Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 April 2021

Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
  • The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations

RIYADH: South Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook has invited Saudi Arabia to attend the Global Infrastructure Cooperation Conference (GICC2021).

The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations.

The ambassador met Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr, undersecretary at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing for housing subsidies, and general supervisor of the International Cooperation Department at the ministry in Riyadh.

GICC2021 is scheduled for “later this year,” the ambassador told Arab News, adding that the meeting “reviewed the close, friendly and cooperative relations” between the two countries, and “agreed to continue to expand bilateral cooperation in the housing sector.”

He said: “I commended the Saudi government’s efforts to help Saudi families own their house through the Sakani program, taking note of the signing of four agreements during the Sakani Forum held last Thursday in Riyadh.”

The Sakani program helped 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing its target of serving 51,000 families.

It was formed in 2017 by the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund, with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom by creating new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70 percent home ownership by 2030.

The program aims to serve 220,000 Saudi families this year by creating 50,000 housing units, facilitating the reservation of 30,000 residential land plots, and arranging 140,000 real estate loans. To date, Sakani has enabled more than 350,000 families to own homes.


Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles
Updated 14 min 3 sec ago

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company reported a more than doubling of net profit year over year in the first quarter as its financing costs fell.
First-quarter net profit was 40.7 million dirhams ($11.1 million), up from 16 million dirhams in the year earlier period, ADNH said in a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
Revenue fell to 224.7 million dirhams from 344.3 million dirhams, while costs dropped to 201.8 million dirhams from 294.1 million dirhams.
While financing costs fell to 9.5 million dirhams from 19 million dirhams, the big difference from a year ago was the 41.9 million dirhams settlement of a legal claim in Q1 2020 that was not repeated in 2021.
The legal claim related to construction of one of its hotels. The total settlement amount was 200 million dirhams against available accrual of 158 million dirhams, resulting in a loss of 42 million dirhams, ADNH said.
Profit from joint ventures, including ADNH Compass Middle East, was 44.3 million dirhams, up from 39.6 million dirhams a year earlier.
The company, which owns 12 hotels in the UAE, including two Radissons, a Sheraton, a Park Hyatt and a Ritz Carlton, ended the quarter with 89.5 million dirhams less cash or equivalents at 264.9 million dirhams.


Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor

Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor
Updated 14 min 44 sec ago

Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor

Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor
  • MIPCO operates a power and desalination plant in Abu Dhabi
  • SHUAA invested in MIPCO in 2015

RIYADH: SHUAA Capital has sold its 20 percent equity stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company (MIPCO), to Japan’s Sojitz Corporation (Sojitz).
MIPCO was established in 2014 under the Department of Energy’s privatization program.
The company developed and operates a power generation and seawater desalination plant in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, with a 1600MW net power capacity and a 52.5 MIGD net water capacity. SHUAA did not disclose the purchase price.
“In addition to acquiring shares in the project which has successfully achieved commercial operation, this transaction is also important for us from the perspective of establishing a business relationship with SHUAA which has a large presence in the financial sector in the Middle East,” said Masakazu Hashimoto, COO of Sojitz’s infrastructure and health care unit.
“Sojitz is aiming to continue and further expand its business in the Middle East,” he added.
Having originally invested in MIPCO in 2015 to support the development phase of the project, this divestment is in line with the group’s planned exit strategy, it said in a stock exchange filing.
MIPCO’s shareholders also include the Abu Dhabi National Energy Group (TAQA) and Engie, the French low carbon energy and services group, both of which will remain shareholders (with 60 percent and 20 percent stakes respectively).
Sojitz is a multinational trading and investment group, listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, with assets of about $21 billion across a number of sectors.
SHUAA has appointed Standard Chartered Bank as financial adviser on the transaction and Linklaters as legal adviser.


Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row

Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row
Updated 06 May 2021

Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row

Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row
  • Etihad sold its stake in Air Seychelles to the government for one dollar last month

NAIROBI: State-owned Air Seychelles will not pay more than $20 million to holders of bonds worth $72 million, a government official told Reuters, even though creditors have threatened to wind the African airline up if they are not paid in full.
The standoff is the latest twist in broader efforts by creditors to recover $1.2 billion owed by Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and airlines it partly owned when the debt was issued in 2015 and 2016, such as Air Seychelles.
At the time, Etihad owned 40 percent of Air Seychelles and it was in a consortium along with the Gulf airline and other carriers that borrowed the money through special purpose vehicle EA Partners.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, Air Seychelles said it was struggling to honor its portion of the debt worth $71.5 million and it has been engaged in restructuring talks with a steering committee of creditors since July.
A senior government official from the Indian Ocean archipelago told Reuters it would not be able to offer bondholders more than $20 million to settle the debt.
“The $20 million which has been offered represents the upper limit with regards to the funding that Air Seychelles and/or the government of Seychelles can get approval for and successfully raise on the international market for settlement of the bond,” Patrick Payet, secretary of state for finance, said.
A committee of EA Partners creditors asked Air Seychelles last month to repay its debt, according to an EA Partners regulatory filing.
“Should Air Seychelles not comply ... the creditor will apply to the Supreme Court of Seychelles for an order that Air Seychelles be wound up,” the filing last month said.
The committee told Reuters this week it had rejected the $20 million offer but had not yet filed a winding-up petition to give the government a “grace period” to finalize a separate settlement with Etihad.
Etihad sold its stake in Air Seychelles to the government for one dollar last month and agreed to give it a 79 percent discount on the money it still owed the Gulf carrier, which is also about $72 million, Seychelles News Agency reported.
Creditors said it was unacceptable for Seychelles to offer financial investors a similar discount to the one it had received from Etihad, as the airline was a strategic shareholder.
Payet said that should creditors not accept the $20 million offer, the airline would have to consider other options, including insolvency and liquidation proceedings.
“It is the bondholders’ right to pursue legal options,” he said. “However, all our forecasts show in such an eventuality, the bondholders will recover significantly less than the $20 million currently on offer and it will take considerably longer to receive anything.”


KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery

KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery
Updated 06 May 2021

KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery

KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery
  • Resdiential mortgage growth supports sector
  • Retail stable despite upheaval across industry

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real estate market has shown the first signs of a post-pandemic recovery, according to a report from broker Knight Frank.
It said that the outlook for the Kingdom’s real estate market was improving, supported by growth in residential mortgages.
Faisal Durrani, head of Middle East Research at Knight Frank, said: “Like other global economies, the pandemic has driven a widespread economic slowdown across the Kingdom. However, improved business confidence during the closing months of 2020, underpinned by economic reforms linked to Vision 2030 and the rapid response to COVID-19, has helped to drive a turnaround in performance in all main segments of the real estate market.”
In the grade A office market, rents experienced fragmented performance in the Kingdom’s three main centers, with rents in Riyadh increasing marginally by 0.5 percent to SR1,465 ($390.67) per square meter during the first quarter, while in Jeddah rents fell 2.8 percent to SR1,008 per square meter.
In Dammam, grade A office rents declined 4.3 percent to just over SR900 per square meter in the first three months of 2021.
The recent decision to exempt real estate transactions from a 15 percent value-added tax (VAT) charge has helped to boost activity in the residential market.
“The overall improvement in business confidence and market sentiment has led to a surge in residential mortgage loans, which rose by 38 percent in the 12 months to the end of February. That has, in turn, materialized in the form of a marked increase in residential transactions across the country, with Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing a 25 percent and 34 percent increase in deal numbers over the last 12 months,” Durrani said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and retailers moving online, average vacancy rates in malls have remained stable. The market-wide vacancy rate in Riyadh increased by 1 percentage point in Q1 2021 to 16 percent.
Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest hotel construction pipeline, and the country’s supply is expected to increase by 61.1 percent over the next three years, the highest rate among the most 50 populated countries in the world, according to a report by hospitality data firm STR.
Durrani said: “The hospitality market has been somewhat of a bright spot. Despite continued weakness in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Dammam metropolitan area, these areas have experienced strong growth in both average daily room (ADR) rates, as well as revenue per available room.”
The resumption of the Umrah pilgrimage has underpinned performance in Jeddah’s hospitality market, where in the year to March 2021, ADRs grew by 18.7 percent, while occupancy decreased marginally by 2.2 percent.
Over this period, revenue per available room grew by 16.2 percent.


Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep

Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep
Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep

Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep
  • VAT and school closures also hit performance
  • Global supermarket sector returns to normality

DUBAI: Saudi supermarket chain Abdullah Al Othaim Markets reported a 42 percent drop in first quarter profit, a year on from the early panic-buying days of the pandemic.
Net profit fell to SR57.7 million ($15.4 million) for the first three months of the year from almost SR100 million a year earlier, the company said in a Tadawul filing. Sales fell 11.9 percent over the same period to about SR2.1 billion.
The company said that the decline followed the “abnormal growth in retail sales as a result of high demand to buy groceries and food supplies,” following the coronavirus outbreak in the Kingdom last year. It also cited the closure of schools and an increase in value added tax as factors that weighed on its performance.
Supermarkets worldwide have benefited from a boom in grocery buying over the last year, especially at the start of the pandemic when supermarket shelves were stripped of essential items as consumers went in to panic buying mode. As restaurants and cafes closed their doors, many consumers compensated by buying more food to consume at home.
Now global supermarket chains are adjusting to the return of more normal consumer purchasing patterns as lockdowns are lifted and economies re-open.
Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts said on Wednesday that that while customers shopping more normally would impact sales growth this year, the costs of the crisis would also fall.
“Like our customers, we are all looking forward to things feeling more normal over the coming months,” he said.