Saudi food industry market leader ‘performed exceptionally’ despite pandemic

Saudi food industry market leader ‘performed exceptionally’ despite pandemic
Almunajem Foods is among the largest Saudi food companies engaged in the importation, marketing, and distribution of frozen, chilled, and dry foodstuff. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 April 2021

Saudi food industry market leader ‘performed exceptionally’ despite pandemic

Saudi food industry market leader ‘performed exceptionally’ despite pandemic
  • Almunajem Foods has expanded its agreement with Brazil-based JBS, the world’s leading chicken and beef producer

RIYADH: Almunajem Foods, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest private food companies, has reported a successful 2020 and is maintaining a positive outlook for 2021, despite the coronavirus pandemic continuing to affect the economy on a global scale.

The company, which has more than 70 years of experience in the Saudi food market, serves more than 22,000 customer outlets including retail, food services and wholesale channels. Their expertise lies in importation, marketing and the distribution of frozen, chilled and dry foodstuffs.

Almunajem operates 14 branches, 12 of which are equipped with temperature-controlled warehouses. They also work with more than 60 suppliers, and brands under the company’s umbrella include household names such as Coopoliva olives, President dairy products and their own in-house brand, Dari.

Thamer Abanumay, CEO of Almunajem Foods, told Arab News that business was flourishing despite the setbacks posed by the pandemic in 2020 and said the company had managed to minimize interruption of services.

“Our business was put to the test in 2020, but I can confidently say that on all fronts we performed exceptionally. Our operations maintained a high level of resilience despite the obstacles caused by COVID-19. Thanks to our strong logistical abilities, backed by technology, data and tools, we were able to move our products safely and in a timely manner,” he said.

Abanumay predicts significant growth in the food market as a whole over the next few years, and sees many potential opportunities to capitalize on. “The participation of women in the labor force, as well as the rapid growth of the inbound tourism industry in the Kingdom, will have a significant impact on the food consumption and food service industries. We will also focus on increasing our backward integration and produce more products in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

The company has also managed to forge new business deals with international partners, despite the uncertainty plaguing international trade.

The company on Sunday announced an expansion to its longstanding collaboration agreement with Seara, a subsidiary of Brazil-based JBS, the world’s leading chicken and beef producer. The agreement forms part of Almunajem Foods’ diversification strategy to service its business-to-business customer base across the Kingdom and to meet the increase in demand from the food industry.

The agreement includes Almunajem Foods distributing a wide variety of poultry products, including whole chicken grillers, chicken parts and other processed products.

Abanumay told Arab News that demand for poultry in the Kingdom, both for whole griller chickens as well as parts, would likely mean that despite fluctuations in the market there was strong demand for their produce.

The Brazilian Animal Protein Association reported in January that while poultry exports from Brazil had experienced a decline, some of the leading Arab importers “stepped up” their purchases. The figures showed that 35,800 tons of poultry was shipped to Saudi Arabia, up by 2 percent, with revenue climbing 4 percent year-on-year to $58.5 million.

Saudi Arabia was the premier Arab importer of poultry from Brazil in January, with the UAE ranked second. Total global raw and processed poultry exports from Brazil fetched $434.4 million in Jan. 2021, down 17.9 percent from Jan. 2020.

Abanumay said that the company was already making headway on plans to introduce new products to the market in 2021, as well as to bring new suppliers on board over the course of the year.


US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears

US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears
Updated 22 January 2022

US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears

US, Qatar discuss gas supplies amid Ukraine invasion fears
  • As Europe faces record energy prices, concerns especially high over possible supply dip
  • American official: ‘There’s no magic wand. It’s all really hard, really complicated’

LONDON: The US is holding discussions with Qatar and other gas exporters amid fears that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could spark a decline in supply.

The talks with the Gulf state and some EU nations have focused on new ways to secure alternative seaborne liquefied natural gas cargoes.

The discussions have become more intense in the last week as security talks between senior American and Russian ministers made little progress.

As Europe is facing record energy prices, concerns are especially high regarding a possible dip in gas supplies.

“We’re looking at what can be done in preparation for an event, especially midwinter with very low (European natural gas) supplies in storage,” a senior US administration official told the Financial Times.

“We discussed what can be moved around the market, what can help … the things we can prepare now for deployment if and when there is an escalated crisis.”

Officials are concerned that Europe could face widespread chaos, with blackouts and industrial disruption, if Russian gas exports fall sharply following an invasion. Gas stocks are at a record low for this time of year.

The US administration official said existing contracts between LNG exporters and Asian buyers risk disrupting any new plans to divert supply to Europe.

“There’s no magic wand,” the official said. “It’s all really hard, really complicated. Looking to do it within the constructs of how markets work, how commercial terms work, how cargoes work.”

An energy industry executive warned that Europe would almost certainly face extremely high energy prices amid an invasion, which could require coordinated government action to secure alternative LNG supplies.

“They will effectively have to compete for all the supply in the market, taking cargoes away from Asia, and the likely end result is the taxpayer will pay,” the executive told the FT.

“It would be like procuring PPE (personal protective equipment) at the start of the pandemic, with governments needing to intervene.”


Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis

Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis
Updated 21 January 2022

Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis

Lebanon’s 2022 draft budget forecasts 20.8% deficit amid financial crisis

Lebanon’s debt-ridden government expects a 20.8 percent deficit for the coming year, according to a draft budget released on Jan 21. 

The plan, seen by Reuters, will see ministers put forward a long-term treasury advance to Electricité du Liban, Lebanon’s electricity company, of 5.25 trillion Lebanese pounds ($3.5 billion).

The advance will be provided to pay for fuel purchases, interest and loan installments, in a country that has been hit by energy shortages.

Last year, Lebanon’s projected budget had a deficit of 31.3 percent, and the plan was not passed by the country’s parliament.

Political dissension and escalating tensions between communities have had a negative impact on economic growth, compounding Lebanon’s woes since its 2019 default on a $90 billion debt.

Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Lebanon’s Byblos bank, warned that the government’s projection of a lower deficit depends on whether it can “improve the investment climate for business.”

Speaking to Arab News, he argued that a 10 percent tax increase on imported goods “won’t be effective if the government keeps on avoiding combatting custom evasion and smuggling.”

Ghobril said the cost of smuggling to other countries, more specifically Syria, runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

He added that Lebanon’s 2022 growth, which he estimates contracted by 12 percent in 2021, and 25 percent in 2020, will depend on the Lebanese government’s next policies.

“There are two scenarios: either the government reaches an agreement on economic reforms, with a deal with the IMF (International Monetary Fund), and this will push growth into positive territory after four years of contraction; or it won’t and we will face another year of economic contraction,” he said.


Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn

Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn
Updated 21 January 2022

Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn

Gulf electricity interconnection project saves members $3bn

RIYADH: Gulf countries have saved $3 billion since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority in 2019, it said.

Savings have come from a reduced need for new generation plants, thus lower operating and maintenance expenses, and reduced carbon emissions, SPA reported.

The Authority has agreed an action plan for the establishment of a joint electrical interconnection project with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission and Jordan’s National Electric Power Co., it said.

In a two-day meeting, the parties agreed on preparing a business case to explain the benefits of electrical connection and to complete the required procedures, SPA reported.


Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves

Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves
Updated 21 January 2022

Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves

Twitter offers NFT profile pics; Bitcoin falls below $40,000: Crypto moves

LONDON: Twitter’s premium users can display non-fungible tokens in new hexagonal profile pictures, as the social media giant embraces the growing craze of digital collectibles known as NFTs.

Currently, the feature is only available to Twitter Blue subscribers on Apple’s iOS platform, allowing them to link their accounts with crypto wallets where they keep their NFTs.

To distinguish them from regular profile pictures, NFTs are displayed in hexagons that, when clicked, display details about them including ownership.

Last year, Twitter — founded by Jack Dorsey — began allowing users to send and receive bitcoin. Dorsey quit as Twitter CEO in November to focus on another company he founded, Square, which has since changed its name to Block, a reflection of Dorsey’s desire to further embrace blockchain and Web3 technologies.

Sales of NFTs reached about $25 billion in 2021, according to data from DappRadar, but growth is believed to have slowed toward the end of the year.

The most-traded cryptocurrencies experienced another day of selling on Friday as Bitcoin slumped almost 9 percent to $38,464.90 as of 1:07 p.m. in London. Ethereum declined 11 percent to $2,794 and Solana lost 14 percent to $118.

Bitcoin was trading above $67,000 as recently as November.

“Crypto markets have been sitting on a critical support level for some time,” Stack Funds told CoinDesk. “Macro market weakness is causing a sell-off in risk assets. Further continuation of this sentiment will likely see BTC trade in the mid ‘30s.”

Risk assets are being hurt by expectations of at least three interest-rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve this year as it looks to counter accelerating inflation.

The selloff in cryptocurrencies has not deterred the new mayor of New York City Eric Adams, who said he plans to convert his first paycheck this week into bitcoin and Ethereum.

“New York is the center of the world, and we want it to be the center of cryptocurrency and other financial innovations,” Adams said in a statement. “Being on the forefront of such innovation will help us create jobs, improve our economy, and continue to be a magnet for talent from all over the globe.”


Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference

Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference
Updated 21 January 2022

Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference

Mobily prepares major announcements for LEAP22 tech conference

RIYADH: Etihad Etisalat, known as Mobily, said it will launch a range of innovative and disruptive digital solutions during LEAP22, the technology event scheduled for Riyadh in February.

Mobily’s announcements will be in the area of the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, smart cities, smart health care systems and others, it said in a statement.

“LEAP is a turning point in the Kingdom’s journey toward digital transformation, elevating its position at the forefront of global players who develop and empower the latest technologies that shape the future of our world,” said Mobily CEO Eng. Salman Al Badran. “As the Kingdom moves toward enabling a leading digital economy, Mobily seeks to provide individuals and corporates with the tools they need to unlocking opportunities and pursue their ambitions.”

“At Mobily, we persistently contribute to the realization of Vision 2030 through providing advanced telecommunications services and digital solutions that contribute to transforming the Kingdom’s digitalization ambitions into reality, he said.

Leap will be held in Riyadh from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3, 2022.

Saudi Arabia has been embracing technology as a means to loosen the economy’s dependency on hydrocarbons.

In August, $1 billion of initiatives aimed at improving digital skills in the Kingdom were unveiled under the name Launch. Among the targets is an ambition to train one in every 100 Saudis to be programmers, and the creation of 25,000 jobs in data science and AI by 2030.

Saudi Arabia has also attracted the Middle East’s first Apple Developer Academy, which will initially focus on women coders.

LEAP will host 700 start-ups and will feature a host of keynotes, workshops and assemblies on topics from smart cities to space and satellites, health tech, future energy.

The LEAP Forward stage will tackle issues around the most prominent future technologies, including self-driving vehicles and AI, exosuits, nanorobotics, augmented reality, and bionics.

International speakers include Raghu Raghuram, CEO of cloud-computing giant VMware, Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson, and Dr. Saket Kumar, chief data scientist for Global Premium Services at Google. Regional speakers include Manar Al-Moneef, regional CEO of GE Renewable Energy, and Ghinwa Baradhi, HSBC’s chief information officer in the Middle East and North Africa.

Altogether 450 speakers and 40,000 visitors are expected at the event.