UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time

UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time
Mall of Dubai (Getty)
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Updated 30 November 2021

UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time

UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time

DUBAI: The UAE’s retail sector showed signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2021 as shoppers returned to malls or embraced e-commerce to send sales above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels for the first time.

Point-of-sale transactions rose by 7 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to a recent report by retail giant Majid Al Futtaim.

The company, which runs major shopping malls in the region, such as Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, said the change was significant because it was the first time “consumer spending exceeded levels last seen in 2019.”

MAF group chief executive officer Alain Bejjani, said: “Our research shows a continuation of the buoyancy in consumer sentiment, with further positive indicators pointing to solid growth and momentum in the non-oil sector.”

Despite the COVID-19 health crisis having crippled consumer spending amid salary cuts and job losses, Dubai Economy, a government body set up to diversify the emirate’s economy, recorded the highest level of consumer confidence in a decade over the third quarter, the MAF report said.

However, the survey results were compiled before the emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant, which may set back progress in the final quarter of this year.

According to MAF, footfall in its outlets in the third quarter jumped 18 percent compared to the same period a year ago, while online shopping was up by 34 percent over the same quarter.

“The adoption and acceleration of e-commerce and food delivery services are a great example of how changes to consumer behavior have become a ubiquitous part of post-pandemic day-to-day life for us all,” Bejjani added.

He pointed out that the recovery of retailers would depend heavily on innovation “in order to effectively cater to both new preferences and old habits.”

Dubai’s hosting of Expo 2020 has helped with the economic recovery (Shutterstock)

Bejjani noted that many factors had led to this “cautious optimism,” including an aggressive COVID-19 vaccination drive that allowed the UAE to lift restrictions relatively faster than other countries.

The revival of trade and tourism had also helped retailers, MAF added, and the positive economic outlook may be applied to the UAE’s Gulf neighbors, citing data organization Oxford Economics’ projection of up to 5.1 percent regional gross domestic product growth in 2022.

Other factors behind the retail recovery include Dubai’s hosting of Expo 2020, as well as the emirate’s growing real estate transactions, which official figures claim to be the “highest since 2015.”

Bejjani said: “While there are undoubtedly risks ahead, overall, we see much from which to draw strength, as the economic recovery continues to accelerate, and our communities adapt to living in a new post-pandemic world.”


UK manufacturers plan biggest price rises since 1977: CBI

UK manufacturers plan biggest price rises since 1977: CBI
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 8 sec ago

UK manufacturers plan biggest price rises since 1977: CBI

UK manufacturers plan biggest price rises since 1977: CBI

British manufacturers expect to raise prices by the most since 1977 over the next three months, after facing the biggest increase in costs since 1980 and intense labor shortages, a quarterly survey showed on Tuesday.


The Confederation of British Industry survey showed a rise in orders and the strongest export demand growth since July 2018, but overall optimism fell as businesses battled intense inflationary pressures.


“Global supply chain challenges are continuing to impact UK firms, with our survey showing intense and escalating cost and price pressures,” CBI chief economist Rain Newton Smith said.


British consumer price inflation is rising sharply and hit its highest in almost 30 years in December at 5.4 percent, though there had been some signs in other surveys that the pace of cost growth for businesses was beginning to slow.


Tuesday’s data from the CBI is likely to reinforce the Bank of England’s concern that high inflation is getting baked into businesses’ pricing plans.


The survey showed that the balance of manufacturers expecting domestic prices to rise over the next three months was its highest since April 1977.

The export prices expectations balance was the highest since January 1980.


Average unit costs for manufacturers in the three months to January rose by the most since April 1980, and the percentage of firms reporting difficulties from a lack of skilled workers was the highest since October 1973.


Optimism about the current business situation and prospects for the year ahead both fell to their lowest since January 2021, when the economy was still in lockdown.


However, new orders picked up over the past three months and January’s monthly gauge of new orders held unchanged at +24, just below November’s record reading of +26.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a drop to +22. 


China’s car maker Geely in solar factory push

China’s car maker Geely in solar factory push
Updated 11 min 24 sec ago

China’s car maker Geely in solar factory push

China’s car maker Geely in solar factory push

RIYADH: Chinese automotive firm, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. will install solar photovoltaic cells on the roofs of all its plants in the upcoming two years amid green push.

The firm, which is the largest carmaker in the country, wishes to cut carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2025, Bloomberg reported, citing Gong Jin, CEO of Geely JoiNet Energy Co. — the division accountable for transforming the carmaker's production hubs into more sustainable ones.

The division is also planning for the commencement of carbon trading within a year, with an estimated revenue from that move of around 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) annually in three years time.

The solar panel installations in two specific plants located in Xi’an and Ningbo cities respectively will aid the firm in cutting a total of 60,000 tons on a yearly basis.

This falls in line with China’s 2060 carbon neutrality goals which has encouraged businesses from various industries to search for green power generation sources.

Carmakers have allocated billions of dollars in technology to help lessen manufacturing emissions which represent from 75 to 85 percent of total emissions.

China saw a record number of rooftop solar panels installed in 2021, adding 29 gigawatts to the country’s energy capacity.


Russia plans to allow crypto mining, gold-backed stablecoins: Crypto Moves

Russia plans to allow crypto mining, gold-backed stablecoins: Crypto Moves
Updated 22 min 58 sec ago

Russia plans to allow crypto mining, gold-backed stablecoins: Crypto Moves

Russia plans to allow crypto mining, gold-backed stablecoins: Crypto Moves

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded higher on Tuesday, rising 5.14 percent to $36,374 at 12:53 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $2,417, up 3.47 percent, according to data from Coindesk.

Other News:

The free circulation of cryptocurrencies must not be allowed as they carry risks for unqualified investors, but Russia may permit the use of gold-backed stablecoins and the mining of cryptocurrencies under government control, according to the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Industry and Trade, Vladimir Gutenev.

Gold-backed stablecoin can also be used for saving, Gutenev told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Such a financial product would be an interesting proposition for both private investors and companies.

The gold-backed stablecoin could be similar to a golden ruble, the parliamentarian elaborated, claiming Russia can employ it to circumvent sanctions and the policy of containment applied against the country.

The coin can also be used to facilitate regular and transparent economic relations with other countries, according to Bitcoin.com.

Commenting on Bank of Russia’s call for a ban on crypto mining, Gutenev said he thinks that cryptocurrency farms can be allowed to operate legally if their activities are under strict control of the state.

Miners can take advantage of the abundant energy resources and favorable climate conditions in some Russian regions, provided their facilities are powered transparently and they pay all due taxes.

Amid expanding US sanctions, Moscow is putting an emphasis on de-dollarization, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin said.

Adoption

Unionbank of the Philippines plans to offer cryptocurrency trading and custodial services, Bloomberg reported.

Unionbank is one of the largest universal banks in the Philippines with over $15 billion in assets under management.

The bank is also one of the first financial institutions in the Philippines to adopt cryptocurrency.

The average Filipino investor currently holds about 1 percent to 2 percent of their personal assets in cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin, Cathy Casas, head of the bank’s blockchain and application programming interface group said.

She added that if the markets were stable, investors would own between 3 percent and 5 percent in five years.

The Unionbank executive estimates that about 5 percent of the local population has dabbled in cryptocurrency. She added that many crypto investors are young people, some of whom earn tokens from play-to-earn virtual games.


Indonesia to develop $4bn polysilicon industry to boost solar panel production

Indonesia to develop $4bn polysilicon industry to boost solar panel production
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 31 min 37 sec ago

Indonesia to develop $4bn polysilicon industry to boost solar panel production

Indonesia to develop $4bn polysilicon industry to boost solar panel production
  • The Asian country also has a wish to generate 5.3 gigawatts by 2030

RIYADH: Indonesia will establish a $4 billion polysilicon industry amid efforts to boost solar panel production.

Polysilicon is a vital material for solar panels,  and prices soared to a 10-year high in 2021, driving local solar firms to boost production of the material. 

Indonesia is seeking to boost industry production in the country at lower levels than prevailing market prices as it seeks a move away from fossil fuels towards green energy instead, Bloomberg reported.

The Asian country also has a wish to generate 5.3 gigawatts by 2030 through vast solar panel installations.

Two plants are already in progress as a result of a collaboration between potential investors and domestic firms, Bloomberg reported, citing Septian Hario Seto, a deputy for mining and investment at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment.

The first plant, worth $800 million, will be located in Batang, Central Java. It is set to open in the third quarter of 2022 and has an estimated production of 40,000 tons of polysilicon in its preliminary phase.

The second plant has an accumulated worth of $3.2 billion and is set to open in North Kalimantan with an estimated production of 160,000 tons of polysilicon.

This is expected to bring about a phase of excess supply in the country soon.


World Bank berates Lebanon’s elite for ‘zombie’ economy

World Bank berates Lebanon’s elite for ‘zombie’ economy
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 39 min 58 sec ago

World Bank berates Lebanon’s elite for ‘zombie’ economy

World Bank berates Lebanon’s elite for ‘zombie’ economy
  • Already one of the most unequal countries, millions more have been pushed into poverty

The World Bank blasted Lebanon’s ruling class on Tuesday for “orchestrating” one of the world’s worst national economic depressions due to their exploitative grip on resources.


The global lender said the nation’s elite were still abusing their position despite Lebanon suffering possibly one of the three biggest financial crashes globally since the 1850s.


“Lebanon’s deliberate depression is orchestrated by the country’s elite that has long captured the state and lived off its economic rents,” the World Bank said in a press release attached to a report on the Lebanese economy.


“It has come to threaten the country’s long-term stability and social peace,” the released added, echoing public sentiments that have prompted angry protests in recent years.


Fuelled by massive debt and the unsustainable way it was financed, the crisis has slashed Lebanon’s gross domestic product by 58.1 percent since 2019, plummeting to an estimated $21.8 billion in 2021, the World Bank said.


Already one of the most unequal countries, millions more have been pushed into poverty.

The World Bank expected those below the poverty line to have risen by as much as 28 percentage points by the end of 2021, after an increase of 13 percentage points in 2020.


Government revenues collapsed by almost half in 2021 to reach 6.6 percent of GDP: the lowest ratio globally after Somalia and Yemen, the bank said.


Real GDP is estimated to have declined by 10.5 percent last year, according to the report, while gross debt is estimated to have reached 183 percent of GDP, a ratio only exceeded by Japan, Sudan and Greece.

’DELIBERATE DEPRESSION'


“Deliberate denial during deliberate depression is creating long-lasting scars on the economy and society,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, the World Bank’s regional director of the Mashreq.


“Over two years into the financial crisis, Lebanon has yet to identify, least of all embark upon, a credible path toward economic and financial recovery.”


While government finances improved in 2021, that was driven by a decline in spending even steeper than in revenues, the World Bank said.


It projects a fiscal deficit of 0.4 percent of GDP in 2021 from 3.3 percent of GDP last year, helped by a recovery in tourism. Arrivals leapt 101.2 percent in the first seven months of last year, though still impacted by the pandemic.


But a sudden halt to capital inflows and a large current account deficit was steadily eroding reserves, the World Bank said.


Lebanon began talks with the IMF on Monday, hoping to secure a bailout — something Beirut has failed to achieve since 2020, with no sign of long-delayed economic reforms sought by donors.


“This elite commands the main economic resources, generating large rents and dividing the spoils of a dysfunctional state,” the World Bank said.


Lebanon’s politicians, former militia leaders and others from families wielding influence for generations over the Christian and Muslim communities often acknowledge corruption exists.

But they generally deny individual responsibility and say they are doing their best to rescue the economy.


The crisis has caused massive losses in the financial system, estimated by the government in December at $69 billion.


“Worryingly, key public and private actors continue to resist recognition of these losses, perpetuating the zombie-like state of the economy,” the World Bank said.


The nosediving exchange rate — the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value since 2019 — should have boosted exports.

“This did not happen,” the World Bank said, hindered by pre-crisis economic fundamentals, global conditions and the institutional environment.