EU moves to tamp down high energy prices

EU moves to tamp down high energy prices
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Updated 13 October 2021

EU moves to tamp down high energy prices

EU moves to tamp down high energy prices

BRUSSELS: The EU on Wednesday presented a “toolbox” of measures to mitigate an energy crunch that threatens to send Europeans’ power bills soaring.

The European Commission has been under pressure to act on the looming crisis, even though individual EU governments are more directly responsible for their energy sources and taxation.

Consumers’ “concern is understandable, justified,” said EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson as she unveiled the proposals.

“Winter is coming and for many, electricity bills are higher than they have been for a decade. We have seen gas price surge across the world driven mostly by demand in Asia.”

The main reason for the energy prices surge is that economies are bouncing back strongly from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wholesale natural gas prices, the lead indicator for overall energy prices in Europe, have more than tripled this year. Oil and coal prices have also jumped. Those spikes are expected to feed through to bills for households and businesses in coming months.

The energy issue will headline an EU leaders' summit next week.

The list of options the European Commission presented include emergency payments — perhaps in the form of energy vouchers — to poorer households.

Consumers should also be allowed to defer paying bills, and taxes and levies that can account to more than a third of the cost of those bills could be reduced or suspended, the Commission said.

It stressed, however, that these proposals must be “temporary” and “targeted.”

Medium-term proposals also presented were vaguer.

They focused on boosting investment in renewable energy sources and pan-European grids — measures already charted as the EU re-gears itself to become carbon-neutral by 2050.


The Red Sea Project CEO Pagano doesn’t rule out an IPO within five years

The Red Sea Project CEO Pagano doesn’t rule out an IPO within five years
Updated 17 min 4 sec ago

The Red Sea Project CEO Pagano doesn’t rule out an IPO within five years

The Red Sea Project CEO Pagano doesn’t rule out an IPO within five years

RIYADH: The CEO of The Red Sea Development Company has refused not rule out the possibility of selling a stake in the company, or one of its subsidiaries, to the public in an initial public offering within two to five years, once the company is fully operational and stable.

“We have a number of different ideas as to how we take the business forward,” John Pagano told Arab News in an interview on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh. “We can IPO the whole business, we can IPO parts of the business or we can look at different types of structure.

“So we could create a real-estate investment trust and sell the assets into the REIT, (and) we could own part of (the REIT) and open it up to large numbers of retail investors. I think that’s a very attractive proposition but a number of different options exist.”

The Red Sea Project is fully owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and Pagano said his company “is very well advanced” in terms of capital needs. The capital structure for the first phase of the project is already in place and the shareholder has committed the equity needed for this initial phase of development, he added.

The PIF has committed about $15 to $16 billion to the project, and last year the TRSDC was able to raise SR14.12 billion ($3.8 billion) in green bonds through a project-financing scheme for the first phase of development, Pagano said, adding: “So the Red Sea is fully capitalized.”

Talking about the recent merger between TRSDC and AMAALA, another megaproject owned by the PIF, Pagano said that they will remain distinct in terms of identity, branding and focus but will share characteristics in terms of sustainability.

“AMAALA was going to go down a different path for their own power and we’ve changed that,” he explained. “So we are going follow a similar approach with the public-private partnership to build the 100 percent renewable-energy system for them, too.

“They, too, can be sustainable and that was not the case before, so it is really leveraging opportunities where we use our respective skill set to make both destinations better.

“We will keep them distinctively apart because they are different and unique. AMAALA is very much focused on wellness and the Red Sea is much more focused on ecotourism and nature, so I think they have very separate, very different, positioning and will have to be coexist. We are not building that many hotels that I would be worried about it.”

Turning to sustainability, Pagano said that they are using the platform provided by the Red Sea Project to really drag the industry along with them.

“I think that by us doing what we doing, people will have to follow,” he added. “If they don’t follow they will not succeed because I think the consumers of today, both before and especially after COVID, are much more aware of the choices they make, and they are going to be much more aware of the environmental impact and they are going to choose to go to destinations that respect the environment, that protect the environment, that go beyond sustainability.

“We’re saying sustainability is no longer enough and we need to think about regeneration, we need to think about how to make our place better — and that is what the Red Sea is doing and we are going to do the same thing for AMAALA.”


Algerian gas to Spain will bypass Morocco: Ministers

Algerian gas to Spain will bypass Morocco: Ministers
Updated 28 October 2021

Algerian gas to Spain will bypass Morocco: Ministers

Algerian gas to Spain will bypass Morocco: Ministers
  • In August Algeria cut diplomatic ties with its Maghreb neighbour Morocco which it accused of "hostile actions"
  • Algeria had been using the Gaz-Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline since 1996 to deliver several billion cubic metres per year to Spain and Portugal

ALGIERS: Algeria will from now on deliver its natural gas to Spain exclusively through an undersea pipeline, ministers from both countries reportedly said Wednesday, after Algiers abandoned use of a line through Morocco.
In August Algeria cut diplomatic ties with its Maghreb neighbor Morocco which it accused of “hostile actions.”
Algeria, Africa’s biggest natural gas exporter, had been using the Gaz-Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline since 1996 to deliver several billion cubic meters (bcm) per year to Spain and Portugal.
But the GME contract is due to expire at the end of October, and Algiers decided not to renew it because of the diplomatic tensions with Rabat.
Experts had said the alternative undersea line, known as Medgaz, does not have the capacity to make up the shortfall. They earlier feared that supplies could be cut, just as energy prices soar in Europe ahead of winter.
Medgaz is already operating near its full capacity of eight bcm per year — around half total Algerian gas exports to Spain.
Algeria’s Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab, speaking after talks with Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera, said his country, through state energy firm Sonatrach, “will honor its commitments to Spain,” according to the official APS news agency.
“The Spanish partners were reassured that Algeria will provide all the supply expected. We equally commit ourselves to making all deliveries through Algerian installations, via the Medgaz pipeline and gas conversion complexes,” Arkab said.
He spoke of extending capacity of the Medgaz line and an expansion of liquefied natural gas exports by sea.
Sonatrach and its Spanish partner Naturgy have vowed to boost Medgaz’s capacity to 10 bcm per year in the coming months, but that still falls far short of the total needed at current levels.
Maghreb geopolitics expert Geoff Porter earlier told AFP that the shipping option did not make financial sense.
According to APS, Ribera said she had been assured by her Algerian counterpart of “arrangements taken to continue to assure, in the best way, deliveries of gas through Medgaz according to a well determined schedule.”
Algeria and Morocco had seen months of tensions, partly over Morocco’s normalization of ties with Israel in exchange for Washington’s recognizing Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Rabat rejected the various accusations of hostile acts which Algeria levelled at its neighbor.


DWF Group to open regional headquarters in Riyadh, says global CEO

DWF Group to open regional headquarters in Riyadh, says global CEO
Updated 27 October 2021

DWF Group to open regional headquarters in Riyadh, says global CEO

DWF Group to open regional headquarters in Riyadh, says global CEO

RIYADH: DWF Group, UK’s largest listed legal business, will set up its regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh.

Sir. Nigel Knowles, the group’s global CEO, made the announcement at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on Wednesday.

“We’re here in Riyadh, and it’s great to be back once again to announce that we’re going to make Riyadh our regional headquarters for our Mindcrest and connected businesses to offer those professional services to businesses in the region,” Knowles told Arab News.

“But specifically Saudi Arabia, which is a very dynamic country and we’re absolutely certain that we can be relevant to all the people and businesses here with positive outcomes for everyone,” he added.

He explained that the group is  divided into three divisions on a global basis.

“One is legal advisory, which is the traditional law firm services, the next one is Mindcrest, which deals with document management, e-discovery and a whole heap of money services requirements for clients,” he said.

They also have a connected services business which offers a whole range of services which are not legal services, but closely connected to legal services. 

“So we’ve got three offerings effectively, which makes us a legal business, not a law firm,” he said.

Mohab Khattab, DWF Arabia’s incoming CEO, said DWF is a very unique law firm as it is publicly traded and for what it offers in its three different types of businesses. 

“One is legal advisory — but what we’re doing for Saudi Arabia is we’re working in association with a local law firm to provide legal advisory services,” he told Arab News.

“The other two are more of quasi legal types of services, almost consulting like services. The first one is through a company called Mindcrest, which provides managed legal services. So, for example, offering contracts, management, risk management or compliance types of services — and so this offers a more commercially oriented service to the client that is very unique to  Saudi Arabia and actually the region,” he added.

Khattab said the existing operations with Dubai and with Doha will now come under the Saudi regional headquarters.

“The other, which is the third business, is called connected, and we’re offering them through applications, even mobile applications for companies,” he said.

“So for example, corporate governance, types of services for companies, services, for example, for companies who have incidence management. So as an example, an insurance company can use this for their insurance investigators for accidents or, for example, any kind of incidents at an industrial complex,” he explained.


Bitcoin slips on profit-taking but on track for biggest gain in 8 months

Bitcoin slips on profit-taking but on track for biggest gain in 8 months
Updated 27 October 2021

Bitcoin slips on profit-taking but on track for biggest gain in 8 months

Bitcoin slips on profit-taking but on track for biggest gain in 8 months

LONDON: Bitcoin fell on Wednesday to its lowest level in 1-1/2 weeks, taking losses since hitting a record high last week to around 12 percent — though the digital currency is still on track for its best month since February.

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, fell as much as 3.7 percent to $58,100, its lowest since Oct. 15. It has lost 12.1 percent since it hit an all-time high of $67,016 on Oct. 20.

By 1413 GMT, bitcoin was trading down 2.3 percent at $58,965. Smaller coins such as ethereum and ripple which tend to move in tandem with bitcoin also fell between 3.5-7 percent.

Bitcoin’s losses were down to traders taking profit from its recent rally, said Tony Sycamore, analyst at City Index. The digital currency has notched up gains of almost 35 percent so far this month, which if maintained would be its best performance in eight months.

Bitcoin is facing “a short-term downtrend,” said Du Jun, co-founder of major crypto exchange operator Huobi Group, adding that further falls may be limited given relatively low trading volumes.


Oil drops more than 1% as US stockpiles rise sharply

Oil drops more than 1% as US stockpiles rise sharply
Updated 27 October 2021

Oil drops more than 1% as US stockpiles rise sharply

Oil drops more than 1% as US stockpiles rise sharply

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Wednesday after US crude oil stockpiles rose more than expected, even as fuel inventories dropped and tanks at the nation’s largest storage hub emptied further.

The bigger-than-expected rise in US crude stocks gave some investors an impetus to unload long positions after strong gains in recent weeks brought both the Brent and US crude benchmarks to multiyear highs.

Brent oil futures were down $1.89, or 2.2 percent, to $84.51 a barrel as of 1:02 p.m. EDT (1702 GMT), after ending at a seven-year high on Tuesday. US West Texas Intermediate crude lost $1.97, or 2.3 percent, to $82.68 a barrel.

Both benchmarks closed on Friday with a seventh straight weekly gain as major producers hold back supply and demand rebounds after the easing of pandemic restrictions.

Crude oil inventories rose by 4.3 million barrels last week, according to the US Energy Department, more than the expected 1.9 million-barrel gain. Gasoline stocks dropped by 2 million barrels, bringing them to levels not seen in nearly four years, as US consumers grapple with rising prices to fill their vehicles’ tanks.

Storage tanks at the WTI delivery hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, are more depleted than they have been in the past three years, with prices for longer-dated futures contracts pointing to supplies staying at those levels for months.

The selling on Wednesday was more pronounced in Brent, continuing a narrowing in the discount between WTI and the international benchmark as inventories at the Cushing hub have dropped sharply.

“The market continues to deplete Cushing crude oil inventories and that is impacting the Brent-WTI spread and ultimately we're going to see crude oil diverted from the Permian up to Cushing rather than going to the Gulf Coast,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

However, a patchy recovery around the world from the worst health crisis in 100 years, has often led to doubts over the sustainability of oil prices.

“(Some) countries are falling into an autumn COVID-19 case spike,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy, “which poses downside risk for oil demand growth in the very near-term and could provide a soft pressure on oil prices.”