Destination Dubai: Jets in demand to escape India COVID surge

Destination Dubai: Jets in demand to escape India COVID surge
Police personnel riding on motorbikes hold placards during a COVID-19 coronavirus awareness rally in Chennai. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 29 April 2021

Destination Dubai: Jets in demand to escape India COVID surge

Destination Dubai: Jets in demand to escape India COVID surge
  • Wealthy expats stranded in India stoke demand for private jets

DUBAI: Indians from the millions-strong expat community in the UAE, stranded in their homeland during a catastrophic coronavirus surge, are swamping private jet operators with requests to whisk them back to safety.
Fearing a prolonged flight ban between India and the UAE, they aim to use an exemption for private business planes that was in effect last year during the first wave of the global crisis.
An estimated 3.5 million Indians live and work in the UAE.
The latest suspension in flights that came into force Sunday has shut down some 300 commercial flights that operated weekly on one of the world’s busiest air corridors.
Apart from low-paid laborers on short-term contracts, the sudden move has stranded members of long-settled wealthy families who traveled to India for holidays, work or on medical emergencies.
Many are now in a panic as cases in India skyrocket, with 18 million infections and more than 201,000 people dead, and the daily fatality toll rising above 3,000 for the first time on Wednesday.
T. Patel, a businessman living in Dubai, is working frantically to bring back his brother’s wife and three children, currently stuck in Bangalore.
“I am exploring the private jet option. It is a lot of money but if I have no other way of bringing them back, then I will go for it,” he said.
After the UAE shut its airspace to curb the spread of coronavirus in March last year, some residents raised the funds for seats on shared chartered planes that were permitted to fly to Dubai.
Patel paid $10,500 to get his parents and niece to Dubai, nearly 20 times the cost of regular tickets.
“I waited for two months and finally hired a private jet for $42,000, the cost of which was shared by a few equally desperate residents,” he said.
Dozens of charter flights zipped passengers from India to Dubai in the days before the new ban, after all commercial seats were snapped up, and charter companies say demand has since surged.
A 13-seat jet flying from Mumbai to Dubai costs between $35,000 and $38,000, around 35 times the price of a regular ticket. Prices from other cities are even higher.
But as demand soars, operators have been scrambling to clarify rules around private planes landing in the UAE.
“Chartered flights need to get approval from the General Civil Aviation Authority and the foreign ministry to operate. But we do not know who is exempted to travel,” said Tapish Khivensra, CEO of Enthral Aviation Private Jet Charter.
Civil aviation has said UAE nationals, diplomats, official delegations and “businessmen’ planes” are excluded from the ban, provided passengers observe measures including a 10-day quarantine.
Long-term Dubai resident Purushothaman Nair said he was prepared to “spend a fortune” to return to the UAE.
“My wife and I came to India for just 10 days. We have to fly back to Dubai at any cost,” he told AFP.
“There are many people who are willing to pay up. How can people with business interests and big responsibilities in the UAE afford to stay away for a longer period?” said Nair, who works in the government sector.
“The fear of contracting the virus is a bigger worry.”
The less well-off are weighing the high cost against the risk of losing their livelihoods.
“If I cannot make it in a few weeks, my job is on the line. My employer is already putting pressure on me and asking me to travel to the UAE via other countries,” Jameel Mohammed told AFP.
Mohammed had not seen his young son for two years when he was granted leave in March.
He was thrilled at the prospect of a reunion but is now stranded in the southern state of Kerala.
“I can’t afford that kind of money. But if the choice is between losing my job and borrowing money, I will do the latter and fly back.”


Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2

Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2
Updated 18 min 33 sec ago

Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2

Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2
  • Emirates Stallion Group, Al Seer Marine to IPO on ADX Second Market
  • IHC took stakes in SpaceX and Oxford Nanopore in past year

ABU DHABI: Three subsidiaries of International Holding Company (IHC) will be listed on Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange’s (ADX) Second Market in the second quarter of 2021, the company said in a filing on Thursday.

Real estate company Emirates Stallion Group (ESG), Al Seer Marine Supplies & Equipment Co. and an as yet unnamed third company will be listed, IHC said.

IHC, one of Abu Dhabi’s largest conglomerates is chaired by HH Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, national security adviser to the UAE. Last year it listed Palm Sports, Easylease and Zee Stores on ADX’s Second Market.

ESG, founded in 2006, owns a diversified portfolio of businesses across engineering and construction, real estate investment, development and management. It had assets of 394 million dirhams ($107 million) as of the end of 2020 and over 1,000 employees, according to IHC.

Al Seer Marine, which provides services including yacht management, repair and maintenance, and boat building, was founded in 2002 and acquired by IHC in April 2020. It had assets of 717.8 million dirhams as at the end of 2020, IHC said.

Over the past six months, IHC and its subsidiaries have made investments in UK-based DNA sequencing firm Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Quantlase Lab and Tamouh Healthcare, which recently developed the concept of Containerized Aid for Respiratory Emergencies.

In 2020, it took a stake in Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX, launched a partnership with DAL Group for a significant agricultural development in Sudan, and helped marketing consultancy Multiply make an investment in New York data-driven marketing firm YieldMissouri

IHC reported on Wednesday first-quarter net profit of $408 million.


Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m

Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m
Updated 8 min ago

Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m

Saudi-based B2B marketplaces raise combined $37.2m
  • Sary raised $30.5 million in a Series B round led by VentureSouq
  • Retailo secured $6.7 million in a seed round led by Shorooq Partners

RIYADH: Two competing Saudi business-to-business online marketplaces have announced fundraising, a further sign of the growing interest in the region’s startups.

Sary raised $30.5 million in a Series B round led by VentureSouq and joined by new investors US-based Rocketship.vc and STV, Sary said in a press release. Existing shareholders Ra’ed Ventures, MSA Capital and Derayah also contributed to the funding round.

Riyadh-based Retailo raised $6.7 million in a seed round led by existing investor Shorooq Partners and UK private equity shop Abercross Holdings, Retailo said a separate press release. Retailo, founded by former Careem executives, has now raised $9 million after being in operation for just nine months.

While Sary is the more mature business having being founded in 2018, both companies offer a platform to connect small businesses with wholesalers and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.

Sary plans to use the funds to grow geographically and expands the services it offers including credit provision.

“Core to VentureSouq’s overall fintech thesis is the emerging trend of embedded financial services,” VentureSouq Co-Founder and General Partner Suneel Gokhale said in the press release. “In Sary’s case, we see this move into credit as directly contributing to top-line growth, diversifying revenue streams, and improving unit economics for a strong, proven vertical-specific technology company.”

A rush to fund digital startups in the Middle East risks creating a valuation bubble, Fadi Ghandour, CEO of venture-capital investor Wamda, said last month.

“Since the pandemic the whole digital ecosystem which we were predicting to happen within ten years actually happened within a couple of months, so everything digital is growing exponentially,” he told Bloomberg Television. “Everything that is digital is exploding. So, lots of new money and lots of new startups.”

“There is so much new money coming into the market,” he said. “Sovereign wealth funds are starting to invest, and they are seeding a lot of VCs and so I think yes there is a little bit of a valuation bubble.”

Last month, 44 startups across the Middle East and North Africa raised more than $175 million, up $5 million from March, according to data from Wamda.

The biggest deal was by Riyadh-headquartered buy now pay later platform Tamara, which raised $110 million in a Series A round led by leading global payment processor Checkout.com. Helped by that transaction, Saudi Arabia topped the list in terms of number and value of startup investments for the first time.


Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April
  • Money supply increased 1 percent in the week to SR2.199 trillion

RIYADH: Saudi liquidity reached its highest level ever at the end of last week, April 29th, at SR2.199 trillion ($586.2 billion), compared with SR2.177 trillion a week earlier.

Money supply increased by 1 percent during the week, and 2.3 percent since the end of last year, Al Eqtisadiah reported, citing Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority data.

Money supply has been above SR2 trillion since May 7, 2020.


Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic
  • Written premiums rose to SR38.78 billion
  • Net profit increased 61.1 percent

RIYADH: The Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in terms of written premiums in 2020, to SR38.78 billion ($10.3 billion), according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s (SAMA) 14th annual report on the Saudi insurance market, issued on Thursday.

Energy and accident & liability insurance classes showed notable increases in written premiums with penetration of the sector increasing from 1.3 percent in 2019 to 1.5 percent in 2020.

In terms of underwriting performance, the overall loss ratio improved to 77.5 percent.

Insurance net profit (after zakat and tax) increased by 61.1 percent compared to the previous year’s corresponding figure, thereby improving the return-on-assets and return-on-equity ratios.

The SAMA report also noted that the overall Saudization ratio increased from 74 percent in 2019 to 75 percent in 2020.


Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest

Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest
Updated 07 May 2021

Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest

Qatar Minister of Finance replaced after arrest
  • Al-Emadi replaced by Minister of Trade and Industry
  • Al-Emadi accused of embezzlement, abuse of power

RIYADH: Qatar’s Emir has replaced the Minister of Finance following his arrest, according to a Royal statement on Thursday.

“Ali Sharif Al-Emadi, Minister of Finance, is relieved of his position, and Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari, Minister of Trade and Industry, in addition to his duties, is to be entrusted with the duties of the Minister of Finance,” Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported citing the Amiri order.

The public prosecutor said earlier Emadi was being questioned over allegations of embezzlement, abuse of power and crimes related to the public sector, according to a statement carried by the official state news agency. An investigation is underway.