COVID-19 pandemic a catalyst for growth in Kingdom: Telecoms firm Nokia

COVID-19 pandemic a catalyst for growth in Kingdom: Telecoms firm Nokia
The Finnish brand is best known for its mobiles from the early 2000s, when it launched some of the first camera phones on the market. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 05 June 2021

COVID-19 pandemic a catalyst for growth in Kingdom: Telecoms firm Nokia

COVID-19 pandemic a catalyst for growth in Kingdom: Telecoms firm Nokia
  • Finnish network technology provider reveals demand surged 30 percent as Saudi citizens stayed at home

JEDDAH: When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hit early last year, Saudi residents were forced to stay at home.

As a result, the number of hours spent by people on platforms such as Netflix and Zoom soared. Shopping on Amazon, grocery, and restaurant apps became commonplace, gaming boomed, and dependence on the internet was considered just as important as having electricity and water connections.

And one of the companies that helped the Kingdom manage the surge in demand for its telecommunication services was Nokia.

Khalid Hussain, Saudi country senior officer at Nokia, told Arab News: “There was an almost 30 percent traffic spike in Saudi Arabia soon after the pandemic declaration in March 2020. Many of the organizations had to switch to complete remote mode without any time for preparation.

“The sudden transition to working from home resulted in a rapid increase in data-intensive business collaboration and video streaming applications. Our customers had a huge challenge to continue to support their users with robust, reliable, and fully secure networks so that business continuity was not hampered.”

The Finnish brand is best known for its mobiles from the early 2000s, when it launched some of the first camera phones on the market. While Nokia is still associated with smartphones, the company’s biggest revenue generator now is its telecommunications network business, which accounts for around three-quarters of its sales.

Nokia has been providing services in Saudi Arabia since 2001 out of its headquarters in Riyadh and branches in Jeddah, Khamis Mushait, Madinah, Abha, and Alkhobar. The firm has around 1,500 employees in the Kingdom, a network technology portfolio including clients such as telecommunication operators STC, Zain, and Mobily, and a strong working relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT).

Last year, while Nokia’s global sales dipped 6 percent to 21.867 billion euros ($26.65 billion), its Middle East Africa (MEA) division witnessed a sales rise of 1 percent to 1.893 billion euros. The MEA region accounts for around 9 percent of total global turnover and Saudi Arabia is its largest market in the segment.

Hussain said: “During the pandemic, Nokia, by taking help from its global centers of expertise, helped the Kingdom’s top telco-operators with cutting-edge solutions to enable them to monitor their network performance, address risks, and ensure zero service disruption even when the network load peaked to an all-time high.”

According to a report in April by internet intelligence firm Ookla, Saudi Arabia had the highest adoption of 5G technology of all its Gulf neighbors and the largest number of devices connected to the network.

In order to help the country manage the increased demands during the COVID-19 pandemic and also achieve its Vision 2030 goals, Nokia has been working with the Saudi government to implement a number of key projects.

Last year, the company collaborated with STC to launch the operator’s technology innovation center in Riyadh, and in December accomplished a record 5G speed of 1.9 gigabytes during a successful trial of its AirScale indoor radio (ASiR) system at Zain KSA’s headquarters in Jeddah.

During 2020, the firm also signed a partnership with TAWAL, a Saudi infrastructure company, to deploy 5G in the western and southern parts of the Kingdom.

Nokia’s 5G business readiness report, launched in October, found that the Kingdom had huge potential to leverage the power of 5G over the next decade, with 13 percent of Saudi organizations being rated as 5G mature.

“This will be a significant focus area for us in 2021 and beyond, and we will continue to share our global experiences with Saudi Arabia to bring digitization and automation across all industry sectors such as manufacturing, health, and mining,” Hussain added.

The potential for growth in the Kingdom certainly looked promising, as 56 percent of decisionmakers surveyed by Nokia in Saudi Arabia as part of its October report, said they had accelerated their digital transformation programs as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis. And 65 percent of technology buyers were planning to invest more in 5G than they had in 3G and 4G technology.


UAE builder Drake & Scull returns to profit in Q1

UAE builder Drake & Scull returns to profit in Q1
Updated 28 min 45 sec ago

UAE builder Drake & Scull returns to profit in Q1

UAE builder Drake & Scull returns to profit in Q1
  • This represents a return to profit from a net loss of 30 million dirhams for the same period in 2020, driven by ongoing operations across the region

DUBAI: Dubai contractor Drake & Scull International (DSI) recorded a net profit of 115 million dirhams ($31.3 million) in the first three months of the year.
This represents a return to profit from a net loss of 30 million dirhams for the same period in 2020, driven by ongoing operations across the region, including in countries such as Tunisia, Palestine, Kuwait, and Iraq.
DSI also recorded revenues of 46 million dirhams and the order backlog remained stable at 376 million dirhams, it said in a statement.
Drake & Scull was hit hard by the regional construction downturn since 2014 and has been involved in lengthy financial restructuring and cost cutting.
It signed contracts worth 376 million dirhams earlier this year.


PIF boosts senior management team in expansion drive

PIF boosts senior management team in expansion drive
Updated 37 min 7 sec ago

PIF boosts senior management team in expansion drive

PIF boosts senior management team in expansion drive
  • The latest appointments follow the creation of two new deputy governor roles, announced last Tuesday

RIYADH: The Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, on Sunday announced several new senior appointments, just days after it also created two new deputy governor roles as part of its expansion drive.

The fund 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 the global capital finance division.

Al-Dossari joins PIF from his position as managing director and head of investment banking for Goldman Sachs Saudi Arabia, where he served since 2017. He also previously worked at HSBC Saudi Arabia and the initial public offering and merger and acquisitions department at the Saudi Capital Market Authority.

Al-Madhi previously held senior positions at Abdul Latif Jameel Investments, Volkswagen Group, McKinsey & Company and Saudi Aramco. He is chairman of the board and executive committee of the Saudi Fisheries Company and is also a member of the board of the National Agricultural Development Company, which are both part of PIF’s portfolio.

Shaker joins PIF from Saudi Al Baraka Banking Group and has almost 25 years’ experience in banking and financial services, having worked for Deloitte, HSBC Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Arabia Capital Market Authority.

The latest appointments follow the creation of two new deputy governor roles, announced last Tuesday.

Turqi Al-Nowaiser, who heads the international investments division, and Yazeed Al-Humied, who leads the MENA investments division, will take on the deputy governor roles alongside their current responsibilities at PIF.

“The latest appointments bolster the PIF leadership team, as it implements its ambitious plans as one of the world’s largest and most impactful investors, with the stated aim of reaching AUM (assets under management) of more than $1.07 trillion, while investing $40 billion annually into the local economy through 2025,” the PIF said in a statement on Sunday.

The fund announced in December 2020 that its total employee count surpassed 1,000, up from about 700 at the start of 2020 and 40 five years ago. It said that about 84 percent of its employees were Saudi citizens and 26 percent were women.

The PIF has grown to $430 billion AUM since 2016 and has invested about $90 billion into the Kingdom’s economy over the last five years, creating more than 331,000 new direct and indirect jobs.


Dubai utility provider to boost clean energy capacity this year

Dubai utility provider to boost clean energy capacity this year
Updated 13 June 2021

Dubai utility provider to boost clean energy capacity this year

Dubai utility provider to boost clean energy capacity this year
  • The government agency will use photovoltaic solar panels and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) to achieve a total capacity of 1,614 MWThe government agency will use photovoltaic solar panels and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) to achieve a total capacity of 1

DUBAI: The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) said it was adding 600 megawatts (MW) of clean energy capacity to the emirate’s power mix this year.

The government agency will use photovoltaic solar panels and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) to achieve a total capacity of 1,614 MW, it said in a statement.

Half of the additional capacity will be from the 5th phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum solar park. The rest will come from a 262-meter CSP tower and a parabolic trough.

Upon delivery of the projects, clean capacity in Dubai’s energy mix will reach around 10 percent in July, and 12 percent by the end of the year.

“This supports the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to provide 75 percent of Dubai’s total power capacity from clean energy sources by 2050,” DEWA’s CEO Saeed Mohammed Al-Tayer said.


G7 split on reallocating $100b IMF funds to COVID-hit nations

G7 split on reallocating $100b IMF funds to COVID-hit nations
Updated 13 June 2021

G7 split on reallocating $100b IMF funds to COVID-hit nations

G7 split on reallocating $100b IMF funds to COVID-hit nations
  • Germany and Italy had yet to back the inclusion of the $100 billion figure in the final statement by leaders

CARBIS BAY, England: Group of Seven leaders were trying to resolve differences over a proposal to reallocate $100 billion from the International Monetary Fund’s warchest to help countries struggling to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
An almost final version of the G7 communique seen by Reuters showed Germany and Italy had yet to back the inclusion of the $100 billion figure in the final statement by leaders.
The IMF’s members agreed in April to a $650 billion increase in IMF’s Special Drawing Rights and the G7 countries are considering whether to reallocate $100 billion of their rights to help poor countries fight the COVID pandemic.
SDRs are the IMF’s reserve asset, and are exchangeable for dollars, euros, sterling, yen and Chinese yuan or renminbi. Member states can loan or donate their SDR reserves to other countries for their use.
The head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that she had been heartened by the G7’s support for the plan and that she expected a clear indication later on how best to proceed, adding that the $100 billion target had been in discussion.


Ma’aden awards $880m gold mining contract

Ma’aden awards $880m gold mining contract
Updated 50 min 35 sec ago

Ma’aden awards $880m gold mining contract

Ma’aden awards $880m gold mining contract
  • Saudi mining company also announced completion of pre-operational stage on $900m ammonia plant

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) has awarded a new $880 million contract at its Mansourah-Massarah gold mines, marking the company’s largest-ever investment in the gold sector.

The agreement was signed for Jac Rijk Al-Rushaid Contracting and Services Company to provide operational mining services at the gold mines. The range of services will include drilling, scaling, loading, hauling, re-handling, ore control, dewatering, crusher feed, and all related production activities at the mines.

It is forecast that the Mansourah-Massarah site will reach full production capacity by 2023 and will represent one-quarter of Ma’aden’s goal to produce 1 million ounces of gold per year by 2025.

The Mansourah-Massarah site is one of six mines in Ma’aden’s portfolio and is part of the company’s bid to boost local production. Gold currently accounts for around 20 percent of Ma’aden’s revenues.

Ma’aden on Sunday also announced the completion of the pre-operational stage at its third ammonia plant in Ras Al-Khair Industrial City. The $900 million project is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021 and will start operations in the first quarter of 2022, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The ammonia plant is the first project as part of Ma’aden’s $6.4 billion Phosphate 3 expansion plan, which aims to add 3 million tonnes of phosphate fertilizer production capacity to Ma’aden’s portfolio. This will bring Ma’aden’s total production capacity of more than 9 million tonnes and make it one of the top three global phosphate fertilizer producers in the world.

Ma’aden CEO Abdul Aziz Al-Harbi said in a press statement: “This is a tremendous milestone for our phosphate portfolio. The ammonia plant expansion will add over 1 million tonnes of ammonia production to reach 3.3 million tonnes, making Ma’aden one of the largest ammonia producers east of the Suez Canal.”

Ma’aden in April reported a net profit after zakat and tax of SR 761.2 million ($202.99 million) in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a net loss of SR 353.3 million in the first quarter of 2020.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy has estimated its untapped mineral resources to be worth about SR 5 trillion. Under Vision 2030, the government is aiming to triple the mining and metals sector’s contribution to gross domestic product and create 200,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030.

“Saudi Arabia has vast under-explored territories compared with other world-class mining countries. Ma’aden’s goal is to capitalize on that to become one of the world’s top mining companies, and we are making great strides in achieving this goal,” Mosaed Al-Ohali, former CEO of Ma’aden, told Arab News in October 2020.

“The increase in exploration spending is focused on brownfield drilling, assessment of potential greenfield targets and continued drilling at many prospective locations to maintain healthy ore reserves. We are working on two more gold mines that we expect to bring on stream around the middle of the decade,” he added.

On Friday, gold prices slipped slightly, down 1.2 percent to $1,875.31 per ounce, while US gold futures were 0.9 percent lower at $1,879.6.