Saudi cinema chain announces $218.6m expansion plan

Saudi cinema chain announces $218.6m expansion plan
MUVI Cinemas intends to grow to 307 screens nationwide over the next 12 months. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 April 2021

Saudi cinema chain announces $218.6m expansion plan

Saudi cinema chain announces $218.6m expansion plan
  • Despite COVID-19 restriction challenges, in January MUVI opened KSA’s first drive-in cinema

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s first home-grown cinema chain announced on Sunday a SR820 million ($218.6 million) expansion plan for 2021.

MUVI Cinemas intends to grow to 307 screens nationwide over the next 12 months, launching 23 new sites in eight key Saudi regions, adding 204 screens and 22,872 seats to its portfolio. The planned expansion will bring the brand’s total number of seats to over 35,000.

The expansion will initially see nine new sites in Riyadh, seven in Jeddah, and two each in Taif, Alkhobar, Khamis Mushait and Al-Kharj. The cities of Buraidah and Uniazah will soon welcome their first-ever MUVI locations.

CEO Sultan Alhokair said the company’s plan for 2021 “far exceeds” its original goals for the year.

“After seeing the potential opportunities across the Kingdom, and in light of the strong box office growth and market share obtained, we’re now confidently in a position to inaugurate 23 new locations — all of which will feature the world’s most cutting-edge cinema technologies,” he added.

The expansion comes after the brand reported a “successful” 2020, which saw the addition of eight new multiplexes.

The statement from MUVI also revealed plans for eight additional locations currently in their design phase, slated to open in 2023 and 2024. These future plans put the company on track to exceed 600 screens by the end of 2024.

“This is a total investment of SR2.3 billion which will generate more than 5,000 career opportunities for Saudi nationals,” it said.

MUVI’s 2021 expansion follows a strategic partnership announced in December with Telfaz11, a Riyadh-based digital-media studio that develops and produces Arabic-language content primarily for audiences in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Through the partnership, MUVI will provide its cinema platforms to Telfaz11’s local content creators. Telfaz11, in turn, will offer its creative services to MUVI as the company expands.

MUVI also forged a partnership last year with MENA film distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment, forming a new company called Front Row Arabia that will increase distribution of Western, Arabic-language and Japanese anime content across the Kingdom.

Despite challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, MUVI has continued to expand. In January it opened a pop-up movie theater in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s first drive-in since the nationwide ban on cinemas was lifted in 2018.

With cinemas closed for much of the first half of 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the drive-in offered customers a way to enjoy movies from the comfort and safety of their own cars, with all the necessary protective measures applied.

However, the chain will have to compete with the Kingdom’s other major players in the cinema industry, which have also launched ambitious expansion plans.

In December 2020, AMC Entertainment Holdings, the world’s largest movie exhibition company, opened a sixth movie theater in Saudi Arabia as part of its plans to expand to 50 locations by 2024.

AMC is particularly important for establishing the Saudi Cinema Co., a joint venture with Saudi Entertainment Ventures, an entity set up by the Public Investment Fund to be the investment and development arm for the entertainment sector.

UAE-based chain VOX Cinemas has also added several locations to its roster, with the first-ever cinemas opening in the cities of Tabuk and Hail, in line with a plan to build 600 screens across Saudi Arabia by 2023 as part of a SR2 billion investment.


Mubadala reports record income after $29bn tech and life sciences spending spree

Mubadala reports record income after $29bn tech and life sciences spending spree
Updated 24 min 24 sec ago

Mubadala reports record income after $29bn tech and life sciences spending spree

Mubadala reports record income after $29bn tech and life sciences spending spree
  • UAE and US remain biggest investment areas
  • Assets under management reach 894 billion dirhams

DUBAI: Mubadala Investment Company, the Abu Dhabi sovereign investor, reported a 36 percent rise in total comprehensive income to 72 billion dirhams ($19.59 billion) after a year of frenetic deal making.
It represents the largest total comprehensive income in Mubadala’s history, the company said in a statement. The performance was driven by significant growth in Mubadala’s public equities portfolio and funds, it said.
In 2020, Mubadala invested 108 billion dirhams ($29.39 billion) of capital, across telecom, pharma and tech.
“We navigated our portfolio through the dramatic macro-economic decline of early 2020, and decided to accelerate the pace of our capital deployment, ending the year with record profit and growth,” said CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak. “In line with our long-term strategy, we increased our investments in sectors where we have high conviction, and with high performing fund managers. Technology and life sciences in particular have been essential to the world over the last year, and we see those sectors bringing greater opportunity for deeper investment.”
Mubadala struck long-term agreements with Silver Lake in technology; in life sciences with PCI Pharma in the US; and in consumer goods and telecommunications with the Reliance Group of India, it said.
The UAE and the US remained the largest geographic areas for its portfolio. It also invested through its sovereign investment partnerships in France, China and Russia in 2020.
At year-end, its assets under management across the group stood at 894 billion dirhams — up from 853 billion dirhams in 2019.


Kuwait may take 4 years to introduce personal taxes

Kuwait may take 4 years to introduce personal taxes
Updated 06 May 2021

Kuwait may take 4 years to introduce personal taxes

Kuwait may take 4 years to introduce personal taxes
  • Political gridlock and a lack of expertise holding up plans
  • Oman became fourth GCC state to introduce VAT in April

RIYADH: It could be 3 to 4 years before Kuwait introduces taxes on its citizens as political gridlock and a lack of local expertise hinder the government’s plans, Alrai newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

There are currently no direct taxes on citizens in Kuwait, but companies pay about 4.5 percent of their net profits, including zakat and labor support and a contribution to the Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences.

In June 2016, all six GCC states signed the Common VAT Agreement, pledging to introduce a 5 percent VAT rate.

Oman introduced a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) on April 16, the fourth Gulf Cooperation Council country to implement a so-called consumption tax.

It followed the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia tripled its VAT rate to 15 percent last July to help fund its coronavirus relief efforts.

Kuwait’s parliament has pushed back the implementation date several times but the International Monetary Fund said last year that it expects it to be introduced by 2022. Qatar is expected to go ahead with VAT in the second or third quarter of this year and is said to be close to finalizing its tax administration system, Dhareeba.


Saudi Fransi to advise Emaar the Economic City on $753m capital hike debt conversion

Saudi Fransi to advise Emaar the Economic City on $753m capital hike debt conversion
Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi Fransi to advise Emaar the Economic City on $753m capital hike debt conversion

Saudi Fransi to advise Emaar the Economic City on $753m capital hike debt conversion

DUBAI: Emaar The Economic City has hired Saudi Fransi Capital to advise on a capital increase through the conversion of a SR2.83bn ($753 million) loan owed to the Public Investment Fund.
It comes after a tough year for the developer behind King Abdullah Economic City as the pandemic slowed major construction projects worldwide.
“The reason for the debt conversion is to improve the company’s liquidity and credit position and enhance its ability to achieve its growth objectives,” the developer said in a stock exchange filing on Thursday. “The capital increase will not result in any financial liability on or require any cash contribution by the company’s shareholders.”
The developer in March reported widening 2020 losses as it recorded an impairment of SR316 million on properties available for sale and lease and other operating assets.
The capital hike through debt conversion is subject to market and shareholder approval.


Tunisia sees IMF deal within three months

Tunisia sees IMF deal within three months
Updated 06 May 2021

Tunisia sees IMF deal within three months

Tunisia sees IMF deal within three months
  • Tunisia wants to cut its wage bill to 15 percent of GDP from 17.4 percent
  • The size of any IMF loan is still being discussed

RIYADH: Tunisia expects to agree on a new program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) within three months, Finance Minister Ali Kooli said, as talks continue on reforms for the country’s troubled economy, Bloomberg reported.

Discussions are continuing on the size of any loan the Washington-based lender may provide, Kooli told Bloomberg.

IMF officials have responded positively to reforms proposed by Tunisia, describing them as “realistic” and “applicable,” he said, without giving specifics on the steps envisaged.

Tunisia is discussing phasing out subsidies and trimming the public wage bill, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg.

Tunisia is considering the gradual removal of subsidies on food, electricity and natural gas by 2024, replacing them with direct cash transfers for the neediest, according to the confidential document written by the government and central bank. This document includes recommendations from lawmakers, the largest trade union, business leaders and civil society.

The country is also mulling a voluntary redundancy campaign that would help cut the government’s wage bill to 15 percent of gross domestic product from 17.4 percent in 2020.

The proposals include completely abolishing LPG subsidies in the second half of 2021, establishing a debt management agency and imposing a new real estate tax, Asharq reported.


Oil nudges $70 as hopes grow for global recovery

Oil nudges $70 as hopes grow for global recovery
Updated 06 May 2021

Oil nudges $70 as hopes grow for global recovery

Oil nudges $70 as hopes grow for global recovery

DUBAI: The price of crude oil is nudging $70 a barrel for only the second time in over a year as hopes grow of a resurgent global economy.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, traded within a few decimal points of $70 on Wednesday on a raft of positive economic news, including the International Monetary Fund’s forecast that growth next year would hit 6 percent, the highest in four decades.
That followed optimistic assessments by international energy experts of a recovery in oil demand in the second half of the year, and strong demand in the US as lockdown restrictions are lifted and drivers take to the roads again.
Even the bad news from India, where the COVID-19 pandemic is raging, could not dampen an overall positive outlook for the global economy and energy demand.
India is a big importer of crude oil, but its economy is small in relation to the big power blocs of the US, China and Europe.
Traders were particularly buoyed by a report from the US government that jet fuel, which has been especially badly hit as flights were grounded by the pandemic, was set to jump by 30 percent this summer.
“If the US is flying again, the world economy will soon be flying too,” said one oil trader in Dubai.
Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM said: “A return to $70 oil is edging closer to becoming a reality.” At that level, oil revenues have significant impact on the fiscal balances of many producers, including Saudi Arabia.