DUBAI: All commercial activities in Oman will close from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time in the period from March 4 to March 20, as part of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Oman State TV reported on Monday.
Egypt allows banks to issue electronic money units
CAIRO: The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has allowed lenders in the country to issue electronic money units.
However, only banks supervised by the CBE will be permitted to issue such units and approval must be gained in advance.
“This system monitors the payment orders of electronic money units and the issuance of detailed ‘Trail Audit’ reports on payment orders, while linking operations with system users and service providers,” the CBE said in a statement.
The central bank said that any systems issuing electronic money units that are unable to issue reports correctly — whether intentionally or unintentionally — will be considered to be in breach of CBE rules.
Electronic money units cannot be issued unless the equivalent cash amount in Egyptian pounds is deposited with the issuing bank, it added.
British shoppers rush back to reopened stores
LONDON: English and Welsh shoppers rushed back to clothes and furniture stores last week when they reopened after three months of COVID lockdown restrictions, but the novelty of dining and drinking outside rapidly faded.
The Office for National Statistics said credit and debit purchases of clothes and furniture jumped to 89 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the week to April 15, up by 26 percentage points on a week earlier.
The figures are based on high-value CHAPS payment data from credit and debit card processors collected by the Bank of England.
This data shows overall card spending rose to 91 percent of its level in February 2020 last week, up from 83 percent the week before when the Easter holiday weekend had reduced spending.
The number of shoppers in the week to April 17 rose to 75 percent of its level two years earlier, up by 31 percentage points on the previous week, and the volume of job adverts held at pre-pandemic levels.
Nonessential retailers in England and Wales reopened on April 12 for the first time since early January, and English pubs and restaurants were allowed to begin serving customers who booked outdoor seating.
The first day of opening brought a rush of diners and drinkers, but the appeal of eating and drinking outdoors in dry but cold weather had faded by the weekend.
Reservations on April 17 stood at 60 percent of their average level two years ago, down from 79 percent on April 12, according to data from booking website OpenTable produced for the ONS.
Strong coffee sales gives Nestle first quarter boost
ZURICH: Swiss food giant Nestle said Thursday that strong coffee sales helped raise overall turnover by 1.3 percent in the first quarter of the year.
Global sales rose to 21.1 billion Swiss francs (19.1 billion euros, $22.9 billion), an earnings statement said.
Nestle’s measure of so-called organic growth, which strips out effects from acquisitions, divestments and foreign exchange movements, jumped by 7.7 percent in the first three months of 2021, as the group increased its share of growing markets, the statement added.
But the Swiss franc’s strength against other major currencies meant that once global sales were converted, the overall figure was reduced by 5.3 percent, while various divestments trimmed an additional 1.0 percent, the statement said.
Nestle is transforming its portfolio of brands and has begun to increase its offer of vegetarian products to accompany a global trend, for example.
And while “coffee was the largest contributor to growth” owing to strong demand for its Nespresso, Nescafe and Starbucks brands, dairy products and pet food also contributed to the increase in organic growth.
“Vegetarian and plant-based food offerings continued to see strong double-digit growth” as well, the group noted.
Nestle has benefited from the coronavirus pandemic in that demand via supermarkets remained strong, but sales to restaurants and other food outlets suffered in 2020.
In the first months of this year, “retail sales saw solid growth and out-of-home channels saw signs of improvement,” Nestle chief executive Mark Schneider said in the company statement.
The group confirmed its 2021 full-year forecast for “sustained mid-single digit organic growth,” which suggests something on the order of 5 percent.
Halt in oil production threatens stability of Libya, UN warns
- Delay in distribution of state-provided funds blamed for production and export shutdown
- UN urges all parties to ensure the country’s National Oil Company remains free of political interference
NEW YORK: The UN on Thursday raised concerns about the recent halt in production and exports of crude oil at Marsa Al-Hariga port, and further imminent shutdowns at other facilities, and the destabilizing effect it could have on the country.
“The uninterrupted production of oil, as well as maintaining the independence and impartiality of the NOC (The National Oil Corporation), remains a vital cornerstone to the economic, social and political stability of Libya,” said the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
NOC blames the interim government for the halt in production at the eastern facility, citing the Central Bank’s refusal for several months to pay out funds from the oil sector budget. The funding shortfall has caused many companies to fail to fulfill their obligations, and to the deterioration of storage tanks. It has also had negative effects on pipelines, wells and oil reservoirs.
Oil is by far Libya’s biggest source of revenue. After years of blockades that at times reduced the flow of oil almost to zero, production rebounded to more than 1 million barrels a day after the blockades were lifted in September.
The NOC has managed to remain independent despite bitter political disputes over the country’s oil. Recently, however, there have been complaints about interference by the new government. The interim authority includes a three-member Presidential Council and a cabinet, which was appointed under a UN-led process to lead the divided country toward general elections in December.
The interim leadership is also tasked with preparing for the reunification of economic and financial institutions, tackling the dire living conditions many Libyans have been forced to endure, and enacting economic reforms needed to ensure a more equitable distribution of oil revenues in the country, which is a member of OPEC.
UNSMIL urged all parties to ensure that NOC remains “an independent, technocratic and well-sourced institution, and to ensure the transparent and equitable management of resources, as set out in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum Roadmap, to combat corruption. This is of critical importance for the government that is requested to improve the delivery of basic services to the Libyan people.”
Libya descended into civil war after the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Fighting in recent years pitted the Government of National Accord against the forces of eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar. Each side had support from competing regional powers.
“Libya is only now emerging from a very costly conflict, and there are multiple urgent needs that need to be addressed to improve the quality of life of Libyans throughout the country,” UNSMIL said.
First Abu Dhabi Bank completes Bank Audi Egypt takeover
- Following the transfer of shares, the acquisition will make First Abu Dhabi Bank one of the largest international banks operating in Egypt
CAIRO: First Abu Dhabi Bank has gained legal and regulatory approval to complete the acquisition of a 100 percent stake in Bank Audi Egypt, a subsidiary of the Lebanese Bank Audi Group, the bank announced on Thursday.
In a statement, the bank said that after the completion of the share transfer process, First Abu Dhabi Bank will begin merging the assets and operations of Bank Audi Egypt and First Abu Dhabi Bank — Egypt, with the merger process expected to be completed in 2022.
Following the transfer of shares, the acquisition will make First Abu Dhabi Bank one of the largest international banks operating in Egypt, with assets exceeding EGP 130 billion ($8.5 billion) after consolidating on Dec. 31, 2020.
“This step represents a strategic achievement that supports First Abu Dhabi Bank’s development aspirations at the international level and will accelerate the expansion of its business in one of the most important markets with high growth potential. This acquisition will play an essential role to enhance the volume and momentum of First Abu Dhabi Bank’s business in Egypt,” Hana Al-Rostamani, CEO of First Abu Dhabi Bank Group, said in a statement.
The banking services Bank Audi Egypt provides to individuals and companies through its wide network of branches will support the operations of First Abu Dhabi Bank in Egypt, which has operated in Egypt since 1975.
Mohamed Abbas Fayed has been appointed CEO of the combined entity. He joined First Abu Dhabi Bank in 2019 and was previously CEO and managing director of Bank Audi Egypt, which helped him gain extensive experience over three decades in the sector and in the Egyptian market.