Saudi starts phase 2 land program to increase housing supply in its metropolis 

Saudi starts phase 2 land program to increase housing supply in its metropolis 
The Idle Land Program aims to increase home ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent by 2030. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 22 June 2022

Saudi starts phase 2 land program to increase housing supply in its metropolis 

Saudi starts phase 2 land program to increase housing supply in its metropolis 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has started the second phase of its  Idle Lands Program in the metropolis of Makkah, Jeddah and Dammam metropolises to increase housing supply in the market, Chief Idle Lands Program Officer Abdulhamid Al Hammad told Alarabiya.

This phase, which will also expand its scope in Makkah, focuses on lands within neighborhoods of 10,000 meters or more, or 10,000 meters in total.

This was based on economic and real estate studies related to increasing the real estate supply to reduce the gap in demand, he added.

The Idle Land Program aims to increase home ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent by 2030 by developing infrastructure for housing.

The program seeks to encourage landowners to develop their properties and pump more real estate supply into the market rather than imposing fees, according to Al Hammad.


ACWA Power approves payout of $150m annual dividends for 2021

ACWA Power approves payout of $150m annual dividends for 2021
Updated 3 min 26 sec ago

ACWA Power approves payout of $150m annual dividends for 2021

ACWA Power approves payout of $150m annual dividends for 2021

RIYADH: Saudi Public Investment Fund-owned ACWA Power Co. announced that its shareholders have approved a dividend payout of SR563 million ($150 million) for 2021.

Shareholders will receive SR0.77 per share, representing 7.7 percent of the nominal value per share, according to the company’s bourse filing.

The distribution of dividends begins as of July 21, the company added.


Oil Updates — Crude up; Petroecuador loses 1.99m barrels of oil output during protests; Nigeria lost $1bn due to crude oil theft

Oil Updates — Crude up; Petroecuador loses 1.99m barrels of oil output during protests; Nigeria lost $1bn due to crude oil theft
Updated 17 min 32 sec ago

Oil Updates — Crude up; Petroecuador loses 1.99m barrels of oil output during protests; Nigeria lost $1bn due to crude oil theft

Oil Updates — Crude up; Petroecuador loses 1.99m barrels of oil output during protests; Nigeria lost $1bn due to crude oil theft

RIYADH: Oil prices gained more than 2 percent on Friday as supply outages in Libya and expected shutdowns in Norway outweighed expectations that an economic slowdown could dent demand.

Brent crude futures settled at $111.63 a barrel, rising $2.60, or 2.4 percent. West Texas Intermediate crude settled at $108.43 a barrel, gaining $2.67, or 2.5 percent.

WTI and Brent traded at about 70 percent and 77 percent, respectively, of the previous session’s volumes ahead of the US Fourth of July holiday.

For the week, Brent lost 1.3 percent, while WTI rose 0.8 percent. For June, both benchmarks had ended the month lower for the first time since November.

Petroecuador lost 1.99 million barrels of oil output 

More than two weeks of protests in Ecuador caused state-run oil company Petroecuador to lose 1.99 million barrels of oil production, the company said on Friday, adding that it expects to reach 90 percent of pre-crisis output in the next week.

Protests erupted in Ecuador in June to demand lower fuel prices and limits to the expansion of the mining and oil industries, leading to at least eight deaths and devastating oil production. A pact to end the crisis was signed on Thursday between the government of President Guillermo Lasso and indigenous leaders.

The incident cost the company some $512.9 million, more than half of which came from lost production, while missed exports of Oriente crude — which were declared under force majeure earlier this week — cost it some $110 million.

“We found facilities destroyed, vandalized,” said Petroecuador’s manager, Italo Cedeño, at a news conference.

The company said it recovered 19,000 barrels per day of output since the protests ended on Thursday, while its Esmeraldas refinery was working at 70 percent capacity on Friday.

Nigeria lost $1 billion in Q1 revenue due to crude oil theft

Nigeria lost $1 billion in revenue during the first quarter of this year due to crude oil theft, the petroleum regulator said on Friday, warning the practice was a threat to the economy of Africa’s top producer.

Gbenga Komolafe, the head of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, said of the 141 million barrels of oil produced in the first quarter of 2022, only about 132 million barrels of oil were received at export terminals.

“This indicates that over nine million barrels of oil were lost to crude oil theft. This amounts to a loss in government revenue of about $1 billion in just one quarter,” Komolafe said in a statement.

“This trend poses an existential threat to the oil and gas sector and by extension, the Nigerian economy if not curbed,” he added. 

Crude oil theft has increased to a daily average of 108,000 barrels in the first quarter of 2022 from 103,000 barrels in 2021, Komolafe said.

(With inputs from Reuters) 

 


Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns

Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns
Updated 03 July 2022

Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns

Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns
  • Inflation is running above 60 percent and the peso currency is under growing pressure

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s economy minister Martin Guzman resigned on Saturday, a blow to a government beset by mounting economic crises.
Guzman, who led Argentina’s debt restructuring deal with the International Monetary Fund and creditors, posted a letter to his Twitter account announcing his decision.
“I write to you to present my resignation as economy minister,” Guzman said in a letter addressed to President Alberto Fernandez. He had been minister since late 2019.
The government is facing its lowest approval rating since taking office in 2019. Inflation is running above 60 percent and the peso currency is under growing pressure. Sovereign bonds have plummeted.
The resignation leaves the ministry leaderless just as Guzman was expected to travel to Europe to negotiate a $2 billion debt deal with the Paris Club of sovereign lenders.
Investors are skeptical about the economy and infighting in the governing coalition between moderates like Guzman and a more militant wing including Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Mariel Fornoni, director of the Management and Fit consultancy, said the resignation of a key ally was a reflection of President Fernandez’s loss of power since a painful midterm election defeat last year.
“It is the chronicle of a death foretold. Ever since the loss in last year’s legislative election,” she said, adding that a militant wing around the powerful vice president had been pushing to oust Guzman.
“(The president) has lost another piece of his board, perhaps the most important, and is increasingly alone,” Fornoni said.
Guzman tellingly posted his resignation letter while Fernandez de Kirchner was giving a speech commemorating iconic former Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron.
Guzman said “there should be a political agreement within the governing coalition” to choose his successor.
The president’s office said that it did not yet know when a replacement for Guzman would be announced.
A government source who asked to remain anonymous told Reuters that Guzman’s exit was due to what he felt was a lack of political support for his agenda.
Miguel Kiguel, former secretary of finance in Argentina, told Reuters that whoever takes over will have a tough time, noting that inflation could hit 80 percent this year and there is a gap of nearly 100 percent between official and parallel currency exchange rates.
“We don’t know who’s coming, but this will be a very hot potato,” Kiguel said. “Whoever comes is going to have a very complicated time.”


Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement

Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement
Updated 02 July 2022

Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement

Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement
  • Realty major Damac has invested up to AED367 million to develop and monetize a metaverse

DUBAI: Top Dubai-based companies are racing against time to build metaverse or immersive virtual worlds to bolster their sales prospects and disrupt customer experiences in their respective industries.

Realty major Damac has invested up to AED367 million ($100 million) to develop and monetize a metaverse that could allow potential customers to check into their luxury properties virtually, choose an apartment, explore furniture options and toy with the paraphernalia on offer.

Called D-Labs, the metaverse platform will create digital replicas of their top projects, including Damac Hills, Damac Lagoons, Safa by De Grisogono, and Cavalli Tower in Dubai. It will also host other notable projects such as Damac Tower Nine Elms in London and the upcoming Cavalli Residences in Miami.

So, how does this work? First, a potential customer in any part of the world can meet up with the sales agent of Damac Properties inside the metaverse instead of connecting over a Zoom call. Then, inside the metaverse, the prospect can tour the apartment and pay for the unit during the checkout.

“We sell around AED100 million monthly over Zoom calls without any immersive technology. With the metaverse, we can sell AED700-800 million a month to any customers in California, New York or Miami,” Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac and CEO of D-Labs, told Arab News.

The company, which has been annually clocking a business of $5 billion in real estate, expects to rake in $6.5 billion a year using the metaverse, added Sajwani.

We sell around AED100 million monthly over Zoom calls without any immersive technology. With the metaverse, we can sell AED700-800 million a month to any customers in California, New York or Miami.

Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac

Potential to disrupt

Metaverse owes much of its success to its disruptive nature that displaces traditional ways of looking at a category and creates a new business model. Gone are the days when real estate buyers would close deals based on brochures and project plans.

Instead, they are not only engaging in real-time with the property, but they now have the option to shop for things during their virtual tours. In the case of D-Labs, customers could also pick a host of non-fungible tokens or scarce digital objects on offer and sell them for a better price on a future date. The company, for instance, will soon be offering a variety of NFTs, including digital wearables and jewelry.

“The idea is you own your real estate and virtual assets. As part of our De Grisogono relaunch, we will also be offering digital jewelry. However, the goal is to convert that customer into an owner of real assets, not just digital ones,” Sajwani said.

According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., more than $120 billion have been globally invested in building metaverse technology and infrastructure in the first five months of 2022. That’s more than double the $57 billion invested in 2021.

The company recently surveyed more than 3,400 consumers worldwide and found two-thirds are excited about transitioning everyday activities to the metaverse, especially when it comes to connecting with people, exploring virtual worlds, and collaborating with remote colleagues.

“Our bottom-up view of consumer and enterprise use cases suggests it (metaverse) could generate up to $5 trillion in impact by 2030,” said Eric Hazan, senior partner of McKinsey in the study.

Strategy in motion

To make this groundbreaking concept a reality, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum recently announced the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to increase the contribution of the metaverse sector to the emirate’s economy to $4 billion by 2030.

Given the government’s proactive role, companies are now looking at ways to develop metaverse platforms that could launch pilot activities, study consumer behavior, learn from the real-time interactions and nurture the business model.

Emirates Airline, another early adopter of the metaverse, also announced that it would soon offer a slice of immersive technology, where the customer could virtually relish the travel experience aboard the premium airline.

“These projects will allow customers to transform their entire processes, whether it’s a business operation, training, or sales force, into an interactive experience in the metaverse,” said Emirates Chief Operating Officer Adel Ahmed Al-Redha during a press roundtable.

These projects will allow customers to transform their entire processes, whether it’s a business operation, training, or sales force, into an interactive experience in the metaverse.

Adel Ahmed Al-Redha, Emirates chief operating officer

As part of its metaverse offerings, the customer can tour the aircraft and experience economy, business, and first class, besides selecting their seats and the food and beverage of their choice.

“The customers can also tour the airport, do their duty-free shopping and buy their items while sitting at home, which can be delivered to them at home or in the aircraft,” he added.

It wasn’t a new idea for Emirates to digitize. Still, they did not have the technology to do so and are currently cooperating with different technology companies “to ensure we get the right thing,” Al-Redha said.

Al-Redha is among the league of forward-looking business executives reaping the fruits of the first-mover advantage. It will be interesting to see how they use this fresh produce technology to disrupt their business models and create newer avatars of consumer engagement.


Exxon signals operating profits could double over Q1

Exxon signals operating profits could double over Q1
Updated 02 July 2022

Exxon signals operating profits could double over Q1

Exxon signals operating profits could double over Q1
  • Energy prices have shot up this year with oil selling for more than $105 per barrel

HOUSTON: Exxon Mobil Corp. has signaled that skyrocketing margins from fuel and crude sales could generate a record quarterly profit, according to a securities filing.

Energy prices have shot up this year with oil selling for more than $105 per barrel and gasoline at about $5 per gallon in the United States. The enormous earnings are likely to ignite new calls for windfall profit taxes.

The largest US oil producer projected a sequential increase of about $7.4 billion in operating profits compared with the first quarter. In the first quarter, Exxon posted an $8.8 billion profit, excluding a Russia writedown.

The filing indicates a potential profit of more than $16 billion for the second quarter. The company’s peak quarterly profit was $15.9 billion in 2012.

The filing showed Exxon expects higher oil and gas prices will add about $2.9 billion to results. Margins from selling gasoline and diesel will add another $4.5 billion to operating profits.

“High energy prices are largely a result of underinvestment by many in the energy industry over the last several years and especially during the pandemic,” Exxon said in a statement on the profit gains.

Analysts tracked by IBES Refinitiv forecast a per share profit of $2.99, up from $1.10 in the same quarter a year ago. Official results for the period will be released on July 29, according to a summary of factors influencing the period disclosed late Friday.

Exxon’s profits led US President Joe Biden last month to say the company and other oil majors were capitalizing on a global oil supply shortage to fatten profits.

The company said it is investing more than any other producer in the US to expand oil and natural gas production, including in the Permian, the country’s largest unconventional basin.

US Representative Ro Khanna said Exxon’s record-breaking profits reinforce his call for Congress to pass a windfall tax on Big Oil.

“Big Oil companies should be providing relief to their customers, not pouring billions into stock buybacks to enrich their investors,” he said in a statement.

Exxon’s shares closed up 2.2 percent at $87.55 on Friday.

Exxon, which lost more than $22 billion in 2020, has been using the extra cash from higher energy prices sales to pay debt and raise distributions to shareholders. It plans to buy back up to $30 billion of its shares through 2023.

Despite losses during the pandemic, Exxon continued to invest in additional production and expects to increase output in the Permian by 25 percent in 2022, the company’s spokesperson said.

The second-quarter results will be the first quarterly earnings report since Exxon decided to report results by four business units, giving a more detailed breakout of its petrochemical operations. The snapshot showed that margins in its chemical and specialty products units were flat in the second quarter compared with the first.

The company estimated the impact of exiting Russia would cut oil and gas profits by about $150 million compared with the first quarter. Exxon wrote down $3.4 billion in Russia assets earlier this year.

Exxon also signaled a contribution of about $300 million from asset sales in the quarter.