Hospitality business trained to deal with pandemics: Azadea official

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Updated 26 May 2022

Hospitality business trained to deal with pandemics: Azadea official

Mert Askin
  • Lebanon-based retail chain Azadea Group sells fashion, sports, home furnishings and food and drink

RIYADH: The hospitality industry has steeled itself for another pandemic after suffering the effects of the last health crisis, said Mert Askin, Azadea Group’s president of food and beverage.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh, Askin said that the industry is yet to recover from the pandemic because certain restrictions remain in place, such as some regulated air travel.
Askin added: “We are recovering. We are growing. And I’m optimistic about the future because this pandemic taught us a lot of things. This is not going to be the last pandemic, there may be more to come. But we are now trained to manage this kind of difficult situation.”
Lebanon-based retail chain Azadea Group sells fashion, sports, home furnishings and food and drink. Its food brands include Paul, Columbus Cafe & Co. and Eataly. The group, founded in 1978, employs over 10,000 staff across more than 550 stores in 13 countries including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar and the UAE.

I’m optimistic about the future because this pandemic taught us a lot of things.

Mert Askin

The group’s food and drinks head pointed out that the firm’s core business had not changed despite the pandemic.
Askin said: “Our core is people — our team. As well as the customer, and how we operate together. That core will not change. But we definitely have a lot more technology tools at our disposal.”
He added that the group’s revenues are climbing and are close to pre-pandemic levels.
Saudi Arabia is Azadea Group’s second-largest market, and Askin added that the business wants to change with the Kingdom as it opens up and transforms its hospitality sector.
Askin said: “Saudi (Arabia) is changing, and we want to change with Saudi (Arabia). We believe in Vision 2030. We are committed to it, and we want to be a part of the program by growing with the country as it opens up. There is a lot of investment flooding into the industry. And we want to benefit from that tailwind and grow our business.”
Saudi nationals currently make up around a quarter of the staff the group employs.
Askin added: “Today, approximately 20 to 25 percent of our team members are Saudis. And one thing that we use to attract more Saudis is recognizing and sharing their success stories, as well as providing growth opportunities.”


Saudi Alamar fast food chain franchiser sets final offer price at $30.64 

Saudi Alamar fast food chain franchiser sets final offer price at $30.64 
Updated 11 sec ago

Saudi Alamar fast food chain franchiser sets final offer price at $30.64 

Saudi Alamar fast food chain franchiser sets final offer price at $30.64 

RIYADH: Alamar Foods has set the top range of its initial public offering prices at SR115 ($30.64) per share, with a 47.5 percent oversubscription, after completing its pricing and book building process for institutional investors.

The final offer price gives the fast food chain franchiser an implied market capitalization at listing of SR2.933 billion.

Alamar Foods is developer and operator of two global household brands: Domino’s, which operates across the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan region, and Dunkin’, which operates in Egypt and Morocco.

“This IPO stands as a testament to the milestones achieved towards becoming a leading QSR player across the MENAP region,” Filippo Sgattoni, CEO at Alamar Foods, said.

The individual investor subscription period is scheduled to start on July 20 and to close on July 21. 

The Capital Market Authority approved on June 7 Alamar’s application to offer 10.63 million shares, or 41.7 percent of the company’s capital, to the public.

Alamar’s capital stands at SR255 million.


Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss

Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss
Updated 52 min 44 sec ago

Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss

Oil prices ease on recession fears, headed for 3rd weekly loss
  • OPEC+ sticks to oil output policy, avoids debate on September
  • Traders prepare for long Fourth of July holiday weekend
  • Some Norway oil workers to strike from July 5

TOKYO: Oil prices eased on Friday as lingering fears of a recession demand weighed on sentiment, putting the benchmarks on track for their third straight weekly losses, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were down 20 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $108.83 a barrel by 0428 GMT, giving up earlier gains of over $1.

WTI crude futures for August delivery slid 37 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $105.39 a barrel, also surrendering an early gain of nearly $1.

Both contracts fell around 3 percent on Thursday.

“Earlier in the session, the market took a breather from Thursday’s sell-off as the OPEC+ gave no surprise, saying it would stick to its planned oil output hikes in August,” said Tsuyoshi Ueno, senior economist at NLI Research Institute.

“But uncertainty over OPEC+ policy in and after September and fears that the aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve would lead to a US recession and hamper fuel demand dampened sentiment,” he said.

On Thursday, the OPEC+ group of producers, including Russia, agreed to stick to its output strategy after two days of meetings. However, the producer club avoided discussing policy from September onwards.

Previously, OPEC+ decided to increase output each month by 648,000 barrels per day (bpd) in July and August, up from a previous plan to add 432,000 bpd per month.

US President Joe Biden will make a three-stop trip to the Middle East in mid-July that includes a visit to Saudi Arabia, pushing energy policy into the spotlight as the United States and other countries face soaring fuel prices that are driving up inflation.

Biden said on Thursday he would not directly press Saudi Arabia to increase oil output to curb soaring prices when he sees the Saudi king and crown prince during a visit this month.

“All eyes are on whether or not Saudi Arabia or any other Middle Eastern oil producers would bolster output to respond the US request,” NLI’s Ueno said.

Elsewhere, 74 Norwegian offshore oil workers at Equinor’s Gudrun, Oseberg South and Oseberg East platforms will go on strike from July 5, the Lederne trade union said on Thursday, likely shutting about 4 percent of Norway’s oil production.

Oil prices are expected to stay above $100 a barrel this year as Europe and other regions struggle to wean themselves off Russian supply, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, though economic risks could slow the climb. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly and Yuka Obayashi; editing by Richard Pullin and Kim Coghill)


Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers

Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers
Updated 01 July 2022

Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers

Google to pay $90 million to settle legal fight with app developers
  • Some 48,000 app developers are eligible to apply for the $90 million fund, if the court approves the proposed settlement

WASHINGTON: Alphabet Inc’s Google has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a legal fight with app developers over the money they earned creating apps for Android smartphones and for enticing users to make in-app purchases, according to a court filing.
The app developers, in a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, had accused Google of using agreements with smartphone makers, technical barriers and revenue sharing agreements to effectively close the app ecosystem and shunt most payments through its Google Play billing system with a default service fee of 30 percent.
As part of the proposed settlement, Google said in a blog post it would put $90 million in a fund to support app developers who made $2 million or less in annual revenue from 2016-2021.
“A vast majority of US developers who earned revenue through Google Play will be eligible to receive money from this fund, if they choose,” Google said in the blog post.
Google said it would also continue to charge a 15 percent commission to developers who make $1 million or less annually from the Google Play Store. It started doing this in 2021.
The court must approve the proposed settlement.
There were likely 48,000 app developers eligible to apply for the $90 million fund, and the minimum payout is $250, according to Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, who represented the plaintiffs.
Apple Inc. agreed last year to loosen App Store restrictions on small developers, striking a deal in a class action. It also agreed to pay $100 million.
In Washington, Congress is considering legislation that would require Google and Apple to allow sideloading, or the practice of downloading apps without using an app store. It would also bar them from requiring that app providers use Google and Apple’s payment systems. 


 


SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes
Updated 01 July 2022

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet gets US regulator’s nod for use with ships, boats, planes
  • SpaceX has steadily launched some 2,700 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit since 2019
  • It has amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers, including many who pay $110 a month for broadband Internet

WASHINGTON: The US Federal Communications Commission on Thursday authorized Elon Musk’s SpaceX to use its Starlink satellite Internet network with moving vehicles, green-lighting the company’s plan to expand broadband offerings to commercial airlines, shipping vessels and trucks.
Starlink, a fast-growing constellation of Internet-beaming satellites in orbit, has long sought to grow its customer base from individual broadband users in rural, Internet-poor locations to enterprise customers in the potentially lucrative automotive, shipping and airline sectors.
“Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move,” the FCC said in its authorization published Thursday, echoing plans outlined in SpaceX’s request for the approval early last year.
SpaceX has steadily launched some 2,700 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit since 2019 and has amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers, including many who pay $110 a month for broadband Internet using $599 self-install terminal kits.
The Hawthorne, California-based space company has focused heavily in recent years on courting airlines around Starlink for in-flight WiFi, having inked its first such deals in recent months with Hawaiian Airlines and semi-private jet service JSX.
“We’re obsessive about the passenger experience,” Jonathan Hofeller, Starlink’s commercial sales chief, said at an aviation conference earlier this month. “We’re going to be on planes here very shortly, so hopefully passengers are wowed by the experience.”
SpaceX, under an earlier experimental FCC license, has been testing aircraft-tailored Starlink terminals on Gulfstream jets and US military aircraft.
Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, has previously said that the types of vehicles Starlink was expected to be used with pursuant to Thursday’s authorization were aircraft, ships, large trucks and RVs. Musk, also the CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc, had said he didn’t see “connecting Tesla cars to Starlink, as our terminal is much too big.”
Competition in the low-Earth orbiting satellite Internet sector is fierce between SpaceX, satellite operator OneWeb, and Jeff Bezos’s Kuiper project, a unit of e-commerce giant Amazon.com which is planning to launch the first prototype satellites of its own broadband network later this year. 

 


Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets
Updated 01 July 2022

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin dropped 6.1% to $18,866.77 at 2004 GMT on Thursday, putting the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency down $1,226.41 from its previous close and down 60.9% from the year's high of $48,234 on March 28.
Several big players in the cryptocurrency markets have had difficulties, and further declines could force other crypto investors to sell holdings to meet margin calls and cover losses.
Ether, the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 7.5% to $1,016.08 on Thursday, losing $82.38 from its previous close.
Both digital assets have struggled since U.S. based lender Celsius Network this month said it would suspend withdrawals. Bitcoin and ether were further rattled by the apparent insolvency of crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, which a person familiar with the matter told Reuters has entered liquidation.
Many of the industry's recent problems can be traced back to the spectacular collapse of so-called stablecoin TerraUSD in May, which saw the stablecoin lose almost all its value, along with its paired token. (Reporting by Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru and Hannah Lang in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)