  • Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 266,000 jobs last month after rising by 770,000 in March, says Labor Department

WASHINGTON: US employers hired far fewer workers than expected in April, likely frustrated by labor shortages, leaving them scrambling to met booming demand as the economy reopens amid rapidly improving public health and massive financial help from the government.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 266,000 jobs last month after rising by 770,000 in March, the Labor Department said in its closely watched employment report on Friday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls advancing by 978,000 jobs.
The jobs report, the first since the White House’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 pandemic rescue package was approved in March, will probably do little to change expectations that the economy entered the second quarter with strong momentum and was on track for its best performance this year in almost four decades.
Twelve months ago, the economy purged a record 20.679 million jobs as it reeled from mandatory closures of nonessential businesses to slow the first wave of COVID-19 infections. New claims for unemployment benefits have dropped below 500,000 for the first-time since the pandemic started.
Americans over the age of 16 are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, leading states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to lift most of their coronavirus capacity restrictions on businesses.
But the resulting burst in demand, which contributed to the economy’s 6.4 percent annualized growth pace in the first quarter, the second-fastest since the third quarter of 2003, has triggered shortages of labor and raw materials.

SPEEDREAD

● The jobs report will probably do little to change expectations that the economy entered the second quarter with strong momentum and was on track for its best performance this year in almost four decades.

● Twelve months ago, the economy purged a record 20.679 million jobs as it reeled from mandatory closures of nonessential businesses to slow the first wave of COVID-19 infections.

● From manufacturing to restaurants, employers are scrambling for workers. A range of factors, including parents still at home caring for children, coronavirus-related retirements and generous unemployment checks, are blamed for the labor shortages.

From manufacturing to restaurants, employers are scrambling for workers. A range of factors, including parents still at home caring for children, coronavirus-related retirements and generous unemployment checks, are blamed for the labor shortages. The moderate pace of hiring could last at least until September when the enhanced unemployment benefits run out.
The labor market remains supported by very accommodative fiscal and monetary policy. President Joe Biden plans to spend another $4 trillion on education and childcare, middle- and low-income families, infrastructure and jobs. The Federal Reserve has signaled it intends to leave its benchmark interest rate near zero and continue to pump money into the economy through bond purchases for a while.
The unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent in April from 6.0 percent in March. The jobless rate has been understated by people misclassifying themselves as being “employed but absent from work.” Millions of Americans remain out of work and many have permanently lost jobs because of the pandemic.


British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July

British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July
IAG’s first quarter operating loss before exceptional items of €1.14 billion was slightly better than the €1.17 billion loss forecast by analysts. (AFP/File)
Updated 08 May 2021

British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July

British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July
  • IAG’s first quarter operating loss before exceptional items of €1.14 billion was slightly better than the €1.17 billion loss forecast by analysts

LONDON: British Airways owner IAG is confident travel will recover from July onwards after forecasting only a minimal increase in its capacity to 25 percent for the April to June quarter.
IAG, which also owns Iberia and Vueling in Spain and Aer Lingus in Ireland, declined to forecast how much it would fly from July but said the recovery would be properly underway by then after more than a year of pandemic restrictions.
“We consider in the second half that we are going to be flying and we are prepared for that,” IAG Chief Executive Luis Gallego told reporters on Friday after the company posted a loss of €1.14 billion ($1.4 billion) in the first quarter.
Before July, however, Gallego said government action was needed on some issues, such as opening travel corridors between countries with high vaccination rates, including the United Kingdom and the US.
The rise to 25 percent of pre-pandemic capacity puts IAG’s plans behind those of rival airlines, and is only a marginal increase from the 19.6 percent it flew in the first three months of 2021.
Britain, which along with Spain is one of IAG’s main markets, is set to publish later on Friday its “green list” of low risk places where people can travel without needing to quarantine on their return.
Gallego said IAG was expecting only a small list of countries initially with more being added from June onwards.

FASTFACTS

● IAG, British Airways’ owner declined to forecast how much it would fly from July but said the recovery would be properly underway by then after more than a year of pandemic restrictions.

● The rise to 25 percent of pre-pandemic capacity puts IAG’s plans behind those of rival airlines, and is only a marginal increase from the 19.6 percent it flew in the first three months of 2021.

“Part of the reason we’re not giving guidance (for third quarter capacity) is simply because we don’t know what’s on the green list yet,” Chief Financial Officer Steve Gunning said.
Air France-KLM expects to operate 50 percent of its pre-pandemic flight capacity in the second quarter, picking up to 55 percent to 65 percent in July-September. Lufthansa expects to fly at about 40 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity for 2021 as a whole.
IAG’s first quarter operating loss before exceptional items of €1.14 billion was slightly better than the €1.17 billion loss forecast by analysts.
Shares in the company, which have risen 30 percent since the beginning of the year, traded up 0.7 percent.
“The company delivered a solid set of results and is pointing to the start of the recovery into the summer,” Goodbody analyst Mark Simpson said.
Given the ongoing uncertainty over COVID-19, IAG said it could not provide a profit outlook for 2021.


China propels BMW to strong profits, Germany lags

China propels BMW to strong profits, Germany lags
A BMW Vision Next car is seen during the 19th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Shanghai. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2021

China propels BMW to strong profits, Germany lags

China propels BMW to strong profits, Germany lags
  • BMW net profit rose to €2.83 billion ($3.42 billion) from €574 million in the year-earlier period

FRANKFURT: Booming sales in China helped propel German luxury carmaker BMW to stronger profits in the first three months of the year even as its home market Germany trailed the ongoing recovery in global car markets from the worst of the pandemic shutdowns.
BMW said that its sales in China nearly doubled in the quarter to 230,120 vehicles, partly reflecting the shutdowns in early 2020 as China was hit first by the pandemic. Sales in the overall Asia region however exceeded even pre-pandemic levels.
Sales were up by double-digit percentages in most of Europe and in the US. An exception was the company’s home market in Germany, where sales dropped 5 percent. The earnings underscored the German auto industry’s strong connections with China; competitor Volkswagen said Wednesday that it recorded a 61 percent increase in first-quarter unit sales there, helping it sharply increase profits.
The company said higher sales volume across key global markets as they rebound from the pandemic recession was accompanied by improved prices. Earnings were also supported by better used car prices in the US, which increases revenues from the sales of cars that have been leased to customers.

NUMBER

BMW revenues rose 15 percent to €26.78 billion.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse said that the quarter showed “our business model is a successful one, even in times of crisis.” He said the company’s focus is on developing digitally connected, electric cars. The company more than doubled its sales of battery and electric vehicles in the quarter over the year earlier, to 70,200.
Zipse said that the fall in sales in Germany was less than that for the total market, meaning market share had increased, and said that sales in April, the first month of the new quarter, had been “significantly better.”
BMW net profit rose to €2.83 billion ($3.42 billion) from €574 million in the year-earlier period. Revenues rose 15 percent to €26.78 billion. Per-vehicle profitability, defined as operating result on sales, reached 9.8 percent, a big increase from 1.3 percent in the year-earlier quarter and within the company’s long-term target range.
Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter said that the company had not lost any production due to the shortage of semiconductors — the silicon chips that enable many of the electronic functions in today’s vehicles — that has affected the auto industry worldwide.