British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs

British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs
Britain’s business lobby predicted on Friday that the economy is on course to reach its pre-COVID level by the end of 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 19 June 2021

British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs

British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs
  • Sales by volume declined 1.4 percent in May after a 9.2-percent bounce in April

LONDON: British retail sales fell last month on easing lockdown curbs, as people dined at bars and restaurants instead of buying food at supermarkets, data showed Friday.

Sales by volume declined 1.4 percent in May after a 9.2-percent bounce in April, the Office for National Statistics said.
Food stores were the hardest hit, with sales sinking 5.7 percent as Britons took advantage of reopening hospitality.
Under the phased reopening of Britain’s battered economy, bars and restaurants restarted outdoor dining in April and indoor services in May.
“Instead of eating every meal at home as we all did during lockdowns, we were able to dine outside at cafes or restaurants,” said Capital Economics analyst Paul Dales.
“Spending just shifted from the shops to social activities,” he said, but warned however that “soft retail sales data could mean May was not as strong for the economy as we had thought.”
Overall UK retail sales in April and May were nevertheless 9.1 percent higher than the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
The UK also reopened nonessential retail in April, allowing the broader British economy to recover further from pandemic fallout on the rapid vaccines rollout.
The economy is now expected to fully reopen on July 19, after the government this week delayed the date by four weeks due to surging Delta infections.
Britain’s business lobby predicted Friday that the economy is on course to reach its pre-COVID level by the end of 2021.
The Confederation of British Industry, the nation’s biggest employers’ organization, now expects the economy to surge 8.2 percent this year and 6.1 percent in 2022. The COVID-ravaged economy had collapsed by almost ten percent last year in Britain’s biggest slump in three centuries — and the worst performance among the G7.

SPEEDREAD

The economy is now expected to fully reopen on July 19, after the government this week delayed the date by four weeks due to surging Delta infections.

Stubborn Brexit worries also fester after Britain formally exited the EU single market at the start of 2021.
Industry data showed Friday that UK food and drink exports to the bloc almost halved in the first quarter as a result of both Brexit and pandemic fallout.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said EU sales slumped 47 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Exports to the EU fell by £2.0 billion ($2.8 billion) compared with the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic struck.
The industry body blamed “the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and changes in the UK’s trading relationships” after Brexit.
Non-EU sales accounted for 55 percent of all UK food and drink exports in the first quarter, it added.
“The loss of £2 billion of exports to the EU is a disaster for our industry,” said Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the federation.
The news “is a very clear indication of the scale of losses that UK manufacturers face in the longer-term due to new trade barriers with the EU,” he added.


Qatar sovereign fund discloses 4.69% stake in Gates-backed battery startup Quantumscape

Qatar sovereign fund discloses 4.69% stake in Gates-backed battery startup Quantumscape
Updated 12 min 54 sec ago

Qatar sovereign fund discloses 4.69% stake in Gates-backed battery startup Quantumscape

Qatar sovereign fund discloses 4.69% stake in Gates-backed battery startup Quantumscape
  • Size of stake down from 6.5% in November after shares diluted
  • Quantumscape backed by Bill Gates and Volkswagen

DUBAI: Sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) holds a 4.69 percent stake in Quantumscape Corp, which is developing batteries for electric cars, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by the company showed.
QIA was an early investor in the company before its IPO and had a stake of 6.5 percent as of November last year, based on a previous filing.
However the new filing does not show any change in the number of shares it owns, but a dilution in its stake due to an increase in the number of shares outstanding. QIA’s stake in Quantumscape is worth around $446 million at the company’s current market value of $9.5 billion, according to Refinitiv Eikon data on Monday.
Quantumscape was listed last year after a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
Shares of Quantumscape are down over 70 percent year-to-date. It closed up 0.7 percent at $23.08 on Monday.
Volkswagen AG is the company’s biggest shareholder with a 26 percent stake.
San Jose-based Quantumscape is a 2010 spin-out from Stanford University whose early investors included Bill Gates-backed venture funds. It formed a joint venture with VW to produce solid-state battery cells, starting in 2024, for VW’s electric vehicles, and eventually for other carmakers.
Gulf sovereign funds have stepped up investments in electric cars, new technologies and renewables, as they diversify their investments away from fossil fuel.
The Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of neighboring Saudi Arabia, recently made huge gains through the listing of Lucid Group after it initially invested in the company in 2018. PIF owns 62.7 percent of Lucid.


Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition
Updated 46 min 43 sec ago

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition
  • Prism Group and Royal Strategic Partners to acquire BFC Group Holding
  • BFC to be merged with Finablr and rebranded WizzFinancial

DUBAI: An Emirati-Swiss consortium is acquiring Bahrain’s BFC Group Holding, which owns the Gulf country’s largest money transfer and exchange company.

Switzerland’s Prism Group AG and Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Partners have signed a deal to acquire BFC and its subsidiaries – BFC Bahrain, BEC Exchange (Kuwait), BFC Payments and BFC Forex and Financial Services (India).

BFC will be merged with WizzFinancial, formerly Finablr, the Abu Dhabi-based payments company acquired by the same consortium in December.

The deal creates one of the largest remittance and currency exchange groups in the Middle East and North Africa region, home to millions of migrants who regularly sending money home and vice versa.

“The acquisition creates a regional powerhouse with licenses to operate in over 30 countries,” the consortium said in a press statement.

The move comes amid a period of intense change for the financial sector as it adopts new technologies to create better user experiences.

“Everybody in the financial services arena is embarking on a digital transformation of some kind,” Anthony Wagerman, an adviser at Prism Group told Arab News. “It’s not really a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and it’s a matter of how long that takes and ensuring your customers are with you.”

While a large part of the remittance market continues to rely on “tried and tested methodology,” the traditional money-sending sector has been disrupted by COVID-19, which “undoubtedly acted as a form of catalyst or accelerator for this digital journey,” he said.

The consortium’s investment in the businesses it is acquiring will help speed their digital transformation, but it is important to recognize that some customers will continue to use traditional methods, said Wagerman.

“We want to create a seamless service that’s completely omnichannel, from walk-up to online to mobile, because that is really the way the market is going now,” he said.

The deal comes amid evidence of impressive resilience in the sector during the COVID pandemic with remittance flows of $540 billion in 2020, just 1.6 percent below 2019 levels, according to World Bank data. That compares with a 4.8 percent decline during the global financial crisis.

Moreover, the remittance industry is set to almost double to $930.44 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.

“The reports we’re seeing of the first coming up to the first half of 2021 is really quiet encouraging, and have shown a lot of businesses snapping back rather more quickly than people originally envisaged,” Wagerman said.

Asked how blockchain technology plays a role in the remittance industry’s digital journey, he said there is still a strong need for regulation in this area given the variation in countries’ different rules.

“There’s an overall attractiveness about having frictionless payments that avoided intermediaries, of course there is. The reality however is not so simple, not least because when money crosses borders, there’s all kind of issues particularly from a regulatory perspective,” Wagerman explained.


Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
  • Elkuwaiz says assets under management by financial institutions have increased by 50 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is seeing a record interests from companies to sell shares to the public, while the size of the assets under management by financial institutions increased by 50 percent to SR600 billion over 3 years, the chairman of the country’s capital market authority said.

The increase in the volume of assets under management (AUM) had impact on the financial market and has contributed to opening new investments areas such as the launch of financial derivatives market, which made a debut last year, Mohammed Elkuwaiz said in panel hosted by the Financial Academy.

The authority received recently 30 requests to sell shares in initial public offerings and this is the highest number the authority, known as CMA, got since its establishment, he added. 

Mohammed Elkuwaiz, CMA chairman

Saudi Arabia is implementing a huge program to modernize and develop its financial sector under the country’s vision 2030 plan. Under this program the CMA had a target to list 20 new companies in 2021 on the Saudi index through public offerings, and the authority had achieved half of this target by the end of the first half of the year, Elkuawiz said.

Interests from companies to sell shares to the public increased over the past few years with the introduction of the parallel market, known as Nomu. Elkuwaiz explained that the main market, Tadawul, targets larger and more mature companies with the ability and willingness to bear big loads in terms of disclosure data, governance, while smaller companies prefer to list on Nomu.

“Listing on Nomu is an exciting window for the small and medium size and entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia as we see the increase in IPOs interest and this is the result of the CMA strategy,” said Mohammed Ramady, an independent economic analyst and former senior banker told the Arab News in comments on Saudi financial development.

Another area where Saudi Arabia is venturing and advancing is Fintech. “We have more than 15 companies licensed as financial technology companies, which facilitates the availability of other types of financing that did not exist in the past, such as crowdfunding, which has become a boost for the financial market,” Elkuwaiz added.

The chairman of CMA also noted that foreign investments in the Saudi stock market have been positive and steady since they were allowed several years ago, with more than SR20 billion has entered Tadawul market since it was included in global indexes.

“The system of governance and disclosure in the financial market has been developed, making the Kingdom one of the world’s top 4 countries in terms of governance – something we are very proud of,” he added.


Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable
Updated 03 August 2021

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

RIYADH: Fitch Ratings has revised Commercial International Bank (Egypt) S.A.E.’s (CIB) outlook to stable from negative while affirming the bank’s long-term issuer default rating at “B+” and viability rating at “b+.” 

According to the ratings firm, pressures on the domestic environment have eased since the end of the third quarter of 2020 moderating downside risks to Egyptian banks’ credit profiles.

It said this reflects improving foreign currency liquidity, with the banking sector’s net foreign assets reaching $3.5 billion in April 2021, a reversal of a net foreign liability position of $5.3 billion at the end of April 2020. This was supported by a strong increase in foreign holdings of Egyptian treasuries to $29 billion in May 2021.

Fitch expects real GDP growth to accelerate to 6 percent in 2022.


Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion
Updated 02 August 2021

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

CAIRO: Egypt’s domestic liquidity rose to EGP 5.36 trillion ($213.9 billion) at the end of June 2021.

According to the official data, liquidity grew by 1.9 percent monthly. Domestic liquidity increased by 18.3 percent annually, compared to EGP 4.53 trillion in June 2020.

The money supply rose during June to EGP 1.25 trillion, compared to EGP 1.22 trillion in May 2021.  Money supply includes deposits in local currency and cash in circulation outside the banking system.

Last November, the Central Bank of Egypt decided to reduce both the overnight deposit and lending rate and its main operation rate by 50 basis points, to 8.25 percent, 9.25 percent, and 8.75 percent, respectively.

Last month, the central bank froze the interest rate for the fourth time this year.