Global supply chain impairs even as Saudi logistics industry shows signs of recovery

Analysis Global supply chain impairs even as Saudi logistics industry shows signs of recovery
According to Riyadh-based Saudi Market Research, the Kingdom plans to inject $147 billion into the development of the transportation and logistics industry to turn the country into a transportation hub. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 26 June 2022

Global supply chain impairs even as Saudi logistics industry shows signs of recovery

Global supply chain impairs even as Saudi logistics industry shows signs of recovery
  • China’s COVID-19 restrictions, surge in oil prices and demand shock have shaken global services

RIYADH: China’s stringent rules to curb COVID-19, the surge in oil prices and the worldwide demand shock have shaken the tectonic plates of the international supply chain and cast a long shadow on the global logistics business.

The troika has exposed not only the fault lines in companies’ distribution strategies but also the lack of resilience among logistics firms to cope with the vagaries of the global economy.

“China is sadly passing through another lockdown, impacting our volumes. The challenge has nothing to do with us; it is from China itself,” Abdulaziz Busbate, country general manager of DHL Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The leading logistic firm has seen a 20 percent rise in the cost of operations since the outbreak of the universal pandemic. The same holds true even for smaller supply chain companies. 

“Before the pandemic, it took about $2,000 to import one container from China. Now it takes almost $7,000. Product prices are increasing daily,” said Muhammad Omer, co-founder and CEO of Aiduk Trading, a Riyadh-based company established in 2015.

According to Bloomberg Economics, a leading macroeconomic research service, China’s supply chain significantly dropped since April and is expected to worsen. What’s even worse? China’s port activity has fallen back to 2020-lockdown levels.

Global inflationary winds

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has impacted inflation rates of many food, commodities and raw materials. Countries neighboring Russia and Ukraine have been hit the hardest — Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia have endured inflation rates of 14 percent, 12 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

“The combination of the war and the supply and demand imbalances, especially in energy, will push up base metals, precious metals and energy together,” Paul Christopher, head of global market strategy at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, told Bloomberg Television.

According to Jadwa Investments’ inflation report, the Kingdom’s inflation is expected to rise 2.4 percent in 2022 as the Russia-Ukraine war, COVID-19 lockdowns in China and higher food consumption will add to the price pressure.

“Inflation globally is impacting us as well as the increase of fuel prices,” Busbate added. 




Abdulaziz Busbate, country general manager of DHL Saudi Arabia.

The lockdowns in parts of China are adding more challenges to the already affected global supply chains, resulting in higher import costs from key trading partners such as Saudi Arabia.

Although the Kingdom’s inflation rate is expected to increase to 2.7 percent in 2023 — a 0.5 percentage point increase from 2022 — it will achieve the lowest inflation levels among the G20 economies and the third lowest worldwide, following Japan and Switzerland.

Within the G20, the Kingdom outperformed its peers, decreasing the annual inflation rate from 3.1 percent in 2021 to 2.2 percent in 2022.

Changing market dynamics

According to Busbate, the sector is seeing a growing demand in the business-to-consumer segment.

“During COVID-19, we took advantage of our e-commerce and B2C services as most people wanted to purchase online, while consumer behavior has completely changed in this current scenario,” he said.

DHL Saudi Arabia had a successful year in terms of revenues in 2020, thanks to a remarkable increase in their B2C operations. 




Mohammed Omer, co-founder and CEO of Aiduk Trading.

Aiduk Trading also booked a significant increase in sales during the pandemic as people could not go out, and the online delivery market was booming.

“The industry of last-minute delivery during the pandemic was working day and night delivering goods to different consumers,” the CEO of Aiduk told Arab News.

However, business-to-business demand decreased heavily in 2020 as most industries were negatively affected by the pandemic.

“In 2020, we were 90 percent performing in B2C, while B2B was nearly 10 percent,” DHL’s Busbate said.

In 2021, businesses started to get back on track, and the B2B volume increased to 40 percent of their operations.

The company nearly doubled its crew in the call center to accommodate the number of calls they received and increased its drivers’ network by about 60 percent to deliver their shipments daily, pointed out Busbate.

Wading off the headwinds

Starting in 2015 with a 1,000- square-meters warehouse, Aiduk’s warehouse today is more than 20,000 square meters, offering e-commerce fulfillment services to their clients.

Meanwhile, DHL built three gateways in the major cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, investing more than $50 million in the Kingdom since 2014.

A gateway is a point at which freight moving from one territory to another is interchanged between transportation lines.

The gateway in Jeddah is around 15,000 square meters, while Riyadh is about 12,000 square meters.

The German logistics behemoth is in no mood to stop as it plans to invest $8.5 million in its expansion plans in Riyadh.

The new expansion is expected to come into operation by the end of the year, said Busbate.

DHL today has a 58 percent market share in the Kingdom, managing around 20,000 shipments daily.

Turnaround strategy

According to Riyadh-based Saudi Market Research, the Kingdom plans to inject $147 billion into the development of the transportation and logistics industry to turn the country into a transportation hub.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic location has attracted foreign players into the Kingdom’s logistics industry.

For instance, the US logistics giant FedEx has announced its decision to invest $400 million into domestic logistics operations to attract other foreign players to contribute to the vast developments, said the report.

The Kingdom is already the leading transportation and logistics operator in the Middle East and North Africa, earning $27.6 billion annually.

Also fueling the Kingdom’s supply chain ambitions is the development of new trade zones such as Jazan Economic City, NEOM Airport, SPARK zone, and the Red Sea Gateway Terminal.

The forecast exceeds the Kingdom’s pre-pandemic levels and is expected to continue its growth until 2025, when the industry reaches $50 billion in value.


UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund

UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund
Updated 18 August 2022

UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund

UAE-based tech firm launches $10bn fund in partnership with Abu Dhabi Growth Fund

RIYADH: G42, a UAE-based technology company, launched a $10 billion G42 Expansion Fund in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund to invest in late-stage companies.

Managed by a G42 subsidiary, the fund will focus on growth companies in computing, communication technology, intelligent mobility, clean tech, digital infrastructure, fintech, healthcare, and life sciences, Wamda reported.

“With the G42 Expansion Fund, we aim to accelerate our global impact not only through the deployment of capital, but also by providing unique access to our networks, management, and operational assets to our portfolio companies,” Peng Xiao, group CEO at G42 and chairman of the G42 Expansion Fund’s Investment Committee, said in a statement.

 


Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 


Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 

Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 


Saudi-based fintech partners with SNB to support SMEs 


RIYADH: CASHIN, a Saudi-based fintech and point-of-sale provider, signed a partnership with the Saudi National Bank to support small and medium enterprises.

The partnership will facilitate management of transactions for business activities like receiving payments and sales with immediate bank settlements.

“We are proud to be an active element in the national transformation journey within the financial sector by providing innovative products in the field of fintech and information systems,” CASHIN CEO Omar Al-Ramah said in a statement.

Founded in 2021, CASHIN is providing its services to over 10,000 businesses in more than 30 sectors with transactions at around $800 million, MAGNiTT reported.


Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition


Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition

Updated 18 August 2022

Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition


Global tech event LEAP22 receives 5 Gold Awards for its inaugural edition


RIYADH: The inaugural LEAP22 International Technology Conference won five Gold Awards at the 19th Annual International Business Awards, according to a statement. 

Competing with over 3,700 nominations from organizations across 67 countries, LEAP clinched the best award for Tech Event, B2B Event, Launch Event, Conference Event, and Exhibition Experience.

In its first edition held in early February 2022 for three days, under the theme “An Eye on the Future,” over 509 speakers speakers participated in the event with over 100,000 conference’s visits.

It also announced investments worth $6.4 billion, in the presence of more than 700 international companies, over 1,500 startups, and 330 investment funds.

The Annual International Business Awards, also known as Stevie Awards, were created in 2002 to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals.

LEAP Conference was organized by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in cooperation with the Saudi Federation of Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones. 


Oil up 4% on US crude stocks data, tight supply outlook

Oil up 4% on US crude stocks data, tight supply outlook
Updated 18 August 2022

Oil up 4% on US crude stocks data, tight supply outlook

Oil up 4% on US crude stocks data, tight supply outlook

NEW YORK: Oil prices gained about 4 percent on Thursday as robust US fuel consumption data and an expected drop in Russian supply later in the year offset concerns that slowing economic growth could undercut demand.

Brent futures rose $3.41, or 3.6 percent, to $97.06 a barrel by 2:16 p.m. EDT (1816 GMT), while US West Texas Intermediate crude rose $3, or 3.4 percent, to $91.11.

Prices rose more than 1 percent during the previous session, although Brent at one point fell to its lowest since February, as signs of a slowdown mounted in some places.

The oil complex is “advancing off the big (US) crude stock draw, increased product demand and (the) apparent stall in Iranian nuclear negotiations,” analysts at energy consulting firm Ritterbusch and Associates said in a note.

US. crude stocks fell by 7.1 million barrels in the week to Aug. 12, Energy Information Administration data showed, against expectations for a 275,000-barrel drop, as exports hit a record 5 million barrels per day.

Bans by the EU on Russian exports could dramatically tighten supply when curbs to seaborne crude and products imports into the bloc ramp up in coming months and drive up prices, analysts warn.

“The EU embargoes will force Russia to shut in around 1.6 million (bpd) of output by year-end, rising to 2 million bpd in 2023,” consultancy BCA research said in a note. “EU embargoes on Russian oil imports will significantly tighten markets and lift Brent to $119 a barrel by year-end.”

Russia, however, forecasts rising output and exports until the end of 2025, an economy ministry document seen by Reuters showed, saying revenue from energy exports will rise 38 percent this year, partly due to higher oil export volumes.

More cautious

Preventing oil prices from rising too high was the possibility of increased supplies from Iran and worries that demand could drop if China imposes more lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19, along with slowing economic growth as central banks raise interest rates to control runaway inflation.

The market is awaiting developments from talks to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which could lead to a roughly 1 million bpd boost in Iranian oil exports.

“We may be seeing traders taking a more cautious approach considering how close a decision on the Iran nuclear deal appears to be,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA. “There remains plenty of doubt that it will get over the line but if it does, that could be the catalyst for another move lower.”


OPEC chief says blame policymakers, lawmakers for oil price rises

OPEC chief says blame policymakers, lawmakers for oil price rises
Updated 18 August 2022

OPEC chief says blame policymakers, lawmakers for oil price rises

OPEC chief says blame policymakers, lawmakers for oil price rises
  • Says keen to extend deal with Russia beyond 2022
  • Oil’s recent slide reflects fears, physical demand robust
  • Al-Ghais relatively optimistic on outlook for 2023

LONDON: Policymakers, lawmakers and insufficient oil and gas sector investments are to blame for high energy prices, not the Organization for the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the producer group’s new secretary-general, Haitham Al-Ghais, told Reuters on Thursday.

A lack of investment in the oil and gas sector following a price slump sparked by COVID-19 has significantly reduced OPEC’s spare production capacity and limited the group’s ability to respond quickly to further potential supply disruption.

The price of Brent crude came close to an all-time high of $147 a barrel in March, after Russia’s ordering of troops into Ukraine exacerbated supply concerns. While prices have since declined, they are still painfully high for consumers and businesses globally.

“Don’t blame OPEC, blame your own policymakers and lawmakers, because OPEC and the producing countries have been pushing time and time against for investing in oil (and gas),” Al-Ghais, who took office on Aug. 1, said in an online interview.

Oil and gas investment is up 10 percent from last year but remains well below 2019 levels, the International Energy Agency said last month, adding that some of the immediate shortfalls in Russian exports needed to be met by production elsewhere.

The OPEC official also pointed the finger at a lack of investment in the downstream sector, adding that OPEC members had increased refining capacity to balance the decline in Europe and the US.

“We are not saying that the world will live on fossil fuels forever ... but by saying we’re not going to invest in fossil fuels ... you have to move from point A to point B overnight,” Al-Ghais said.

OPEC exists to ensure the world gets enough oil, but “it’s going to be very challenging and very difficult if there is no buy-in into the importance of investing,” he said, adding that he hopes “investors, financial institutions, policymakers as well globally seriously take this matter (to) heart and take it into their plans for the future.”

Relatively optimistic 

Oil has tumbled since March and Brent hit a six-month low below $92 a barrel this week.

The slide reflects fears of economic slowdown and masks physical market fundamentals, Al-Ghais said as he took a relatively optimistic view on the outlook for 2023 as the world tackles rising inflation.

FASTFACTS

Oil and gas investment is up 10 percent from last year but remains well below 2019 levels, the International Energy Agency said last month, adding that some of the immediate shortfalls in Russian exports needed to be met by production elsewhere.

Oil has tumbled since March and Brent hit a six-month low below $92 a barrel this week.

OPEC, plus Russia and other allies, known as OPEC+, has unwound record oil-output cuts made in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and in September is raising output by 100,000 barrels per day.

Ahead of the next meeting which OPEC+ holds on Sept. 5, Al-Ghais said it was premature to say what it will decide.

“There is a lot of fear,” he said. “There is a lot of speculation and anxiety, and that’s what’s predominantly driving the drop in prices.”

“Whereas in the physical market we see things much differently. Demand is still robust. We still feel very bullish on demand and very optimistic on demand for the rest of this year.”

“The fears about China are really taken out of proportion in my view,” said Al-Ghais, who worked in China for four years earlier in his career. “China is a phenomenal place of economic growth still.”

OPEC, plus Russia and other allies, known as OPEC+, has unwound record oil-output cuts made in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and in September is raising output by 100,000 barrels per day.

Ahead of the next meeting which OPEC+ holds on Sept. 5, Al-Ghais said it was premature to say what it will decide, although he was positive about the outlook for next year.

“I want to be very clear about it — we could cut production if necessary, we could add production if necessary.”

“It all depends on how things unfold. But we are still optimistic, as I said. We do see a slowdown in 2023 in demand growth, but it should not be worse than what we've had historically.”

“Yes, I am relatively optimistic,” he added of the 2023 outlook. “I think the world is dealing with the economic pressures of inflation in a very good way.”

OPEC+ began to restrain supply in 2017 to tackle a supply glut that built up in 2014-2016, and OPEC is keen to ensure Russia remains part of the OPEC+ oil production deal after 2022, Al-Ghais said.

“We would love to extend the deal with Russia and the other non-OPEC producers,” he said.

“This is a long-term relationship that encompasses broader and more comprehensive forms of communication and cooperation between 23 countries. It’s not just in terms of production adjustment.”