Exxon to exit Russia, leaving $4bn in assets, Sakhalin LNG project in doubt

Exxon to exit Russia, leaving $4bn in assets, Sakhalin LNG project in doubt
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Updated 02 March 2022

Exxon to exit Russia, leaving $4bn in assets, Sakhalin LNG project in doubt

Exxon to exit Russia, leaving $4bn in assets, Sakhalin LNG project in doubt
  • Exxon operates three large offshore oil and gas fields with operations based on Sakhalin Island

HOUSTON: Exxon Mobil on Tuesday said it would exit Russia oil and gas operations that it has valued at more than $4 billion and halt new investment as a result of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.


The decision will see Exxon pull out of managing large oil and gas production facilities on Sakhalin Island in Russia’s Far East, and puts the fate of a proposed multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas facility there in doubt.


“We deplore Russia’s military action that violates the territorial integrity of Ukraine and endangers its people,” the company said in a statement critical of the intensifying military attacks.


Its planned exit follows dozens of other Western companies ranging from Apple and Boeing to BP PLC, Shell and Norway’s Equinor ASA that have halted business or announced plans to abandon their Russia operations.


Exxon, which is scheduled to meet with Wall Street analysts on Wednesday, did not provide a timetable for its exit, nor comment on potential asset writedowns. Its Russia assets were valued at $4.055 billion in its latest annual report, filed in February.


Earlier, Exxon began removing US employees from Russia, two people familiar with the matter said. The number of staff being evacuated was unclear. The company sent a plane to Sakhalin Island to retrieve staff, one of the people said.


Exxon operates three large offshore oil and gas fields with operations based on Sakhalin Island on behalf of a consortium of Japanese, Indian and Russian companies that included Russia’s Rosneft.

The group had been advancing plans to add a LNG export terminal at the site.


“Exxon’s Russian business is relatively small in the context of its wider enterprise, so it does not have the same significance as it has to BP or TotalEnergies, if it were to abandon its Russian assets,” said Anish Kapadia, a director at energy and mining researcher Pallissy Advisers.


The company, which has been developing its Russian oil and gas fields since 1995, had come under pressure to cut its ties with Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”


The Sakhalin facilities, which Exxon has operated since production began in 2005, represents one of the largest single direct investments in Russia, according to a project description on Exxon’s website. The operation recently has pumped about 220,000 barrels per day of oil.


Japan’s Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development (SODECO), which owns a 30 percent stake in the Sakhalin-1 project, is trying to confirm details of Exxon’s announcement, a spokesperson said, adding that it will keep an eye on the Russia-Ukraine situation and decide what to do in the future.


State-backed oil producer Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. (Japex), which owns 15.285 percent in SODECO, is also checking details of the Exxon’s announcement and will talk to its partners to decide a future plan, a Japex spokesperson said. 


Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
Updated 12 sec ago

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
  • Strategy aims to grow the region’s GDP, attract companies

DUBAI: Dubai International Financial Centre announced the launch of the DIFC Metaverse Platform on Monday in a bid to attract technology innovators from across the globe, Emirates News Agency reported.

The platform is part of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to add $4 billion to the emirate’s GDP by 2030, support 40,000 virtual jobs, and attract 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies. 

The platform also supports the Dubai Economic Agenda’s goal of generating economic value worth $27 billion per year from digital transformation. 

Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications Omar bin Sultan Al Olama said that the metaverse platform is the first in a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering Dubai’s position as a global hub for the latest digital trends, and accelerating the pace of achieving the strategy’s objectives.

DIFC Authority CEO Arif Amiri said: “The Dubai government has shown great foresight in introducing a metaverse strategy that has the objective of making the emirate a global hub for technology and innovation.

“The development of the integrated DIFC Metaverse Platform will accelerate the achievements of Dubai’s aspirations in this sector.

“The initiative is a natural extension of our Innovation Hub proposition that has shaped the technology and innovation landscape in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.”

The DIFC Metaverse Platform includes an accelerator program with a physical studio for metaverse technology, which will foster the growth of a creator community and venture creation.

It will also work on metaverse policy development and legislation on open data, digital identity, and metaverse company law frameworks.


Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows
Updated 30 January 2023

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

RIYADH: Deposits in Saudi banks grew by 9 percent year-on-year to SR2.29 trillion ($609.97 billion) with the major chunk deposited by government agencies, the monthly bulletin issued by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, showed.

Data showed that deposits by government entities rose by 27 percent, the highest in 16 years, reaching SR651.2 billion.

Saudi-listed banks reported a 21 percent rise in aggregate net profit before zakat and tax to SR6.16 billion in December 2022, compared to SR5.11 billion a year earlier.

The data covered the results of Tadawul-listed banks and some foreign banks operating in Saudi Arabia.

Banks’ aggregate assets increased nearly 10 percent year-on-year to SR3.62 trillion in December.

Loans issued to individuals in the Kingdom saw a 14 percent surge during 2022 reaching SR1.17 trillion by the end of 2022 as compared to SR1.02 trillion by the end of 2021.

The volume of residential real estate financing for individuals declined by 21 percent in 2022 for the first time since 2016. The total volume remained at SR123.4 billion.

The SAMA report showed that remittances from Saudi Arabia fell by 7 percent during 2022 to SR143.2 billion while remittances to the Kingdom from citizens living abroad recorded a growth of 11 percent to reach SR7.25 billion.

Assets held by the central bank shrank by SR63.8 billion month-on-month to SR1.93 trillion in December 2022. However, as compared to December 2021, SAMA’s assets rose by SR85.1 billion.

The central bank’s investments in foreign securities, which make up 58 percent of its total assets, edged down 0.2 percent year-on-year to around SR1.13 trillion last month.


 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool
Updated 30 January 2023

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

RIYADH: The world’s largest technical conference “LEAP” has launched two competitions with a SR6 million ($1.5 million) prize pool aimed at rewarding Saudi-based startups and boosting cloud technologies.

Supported by the National Information Technology Development Program and the Misk Foundation, the Rocket Fuel competition aims to support new businesses, highlight entrepreneurial projects, and build innovative solutions that address technical challenges.

As many as 90 local startups will compete for a chance to be one of 15 to be awarded a share of SR4 million, with a top prize of almost SR940,000.

As for the Alibaba Cloud hackathon, it aims to enhance cloud technologies in the Kingdom through a number of various challenges that will be set up prior to the start of the conference. The competition offers cash prizes amounting to SR2 million.

LEAP, which is set to kick off its second edition in Riyadh from Feb. 6 to Feb. 9, is anticipating the participation of major government and private agencies as well as technology and communications companies.

The conference is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and UAE-based IT services and consulting firm Tahaluf.


ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 
Updated 30 January 2023

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

RIYADH: Saudi-based ACWA Power created the largest water desalination capacity in the company’s history in 2022, enabling it to serve 5.5 million more people in the Gulf Cooperation Council region every day.

The power generation firm added a record-breaking 2.4 million cm3/day of water desalination capacity, according to a press release, through four reverse osmosis megaprojects in the Middle East pushing ACWA power’s aggregate water capacity up to 6.4 million cubic meters. 

Saudi Arabia’s water giant currently manages 16 projects in four different nations, and fulfills almost 30 percent of the Kingdom’s overall water needs.  

Desalinated water produced by the company reaches 40 million people daily, according to the international consumption per household.  

“ACWA Power has been at the forefront in mitigating water resources challenges over the past decade and a half through innovative, resilient solutions that are benefitting millions of people across the world,” said Kashif Rana, chief portfolio management officer of ACWA Power. 

“Enhancing capacity is a significant milestone not only for us, but for our industry. I am confident that through our expertise we will continue to build water security reliably and responsibly for Saudi Arabia and the world,” he added. 

The release further noted that reverse osmosis technology has been incorporated in all of the company’s projects, which saves up to 80 percent more energy than the conventional processes.

ACWA Power is anticipated to boost its capacity by around 15 percent through developing three new desalination projects in 2023.  

“As the leading water desalination operator in the world today, managing 6.4 million m3/day of desalinated water at lowest possible cost, ACWA Power is continuing to bring an innovative, and practical change to the industry, as we have been doing since 2006,” said Dr. Tariq Nada, the vice president of Water and Technical Service at the company.


Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 
Updated 30 January 2023

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index fell 28.81 points — or 0.27 percent — on Monday to close at 10,810.68. 

While MSCI Tadawul 30 Index ended flat at 1,492.97, the parallel market Nomu fell 27.67 points to 19,151.14. 

TASI’s total trading turnover of the benchmark index on Monday was SR5 billion ($1.33 billion), with 69 stocks of the listed 223 advancing and 135 retreating. 

Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co., also known as Cenomi Retail, was the topmost gainer of the day, rising 7.03 percent to SR18.88. 

The company was also the topmost gainer on Sunday as it rose 9.98 percent, following the announcement of its plans to divest 26 non-strategic brands to rationalize its brand portfolio. 

The franchisee retailer wants to focus on “champion brands” occupying the No. 1 or No. 2 positions in their sectors.  

The other top gainers were East Pipes Integrated Co. for Industry, healthcare player Al Hammadi Holding, Al Kathiri Holding Co., and Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Co. 

The worst performer on Monday was Alinma Hospitality REIT Fund, which fell 4.80 percent to SR9.52 on its debut after opening at SR9.25. 

The SR1.2 billion fund was listed on Monday at SR10 per unit, taking the total number of real estate investment trusts in the primary market to 18. 

Subscriptions to the fund’s units took place during the period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, 2022. A minimum of 50 units were allocated to each subscriber, while the remaining shares were allocated pro-rata.    

The other stocks that performed poorly included Halwani Bros. Co., Yanbu Cement Co., Allied Cooperative Insurance Group, and Mulkia Gulf Real Estate REIT. 

Among sectoral indices, 12 of the 21 listed on the stock exchange declined, while one stayed flat and the rest advanced. 

The Media and Entertainment Index was the worst-performing sector as it fell 2.01 percent to 22,423.88, weighed down by its vital constituent, Saudi Research, and Media Group, which stumbled 2.48 percent to SR189. 

The Software & Services Index was the best-performing index thanks to Elm Co., which jumped 3.08 percent to SR354.60. On the other hand, Al Moammar Information Systems Co. moved up 2.34 percent to SR96.20. The other gainers were Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. and Arab Sea Information System Co. 

On the announcements front, Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. informed the stock exchange that its shareholders approved on Jan. 29 the board of directors’ recommendation to repurchase up to 1 million treasury shares, not exceeding 5 percent of the issued capital. 

The decision came as the board and executive management saw that the share market price was less than its fair value. 

The repurchase will be financed from the company’s resources using its cash balances or credit facilities, the company said in the statement to Tadawul.