World’s largest computer chip enters Mideast to push AI adoption further

The American chipmaker is launching the product in the UAE through a partnership with G42, a homegrown cloud computing company in Abu Dhabi. Cerebras
The American chipmaker is launching the product in the UAE through a partnership with G42, a homegrown cloud computing company in Abu Dhabi. Cerebras
Short Url
Updated 23 November 2021

World’s largest computer chip enters Mideast to push AI adoption further

World’s largest computer chip enters Mideast to push AI adoption further

DUBAI: It seems only fitting that the world’s biggest computer chip, developed by US-based Cerebras, be deployed in the Middle East, home to some of the world’s entertaining superlatives — biggest tower, deepest swimming pool, among many other “firsts.”

But this chip, roughly 9 inches on each side, promises more than just entertainment and a world title — it is meant to push artificial intelligence computing to levels the world has not seen before.

 “What we have built at Cerebras is a new type of processor and a new class of computer systems that is built from the ground up to be optimized for AI computing, delivering training for state-of-the-art models not in days, weeks, or months, but in minutes or hours,” Andy Hock, vice president of product at Cerebras, said.

Bringing down the time to create sophisticated AI models could be key to solving some of the world’s biggest challenges — including drug research and climate action — especially in the Middle East where governments have emphasized the importance of technology in “building the future.”

Hock, who was speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit in Dubai, said the region is “very ready” for this technology.

“There are world-class academics, national, and industry organizations that are already operating at the top tier in the world who just want to be faster,” he said.

The American chipmaker is launching the product in the UAE through a partnership with G42, a homegrown cloud computing company in Abu Dhabi.

Hock did not disclose who have specifically bought their massive computer chips, but said they are “working through the technical details with our partners at G42.”

“We understand there is a broad range of potential projects and stakeholders ranging from large Arabic language modeling to applications in healthcare for large-scale genomics and other health and life sciences applications, to applications in earth observation, satellite imaging, and remote sensing,” he said.

Rupal Hollenback, the company’s chief marketing officer, said Cerebras is looking to work on both government projects and industry applications in the region.

Cerebras, now valued at $4 billion after its recent Series F funding round, has a few success stories up its sleeve, perhaps most notably their early work with British drugmaker GSK to “accelerate new drug discovery to build new therapies more quickly.”

The pharmaceutical giant is using Cerebras’ technology to significantly reduce the amount of time preparing a drug for more advanced stages of research, consequently cutting down time to introduce a new drug to the market.

“The personal benefit is so clear when you’re able to get through trial and get a drug to market faster for the consumer,” Hollenback said.

Cerebras is hoping to replicate these results in the Middle East, initially focusing on the UAE, and eventually scaling to other parts of the region.

“(Our partnership with G42) will be a tipping point for us in the region to expand,” Hock said. 


Emirates warns Omicron could cause ‘significant traumas’ for aviation industry

Emirates warns Omicron could cause ‘significant traumas’ for aviation industry
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 13 sec ago

Emirates warns Omicron could cause ‘significant traumas’ for aviation industry

Emirates warns Omicron could cause ‘significant traumas’ for aviation industry
  • However, he said bookings generally remained strong despite the reintroduction of measures in some European markets

A major hit to the peak December travel season because of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus would cause “significant traumas” in the global aviation business, Emirates airline President Tim Clark said on Tuesday.


Clark said Emirates was working on the basis the newly discovered variant could be dealt with effectively by vaccines, but acknowledged the next few weeks would prove critical for the industry as scientists assess the risks.


“I would say probably by the end of December, we’ll have a much clearer position,” Clark said in an interview for the Reuters Next 


“But in that time, December is a very important month for the air travel business,” he added. “If that is lost, or the winter is lost to a lot of carriers, there will be significant traumas in the business, certainly the aviation business and the periphery.”


The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places.


Omicron was first reported on Nov. 24 in southern Africa, where infections have risen steeply. It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.

Japan on Monday joined Israel in saying it would close its borders completely to foreigners.


“It’s likely to arrest, inhibit, but not stall the uptick in demand that we’ve all had the benefit of in the last month or two,” Clark said.


He noted, however, that it could also “go the other way,” with more draconian measures in response to a greater threat from the variant.


Clark said the airline’s decision to close down flights out of South Africa and a handful of surrounding countries was difficult, given strong demand for the December period.


However, he said bookings generally remained strong despite the reintroduction of measures in some European markets such as track and trace, quarantine and PCR testing.


“People haven’t made that decision to cancel or pull off, so we’re hoping that it doesn’t worsen, that the border procedures for re-entry are not so draconian that it prevents them from traveling at all,” he said.

Emirates Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said just two weeks ago at the Dubai Airshow that the airline planned to deploy a further 60 A380s in response to improving demand, adding to the 47 currently in operation.


“That will be tempered by whatever form this variant takes,” Clark said on Monday. “If it’s mild and its accepted as being mild in its effect and the efficacy of the vaccine shield is able to deal with it, then we hope to have all our aircraft flying, including all the 380s by the summer of next year.”


Clark said re-embedding cabin crews, pilots and engineers and re-training them for safety and other procedures was currently the “greatest inhibiter” for the airline.


“We are continuing to move as if this variant will be dealt with,” he said. “If it isn’t ... we will retard our plans accordingly.”


OPEC+ meets under pressure from Biden and Omicron

OPEC+ meets under pressure from Biden and Omicron
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 44 min 20 sec ago

OPEC+ meets under pressure from Biden and Omicron

OPEC+ meets under pressure from Biden and Omicron
  • The meeting "is shaping up to be one of the most significant since the pandemic demand recovery began

OPEC+ oil producers meet Thursday under pressure from US President Joe Biden, who has opened up his country's taps hoping to bring down crude prices, and a new Covid-19 variant that has complicated the equation.


The meeting "is shaping up to be one of the most significant since the pandemic demand recovery began, and the key signal will be how much more oil will be added to supply to start the new year," said Peter McNally, an analyst at the Third Bridge think tank.


After coming under heavy pressure to step up production, leading members the United States, China, India and Japan last week announced that they would dip into their strategic reserves to help bring down crude prices, after a surge that has undermined economic recovery.


Biden called it a "major initiative", with analysts estimating the injection at between 65 and 80 million barrels, including 50 million from the United States alone.


But the move did not have the desired effect, with prices rising regardless — followed by the damper on prices caused by the emergence of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.


The detection of the new variant on Thursday caused crude prices to plunge more than 10 percent, a first since the nightmarish drops of April 2020.


Carsten Fritsch of Commerzbank said "there is much to suggest that OPEC+ will not initially step up its oil production any further" in an effort to maintain current prices at around $70 a barrel.


Such a decision comports with the cautious approach seen since OPEC+ countries began slowly boosting supplies.


Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman warned in late October against complacency.


The group said earlier this month it planned to boost output by 400,000 barrels per day in December, despite a room for manoeuvre that is 10 times greater.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, the Kremlin's oil pointman, warned Monday against any "hasty decisions", according to Russian news agencies.


A technical meeting was set for Tuesday ahead of the summit but was postponed to Thursday as experts seek more information on the "current situation", Novak said.


Iran's possible re-entry into OPEC will be another key element in the supply calculus.


Iran was sidelined from OPEC in 2018 when then US president Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic republic.


After a five-month hiatus, negotiations resumed Monday in Vienna.


While most analysts are pessimistic about the outcome, Bjarne Schieldrop of Swedish bank SEB said: "Getting Iranian oil production and exports back on track is probably the best option for President Joe Biden to ease the current oil market tightness."


Iran produced nearly four million barrels a day in 2017 — an output that dropped to around two million barrels per day last year.


Jadwa Investment revises up Saudi GDP growth in 2022, expects budget surpluses till 2023

Jadwa Investment revises up Saudi GDP growth in 2022, expects budget surpluses till 2023
Updated 30 November 2021

Jadwa Investment revises up Saudi GDP growth in 2022, expects budget surpluses till 2023

Jadwa Investment revises up Saudi GDP growth in 2022, expects budget surpluses till 2023
  • The Kingdom's GDP is expected to grow by 7 percent next year up from last month's forecast of 5.1 percent

CAIRO: Saudi investment bank, Jadwa Investment, revised its forecast for Saudi Arabia's GDP growth next year, while it expects the Kingdom's to report budget surpluses in 2022 and 2023 as the government will cut spending, according to a report today.

The Kingdom's GDP is expected to grow by 7 percent next year up from last month's forecast of 5.1 percent, it said.  

The surplus next year is expected at SR35 billion ($9.3 billion) while that of 2023 is estimated at SR37 billion. 


Saudi retailer Alhokair signs franchise deal to nearly double Subway outlets in Saudi Arabia

Saudi retailer Alhokair signs franchise deal to nearly double Subway outlets in Saudi Arabia
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi retailer Alhokair signs franchise deal to nearly double Subway outlets in Saudi Arabia

Saudi retailer Alhokair signs franchise deal to nearly double Subway outlets in Saudi Arabia
  • The new agreement will nearly double Subway’s footprint of 210 restaurants over the next six years

RIYADH: Subway, one of the world’s largest restaurant brands, and Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co, a leading franchise retailer in Saudi Arabia, signed a new master franchise agreement to expand into the Kingdom.

The new agreement will nearly double Subway’s footprint of 210 restaurants over the next six years by adding a minimum of 145 new locations, Alhokair said in a filing. 

“Today’s announcement is another example of our refreshed approach to international growth,” said John Chidsey, Chief Executive Officer of Subway, in a statement. “Through partnering with companies that have deep regional knowledge and proven success in the industry, such as Alhokair, we are strategically expanding and strengthening our global footprint around the world.”


Middle East on close watch as omicron rattles recovery prospects: Daily Virus Update

Middle East on close watch as omicron rattles recovery prospects: Daily Virus Update
Updated 30 November 2021

Middle East on close watch as omicron rattles recovery prospects: Daily Virus Update

Middle East on close watch as omicron rattles recovery prospects: Daily Virus Update
  • Oil prices stumbled in their biggest decline since April 2020

DUBAI: Oil prices gave up gains on Tuesday, falling more than 2 percent along with broader financial markets, after a media report cast doubt on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines against the omicron coronavirus variant.

The head of drugmaker Moderna told the Financial Times that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the omicron variant of the coronavirus as they have been against the Delta variant.

Both benchmarks tumbled more than $1 on the news. Brent crude futures fell $1.82, or 2.5 percent, to $71.62 a barrel at 0605 GMT, US West Texas Intermediate crude futures dropped $1.61, or 2.3 percent, to $68.34 a barrel.

Oil plunged more than 12 percent on Friday along with other markets on fears the heavily mutated omicron would spark fresh lockdowns and dent global growth, hurting oil demand.

November 30

Amid speculations on the impact of omicron on oil demand, the Saudi energy minister said it was too early to tell, adding OPEC+ was keen to monitor the situation.

The group of oil-producing countries has rescheduled its meetings to later this week to have more time in assessing the impact, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, told Arab News in an Aramco ceremony in Dhahran on Monday.

Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said, there is “no need for emergency measures in the oil market.”

He added OPEC+ partners did not call to review the current deal.

Oil prices rebounded on Monday after a huge slump last week, which was led by fears brought by the new coronavirus variant.

Brent crude futures climbed $3.11, or 4.3 percent, to $75.83 a barrel by 0355 GMT, after falling $9.50 on Friday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up $3.47, or 5.1 percent, at $71.62 a barrel, having tumbled $10.24 in the previous session.

Oil prices plunged more than 10 percent on Friday, their biggest one-day drop since April 2020,  as the new variant spooked investors across financial markets.

There are worries the new variant could derail the global economic recovery, potentially hurting oil demand, while it has also added to concerns that a supply surplus could swell in the first quarter.

Economists at Goldman Sachs outlined four scenarios that could happen as the world cautiously navigates the situation. 

If omicron turns out to transmit faster than its predecessor, Delta, it will result in first-quarter global growth slowing to a 2 percent quarter-on-quarter annual rate.

The economists said if both the disease severity and immunity against hospitalizations are worse than for Delta, global economic growth will take a more substantial hit, but inflation impact will be “ambitious.”

On a slightly positive note, if omicron spreads slower than delta, it will have no significant effect on global growth and inflation, Goldman Sachs said.

If the new variant is more transmissible, but causes less severe disease, global growth could be higher than Goldman’s baseline.

November 29

Most Gulf stock markets ended lower on Sunday, with the Saudi and Dubai indexes suffering their biggest single-day fall in nearly two years as fears of a potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant spooked investors.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The World Health Organization on Friday designated the omicron coronavirus variant detected in South Africa as being “of concern” — the fifth variant to be given that designation

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index slid 4.5 percent, dragged down by a 5.4 percent fall for Al Rajhi Bank and a 6.2 percent decline for Saudi Basic Industries.

The Kingdom halted flights from and to Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros Islands on Sunday owing to concerns related to the spread of the new COVID-19 strain, state news agency SPA reported on Twitter.

The latest pandemic developments also sent oil prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf’s financial markets, plunging by $10 a barrel on Friday for their largest one-day drop since April 2020. The new variant added to concerns that an oil supply surplus could swell in the first quarter.

“It’s obvious that traders are concerned about the implications of the newly mutated virus which brings back the lock-down memories from last year. If Saudi decides to impose more restrictive measures the economy will be impacted significantly and the growth prospects next year will vanish”, Mohammed Al-Suwayed, chief executive officer of Razeen Capital, said. He said the time is now suitable for investors to reinvest in the market since the share prices are relatively low.

Dubai’s main share index declined 5.2 percent, its biggest intraday fall since March 2020, with most stocks in negative territory.

Blue-chip developer Emaar Properties plunged 9.4 percent and budget carrier Air Arabia retreated by 7.1 percent.

In Abu Dhabi, the index fell 1.8 percent, weighed down by a 3.3 percent drop for telecoms company Etisalat and a 1.4 percent decline for First Abu Dhabi Bank, the country’s largest lender.

The UAE has suspended entry for travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique from Nov. 29 over concerns about the new coronavirus variant, the state news agency reported on Friday.

In Qatar, the index slipped by 2.8 percent as investors shunned stocks across board, with petrochemicals group Industries Qatar leading the losses.

Egypt’s blue-chip index lost 1.3 percent, with top lender Commercial International Bank retreating by 0.8 percent.

(With Reuters)