UAE food giant Agthia to pay $17.8m in its first interim cash dividends

UAE food giant Agthia to pay $17.8m in its first interim cash dividends
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Updated 28 September 2021

UAE food giant Agthia to pay $17.8m in its first interim cash dividends

UAE food giant Agthia to pay $17.8m in its first interim cash dividends
  • The approved dividend distribution marks Agthia Group’s first interim dividend

DUBAI: Agthia Group, a leading food and beverages company in the UAE, approved yesterday to pay a cash dividend of 8.25 fils per share for the first half of 2021, or 65.31 million dirhams, it said in a statement.

The approved dividend distribution marks Agthia Group’s first interim dividend, it said.

"Recently, the Group adopted a semi-annual dividend policy, which aligns with its commitment to maximizing shareholders’ returns," it added.


$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge

$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge
Updated 5 sec ago

$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge

$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge

WASHINGTON: New data out Friday showed $590 million in ransomware-related payments were reported to US authorities in the first half of 2021 alone, setting a pace to beat totals for the whole previous decade as cyber-extortion booms.

The figure is also 42 percent higher than the amount divulged by financial institutions for all of 2020, the US Treasury report said, and there are strong indicators the true cost could be in the billions.

“If current trends continue, (reports) filed in 2021 are projected to have a higher ransomware-related transaction value than ... filed in the previous 10 years combined,” said Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The heists involve breaking into a company or institution’s network to encrypt its data, then demanding a ransom, typically paid via cryptocurrency in exchange for the digital key to unlock it.

Washington has sought to crack down on a sharp rise in attacks, including issuing its first sanctions against an online exchange where illicit operators have allegedly swapped cryptocurrency for cash.

Recent assaults on a major US oil pipeline, a meatpacking company and the Microsoft Exchange email system drew attention to the vulnerability of US infrastructure to digital pirates who are extorting staggering sums.

Treasury said investigators found over 150 online wallets for cyptocurrency and by analyzing them uncovered roughly $5.2 billion in transactions potentially tied to ransomware payments.

Companies and institutions face intense pressure to pay up in order to get their data unlocked, but also to keep the attack from potentially angry clients and authorities who issue stern warnings not to give cash to criminals.

The report, based on the suspicious activity alerts that financial firms have to file, noted it was unclear if the jump represented increased awareness of the cybercrime.

“This trend potentially reflects the increasing overall prevalence of ransomware-related incidents as well as improved detection and reporting,” Treasury said.


Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export

Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export

Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Commerce Ministry has issued 31 licenses to export steel and cement since the beginning of 2021, Al-Eqtisadiah reported on Saturday.

According to the report, 11 licenses were issued for cement export and 20 to export steel. 

The new licenses come as construction activity begins to recover following the postponement of many projects during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


Bitcoin trades near record after topping $60,000 for first time in 6 months

Bitcoin trades near record after topping $60,000 for first time in 6 months
Updated 16 October 2021

Bitcoin trades near record after topping $60,000 for first time in 6 months

Bitcoin trades near record after topping $60,000 for first time in 6 months

Bitcoin topped $60,000 for the first time in six months on Friday, nearing its all-time high, as hopes grew that U.S. regulators would allow a futures-based exchange-traded fund (ETF), a move likely to open the path to wider investment in digital assets.

Cryptocurrency investors have been waiting for approval of the first U.S. ETF for bitcoin, with bets on such a move fuelling its recent rally.

The world's biggest cryptocurrency rose to $61,869.05, its highest since mid-April, at 10:30am Riyadh time. It has risen by more than half since Sept. 20 and is closing in on its record high of $64,895 hit in April.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to allow the first American bitcoin futures ETF to begin trading next week, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday. Such a move would open a new path for investors to gain exposure to the emerging asset, according to traders and analysts.

"Crypto ETFs are inevitable. A product like this will eventually come to fruition since there is a demand for it," said Chris Kline, chief operating officer and co-founder of Bitcoin IRA.

"It seems clear that regulators will approve some version of a crypto ETF soon, most likely by Monday," Kline added. "As regulators become more familiar with the space, the SEC is starting to understand how these assets are stored, secured and reconciled so that it makes sense in traditional finance."

Bitcoin's moves on Friday were spurred by a Twitter post from the SEC's investor education office urging investors to weigh risks and benefits of investing in funds that hold bitcoin futures contracts, said Ben Caselin of Asia-based crypto exchange AAX.

Several fund managers, including the VanEck Bitcoin Trust, ProShares, Invesco, Valkyrie and Galaxy Digital Funds, have applied to launch bitcoin ETFs in the United States.

The Nasdaq on Friday approved the listing of the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF.

After months of back-and-forth between the SEC and potential bitcoin futures ETF issuers, the regulator appears prepared to greenlight a handful of filings that will open the door to wider access to cryptocurrencies to retail and institutional investors alike.

Under the rule sets used by the ETF issuers, the SEC does not have to give explicit approval to the ETFs, which can be launched at the end of a 75-day period if the U.S. regulator has no objections.

The 75-day time period for the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF ends on Monday, and the ETF can be launched on Tuesday.

The SEC declined to comment.

Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe, growing in popularity amid surging interest in digital assets.

Futures exchange operator Cboe Global Markets Inc applied for a rule change with the SEC that would allow it to list certain complex ETFs. The SEC approved that application on Oct. 1.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler has previously said the crypto market involves many tokens that may be unregistered securities and leaves prices open to manipulation and millions of investors vulnerable to risks.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Bloomberg report said proposals by ProShares and Invesco, based on futures contracts, were filed under mutual fund rules that Gensler has said provide "significant investor protections".

"It's one of the final frontiers for mandate access," said Joseph Edwards, head of research at crypto broker Enigma Securities. "Plenty of Americans in particular have strings attached to how they deploy a lot of their wealth. It allows bitcoin to get in on the sorts of windfall that keep U.S. equities as consistently strong as they are."


After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look

After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look
Updated 15 October 2021

After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look

After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look
  • ITA, or Italy Air Transport, officially launched after bankrupt flag carrier Alitalia landed its final flights Thursday night
  • Protests and strikes accompanied the runup to Alitalia's formal demise because the much smaller ITA Airways

ROME: Italy’s new national airline, ITA Airways, flew its inaugural flights Friday and unveiled its brand and logo, recycling the red, white and green of its Alitalia origins. It tries to chart a new future while competing with low-cost airlines.
ITA, or Italy Air Transport, officially launched after bankrupt flag carrier Alitalia landed its final flights Thursday night, ending a 74-year business history that a series of financial crises had marred in recent years.
Protests and strikes accompanied the run-up to Alitalia’s formal demise because the much smaller ITA Airways is only hiring around a quarter of Alitalia’s more than 10,000 employees. Negotiations with unions are ongoing.
ITA paid 90 million euros (over $104 million) for the rights to the Alitalia brand and website, but the new airline is called ITA Airways and it has its own website and a new frequent flier program, called “Volare” (“Fly”).
“Discontinuity doesn’t mean denying the past, but evolving to keep up with the times,” ITA President Alfredo Altavilla said in a statement.
During a conference launching the airline, Altavilla insisted that the greatly reduced size of ITA — its slimmer fleet, workforce and destinations — make it a viable carrier that can compete with low-cost airlines while offering better service, connections and value.
“ITA Airways is being born right-sized, in the optimal dimensions both in terms of the size of its fleet and its destinations,” he said. “We don’t carry with us the negative inheritance of being too big that conflict with the economic reality.”
He bristled when asked about reported predictions by low-cost carriers of ITA Airways’ failure.
“They might be very, absolutely right that this is gonna be difficult for us, but I am really curious to see one day their PnL (Profits and Loss) and their balance sheet without all the subsidies that they are getting from the local institutions and the small airports here in Italy,” Altavilla said.
“I want a level playing field,” he added.
The first ITA flight was the 6:20 a.m. from Milan’s Linate airport to the Italian city of Bari, on the Adriatic Sea. In all, ITA is flying to 44 destinations and aims to increase that number to 74 in four years.
Among its routes, the company plans to operate flights to New York from Milan and Rome, and to Tokyo, Boston and Miami from Rome. European destinations from Rome and Milan’s Linate airport will also include Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva and Frankfurt, Germany. Routes to South America and Los Angeles are planned.
ITA planes will be royal blue with Alitalia’s trademark “tricolore” on the tail, reflecting the red, white and green of the Italian flag. The Italian national sports team colors are blue, and company officials said Friday that the color scheme chosen for the new aircraft aims to make ITA “azzurri,” — the team nickname — too.
For now, the new blue Airbus aircraft exists only in advertisements, with Alitalia’s old white fleet actually in the skies.
Officials were coy about possible partnerships with other airlines. Previously, Alitalia was a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which included Delta, Air France and KLM, among other airlines.
ITA has 52 planes that it says will grow to 105 in the same period and is pointing to next-generation aircraft that use sustainable, alternative fuel sources.
The company launched with 2,800 employees — 70 percent of them from Alitalia — and said it expects to increase the size of its workforce to 5,750 by 2025.


Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan

Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan
Updated 15 October 2021

Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan

Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan
  • Oil could reach $100 a barrel as demand rises, Russian President Vladimir Putin said

RIYADH: Brent crude passed $85 a barrel and WTI was headed for an eighth consecutive weekly advance as Saudi Oil Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud insisted OPEC+ will stick to its plan to increase output at a steady pace in the coming months.

Brent gained 1 percent to $84.82 a barrel at 3:33 p.m. Riyadh time, headed for a 3 percent weekly gain. They earlier touched $85.10, a three-year high. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) also gained 1 percent, to $82.12, 3.5 percent higher on the week.

OPEC+, the alliance of OPEC and non-OPEC producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, would be adding 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in November, and then again in the following months, the Kingdom’s energy minister told delegates at Russian Energy Week on Thursday.

While the market is tight today, it is set to be return to balance by the end of the year and be in surplus during 2022, according to OPEC forecasts.

The benefits of the approach OPEC+ has taken can be seen in the steady increase in the price of oil this year compared with the wild price swings in other markets, he said.

“What we see in the oil market today is an incremental (price) increase of 29 percent, vis-à-vis 500 percent increases in (natural) gas prices, 300 percent increases in coal prices, 200 percent increases in NGLs (natural gas liquids) ...,” he said. OPEC+ has done a “remarkable” job acting as “so-called regulator of the oil market.”

Such has been the success of OPEC+, other commodity markets should adopt similar arrangements, he said.

“Gas markets, coal markets, and other energy sources need to be regulated, people need to copy and paste what OPEC has done and what OPEC+ has achieved,” the Saudi minister added.

Saudi Arabia has proposed that Russia consider the possibility of cooperating in the natural gas market, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday, according to TASS news agency.

Oil prices were also supported by a bullish demand forecast from the International Energy Agency on Thursday, which predicted the energy crunch will boost crude demand by 500,000 barrels per day.

That would result in a supply gap of around 700,000 bpd through the end of this year, until the OPEC+ adds more supply as planned in January.

The structure of Brent crude oil futures is showing a “scarcity premium” that has widened to the most since 2013 this week, a sign of the tight market underpinning oil’s rally amid a wider energy crunch as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The premium of the immediate Brent crude contract to the December 2022 price stood at $8.13 a barrel on Friday after reaching $8.30 on Monday. The value on Monday was the highest since 2013, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Also at Russian Energy Week, Putin said it was “quite possible” oil prices could climb above $100 as energy demand rises.

He also used an interview at the forum to deny Russia is using gas as a geopolitical weapon and instead is ready to help Europe with additional energy supplies.