Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals

Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals
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Updated 22 August 2021

Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals

Taliban inherit untapped $1 trillion trove of minerals
  • Afghanistan is also home to rare earths that are used in the clean energy sector

PARIS: The Taliban now hold the keys to an untouched trillion-dollar trove of minerals including some that could power the world’s transition to renewable energies, but Afghanistan has long struggled to tap its vast deposits. 

The Taliban are already in a financial bind since they returned to power 20 years after their ouster, as major aid donors halted their support for Afghanistan. Endless wars and poor infrastructure have prevented the country from getting its hands on the metals that could brighten its economic fortunes. The resources include bauxite, copper, iron ore, lithium and rare earths, according to a January report by the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Copper, which is needed to make power cables, became a hot commodity this year as prices soared to more than $10,000 per ton. Lithium is a crucial element to make electric car batteries, solar panels and wind farms. World demand for lithium is expected to grow by over 40 times by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency. And Afghanistan “sits on a huge reserve of lithium that has not been tapped to this day,” said Guillaume Pitron, author of the book “The Rare Metals War.”

Afghanistan is also home to rare earths that are used in the clean energy sector: Neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. The country’s untapped mineral riches have been estimated at $1 trillion by the USGS, though Afghan officials have put it three times as high.

Afghanistan has done better digging for precious stones such as emeralds and rubies as well as semi-precious tourmaline and lapis lazuli, but the business is plagued with illegal smuggling to Pakistan. The country also mines for talc, marble, coal and iron. While the Taliban’s takeover may deter foreign investors, one country that appears willing to do business with them is China.

The world’s second-biggest economy has said it was ready to have “friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan after the Taliban entered Kabul. The state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp. won rights in 2007 to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit for 30 years and extract 11.5 million tons of the commodity.

The project to tap the world’s second-largest unexploited copper deposit has yet to start operations “due to safety issues,” according to Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times. 

But Global Times cited a source at the group as saying that it would “consider reopening it after the situation is stabilized, and international recognition — including the Chinese government’s recognition of the Taliban regime — takes place."

While Chinese leaders are “not enthusiastic” about the Taliban takeover, “they will not allow principle to stand in the way of pragmatism,” Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank, said in a blog. “Beijing's lack of development at its major investment in the Mes Aynak copper mine demonstrates its willingness to exercise patience in pursuit of return on investment,” he wrote.


London-based Knight Frank expands Dubai team as real estate continues boom

London-based Knight Frank expands Dubai team as real estate continues boom
Updated 20 sec ago

London-based Knight Frank expands Dubai team as real estate continues boom

London-based Knight Frank expands Dubai team as real estate continues boom
  • The firm hired Andrew Cummings, who has been involved in major sales transactions in Dubai, including two 100-million-dirham properties

DUBAI: London-based real estate firm Knight Frank has hired a veteran broker in Dubai as it expands its operations in the emirate, particularly targeting the luxury market. 

The firm hired Andrew Cummings, who has been involved in major sales transactions in Dubai, including two 100-million-dirham properties, which at the time were the second and third highest sales in the emirate’s residential market history. 

It comes as Dubai experiences a surge in sales transactions, particularly in the luxury residential market, in recent months.

“With Dubai’s property market roaring back to life and seeing record growth in 2021, now is absolutely the time to capitalize on this momentum,” Cummings said in a statement. 


Saudi firm bags $14m contract to supply steel pipes to Uruguay 

Saudi firm bags $14m contract to supply steel pipes to Uruguay 
Updated 5 min 32 sec ago

Saudi firm bags $14m contract to supply steel pipes to Uruguay 

Saudi firm bags $14m contract to supply steel pipes to Uruguay 
  • The supply contract will run for three months, the company said in a bourse filing

DUBAI: The Saudi Steel Pipe Company has won orders worth SR52.4 million ($13.96 million) to supply steel pipes for oil and gas to Uruguay-based Tenaris Global Services.

The supply contract will run for three months, the company said in a bourse filing. 

The impact of the deal will reflect in the company’s first-quarter earnings next year. 


Startup of the Week: Wafeer — helping Saudis spend wisely and save money

Startup of the Week: Wafeer — helping Saudis spend wisely and save money
Updated 27 November 2021

Startup of the Week: Wafeer — helping Saudis spend wisely and save money

Startup of the Week: Wafeer — helping Saudis spend wisely and save money

JEDDAH: Personal finance app Wafeer is the only service in Saudi Arabia that automatically tracks user’s spending patterns in a bid to help them stick to budgets.
The fintech company was founded by Salah Al-Bassam, Ahmad Ramadan and Abdulaziz Al-Jasser in 2019.
Each founder brings their own skills to the firm — Al-Bassam is an investment professional, Ramadan specialized in tech, while Al-Jasser is an engineer.
“We believe this was the formula that made Wafeer what it is right now, the broad and diverse experience that each founder brings to the table and of course our value add investors,” Al-Bassam told Arab News.
In March, Wafeer raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-seed funding round led by Nama Ventures, with participation from RAI group, WomenSpark, and several angel investors.
At the time, Nama Venture’s general partner Mohammed Alzubi said: “We first met the Wafeer team in August of 2020. The first thing that stood out for us was how complementary was the skillsets of the team, with real role clarity from the get go.”
Al-Bassam explains that its software automatically updates expenses that are paid through the app, rather than needing manual entry.
“Beyond tracking user’s expenses, Wafeer offers personalized advice using artificial intelligence helping users get notified before overspending and gives them recommendations that help cut spending or create wiggle room,” Al-Bassam said.
He added the Saudi Vision 2030 growth initiative highlights the importance of creating more awareness of spending, savings and investment through its Financial Sector Development Program.
Al-Bassam said: “It is one of the Vision's realization programs. This program has several goals, the most important of which are achieving financial diversity, stability, and promoting the culture of saving.
“Our goal at Wafeer is to play a role in achieving these objectives with the aim of answering this ongoing question that arises at the end of each month: What did I spend my salary on?”
Wafeer has 82,000 active users in its platform, who have notched up almost 1 million transactions.
The startup has partnered up with big companies in the region, such as online marketplace Noon and Saudi fast food app Hungerstation to provide special offers to customers.
Al-Bassam said: “We are proud of our partnerships, we have signed a number of strategic partnerships, most recently with Noon and Hungerstation to provide Wafeer users with exclusive discounts and offers that match their spending behavior.”
Wafeer currently only operates in the Kingdom, but has plans to extend its services to other Middle Eastern and North African countries.


Americans spent $14bn online during holiday season, says report

Americans spent $14bn online during holiday season, says report
Updated 27 November 2021

Americans spent $14bn online during holiday season, says report

Americans spent $14bn online during holiday season, says report
  • Cyber Monday predicted to be the biggest online shopping day of 2021

RIYADH: US consumers spent $14 billion online during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, according to data from Adobe Analytics, a wing of Adobe’s business that specializes in data insights and tracks transactions at 80 of the top 100 US retailers. 

Black Friday

The report said $8.9 billion were spent on Black Friday and $5.1 of online sales were reported on Thanksgiving. Sales on both occasions slid in 2021 as compared to the previous year.

Forbes quoted Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, as saying: “We are seeing that more purchasing was done earlier in the season as retailers put forth promotions as early as October prompting consumers to shop early.”

Many retailers closed physical stores on Thanksgiving this year, as they did in 2020, amid a labor shortage and the coronavirus pandemic. Stores reopened the day after Thanksgiving, and shopper visits increased by 47.5 percent compared to 2020, but fell by 28.3 percent when compared to 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, according to data from Sensormatic Solutions.

Supply chain challenges and shipping delays may have prompted shoppers to visit stores in order to increase the chances of securing gifts in time for Christmas. More are making purchases online that they can pick up in-store, which keeps shipping costs down.

Macy’s, Walmart, Target and Kohl’s , for example, gave shoppers the flexibility to shop online, in stores or through hybrid methods, walked away as winners on Black Friday, said Louis Navellier, chairman of investor Navellier & Associates.

Of those purchasing online, slightly more used their smartphones. Canadian e-commerce company Shopify said the number of shoppers on its platform who used smartphones to make purchases increased this year to 72 percent from 67 percent last year.

Retailers’ moves to encourage buying holiday gifts earlier could also lessen the importance of Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

BNPL

Buy-now-pay-later solutions like Sezzle, Afterpay, Plan It by American Express and PayPal’s Pay in 4 are growing in usage as consumers look for ways to manage their holiday budgets. BNPL revenue is up 422 percent in November and is over pre-pandemic levels (Nov 2019) for online purchases. 

Cyber Monday sales

Adobe is predicting that Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of 2021, with between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion  in online spending. 


Bitcoin prices likely to double over the next 12 months

Bitcoin prices likely to double over the next 12 months
Updated 27 November 2021

Bitcoin prices likely to double over the next 12 months

Bitcoin prices likely to double over the next 12 months
  • Fall in largest digital currency is a ‘major buying opportunity’

RIYADH: The discovery of a new coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, may have weighed on Bitcoin, the world’s largest digital currency, but financial experts expect its value to “double over the next 12 months.”

The fall in Bitcoin value should be seen as a major buying opportunity, said Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group.

Bitcoin tumbled over 9 percent on Friday, dragging smaller tokens down.

Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $69,000 earlier this month as more large investors embraced cryptocurrencies, with many drawn to its purported inflation-resistant qualities.

Others have piled into the digital token on the promise of quick gains, a draw that has been heightened by record low or negative interest rates.

“The discovery of a new coronavirus variant has rattled global stock markets as it brings in a new wave of uncertainty,” said Green.

“The crypto markets have mirrored the reaction of other financial markets. This underscores how mainstream digital assets have now become, as an increasing number of institutional investors have piled into Bitcoin this year.

“But for this reason, when they temporarily reduce exposure to most risk-on assets, despite the longer-term outlook, they also do the same with Bitcoin. In turn, due to Bitcoin’s mammoth market share, it weighs down the entire crypto sector,” the head of the fintech organization said.

He continued: “However, I think this a knee-jerk reaction from the crypto market. It will move on from this relatively quickly as it did with the delta variant in the summer.”

Bitcoin is often referred to as “digital gold” because like the precious metal it is a medium of exchange, a unit of account, non-sovereign, decentralized, scarce, and a store of value.

“In addition, investors will once again focus on the heightening global inflation fears caused by lingering supply-side issues,” says the deVere CEO.

Bitcoin is widely regarded as a shield against inflation mainly because of its limited supply, which is not influenced by its price.

“This ‘inflation shield’ will continue to bring to the crypto market growing investment from major institutional investors, bringing with them capital, expertise and reputational pull – and further driving up prices.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Martha Reyes, head of research at digital asset prime brokerage and exchange BEQUANT, said: “The news of a new coronavirus variant coming out of South Africa led to a broad-based sell-off across asset classes.

“If lockdowns do ensue, which is not our base case scenario, that will lead to further helicopter money, which ultimately benefits digital assets.”

Ruud Feltkamp’s view supports the opinions of both experts. The CEO of cloud-based automated crypto trading bot Cryptohopper said: “Inflation is skyrocketing, and people are searching for more alternatives for their money on the bank. I don't think it'll take long until investors see this as a ‘cheap’ buying moment. We are still in the midst of the bull cycle, and I think rising inflation will lead to more money being allocated to stocks and crypto.”