Saudis return to the skies as borders reopen, agency reveals

Saudis return to the skies as borders reopen, agency reveals
Domestic travel has kept its upward momentum. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 20 June 2021

Saudis return to the skies as borders reopen, agency reveals

Saudis return to the skies as borders reopen, agency reveals
  • Over 90 percent of the survey respondents said they were planning to travel abroad within the first six months of the border reopening

DUBAI: Booking trends are showing signs of recovery a month into Saudi Arabia’s reopening of borders, a top travel agency revealed.
Almosafer, owned by Seera Group, said the agency has recovered 76 percent of total bookings compared to the same time in 2019.
This is still expected to grow by the last quarter of the year to exceed pre-pandemic booking volume as more travel restrictions are lifted, it said.
Over 90 percent of the survey respondents said they were planning to travel abroad within the first six months of the border reopening, the company added.
Domestic travel has kept its upward momentum, Almosafer noted, as more Saudis and other residents explore local tourism developments.
“Despite the opening of borders, we are pleased to see that domestic travel is still in demand and that our efforts in promoting domestic bookings are paying off,” Muzzammil Ahussain, EVP at Almosafer, said.
Top destinations include Jeddah, Riyadh, Al-Khobar, and Dammam.
Outside the Kingdom, destinations that were popular among Saudis were the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Egypt, as well as Ukraine and Morocco.
Maldives also featured as a favorite mostly for couples and families.
Data showed Saudi nationals were opting for shorter trips, and spending 5 percent more per booking.
“Based on the initial results we’ve seen through Almosafer’s booking and searches during the last month, we feel very optimistic about the future of the travel sector in KSA,” Ahussain said.


Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO
Updated 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO
  • Unifonic plans to enter new markets, including Pakistan and Nigeria
  • CEO expects company to double in size every two years

RIYADH: Unifonic, the first Saudi startup to receive investment from SoftBank, would like to become profitable before listing its shares on a stock market, CEO Ahmed Hamdan said on Thursday.

“Over the next six months, we will have a bigger vision regarding the offering,” he said in an interview with Al Arabiya. The main criterion is to maximize the company’s profitability and the appropriate market in terms of the quality of the products we offer, and the appetite of investors in the public markets, he said without specifying which market Unifonic might list on.

Unifonic, which currently has offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Pakistan, plans to expand its customer engagement offering into new markets in the Middle East and Africa, including Nigeria, over the coming five years, he said.

Japan’s SoftBank and Sanabil Investments, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, led a $125 million Series B funding round for Unifonic, it said in an announcement this week.

SoftBank’s $30 billion Vision Fund 2 made its first investment in a UAE-based company in July when it led a $415 million Series C round in cloud kitchen Kitopi, pushing its valuation above the $1 billion mark that makes it a unicorn.

The investment will help Unifonic grow, according to Hamdan, who said the company plans to hire more than 1,000 employees to develop its expertise in cloud, artificial intelligence and data.

Since 2018, the company’s shareholders have doubled the value of their investments, among the best returns in venture capital, he said. It has quadrupled sales in the past three years, and the company will continue to achieve high growth rates, which requires capital injections from time to time, he said.

“We expect this rate of growth to continue during the next three years, with the volume of business doubling every two years,” he said.

Growth will be through direct investment or acquisition, Hamdan said.


Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase
Updated 17 September 2021

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase
  • Proceeds to help boost solvency margin

RIYADH: Wataniya Insurance Company’s board of directors recommended on Thursday to increase the company’s capital through a SR200 million ($53.3 million) rights issue, according to a bourse filing.

The company plans to use the proceeds to support its future plans and increase its solvency margin, Wataniya said in a statement on Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul). An insurer’s solvency margin is the difference between its assets and insurance liabilities and is designed to prepare it for unforeseen claims.

The financial adviser for the offering will be announced once appointed, the company said.


National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services
Updated 17 September 2021

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services
  • Contract awarded to Alkhorayef Group and France's Veolia
  • Restructuring of Saudi water sector almost complete

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company has awarded a seven-year contract to manage water services and environmental treatment in Riyadh to a consortium of Alkhorayef Water and Power Technologies and France’s Veolia, Argaam reported.

The SR358 million ($95.4 million) contract is tied to 14 main indicators, including improving and developing the customer experience, raising operational efficiency through cost savings and reducing water losses, and improving network management, according to a statement by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Management contracts are one of the main pillars to improve the sector and prepare it for full privatization, said National Water Company CEO Mohammed Al-Mowkley.

NWC has completed 92 percent of its project to restructure the 13 administrative regions into six sectors, and as of November 2021, the process will be complete when the northern sector has been created, he said.

Management contracts to improve the performance of the sector’s services will all have been awarded by the end of 2021, he said.

If the targets are achieved after the third year of the contract, the National Water Company will be able to move directly to the stage of concession contracts, in which the private sector will take full responsibility for water services, and not wait until the seven years are over, he said.


Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap

Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap
Updated 16 September 2021

Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap

Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap
  • Brent crude was down 54 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $74.92 per barrel, while WTI slipped by 67 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $71.94

RIYADH: Oil prices are still trading at above $70 even as OPEC+ is increasing production and data showed today that Saudi oil exports are on the rise, due to the impact of hurricanes Nicholas and Ida on US offshore production.

Brent crude was down 54 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $74.92 per barrel, while WTI slipped by 67 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $71.94 after climbing to the highest since Aug. 2 on Wednesday.

US Gulf energy companies have been able to restore pipeline service and electricity quickly after Hurricane Nicholas passed through Texas early this week, allowing them to focus on efforts to repair the damage caused weeks earlier by Hurricane Ida.

Qatar Petroleum set official prices for the sale of Al-Shaheen crude, during November, at the lowest price premium in 5 months.

Sale prices for Qatari crude shipments came next November with an average premium of $1.53 a barrel to Dubai prices. 

Libya

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said Thursday that exports had resumed from several oil terminals in the country's east after young protesters demanding jobs ended blockades there.

"Announcing the resumption of crude oil export operations at the ports of Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf after a group of young people ended their sit-in inside the ports, which lasted for days," Libya's National Oil Corporation NOC said in a statement.

Russian ESPO oil prices at 21-month high

A rebound in China's crude demand has pushed up prices of a Russian grade popular with Chinese independent refiners to the highest in 21 months, several trade sources said on Thursday.

Russia's Surgutneftegaz sold three cargoes of ESPO crude loading in November at premiums of $4.10-$4.20 a barrel to Dubai quotes, the sources said, the highest since January 2020.

Malaysia

Exports of Malaysia's flagship crude oil Kimanis will fall in October and November following a production issue at an offshore oilfield operated by Royal Dutch Shell, three sources with knowledge of the matter said to Reuters.

Petroleum Brunei, one of the stakeholders, cancelled a tender to sell a Kimanis crude cargo that was supposed to load in early November because of the problem, one of the sources told the agency.


TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down

TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down
Updated 16 September 2021

TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down

TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down
  • Shares of 81 companies increased, while those of 105 companies declined

RIYADH: The Saudi stocks index, TASI, ended the last trading of the week with an increase of 11.13 points, or 0.10 percent, and closed at 11,422.11 points.

The parallel market index, Nomu, fell today, by 189.35 points, or 0.74 percent, it closed at 25,369.09 points.

Liquidity in Nomu amounted to about 42.6 million riyals,  328.1 million shares were traded , in 1460 thousand deals .

Liquidity in the main market TASI amounted to about 10.2 billion riyals, which is the highest in more than two months, 223.1 million shares were traded, in 300 thousand deals.

Shares of 81 companies increased, while those of 105 companies declined.

Nine of the 21 market sectors rose, led by public utilities by 1.3 percent, capital goods by 1.1 percent, and food retailing by 0.7 percent, while the remaining 12 sectors fell, led by media and entertainment by 4.5 percent, pharmaceuticals by 1.4 percent, communications by 1.2 percent, and investment, finance, and insurance by 0.8 percent.

The biggest gainers on Thursday were Textile with 5.6 percent increase, PCI with 4.6 percent, SABIC Agri-Nutrients with 4.3 percent, Fitness Time with 4.2 percent, and Chemanol with 3.6 percent.

The biggest losers were research and media by 4.8 percent, Al-Naqoul and the Kingdom by 4.4 percent, Bupa by 3.7 percent, food development by 2.4 percent, construction by 2.2 percent, and Mobily by 1.9 percent.

Theeb Rent a Car Company announced Thursday the distribution of SR22 million as interim cash dividends to shareholders for the first half of 2021.