US became Britain’s biggest finance customer in run up to Brexit

A truck drives past stacked shipping containers at the port of Felixstowe, Britain, October 13, 2021. (REUTERS)
A truck drives past stacked shipping containers at the port of Felixstowe, Britain, October 13, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 08 December 2021

US became Britain’s biggest finance customer in run up to Brexit

A truck drives past stacked shipping containers at the port of Felixstowe, Britain, October 13, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • Exports to the United States rose 5.3 percent, said TheCityUK, which promotes Britain’s financial sector overseas

LONDON: The United States became Britain’s biggest export market for financial services in the run up to Brexit, overtaking the European Union where sales shrank in 2020, TheCityUK lobby group said on Wednesday.
Britain’s financial sector was largely cut off from the EU — previously its single biggest customer — when Britain fully left the bloc’s orbit last December.
For 2020, total financial services exports remained little changed at 82.4 billion pounds ($109.07 billion). Exports to the EU fell 6.6 percent to 24.7 billion pounds, but rose 4.1 percent to 57.7 billion pounds to non-EU countries.
Exports to the United States rose 5.3 percent, said TheCityUK, which promotes Britain’s financial sector overseas.
Britain’s financial services trade surplus of $80.6 billion remains the largest in the world, nearly the same as the next two leading countries, the United States and Singapore, combined at $91.7 billion.
The EU, meanwhile, is building up its autonomy in finance, making it unlikely that Britain will regain unfettered access to the continent’s investors and financial markets.
“The UK’s status as a world leading financial center is at risk unless industry, government and regulators work together to boost long term competitiveness, deepen key trade links, and focus on new areas of future global growth,” said Anjalika Bardalai, TheCityUK’s chief economist and head of research.
Britain is now revising its financial rules to maintain London’s attractiveness as a global financial center to keep up with leader New York, and fend off competition from EU cities like Amsterdam as well as Asian centers.
($1 = 0.7555 pounds)


French construction design firm Clestra Hauserman opens regional HQ in Riyadh

French construction design firm Clestra Hauserman opens regional HQ in Riyadh
Updated 11 sec ago

French construction design firm Clestra Hauserman opens regional HQ in Riyadh

French construction design firm Clestra Hauserman opens regional HQ in Riyadh
  • Today, the Clestra Hauserman Group has offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman

RIYADH: A French construction and design firm opened its regional headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday, in a 50-50 partnership deal with Saudi holding company, Zuhair Al-Habib Group.

Known internationally for their eco-friendly partitions, Clestra Hauserman’s decision to open a regional office in the capital city comes one year after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Riyadh Strategy 2030 plan, which includes a policy stating that government and state-backed institutions will no longer sign any contracts with foreign entities from 2024 unless their regional headquarters are based in the Kingdom.

The policy, which paved way for a regional headquarters attraction program, aims to help make “Riyadh one of the ten largest city economies” in the world. Clestra Hauserman, which had been based in Dubai, joins more than 40 multinational companies that are moving to Riyadh.

“Saudi Arabia is our biggest market and as of this year I can say that 80 percent of our business comes from here,” said Farid Habbas, Middle East Director of Clestra Hauserman. “It was a natural move for the firm that we were happy and ready for. Our firm will now have direct access to the local economy, which will help us gain financial and geographic opportunities.”

Founded in 1913, the French firm has had a regional presence for more than 40 years, specializing in the manufacture and installation of prefabricated demountable partitions. Its first project in Saudi Arabia was with Aramco in the 1970s and the firm extended its regional presence via the undertaking of airport projects and numerous educational buildings and corporate offices all over the Gulf area.

Today, the Clestra Hauserman Group has offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

“At Clestra, we develop and design our products from scratch, then completely fit out empty buildings from zero to completion,” Habbas told Arab News. “Our work extends to maintenance and after-sales services for all our clients, where we can be on-site for any adjustments needed within 24 hours.”

Habbas said what makes their products special is their move-and-removability, and likened it to the moveable block system made by Lego — the size of partitions can easily be adjusted by adding or removing panels.

“We’re not just selling a product, we’re selling a solution. We believe that Saudi Arabia is in need of the type of flexibility we can bring with our products and expertise, and not to mention the sustainable aspect of reusing our partitions again and again.”

One of their notable projects is at King Saud University, which has more than 200 kilometers of partitions made by the French firm that have been in use for more than 40 years — which speaks to the durability of the product, the secret of which lies in steel and aluminum.

Habbas added that the firm has plans to open a small factory in the first stage, followed a by a larger one in the second, in addition to carrying out workshops that aims to provide knowledge, expertise and training to employees, a move that should provide many jobs.

Fahad Al-Raheed, CEO of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City said that by 2030 the regional headquarters program will contribute $18 billion to the local economy and create around 30,000 new jobs.

Since the announcement of the Saudi Vision 2030, as well as plans such as the Riyadh Strategy 2030 and the National Investment Strategy, the metropolis has flourished into a regional hub for businesses, trade and plentiful investment opportunities.


Iconic London store Fortnum & Mason looking to expand into Qatar in time for World Cup

Fortnum & Mason, an upmarket shop in Piccadilly that counts Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles among its customers, wants to expand into Qatar. (Shutterstock)
Fortnum & Mason, an upmarket shop in Piccadilly that counts Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles among its customers, wants to expand into Qatar. (Shutterstock)
Updated 26 January 2022

Iconic London store Fortnum & Mason looking to expand into Qatar in time for World Cup

Fortnum & Mason, an upmarket shop in Piccadilly that counts Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles among its customers, wants to expand into Qatar. (Shutterstock)
  • 315-year-old store counts Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles among its customers

LONDON: One of London’s most popular department stores is in talks to open a branch in Qatar ahead of this winter’s FIFA World Cup, according to a Sky News report.

Fortnum & Mason, an upmarket shop in Piccadilly that counts Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles among its customers, is believed to be discussing a franchise opportunity with partners in the country.

The company’s chief executive, Tom Athron, wants to continue the brand expansion which took place under his predecessor, Ewan Venters, which included a first outlet in the Gulf, in Dubai, which closed in 2017.

The 315-year-old store, which is owned by a branch of the Weston family, already has a store in Hong Kong, and partnerships in Australia and Japan.

“As part of our strategy, we are exploring opportunities to expand both online and internationally, the Gulf being a region we’d like to look at again,” a spokesman for Fortnum & Mason said.

Fortnum’s business was hit badly during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen strong growth in its online business, and the firm hopes expanding into Qatar ahead of the World Cup in November could raise the brand’s global profile.


US car makers and medical suppliers warn chip shortage will last for more than six months

US car makers and medical suppliers warn chip shortage will last for more than six months
Updated 26 January 2022

US car makers and medical suppliers warn chip shortage will last for more than six months

US car makers and medical suppliers warn chip shortage will last for more than six months

RIYADH: US businesses are worried that the global semiconductor supply shortage is set to last for at least six more months, according to report put together by the country's Department of Commerce.

The White House was urged to push ahead with a $52 billion plan previously submitted to Congress to stimulate semiconductor makers and encourage them to build factories in the US, Bloomberg reported.

The report, released on Tuesday, was based on information taken from more than 150 companies in the semiconductors supply chain, and stated that the global shortage of chips will persist until the second half of 2022 as: “there is a significant, persistent mismatch in supply and demand for chips.”

The most affected industries by the shortage include automakers, consumer electronic, medical devices, broadband, and auto industries.

Even though the government does not have many alternatives in hand to solve the current issue, US officials will focus on resolving bottlenecks in those supply chains, and investigate claims of chips price gouging for some types of semiconductors, the report said.

Average inventory level fell from 40 days to fewer than 5 days, resulting in no room for error, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a briefing with reporters discussing the findings of the report. The median demand for chips was 17 percent higher in 2021 than in 2019, coupled with disproportionate increases in supply.

Disruption in the supply of semiconductors, which plays a key factor in determining the country’s inflation level, could threaten to help swing Congress to Republican control in November’s midterm elections.

Many firms have been recently expanding their operations in the US, with Intel Corp. announcing it is building the world’s biggest silicon-manufacturing site in Columbus, Ohio, worth $20 billion, and expected to become operational in 2025.


Saudi, Iraq electrical connection to generate 1GW of power

Saudi, Iraq electrical connection to generate 1GW of power
Updated 26 January 2022

Saudi, Iraq electrical connection to generate 1GW of power

Saudi, Iraq electrical connection to generate 1GW of power

RIYADH: Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman announced that the electrical connection between Saudi Arabia and Iraq will generate one gigawatt of power initially, according to the Iraqi News Agency.

This comes after Iraq has signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the matter with the Saudi side.

Nevertheless, “the Iraqi-Saudi cooperation is not limited to the electrical connection only, but rather it is the beginning of a joint collective action,” Iraqi News Agency reported, citing the Prince.

Bilateral models need to be further developed and strengthened on a regional and Arab scale, he added.


Lebanon’s new electricity deal with Syria and Jordan is a long way from being switched on

Lebanon’s new electricity deal with Syria and Jordan is a long way from being switched on
Updated 26 January 2022

Lebanon’s new electricity deal with Syria and Jordan is a long way from being switched on

Lebanon’s new electricity deal with Syria and Jordan is a long way from being switched on

Plagued by constant power shortages, Lebanon’s new agreement with Jordan and Syria could be seen as a turning point for the energy-poor nation.

Yet the deal — which will see electricity flow from Syria — will not provide an immediate solution to the country’s energy problems, according to Lebanese oil and gas expert Laury Hatayan.

Speaking to Arab News, Hatayan says there are still plenty of hurdles to jump before the agreement — brokered by the US and expected to be partially financed by the World Bank — begins to help the country with its power outages.

“The deal doesn’t mean Lebanon will be provided with electricity tomorrow, as we are hearing that the World Bank has conditioned finalizing the arrangement on reforms to the electricity sector,” Hatayan said.   

The deal would supply Lebanon with 700 Megawatts of electricity in total: 250MW from Jordan and 450MW from Egypt.

With the Iraqi fuel supplies that have already kicked in and future supply by Egypt, Lebanon will be able to get a total of 10 hours of electricity per day.

This much-needed boost does not come without strings attached, according to Marc Ayoub, energy researcher and program coordinator at the American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute.

“The World Bank is asking for a comprehensive reform plan of the electricity sector including loss reductions, improving bill collection and increasing electricity tariffs,” he said.

The World Bank’s regional director, Saroj Kumar Jha, has said that the exact amount of financing has not yet been determined, but the government’s initial request was $250 million, he told L’Orient Today.

Lebanon will also have to conduct repairs to the Lebanese side of a pipeline needed to import gas from Egypt, at a cost of $1million.

Additionally, Jordanian electricity to Lebanon will come at a cost of $200 million a year. 

Other hurdles are political in nature, such as US sanctions on Syria. Washington has so far ensured regional players that the deal does not fall under the Caesar Act sanctions or other US sanctions on Syria because the Syrian government will not receive any financial compensation but will be paid in kind.   

“The Egyptians are keen on getting guarantees against the Cesar Act. The Jordanians are not as wary given their strategic relations with the US,” adds Hatayan.

The deal and any electricity reforms must be approved by Parliament, which is known for its inefficiency and dissensions. 

The announcement by former PM Saad Hariri of his plan to retire from political life has cast doubt as to the fate of his current political bloc. Hariri heads the Future movement, the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament.

“For now, no reforms mean no money and deals can remain just deals (without being implemented),” highlights Hatayan.

If financing is finally secured Ayoub believes that Jordanian electricity is expected to flow to Lebanon by April or May.