ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth

ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth
The Uzbek economy will grow at about 6.5 percent this year, according to government projections. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 19 September 2021

ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth

ACWA Power bets big on Uzbekistan growth
  • ACWA has invested about $1.2 billion in Uzbekistan thus far
  • ACWA plans to contribute to $100 million Uzbekistan fund

MOSCOW/RIYADH: In the crowded corridors of the Hilton Tashkent City, ACWA Power Chairman Mohammad Abunayyan talks quietly with key delegates of the Islamic Development Bank’s annual meeting in Uzbekistan, who approach him one after another.

Abunayyan, a lean, middle-aged, intelligent-looking man is celebrating with the bank's officials the launch of the $100 million Economic Empowerment Fund for Uzbekistan earlier this month. 

ACWA Power is planning on becoming one of the Saudi investors that will make up 45 percent of the fund, which is also being financed with money from the Islamic Development Bank and the Uzbek government.

ACWA’s contribution would be the latest in a long line of investments in the Central Asian nation, where the utility now has assets worth $4.6 billion having invested about $1.2 billion, according to the prospectus for its initial public offering that was launched earlier this month.

Although that is less than one tenth of the SR248 billion ($66 billion) of assets ACWA has accumulated globally since it was established in 2004 with what Abunayaan describes as a small equity investment. Abunayaan joined the board in 2008.

Beyond its home market in Saudi Arabia, ACWA also owns assets in Oman, UAE, Bahrain and Jordan.

Still, Uzbekistan is an important market for ACWA Power.

In 2020, the company was awarded three projects: Sirdarya Combined-Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) independent power producer (IPP) with 1,500 MW of gross contracted power capacity; the 500 MW Bash Wind IPP; and the 500 MW Dzhankeldy Wind IPP.

The company’s fourth and largest Uzbek asset in Uzbekistan is the Karakalpakstan 1,500 MW Wind IPP project, valued at $2 billion. The Karakalpakstan, Bash and Dzhankeldy projects are at advanced stages of development and Sirdarya IPP is under construction.

ACWA Power’s investments in Uzbekistan represent a sizeable chunk of total foreign direct investment (FDI) that the country has received in recent years.

“Uzbekistan attracted $2 billion in FDI in 2020 and targets another $5 billion this year,” Atabek Nazirov, director general of the Direct Investment Fund of Uzbekistan, told Arab News on the sidelines of the IDB’s two-day conference on Sept. 3.

Such investments mean a long-term relationship between ACWA Power and Uzbekistan.

“[In our projects] we need to lay the foundation for a long-term partnership, this is a relationship that lasts for 20, 25, 30 years,” Tom Teerlynck, executive vice president of ACWA Power, said during a panel discussion organized by the Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investments and Export Credits.

“The early years go very smoothly because everybody is happy — agreements signed, infrastructure is being built, the services being provided,” he said. “But problems come in later when people in ministries or private companies change. So, it’s very important to lay very robust foundations.”

Uzbekistan officials are confident that ongoing reforms will propel economic growth, despite the global shock caused by COVID-19.

“In 2020, Uzbekistan was the only economy in the Central Asia region that did not have a negative gross domestic product [GDP],” said Direct Investment Fund of Uzbekistan’s Nazirov. “We were able to achieve just above 1 percent growth.”

The government is forecasting economic growth of 6.5 percent this year although that is a conservative scenario and it is hoping for closer to 7 percent, Ilhom Norkulov, Uzbekistan’s deputy minister of economic development and poverty reduction, told Arab News at the IDB meeting.

“For the next five years our target is to increase GDP to $100 billion so we are working to create conditions for the economy to grow 6-7 percent a year,” he said.

However, Uzbekistan’s economy is facing tailwinds in the form of a high inflation rate – expected at 10-11 percent this year – unemployment of 10.5 percent in 2020 (up from 5.8 percent in 2017) and a decline in average monthly wages to a low of $226 in the fourth quarter of 2018 from a peak of $415 in 2016, but back to $280 in the second quarter 2021, according to official data.

Government officials say they are fully aware of the issues, and maintaining economic reforms and income growth should ease the employment and wage conditions over the long run.


Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework
Updated 20 October 2021

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits grow by 37%, plans ESG framework

RIYADH: Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank net profits rose by 37 percent during the first nine months of 2021 while operating profits recorded a growth of 18 percent to reach 140 million dinars ($145.8 million).

Abdullah Al-Tuwaijri, CEO of personal and digital banking services at the bank, said that fees and commissions were the biggest support for the bank’s performance in the last quarter, as the growth rate exceeded 25 percent, in addition to the financing portfolio, which rose by 18 percent.

In an interview to CNBC Arabia, he said the bank’s current assets have exceeded 7 billion dinars and its market share in individual services sector stands at about 15 percent.

He said the bank plans to expand its digital services with a focus on fintech and also aims to work on developing a framework for environmental, social and governance standards.

He said: “We are still conservative and believe that the economic and operational matters in Kuwait are better, as we noticed during the third quarter business growth, but we still have a conservative view and we are waiting until the end of the year to see the general indicators.”


Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues
Updated 20 October 2021

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

NEW YORK: Oil edged higher on Tuesday and was near multiyear highs as an energy supply crunch continued across the globe, while falling temperatures in China revived concerns over whether the world’s biggest energy consumer can meet domestic heating needs.

The Brent crude benchmark rose 34 cents to $84.67 a barrel by 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate futures rose 46 cents to $82.90 a barrel.

Prices have been climbing the last two months. Since the start of September, Brent has risen by about 18 percent, while WTI has

gained by around 21 percent. “Supply-demand balances show that the market is experiencing a supply deficit, which is spurring deep inventory draws and driving prices upward,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

“This market tightness is expected to extend into most of 2022, and crude oil demand will only catch up with crude supply by the fourth quarter of next year.”

With temperatures falling as the northern hemisphere winter approaches and heating demand increasing, prices of oil, coal and natural gas are likely to remain elevated, traders and analysts said.


Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
Updated 19 October 2021

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
  • The deal concerns the "interconnection" of the neighbours and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Greek prime minister said
  • The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising

ATHENS: Greece, Cyprus and Egypt on Tuesday signed an electricity agreement that could include Egyptian solar power and potentially supply power to other European countries.
The protocol was signed during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the presidents of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, in Athens.
The deal concerns the “interconnection” of the neighbors and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Mitsotakis said.
“As energy sources diversify, Egypt can become a supplier of electric power, which will be mainly produced by the sun, and Greece will become a distribution station for Europe,” Mitsotakis added.
The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising.
El-Sisi said the agreement aims to “reinforce energy cooperation.”
In a joint statement, the Mediterranean neighbors said: “This interconnection reinforces cooperation and energy security, not only between these three countries but also with Europe.”
“It will be a way to transfer important quantities of electricity from and to the eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said.
The three countries also expressed their intention of exploring and transferring natural gas in the region.
Energy cooperation between eastern Mediterranean countries regularly irritate Turkey, which has its eyes set on oil and natural gas deposits in the region.
“Unfortunately, Ankara does not understand the message of the times and its aspirations to the detriment of its neighbors are obviously a threat to peace in the region,” Mitsotakis said.
Tensions soared last year when Turkey sent an exploration ship and small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters that Greece considers its own under treaties.
The Turkish foreign ministry later Tuesday lambasted the joint statement as another example of the “hostile policy” toward Turkey and Turkish-held northern Cyprus.
While Ankara supported energy projects which “increased cooperation between regional countries,” the ministry stressed that Turkish and northern Cyprus’ rights and interests “should not be ignored by these projects.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey seized the north in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
Despite attempts this year to normalize relations with Egypt after falling out in 2013, the Turkish ministry also criticized Cairo’s cooperation with Greece and Cyprus.
“The inclusion of Egypt indicates that the Egyptian administration has not yet grasped the real address where it can cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean,” it added in a written statement.


Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved raising the penalty for violating the Finance Companies Law to not more than SR2 million ($0.53 million), the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Following the amendment, the penalty shall be SR2 million or 10 percent of the value of finance to which the violation was carried out, or imprisonment for a period of not more than two years, or one of those two penalties.


Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report
Updated 19 October 2021

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

A report from Bank of America has warned reaching net zero will cost the global economy $5 trillion annually for the next 30 years.

On the eve of the UN’s COP26 environmental conference in Scotland this month, where countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions will review their progress and outline policies to achieve net zero by 2050, the report offers a stark reminder of the cost of transitioning to greener energy.

However, the report also warned that failing to address climate change could lead to the loss of 3 percent of global gross domestic product annually this decade, amounting to around $69 trillion by the end of this century.

A key priority at COP26 is for governments to agree on specific cash-backed policies that will accelerate the transition toward net zero, including a commitment to phase out the use of coal, sharply reduce deforestation, speed up the transition to electric vehicles and green heating systems, and implement fiscal measures to encourage increased investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the summit, which is taking place in Scotland’s former industrial heartland of Glasgow, will also attempt to get western governments to make good the $20 billion a year shortfall in helping emerging nations transition to greener energy.

Developed nations had agreed to provide $100 billion per year to emerging nations. Not only have they fallen short on that commitment, but the UN wants agreement in Glasgow to increase that funding further.

The UN Environment Programme estimates the cost of transition in emerging countries will reach $140-300 billion by 2030, and $280-500 billion by 2050. San Francisco based think tank, the Climate Policy Initiative, estimates Africa on its own may require up to $3 trillion by the end of this decade.

Against this backdrop, Bank of America estimates the total cost of transitioning will be $150 trillion, at least four times the amount that global COVID-19 stimulus packages are forecast to cost governments this decade.

The report states financing the trillions of dollars of investment needed for net zero will require “significant changes in capital allocation.”

As Arab News reported last week, the World Resources Institute said G20 countries still account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a report by Moody’s Investors Service revealed financial institutions in the G20 were carrying almost $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

However, Bank of America said the use of labelled bonds and loans to address environmental issues is expanding rapidly.

It is forecasting more than $1 trillion in labeled bond issuance this year, with $900 billion in green, social and sustainability bonds and a further $100 billion in sustainability-linked bonds.

The report adds that labeled bonds already account for more than 20 percent of European high grade and European high yield issuance for corporates this year, driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and EU regulations, more than twice the rate in 2020.

However, while the report is bullish about the ability of Western governments to pay for greening the planet, the report notes that while around 50 countries, along with the EU — which between them account for almost 75 percent of CO2 emissions — have committed to reaching net zero, only 10 countries have so far enshrined that commitment in legislation.

The report adds while a number of the countries have pledged to long-term targets, centered on 2050 or the end of the century, they have failed to make 2030 commitments in line with the Paris Agreement.

The good news? Well, Bank of America’s cost estimate is considerably lower than an earlier forecast, published in the summer, by BloombergNEF’s closely watched New Energy Outlook, which put the figure at $173 trillion, of $5.8 trillion annually.

Progress of sorts as the world heads to Glasgow.