Sudan PM hopes to settle $60bn foreign debt this year

Sudan PM hopes to settle $60bn foreign debt this year
Sudanese worshippers gather to perform the Eid Al-Fitr prayers in Al-Jarif, utside the capital Khartoum, on May 13, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 13 May 2021

Sudan PM hopes to settle $60bn foreign debt this year

Sudan PM hopes to settle $60bn foreign debt this year
  • ADB arrears paid with $425 million loan from U.K., Sweden and Ireland
  • The Paris Club of major creditors make up around 38 percent of foreign debt

Khartoum: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hopes Sudan can wipe out its staggering $60 billion foreign debt bill this year by securing relief and deals at an upcoming Paris conference that could bring much-needed investment.
The seasoned UN economist-turned-premier took office at the head of a transitional government shortly after the 2019 ouster of president Omar Al-Bashir whose three-decade iron-fisted rule was marked by economic hardship, deep internal conflicts, and biting international sanctions.
In the past two years, Hamdok and his government have pushed to rebuild the crippled economy and end Sudan’s international isolation.
“We have already settled the World Bank arrears, those of the African Development Bank, and in Paris, we will be settling the International Monetary Fund arrears,” Hamdok told AFP at his office in Khartoum.
Arrears due to the African Development Bank were cleared through a bridging loan worth $425 million from Sweden, Britain and Ireland, while debts to the World Bank were paid off with a $1.1 billion bridging loan from the US.
“Paris also is home to the Paris Club, our biggest creditors... and we will be discussing debt relief with them,” Hamdok said.
Sudan’s debts to the Paris Club, which includes major creditor countries, is estimated to make up around 38 percent of its total $60 billion foreign debt.
Hamdok and top Sudanese officials will be attending Monday’s Paris conference along with by French President Emmanuel Macron, and World Bank and IMF representatives.
The aim is to draw investments to Sudan including in the energy, infrastructure, agriculture and telecommunications sectors.
“We are going to the Paris conference to let foreign investors explore the opportunities for investing in Sudan,” Hamdok said.
“We are not looking for grants or donations.”
Sudan was taken off Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism in December, removing a major hurdle to foreign investment.
The government has also embarked on tough measures including subsidy cuts and introducing a managed currency float to qualify for an IMF debt relief program.
Though widely unpopular, the premier says the measures were necessary to move toward debt relief “by the end of the year.”
But many challenges still lie ahead.
His government has been pushing to forge peace with rebel groups to end conflicts in far-flung regions.
In October, it signed a landmark peace deal with rebels from the western region of Darfur as well the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Only two groups including one which wields substantial power in Darfur refused to sign the deal.
To Hamdok, the peace deal represents “50 percent on the road to peace.”
Efforts are underway to sign deals with the remaining groups, and talks with a faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) are slated for later this month.
Hamdok acknowledged the slow pace of implementing the peace deal, but said Sudan is “steadily moving forward.”
In February, Sudan appointed three ex-rebels to the ruling sovereign council and announced a new transitional cabinet including seven ex-rebels.
“We have come a long way... and in my view the second stage of talks will go much faster.”
Simmering tensions with neighboring Ethiopia over a fertile border region and a gigantic dam on the Blue Nile pose another challenge.


Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space

Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space
Updated 50 min 29 sec ago

Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space

Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space
  • Company completed its first manned space flight from its home port in New Mexico in May
  • SpaceShipTwo craft can hold six passengers

WASHINGTON: Billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceship company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. said on Friday it received approval from the US aviation safety regulator to fly people to space, following a successful test flight last month. Virgin Galactic completed its first manned space flight from its new home port in New Mexico in May, as its SpaceShipTwo craft, which can hold six passengers, glided to a landing on a runway safely with its two pilots.
The approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) comes at a critical time for Branson as his space venture faces competition from Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
“Today’s approval by the FAA...give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer,” Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier said in a statement.
Virgin Galactic has about 600 people who have paid deposits and are waiting to experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth at a cost of $250,000 each.
The craft will take off from a dedicated spaceport in the New Mexico desert in the US.
Branson is expected to take one of the flights this summer.


PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance

PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance
Updated 25 June 2021

PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance

PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance
  • Rania Nashar was a senior advisor to the governor since January

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) said it appointed Rania Nashar, former CEO of Samba Financial Group, as its head of compliance and governance, Al Arabiya reported.

Nashar joined the fund as a senior adviser to its governor, Yasir Al Rumayyan, in January of this year. She brings with her more than two decades of experience in the banking sector.

PIF recently announced the appointment of Eyas Al-Dossari and Omar Al-Madhi as senior directors to its MENA investments division, and Abdullah Shaker as senior director to its Global Capital Finance Division.

The fund said this month that it had created the position of deputy governor to support the fund’s continued growth and expansion.

Saudi Arabia’s $430 billion PIF is one of the largest and most influential sovereign wealth funds in the world, and the main driver that supports the economic transformation of the Kingdom in accordance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals.

PIF has increased its employees from 40 in 2016 to more than 1,100 employees today.


Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA
Updated 25 June 2021

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA
  • The new lenders will rank 12th and 13th in the Kingdom in terms of capital

RIYADH: Digital banks licensed in Saudi Arabia will help improve the quality and user experience for customers in the Kingdom, supporting innovation and reducing costs, said Yazeed Alsheikh, director for general of banking control at Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

This will directly contribute to stimulating competition with local banks and financial technology companies, he told Al Eqtisadiah paper.

The Saudi Cabinet gave its nod to the Kingdom’s finance minister to issue licenses for the country’s first digital banks, STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Tuesday.

STC Pay will be converted into a local digital bank, STC Bank, with capital of SR2.5 billion. A second lender, Saudi Digital Bank, will be formed by investors led by Abdul Rahman bin Saad Al-Rashed and Sons Company with capital of SR1.5 billion.

There is a difference between financial technology companies and digital banks, Alsheikh said.

“The financial technology companies are based mainly on innovation in the use of technology for a specific activity, and providing a specific financial product or service to the target segment of beneficiaries, through digital platforms or smart applications,” Al Sheikh said.

“Digital banks’ concept is broader and more comprehensive in providing Integrated banking products and services, such as accepting deposits, financing and other banking services through digital channels exclusively, and have different regulatory and supervisory requirements,” he said.

The two new digital banks in Saudi Arabia will rank 12th and 13th among the national banks operating in the Kingdom in terms of capital, once they obtain the final license to operate.


Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021
Updated 25 June 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021
  • Cases investigated rises to 86 in 2021 from 55 in 2020
  • Value of cases more than SR1 billion

RIYADH: Cases of suspected collusion in tenders being investigated by the Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC) rose to 86 in 2021, up from 55 last year and 15 in 2019, Al Arabiya reported.

The value of projects being investigated in the Kingdom amounted to more than SR1 billion ($267 million), Abdulaziz Alzoom, governor of GAC, said in a statement.

In a previous statement, GAC said it had started investigations, research and gathering of evidence with a number of establishments, based on communications it had received from other authorities, and complaints from individuals and companies.


Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+
Updated 25 June 2021

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+
  • U.S. infrastructure bill brightens demand outlook - analysts
  • OPEC+ meeting on July 1, seen cautious with easing output cuts

SINGAPORE: Oil prices climbed for a third straight session on Friday, on track for a fifth consecutive weekly gain, as demand growth is expected to outstrip supply on bets that OPEC+ producers will be cautious in returning more output to the market from August.
Brent crude futures rose 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $75.62 a barrel at 6:46 a.m. GMT, heading for a 2.9 percent jump for the week.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 5 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $73.35 a barrel, headed for a 2.4 percent weekly gain.
Both benchmark contracts settled at their highest levels since October 2018 on Thursday.
“Expectations of tightness in global market is the major factor supporting crude oil as demand is recovering while OPEC+ has constrained supply and US stocks are falling,” said Ravindra Rao, vice president for commodities at Kotak Securities.
Oil also got some support on Friday as the approval of US infrastructure bill boosted optimism for energy demand outlook, analysts said.
All eyes are on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies — together called OPEC+ — who are due to meet on July 1 to discuss further easing of their output cuts from August.
“(The market) certainly has momentum behind it...It’s really in the hands of OPEC+,” said Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar.
On the demand side, the key factors OPEC+ will have to consider are strong growth in the United States, Europe and China, bolstered by vaccine rollouts and economies reopening, offset by rising COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in other locations, analysts said.
“I think OPEC+ will carefully calibrate production hikes from August onwards to meet rising demand without causing significant price fluctuations,” said Margaret Yang, a strategist at Singapore-based DailyFX.
“The market has likely priced-in an August hike in advance,” she added.
ANZ analysts have predicted OPEC+ would step up supply with a small increase of 500,000 barrels per day in August, adding to the 2.1 million bpd they agreed to return to the market from May through July.
The prospect of sanctions being lifted on Iran and more of its oil hitting the market anytime soon has dimmed, with a US official saying “serious differences” remain over a range of issues over Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.