US recession not ‘inevitable,’ Treasury secretary says

US recession not ‘inevitable,’ Treasury secretary says
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Updated 19 June 2022

US recession not ‘inevitable,’ Treasury secretary says

US recession not ‘inevitable,’ Treasury secretary says

A recession in the United States is not “inevitable,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday, just days after the US Federal Reserve hiked interest rates, raising fears of an economic contraction.

“I expect the economy to slow” as it transitions to stable growth, she said on ABC’s “This Week,” but “I don’t think a recession is at all inevitable.”

The US economy has recovered strongly from the damage wrought by Covid-19, but soaring inflation and supply-chain snarls exacerbated by the war in Ukraine have increased pessimism.

Wall Street stocks tumbled after the US central bank on Wednesday raised the benchmark borrowing rate by 0.75 percentage points, the sharpest rise in nearly 30 years.

And economists see worrying signs that consumer confidence is weakening, with people beginning to hold off on vacation plans, dining out or doing home repairs.

Yellen conceded that “clearly inflation is unacceptably high,” attributing it partly to the war in Ukraine, which has pushed up energy and food prices.

But she said she did not believe that “a dropoff in consumer spending is the likely cause of a recession.”

Yellen argued that the US labor market is “arguably the strongest of the postwar period” and she predicted that the pace of inflation would slow in coming months.

She acknowledged, however, that as Fed chair Jerome Powell works to control inflation while preserving labor-market strength, “That’s going to take skill and luck.”

Soaring gas prices — at some $5 a gallon, they have roughly doubled in a few years — are a pressing concern for many Americans.

Asked about proposals for a temporary suspension in federal gas taxes, Yellen expressed openness.

US President Joe Biden “wants to do anything he possibly can to help consumers,” she said. “And that’s an idea that’s certainly worth considering.”

As to whether Biden might move further to lower consumer prices by lifting tariffs on Chinese goods, Yellen demurred.

Reworking the Donald Trump-era tariffs “is something that’s under consideration,” she said.

“I don’t want to get ahead of where the policy process is.”

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also added that some tariffs on China inherited from the administration of former President Donald Trump served “no strategic purpose” and added that President Joe Biden was reviewing them as a way to bring down inflation.

Another Biden administration official, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, added that the president was also evaluating a pause on federal gas tax as an option to bring down prices.

The comments from the officials on Sunday come as the Biden administration struggles to tackle inflation and record high gasoline prices.

“President Biden is reviewing tariff policy toward China,” Yellen said in an interview on Sunday with ABC News.

“We all recognize that China engages in a range of unfair trade practices that is important to address but the tariffs we inherited, some serve no strategic purpose and raise cost to consumers,” she added. She did not list any specific tariffs and declined to say when the Biden administration may make a decision.

Biden has said he is considering removing some of the tariffs imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods by his predecessor in 2018 and 2019 amid a bitter trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Granholm told CNN that a pause on federal gas tax was “not off the table.”

 


Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan

Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan

Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has announced that it has secured a new $17 billion seven-year senior unsecured term loan, according to a statement.

The loan is the largest-of-its-kind general corporate purpose loan worldwide and was twice oversubscribed.

The new loan falls in line with the sovereign wealth fund’s strategy of diversifying its funding sources in an attempt to prompt effective investment in the Kingdom and globally.

The new loan also aligns well with the PIF’s medium-term capital raising strategy as well as its 2022 Annual Capital Raising Plan.

“It is a significant achievement for PIF, raising a record-sized term facility in the longest tenor ever for a loan of its size that is subscribed to by an unprecedentedly diversified number of lenders. PIF will continue to explore a variety of debt funding sources as it delivers on its strategic objectives,” said Head of Global Capital Finance Division at PIF Fahad AlSaif in a statement.

The PIF’s $11 billion five-year loan which was arranged back in 2018 is set to be repaid early, the statement disclosed.

While the new transaction recorded the support of 25 financial institutions across Europe, America, the Middle East, and Asia, the $11 billion loan of 2018 was supported by just 15 financial institutions.

In February 2022, the PIF received strong international credit ratings from US credit firm Moody’s as well as US finance and insurance company Fitch, reflecting the creditworthiness and quality of the sovereign wealth fund’s investments.


Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official

Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official
Updated 11 min 26 sec ago

Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official

Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official

RIYADH: The aviation sector in Saudi Arabia is pushing toward a sustainable model by building infrastructure for the future to deliver a seamless passenger experience, according to Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the Kingdom's General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Picking up the threads from the universal pandemic that marred the airline industry, the sector is bolstering the infrastructure by addressing core issues such as staff shortage, health mandates and climate change concerns. 

Fresh from the pandemic, the industry had to endure a hiring process that took almost 16 weeks from recruiting a skilled worker to finally deploying him or her to the job, leading to a clogged supply of staff members in the airports. The situation, however, is fast changing. 

“We tried to support the airports by accelerating the training, certification and security clearance of the ground handlers and other players of the ecosystem through digitization programs that have minimized the process,” said Al-Duailej, while speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh. 

The aviation authority last month also submitted the ‘Harmonizing Air Travel' policy guidelines to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization Council for its approval, encouraging the use of a unified health document that could alleviate traveler concerns that global travelers encountered during the universal pandemic. 

There is also a concerted effort in the Saudi aviation sector to cut the dwell time or time passengers spend in the airport before boarding their flights. 

NEOM Airport, for instance, is working toward developing a high-speed “green” rail system that will transfer air travelers to the city without the need of even finding a parked vehicle, meaning there will be no parking at the NEOM airport. 

“Instead of focusing necessarily on the airport and being a destination, we want to facilitate getting you into the city as fast as we can,” said John Selden, CEO of NEOM Airport. 

The airport is also considering using electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or EVTOL, to expedite the mobility of incoming passengers. 

“The last two years were incredibly tough for the industry. The check-in process, which usually takes five minutes, took 20 minutes per passenger. We need to find a way to put all the passenger touchpoints together to make travel seamless,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director-general of the Airports Council International, while speaking at the event. 

Airports are also toying with the idea of running the infrastructure to support sustainability, which includes 100 percent green or battery-powered equipment throughout the airport expanse. 

“We need to have systems where passengers don’t leave gates, and we don’t burn fuel on taxiways until we are ready for take-off. We don’t need a queue at the end of the runway,” said Pagano while sharing his vision of a green hydrogen-fueled ecosystem that will power the airports of the future. 


Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister

Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister
Updated 18 min 15 sec ago

Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister

Two new natural gas fields discovered in Saudi Arabia: Energy minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced the discovery of two new natural gas fields in the Kingdom.

The “Awtad” unconventional natural gas field was discovered southwest of the Ghawar field, 142 kilometers southwest of the city of Hofuf, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The “Al-Dahna” unconventional natural gas field is located 230 kilometers southwest of the city of Dhahran.

Both fields were discovered by Saudi Aramco.

Prince Abdulaziz said that the importance of these discoveries lies in increasing Saudi Arabia’s natural gas reserves, which would in turn support the Kingdom’s strategies and help realize the objectives of the Liquid Fuel Displacement Program.

The Minister of Energy added that the discoveries underline the wealth of natural resources the Kingdom has at its disposal.


Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official
Updated 30 November 2022

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

RIYADH: The travel and tourism sector should look to Uber to learn how to diversify, according to the Global Managing Director of IBM’s Travel and Transportation Industry Dee Waddell.

Speaking at a panel during the second day of the World Travel & Tourism Council Global 2022 summit taking place in Riyadh, Waddell said the industry has an opportunity to take a platform approach, in the same manner as the US-based ride-hailing app.

“Uber has started to launch out beyond just the traditional taxi, they've gone to scooters, they've gone to electric scooters, and vertical takeoff device equipment, so you're seeing that they're taking a platform approach into expanding out like Amazon did,” Waddell said.

When it comes to the cities of tomorrow in Saudi Arabia and worldwide, the primary driver revolving around the use of technology will tackle how to leverage the infrastructure and use these technologies to be able to further develop experiences within the cities, he added.

What makes a city great is its cultural identity and shared humanity, according to President and CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority Jerry Inzerillo, who was also speaking during the same panel.

“All the great cities of the world have one thing in common and that is the celebration that we may not share the same ideology, but we share the same biology,” Inzerillo said.

Moreover, designing with purpose is key to a fruitful city as it is not only about building buildings vertically and making sure that the box fits, said Global CEO of JLL Hotels and Hospitality Gilda Perez-Alvarado during the panel discussion.

Integrating nature within those cities is vital, since this allows for interaction, connectivity, and collaboration and allows for simple activities for residents such as going for a walk in the fresh air, she revealed.

“Let’s design with purpose. It’s not just about efficiency, as efficiency can be very wasteful in the long run,” Perez-Alvarado said.

In addition to designing with purpose, it’s important to keep an eye on transportation since it is a basic infrastructure that can make or break a city, she added, saying that some European cities provide free transportation making them more efficient and more environmentally-conscious.

When developing cities of tomorrow, it is vital for cities around the world to share a clear and concise narrative of why somebody should come to your city and that unlocks in terms of experiences and opportunities, the Managing Director of Tourism for Western Australia Carolyn Turnbull said during the panel discussion.

“The vision that exists here in Riyadh has been extraordinary. I came to this event with a clear vision for Western Australia but I’m going home to ensure that we are thinking as big as Riyadh is,” Turnbull added.


Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global
Updated 30 November 2022

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s banking sector will not be able to fund all of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 projects, according to a report which said more private investment is needed.

The analysis by S&P Global says Saudi Arabia’s investment needs are “significant”, and capital markets will play a “key role” in funding not just private sector investments but also giga-projects such as NEOM, the IPO for which is expected in 2024.

Quantifying the exact funding amount needed for Saudi Arabia’s ambitious growth plans is “not easy” according to the report, with the Kingdom aiming to raise the private sector’s contribution to gross domestic product from 40 percent to 65 percent, and increase non-oil exports share of GDP from 16 percent to 50 percent.

Taken alongside the boom in oil prices, S&P Global says Saudi Arabia is set to become one of the world's fastest-growing large economies in 2022, real GDP growth in excess of 7.0 percent this year, and a return to fiscal surpluses at 6.3 percent of GDP in 2022 and 3.5 percent in 2023.

The report said: “Saudi banks have contributed significantly to a key Vision 2030 objective — increasing home ownership to 70 percent by 2030 (60 percent in 2020). 

“Mortgage lending has been the main engine of growth for Saudi banks over the last few years, with total mortgages hitting SR503.2 billion ($133.85 billion) as of June 30, 2022, compared with SR140.3 billion at Dec. 31, 2018.

“ As the market matures and interest rates continue to rise, origination will likely lose momentum in the next 12-24 months. 

“However, as contracts for Vision 2030 projects are awarded, corporate credit lending should start to contribute more meaningfully to banks' lending growth.”

S&P Ratings said that even as Saudi firms set out ambitious capital spending goals in the next five years, the firm would not necessarily reassess its ratings of these businesses “given their healthy balance sheets and strong liquidity.”

“Over time, however, we will reassess our ratings as projects are executed because any rating upside would hinge on business trends improving, sustainable EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) growth, or stronger leverage metrics,” said the report.

The report went on to state that Saudi Arabia had fared better against the wave of inflation sweeping the globe than other countries, with the riyal being pegged to the dollar helping to play down unpredictability.

“We forecast inflation at 2.5 percent in 2022, before rising to 2.7 percent in 2023 and averaging 1.9 percent in 2024-2025,” said the report, adding: “We expect interest rate hikes to affect the private and general household sectors more than government-related activities given expected high but tapering oil prices.”