Saudi Arabia biggest Arab importer from Brazil as trade surges

Saudi Arabia biggest Arab importer from Brazil as trade surges
Brazilian exports to the Arab world increased 22.5% over the past year. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 April 2021

Saudi Arabia biggest Arab importer from Brazil as trade surges

Saudi Arabia biggest Arab importer from Brazil as trade surges
  • Saudi imports from Brazil worth $526.16 million in Q1
  • Imports of soy and maize posted record increases

RIYADH: Brazil’s exports to the Arab region soared 22.5 percent year over year in volume amounting to $2.91 billion during the first quarter of 2021, SPA reported, citing figures released by the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (ABCC).

Saudi Arabia imported $526.16 million of good from Brazil during the period, the most among Arab countries, the data showed. Bahrain came second at $406.36 million, followed by Egypt at $379.26 million and the UAE at $352.2 million.

Iron ore and food products such as sugar, poultry, beef and cereals topped Brazilian foreign sales to the Arab world in the first quarter with imports of soy and maize posting record-high increases.

Exports from the Arab world to Brazil stood at $1.31 billion in the first quarter of the year, reflecting a 11.2 percent increase from a year ago.


Flared natural gas latest prize in bitcoin miners’ energy quest

Flared natural gas latest prize in bitcoin miners’ energy quest
Updated 10 sec ago

Flared natural gas latest prize in bitcoin miners’ energy quest

Flared natural gas latest prize in bitcoin miners’ energy quest
WASHINGTON: As the value of bitcoin soars and concerns rise about the energy-intensive process needed to obtain it, cryptocurrency entrepreneurs in the United States believe they have found a solution in flared natural gas.
Profitably creating, or mining, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies requires masses of computers dedicated to solving deliberately complicated equations — an endeavor that globally consumes more electricity than entire nations, but for which these start-ups say the jets of flaming gas placed next to oil wells are perfect power sources.
“I think the market is enormous,” said Sergii Gerasymovych, CEO of EZ Blockchain, which has six different data centers powered off natural gas in the US states of Utah and New Mexico, as well as in Canada.
Across the country, companies like EZ Blockchain are setting up shipping containers where racks containing hundreds of computers mine cryptocurrency, fueled by natural gas from oil wells that otherwise would be burned in the open.
Interest in their work has grown over the past year. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like ethereum and dogecoin have seen meteoric price spikes since the Covid-19 pandemic turned the global economy on its head and mainstream companies began to embrace the technology.
But a backlash has formed against the digital assets’ energy usage, fueled by concerns it relies on carbon-emitting power sources that contribute to climate change.
This week, Tesla boss Elon Musk criticized bitcoin’s power consumption, particularly of energy produced from coal, and said he would no longer accept the cryptocurrency as payment for his electric cars.
While entrepreneurs in the fledgling industry say using natural gas that is otherwise wasted represents a solution to these concerns, its ability to actually cut emissions remains to be seen, said Tony Scott, managing director of analysis at oil and gas research firm BTU Analytics.
“In the grand scheme of things and relative to other load, yes, it’s small,” Scott said. “They are creating economic value (but) they’re not necessarily significantly changing the emissions profiles.”
Huge numbers of processors worldwide are dedicated to the task of mining bitcoin. The activity uses 149.6 terawatt-hours per year, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index (CBECI). That is slightly less than all the electricity consumed by Egypt.
As the most popular cryptocurrency, bitcoin is undoubtedly valuable, trading at around $50,000 in mid-May from less than $10,000 a year ago, giving miners incentive to find the cheapest source of power to increase their margins.
Enter flared natural gas.
Oil producers flare natural gas if they can’t find a way to process it, which, with prices low and pipelines complicated to build, can be the case worldwide.
“Miners tend to be based around areas where there tends to be surplus power. What is new... is this whole concept of taking gas flaring,” said Jason Deane, bitcoin analyst at Quantum Economics.
Flaring combusts many of the greenhouse gases in natural gas, but the International Energy Agency said the approximately 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas flared worldwide in 2019 put out about the same amount of carbon dioxide as Italy.
Using flared gas to power the application-specific integrated circuits that mine bitcoin does not end emissions entirely, but is more efficient than flaring it and puts energy that is otherwise wasted to use.
“We come in, they’re making zero for their gas, we say, hey, we’ll come in (and) take the gas off your hands, give you a little something,” said Matt Lohstroh, co-founder of Giga Energy Solutions.
“We’ll be able to reduce your emissions you’re putting out, combust it, create economic value on our end.
Natural gas’s edge is in the cost of power. CBECI estimates the average global power cost for bitcoin mining is about $0.05 per kilowatt hour. Lohstroh said natural gas power can bring the kilowatt hour cost to below $0.018.
Interest has grown in diverting flared gas to cryptocurrency mining, and not just because the digital assets are growing in value.
“There’s more scrutiny on issuing new flare permits and I think these producers are realizing that,” said Britt Swann, who is leading holding company Ecoark’s expansion into cryptocurrency mining.
“They are willing to play ball and figure out a way to use that gas without necessarily wanting any value for it.”
Where companies differ is over what to do with bitcoin and other digital assets once they get it.
Ecoark intends to convert it into dollars, but Lohstroh plans to hold the bitcoin he mines, which he believes will one day underpin a new global financial system.
“No need to sell the most valuable asset in the world that’s underpriced,” he said.

UAE’s FDI inflows jump 44% in 2020

UAE’s FDI inflows jump 44% in 2020
Updated 18 min 9 sec ago

UAE’s FDI inflows jump 44% in 2020

UAE’s FDI inflows jump 44% in 2020
  • The oil and gas sector stood out as a number of deals were struck with foreign partners
  • The cumulative value of FDI reached $174 billion

DUBAI: Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the UAE grew 44.2 percent in 2020 to reach $19.9 billion despite the pandemic.
The oil and gas sector stood out as a number of deals were struck with foreign partners, the Ministry of Economy revealed.
The cumulative value of FDI reached $174 billion, representing a growth of 12.9 percent in the same period.
Outflows amounted to $9.2 billion, the ministry said, covering various economic sectors such as aviation, transportation, renewable energy, and agriculture.
“The investment landscape of the UAE has been steadily developing over the past years with the rapid introduction of progressive measures that have earned the nation a coveted position internationally,” Abdullah bin Touq Al-Marri, the country’s economic minister, said.
He said the UAE is eyeing more measures to improve its investment landscape, particularly in priority sectors.


Massive Saudi presence at ATM travel show in Dubai

Massive Saudi presence at ATM travel show in Dubai
Updated 36 min 35 sec ago

Massive Saudi presence at ATM travel show in Dubai

Massive Saudi presence at ATM travel show in Dubai
  • 81 Saudi ehbitors at this year's travel meet
  • Kingdom prepares to resume international flights

DUBAI: The Saudi travel industry will have top billing in Dubai this week as the Kingdom showcases its biggest tourism attractions.
With 81 Saudi exhibitors the Arabian Travel Market, the Kingdom has the biggest regional presence at this year's event outside of the UAE itself.
It is the first major in-person international travel event since outbreak of pandemic with 62 countries represented on the exhibition floor. It comes as the regional travel sector slowly emerges from a year of crippling restrictions with international flights also set to resume in Saudi Arabia from May 17.
“This year more than any other, we, along with our partners and sponsors, have worked together closely, to enable an inspirational in-person event, that will set the tone for the Middle East travel and tourism industry for the rest of this year,” said Exhibition Director Danielle Curtis.
Under the theme of ‘A new dawn for travel & tourism’, the 28th edition of the four-day show will include a dedicated buyer forum for Saudi Arabia.


Dubai developer Damac reports widening loss as sales almost halve

Dubai developer Damac reports widening loss as sales almost halve
Updated 16 May 2021

Dubai developer Damac reports widening loss as sales almost halve

Dubai developer Damac reports widening loss as sales almost halve
  • Sales shrink despite recent rally in Dubai luxury homes

DUBAI: Damac, the Dubai developer behind some of the emirate’s glitziest property projects, reported a widening first-quarter loss as sales almost halved.
The developer reported a first quarter loss of 189.6 million dirhams ($51.6 million), compared to a loss of 106.1 million dirhams in the year-earlier period. Revenues dropped by about half to about 642.2 million dirhams, it said in a stock exchange filing.
Dubai property developers have reported a recovery in demand for high end properties in recent weeks as transaction activity in the secondary market picked up. But at the same time, off-plan sales remain under pressure.
S&P said in March it expected Dubai’s GDP growth to recover while real estate remained squeezed.
“We expect real estate companies’ profitability to remain under pressure and leverage to be high,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Sapna Jagtiani. “Absent a substantial recovery in revenue, companies are likely to focus on cost optimization, proactively managing their liquidity, and preserving their cash flows. Rated Dubai-based real estate companies still have good liquidity and access to funding, however, despite currently trying times.”


US fuel supply to normalize ‘fairly soon’

US fuel supply to normalize ‘fairly soon’
Updated 16 May 2021

US fuel supply to normalize ‘fairly soon’

US fuel supply to normalize ‘fairly soon’
  • Gas station outages down about 12 percent from the peak, says official

WASHINGTON: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says the nation is “over the hump” on gas shortages following a ransomware cyberattack that forced a shutdown of the nation’s largest gasoline pipeline.

Problems peaked Thursday night, and service should return to normal in most areas by the end of the weekend, Granholm said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The good news is that ... gas station outages are down about 12 percent from the peak” as of Friday afternoon, with about 200 stations returning to service every hour, she said. “It’s still going to work its way through the system over the next few days, but we should be back to normal fairly soon.''

A cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them hit the Colonial Pipeline on May 7. The hackers did not take control of pipeline operations, but the Georgia-based company shut it down to prevent malware from affecting industrial control systems.

The Colonial Pipeline stretches from Texas to New Jersey and delivers about 45 percent of the gasoline consumed on the East Coast. The shutdown has caused shortages at the pumps throughout the South and emptied stations in the Washington, DC.

President Joe Biden said US officials do not believe the Russian government was involved, but said “we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia.'”

As Colonial reported making “substantial progress” Friday in restoring full service, two people briefed on the matter confirmed the company had paid a ransom of about $5 million.

Granholm, like other Biden administration officials, urged drivers not to panic or hoard gasoline.

“Really, the gasoline is coming,'' she said. “If you take more than what you need, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of the shortages. Let’s share a little bit with our neighbors and everybody should know that it’s going to be okay in the next few days.'”

Granholm’s agency is leading the federal response to the ransomware attack. She said the incident shows the vulnerability not only of US infrastructure, but also personal computers. Her 86-year-old mother recently suffered a ransomware attack on her iPad, Granholm said.

“So it’s just happening everywhere,'' she said. “All these cybercriminals see an opportunity in the cloud and in our connectivity. And so we all have to be very vigilant. That means we’ve got to have security systems on our devices and individually we shouldn’t be clicking on any email with attachments from people you don’t know. I mean it’s just around us.'”

Biden signed an executive order on cybersecurity this week, and the Energy Department and other agencies are working to protect critical infrastructure, she said.

Much of the US pipeline infrastructure, like Colonial, is privately owned. The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate pipelines, said this week that the US should establish mandatory cybersecurity standards for pipelines similar to those in the electricity sector.