SWCC to open six desalination plants in Saudi Arabia by 2024: Governor

Exclusive The Innovation Driven Desalination conference underway in Riyadh. AN photo
The Innovation Driven Desalination conference underway in Riyadh. AN photo
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Updated 31 May 2022

SWCC to open six desalination plants in Saudi Arabia by 2024: Governor

SWCC to open six desalination plants in Saudi Arabia by 2024: Governor

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corp. will open six desalination plants by 2024 in a phased manner, beginning with the launch of two plants by late 2022.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Innovation Driven Desalination conference, SWCC Gov. Abdullah Al-Abdul-Karim revealed that these plants would be established across various cities of the Kingdom, including Al-Shuqaiq, Al-Shoaiba,  Jubail, and Alkhobar.

Each plant will have a power consumption of less than 1.7 kilowatts per cubic meter, which will reduce the cost of water production from SR1.54 ($0.42) per cubic meter to SR1.3 per cubic meter.

“With production at such minimum cost, it will increase the sector’s contribution to the national gross domestic product,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

The Kingdom’s production of desalinated water amounts to more than 7.9 million cubic meters per day, which represents 55 percent of the Gulf region and 22.2 percent of the global desalination.

The water desalination industry in the Kingdom is planning to reduce its carbon emissions by 65 percent by 2024, equaling 35 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The Kingdom’s production of desalinated water amounts to more than 7.9 million cubic meters per day, which represents 55 percent of the Gulf region and 22.2 percent of the global desalination, according to a report released by SWCC.

Highlighting the importance of going sustainable, Al-Abdul-Karim revealed that the water desalination industry in the Kingdom is planning to reduce its carbon emissions by 65 percent by 2024, equaling 35 million tons of carbon dioxide.

“It is a big number. It’s a big movement. And this is because the country has a plan for the future both environmentally and economically,” said Al-Abdul-Karim.

The company is also moving from conventional energy sources toward advanced and efficient systems to power these desalination plants.




SWCC Gov. Abdullah Al-Abdul-Karim

“We will replace all our thermal technology with the latest reverse osmosis technology, which will fuel our plan to become carbon neutral by 2060,” he added.

During the interview, Al-Abdul-Karim added that innovation is necessary to make water “affordable, abundant, and accessible.”

“For seawater desalination, we need to let innovation impact this industry. We should have the most innovative idea to reduce the cost, increase efficiency, improve financial sustainability, and impact the economy and living standards,” he said.

He added that innovative companies worldwide could come and join hands with Saudi Arabia in the desalination industry.

“There are many innovative houses worldwide. So we are here to tell you that we are a good partner in this journey. And we are ready to have a handshake with all the companies which believe innovation is their business,” said Al-Abdul-Karim.


Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
  • More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise

CAIRO: Saudi banks shut down 42 branches over the year ending in June, revealed the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

The number of bank branches in Saudi Arabia also inched lower to 1,927 in the second quarter this year from 1,932 in the same quarter last year.

So, what are the reasons behind this decreased number of bank branches, and when did this trend begin?

The most common assumption would be the COVID-19 pandemic and its prolonged effect on the entire economy, including the financial and banking sectors.

Between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2021, which includes the peak of the pandemic, 68 branches were closed. 

Also, bank branches continued to decrease quarterly long after lifting COVID-19 restrictions, albeit there was no clear trend.

Between May 2020 and June this year, 137 bank branches in the Kingdom shut shop.

It is worth mentioning that branches that have closed are not second-tier or underperforming banks but some of the largest and well-performing ones. For instance, Al Rajhi Bank, which had 543 branches in the fourth quarter of 2020, reduced it to 515 by June this year.

While COVID-19 sparked the digital revolution, advanced and innovative technologies did the job.

The past three years of the pandemic slowly began the transformation toward digital banking, which can be seen closely in the Saudi banking sector.

More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise.

Last February, SAMA licensed and welcomed the Kingdom’s third digital bank D360 Bank, following the launch of STC and Saudi Digital Bank in June last year.

Similarly, according to SAMA, 19 Saudi fintech companies have been authorized to provide payment services, consumer microfinance and electronic insurance brokerage over the past few months.

So, what does the future of digital banking in the Kingdom hold and will the population accept this digital revolution?

In a survey conducted by Ipsos in the Kingdom in October 2021, the research major pointed out that 61 percent still trust traditional banks, while 47 percent counted on mobile service providers and 40 percent depended on popular digital brands to carry out financial transactions.

The report added: “63 percent said that they will be making all their financial transactions through digital banking in the future, and 58 percent believe that people would no longer use cash as a payment method.”


Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
Updated 15 August 2022

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
  • The daily A380 flights will replace a Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats per flight
  • The announcement comes as the airline celebrates 20 years of flying to the city in Western Australia

LONDON: Emirates announced that it will reintroduce its flagship Airbus A380 on daily flights between Dubai and Perth from Dec. 1, as it ramps up its services to Australia in response to growing demand.

The A380 service to the city in Western Australia will replace the airline’s current daily Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats on each flight.

Flight EK420 from Dubai will depart at 2:45 a.m. and arrive in Perth at 5.20 p.m. the same day, while flight EK421 will take off from Perth at 10:20 p.m. and land in Dubai at 5:25 a.m. the following day.

Nearly 6 million passengers have flown with Emirates between Perth and Dubai since its inaugural flight between the cities in August 2002, according to the airline, on more more than 24,000 flights traveling more than 220 million kilometers.

The airline said there has been a significant increase in passenger bookings to and from Australia of late, with significant demand across all cabins, in particular since the introduction on Aug. 1 of a Premium Economy service on one of its daily Sydney services.

It comes as Emirates celebrates 20 years of flying to Perth. During this time, Emirates said it has also been a long-standing supporter of arts, culture and sporting institutions in Western Australia, investing in a variety of initiatives.

The airline added that Emirates SkyCargo, its cargo division, has also been a significant contributor to the local economy, carrying exports of Australian fruit and vegetables, meat and mining equipment to destinations throughout the airline’s global route network, including the Middle East, Europe and beyond.


Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October
Updated 15 August 2022

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

LONDON: Heathrow airport said on Monday it was extending its capacity limit through most of October to reduce the chaos caused by a post-pandemic surge in passengers amid a lack of staff.

Europe’s largest airport introduced a cap of 100,000 departing passengers per day in July, which was originally slated to have expired at the end of September.

“Since the cap was introduced, passenger journeys have improved with fewer last-minute cancelations, better punctuality and shorter wait times for bags,” said Heathrow.

It said the extension through Oct. 29 “will provide passengers with confidence ahead of their half-term getaways.”

Airlines scheduled thousands of flights in Europe this summer season to capture a boom in travel demand following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

But having cut back staff drastically during the pandemic, both airlines and airports found it difficult to hire enough employees.

This led to long waits to check-in, clear security and collect bags in many airports across Europe, as well as to cancelations of flights due to lack of crew.

The Heathrow cap was set at roughly 4,000 passengers per day fewer than scheduled flight capacity.

Airlines have canceled flights in response to the cap, as well as in recognition of their staffing levels.

Heathrow said it was regularly reviewing the situation and would remove the cap early if it sees an improvement.

“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve,” Heathrow Chief Commercial Officer Ross Baker said.

Amsterdam and Frankfurt airports have also instituted caps.


Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8 percent in 2021 as compared to the previous year, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

The agricultural output during the period was valued at SR72.25 billion ($19.23 billion) — the highest in more than five years — as compared to SR67.05 billion in the previous year.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture attributed this growth to its strategies implemented in line with Vision 2030. In addition to that recovery from the coronavirus disease pandemic also helped the sector’s growth, the ministry added.

The Kingdom’s agriculture output in 2017 was estimated at SR65.29 billion, around SR65.49 billion in 2018, and SR66.20 billion in 2019.

It recorded around SR67.05 billion in 2020, noting that the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product in general amounted to 2.3 percent last year, while the contribution of agricultural output to non-oil GDP was 3.6 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent compared to 2020.

The ministry highlighted that the Kingdom’s balance of trade achieved a surplus of SR462.5 billion, an increase from the year 2020, which recorded SR134.5 billion, due to increased exports during 2021. The agricultural exports amounted to SR13.16 billion.


PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion
Updated 15 August 2022

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Cain International have invested $900 million in Aman Group to help accelerate the global expansion of the hospitality and lifestyle brand management company.

The investment will be used to enhance the existing portfolio, drive the construction of the pipeline of Aman and Janu destinations, as well as support the acquisition and development of additional sites, according to a statement issued on Monday. 

Following the new funding, the company is now valued at over $3billion.

Aman is a renowned collection of 34 hotels across 20 countries, 12 of which include Aman Branded Residences, with nine further hotels and residences projects under construction and a committed pipeline of additional destinations in countries including USA, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and European destinations, among others. 

Vlad Doronin, owner, chairman and CEO of Aman Group, said: “The investment from PIF and Cain International is a vote of confidence in my vision and the work the team has done over the last eight years, cementing the brand’s evolution and ability to deliver this vision at pace.”

Commenting on the investment, Turqi Al-Nowaiser, deputy governor and head of International Investments Division at PIF, said: “The investment is in line with PIF’s strategy to invest in promising sectors to achieve sustainable, attractive returns in Saudi Arabia and globally.”

“We are excited to be investing in this phenomenal brand and look forward to building upon our longstanding partnership with Vlad and his team,” said Jonathan Goldstein, CEO and co- founder of Cain International.