Saudi cement sector performance slumps amid soaring energy prices

Analysis Al Yamama Cement is the only company that recorded a year-on-year growth in the first four months of 2022. Data shows a 49 percent increase in production to 2.4 million tons. (Shutterstock)
Al Yamama Cement is the only company that recorded a year-on-year growth in the first four months of 2022. Data shows a 49 percent increase in production to 2.4 million tons. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 22 May 2022

Saudi cement sector performance slumps amid soaring energy prices

Al Yamama Cement is the only company that recorded a year-on-year growth in the first four months of 2022. (Shutterstock)
  • Manufacturers in the Kingdom are investing in new infrastructure to enhance production efficiency

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s cement sector has recorded a weak performance as rising production costs coupled with low demand led to a fall in sales and production in the month of April which coincided with Ramadan.

According to data compiled by Al-Yamama Cement, sales of 17 Saudi cement factories fell by 39 percent to 3 million tons in April 2022 from 4.97 million tons in March.
This compared to a drop of 28 percent in April last year, which included three weeks of Ramadan, compared to 30 days this year.
City Cement, Qassim, Al Safwa, Najran and Al Yamama reported the highest drop month-on-month in April by 57 percent, 46 percent, 46 percent, and 45 percent respectively. A comparison in cement production and sales in Saudi firms between the first four months of 2022 and 2021 reveal an overall 14 percent negative growth in production and 12 percent negative growth in sales.


This compares to a rise by 10.9 percent and 13.5 percent in production and sales respectively in the first four months of 2021 versus the same period of 2020.
Al Yamama Cement is the only company that recorded a year-on-year growth in the first four months of 2022. Data shows a 49 percent increase in production to 2.4 million tons, and 54 percent surge in local sales to 2.4 million tons.
Safwa and Al Tabuk cement factories reported negative production growth during the same period but rose in sales by 1.3 percent and 13 percent respectively.
Al Yamama Cement had the highest share in the overall output and sales in the first four months of this year at 14 percent, followed by Saudi Cement and Southern Cement, both 11 percent.
In addition to the rising energy prices that represent about 30 to 40 percent of the total production cost, the Kingdom’s cement sector was hit by a slowdown in construction activities due to a labor shortage caused by a travel ban following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Clinker production by all Saudi companies in the first four months of 2022 increased by 8.5 percent to 18.8 million tons, with Najran Cement alone increasing its production by 98 percent, followed by Yanbu Cement by 60 percent.
Riyadh Cement and Al Jouf came last and reported a slower clinker production of 42 percent and 30 percent respectively.


Saudi cement factories sell almost all of the cement produced locally. The Saudi Cement Co., however, emerged as the top exporter by exporting 199,000 tons, which represents almost 60 percent of total cement exported by all the factories in the Kingdom.
In terms of clinker exports, Yanbu Cement, Saudi Cement and Arabian cement made up 75 percent or 1.9 million tons of the total in the first four months of 2022.
Cement in-stock in April 2022 increased by 7.3 percent year-on-year versus 8.9 percent in the previous month of March. This also compares to year-on-year decreases in April and March of 2021 of 11.8 percent and 15.1 percent respectively.
Qassim Cement and Northern Region cement had the highest rise in cement stocks in April 2022 by 69 percent and 51 percent respectively.
According to Al Jazira Capital analysts, the number of expatriate workers in the labor market had a net yearly decline of 66,000 workers in 2021. However, the latest data shows a quarterly net rise of 267,000 expats during the fourth quarter in 2021, the first quarterly rise since the same period in 2020.


A surge in construction activities due to The Red Sea Development Co., AMAALA and other development projects in Saudi Arabia such as NEOM and Qiddiya are also expected to drive the recovery of the local cement industry.
Cement manufacturers are investing in new infrastructure to enhance production efficiency and reduce power consumption. This shift also comes as Saudi Arabia joins more than 100 countries that have committed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.

 


Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year

Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year
Updated 15 sec ago

Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year

Tabby’s app achieves a record 26m clicks to retail partners in a year

RIYADH: Tabby, the payments and shopping app, attracted 2 million shoppers driving 26 million clicks to retail partners in the last year, according to a statement. 

The app drives 3.5 million clicks every month to thousands of retailers, including brands like Ikea, Shein, Adidas, Level Shoes, H&M, and thousands more.

The app currently ranks among the top-10 shopping apps on the App store in Saudi Arabia and the UAE with 500,000 shoppers installing the app every month to discover new stores and unlock great deals.

Commenting on the achievement, Hosam Arab, co-founder and CEO at Tabby, said: “We’re seeing Tabby’s place in people’s shopping journey go far beyond payments, with millions relying on Tabby to support their entire shopping experience. Tabby’s app helps customers discover where to shop and make the most out of their money, driving high-intent traffic to thousands of our retail partners.”

Retail partners work with Tabby’s in-house marketing team to gain traffic and visibility through prominent placement in the app which delivers curated content, promotions and deals. 

The past two years have seen exponential growth for Tabby, with 8 of the 10 largest retail groups in the Middle East and North Africa choosing Tabby as their preferred partner and closing their series B funding round at $154 million in equity and debt this year. 


Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry

Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry
Updated 23 min 4 sec ago

Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry

Eclipse Foods raises $40m in Series B as it seeks to change dairy industry

RIYADH: Oakland-based Eclipse Foods has raised over $40 million in its Series B funding round led by Sozo Ventures with participation from Forerunner Ventures, Initialized Capital, Gaingels, and KBW Ventures.

To date, the plant-based dairy products firm has raised over $60 million so far, with investors including Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, the green tech venture capitalist and Seth Goldman, chairman of Beyond Meat, according to a statement.

The newly acquired fund will fuel the business’s growth in retail and food service and will accelerate R&D on its proprietary plant-based dairy platform.

“The No. 1 reason consumers avoid plant-based dairy is taste,” said Bob Roe, vice president of Narrative Development at Sozo Ventures. 

To date, the plant-based dairy products firm has raised over $60 million so far, with investors including Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, pictured, the green tech venture capitalist. 

“Seventy percent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant and with the alternative protein space projected to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2050, Eclipse is positioned to completely transform the dairy industry with its proprietary plant-based dairy platform,” he added. 

Founded in 2019, the US firm seeks to create a more sustainable and healthy food system with its plant-based dairy platform. 

“With 10 billion people to feed by 2050, we recognized that global diets must change,” said Aylon Steinhart, co-founder and CEO of Eclipse Foods. 

“Consumers want more than just a dairy alternative like almond milk — they want a true replacement. Our plant-based dairy platform uses micelles (the microscopic magic of milk) to create the replacement products that consumers have been craving, and our growth over the last three years is a testament to that,” he added. 


Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce

Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce
Updated 48 min 2 sec ago

Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce

Dubai Blockchain Center to create metaverse for digital economy taskforce

DUBAI: Dubai Blockchain Center, a leading blockchain advocate and strategic partner to government agency Dubai Future Foundation, is planning to create a metaverse for the government task force impaneled to develop and oversee the digital economy policies in the region.

Speaking on the sidelines of the DIFC Fintech Week in Dubai, DBCC CEO Marwan Al-Zarouni told Arab News that it plans to create a virtual platform that will host all upcoming events of the task force related to supervising technological developments in the digital economy.

“Dubai is creating a task force for the digital economy, and one of its priorities is to create a metaverse for that task force,” said Al-Zarouni.

DBCC CEO Marwan Al-Zarouni

The company has also set off an educational drive to inform and acquaint potential investors about the opportunities around the blockchain ecosystem in the region.

“We are offering freemium content to schools and universities. The advance classes will, however, have to be paid for,” said Al-Zarouni.

He added: “We also educate government departments that want to invest in this space. The basic advice for government departments is free.”

Al-Zarouni also signed up as an adviser with the Rare Antiquities Project, a platform that aims to bring cryptocurrency into the museum, galleries, and heritage sector.

Its currency, also known as Rare Antiquities Token, allows its holder to purchase antiques using non-fungible tokens.

Dubai is creating a task force for the digital economy.

DBCC CEO Marwan Al-Zarouni

RAT holders can enter museums, and their admission cost will be automatically restored to their RAT wallet, making the admission free.

The company has been investing outside the UAE in multiple crypto funds through token allocations.

“We have worked with the Future Blockchain Summit and conducted several virtual summits. In addition to Dubai, we have worked with other countries such as Italy, Australia and Gibraltar,” added Al-Zarouni.

The UAE has been the destination of choice for cryptocurrency, with several top companies based in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Turkey relocating their businesses to Dubai.

According to Al-Zarouni, some of the emerging sectors in the region include game development, 3D building and e-sports.

“Dubai is becoming a melting pot for these crypto and blockchain projects and a haven for investors who want to invest in this space.”

In addition to locating their businesses in Dubai, the DBCC offers investors the opportunity to partner with like-minded individuals globally, he said.

One of the companies that DBCC provided services for was Biconomy, which is now listed on many exchanges, including Binance, he said.

Speaking on the market and its downfall, Al-Zarouni said that the market downturn is healthy because it is cyclical. However, it is hard to raise funds during such a period. “But it is okay to build,” he added.

 


Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel

Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel
Updated 47 min 39 sec ago

Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel

Buy now, pay later — the most preferred payment in the region: Fintech panel

DUBAI: Buy now, pay later, a financing option that allows customers to pay flexibly, has become the preferred mode of payment in the region, said top fintech players.

Speaking at a panel discussion on the BNPL evolution at the DIFC Fintech Week from June 28 to 29, the industry leaders pointed out how the finance option revolutionized the fintech industry.

The leaders present during the panel discussion were CEO Tamara Abdulmajeed Al-Sukhan, CEO Tabby Hosam Arab, Srinath Hariharan, head of product management, Amazon Payment Services; and Melissa Guzy, co-founder, Arbor Ventures.

During the discussion, Al-Sukhan said that Tamara is not just a BNPL product or a silent banking solution; instead, it always stands for its customers and serves them when they need help.

For his part, Arab said that there is a lot of work to be done beyond just building a tech solution on checkout. Arab added that mass adoption is a success factor as there is apparent adoption on both the consumer and provider’s sides.

“We make our money from the merchants that we work with. However, getting a business that sustains itself and can build real value for investors and stakeholders is the hard part,” Arab further noted.

Hariharan explained that BNPL is not a one-size fit for all products.

Guzy said that BNPL is a category that is quite different worldwide and cautioned that start-ups that think they will raise money in the next few months would be disappointed.

Seeking talent

Guzy revealed that hiring the right talent in the fintech sector is a pretty tricky task, and entrepreneurs should be creative and strategic during the hiring process due to the shortage of professional skills.

Tabby’s Arab, however, noted that the company is looking for fresh graduates to enhance local fintech.

During the discussion, Al-Sukhan noted that Tamara had hired people from worldwide.

Hariharan said that in terms of talent acquisition and retention, people relate growth with vertical growth. “One aspect is how do you ensure there is sustainable career growth?” he asked, adding that “another aspect is balance and work-life harmony.”

Risk factor

Talking about the risks, Al-Sukhan said that Tamara has a full risk assessment team other than the data team.

“With the data we have, we reroute ourselves, and we make sure that we are not underwriting like six months ago,” added Sukhan.

Arab commented that Tabby took a different approach by not chasing growth to avoid risks.

“Our customers are largely debit card consumers,” he added.

The way ahead

With regard to future plans, Hariharan said that Amazon Payment Services is engaging in multiple sectors and curating multiple experiences for merchants and customers.

Tabby, on the other hand, is investing quite deeply in virtual cards that customers can use offline to purchase at stores.


Standard Chartered launches API platform in Saudi Arabia

Standard Chartered launches API platform in Saudi Arabia
Updated 28 June 2022

Standard Chartered launches API platform in Saudi Arabia

Standard Chartered launches API platform in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Standard Chartered Bank Saudi Arabia has launched an application programming interface to ensure data security in real time.

Through this new interface, clients and partners will be able to share and integrate data securely, said a statement issued on Tuesday. 

In line with Saudi Vision 2030 and the country’s aim to become a regional digital hub, businesses across any industry in the Kingdom will now be able to connect to a host of new capabilities. 

This includes digitizing treasury, integration of banking capabilities into ERP operations, implementing digital business models, process automation, automated reconciliation and enabling point-to-point integration.  

“The launch of our application programming interface/ API accelerates a new era of financial innovation and plays a pivotal role in the increasing development of the Kingdom’s financial sector,” Boutros Klink, CEO of Bahrain and the Middle East at the bank, said.