Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts

Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting in Cairo, Egypt April 12, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 April 2021

Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts

Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts

CAIRO: Egypt and Russia have agreed to resume all flights between the two countries in a call between their presidents, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Vladimir Putin, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement.
Flights to resort destinations Sharm Al-Sheikh and Hurghada were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai in October 2015, killing 224 people.
The Egyptian statement did not specify a timeline for the resumption of flights, but Russia’s Interfax news agency reported this week that flights could resume in the second half of May.
An Airbus A321, operated by Metrojet, had been taking Russian holiday makers home from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in 2015, when it broke up over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all on board. A group affiliated with Daesh militants claimed responsibility.
The decision to resume flights followed “the joint cooperation between the two sides on this issue, and based on the standards of security and convenience provided for visits at Egyptian tourist destination airports,” the statement said.


Bitcoin recoups some losses after Musk-triggered tumble

Bitcoin recoups some losses after Musk-triggered tumble
Updated 9 min 19 sec ago

Bitcoin recoups some losses after Musk-triggered tumble

Bitcoin recoups some losses after Musk-triggered tumble
  • Tesla will retain bitcoin holdings
  • Musk reiterates faith in crypto

LONDON:  Bitcoin popped back above $50,000 in Asian trade on Thursday, clawing back some of the 17 percent plunge that followed Elon Musk’s tweet that Tesla Inc. would stop accepting the digital tokens as payment for its cars.
The price of the world’s largest cryptocurrency dropped from around $54,819 to $45,700, its lowest since March 1, in just under two hours following the tweet shortly after 2200 GMT. It recovered about half of that drop early in the Asian session, and last traded about $51,099.
Ether, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, followed a similar pattern, dropping 14 percent to touch a low of $3,550, before bouncing back above $4,000.
“We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk wrote.
Tesla’s announcement on Feb. 8 that it had bought $1.5 billion of bitcoin and that it would accept it as payment for cars has been one factor behind the digital token’s surging price this year.
As a result, Musk’s comments roiled markets even though he said Tesla would not sell any bitcoin and would resume accepting the cryptocurrency as soon as mining transitioned to more sustainable energy.
The digital currency is still 30 percent higher than before Tesla’s February announcement.
At current rates, bitcoin mining devours about the same amount of energy annually as the Netherlands did in 2019, data from the University of Cambridge and the International Energy Agency showed.
“The issue (of huge energy use by bitcoin miners) has been long known so it’s nothing new, but taken together with Musk’s recent comments about dogecoin, his latest comments seems to suggest his passion for cryptocurrencies may be waning,” said Makoto Sakuma, researcher at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo.
Cryptocurrency dogecoin lost more than a third of its price on Sunday after Musk, whose tweets had stoked demand for the token earlier this year, called it a “hustle” on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy show. On Tuesday, however, he was asking his followers on Twitter if they wanted Tesla to accept dogecoin.
A broader selling of risk assets in traditional markets was another factor in the plunge, said Jeffrey Wang, Vancouver-based head of Americas at Amber Group, a cryptocurrency service provider.
“I don’t think everything is selling off just because of this news. This was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of adding to the risk sell-off,” he said.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 dropped 2.1 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 2.7 percent.
Smaller cryptocurrencies were less affected by the news.
“Interestingly enough, altcoins are performing well,” said Justin d’Anethan, sales manager at Hong Kong-based head of exchange sales at Diginex, a digital asset company.
“The reason given in the tweet is fossil fuel use for the mining of BTC, but most cryptocurrencies have already found more efficient ways to do that and therefore outperformed.”
Bitcoin has struggled since hitting a record $64,895.22 in mid-April, dropping to the cusp of $47,000 just 11 days later before hovering around $58,000 since the start of May.
By contrast, ether soared to a record $4,180.12 on Wednesday, and, even with the current pullback, is up 435 percent in 2021, eclipsing bitcoin’s 75 percent rise. Its popularity stems in part from the ethereum network’s growing number of uses, including non-fungible tokens, which are used to certify unique ownership of things like online artwork.
The bitcoin dominance index, a ratio of bitcoin’s share of the total market cap of all cryptocurrencies, dropped to 42 percent, its lowest since June 2018.
“The trade we’ve been pushing for a while now is short bitcoin, long ether, and that trade has been a thing of beauty,” said Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone in Melbourne.
“The question everyone is asking is at what stage will ether have a bigger market cap than bitcoin, and I think that day will come personally.”


Oil pulls back from 8-week high as coronavirus cases surge in India

Oil pulls back from 8-week high as coronavirus cases surge in India
Updated 30 min 49 sec ago

Oil pulls back from 8-week high as coronavirus cases surge in India

Oil pulls back from 8-week high as coronavirus cases surge in India
  • Brent crude and WTI both fell 1 percent on Thursday
  • Oil demand is already outstripping supply, IEA said yesterday

TOKYO: Oil prices fell on Thursday, pulling back from an eight-week high as concerns about the coronavirus crisis in India, the world’s third-biggest importer of crude, tempered a rally driven by IEA and OPEC predictions that demand is coming back strongly.
Brent crude was down 66 cents, or 1 percent, at $68.66 a barrel by 4:44 a.m. GMT, after gaining 1 percent on Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down 67 cents, or 1 percent, to $65.41 a barrel, having risen 1.2 percent in the previous session.
“The path for crude prices appears to be higher but until the situation improves in India, WTI will probably struggle to break above the early March high,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note.
Oil demand is already outstripping supply and the shortfall is expected to grow further even if Iran boosts exports, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its monthly report on Wednesday.
A day earlier, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) stuck to its forecast for a strong return of world oil demand in 2021, with growth in China and the United States canceling out the impact of the coronavirus crisis in India.
But global concern is rising over the situation in India, the world’s second-most populous country, where a variant of the coronavirus is rampaging through the countryside in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began.
Medical professionals are still unable to say for sure when new infections will plateau and other countries are alarmed over the transmissibility of the variant that is now spreading worldwide.
Meanwhile, fuel shortages are getting worse in the southeastern United States six days since the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline network in the world’s biggest oil consumer.
Colonial, which pipes more than 2.5 million barrels per day, said it is hoping to get a large portion of the network operating by the end of the week.
“While the disruption is meaningful for local retail markets, its impact is still likely to be transient as there is no physical damage to the pipeline,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a new report.


GCC chemical projects worth $71bn amid pandemic recovery

GCC chemical projects worth $71bn amid pandemic recovery
Updated 47 min 51 sec ago

GCC chemical projects worth $71bn amid pandemic recovery

GCC chemical projects worth $71bn amid pandemic recovery
  • The projects will become operational between 2020 and 2024
  • Regional chemical production increased 1.5 percent in 2020

RIYADH: Gulf petrochemical projects worth $71 billion are expected to become operational between 2020 and 2024, Al Eqtisadiah reported, citing the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).
Regional chemical production expanded 1.5 percent last year compared to a global decrease of 2.6 percent, it said.
Increased demand for raw materials used in medical equipment helped the industry navigate through the pandemic.
This enabled companies to maintain stable operating rates of 93 percent, as commercial activity started to recover in the third quarter of the year.
Still, the regional industry has posted a two-year decline in revenues, said GPCA secretary general Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun.
He said the challenges facing the sector have been exacerbated by supply chain disruptions related to the closure of ports in China and increases in freight rates up to three times the market price before the epidemic, he explained.
This increase has eroded the profits of GCC producers who were already operating on thin margins, he said.


How the pandemic helped 3D printing become mainstream

How the pandemic helped 3D printing become mainstream
Updated 47 min 8 sec ago

How the pandemic helped 3D printing become mainstream

How the pandemic helped 3D printing become mainstream
  • Demand in the Kingdom is coming from critical sectors, such as oil, gas, defense, and utilities

JEDDAH: The global uncertainty created by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was a challenging time for many industries. However, for some, such as Zoom or Amazon, it was a blessing in disguise and a catalyst for accelerated growth.

The 3D printing sector also saw a rapid surge in demand.

Dubai-headquartered Immensa Technology Labs reported that its business grew by nearly 400 percent in 2020, as global supply chains were disrupted, and operators scrambled to find an alternative.

“The pandemic was probably one of the biggest propellers for this technology, the year of COVID-19 is the year that 3D printing grew up and became mainstream,” CEO and founder of Immensa, Fahmi Al-Shawwa, told Arab News.

“3D printing saved the day,” he said, adding: “Whether it was in the medical sector, where we started producing components for hospitals to utilize, or things as big as old refineries, where there had been components that failed, and they could not resource the spare parts, we produced them.”

As one of the biggest markets in the region, Saudi Arabia was an obvious target for expansion. In April, Immensa was the first company in the Kingdom to be awarded an additive manufacturing — or 3D printing — license by the Saudi Ministry of Investment.

Immensa launched into the Saudi market in November through its acquisition of two Saudi 3D printing startups, Shakl3D and LayLabs. Shakl3D was established in 2016 and LayLabs two years later. By combining with Immensa, the larger entity is aiming to scale globally and target opportunities in Europe and North America.

“By acquiring their existing setups and investing in what they have started, we can expedite the development of the industrial 3D-printing sector in the Kingdom and provide both teams with the international platform of Immensa,” Al-Shawwa said.

HIGHLIGHTS

● In April, Immensa was the first company in the Kingdom to be awarded an additive manufacturing — or 3D printing — license by the Saudi Ministry of Investment.

● Immensa launched into the Saudi market in November through its acquisition of two Saudi 3D printing startups, Shakl3D and LayLabs.

● The company has also acquired a 10,000 square foot industrial facility in Dammam and is planning to establish a network of other 3D printing hubs across Saudi Arabia.

The company has also acquired a 10,000 square foot industrial facility in Dammam and is planning to establish a network of other 3D printing hubs across Saudi Arabia.

3D printing is a production method in which materials such as plastic or metal are stacked in layers to create products. It is also known in the industry as additive manufacturing or rapid prototyping.

Immensa is focused on industrial 3D printing, making mechanical and functional parts for the oil and gas, utilities, power, and water treatment sectors. Al-Shawwa is planning to expand the company’s reach to other sectors and industries.

“We already have our plastics and polymer machinery up and running,” he said, adding that its “metal facility will be operating in the coming weeks.”

As part of its overall strategy, the CEO said he is planning a big investment drive in the Kingdom. “Over the next three years, I think we will be investing significantly.”

According to Statista, the global 3D printing market was valued at around $13 billion in 2020 and is forecast to grow at a rate of 26 percent per annum between 2022 and 2024.

At the same time, in its latest report issued late last year, research firm UnivDatos Market Insights said the 3D printing industry in the Middle East and North Africa was valued at $521.4 million in 2018, which is expected to rise to $1.374 billion by 2025.

“Globally, the adoption of 3D printing is growing at around 30 percent per year. I think what we are going to see in Saudi Arabia is it growing by more than four times that, of 150 to 200 percent per year,” Al-Shawwa said.

Demand in the Kingdom is coming from critical sectors, such as oil, gas, defense, and utilities. These sectors pave the way for other sectors, as other industries are slowly adopting the technology in areas like tooling and injection molding, he explained.

The company boasts eight full-time engineers in Saudi Arabia, with plans to increase that to over 20 this year. Al-Shawwa said one of the reasons for their focus on Saudi Arabia was the availability of local engineers.

“The pool of talent in Saudi Arabia is phenomenal,” Al-Shawwa said.

“One of the reasons why we are shifting to Saudi because we don’t have to rely on expat talents. You can actually rely on local talent.”

Al-Shawwa envisions Immensa eventually becoming a Saudi-American company in the next five years. Its primary base will be in the Kingdom, servicing the rest of the Gulf, which has been the company’s main focus market for the last two years. However, it has recently expanded to the US, which will focus on clients in Asia and northern Europe.


Oil industry spending cuts hammer services firm CGG

Oil industry spending cuts hammer services firm CGG
Updated 13 May 2021

Oil industry spending cuts hammer services firm CGG

Oil industry spending cuts hammer services firm CGG
  • A recent pick up in oil prices helped Europe’s major energy companies to post big increases in first quarter earnings

GDANSK: French oil services group CGG posted a 71 percent plunge in first quarter core profit on Wednesday, reflecting a year of drastic spending cuts by the oil industry in the pandemic and sending its shares sharply lower.

In a call with analysts, CEO Sophie Zurquiyah said the quarter had been slow as expected, but predicted more spending in the second half of 2021, noting a resumption of commercial business and contract awards in March and higher oil prices.

“I believe we will see the need for our clients to increase their activity to not only catch up on the work postponed from 2020, but also to compensate for the depletion of their existing reservoirs,” she told analysts in a call.

Zurquiyah confirmed the firm’s 2021 targets.

A recent pick up in oil prices helped Europe’s major energy companies to post big increases in first quarter earnings.

That could bode well for CGG, which cut jobs and sold out of businesses last year as companies such as BP, Total, and Equinor slashed spending.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Tuesday stuck to its prediction of a strong recovery in world oil demand in 2021, as growth in China and the US counters the coronavirus crisis in India.

OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, agreed in April to gradually ease oil output cuts.

CGG posted a first quarter core profit of $36 million, while its multi-client business — which offers seismic data and geological studies — had just one active project in offshore Brazil. Its stock was down over 9 percent at 0725 GMT, the worst performer on France’s SBF 120 index.