Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected

Update Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected
Protests erupt after fuel price rise in Almaty (REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva)
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Updated 06 January 2022

Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected

Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected
  • Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests the country has seen since gaining independence three decades ago. 
  • Protests triggered by a spike in the price of fuel, but have now expanded

Kazatomprom, the world's biggest uranium producer, said on Thursday it was operating normally with no impact on output or exports despite unrest in Kazakhstan.

Uranium prices have risen after violent demonstrations in the central Asian country, initially spurred by protests against fuel price hikes, as Kazakhstan is responsible for about 40 percent of global supplies of the metal.

Spot prices hit $45.5 per pound on Wednesday, the highest since Nov. 30, according to a Platts assessment.

But the country's political turmoil does not seem to have so far affected key industries.

"Uranium mining is going according to plan there have been no stoppages. The company is fulfulling its export contracts," a Kazatomprom spokesperson said.

Oil 

Oil production at Kazakhstan's top field Tengiz was reduced on Thursday, its operator Chevron said, as some contractors disrupted train lines in support of protests taking place across the central Asian country.

Demonstrations in the west of the country against a New Year's Day fuel price hike have quickly grown into deadly anti-government riots with Russia sending in paratroopers to put down the countrywide uprising. read more

Kazakhstan is a major oil producer with an output of about 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in recent months and has rarely seen production disrupted by unrest or natural disaster.

“TCO production operations continue, however, there has been a temporary adjustment to output due to logistics,” Chevron, the largest foreign oil producer in Kazakhstan with a 50 percent stake in the Tengizchevroil (TCO) joint venture, said in a statement.

Protestors at the field have disrupted train activity which is used to export oil, sources told Reuters.

TCO produces around 700,000 bpd. It was not clear by how much output has been reduced. Other top fields in Kazakhstan are onshore Karachaganak and offshore Kashagan.

Besides Chevron, the three key projects involve most top foreign companies including Exxon Mobil, Lukoil, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), Eni, TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), CNPC and Inpex.

A Shell spokesperson said production at the Karachaganak and Kashagan ventures was continuing.

“We are following developments in Kazakhstan closely. We are focusing on keeping our people and operations safe, working closely with our venture partners... We are keeping the situation under constant review.”

Despite the turmoil, which has seen Russia send paratroopers into the country to quell a violent uprising, there are no indications that oil production has been affected so far, Reuters reported.

Kazakhstan is a member of OPEC+, a group that includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers,

"The political situation in Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly tense," Commerzbank said, adiding: "And this is a country that is currently producing 1.6 million barrels of oil per day."

The global benchmark Brent crude futures rose $1.09, or 1.4 percent, to $81.89 a barrel, by 1054 GMT.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained $1.17, or 1.5 percent, to $79.02 a barrel.

Banks

Commercial banks in Kazakhstan have suspended work, official representative of the National Bank of the Republic Olzhas Ramazanov said on Thursday.

According to Russia's Interfax news agency, Ramazanov said the decision was taken "to protect the health and life of employees of financial organizations and consumers of financial services" after "taking into account the conduct of counter-terrorism operations by law enforcement agencies and taking into account temporary interruptions in the Internet."

Telegram channel Sputnik Kazakhstan quoted Ramazanov as saying that "from Jan. 6 the work of all second-tier banks as well as the Kazakhstan stock exchange has been suspended."

All Kazakhstan's banks except for the National Bank of Kazakhstan, fall under the definition of "second-tier banks" according to the country's banking law.

Airlines

Airlines in the Middle East cancelled flights to Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, as civil unrest continues to grow in the Central Asian country.

Air Arabia and flydubai have both grounded flights to the city, with Reuters quoting a spokesperson for the latter saying the two return Dubai-Almaty services scheduled for Thursday had been halted due to the “situation on the ground” there.

The website for Air Arabia showed its return Sharjah-Almaty flights scheduled for Thursday as cancelled.

Other reported developments include:

  • Internet access has been blocked in Almaty, as well as in some parts of the capital Nur-Sultan.
  • WhatsApp and Telegram messengers have been down since Tuesday Jan. 4.
  • Workers of oil fields in the natural-resource rich state have joined the protesters.
  • Almaty’s public health department said 190 people needed medical aid because of the protests — 137 police officers and 53 civilians. Seven of those — including four police officers — are in intensive care.
  • There have been restrictions imposed on travel as part of the state of emergency.
  • The EU Commission, asked whether it would suspent the EU's trade agreement with Kazakhstan, said it was premature to comment, according to Reuters.

Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests the country has seen since gaining independence three decades ago. 

Government buildings have been set ablaze and at least eight law enforcement officers have been killed.

Almaty airport was reportedly overrun by anti-government protesters on Wednesday, forcing flights to be cancelled, before it was later retaken by government security forces.

The violent anti-government protests have led Kazakhstan's leaders to declare a two-week nationwide state of emergency.

The protests were triggered by a spike in the price of fuel, with prices for the liquified petroleum gas most people in western oil town of Zhanaozen use to power their cars doubling overnight on Saturday.

Demonstrations quickly expanded to a more general frustration with the Kazakhstan government, and on Wednesday President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sought to placate the crowds by dismissing the entire government.

Later that day he adopted a tougher line against the protesters, accusing them of being in the service of international terrorist gangs.

A Russia-led military alliance agreed on Thursday to send peacekeepers to the country.  


NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant


NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant

Updated 13 sec ago

NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant


NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant


RIYADH: On a macro level, Egypt and the UAE agreed to establish a 10GW wind power project. Zooming in, British oil firm Shell has decided to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant from renewable power. 

Looking at the bigger picture

• Egypt and the UAE have agreed to establish a 10 GW wind farm, Ahram newspaper reported citing Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker. 

Without providing further details, Shaker added that the deal is set to be signed after the Eid Al-Adha holidays. 

• The EU plans to become the top investor in the world’s tallest dam in Tajikistan, Reuters reported citing EU officials.

It is part of the strategy aimed at helping the Central Asia cut its reliance on Russian energy. 

Through a micro lens:

• South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction will implement Saudi Aramco’s estimated $500 million Jafurah cogeneration independent steam and power plant project, according to MEED.

• British oil firm Shell has decided to build Europe’s largest plant producing hydrogen from renewable power, according to Bloomberg. 

The Holland Hydrogen I will include 200 MW of electrolyzers, powered by a wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands, which is 10 times the size of the largest existing green hydrogen facility in Europe. 


Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 

Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 
Updated 06 July 2022

Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 

Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 
  • Software engineers in Dubai earn nearly 30% more than workers in London, Amsterdam and Berlin

LONDON: Software engineers in Dubai with at least three years of experience earn the third highest salaries in the world compared to other global technology hubs, according to global consulting firm Mercer.

When compared to other global tech hubs such as London, Amsterdam, and Berlin, software engineers in Dubai earn nearly 30 percent more.

This reaffirms the UAE’s ambition to attract top digital talent and become a global tech talent magnet that fuels the digital economy’s growth.

Mercer’s Cost of Living 2022 survey also revealed that while Dubai ranked as the 31st most expensive city to live and work in for expatriates this year, its cost of living remains significantly lower than most tech hubs, including London (seventh), Singapore (eighth), New York (11th), San Francisco (19th), and Amsterdam (25th).

Almost 60 percent of UAE employers provide flexible working, reducing employees’ transportation costs. Dubai is also less expensive in terms of housing and rental costs, which accounts for a significant portion of the cost of living in a city.

“Dubai’s status as a global business hub, coupled with its income tax-free environment, world-class infrastructure, safety, and high quality of life make the emirate a very attractive market for talent,” said Vladimir Vrzhovski, workforce mobility leader at Mercer Middle East.

He added: “The demand for tech talent, in particular, will continue to grow in the UAE given the nation’s drive to be a global capital of the digital economy. Above all, a key incentive for tech talent is the opportunity for a significant uplift in salary when compared to other tech hubs, where the cost of living is higher in terms of transportation and housing.

“While inflation and rising fuel costs are a pressure on the cost of living around the globe, Dubai is building a nurturing and highly competitive tech ecosystem that pays highly competitive salaries — creating an environment that promises to attract and retain the best talent globally.

“Over the years, the UAE has also implemented several initiatives that make it easier for talent to live, work and stay in the country. The launch of the Golden Visa program in addition to Dubai’s recently announced Talent Pass aims to attract global professionals in the fields of technology amongst other key areas.

“National initiatives, such as the National Program for Coders launched last year, is designed to attract 100,000 coders from around the globe and set up 1,000 digital companies by 2026.”


Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business

Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business
Updated 06 July 2022

Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business

Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business

NEW YORK: Ben & Jerry’s on Tuesday sued its parent Unilever Plc to block the sale of its Israeli business to a local licensee, saying it was inconsistent with its values to sell its ice cream in the occupied West Bank, according to Reuters.

The complaint filed in the US District Court in Manhattan said the sale announced on June 29 threatened to undermine the integrity of the Ben & Jerry’s brand, which Ben & Jerry’s board retained independence to protect when Unilever acquired the company in 2000.

An injunction against transferring the business and related trademarks to Avi Zinger, who runs American Quality Products Ltd, was essential to “protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent decades building,” the complaint said.

Ben & Jerry’s said its board voted 5-2 to sue, with the two Unilever appointees dissenting.

Unilever, in a statement, said it does not discuss pending litigation, but that it had the right to sell the disputed business and the transaction had already closed.

“It’s a done deal,” Zinger’s lawyer Alyza Lewin said in a separate statement. The sale resolved Zinger’s own lawsuit in March against Ben & Jerry’s for refusing to renew his license.

The dispute highlights challenges facing consumer brands taking a stand on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Most countries consider the settlements illegal. In April 2019, Airbnb Inc. reversed a five-month-old decision to stop listing properties in the settlements.

Last July, Ben & Jerry’s said it would end sales in the occupied West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem, and sever its three-decade relationship with Zinger.

Israel condemned the move, and some Jewish groups accused Ben & Jerry’s of anti-Semitism. Some investors, including at least seven US states, divested their Unilever holdings.

Unilever has more than 400 brands including Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Knorr soup and Vaseline skin lotion.

Ben & Jerry’s was founded in a renovated gas station in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

No longer involved in Ben & Jerry’s operations, they wrote in the New York Times last July that they supported Israel but opposed its “illegal occupation” of the West Bank. 

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Kuwait Lender KFH to acquire Bahrain's Ahli United for $12bn

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RIYADH: Kuwait Finance House has agreed to fully acquire Ahli United Bank for $11.6 billion.

KFH plans to offer one share per 2.695 shares of Ahli United, implying a $1.04 offer price, according to Bloomberg.

Through the merger, the Gulf will have its seventh-largest lender worth $115 billion, a rare cross-border acquisition.


Saudi developer Jabal Omar plans $1.4bn capital hike through debt conversion

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Updated 06 July 2022

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RIYADH: Saudi developer Jabal Omar Development Co. has received approval from the Capital Market Authority to increase its capital by SR5.3 billion ($1.4 billion).

The listed company will finance the capital plan by converting debt, according to a statement by CMA.

The move is subject to approval from the company’s shareholders as well as completing the required regulatory procedures.

The Makkah-based developer’s losses narrowed by 47 percent and revenues surged 408 percent in the first quarter of 2022, due to improved post-pandemic business operations.