SAGO sells mills to UAE investors as part of KSA’s ongoing privatization drive

SAGO sells mills to UAE investors as part of KSA’s ongoing privatization drive
Food security is a key agenda item for Middle East governments. (SPA)
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Updated 08 April 2021

SAGO sells mills to UAE investors as part of KSA’s ongoing privatization drive

SAGO sells mills to UAE investors as part of KSA’s ongoing privatization drive
  • National Center for Privatization is aiming to raise $4bn this year through state asset sales

RIYADH: The Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO) and the National Center for Privatization (NCP) announced on Thursday that the Third Milling Co. (MC3) has been sold to a consortium of UAE investors.

The consortium, which includes Ghurair Investment (AGI), Al Rajhi Holding Group and Masafi, acquired MC3 following a competitive tender process led by SAGO and the NCP.

SAGO will continue to oversee MC3 in its remit as the regulator of the Kingdom’s milling sector and its main importer and supplier of wheat, barley and other grains.

The flour milling sector represents one of the key sectors for full privatization in line with Saudi Vision 2030, and the completion of the acquisition is a significant step in the country’s privatization agenda.

Commenting on the deal, John Iossifidis, group CEO of AGI, said: “The completion of the strategic acquisition of MC3 marks a milestone in the move toward the privatization of crucial sectors, and aligns to AGI’s strategy to support governments as they seek to enhance food security throughout the region.

“We are grateful to the NCP, SAGO and our consortium partners for their trust in our commitment to advancing the development of the grains sector. AGI has a long and proud history in the flour sector, having established Dubai’s first milling company in 1976. We look forward to bringing this experience to Saudi Arabia and leveraging it to spur the growth and diversification of MC3,” he added.

Djamal Djouhri, CEO of Al Ghurair Foods, commented: “Monetizing public assets is a key agenda item for governments across the Middle East, as is food security as they seek to boost competitiveness, product diversity and operational efficiency.

Esmail Al-Sallom, chief investment officer at Al Rajhi Holding Group, said: “This is a historic transaction which is a major step toward the Kingdom’s vision to increase private sector participation in the Saudi economy. Al Rajhi Holding Group aims to leverage on its experience … to improve operational efficiency and performance, drive new product development, enhance distribution networks, increase market penetration, and enrich the overall consumer experience.”

While the valuation of this latest deal was not revealed, Al-Raha Al-Safi Food Co. announced the acquisition of First Milling Co. (MC1) in January for $540 million, a deal also facilitated by the NCP and SAGO.

MC1 is the largest of the Kingdom’s four milling companies, and the sale was also part of SAGO’s planned privatization of Saudi flour mills and grain silos previously owned by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.

Last month, the Saudi Cabinet announced plans to privatize 16 key industries, including in the environmental, water and agricultural, transportation, energy, industry and mineral wealth, labor and social development, housing, education, health, municipalities, Hajj and Umrah, communications and information technology, media, sports, interior and finance sectors.

“We are working with all the sectors targeted for privatization. Several projects have been recently selected and launched in … health, education, transport, municipalities, environment, water and agriculture and human resources and social development,” Hani Alsaigh, director general of strategic communication and marketing at the NCP, told Arab News.

In January the NCP announced it had raised SR3 billion ($800 million) in revenue from sale of state assets in 2020 and aimed to make approximately SR15 billion or more in 2021


Turkish central bank holds rates, drops policy pledge under new chief

Turkish central bank holds rates, drops policy pledge under new chief
Updated 7 min 37 sec ago

Turkish central bank holds rates, drops policy pledge under new chief

Turkish central bank holds rates, drops policy pledge under new chief
  • Lira slips 0.7% on announcement
  • Inflation could reach 19% before mid-year

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s central bank held rates steady at 19 percent as expected on Thursday and dropped a pledge to tighten policy further if needed, in its first decision since President Tayyip Erdogan fired the hawkish former governor and sparked a market selloff.
In a statement, the bank also ditched last month’s pledge to “decisively” maintain a tight monetary policy “for an extended period” to address inflation, which has risen above 16 percent and been in double-digits for most of the last four years.
The lira slipped as much as 0.7 percent to 8.125 versus the dollar after the bank under new governor Sahap Kavcioglu replaced the hawkish guidance with a softer assessment of risks to inflation that analysts said signaled interest rate cuts were on the way.
Erdogan’s shock removal last month of Kavcioglu’s predecessor Naci Agbal, a respected policy hawk, sent foreign investors fleeing from Turkish assets on concerns that rates would be quickly slashed.
But Kavcioglu — who had previously criticized Agbal’s rate hikes — has since promised no abrupt changes. Those assurances as well as the more-than 10 percent lira selloff had convinced analysts that policy would remain steady for now.
The central bank said it maintained a tight stance in the face of lofty inflation expectations, adding rates would remain above inflation until it is clear that price pressure is easing.
John Hardy, FX strategy head at Saxo Bank, said the currency had weakened on Thursday because Agbal’s pledges were scrapped.
“Any daylight they see, they are going to want to cut rates. Holding them here (today) is just an acknowledgment they can’t get away with it for now,” he said.
In a Reuters poll, most economists had predicted no change to the one-week policy rate this week, but saw easing from around mid-year, to settle at 15 percent by year-end.
Last month, the central bank under Agbal had raised rates by a more-than-expected 200 basis points to levels last touched in mid-2019 to dampen inflation and support the currency.
Before taking the job, Kavcioglu had said such a policy was wrong for Turkey and also espoused Erdogan’s unorthodox view that high rates cause inflation.
Erdogan has repeatedly called for monetary stimulus to help the economic rebound. He has fired three bank chiefs in two years, eroding monetary credibility.
The lira plunged 15 percent immediately after Agbal’s dismissal before a rebound, and foreign investors dumped the most bonds and stocks in 15 years over the following week.
Depreciation boosts inflation via imports, delaying any rate cut plans, analysts say.
Inflation is expected to reach as much as 19 percent before mid-year. Yet few analysts see another rate hike given Erdogan’s repeated calls for stimulus — including one this month for single-digit rates.
The change in tone under Kavcioglu reflects “preparation being made to cut the policy rate,” said Haluk Burumcekci of Istanbul-based Burumcekci Consulting.
Ratings agencies say premature easing could again hammer the lira and raise risks of a balance-of-payments crisis given Turkey’s depleted FX reserves and its $160 billion in short-term foreign debt.
Citing sources, Reuters reported Erdogan ousted Agbal in part because he was uncomfortable with the bank’s investigation into some $128 billion in FX sales undertaken during his son-in-law Berat Albayrak’s stint as finance minister.


Emirates begins trials of IATA’s digital travel pass

Emirates begins trials of IATA’s digital travel pass
Updated 15 April 2021

Emirates begins trials of IATA’s digital travel pass

Emirates begins trials of IATA’s digital travel pass
  • Passengers from Dubai to Barcelona on flight EK 185 on Thursday trialed the travel pass

DUBAI: Dubai carrier Emirates airline has started testing the COVID-19 digital travel pass, a mobile application that will help passengers manage their necessary travel requirements amid heightened security due to the pandemic.

Passengers from Dubai to Barcelona on flight EK 185 on Thursday trialed the travel pass, according to a company statement.

“The ability to process passengers’ COVID-19 relevant data for travel digitally will be the way forward,” Adel Al-Redha, chief operating officer of Emirates, said, as the global aviation industry slowly gets back up from the pandemic slump.

The airlines partnered with the maker of the travel pass, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), to integrate the standardized process of verifying documents such as COVID-19 rest results and vaccination certificates into the airline’s operations.

The trial is ongoing on selected Emirates flights from the Dubai to Barcelona and London Heathrow to Dubai, and will be expanded soon to include other routes, the company said.

Other airlines in the region have teamed up with IATA to conduct trial runs of the application, including Saudi Arabia’s Saudia and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways.


Moody’s warns on ESG risks for some structured finance assets

Moody’s warns on ESG risks for some structured finance assets
Updated 15 April 2021

Moody’s warns on ESG risks for some structured finance assets

Moody’s warns on ESG risks for some structured finance assets
  • Sustainable investing has become a hot topic in Gulf markets over the last year with increased awareness in part springing from the coronavirus pandemic

DUBAI: Changing regulations and consumer demand driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues means that some structured finance asset classes are riskier than others, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Aircraft and tobacco asset-backed securities (ABS) as well as project finance and infrastructure collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) have “moderate vulnerability” to environmental risk, while most other asset classes have “low” environmental risk, Moody’s wrote in a report.
Student loan asset-backed securities are the only structured finance sector with “high” social risk, it said.
“Environmental and social risks vary across structured finance asset classes, reflecting the sector’s diverse array of transaction types and assets,” according to Moody’s Vice President Inga Smolyar. “Governance considerations, in contrast, are generally issuer specific.”
Sustainable investing has become a hot topic in Gulf markets over the last year with increased awareness in part springing from the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for ethical and sustainable investments is now on the rise and increasingly being adopted by a wide range of investors from socially aware individuals to family offices and sovereign wealth funds.
The Future Investment Initiative Institute’s “The Neo-Renaissance: Mobilizing ESG for a Sustainable Future” conference takes place online today between 3.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. Riyadh time.
Several high profile regional business leaders are due to speak at the event including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan who also chairs the institute.


Top 20 Saudi Ramadan electronics deals

Top 20 Saudi Ramadan electronics deals
Updated 15 April 2021

Top 20 Saudi Ramadan electronics deals

Top 20 Saudi Ramadan electronics deals
  • From smartphones to smart TVs

If you are looking to buy a new smartphone, TV or laptop, electronics items have some of the biggest discounts available this Ramdan. Here is a selection of some of the best deals available online and instore this week across the Kingdom, hand picked by Arab News editors.

Lenovo K12 Note

Lenovo K12 Note

NOW: SR569

WAS: SR899

SAVING: 36%

Available from Carrefour

Huawei Y8P

NOW: SR699

WAS: SR849

SAVING: 17%

Available from Carrefour

Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51

NOW: SR949

WAS: SR1199

SAVING: 21%

Available from Carrefour

iPhone 11 Pro 256GB

NOW: SR3999

WAS: SR4799

SAVING: 16%

Available from Carrefour

iPad 8th generation (2020)

iPad 8th generation (2020)

NOW: SR1499

WAS: SR1699

SAVING: 11%

Available from Carrefour

Ikon Tab-e learning tablet

NOW: SR399

WAS: SR549

SAVING: 27%

Available from Lulu

Ikon Portable bluetooth speaker

NOW: SR349

WAS: SR450

SAVING: 22%

Available from Lulu

Samsung 65-Inch Curved Smart QLED TV QA65Q8C Black

Samsung 65-Inch Curved Smart QLED TV QA65Q8C Black

NOW: SR6499

WAS: SR16999

SAVING: 61%

Available from noon.com

65 Inch UHD Smart Netflix Ready TV NETV65SM1 Black

NOW: SR2099

WAS: SR4669

SAVING: 55%

Available from noon.com

58 Inch UHD Smart Netflix Ready TV NETV58SM1 Black

NOW: SR1699

WAS: SR3779

SAVING: 55%

Available from noon.com

LG 65-Inch 4K UHD Smart AI ThinQ LED TV 65UN7340 Black

LG 65-Inch 4K UHD Smart AI ThinQ LED TV 65UN7340 Black

NOW: SR3199

WAS: SR5999

SAVING: 46%

Available from noon.com

Class pro 40-Inch Full HD LED TV BK40FHD Black

NOW: SR599

WAS: SR999

SAVING: 40%

Available from noon.com

Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi IP Day/Night Vision Dome 2MP 1080P FHD Stand Alone Camera

Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi IP Day/Night Vision Dome 2MP 1080P FHD Stand Alone Camera

NOW: SR134

WAS: SR199

SAVING: 32%

Available from noon.com

10000 mAh Boost+ Power Bank Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 Fast Charging & PD (Small Size For Mobiles, Laptop, Tablets, Nintendo) Black

NOW: SR 37

WAS: SR 99

SAVING: 62%

Available from noon.com

Goui 30000 mAh Econ.30 Power Bank 5x9.9x3cm Black/Green

Goui 30000 mAh Econ.30 Power Bank 5x9.9x3cm Black/Green

NOW: SR149

WAS: SR299

SAVING: 50%

Available from noon.com

Energizer 10000 mAh Fast Charge Power Bank Dual USB- Pack of 2 Titanium Grey

NOW: SR 89

WAS: SR 150

SAVING: 40%

Available from noon.com

MacBook Pro With Touch Bar And Touch ID, 13.3-Inch Display

MacBook Pro With Touch Bar And Touch ID, 13.3-Inch Display, Core i5, 8th Generation, 4 Ghz Quad Core Processor/8GB RAM/512GB SSD/Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645/Retina Display, English Keyboard-2020 Space Grey

NOW: SR6499

WAS: SR 10078.60

SAVING: 35%

Available from noon.com

Rockstar Games Red Dead Redemption 2 (English) - Intl Version - Adventure - PlayStation 4 (PS4)

NOW: SR109.55

WAS: SR247

SAVING: 55%

Available from noon.com

EA FIFA 20: Standard (SPL) Edition (KSA- English/Arabic) - PlayStation 4 (PS4)

NOW: SR66.6

WAS: SR101

SAVING: 34%

Available from noon.com

Sony DualShock 4 Wireless Controller For PlayStation 4

Sony DualShock 4 Wireless Controller For PlayStation 4

NOW: SR147

WAS: SR315.56

SAVING: 53%

Available from noon.com


Qatar steps up help for businesses battling pandemic

Qatar steps up help for businesses battling pandemic
Updated 15 April 2021

Qatar steps up help for businesses battling pandemic

Qatar steps up help for businesses battling pandemic
  • Central bank liquidity support to local banks has been extended
  • Loan repayment holidays have been extended to 2 years

DUBAI: Qatar’s cabinet on Wednesday agreed to maintain central bank liquidity support for local banks as it stepped up its economic response to the coronavirus pandemic amid a second wave of infections.

Exemptions have been granted from electricity and water fees until the end of September for sectors closed due to the pandemic, Gulf Times reported.

The National Guarantees Programme at Qatar Development Bank has been extended until the end of September, while an exemption from interest under the National Guarantees Programme has been extended by one year to two years, followed by two years of interest at no more than the Qatar Central Bank rate plus 2 percent.

Qatar Central Bank first implemented a series of measures including a freeze on loan repayments and the National Guarantees Programme to provide financing to private-sector companies in March 2020.