S.African airline Comair’s fleet grounded indefinitely

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Updated 13 March 2022

S.African airline Comair’s fleet grounded indefinitely

S.African airline Comair’s fleet grounded indefinitely

CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s civil aviation regulator grounded Comair’s planes indefinitely on Sunday over unresolved safety issues, in a move that also affects low-cost airline Kulula and British Airways, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

A spokesperson for the South African Civil Aviation Authority said it had extended a 24-hour precautionary suspension of Comair’s operator certificate indefinitely.

The suspension was meant to end on Sunday, but Comair has not adequately addressed all the necessary safety issues, the SACAA said.

“This morning we communicated to them (Comair) that their air operator certificate is now indefinitely suspended until they close all of the findings,” SACAA spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu told Reuters, effectively grounding the company’s fleet of Boeing aircraft.

Comair said it was unable to confirm when it would start flying again, after working through the night to provide documentation to SACAA following a review of certain policies, systems and procedures.

“This is a huge blow to our customers, employees and the flying public as it effectively takes 40 percent of the capacity out of the market,” Glenn Orsmond, Comair chief executive said in a statement.

There would be considerable implications for the aviation sector and the country should the suspension be prolonged, he added.

President Sisi names veteran banker as caretaker head of Egypt’s central bank

President Sisi names veteran banker as caretaker head of Egypt’s central bank
Updated 1 min 36 sec ago

President Sisi names veteran banker as caretaker head of Egypt’s central bank

President Sisi names veteran banker as caretaker head of Egypt’s central bank
  • Hassan Abdalla appointed in place of Tarek Amer,  who resigned from the post he had held since 2015
  • Abdalla is CEO of the Arab African International Bank and holds eminent positions in various business groups

CAIRO: Egypt’s president on Thursday appointed a caretaker governor of the central bank, the president’s office said, a day after the bank’s chief resigned amid a grinding economic crisis triggered by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

According to a statement, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi named Hassan Abdullah to succeed Tarek Amer, who had held the post since 2015. The appointment still needs to be ratified by the state-controlled parliament, which is in recess until October.

In a meeting with the new appointee, El-Sisi stressed the importance of upgrading the country’s monetary policies to cope with global economic changes and to diversify Egypt’s sources of foreign currency, the statement also said.

Abduallah, 62, had worked as a banker for almost four decades in Egypt until he became the CEO of the Arab African International Bank in 2004. In May 2021, he was appointed the chairman of United Media Services, a state-controlled media conglomerate.

On Wednesday, El-Sisi accepted Amer’s resignation and named the outgoing governor a presidential adviser. The president’s office offered no explanation for Amer’s resignation. 

Amer had traditionally been seen as in the camp that supported the pound’s depreciation as a way to secure a new loan from the International Monetary Fund in order to address the growing budget deficit.

His resignation came after key ministries were reshuffled on Saturday, a Cabinet shake-up approved by parliament in an emergency session. A total of 13 ministries were affected, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation. The country’s minister of tourism and antiquities also was replaced.

Analysts said the CBE may have been conservative after the change of governor, even as Egypt’s economy grew faster than expected in the 2021/22 fiscal year and inflation surged. 

The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) said it left its lending rate unchanged at 12.25 percent and its deposit rate at 11.25 percent.

“The MPC decided that keeping policy rates unchanged remains consistent with achieving price stability over the medium term,” it said in a statement accompanying the rates decision.

A Reuters poll of 15 analysts taken prior to Amer’s resignation had expected a half a percentage point increase.

“In its decision to maintain policy rates unchanged today, the MPC takes note of its policy rate hikes in its previous meetings,” the MPC added.

The Egyptian currency has slid to more than 19 Egyptian pounds to the dollar. That followed a central bank decision allowing the currency to depreciate by around 16 percent in March to try to stem a growing trade deficit.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has been deeply felt in other ways in Egypt. The Arab world’s most populous country is also the world’s largest wheat importer that sources around 80 percent of it from the Black Sea region.

Following Russia’s invasion in late February, the price of wheat and other grains skyrocketed, as did the price of fuel. Although prices have come down somewhat, the cost of grains remains at least 50 percent higher than before the pandemic in early 2020. Furthermore, the cost of shipping to export those grains through the Black Sea is high.

Inflation in the country of 103 million people reached 14.6 percent in July, increasing pressure on lower-income households and everyday necessities. Around a third of Egyptians live in poverty, according to government figures.

The central bank raised rates by 2 percentage points in May and 1 percentage point in March to combat inflation after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US interest rate hikes.

“The committee likely wants to proceed cautiously during the transition period,” said Sara Saada of CI Capital.

Egypt’s gross domestic product grew by 6.2 percent in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, up from 3.3 percent a year earlier.

This was mainly driven by the private sector, particularly non-petroleum manufacturing, tourism, and trade, the MPC said, citing data from the first nine months of the fiscal year.

Inflation rose to 13.6 percent in July from 13.2 percent in June, its fastest since in March 2019.

At its last meeting on June 23, the MPC said that for the next six months it would tolerate elevated inflation, caused mainly by the Ukraine crisis, as the economy grows more slowly than expected.

“We expect no changes in the policy rates until the new CBE leadership settles in and takes stock of the situation,” said Allen Sandeep of Naeem Brokerage.

Esraa Ahmed of Pharos said she believed the MPC left rates unchanged for fundamental reasons, including a gradual decrease in global commodity prices and less pressure on the budget.

“We had that view even before the change in governor,” she said. 

Meanwhile, an investigation by the country’s public prosecutor said in a statement Thursday that a fire in a Cairo church last Sunday that killed 41 people, including 15 children, was the result of a short circuit in the building’s generator, a backup source of power.

The tragedy at the Martyr Abu Sefein church in the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba threw the country into mourning but also raised questions about emergency response, fire safety codes and restrictions on building houses of worship for the country’s Christian minority.

(With AP and Reuters)


Agthia saves $26.4 million in 18 months using cost optimization measures

Agthia saves $26.4 million in 18 months using cost optimization measures
Updated 19 August 2022

Agthia saves $26.4 million in 18 months using cost optimization measures

Agthia saves $26.4 million in 18 months using cost optimization measures
  • Group plans to expand into consumer business and have a consumer-centric mix of 75 percent of revenues

DUBAI: Agthia, a food and beverage company based in Abu Dhabi, has saved 97 million dirhams ($26.4 million) in 18 months as part of its Strategy 2025 program.

Alan Smith, CEO of Agthia, told Arab News that the company had committed to saving 200 million dirhams over five years as part of its long-term strategy envisaged in 2021.

“The company saved 97 million dirhams in just 18 months,” said a beaming Smith, adding that the company plans to become a leader in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan by 2025.

The group plans to expand into consumer business and have a consumer-centric mix of 75 percent of revenues.

Agthia Group CEO Alan Smith. (Supplied)

In July 2022, the company’s board approved the acquisition of a strategic 60 percent stake in Auf Group, a specialized healthy snacks and coffee manufacturer and retailer in Egypt.

Agthia has also received its board’s approval to acquire 60 percent of Egyptian coffee maker Auf Group as it expanded its footprint in the North African country last month.

Growth crossroads

The company acquired five companies in 2021, which included Al Foah Dates in the UAE, Al Faysal Bakery & Sweets in Kuwait, Nabil Foods in Jordan, Atyab in Egypt and BMB, a fully integrated food company in the UAE.

And these acquisitions contributed 73 percent of the total revenue for the six months ending June 30, 2022.

Agthia Group’s net revenue grew 51 percent year on year to 2 billion dirhams in the first half of this year, according to the company’s results.

Smith said that compared to a few years ago, Agthia’s revenue was 2 billion dirhams on a full-year basis.


The company saved 97 million dirhams in just 18 months, said Smith, adding that the company plans to become a leader in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan by 2025.

“I think the number is about 73 percent, so we’re very close to our long-term commitments,” he added.

Due to the seasonality advantages the company sees in the snacking business and the growth in the protein business. Smith said the contribution of the consumer business division to the overall revenue will be at least 75 percent on a full-year basis, if not more.

Before acquiring five companies last year, Agthia’s revenue was split 50-50 between consumers and agribusinesses.

Besides the brands acquired in 2021, the consumer business includes Yoplait dairy products and a slew of water and beverage brands such as Al Ain and Al Bayan. On the other hand, the agribusiness produces Grand Mills flour and Agrivita animal feed.

“What we are seeing in quarter two is the consolidation of all five acquisitions we did last year,” he said.

Optimization opportunity

According to Smith, Agthia generates 50 percent of its revenue from the UAE and the rest from other parts of the world.

The company has also taken cost optimization measures to increase its revenue and improve profitability. For instance, the confectionery and healthy food brand BMB had a manufacturing facility each in Dubai Investment Park and Jebel Ali.

After the acquisition, Agthia closed one of BMB’s facili- ties and consolidate it into an existing Agthia manufacturing facility.

“It was a rented facility that we shut down and moved that production into Agthia’s own facility,” Smith said.

Smith said Agthia’s financial results and Strategic 2025 plan are on track despite market volatility.

Agthia is currently setting up a new manufacturing unit in Saudi Arabia for Nabil Foods, the firm’s protein brand, to meet the growing demand for the product line from local customers. Earlier this year, the company announced the greenfield investment of 90 million dirhams to set up the facility.

According to Smith, the facility’s design is completed, and the scope of work for tendering has been outlined. He is now awaiting necessary approvals for the Saudi manufacturing facility from the competent authority.

With this project, Agthia will be able to increase its footprint in the Kingdom and support its strategy to become one of the most prominent players in the Middle East and North Africa consumer packaged goods market.

Etihad Rail welcomes first batch of National Rail Network fleet

Etihad Rail welcomes first batch of National Rail Network fleet
Updated 19 August 2022

Etihad Rail welcomes first batch of National Rail Network fleet

Etihad Rail welcomes first batch of National Rail Network fleet
  • Company plans to expand its fleet to 45 heavy transport locomotives, six times the size of its current fleet

ABU DHABI: Etihad Rail has reached a new milestone in the development of the UAE’s National Rail Network, as the first batch of the company’s new and advanced rolling stock fleet arrive in the UAE. 

The locomotives and wagons reached the UAE via the Zayed and Al-Musaffah Ports and will operate across the entire network once it is completed. 

The achievement was announced during an event hosted by Etihad Rail at Al-Mirfa city in Abu Dhabi.

The event was attended by Etihad Rail CEO Shadi Malak, Progress Rail CEO Marty Haycraft and MENA Executive Director at CRRC Henry Pang, as well as a number of other senior officials.

“The arrival of the new fleet of locomotives and wagons to the UAE on schedule reflects the level of the achievements that the Etihad Rail project is realizing in the development of the UAE National Railway Network,” Mohammed Al Marzouqi, executive director of the rail relations sector at Etihad Rail, said.

The National Rail Network is part of Etihad Rail’s efforts to achieve the objectives of the UAE Railways Programme, the largest land transport system of its kind in the UAE. 

The program was launched as part of the Projects of the 50, the largest collection of national strategic projects aimed at establishing a new phase of development across the UAE for the next 50 years. 

It aims to establish a new roadmap for transporting goods and passengers by train across the country, thus developing a sustainable land transport system that connects UAE cities via railway.

The company plans to expand its fleet to 45 heavy transport locomotives, which is six times the size of its current fleet.

Progress Rail, a subsidiary of US-based Caterpillar and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of diesel and electric locomotives, will manufacture and supply the new EMD SD70 electro-motive diesel locomotives.

“Our diesel-electric EMD SD70 locomotives meet the highest global standards. Etihad Rail’s new fleet is a great example of what our customers have come to expect from our advanced locomotives, which are designed to perform in extreme conditions,” Haycraft said.

The company’s new fleet aims to house more than 1,000 multi-purpose wagons, which is three times the size of its current fleet. 

China’s CRRC Group, one of the world’s leading providers of sustainable development solutions of the railway industry, will manufacture and supply the new fleet of wagons.

“CRRC is excited to be a partner in stage two of the UAE National Rail Network, contributing to the growth of Etihad Rail, the UAE and the region by supporting the development of the rail industry,” CRRC UAE General Manager Ben Quak said.  

“We are pleased to witness the successful delivery of the multi-function wagons, which will contribute to reducing carbon emissions and provide safe, sustainable and efficient services,” Quak said.

“Upon completion and becoming fully operational, the network will contribute to revitalising and bolstering economic growth in the UAE, particularly during the next 50 years, by providing reliable and safe freight services with high efficiency,” Al-Marzouqi said.

The executive director said: “The network will also contribute to the region’s economic growth upon its connection with the Gulf Cooperation Council network, which will consolidate the UAE’s position as a regional and global center for shipping and logistics services. This achievement comes as part of the company’s preparations to operate the network according to the highest global standards in the future.

“We made sure that the company’s new fleet is among the most modern in the region and the world, providing the highest safety criteria in terms of design, ensuring the best specifications for sustainability and environmental protection, and integrating the latest technologies for train operation and monitoring. 

“We also ensured that the fleet suits the local geography and climate in the UAE and the region and meets the current and future needs of Etihad Rail’s clients, including industrial companies, shipping companies, building materials suppliers, quarriers and more.”

Etihad Rail’s new fleet was designed to withstand the GCC region’s geographic, climate and high temperatures and humidity levels, guaranteeing the highest levels of performance, efficiency and sustainability. 

The fleet is expected to improve the UAE’s transport and logistical services system, strengthening the country’s position in the logistics sector on a regional and international scale. It will increase the UAE National Rail Network’s capacity to more than 60 million tons of goods a year. 

Etihad Rail’s new fleet will also help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70 to 80 percent.


Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub to open region’s first vertical aerospace complex

Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub to open region’s first vertical aerospace complex
Updated 19 August 2022

Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub to open region’s first vertical aerospace complex

Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub to open region’s first vertical aerospace complex
  • Facility will offer 86 leasable units in bid to attract SMEs, startups

DUBAI: Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub at Dubai South announced that its Suppliers Complex, the first vertical aerospace facility in the region, will be completed in September, Emirates News Agency reported.

The facility is seeking to attract SMEs and startups by providing solutions for multipurpose activities.

The Suppliers Complex is a G+3 development with more than 12,000 square meters of light industrial space, allowing aerospace companies to quickly establish operations.

The facility has 86 leasable units for companies that provide maintenance services, trade aircraft parts, and operate aircraft as well as drones.

“The new facility is in line with our mandate to provide the aviation industry with the required infrastructure and facilities to set up their businesses as part of the overall ecosystem that we have at MBRAH,” MBRAH CEO Tahnoon Saif said.

“We are also offering exclusive incentives to companies, mainly startups and SMEs, and we will spare no effort to cement Dubai’s position on the world aviation map,” Saif added.

MBRAH is a free-zone destination for the world’s leading airlines, private jet companies and associated industries. The hub provides high-level connectivity to global aerospace players.

Home to maintenance centers as well as training and education campuses, MBRAH aims to strengthen Dubai’s engineering industry and realize the emirate’s vision of becoming a leading aviation hub.


Qatar sees 12-fold jump in surplus on energy profit

Qatar sees 12-fold jump in surplus on energy profit
Updated 19 August 2022

Qatar sees 12-fold jump in surplus on energy profit

Qatar sees 12-fold jump in surplus on energy profit

RIYADH: Qatar witnessed a 12-fold jump in its budget surplus to 47.3 billion riyals ($12.8 billion) in the first half of 2022, compared to 4 billion riyals in the same period last year, driven by soaring energy revenues.

Oil and gas revenue surged 58 percent to 150.7 billion riyals during the period, recompensating the increased government spending on wages and salaries, Bloomberg reported citing data.

Qatar revenues are mainly generated by long-term contracts to supply liquefied natural gas, typically tied to the price of oil. 

The Gulf country is benefiting from Europe’s interest in diversifying its gas supply away from Russia in the long-term. Qatar tries to tie up buyers for new LNG contracts for very long period, Bloomberg said.

The International Monetary Fund projected the country’s economy will grow 5.4 percent this year and generate a surplus equivalent to about $45 billion. 

Qatar is preparing to host this year’s soccer World Cup.

The World Cup organizers have said they’re anticipating a $17 billion boost to the country from hosting the soccer tournament.