British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July

British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July
IAG’s first quarter operating loss before exceptional items of €1.14 billion was slightly better than the €1.17 billion loss forecast by analysts. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 May 2021

British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July

British Airways owner IAG expects travel recovery from July
  • IAG’s first quarter operating loss before exceptional items of €1.14 billion was slightly better than the €1.17 billion loss forecast by analysts

LONDON: British Airways owner IAG is confident travel will recover from July onwards after forecasting only a minimal increase in its capacity to 25 percent for the April to June quarter.
IAG, which also owns Iberia and Vueling in Spain and Aer Lingus in Ireland, declined to forecast how much it would fly from July but said the recovery would be properly underway by then after more than a year of pandemic restrictions.
“We consider in the second half that we are going to be flying and we are prepared for that,” IAG Chief Executive Luis Gallego told reporters on Friday after the company posted a loss of €1.14 billion ($1.4 billion) in the first quarter.
Before July, however, Gallego said government action was needed on some issues, such as opening travel corridors between countries with high vaccination rates, including the United Kingdom and the US.
The rise to 25 percent of pre-pandemic capacity puts IAG’s plans behind those of rival airlines, and is only a marginal increase from the 19.6 percent it flew in the first three months of 2021.
Britain, which along with Spain is one of IAG’s main markets, is set to publish later on Friday its “green list” of low risk places where people can travel without needing to quarantine on their return.
Gallego said IAG was expecting only a small list of countries initially with more being added from June onwards.

FASTFACTS

● IAG, British Airways’ owner declined to forecast how much it would fly from July but said the recovery would be properly underway by then after more than a year of pandemic restrictions.

● The rise to 25 percent of pre-pandemic capacity puts IAG’s plans behind those of rival airlines, and is only a marginal increase from the 19.6 percent it flew in the first three months of 2021.

“Part of the reason we’re not giving guidance (for third quarter capacity) is simply because we don’t know what’s on the green list yet,” Chief Financial Officer Steve Gunning said.
Air France-KLM expects to operate 50 percent of its pre-pandemic flight capacity in the second quarter, picking up to 55 percent to 65 percent in July-September. Lufthansa expects to fly at about 40 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity for 2021 as a whole.
IAG’s first quarter operating loss before exceptional items of €1.14 billion was slightly better than the €1.17 billion loss forecast by analysts.
Shares in the company, which have risen 30 percent since the beginning of the year, traded up 0.7 percent.
“The company delivered a solid set of results and is pointing to the start of the recovery into the summer,” Goodbody analyst Mark Simpson said.
Given the ongoing uncertainty over COVID-19, IAG said it could not provide a profit outlook for 2021.


Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1

Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1
Updated 6 min 27 sec ago

Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1

Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1
  • Exports grew 25 percent to 50.5 billion dirhams while imports rose by 9 percent to 204.8 billion dirhams
  • Gold topped the list of commodities in the emirate’s external trade at 63 billion dirhams

DUBAI: Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade reached 354.4 billion dirhams ($96.5 billion) in the first three months of 2021 – indicating a 10 percent increase from the same period last year.
Exports grew 25 percent to 50.5 billion dirhams while imports rose by 9 percent to 204.8 billion dirhams, state news agency WAM reported.
Re-exports reached 99 billion dirhams in the same period, growing 5.5 percent.
“This remarkable performance reflects our external trade sector’s impressive resilience and its ability to rebound and grow in the face of major international crises,” the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, said.
He attributed the growth to the emirate’s advanced infrastructure, good governance, as well as the “generous stimulus packages” launched to support businesses during the pandemic.
Dubai earlier launched a five-year economic strategy to raise external trade to 2 trillion dirhams, and leverage its potential as a global trade hub given its location.
“Furthermore, by hosting Expo 2020, ‘the world’s greatest show’, Dubai will make a significant contribution to the recovery of the global economy and help it move toward prosperity again,” Sheikh Mohammed added.
It helped that global trading activities in Dubai were not heavily affected by the health crisis, Sultan bin Sulayem, group chairman of port operator DP World, said.
“The impressive success of the vaccination campaign in the UAE has created high levels of global confidence in the country and helped Dubai add to its profile as the city with the world’s most favorable business environment,” he said.
Sulayem highlighted Dubai’s ongoing campaign to create a global logistics network through a passport system that eases international trade.
Countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, and Brazil have joined the network, and several international shipping giants have signed up to benefit from it.
Airborne trade grew 15 percent to 179 billion dirhams, while sea trade accounted for 120 billion dirhams, recording a 3 percent increase. Land trade rose by 7 percent to 55.3 billion dirhams.
China is still Dubai’s biggest trading partner in the first three months of the year, with 44 billion dirhams worth of trade, representing a 30 percent increase.
It is followed by India at 35 billion dirhams, the US at 15.4 billion dirhams, and Saudi Arabia at 14.7 billion dirhams.
Gold topped the list of commodities in the emirate’s external trade at 63 billion dirhams, followed by telecoms, diamonds, jewelry, and vehicle trading.


Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?

Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?
Updated 34 min 30 sec ago

Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?

Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?
  • Ghosn led Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. for two decades before his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018. He was charged with falsifying securities reports in underreporting his compensation and with breach of trust

Americans Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor go on trial in Tokyo on Monday on charges they helped Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, skip bail and flee to Lebanon in December 2019.
HOW DID THE TAYLORS END UP IN JAPAN?
The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March. They have not been released on bail and are not available for comment, which is standard in Japan. They were formally charged in March with helping a criminal escape. Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, told The Associated Press while still in the US that Peter was not in Japan when Ghosn fled the country. The elder Taylor has helped parents rescue abducted children, gone undercover for the FBI and worked as a contractor for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH GHOSN?
Ghosn led Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. for two decades before his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018. He was charged with falsifying securities reports in underreporting his compensation and with breach of trust. He says he is innocent and the compensation he is accused of not reporting was never decided on or paid. Ghosn says he feared he would not get a fair trial in Japan, where more than 99 percent of criminal cases result in convictions. Japanese prosecutors say he paid at least $1.3 million to organize his escape. Ghosn is on Interpol’s wanted list, but Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon.
ESCAPE IN A BOX
Tokyo prosecutors say Michael Taylor and another man, George-Antoine Zayek, hid Ghosn in a large box meant to carry audio equipment, snuck him through airport security in Osaka, central Japan, and loaded him onto a private jet to Turkey. Peter Taylor is accused of meeting with Ghosn to help with the escape. Zayek has not been arrested. A US appeals court rejected the Taylors’ petition to put their extradition on hold.
COURT PROCEEDINGS
The Taylors will go through the Japanese equivalent of entering a plea before a panel of three judges. They may also give statements. They have said they didn’t break any laws because skipping bail is not technically illegal in Japan. But Ghosn was not supposed to leave the country. Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Yamamoto said prosecutors will outline the charges, but he declined to comment specifically on the case. Japanese suspects are tried even if they plead guilty.
The Taylors are held at the Tokyo detention center on the city’s outskirts. Their lawyer can visit them, and they can receive snacks and books. Ghosn spent more than 100 days at the center before his release on bail. The cells are simple, with Japanese-style futon mattresses. The facility has an exercise area and clinic.
WHAT LIES AHEAD?
English translations will be provided and media coverage is allowed, but no filming or recording. If convicted, the Taylors face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,900). They also could get suspended sentences and not serve time. In principle, people accused of crimes in Japan are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But the conviction rate is higher than 99 percent.
ANOTHER AMERICAN
Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly, also an American, is being tried on charges of falsifying securities reports in underreporting Ghosn’s pay. He says he is innocent and was trying to find legal ways to pay Ghosn, partly to prevent him from leaving Nissan for a rival automaker. Kelly’s trial began in September and a verdict isn’t expected for months. If convicted, Kelly faces up to 15 years in prison.
WHAT DOES GHOSN SAY?
During the interview in Lebanon in May, Ghosn told The Associated Press he was eager to clear his name. He declined to give details of his escape. Ghosn accuses other Nissan executives of plotting to force him out to prevent him from giving its French partner, Renault, more power in their alliance. Renault sent Ghosn to Japan in 1999 to rescue the automaker when it was on the verge of bankruptcy.
HOW IS NISSAN FARING?
Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, the Z sportscar and Infiniti luxury models, has struggled as sales slumped during the pandemic. It expects to remain in the red this fiscal year, the third straight year of losses. Ghosn’s successors have promised a turnaround.


Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors

Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors
Updated 44 min 46 sec ago

Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors

Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors
  • Hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE has already launched a series of reforms, including to allow foreigners full ownership of businesses, whereas before it was capped at 49 percent unless based in certain free trade zones

DUBAI: Tax advantages paired with a life of luxury have long drawn foreigners and multinationals to the UAE, which is aiming to remain attractive whether or not it signs up to a global tax initiative.
The Group of Seven wealthy powers this month endorsed an “unprecedented” agreement on a global minimum corporate tax targeting major companies seen as not paying enough, especially tech giants.
The objective is a minimum tax of at least 15 percent.
While the agreement is the first step in a long process before it can become a reality, caught in the crosshairs are tax havens that attract firms such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.
The United Arab Emirates entered the world’s top 10 tax havens for the first time in March, according to the Tax Justice Network.
Modestly called “jurisdictions with no or insignificant taxes” by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the havens include the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, the UAE and many others.
Both the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and freewheeling Dubai, the biggest draw for investors out of the UAE’s seven emirates, are home to thousands of companies that have set up regional offices there.
UAE officials have yet to issue a statement on the G7 agreement and did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
But this week Dubai announced plans to reduce in the coming months government procedures as “part of efforts to reduce the cost of doing business and further boost economic growth in the emirate.”
Hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE has already launched a series of reforms, including to allow foreigners full ownership of businesses, whereas before it was capped at 49 percent unless based in certain free trade zones.
Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri said the changes were a bid to boost the “competitive edge” of the country, currently 16th in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings.
The UAE, which relies on its image as an international hub, “will be keen to be seen as part of the global system rather than a tax haven,” said Scott Livermore of Oxford Economics Middle East.
“The upsides of remaining on the outside of the agreement is limited, especially if approved by the G20 and OECD countries,” the Dubai-based economist told AFP.
According to Livermore, even if businesses in the country see an increase in tax burden, the government was likely to “consolidate and simplify fees,” as is the case in Luxembourg and Malta, where multiple exemptions lower the final bill considerably.
“Already the authorities have realized the importance of broader business and social environment for attracting and retaining foreign investment and talent,” he said.
“This has been demonstrated by the raft of visa and business reforms announced over the past year.”
Many foreign executives are attracted to the lifestyle in Abu Dhabi and especially Dubai.
The two emirates are air hubs and offer a variety of luxury services that depend on a migrant labor force largely from South Asian countries.
The UAE’s low tax regime has been a “major carrot to dangle” before investors from abroad, said Robert Mogielnicki, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“Emirati policymakers will have to get creative and consider restructuring various business-related fees,” he told AFP.
“But even with the envisioned impact of a minimum global corporate tax, the UAE will remain a relatively low-tax environment.”
And regardless of new taxes introduced in Gulf countries in the past years amid an economic slump due to a drop in oil prices, Mogielnicki believes the Emirates will remain competitive.
“The UAE’s commercial environment enjoys excellent connectivity to key global markets, a high standard of living, and a dynamic labor market with cost-effective, skilled expatriate labor,” he said.
“I don’t think the UAE government or its citizenry will truly miss any of the firms or investors who only care about preferential tax treatment over the long run — even if missing out on some business opportunities will sting over the short run.”


Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years

Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years
Updated 13 June 2021

Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years

Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years
  • The minister said these structural reforms could play a vital role in accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus

CAIRO: Egypt’s infrastructure spending during the last seven years amounted to EGP1.7 trillion ($100 billion), according to the country’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala El-Said.

The spending had a direct impact on Egypt’s ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index as it focused on improving the quality of roads and providing uninterrupted power to the private sector and citizens, she said on Saturday.

She also said the government was taking several measures to boost public-private partnerships to expedite economic growth, and that the government had founded the first Egyptian sovereign fund designed to carry out projects in partnership with the private sector.

The minister said that, to strengthen such partnerships, the government kept the private sector and other stakeholders in the loop while formulating economic policies and regulations.

One example was a recent investment law, which encouraged the participation of the private sector and its increased collaboration with the public sector.

The minister said these structural reforms could play a vital role in accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as boosting overall growth.

El-Said said the government was proceeding with the implementation of structural reforms that would protect African economies from external shocks in the future.


Private sector partnerships created 400k jobs for Saudis since 2018

Private sector partnerships created 400k jobs for Saudis since 2018
Updated 13 June 2021

Private sector partnerships created 400k jobs for Saudis since 2018

Private sector partnerships created 400k jobs for Saudis since 2018
  • Saudi Arabia seeks to raise $54.5 billion over the next 4 years through its privatization program

RIYADH: Jobs have been created for about 400,000 Saudi nationals as a result of 11 Saudization agreements put in place since 2018, the Argaam website reported, citing information from Abdullah Abuthnain, vice minister of human resources and social development at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

Increased privatization and Saudization of roles are the key goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan last month said that Saudi Arabia is seeking to raise about $54.5 billion over the next four years through its privatization program.

Al-Jadaan expects to raise $38 billion through asset sales and $16.5 billion through public-private partnerships, he told the Financial Times.

The Saudi government has identified 160 projects in 16 sectors, including asset sales and public-private partnerships through 2025.

Asset sales will include government-owned hotels, television broadcasting towers, and cooling and water desalination plants.

The plan does not include Public Investment Fund entities or the sale of other assets of Saudi Aramco. The new privatization law will be enacted in Saudi Arabia in July this year.

The National Privatization Center (NCP) in March also announced the creation of the Registry of Privatization Projects, a comprehensive central database of information and documents related to projects targeted for privatization.

According to the director general of Strategic Communication and Marketing at the NCP, Hani Al-Saigh, the new system seeks to enhance the existing privatization system. One of its most important roles will be to strengthen existing governance and ensure fairness and transparency.

“The law allows participants from the private sector to set up a committee to submit grievances related to the bidding and selection procedures of privatization projects and lay the regulatory basis to compensate the aggrieved in case the gap cannot be addressed,” he told Arab News.

A report by the National Labor Observatory issued in April this year indicated that the percentage of Saudization in the private sector rose to 22.75 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 20.37 percent during the same period last year.

Recent data has shown that seven major job groupings in the private sector have achieved Saudization figures of more than 50 percent. While the rate across the private sector as a whole is around a quarter, Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported that the financial and insurance sector had achieved a rate of 83.6 percent, followed by public administration, defense, and mandatory social insurance (71.9 percent), mining, and quarrying activities (63.2 percent), education (52.9 percent), and information and communications (50.7 percent).

Saudi Arabia has the lowest dependence on foreign labor among Gulf Cooperation Council countries at around 77 percent, while Qatar has the highest, at about 94 percent, according to data from S&P Ratings.

While the Saudization figure is moving in a positive direction, some sectors face challenges. In December, the Saudi government added accountancy to the list of professions set to be Saudized, announcing that 30 percent of all accounting jobs at all local Saudi private sector companies with at least five accounting professionals must be filled by Saudi nationals. 

The ruling will come into effect on June 21 this year, and it is predicted that the move will create around 9,800 job opportunities for Saudi accountants.