Saudi Arabia hosts world tourism crisis meeting

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, right, and UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili attending the Global Tourism Crisis Committee on Thursday. (UNWTO photo via Twitter)
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, right, and UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili attending the Global Tourism Crisis Committee on Thursday. (UNWTO photo via Twitter)
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Updated 09 April 2021

Saudi Arabia hosts world tourism crisis meeting

Saudi Arabia hosts world tourism crisis meeting

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia hosted on Thursday the Global Tourism Crisis Committee meeting of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
During the meeting, the committee presented its recommendations on how to resume safe travel, and the procedures that must be adhered to to restore travelers’ confidence.
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb opened the meeting by highlighting the Kingdom’s pioneering role in leading the travel and tourism sector and the participation of member states in the measures taken by the Saudi government, which led to the Kingdom being considered among the top countries in the world in dealing with the crisis.

Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary general, thanked the Kingdom for hosting the meeting and urged member states to work together to restore travelers’ confidence and adhere to the procedures that ensure safe travel.
Greek Minister of Tourism and chairman of the committee’s technical committee, Harry Theochari, presented a package of proposals, the most important of which is the need to provide financial support to companies operating in the sector to overcome the crisis and protect jobs, and the need to employ technology to facilitate the traveler’s journey and restore confidence.


Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
Updated 10 May 2021

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals bid to buy Alameda Healthcare halted

Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted. (Cleopatra Hospitals Group)
  • The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020

RIYADH: Egypt’s Cleopatra Hospitals Group said its bid to acquire Alameda Healthcare through a sale and purchase agreement of shares has been halted.

It made the disclosure in a filing to the Egyptian Stock Exchange on Monday.

The proposed deal was originally announced by Cleopatra in late December 2020, with an estimated value of about $500 million.

But it was quickly followed by an announcement from the Egyptian Competition Authority saying that it did not agree in principle to the acquisition.

It highlighted the potential consolidation of Cleopatra’s dominance over hospitals around Cairo and Giza.

Alameda Healthcare’s network includes four tertiary care hospitals in Cairo, two of which are currently being constructed. Once the facilities are fully commissioned Alameda Healthcare will have a capacity of 890 beds, according to its website. The network also includes facilities in Kuwait and London, outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers, specialist centers, pharmacies, and a rehabilitation center.


Saudi Kafalah small business loan program expands rapidly in Q1

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi Kafalah small business loan program expands rapidly in Q1

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Businesses in Riyadh, the Eastern Region and Makkah claimed the lion’s share of assistance

RIYADH: The Saudi SMEs loan guarantee program ‘Kafalah’ helped 1621 businesses during the first quarter of 2021 — up 162 percent year-on-year, Al Eqtisadiah reported.

Guarantees increased by about 150 percent to SR2.9 billion and financing reached SR3.6 billion, the newspaper said.

Some 215 private sector business women benefited from the scheme during the first quarter of this year, compared to 64 during the year-earlier period.

The value of guarantees during the first quarter amounted to SR142 million and the value of financing reached SR157 million.

The most prominent sectors benefiting included the wholesale and retail trade, construction, accommodation services, food, and manufacturing industries, according to Kafalah.

Businesses in Riyadh, the Eastern Region and Makkah claimed the lion’s share of assistance.

The program will mostly target the tourism and entertainment sectors this year, in addition to the communications and information technology sectors, said Kafalah Director-General Homam Bin Abdulaziz Hashem.

The program was founded in 2006 as a joint initiative between the Kingdom’s ministry of finance and Saudi commercial banks to help overcome SME financing constraints.


A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy
Updated 10 May 2021

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy

A bamboo bat? That’s just not cricket old boy
  • Faster growing Bamboo seen as a more sustainable alternative to Willow

Cricket is a sport defined by tradition, but change may be in store after research suggested bamboo could be an attractive alternative to willow in the manufacture of bats.
The Cambridge University study said its prototype bamboo bat was cheaper to produce, more sustainable and stronger than traditional willow blades and could grow the game worldwide.
The article, published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology on Sunday, also found the laminated bamboo bat possessed a larger sweet spot, making it “a batsman’s dream.”
Willow trees take 15 years to mature enough to produce cricket bats, whereas bamboo only requires five to six years and abounds in China, South America and southeast Asia as well as cricket-obsessed India.
Bamboo bats could increase participation in lower-income countries thanks to lower production costs and make cricket much more sustainable without compromising quality, the study claimed.
Co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies said: “Whether you’re playing or spectating, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference.
“Because laminated bamboo is so strong, we’re very confident we can make a bamboo bat light enough, even for today’s fast-scoring, short forms of the game.”
The study found that bamboo is 22 percent stiffer than willow and that its sweet spot performed 19 percent better.
The prototype bat’s sweet spot — the point where the ball is hit most effectively — is larger than a traditional bat’s and located closer to the toe.
That allows it to transfer more energy to the ball, the researchers said.
Bamboo bats would be “a batsman’s dream,” according to co-author Darshil Shah, who played cricket for Thailand at youth level.
“The sweet spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a yorker for starters, but it’s exciting for all kinds of strokes,” he added.
Bamboo’s higher density means that the bat’s shape would have to be redesigned to make a lighter product before batsmen can blast bowlers with their new weapon.
The London-based Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) — the conservative custodian of cricket’s laws — must approve any change to the material used to make bats.
Cricketers have long experimented with different types of bat, from the length of the handle to thickness of the blade and weight, to try to gain a competitive edge.
In 1979, Australia’s Dennis Lillee caused controversy by using an aluminum bat, which was then banned.
Cricket’s current laws — brought in after the Lillee incident — state that bats must be made of wood, but bamboo is a type of grass.
“Playing with a bamboo bat would be within the spirit of the game because it’s a plant-based material. Cane, a type of grass, is already used in the handle,” said Shah.
“Tradition is important but think about how much cricket bats, pads, gloves and helmets have already evolved.
“If we can go back to having thinner blades but made from bamboo, while improving performance, outreach and sustainability, then why not?“


Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project

Saudi-owned ACWA Power starts to build Africa’s biggest renewables project
  • ACWA Power’s co-shareholders in the $825 million project that will have the capacity to generate 100MW of power

DUBAI: ACWA Power has started construction on the Redstone concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in South Africa, the biggest renewables project on the continent.

ACWA Power’s co-shareholders in the $825 million project that will have the capacity to generate 100MW of power, include the Central Energy Fund, Pele Green Energy and the local community.
Located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, the Redstone plant will be equipped with a 12-hour thermal storage system that will deliver clean and reliable electricity to nearly 200,000 households round the clock, the company said. Commencement of operations is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2023.
“Redstone CSP adds another superlative to our budding record in South Africa, being the largest renewable energy investment to date,” said CEO Paddy Padmanathan. “As grid links are improved, the ingenuity of the private sector together with the great support of experienced finance partners has the potential to spark lasting impact for local communities and address the threats of climate change.”
Redstone CSP will displace an estimated 440 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, ACWA said.


Egypt said to propose production cuts to ease cement glut

Egypt said to propose production cuts to ease cement glut
Updated 10 May 2021

Egypt said to propose production cuts to ease cement glut

Egypt said to propose production cuts to ease cement glut
  • Capacity has risen to an annual 85 million to 87 million tons in the last three years

CAIRO: The Egyptian government has proposed that cement makers cut production by a baseline of 10 percent to shore up finances ravaged by an expanding market glut, two cement executives and a senior industry source said.
Egyptian cement capacity has risen to an annual 85 million to 87 million tons in the last three years following the inauguration of the 13 million ton-per-annum Beni Seuf plant owned by the military, even as sales fell to less than half that level, according to the executives.
The cement sector, where several international firms established a footing, is seen as an indicator of Egypt’s openness to outside investment.
The two executives — who spoke on condition of anonymity — said the proposed cuts seemed unfair on foreign-owned firms like their own with a longer presence in Egypt.
Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry did not respond to a request for comment.
Under the formula proposed last month, each cement maker would cut production by a base amount of 10.52 percent. They would cut an additional 3.71 percent for each production line and 0.65 percent for each year they have been in operation, said one executive.
That would amount to a cut of at least 14 percent, and possibly more than double that for older and bigger plants, the person said.
It is unclear if the beginning of operation would be based on the age of the plant, the date it was privatised or when current investors took over, the executive added.
“It’s very welcome by the industry that there is some sort of intervention by the government,” said the second executive.
But he added: “We don’t think (the formula) is particularly fair, it’s biased toward some local players at the moment.”
The executives said cement makers have asked the government for clarifications and were waiting to hear back.
Foreign cement firms, including Germany’s HeidelbergCement , France’s Vicat, Switzerland’s LafargeHolcim , Greece’s Titan Cement and Mexico’s CEMEX , invested heavily in Egypt after a privatization drive that began in the 1990s. Local players set up their own plants later.
Another 2-million-ton plant will come on stream this year in Sohag, 400 km south of Cairo, its CEO and member of parliament Ahmed Abu Hashima told local media in September.
The plant, owned by Egyptian Cement Co., began trial production over the last few weeks and is due to start shipping soon, cement sources in Sohag said. Company officials did not respond to queries.
Cement companies complained of overproduction even before the Beni Suef plant was built.
Annual cement sales fell to 41.7 million tons in 2020 from 43.8 million tons in 2019, according to central bank statistics. It stood at 49.5 million tons in 2017, the last year before Beni Suef went online. Sales last year were hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.