Evergrande’s $2.6bn unit stake sale fails as Chinese officials seek to calm nerves

Evergrande’s $2.6bn unit stake sale fails as Chinese officials seek to calm nerves
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Updated 20 October 2021

Evergrande’s $2.6bn unit stake sale fails as Chinese officials seek to calm nerves

Evergrande’s $2.6bn unit stake sale fails as Chinese officials seek to calm nerves

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI: Teetering Chinese property giant China Evergrande formally abandoned plans to sell a $2.6 billion stake in one of its key units on Wednesday, as Beijing officials went out in force to say the problems would not spin out of control.

Once China’s top-selling developer and now reeling under more than $300 billion of debt, Evergrande was in talks to sell at 51 percent stake in its Evergrande Property Services arm to smaller rival Hopson Development Holdings.

In a stock exchange filing late on Wednesday, Evergrande said that the company had reason to believe that Hopson had not met the “prerequisite to make a general offer” for its unit. It did not elaborate further.

In a separate exchange filing, Evergrande said barring its sale of a stake worth $1.5 billion in Chinese lender Shengjing Bank Co. Ltd., there had been no material progress on sale of other assets it has put on the block.

Evergrande’s disclosures came after a number of Chinese officials had sought to reassure homebuyers and markets that the rout in the property sector would not be allowed to trigger a full-scale crisis.

Worries that a cash crunch at Evergrande, whose liabilities equal to 2 percent of China’s gross domestic product, could cause economic contagion have resulted in its debt-laden peers being hit with a wave of credit rating downgrades, while some smaller have already defaulted on their bonds.

In comments reported by state media Xinhua and echoing words from country’s central bank late last week, Vice Premier Liu told a Beijing forum on Wednesday that the risks from the current troubles were controllable and that reasonable capital demand from property firms was being met.


Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist

Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist
Updated 1 min 55 sec ago

Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist

Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist
  • As of Sunday, Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry said that no omicron cases had been detected in the country so far
  • Kingdom suspended flights from 14 African countries

JEDDAH: With the COVID-19 omicron variant prompting renewed concern about the pandemic, a virologist has told Arab News that its early detection is a positive first step to overcoming the mutation.

Omicron, or the B.1.1529 strain of the coronavirus, was marked a variant of concern on Nov. 26 by the World Health Organization, the fifth variant of concern to date.

But, as of Sunday, Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry said that no omicron cases had been detected in the country so far.

All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time. Most changes have little to no impact on the properties of the virus. 

However, some may affect the transmissibility rate, associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Abdullah Algaissi, a virologist and assistant professor at the college of medical sciences at Jazan University, said: “The interesting thing about omicron is that it accumulated a very high number of mutations compared to other VOCs. The total number of mutations in the spike, the most important part of the virus, was 32, 10 of which were detected that bind to receptors on human cells. That's more than the delta variant, hence the concern.”

The WHO called for increased surveillance of the variant and laboratory experiments to better understand its biology.

The delta variant had nine mutations in the spike gene. According to Algaissi, there are shared mutations between the two, but what makes omicron more of a concern is the additional mutations.

“Based on what we know from the genetic sequencing, we don't have information that could tell us if these mutations will make the virus more lethal, more transmissible, if it will impact the immune response either after infection or vaccination. As of now, we don't know.”

Data shows that most of the infected patients in South Africa were unvaccinated, indicating that the vaccine's efficacy may still protect against omicron, but further studies are needed to determine by how much vaccine efficacy is reduced.

“Of the many concerns when it comes to VOCs is the effect it has on the diagnostic tool, in this case, the PCR tests,” added Algaissi. “Looking at the omicron mutation, early analysis shows that the current PCR used, especially here in the Kingdom, will still detect the variant.”

According to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data database, more than 5.5 million COVID-19 genome sequence submissions have been made so far.

Last month, Saudi Arabia urged residents to get their booster shots to increase herd immunity further. Currently, 70 percent of the Kingdom's 34.8 million population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As of Sunday, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended inbound and outbound flights from 14 African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Comoros.

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it would extend the validity of resident permits and exit and re-entry visas from countries facing entry suspension. The General Directorate of Passports said the move was the implementation of directive from King Salman.

The visas are extended until Jan. 1, 2022, without fees or charges. People were notified by email, where an e-visa form was attached.

Another concern is transmissibility. Algaissi noted the difficulty of measuring an increase in the transmissibility rate by the number of infected cases. Multiple factors could increase reported cases, such as the ease of restrictions and low vaccination rates.

“Further studies and experiments are needed to determine if the mutations in omicron enhance its binding to cells, thus becoming more transmissible, and it'll take scientists weeks to understand the omicron variant, including how quickly it can spread and what the illness that results from infection looks like.”

According to South African health experts, omicron symptoms have been “pretty mild" so far.

In a joint press conference on Sunday, the acting CEO of Saudi Arabia's Public Health Authority Dr. Abdullah Algwizani said the variant was being monitored and residents were urged to complete their vaccination schedule, to be wary of large gatherings, and adhere to precautionary measures.

The Kingdom's Health Ministry said that 24 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Sunday, raising the total number of cases to 549,695. There have been 32 further recoveries, raising this total to 538,856.

There are currently 2,006 active cases, 48 of which are in critical care. One death was reported.


Saudi Arabia registers the new Bahri-owned oil tanker Rayah

Saudi Public Transport Authority raises the Kingdom’s flag on the new Rayah marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province. (SPA)
Saudi Public Transport Authority raises the Kingdom’s flag on the new Rayah marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province. (SPA)
Updated 12 min 57 sec ago

Saudi Arabia registers the new Bahri-owned oil tanker Rayah

Saudi Public Transport Authority raises the Kingdom’s flag on the new Rayah marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province. (SPA)
  • The Rayah raises the total number of oil tankers owned by Bahri to 57
  • The tanker is made by Hyundai with a tonnage of 110,706 metric tons

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s transport authority raised the Kingdom’s flag on a new marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province.
The Rayah tanker, which has been registered under the Saudi flag, is one of the national carriers owned and operated by Bahri, the Saudi National Shipping Company.
It raises the total number of national ships carrying the Saudi flag to 408 ships to date, with a tonnage exceeding 100 tons, increasing the carrying capacity of the Saudi merchant marine fleet.
The Kingdom’s fleet is experiencing rapid growth, and the addition of the new tanker is an important step in supporting business growth through developing marine capabilities and expanding shipping lanes in energy supplies to global markets.

The Rayah, made by Hyundai with a tonnage of 110,706 metric tons, raises the total number of oil tankers owned by Bahri to 57, and was registered by the regulatory and legislative authority for the Kingdom’s maritime transport sector.
Saudi Arabia’s marine fleet was ranked first regionally and 21st globally in terms of tonnage, according to the annual report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development last year.
“The Public Transport Authority will continue its endeavors and exert more efforts to enhance the logistics sector and national transport, especially maritime, and contribute to consolidating the Kingdom’s leading position on the map of shipping and global marine supply chains,” the body said in a statement.


IAF president praises Saudi Arabia’s 2023 World Combat Games preparations during first visit to Riyadh

IAF president praises Saudi Arabia’s 2023 World Combat Games preparations during first visit to Riyadh
Updated 29 min 4 sec ago

IAF president praises Saudi Arabia’s 2023 World Combat Games preparations during first visit to Riyadh

IAF president praises Saudi Arabia’s 2023 World Combat Games preparations during first visit to Riyadh
  • Vriesman met with the Chairman of the Saudi Aikido Committee Basem Zare’ and attended workshops

RIYADH: The chairman of the International Aikido Federation, Wilko Vriesman, described preparations for the 2023 World Combat Games as “impressive” during his visit to Riyadh.

Vriesman met with the Chairman of the Saudi Aikido Committee Basem Zare’, and attended the joint workshops of the international and national federations participating in the 2023 World Combat Games hosted by Riyadh.

“What we have seen of interest and work makes us confident of the success of this global event before it is held. The workshop, in the presence of delegates of the 15 international federations for the games, discussed preparations and equipment, in terms of facilities hosting the games, as well as logistical support and services provided during the period of the big event in 2023,” he said.

“There is no doubt that the professionalism at work through planning and setting goals before its establishment, and the capabilities shown by Saudi Arabia, will contribute to the success of the work,” Vriesman addded.

He stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and the world, and said hosting this global event will improve all international martial arts competitions.

The chairman of the IAF also held a number of meetings alongside Zare’, during which the pair discussed preparations necessary for the event.


Migrants jailed in UK for guiding dinghies fight convictions

Migrants jailed in UK for guiding dinghies fight convictions
Updated 28 November 2021

Migrants jailed in UK for guiding dinghies fight convictions

Migrants jailed in UK for guiding dinghies fight convictions
  • Landmark judgment in April saw Iranian asylum seeker freed after steering small vessel

LONDON: A group of migrants who were imprisoned in the UK for steering dinghies across the English Channel are staging a bid to have their convictions overturned, The Independent newspaper has reported.

The group, comprised of 12 people, were labeled people smugglers and were prosecuted for aiding illegal migration.

However, in the wake of a landmark case won by an Iranian asylum seeker in April, the 12 men have decided to fight their convictions through the England and Wales Court of Appeal.

Lawmakers will host special court sessions next month to stage legal arguments over four of the 12 cases. The rulings handed down in the four cases will apply to the remainder of the cases.

Three of the cases involve migrants from Iran, while the fourth relates to a Kuwaiti citizen.

Iranian Samyar Bani, who was prosecuted in June 2019 and jailed for six years, will have his case considered first. His lawyer said: “This is a situation I have never heard of before. He is as much of a victim as others who have found their way to our shores.”

Aiding in an unlawful migration is typically a charge leveled against smugglers who receive substantial payments, including truck drivers.

A Court of Appeal judgment earlier in the year made available a defense for asylum seekers guiding small vessels who were found guilty of the charge.

It came after Fouad Kakaei, an asylum seeker, had his conviction overturned during a retrial.

Kakaei said that he had “taken turns” steering the dinghy with other migrants “because their lives were at risk.”

Following his case, the Crown Prosecution Service issued new rules meaning that asylum seekers would not be charged for steering boats if the “sole intention is to be intercepted and brought into port for asylum claims to be made.”


Arab coalition hits military targets in Yemen’s Sanaa

Arab coalition hits military targets in Yemen’s Sanaa
Updated 30 min 27 sec ago

Arab coalition hits military targets in Yemen’s Sanaa

Arab coalition hits military targets in Yemen’s Sanaa
  • The coalition says Sanaa airport has become a military base for IRGC and Hezbollah experts
  • It also launched 15 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Marib and Al-Jouf

LONDON: The Arab coalition said it had carried out air strikes on legitimate military targets in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Sunday.
The coalition said the strikes are an immediate response to drones launched from Sanaa airport and threats coming from it.
“The operation is in accordance with international humanitarian law and its customary rules,” it added in a statement.
The coalition added that Sanaa airport has become a military base for experts from Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah.
It said the Houthi militia is using sites with legal immunity to carry out cross-border attacks and that it would “take legal action to drop immunity if necessary to protect civilians.”
Earlier on Sunday, the coalition said it launched 15 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Marib and Al-Jouf in the last 24 hours, killing 110 fighters and destroying nine military vehicles.