Rising prices felt by corporations, consumers alike as commodities surge globally

Rising prices felt by corporations, consumers alike as commodities surge globally
Unilever is accelerating price hikes, introducing pack changes and narrowing promotions in the second half in response to rising costs.
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Updated 24 July 2021

Rising prices felt by corporations, consumers alike as commodities surge globally

Rising prices felt by corporations, consumers alike as commodities surge globally
  • Unilever shares slumped this week after inflation overshadowed earnings
  • Wheat rose last week by most in four years

RIYADH: Tired of traveling from store to store in search of the best prices, Renad Wafi is increasingly shopping online for basic items in an attempt to balance the household budget.

“Prices of basic commodities in Saudi Arabia are noticeably rising,” said the Riyadh-based mother. “They fluctuate all the time between the various points of sale and continue to rise across all categories from food to cleaning and personal care products. As a result, people are looking for alternatives online, and I’m one of them.”

A similar story could be heard this week at the headquarters of Unilever, one of the world’s biggest consumer goods companies, which saw a strong set of first-half financial results overshadowed by concerns over inflation.

Underlying sales for the maker of Dove soap rose 5 percent in the three months ended June 30, above the 4.8 percent forecast by analysts. However, rising prices of everything from crude to palm and soybean oil made the company cut its operating margin outlook to “about flat” from slightly up earlier and flag greater uncertainty surrounding that forecast.

Its shares slumped 6.1 percent, wiping almost £7 billion ($9.6 billion) from its market capitalization.

To blame are soaring commodity prices. Last week, wheat posted its biggest weekly gain in four years as parched conditions for North American spring wheat and adverse weather in Europe stoked concern about global supplies amid a surge in demand as the global economy begins to reopen.

In May of this year, wheat futures were trading at the highest price since 2013 on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and have only fallen slightly since. It’s a similar story for soybeans, which almost doubled in price in the 12 months to May and have eased only about 12 percent over the past two months.

In fact, agricultural commodities from coffee to corn to palm oil are all trading near multi-year highs.

Those costs are being passed on to food and consumer goods producers, such as Unilever, to store owners and ultimately to consumers.

“I can say that prices have been increasing in the past six months; the most impacted goods are soft drinks and cigarettes, as we are finding issues with maintaining supply and stable prices,” said Radhi Qanadili, a grocery store owner from Jeddah.

“I would fairly say that there are no signs of stability or decline in prices anytime soon” he said. “Prices are more likely to keep rising for the next six-to-nine months from now.”

Since Unilever issued its guidance in the first quarter, crude oil prices had risen 12 percent, soybean oil 21 percent, while freight and transportation costs had risen and 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Unilever said that besides accelerating price hikes, it was introducing pack changes and narrowing promotions in the second half in response to rising costs.

The company raised prices by 1.6 percent in the second quarter. In June those were up to 2.2 percent.

Saudi inflation accelerated to 6.2 percent in June, the highest this year, driven by the cost of fuel and food. It compares to 5.7 percent in May, according to data from the General Authority for Statistics (GSTAT).

Transport prices gained 22.6 percent and food and beverages prices rose by 8.1 percent, the national statistics body said.

Saudi Arabia announced a price cap on fuel earlier this month, to support local consumption and economic growth, after oil prices hit multi-year highs this year.

“Some say that this inflation is part of the recovery process after the pandemic and that prices will start returning to normal by the end of this year,” said Renad Wafi in Riyadh. “Although I wish to, I’m not sure if I can be this optimistic, because we are halfway through the year, and nothing has changed yet.”


Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023

Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023
Updated 23 September 2021

Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023

Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023
  • It has launched a “Women in Sales” internship program to further support the 2023 target

DUBAI: The Saudi Arabia unit of global camera maker Canon wants 30 percent of its employees to be Saudi women by the end of 2023. 

The move is in line with national efforts to integrate more women into the Kingdom’s workforce.

Canon said it has been working towards this target since 2018, when it first opened offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al-Khobar, but has now made the goal public.

It has previously teamed up with King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah to develop technology-enabled training, which the camera maker said was proof of its “commitment to support young talent” in the Kingdom. 

The company partnered with Mohammed Al-Mana College for Medical Sciences to fund one female student’s school expenses, including tuition and housing.

It has also launched a “Women in Sales” internship program to further support the 2023 target. 


China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ

China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 23 September 2021

China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ

China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ
  • Local governments have been ordered to assemble groups of accountants and legal experts to examine the finances around Evergrande's operations in their respective regions
  • Both bonds would default if Evergrande fails to settle the interest within 30 days of the scheduled payment dates

Chinese authorities are asking local governments to prepare for the potential downfall of debt-ridden China Evergrande Group, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing officials familiar with the discussion.

The move has been characterised as "getting ready for the possible storm" by the officials, according to the report.


The officials said local-level government agencies and state-owned enterprises have been instructed to step in only at the last minute should Evergrande fail to manage its affairs in an orderly fashion, the WSJ reported.


Local governments have been tasked with preventing unrest and mitigating the ripple effect on home buyers and the broader economy, the officials said, according to the report.


Evergrande, China's second-biggest property developer, has $83.5 million in dollar-bond interest payments due on Thursday on a $2 billion offshore bond and a $47.5 million dollar-bond interest payment due next week.


Both bonds would default if Evergrande fails to settle the interest within 30 days of the scheduled payment dates.


The company, which epitomised the borrow-to-build business model, ran into trouble over the past few months as Beijing tightened rules in its property sector to rein back debt levels and speculation.


Investors are worried that a downfall could spread to creditors including banks in China and abroad.

 


Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh

Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh
Updated 23 September 2021

Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh

Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh
  • The new retail development, called “Concept by MUSE”, will bring in local, regional, and international brands, particularly catering to the Saudi youth

DUBAI: Luxury retail operator Chalhoub Group has launched a new shopping destination at the Riyadh Park in the Saudi capital, in a new sign of recovery in the Kingdom’s retail sector post-pandemic. 

The new retail development, called “Concept by MUSE”, will bring in local, regional, and international brands, particularly catering to the Saudi youth, the group said in a statement.

“The retail landscape in Saudi Arabia has evolved significantly over the last few years, especially as young customers become increasingly discerning and attentive to global shopping trends while staying true to their roots and culture,” David Vercruysse, president of managed companies at Chalhoub, said.

Over 1,200 products will be featured at the mall, including the work of five Saudi designers Noms Life, Proud Angeles, Dania Shinkar, Cones and Rods, and Kaf By Kaf.

It follows an earlier initiative of the group to support local Saudi designers by giving them financial grants to build their own fashion brands.

The Kingdom has announced several efforts to modernize its economy, including boosting its local retail market. 

“This world’s first demonstrates our commitment to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and support to the country’s ambitions to make Saudi a world-class retail destination,” Bachar Sabbagh, the Saudi director of Chalhoub, said. 


Apicorp launches first green bond framework

Apicorp launches first green bond framework
Updated 23 September 2021

Apicorp launches first green bond framework

Apicorp launches first green bond framework
  • The framework will be used to raise green bonds/sukuk for projects aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

DUBAI: The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Apicorp) has launched its first green bond framework.

It follows the recent approval of the OPEC-created financial institution’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policy framework, as it aims to develop the sustainable financial market. 

The framework will be used to raise green bonds/sukuk for projects aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals - addressing issues in climate mitigation, circular economy, and biodiversity preservation among others. 

It was created in line with the International Capital Market Association’s Green Bond Principles 2021.

“By launching the Green Bond Framework, Apicorp is providing new avenues for investment in projects and ventures that further the development of safe, affordable, and renewable energy sources,” Ahmed Ali Attiga, chief executive officer of Apicorp. 

He said the framework “reflects our deep understanding of the ESG impact of our investments across the energy spectrum and our commitment to setting out new engagement strategies with our stakeholders to spread awareness of their ESG exposure.”

Apircorp earlier said it will allocate $1 billion towards green energy projects and sustainable energy companies over the next two years. 


Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private

Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 23 September 2021

Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private

Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private
  • The Dubai real-estate company still plans to offer $595 million for outstanding shares of the company
  • The firm has a market capitalization of over $2 billion

DAMAC Properties, known for its deals with former President Donald Trump said Thursday it had received regulator approval for an effort to take the firm private.


The Dubai real-estate company still plans to offer $595 million for outstanding shares of the company, the firm said in a filing on Dubai Financial Market stock exchange.


It said it would offer an update on the plan in the coming weeks. It earlier announced plans in June for the offer to take the company private, then withdrew them as regulators examined the plan.


The buyout would be through Maple Invest Co. Ltd., a holding company of DAMAC's billionaire founder Hussain Sajwani. Sajwani owns nearly four-fifths of the company through various investment firms.


DAMAC stock traded up Thursday over 3 percent on the news. The firm has a market capitalization of over $2 billion.


DAMAC is known in Dubai for a development that features a Trump-branded golf club surrounded by villas and apartments, making it the only one of its kind in the Middle East that bears the Trump logo.


The company’s partnership with the Trump Organization to manage and run the golf course was struck before Trump’s election as U.S. president.