Oil prices slip as pandemic takes toll on India’s fuel sales

Oil prices slip as pandemic takes toll on India’s fuel sales
Volunteers stand next to burning pyres of persons who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a crematorium on the outskirts of Bengaluru. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 May 2021

Oil prices slip as pandemic takes toll on India’s fuel sales

Oil prices slip as pandemic takes toll on India’s fuel sales
  • India demand for transportation fuel expected to slump in May
  • Comes as cases in country hit a fresh high

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Monday as a catastrophic second wave of a coronavirus epidemic in India cut short a recovery in oil demand there, offsetting optimism about a strong rebound in demand in developed countries and China in the second half of the year.
Brent crude futures for July fell 15 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $66.61 a barrel by 0244 GMT while US West Texas Intermediate for June was at $63.48 a barrel, down 10 cents, or 0.2 percent.
State-level restrictions aimed at stemming infections in India have caused fuel sales in the world’s third largest consumer to drop in April, preliminary data shows.
“Overall fuel demand is down by about 7 percent from pre-COVID level of April 2019,” A.K. Singh, head of marketing at refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp. said, adding that India’s demand was close to pre-COVID levels in March.
Analysts are expecting India’s demand for transportation fuels to witness a sharper slump in May due to more restrictions.
“Given that it still appears as though COVID-19 in India has not peaked, we expect to see further downside to fuel demand over May,” ING analysts said in a note.
On Sunday, a leading Indian industry body urged authorities to curtail economic activity, as health care system has been overwhelmed by the spiralling infections.
Globally, however, the roll out of vaccination campaigns is expected to lift oil demand, especially during peak travel season in the third quarter, prompting analysts to increase their forecasts for Brent prices for a fifth straight month, a Reuters poll showed.
The survey of 49 participants forecast that Brent would average $64.17 a barrel in 2021, up from last month’s consensus of $63.12 and the $62.30 average for the benchmark so far this year.
On the supply side, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped 25.17 million bpd in April, up 100,000 barrels from March, as Iran and other producers increased output. OPEC’s production has risen every month since June 2020 with the exception of February.
Iran and the United States are in talks to revive a nuclear deal which could lead to a lifting of US sanctions that would allow Iran to ramp up oil exports.
Washington on Sunday denied a report by Iran’s state television that the arch-foes had reached a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of $7 billion of Iranian oil earnings frozen by US sanctions in other countries.
In the United States, energy firms added oil and natural gas rigs last week, leading to a ninth straight monthly rig count increase, as a recovery in prices lured some drillers back to the wellpad, according to Baker Hughes.
However, US crude oil production dropped by over a million barrels per day in February, to the lowest levels since October, 2017, according to a monthly government report on Friday.

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Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
Updated 11 May 2021

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
  • Turkey’s Karadeniz supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Karadeniz, which supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges, told Beirut to halt action by the Lebanese prosecutor to seize its vessels and said it must draw up a plan to settle arrears to avoid a cut in supplies, a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson for Karpowership, a unit of Karadeniz that operates floating power plants, was speaking on Tuesday after Lebanon’s Finance Ministry cited a lawmaker saying the country had been threatened with a cut to its supplies.
A Lebanese prosecutor issued a decision last week to seize the barges and fine the firm after TV channel Al-Jadeed reported corruption allegations tied to the power contract. The firm denies the charges and says it has not been paid for 18 months.


Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound
Updated 11 May 2021

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound
  • Revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551million

RIYADH: Suez Canal revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551 million compared to a year earlier, Asharq Business reported, citing Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie.
Rabie also discussed plans to expand and deepen the southern sector of the canal in which the container ship Ever Given was stuck in March, creating chaos across the global supply chain.
That incident which brought a large proportion of seaborne trade to a near halt for a week, highlighted the need to ensure the  smooth operation of the key trade artery.
Rabie also revealed plans for dredging works for the maintenance of the navigational channel of the canal.
A plan is being implemented to restructure the authority’s companies, he said.
This year witnessed a slight increase in the number of ships passing through the waterway to 1,840 in April 2021 from 1,731 in April 2020, Al Arabiya reported.


Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

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Updated 11 May 2021

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
  • The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter

RIYADH: Egypt’s unemployment rate reached 7.4 percent of the total labor force in the first quarter of 2021 — up from 7.2 percent in the previous quarter.
The new data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), reflects the impact of the second wave of the pandemic.
The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter, representing a decrease of 2.3 percent, Al Arabiya reported.
The labor force in urban areas reached 13,034 million, with 16,250 million living in rural areas.
Gehan Saleh, economic affairs adviser to Egypt’s prime minister said in April that the second stage of the country’s economic reform program would be launched soon.
She said the plan aims to improve the quality of life of citizens and tackle unemployment through job-creating investments.


Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

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Updated 11 May 2021

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
  • It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods

DUBAI: Indian customs have foiled an attempt to post gold from Dubai disguised in containers of the popular Tang drink.

After sieving the contents of the drink mix, Chennai customs officials discovered it had been mixed with gold granules, according to a statement from the Commissioner of Customs at Chennai International Airport.
Officials probing the racket found that the address of the receiver had been misused.
It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods.
Earlier this year officials at Chennai airport also nabbed two men trying to smuggle gold through the airport underneath their wigs.
The hapless pair were nabbed after their unusual hairstyles caught the attention of officials.

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UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
Updated 11 May 2021

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
  • The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider

DUBAI: British telecommunications company Helios Towers has signed a deal with Omantel to acquire 2,890 sites for $575 million from the sultanate’s largest mobile network operator.
The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider.
The deal is expected to bring in a $59 million bump in revenues in the first full year of operations.
It also involves a $35 million plan to add 300 new build-to-suit sites over the next seven years.
“We view Oman as a very attractive and supportive market for foreign investments, with strong growth and exciting future prospects,” the UK-based company’s chief Kash Pandya said in a statement.
He said the acquisition strengthens its business through “further hard-currency revenues and diversification” in what the CEO described as the fastest growing markets in the region.
“We look forward to working with Omantel and the other MNOs over the coming years to further develop next generation mobile infrastructure solutions and services in Oman,” he added.
The partnership reflects Oman’s FDI aspirations, Omantel CEO Tala Said Al-Mamari said, adding it will create jobs and opportunities in the country.
“This move also allows the monetization of our towers at attractive valuation levels, de-lever our balance sheet, and will accelerate network development in next generation advanced technologies,” he noted.
He said it would allow Omantel’s management to focus on innovation and product development while outsourcing infrastructure management to an independent firm.
The transaction will close by the end of 2021, and the long-term partnership will last for an initial period of 15 years.