Middle East helps Schlumberger to profit beat as margins soar on revenue gains

Middle East helps Schlumberger to profit beat as margins soar on revenue gains
Major contract awards in Iraq, Bahrain and the UAE contributed to Schlumberger's strong quarterly performance. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 July 2021

Middle East helps Schlumberger to profit beat as margins soar on revenue gains

Middle East helps Schlumberger to profit beat as margins soar on revenue gains
  • Schlumberger gives optimistic outlook for the rest of the year
  • Double-digit sequential revenue growth was posted in Qatar, UAE, and East Asia

HOUSTON: Oilfield services giant Schlumberger NV issued a bullish forecast for 2021 on Friday as second-quarter profit topped estimates due to surging margins, with a rebound in oil prices boosting demand for its software and equipment.
Energy services firms are benefiting from a resumption of drilling driven by rising crude prices, which are up 18 percent in the latest quarter and 42 percent since the start of 2021.
Still, oilfield activity levels remain far below pre-pandemic levels and oil demand could face a threat as a resurgence of infections from coronavirus variants prompts fresh restrictions in some parts of the world.
Schlumberger officials offered an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year, and said they expect further growth and margin expansion in the company’s North American and international operations.
International revenue could rise at a double-digit percentage rate compared with year-ago levels, officials said.
Double-digit sequential revenue growth was posted in Qatar, UAE, and East Asia from higher reservoir performance and well construction activity, Schlumberger said in a statement.
ADNOC Offshore awarded Schlumberger a large, five-year contract, valued at $381 million, for integrated rigless services for the artificial islands offshore UAE, the first contract awarded by ADNOC to integrate all rigless services, including high-rate stimulation, production logging, surface testing, and coiled tubing.
In Iraq, Schlumberger was awarded a contract, valued at $480 million, to drill 96 wells in southern Iraq for ExxonMobil, which operates the giant West Qurna 1 Field owned by Basra Oil Company.
In the Kingdom of Bahrain, Schlumberger has been awarded a three-year, production enhancement contract-valued at $150 million in the Bahrain Field.
Its North American business, which fell 1 percent versus a year ago, could “surprise to the upside” due to spending by private operators, Chief Executive Olivier Le Peuch said.
“Industry projections of oil demand reflect the anticipation of a wider vaccine-enabled recovery, improving road mobility, and the impact of various economic stimulus programs,” Le Peuch said, cautioning the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the demand recovery.
US oil output may not reach pre-pandemic levels until after 2022, Le Peuch said, adding that international supply and demand conditions would push oil and gas activity beyond 2019 levels in the next two to three years.
Rival Halliburton this week also delivered a bullish outlook for the oil industry recovery, while Baker Hughes missed earnings expectations following a hit from restructuring charges.
Schlumberger reported net income of $431 million, or 30 cents per share, for the three months to June 30, compared with $299 million, or 21 cents per share, in the first quarter. Wall Street analysts had anticipated earnings of 26 cents per share, according to Refinitiv IBES.
Operating margins nearly doubled to 14.3 percent, the highest since 2018, led by big gains in its software and reservoir performance units. Those gains, which marked the fourth consecutive quarter of margin expansion, reflected past cost-cutting and big year-over-year software revenue increases.
Analysts for investment firm Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. said the results were strong, but lamented that Schlumberger’s stock — along with other oilfield companies — had continued to underperform.


Saudi group wins Subway master franchise deal in UAE

Saudi group wins Subway master franchise deal in UAE
Updated 30 sec ago

Saudi group wins Subway master franchise deal in UAE

Saudi group wins Subway master franchise deal in UAE
  • In Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Subway plans to double its number of restaurants across the region in the coming years

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group on Tuesday signed a master franchise agreement with Subway in the UAE as the restaurant brand seeks to expand its footprint in the region.

The deal marked the start of a new chapter for Subway in the UAE as it seeks to expand its footprint and remain competitive in the market.

“Subway is making bold and impressive changes to continue to grow its presence in markets around the world,” said Hisham Al-Amoudi, Group CEO of Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group.

“As Subway continues to expand internationally, we are focused on attracting well-established, large-scale operators in regions where they can leverage market expertise to help our brand thrive,” said CEO John Chidsey.

Established in 1987, Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group is a major franchise industry player in the Middle East with 675 stores across seven countries, making it one of the largest franchise networks in the region. They are a valued partner to some of the world’s most iconic brands, such as The Body Shop, LEGO, and Early Learning Center.

The group’s “deep knowledge of the Middle East and experience strengthening and expanding other global franchisee brands makes them the ideal partner in the UAE,” Mike Kehoe, EMEA president at Subway.

In Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Subway plans to double its number of restaurants across the region in the coming years and will continue to seek strong partners to support the brand on its journey.

The agreement will enable significant growth in the UAE in the coming years  including accelerated deployment of restaurant remodels — featuring a new, modern “Fresh Forward” design — as well as improved, consistent guest experiences, both on- and off-premise.


Saudi team’s performance at robotics summit to pave way for more progress

Saudi team’s performance at robotics summit to pave way for more progress
Updated 16 min 9 sec ago

Saudi team’s performance at robotics summit to pave way for more progress

Saudi team’s performance at robotics summit to pave way for more progress

RIYADH/JEDDAH: As the Saudi team secured sixth place in a contest at the World Robot Summit held in Japan, the chief of the Research Products Development Co. (RPDC) expressed optimism over Kingdom’s plan to promote artificial intelligence and build a strong robotics base in the Kingdom.

Abdulmohsen Al-Majnouni told Arab News that it was a major accomplishment as the Kingdom “is building its capabilities” to bring about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The company is owned by Taqnia, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund. Officials of the Research Products Development Co. led the Saudi robotics team, which competed with 16 other countries at the summit and qualified for the final contest.

“Inspired by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, our national robotics team of young men and women, under the leadership of Dr. Nahid Sidki, the chief technology officer of RPDC, reached the final competition. The journey to the summit included qualification round of 119 international teams where 16 teams managed to reach the finals in the industrial challenge,” he said.

According to Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alsawaha, advanced technology from the Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to generate around SR1 trillion for the Saudi economy in new revenue streams.

The Kingdom will enjoy economic boosts from robotics, artificial intelligence, and wireless production models as it pushes for smarter cities and infrastructure.

“This accomplishment is inspiring to both our young men and women and to our leadership. We do not need to wait until 2030 to start achieving our targets. They are closer than many (people) think. With the government's support, we can start building amazing capabilities in robotics and AI and transform the Kingdom into a highly competitive economy,” said RPDC COO Dr. Mashal Al-Harbi. 

The secret to achieving the target, he said, is to find “passionate, dedicated and smart talent, engaging them in challenging projects for hands-on experience and supporting them with the needed resources and guidance to unlock their full potential.”

The World Robot Summit is supported by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; and the Energy Industrial Technology Development Organization. It aims to expedite the development of robotics and AI technologies to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

“They open it up to the world to inspire young men and women to solve a very challenging problem. We managed to develop an innovative architecture to address the challenge and our talented team worked hard for almost two years despite the COVID-19 lockdown and the many challenges we faced,” said Sidki.

“The accomplishment is a reminder to our young talent that only through the dedication and hard work we can accomplish what others consider impossible,” he said.

“My message to Saudi young men and women is to follow your dreams and unlock your full potential and don’t let fear drive your ambition. Moving forward, we expect Saudi Arabia’s young talent to be major competitors in international AI and Robotics competitions,” the company’s chief technology officer said.


Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector

Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector
Updated 21 September 2021

Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector

Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector

RIYADH: The Sovereign Fund of Egypt is exploring investment opportunities in the fintech sector with a focus on small and medium projects, Ayman Suliman said in a CNBC Arabiya interview.

Talking about investments in other sectors, the chief executive officer of the fund said the tourism sector represents 20-20 percent of the fund's total investments.

Suliman also mentioned the fund’s plans to transform the historic Bab Al-Azab area in Cairo’s Salah Al-Din Al-Ayoubi Citadel into the first integrated innovation zone in the Middle East and North Africa.  

He said several projects in the health sector are also being studied such as the expansion of pharmaceutical exports.

“The health sector is a mainstay in the fund’s investment portfolio,” the CEO added.

The fund aims to attract private investments in Egypt’s underutilized assets and create wealth for future generations and boost the country’s economic growth.


Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies

Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies
Updated 21 September 2021

Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies

Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi is working on plans to add advances drones to its health sector’s supply chain, said an official statement.

Drones will be used to deliver medical supplies, medicine and blood units, vaccines and samples between laboratories, pharmacies, blood banks across healthcare facilities around the city in a safe manner.

The project will create a state-of-the-art delivery system and network using drones at 40 stations throughout the year 2022, the statement said. 

The project is a collaboration between Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health, the General Civil Aviation Authority, SkyGo and Matternet. It will leverage existing advanced infrastructure to transform healthcare logistics.

It aligns with the year of preparation for the “UAE Projects of the 50,” the UAE's Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy, and broader strategies to position Abu Dhabi as a global hub for innovation. 

The statement issued by the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said: The use of drones will yield environmental benefits with a reduction in CO2 emissions and reduced road traffic congestion.” 

SkyGo and Matternet have completed phase one of testing and are now working on phase two, which will be finalized by the end of this year and will address all aviation safety requirement and risk assessments.


Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries

Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries
Updated 21 September 2021

Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries

Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries
  • Evergrande, founded in 1996, is one of China’s biggest builders of apartments, office towers and shopping malls

LONDON: Oil and equities finally appeared to shake off concerns that have plagued financial markets in recent days following the crisis at China’s largest property group Evergrande.

Most economists now believe there is little risk of wider global financial market contagion from the problems at Evergrande which is on the verge of defaulting on its massive $300 billion debt pile.

Indeed, it emerged that funds run by US asset management giant BlackRock and global bank HSBC appeared to have embarked on a “buying the dip” strategy and increased their holdings of Evergrande bonds as the developer’s liquidity crisis was intensifying.

Data by Morningstar reveals BlackRock bought up five different Evergrande dollar bonds through one of its high-yield funds, which had holdings in the developer then worth $18 million, in August.

An HSBC-run high yield fund also purchased Evergrande’s debt over the summer. The Morningstar data revealed the fund increased bond holdings by 38 percent since February, but the value of the fund’s total exposure at $31m declined over the same period due to falling prices.
Ashmore, the emerging market investment specialist, is understood to have the highest exposure with more than $400 million of its bonds. UBS had close to $300 million of exposure to Evergrande bonds.

Patrick Ge, manager research analyst at Morningstar, said: “We’ve seen a few funds adding to China Evergrande between July and August 2021, given widening spreads and attractive valuations. This is in line with what we have heard from some managers where they said that at its current levels, they believe Evergrande is a buy.”

Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares have fallen 85 percent this year and its bonds have also been downgraded by global credit ratings agencies.

Simon MacAdam from Capital Economics said: “A managed default or even messy collapse of Evergrande would have little global impact beyond some market turbulence.”

However, Chinese regulators, who are understood to be looking at breaking the company up, have so far failed to provide any details about how they will resolve Evergrande’s $300 billion debt pile.

China watchers only expect the government to intervene if the company and its lenders fail to agree on how to handle its debts.

JP Morgan analyst, Frank Pan, said Evergrande was likely to go through the same process as developer China Fortune Land, which defaulted on $530m of dollar-denominated debt earlier this year.

Pan said: “That means a standstill for all creditors while allowing operations to continue.”

After a decade of warnings from economist on the threat posed by China’s rising debt levels, Beijing’s financial regulator last year imposed much tighter limits on real estate-related borrowing.

Evergrande has $18 billion of outstanding foreign-currency bonds, mostly held by Chinese banks and other institutions. 

Fears persist that China’s property sector, which has been a central engine of the country’s economic expansion, is facing an unprecedented slowdown because of the current tightened credit conditions.

If property companies default on their debts, investors who hold their bonds could find their finances under pressure, forcing them to sell other investments to raise cash, which could in turn impact on other markets beyond property and beyond China.

Evergrande, founded in 1996, is one of China’s biggest builders of apartments, office towers and shopping malls.

It is estimated to have more than 200,000 employees and supports almost 4 million jobs in construction and other industries through 1,300 projects in 280 cities across China.

Evergrande’s founder, Xu Jiayin, was China’s richest entrepreneur in 2017 with a net worth of $43 billion and remains the country’s richest real estate developer.