NRG matters — EU energy ministers hold crisis talks; Czech Republic adds gas to reserves

NRG matters — EU energy ministers hold crisis talks; Czech Republic adds gas to reserves
The European Commission has said countries complying with Russia’s scheme could breach EU sanctions (Shutterstock)
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Updated 02 May 2022

NRG matters — EU energy ministers hold crisis talks; Czech Republic adds gas to reserves

NRG matters — EU energy ministers hold crisis talks; Czech Republic adds gas to reserves

RIYADH: Energy ministers from EU countries are holding emergency talks on Monday for a united response to Moscow’s demand that European buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles or face their supply being cut off.

Russia halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last week, after they refused to meet its demand to effectively pay in roubles.

Those countries already planned to stop using Russian gas this year, and said they could cope with the stoppage. Still, it has raised fears that other EU countries, including Europe’s gas-reliant economic powerhouse Germany, could be next.

It has also threatened to crack the EU’s united front against Russia amid disagreement on the right course of action.

With many European companies facing gas payment deadlines later this month, EU states have a pressing need to clarify whether companies can keep buying the fuel without breaching the EU’s sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow has said foreign gas buyers must deposit euros or dollars into an account at the privately-owned Russian bank Gazprombank, which would convert them into roubles. 

The European Commission has said that countries complying with Russia’s scheme could breach EU sanctions. It also suggested countries could make sanctions-compliant payments if they declare the payment complete once it has been made in euros and before its conversion into roubles.

After Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Slovakia and others last week urged clearer advice, Brussels is drafting extra guidance.

Czech Republic adds gas to state reserves to boost energy security

The Czech Republic has bought 2.4 terawatt-hours of gas for 8.5 billion crowns ($365 million) from majority state-owned utility CEZ to add to its state reserves in case of supply problems, the national reserves agency said on Sunday.

The central European country is nearly 100 percent dependent for its gas on Russia, which cut gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last Wednesday after they refused to pay it in roubles, sparking concerns other countries could be similarly hit.

“The Czech Republic is increasing its energy security with this purchase,” Pavel Svagr, head of the State Material Reserves Administration, wrote on Twitter.

It is the first time the state has bought gas reserves. The price paid includes transport and storage, and the volume amounts to around 2 percent of the country’s 2021 consumption.

The country also holds oil, and oil product reserves sufficient to cover its needs for three months.

Mexico’s opposition party pitches free solar panels for housing

Mexico’s biggest opposition party on Sunday proposed installing solar panels for free onto residential housing, staking out its renewable energy credentials, as it seeks to challenge the ruling party of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Marko Cortes, leader of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), said the plan was to have state power utility Comision Federal de Electricidad and the government put panels for free on all homes, “starting with the poorest.”

“People wouldn’t pay anything or pay a lot less for their electricity bill,” Cortes said in a video on Twitter, urging the government to adopt the plan.

Lopez Obrador, a popular president who has dominated Mexican politics since taking office in December 2018, suffered a reverse in Congress last month, when the opposition united in voting down a constitutional overhaul of the power market.

Russian gas deliveries via Ukraine hit 5-month high

Daily nominations, or requests, for Russian gas deliveries through Ukraine into Europe via the Slovakian border point of Velke Kapusany rose to their highest since the end of November on Monday, data from Slovakian operator TSO Eustream showed.

Nominations via Velke Kapusany were at around 993,407-megawatt hours per day on Monday, the highest since Nov. 30, the data showed.

Flows of Russian gas to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline across the Baltic Sea were at 73,778,201 kilowatt-hours per hour by 0600 GMT, up from 72,286,105 kWh/h seen on Friday morning.

Eastbound flows into Poland at the Mallnow metering point on the German border stood at 13,202,832 kWh/h, little changed from levels seen late last week, data from operator Gascade showed.

Russia stopped gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria last week for their refusal to pay in roubles, although Poland is still getting Russian gas via reverse flows from Germany along the Yamal-Europe pipeline. 

Finland’s Fennovoima ends Russian contract for nuclear power plant

Finnish consortium Fennovoima said on Monday it had terminated its contract with Russia’s state-owned nuclear power supplier Rosatom for the delivery of a planned nuclear power plant in Finland.

The planned Hanhikivi plant was commissioned by Fennovoima, a Finnish-Russian consortium, in which Finnish stakeholders including Outokumpu, Fortum and SSAB own two thirds and Rosatom’s subsidiary RAOS Voima holds the rest.

(With inputs from Reuters) 


UAE to build LNG plant to double its export capacity 

UAE to build LNG plant to double its export capacity 
Updated 33 sec ago

UAE to build LNG plant to double its export capacity 

UAE to build LNG plant to double its export capacity 

RIYADH: The Abu Dhabi National Co. plans to construct a new liquefied natural gas plant that would more than double its export capacity amid a growing demand. 

To be built at Fujairah, the plant will be able to produce as much as 9.6 million tons a year, Bloomberg reported. 

Currently, the UAE has three liquefaction plants with a total capacity of 5.8 million tons per annum at Das Island, located inside the Gulf. 

This comes as the UAE races to expand its exports amid a growing demand following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 


Saudi Arabia advances 40 ranks in communication infrastructure index 

Saudi Arabia advances 40 ranks in communication infrastructure index 
Updated 8 min 41 sec ago

Saudi Arabia advances 40 ranks in communication infrastructure index 

Saudi Arabia advances 40 ranks in communication infrastructure index 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has jumped 40 ranks in the communications infrastructure index, which measured the number of Internet users and mobile phones for the year 2020.

The Kingdom is now ranked 27th globally out of 193 countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In the e-government development index, Saudi Arabia also witnessed progress as it advanced nine ranks.

It now ranks 43rd globally out of the 193 countries, which raises the Kingdom’s classification from high-ranking countries to very high-ranking.

The indicators are monitored by the Saudi National Center for Performance Measurement, known as Adaa, that publishes reports on the initiatives of public entities. 


Macro Snapshot — French unemployment slips to 14-year low; US retail sales increase strongly

Macro Snapshot — French unemployment slips to 14-year low; US retail sales increase strongly
Updated 54 min 9 sec ago

Macro Snapshot — French unemployment slips to 14-year low; US retail sales increase strongly

Macro Snapshot — French unemployment slips to 14-year low; US retail sales increase strongly

RIYADH: Unemployment in France and Britain fell to their lowest since 2008 and 1974 respectively, whereas the Dutch economy recorded no growth as consumption levels dropped. 

French unemployment slips

Unemployment in France dipped slightly in the first quarter to the lowest rate in 14 years, official data showed on Tuesday, giving President Emmanuel Macron a boost ahead of legislative elections.

The unemployment rate slipped to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent in the previous three months, the INSEE statistics agency said. A Reuters poll of 10 economists had on average expected the rate to remain unchanged.

It was the lowest level of unemployment since the second quarter of 2008, apart from an anomalous, unrepresentative drop at the start of the pandemic when job seekers could not look for work during a nationwide lockdown.

Apart from during that period, unemployment has come down steadily since Macron first took office in 2017, when the jobless rate stood at 9.5 percent.

Beyond the headline decrease in joblessness, INSEE’s quarterly employment report showed that youth unemployment rose to 16.3 percent from 16.0 percent in the final quarter of last year, when it hit the lowest level since early 1981.

Meanwhile, the employment rate, the share of the workforce in work, rose to 68 percent from 67.8 percent in the previous quarter, reaching the highest level since INSEE began keeping records in 1975.

UK unemployment falls to lowest

Britain’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest since 1974 at 3.7 percent in the first three months of this year, official figures showed on Tuesday, below economists’ forecasts for it to hold steady at 3.8 percent.

Average earnings, excluding bonuses, were 4.2 percent higher than a year earlier in the three months to March, above the average forecast in a Reuters poll for wage growth to hold at 4.1 percent.

Turkish house sales rise 

Turkish house sales rose 38.8 percent in April on the year to 133,058 houses, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed on Tuesday, with more than double the houses sold to Russians compared to a month ago as they sought a financial haven.

Sales to foreigners rose 58.1 percent, the institute said. Russian citizens rose to the top of the list in April with 1,152 houses from 547 in March. They were followed by Iranians and Iraqis.

Wealthy Russians are pouring money into real estate in Turkey and the UAE, seeking a financial haven in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions, many property companies say. 

The data also showed April mortgaged sales rose 82.9 percent from a year earlier to 32,030, accounting for 24.1 percent of the total sales in the period.

Dutch Q1 economic growth 

Growth of the Dutch economy stalled in the first three months of 2022, as consumer and government spending dropped compared with the previous quarter, a first estimate released on Tuesday showed.

The first quarter gross domestic product was unchanged from the last three months of 2021.

Nonetheless, the eurozone’s fifth largest economy was 7 percent larger than it had been in the same period a year earlier, when demand was crippled by a broad COVID-19 lockdown.

Economists on average had expected quarterly growth of 0.2 percent.

Government spending fell 4 percent in the first quarter, while consumer spending was 0.1 percent lower.

Indonesia posts trade surplus 

Indonesia’s trade surplus jumped to its largest ever at $7.56 billion in April, as exports rose to a record high while imports grew slower than expected, data from the statistics bureau showed on Tuesday.

Indonesia, a major exporter of many commodities such as thermal coal, palm oil and nickel, has reported a trade surplus every month in the past two years, enjoying an export boom and rising prices of commodities.

A Reuters poll had expected a trade surplus of $3.25 billion for April, following a $4.53 billion surplus the previous month.

Spain’s March trade deficit soars 

Spain’s trade deficit jumped 11-fold in March compared to the same month a year earlier to €4.64 billion ($4.86 billion), the Industry Ministry said on Tuesday.

Exports rose 17 percent to €33 billion, while imports increased 32 percent to €37.3 billion, the ministry said.

India’s WPI inflation  

India’s wholesale prices accelerated at the fastest pace in at least 17 years as the Ukraine war and a weak rupee pushed up energy and raw material costs, raising risks for businesses that are unable to pass on costs.

While big retailers, food makers and consumer product companies including Hindustan Unilever, Britania and Procter & Gamble are passing along higher costs to consumers, small companies are finding it hard to raise prices, industry leaders said.

Annual wholesale price inflation, a proxy for producers’ prices, climbed to 15.08 percent in April, remaining in double-digits for the 13th month in a row, and higher than 14.48 percent forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Wholesale prices are at the highest since at least April 2005, according to Refinitiv data. Some private economists said WPI inflation in April was the highest since 1991, according to an earlier series.

Economists said that with wholesale inflation picking up along with retail inflation at 7.79 percent in April — an eight-year high — the central bank was likely to push for aggressive rate hikes to tame prices. Higher rates will pose a drag on economic growth as well, they said.

“With WPI inflation remaining solidly in double-digits, the probability of a repo hike in the June 2022 review of monetary policy has risen further,” said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA, the Indian arm of ratings agency Moody’s.

US retail sales increase 

US retail sales increased solidly in April as consumers bought motor vehicles amid an improvement in supply and frequented restaurants, showing no signs of demand letting up despite high inflation.

Retail sales rose 0.9 percent last month, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. Data for March was revised higher to show sales advancing 1.4 percent instead of 0.7 percent as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales accelerating 0.9 percent, with estimates ranging from as low as 0.2 percent to as high as 2.0 percent. Last month’s increase reflects both strong demand and higher prices.

Retail sales are mostly goods, and are not adjusted for inflation, which appears to have peaked in April. Bars and restaurants are the only services category in the report.

 

(With input from Reuters) 


Saudi Arabia a core investment market for Middle East Venture Partners, says CEO

Saudi Arabia a core investment market for Middle East Venture Partners, says CEO
Updated 17 May 2022

Saudi Arabia a core investment market for Middle East Venture Partners, says CEO

Saudi Arabia a core investment market for Middle East Venture Partners, says CEO

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE and Egypt are the core investment markets for the Middle East Venture Partners, said Rabih Khoury, CEO of the company. 

While speaking with Arab News on the sidelines of the Arab Women Forum in Dubai on Tuesday, Khoury also shared MEVP’s plans to expand into Saudi Arabia but did not mention an exact timeline in which the company is planning to mark its presence in the Kingdom. 

“We need to expand the team, especially in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia is growing, and you need to bring in Saudis to work in the Saudi ecosystem. And also, we’re going to be launching our fourth fund, hopefully, in the third quarter of 2022,” Khoury told Arab News. 

Khoury also lauded the initiatives of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which has turned the Kingdom into an investment-friendly region. 

“Five, six years ago, when we used to go to Saudi (Arabia), there was no hope. But now, with a young Crown Prince, who really focuses on young people, enabling them, by giving an opportunity to actually build businesses based on their dreams, we see a lot of hope in the region,” added Khoury. 

Khoury also talked about the necessity of having a regional entity like the European Investment Bank in the Middle East. 

“We do not have these pan-Arab entities that will look at us as regional investors. And what we see is a bit local. So what’s happening is, local funds are getting only local support.”


‘Don’t be shy — Women in banking sector need to go for it’, says deNovo’s May Nasrallah

‘Don’t be shy — Women in banking sector need to go for it’, says deNovo’s May Nasrallah
Updated 17 May 2022

‘Don’t be shy — Women in banking sector need to go for it’, says deNovo’s May Nasrallah

‘Don’t be shy — Women in banking sector need to go for it’, says deNovo’s May Nasrallah

DUBAI: Women in the banking and investment sector can be their own worst enemies when it comes to progressing in the industry, according to May Nasrallah, the founder and executive chairman of UAE-based deNovo Corporate Advisors.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Arab Women Forum in Dubai, Nasrallah urged female employees to put aside doubts and ask for more senior positions in the traditionally male-dominated industry.

She also shared her company’s plans to expand into Saudi Arabia, but did not mention an exact timeline in which the company is planning to mark its presence in the Kingdom. 

Talking about the capability of women in the banking and investment sector, Nasrallah said, “The investment banking sector, it has historically been very male-dominated. You’re just as capable. You’re just as evil. You’re just as you know, ready than your male counterpart. And I think a lot of times, we tend to be our own worst enemies.” 

She continued, “So I would suggest the younger generation of women to just go for it. And not be shy about asking for a position, not be worried about whether you can do it.” 

During the interview, Nasrallah revealed that deNovo Corporate Advisors is both an advisory firm and advisory boutique. She added that the company helps with mergers between two companies, helping them monetize, helping them go public, and assisting them to get international global investors. 

Talking about her resignation from Morgan Stanley and setting up deNovo Corporate Advisors  — which helps with company mergers and securing investments — said: “Nobody expected that I would actually resign from Morgan Stanley. Subsequent to me, a number of men did it. But everybody expected it to be done by a man. Nobody expected it to be done by a woman.”