Gulf Islamic insurers face tough competition, pressure on profits – S&P

Gulf Islamic insurers face tough competition, pressure on profits – S&P
The Islamic insurance market has been driven by mandatory health coverage in some Gulf markets. (SPA)
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Updated 28 July 2021

Gulf Islamic insurers face tough competition, pressure on profits – S&P

Gulf Islamic insurers face tough competition, pressure on profits – S&P
  • S&P expects more capital raises mergers to improve profitability

RIYADH: Islamic insurers in the GCC may see profitability wane in the second half of 2021 as they face a tough competitive environment amid weak performance in some sectors hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, according to S&P Global Ratings.

Some smaller Takaful companies will need to raise capital or merge, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where losses have persisted, S&P credit analyst Emir Mujkic wrote in a report.

“Our outlook on the sector for the next 12 months remains stable,” he said. “However, given that risks related to the pandemic persist, we could take rating actions in the event of a sharp decline in asset prices, unexpected and severe technical losses, or governance and internal control failures.”

Takaful insurers recorded modest growth of about 1.5 percent in 2020 and about 1.0 percent in first-quarter 2021 according to S&P Global Ratings calculations.

The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) in January reiterated the need for insurance companies to look at M&A deals since the sector was a key driver of the Kingdom’s economy and a pillar of the Financial Sector Development Program, one of 12 executive programs launched by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs to achieve the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

The sector has witnessed a number of agreements and mergers this year, including between Walaa Cooperative Insurance Co. and Metlife AIG ANB Cooperative Insurance Co., and between Al-Ahlia Insurance and Gulf Union National.

Profit in the Kingdom’s insurance sector, including conventional insurers, rose 96.1 percent in the first nine months of 2020 to SR1.32 billion, according to KPMG.

“Despite a recent material improvement in profitability in Saudi Arabia’s insurance sector, more than one third of insurers continue to report losses,” said Mujkic. “Pressure on solvency and certain regulatory incentives have led to a number of mergers in Saudi Arabia over the past year and we expect this trend to continue throughout 2021.”

A new insurance law in Kuwait that requires higher reserve requirements is due to come into force over the next year, putting pressure on small and unprofitable Takaful players in Kuwait, S&P said.

The pandemic did not only affect Islamic Insurance companies in the Kingdom, but also non-Islamic companies, and they are doing great efforts by attracting new subscriptions or new customers, to get a customer with a low risk level that will have a good profit return by the end of the year,” Faiz Alhomrani, a financial market analyst told Arab News.” Many companies and sectors have been greatly affected by the pandemic, thus it became very tough to collect mandatory premiums for these companies, which pressured insurance companies to put financial provisions for non-performing debts.”

Growth in the sector will be unevenly spread, with larger conventional insurers taking more of the gains, said Mujkic.


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.


Cinema chain AMC confirms plan to accept cryptocurrencies: Market wrap

Cinema chain AMC confirms plan to accept cryptocurrencies: Market wrap
Updated 16 September 2021

Cinema chain AMC confirms plan to accept cryptocurrencies: Market wrap

Cinema chain AMC confirms plan to accept cryptocurrencies: Market wrap
  • Bitcoin, the leading international cryptocurrency, traded lower on Thursday, falling by 0.42 percent to $47,617.84

RIYADH: AMC Entertainment, the world's most popular film exhibition company, has announced its plan to accept cryptocurrencies in its 950 theaters by the end of the year.

AMC CEO Adam Aron tweeted Wednesday: “Cryptocurrency enthusiasts: you likely know AMC has announced that we will accept Bitcoin for online ticket and concession payments by year-end 2021. I can confirm today that when we do so, we also expect that we similarly will accept Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin cash.”

Other crypro news:

SkyBridge Capital, the investment firm founded by former aide to Donald Trump Anthony Scaramucci, has submitted an application for a crypto-trading fund (ETF), with the aim of providing investors with a capital appreciation.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the ‘First Trust SkyBridge Crypto Industry and Digital Economy ETF’ is seeking to list and trade its shares on the NYSE Arca Stock Exchange.

Scaramucci announced a new Algorand fund during the star-studded "SALT" hedge fund conference, which included the likes of Ray Dalio, Steven Cohen and Mike Novogratz.

“SkyBridge now has about $700 million in crypto. We are starting the Alogrand fund,  we are capping that fund at $250 million, and we have already raised $100 million for that fund.” Scaramucci said in an interview with CNBC Wednesday.

In Turkey, the Central Bank of Turkey has created a new platform with technology stakeholders to further develop a digital version of the national fiat currency.

The Central Bank of Turkey also entered into agreements with two defense and technology companies, as well as the Scientific and Technological Research Council, and the Informatics and Information Security Research Center to cooperate on the digital lira project, the state-run Anadolu Agency and Daily Sabah reported.

In the United States, at a hearing of the US Senate Banking Committee, Senator Elizabeth Warren asked the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Gary Gensler, to increase oversight of cryptocurrency.

She flagged up several issues that she linked to cryptocurrencies that she felt could harm small investors.

Bitcoin, the leading international cryptocurrency, traded lower on Thursday, falling by 0.42 percent to $47,617.84 at 5:55 p.m Riyadh time. 

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, went in the opposite direction, trading up by 3.92 percent at $3,585.47, according to data from Coindesk.


Remittances from Egyptians abroad hit an all-time high despite the pandemic

Remittances from Egyptians abroad hit an all-time high despite the pandemic
Updated 16 September 2021

Remittances from Egyptians abroad hit an all-time high despite the pandemic

Remittances from Egyptians abroad hit an all-time high despite the pandemic

The Central Bank of Egypt announced that remittances from Egyptians abroad rose to their highest ever annual level last year even as the pandemic weighed on economic activities worldwide.

The bank’s data revealed that money from Egyptians working abroad during the fiscal year 2020-2021 saw a 13.2 percent rise — or about $3.7 billion — compared to the 2019-2020.

The Central Bank of Egypt added that the payments amounted to about $31.4 billion, compared to about $27.8 billion dollars in the previous 12 months.

During June, money from Egyptians abroad also witnessed an annual increase of 15.5 percent, about $2.9 billion, compared to about $2.6 billion in June 2020.

Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Saeed said one of the objectives of his government's economic development plan include increasing money from Egyptians working abroad to about $30 billion, compared to $25.2 billion in 2018-2019, according to data issued by the Ministry of Planning.


New Saudi committee tasked to regulate foreign investments as Kingdom opens up

New Saudi committee tasked to regulate foreign investments as Kingdom opens up
Updated 16 September 2021

New Saudi committee tasked to regulate foreign investments as Kingdom opens up

New Saudi committee tasked to regulate foreign investments as Kingdom opens up
  • Chaired by the investment minister, the new committee will also set the limit for foreign ownership in local companies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has formed a new committee to regulate foreign investments and protect the Kingdom's critical sectors such as utilities.

The committee is tasked to create and implement a criterion for foreign investors, identifying a list of companies, individuals, and activities excluded from foreign investment, Argaam reported, citing a cabinet's decision.

Chaired by the investment minister, the new committee will also set the limit for foreign ownership in local companies.

“The setup of this committee is a sagacious decision which reflects the fast pace of change in the economic structure with the participation from foreign investors,” Mohammed Al-Suwayed, chief of Razeen Capital, said.

The committee comes as more foreign entities take an interest in entering the Saudi market as part of the government’s push to modernize its economy.

Saudi analyst Al-Suwayed said: “The committee is made to deal with the implications of national security and national resources including natural and critical types of resources.”

He said the decision to create the committee will protect the Kingdom from “broader political risk” if critical services such as utilities are controlled by foreign businessmen.

“Businessmen in Saudi have more access to public policymaking than any other stakeholders, and after allowing foreign businessmen to join the boards of Commercial Chambers, they're expecting to enjoy the same access and influence policymaking as well,” he explained.

Ministers of commerce, economy, planning, communications and information technology, heads of the Local Content Authority and the Capital Market Authority will also be part of the committee.