Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine

Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine
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Updated 09 December 2021

Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine

Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine
  • As Europe powers ahead with antitrust litigation, US regulators are closely watching its approach to big tech firms

Italian regulators hit Amazon with a 1.1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) antitrust fine Thursday for allegedly abusing its dominance in the market, the latest action against US Big Tech in the EU.


US technology giants have been in the firing line in the European Union over their business practices.


In the latest salvo, Italy’s competition watchdog said Amazon abused its dominant position by promoting its own logistics service on its Italian platform to the detriment of third-party sellers who did not use it.


“The abusive strategy adopted by Amazon is particularly serious, since it is likely to discourage, if not eliminate competition in the relevant markets,” read the 250-page decision.


The move comes two weeks after the same authority imposed a 68.7 million euro fine on Amazon for infringing EU laws through restrictions that penalized sellers of Apple and Beats products.


In the same action, Apple was ordered to pay 134.5 million euros.


As Europe powers ahead with antitrust litigation, US regulators are closely watching its approach to big tech firms, after Washington pledged to intensify scrutiny of the technology industry.


Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Italian watchdog said Thursday that third-party sellers who do not use Amazon’s logistics service are excluded from “a set of advantages essential for obtaining visibility and better sales prospects.”


Those included better access to Amazon’s “most loyal and high-end customers” who use Amazon Prime, the e-commerce giant’s loyalty program.


Moreover, a tough performance measurement system is reserved for sellers who do not use Amazon’s logistics system, which can lead, if failed, to suspension of the seller’s account.


“In doing so, Amazon has harmed competing e-commerce logistics providers by preventing them from presenting themselves to online sellers as service providers of comparable quality to Amazon’s logistics,” said the watchdog, adding that such conduct had “increased the gap between Amazon’s power and that of its competitors.”


In its decision, the authority said it had imposed measures on Amazon subject to review by a monitor.


The company must grant sales privileges and visibility to all third-party sellers who meet fair and non-discriminatory standards for fulfilment, and must decide and publish such standards, it said.


Last month, EU legislation to impose unprecedented restrictions on how US tech giants do business passed a first, significant hurdle, with a European Parliament committee approving their version of the Digital Markets Act.


That would slap far-reaching rules on companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft.


Such tech companies have been variously accused of stifling competition, not paying enough taxes, stealing media content and threatening democracy by spreading fake news.


French construction design firm Clestra Hauserman opens regional HQ in Riyadh

French construction design firm Clestra Hauserman opens regional HQ in Riyadh
Updated 27 January 2022

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. 

“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,” he told Arab News.

Clestra Hauserman, which had been based in Dubai, joins more than 40 multinational companies that are moving to Riyadh.

The plan 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.

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-Rasheed, 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.


TASI opens flat as earnings reports guide the market: Opening bell

TASI opens flat as earnings reports guide the market: Opening bell
Updated 15 sec ago

TASI opens flat as earnings reports guide the market: Opening bell

TASI opens flat as earnings reports guide the market: Opening bell

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s stock indexes opened mixed on Thursday amid a wave of earnings announcements, guiding investors’ decision-making.

The main TASI index was flat at 12,192 points as of 10:22 a.m. Saudi time, while the parallel market Nomu slipped 0.7 percent to 25,512 points.

TASI was pushed higher by gains in Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Co. but weighed down by National Petrochemical Co., known as Petrochem, and the Saudi Industrial Investment Group, even as all three firms reported an earnings beat.

Saudi Kayan saw its share price soar over 2 percent after it turned from losses into profits of SR2.39 billion ($640 million) in 2021.

Shares in Petrochem and the Saudi Industrial Investment Group were down 1 and 1.8 percent, respectively, despite seeing an unprecedented rise in last year’s earnings.

Saudi Automotive Services Co., known as SASCO, soared 4 percent, topping the gainers for a second consecutive day.

SASCO had earlier acquired 80 percent of gas station operator NAFT Services Limited Co. for SR1.1 billion.

Arabian Shield Cooperative Insurance Co. was up 1 percent, after signing a SR215 million contract to provide insurance to employees of the Kingdom’s largest lender Saudi National Bank, known as SNB.

Allied Cooperative Insurance Group led the fallers in early trading, with its shares declining almost 6 percent.

In energy trading, Brent crude oil reached $89.6 per barrel, and US benchmark WTI crude oil neared $87 per barrel as of 10:39 a.m. Saudi time.


Samsung reports 53 percent jump in profit despite supply chain woes

Samsung reports 53 percent jump in profit despite supply chain woes
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 8 min 27 sec ago

Samsung reports 53 percent jump in profit despite supply chain woes

Samsung reports 53 percent jump in profit despite supply chain woes
  • Operating profits generated from Samsung’s semiconductor business accounted for over 63.7 percent of the Q4 total

South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics said Thursday its operating profit rose 53.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, as record sales helped overcome pandemic-induced supply chain challenges.


The world’s biggest smartphone maker said its operating profit rose to 13.87 trillion won ($11.55 billion) for the October-December period in 2021, up from nine trillion won in the same quarter the previous year.


Thanks to high memory chip prices and strong consumer demand, Samsung had its highest annual sales of 279.6 trillion won in 2021, an 18 percent jump from a year earlier, the company said in a regulatory filing.


Samsung achieved “record sales thanks to competitive products, despite continuing uncertainty,” the tech giant said in a statement, singling out solid demand for its premium smartphone lines.


While the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy, it has helped many tech companies boom.


Pandemic-driven working from home has boosted demand for devices powered by Samsung’s chips, as well as home appliances such as televisions and washing machines.


But LG Electronics, South Korea’s second-largest appliance firm after Samsung, saw its operating profit shrink by 21.4 percent in the fourth quarter on-year to 677.7 billion won.

The world’s biggest memory chip maker, Samsung Electronics has aggressively stepped up investment in its semiconductor business as the world battles chip shortages that have hit everything from cars and home appliances to smartphones and gaming consoles.


The global chip supply shortage is expected to persist well into the new year, analysts have said.


“In the Memory Business, demand is expected to grow as enterprises ramp up IT investments while the Company will expand supply of high-performance products,” Samsung said.


In November Samsung announced a new microchip factory in Texas, a $17 billion investment. The plant is expected to be operational by the end of 2024.


Samsung is also investing in the development of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, as well as 5G and 6G communications.


Park Sung-soon, an analyst at Cape Investment & Securities, said that memory chip prices were likely to decline in the first half of 2022.


“Samsung’s profit is likely to dip for the January-June period. But we also expect chip prices to turn around in the second half, giving a boost to company profits,” he said.


“We had forecast around a 10 percent fall in chip prices in the first months of 2022 but it appears now that the decline scope will be smaller with solid demands for PCs and improved supply chains.”


Consumer demand for high-end products, such as foldable phones, also helped to further boost profits around the holiday season.


Samsung said it expected the smartphone and premium television market to grow in the third year of the pandemic, though it anticipated sustained “uncertainties triggered by COVID 19 and supply and logistics issues.”


Operating profits generated from Samsung’s semiconductor business accounted for over 63.7 percent of the Q4 total, illustrating the major role the division plays in the sprawling group.


Samsung’s operating profit from the semiconductor division stood at 8.8 trillion won for the October-December period.


Samsung Electronics is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung group, by far the largest of the family-controlled empires known as chaebols that dominate business in South Korea.


The conglomerate’s overall turnover is equivalent to around one-fifth of South Korea’s gross domestic product.


Samsung Electronics’ record sales last year came as Lee Jae-yong, the firm’s vice-chairman and the de facto leader of the wider Samsung conglomerate, returned to management on parole release from prison last August.


Lee had spent over half of a two and a half year sentence for bribery, embezzlement and other offenses in connection with a corruption scandal that brought down ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye before his release.


His return to management has eased concerns over decision-making at Samsung.


Naqua: At the heart of Saudi Arabia's push to produce 600,000 tons of fish a year

Naqua: At the heart of Saudi Arabia's push to produce 600,000 tons of fish a year
Updated 21 min 29 sec ago

Naqua: At the heart of Saudi Arabia's push to produce 600,000 tons of fish a year

Naqua: At the heart of Saudi Arabia's push to produce 600,000 tons of fish a year

Saudi Arabia plans to produce 600,000 tons of fish a year, generating around 200,000 direct and indirect jobs in the fisheries sector, under its Vision 2030 master plan to diversify the economy.

The National Fisheries Development Program, founded in 2015, is tasked with this growth and hopes to attract $5 billion of investment from the private sector up until the end of the decade.

Key to these plans is the National Aquaculture Group, also known as Naqua, the Middle East’s largest firm in this industry.

Under this program, half of the new jobs that come from this fivefold boost in production will go to Saudi locals.

This move will allow the amount of seafood Saudi Arabia is able to export to grow. In 2020, the largest Arab economy imported 215,000 tons of seafood — which included tuna, sardines and Basa — and exported only 60,000 tons of aquaculture exports.

Based near Jeddah’s port, Naqua is a large-scale farm working up and down the fisheries value chain — from on-site feed production, to selling products through various firms. It produces shrimp, Barramundi fish, and sea cucumber, according to the company’s website.

The operation accounted for 86.2 percent of Saudi Arabia’s aquaculture production in 2018 and 80 percent of the Gulf’s output. 

The group’s export shipments only trailed the Kingdom’s petrochemicals and mineral industries, according to the company. It is also the Middle East’s first firm to receive the international Best Aquaculture Practices certification. Vision 2030 aims to bolster the company’s production to 250,000 tons.

The surge to hit the production target of 600,000 tons of fish products per year is earmarked to come from Naqua’s expansion, other Saudi firms as well as foreign partnerships.

Naqua is a sponsor of the coming Saudi International Marine Exhibition and Conference, or SIMEC, which is set to take place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.

One of the milestones reached by the company was the development of a pathogen-free strain of Penaeus vannamei, commonly known as the whiteleg shrimp, following years of testing and research and development. This means the food is less likely to pass on illnesses when eaten.

Naqua enjoys some features that could potentially protect it from other competitors. For example, it has invested large sums in infrastructure to create a vertically integrated business, in addition to its locational advantages and long-term concessions and grants. It has so far invested SR4 billion ($1.1 billion) in the sector since it was founded in 1982. 

However, Naqua is not the sole player in the aquaculture market. Riyadh-based Tabuk Fish signed a deal with NEOM in April 2021 to establish the largest fish farm in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the Giga-project city.

The firm will run a state-of-the-art hatchery for the megacity holding up to 70 million fingerlings (young fish), which will make it the largest farm of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region, and will focus on improving local fish production in the Red Sea. 


Saudi Industrial Investment Group sees 1,135% jump in its 2021 profit

Saudi Industrial Investment Group sees 1,135% jump in its 2021 profit
Updated 27 January 2022

Saudi Industrial Investment Group sees 1,135% jump in its 2021 profit

Saudi Industrial Investment Group sees 1,135% jump in its 2021 profit
  • Net profit jumped from SR92 million ($24 million) to SR1.14 billion on an annual basis

RIYADH: The Saudi Industrial Investment Group, or SIIG, has experienced a tremendous increase in net profit by 1,134.8 percent due to a surge in the prices of the project's products.

Net profit jumped from SR92 million ($24 million) to SR1.14 billion on an annual basis, according to a stock exchange filing.

Established in 1996, the Riyadh-based firm is one of the first privately owned petrochemical companies in Saudi Arabia.

Its primary aim is to invest in the petrochemical industry for its shareholders.