RIYADH: The first quarter of 2022 proved to be the best quarters for banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council as they raked in $10.9 billion in aggregate profits, a Kamco Invest report showed.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman saw their banks post double-digit profit growth in the first quarter of 2022, while Kuwaiti banks’ profits grew slightly lower at 0.9 percent.
Kamco Invest said improved results were backed by solid economic growth, recovery in post-pandemic demand amid rising oil prices.
According to the report, banks in the region recorded a drop of 39.6 percent in cost-to-income ratio compared to the previous quarter, led by a steep drop in operating expenses.
In addition to a 21.4 percent year-on-year decline in loan loss provisions to $2.9 billion, lending activity remained robust as banks listed in Saudi Arabia and the UAE helped push the aggregate gross loans of the region by 10 percent to $1.8 trillion.
Expo City Dubai officially opens, aims to bring back Expo 2020 Dubai visitors
Award-winning Saudi Arabia and the UAE pavilions to re-open later in October
Opening of other country pavilions will be announced soon
Updated 01 October 2022
DUBAI: One year after Expo 2020 Dubai debuted to the world, the global fair’s legacy site has again opened its doors to the public on Saturday hoping to attract the multitude of visitors that flocked to the six-month event described as the greatest show on earth.
Speaking to Arab News, Ahmed Al-Khatib, chief development and delivery officer of Expo City Dubai, said the legacy site, which retained 80 percent of the Expo infrastructure, will be beyond a touristic destination or a UAE community favorite.
While carrying forward Expo 2020 world fair’s energy and excitement, Expo City Dubai also aims to be a dynamic, futuristic city, which is home to tech-driven businesses and entertainment offerings, Al-Khatib added.
Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Expo to be hosted by Arab nation, welcomed over 24 million visitors. Expo City Dubai will feature an array of entertainment facilities, pavilions and restaurants when its development plans have been completed by 2023.
“The comprehensive city will drive innovation and action on its journey to net zero, cultivating a sense of personal agency among both tenants and visitors,” Al-Khatib told Arab News.
Expo City Dubai will be home to major businesses including Siemens, DP World and Terminus, he said.
Business tenants, who will start moving in stages this month, are being selected with a focus on areas such as sustainability, innovation, technology, education and healthcare, Al-Khatib explained.
Al-Khatib added that Expo City Dubai will also be the new go-to destination for business and globally significant events, including the much-anticipated 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28).
The city, he added, is unique for its open and public spaces where people can freely walk or bike, thus “presenting a smarter, more balanced, resilient, and sustainable way of life.”
It features 10 kilometers of cycling tracks, a 5km running track and 45,000-square meters of parks and gardens.
Meanwhile, a rich cultural and entertainment program will carry the spirit of the World Expo, celebrating imagination and ingenuity.
Unique visitor experience
Visitors to Expo City Dubai can now experience two re-opened pavilions – Vision Pavilion and the Women’s pavilion – besides the two major Mobility (Alif) and Sustainability (Terra) pavilions that re-launched earlier in September.
Al-Wasl Dome, an Expo 2020 favorite, is also returning with free immersive projections five days a week, from Wednesday to Sunday, after sunset.
Other free-of-charge open-air facilities are the water feature, as well as children’s playgrounds and the carousel.
The Garden in the Sky, a 55-meter-high rotating observation tower that offers 360-degree views, has been reopened earlier with tickets priced at around $8 per adult.
The award-winning Saudi Arabia and the falcon-inspired UAE pavilion are to re-open later this month, with other country pavilions set to open “soon”, according to the Expo team.
Visitors can access all the flagship pavilions, including ones that will open in the future, with a $31 (AED 120) one-day Attractions Pass. Otherwise, individual pavilion tickets will cost $14 (AED 50) per person, with free-of-charge entry for children aged 12 and under, and people with disabilities.
Later this year, the Opportunity Pavilion will become the Expo 2020 Dubai Museum — a new feature highlighting the history and impact of World Expos and celebrating the success of Expo 2020 Dubai.
From a dining perspective, Expo City Dubai now hosts five food trucks and three restaurants.
“We will continue to expand our dining options to suit all tastes, with more restaurants opening in the near future,” Al-Khatib told Arab News.
Gasoline price to shape EV demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC
KSA has implemented energy price reforms to unlock economic and environmental benefits for the country
Updated 01 October 2022
RIYADH: Growing gasoline prices will play a significant role in increasing the demand for electric vehicles in the Kingdom, according to Anwar Gasim, a King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center researcher.
“The higher the domestic gasoline price, the more a consumer may be incentivized to switch to an electric vehicle,” he told Arab News.
According to Gasim, gasoline prices in the Kingdom seven years ago were a quarter of today’s prices.
“If you look at the 91-octane gasoline, it was SR0.45 ($0.12) per liter. Today, it’s SR2.18,” Gasim said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
Since 2016, the Kingdom has implemented energy price reforms to unlock economic and environmental benefits for the country.
“Since gasoline prices ended up getting linked with the international price, the government had to put a cap on them when international prices went up very high last year,” said Gasim.
It means there is a limit that domestic gasoline prices will not surpass, no matter how high energy prices may hike internationally.
“I think it was becoming too high for people here, and then the government decided to put a cap,” he said.
According to Gasim, raising domestic energy prices can contribute to the Kingdom’s climate goals.
Saudi Arabia aims to reduce emissions and increase the share of renewables to 50 percent by 2030.
“Higher energy prices can incentivize more efficient behavior, more energy conservation, and therefore it can help save energy and reduce emissions,” he added.
KAPSARC was a part of the regulatory team led by the Ministry of Energy, which on Aug. 22 issued the completion of all legislative and technical aspects to regulate the EV charging market.
These stations will more likely charge the vehicles using the national grid. Still, there are possibilities that off-grid stations will be a requirement.
Some neighborhood distribution networks can no longer accommodate any additional load. They have reached the peak of the transformer capacity.
The only option is using off-grid solutions; renewable sources like solar and hydrogen can supply these off-grids.
Electromin, a wholly owned e-mobility turnkey solutions provider under Petromin, in May announced the rollout of electric vehicle charging points across the Kingdom.
In an earlier interview with Arab News, Kalyana Sivagnanam, the group CEO of Petromin, said that the network includes 100 locations across the Kingdom powered by a customer-centric mobile application.
Sivagnanam said that the company would set up most of its charging stations in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam and eventually branch out across the country.
Electromin’s charging network will offer a complete spectrum of services from AC chargers to DC fast and ultrafast chargers, catering to all customer segments.
The imports of EV charging equipment were permitted in the Kingdom in 2020.
As part of the Kingdom’s sustainability strategy, the Royal Commission of Riyadh launched an initiative last year to ensure that 30 percent of all vehicles in the capital would be powered by electricity by 2030.
Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP
Updated 30 September 2022
Fahad Abuljadayel Nour El-Shaeri
RIYADH: Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, is aiming to integrate voice recognition technology and augmented reality to its services, the company announced during the second edition of the Global AI Summit held in Riyadh.
Saudia has signed an agreement, aimed at boosting artificial intelligence in the flight sector, with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority and the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence. Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the summit, Dr. Khaled Alhazmi, vice president of IT support and operations at Saudia, said that the agreement is the first step in introducing AI products to the airline’s services.
Alhazmi explained that the company is currently exploring voice recognition technology through one of SDAIA’s products, an app called SauTech.
“It is an amazing app; it currently gives accurate results for the recognition of the dialects of the Arabic language. And right now, we are trying to explore opportunities and use cases, to start implementing it in our services,” he said.
The company is also planning to adopt Internet of Things technology as well as augmented reality to ensure that they are first movers to implement AI into their services.
“Our strategic direction is to build an ecosystem of partners who would enable us to digitize our services to our customers. We are aiming to deliver a first-class experience to our customers,” he added.
Alhazmi believes that the digitalization factor currently in use at the airline such as downloading tickets to personal devices can be greatly expanded on, and that there are huge opportunities to integrate technology into the sector.
“We are digitizing everything under a program, which is adapting the digital first. Right now we believe that we need to put in use all the data science, all the technologies nowadays, and put them into the hands of the customer,” he said. The company wants to improve its self-service options by providing a personalized platform that will enable users to customize their journey according to their needs.
“That’s actually the main goal because we understand right now that we have a new generation of people who are more interested in technology, they are using technology every day,” he added.
Saudia has also recently partnered with agritech company Red Sea Farms to provide sustainable and high-quality meals for its customers.
“We can see that the adoption of technology in Saudi Arabia in general is getting more mature than other countries,” Alhazmi concluded.
Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24bn in 2022
Total revenues expected to reach about SR1.12 trillion in 2023
Updated 01 October 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is expecting its budget surplus in 2022 to hit SR90 billion ($24 billion), and another SR9 billion next year, the Ministry of Finance announced on Friday.
Looking at the full year 2022 projections, real GDP is expected to grow by 8 percent, while the inflation in 2022 may record about 2.6 percent.
Looking at the next year’s projections, Saudi total revenues are expected to reach about SR1.12 trillion in 2023, while reaching about 1.21 trillion in 2025, according to the Ministry of Finance's preliminary statement of the state's general budget for the year 2023.
Total expenditures are expected to reach about SR1.11 trillion in the next fiscal year 2023, and that the expenditure ceiling will reach about SR1.13 trillion in 2025.
The objectives of the state's general budget for the fiscal year 2023 come as a continuation of the process of work to strengthen and develop the financial position of the Kingdom, the finance minister said.
“The government attaches great importance to enhancing the support and social protection system and accelerating the pace of strategic spending on Vision programs and major projects to support economic growth,” Mohammed Al-Jadaan said.
The Kingdom’s economy has demonstrated its strength and durability by achieving high growth rates, after taking many policies and measures with the aim of protecting the economy from the repercussions of inflation and supply chain challenges, he added.