Five Chinese state-owned companies to delist from NYSE amid US tensions

Five Chinese state-owned companies to delist from NYSE amid US tensions
Oil giant Sinopec is one of the Chinese firms set to delist from the NYSE (Shutterstock)
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Updated 12 August 2022

Five Chinese state-owned companies to delist from NYSE amid US tensions

Five Chinese state-owned companies to delist from NYSE amid US tensions

SHANGHAI: Five Chinese state-owned companies, including oil giant Sinopec and China Life Insurance, said on Friday they would delist from the New York Stock Exchange, amid economic and diplomatic tensions with the US, according to Reuters.

The companies, which also include Aluminium Corporation of China, PetroChina and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co, each said that they would apply to delist their American Depository Shares this month.

The five, which in May were flagged by the US securities regulator as failing to meet its auditing standards, will keep their listings in Hong Kong and mainland Chinese markets.

Beijing and Washington are in talks to resolve a long-running audit dispute that could see Chinese companies banned from US exchanges if they do not comply with US rules.

Washington has long demanded complete access to the books of US-listed Chinese companies, but Beijing bars foreign inspection of audit documents from local accounting firms, citing national security concerns.

There was no mention of the auditing dispute in separate statements by the Chinese companies outlining their moves, which come amid heightened tensions after last week’s visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“These companies have strictly complied with the rules and regulatory requirements of the US capital market since their listing in the US and made the delisting choice for their own business considerations,” the China Securities Regulatory Commission said in a statement.

The agency added that it would keep “communication open with relevant overseas regulatory agencies.”

The oversight row, which has been simmering for more than a decade, came to a head in December when the Securities and Exchange Commission finalized rules to potentially prohibit trading in Chinese companies under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act. It said 273 companies were at risk.

Some of China’s largest companies including Alibaba Group Holdings, J.D Com Inc. and Baidu Inc. are among them. Alibaba said last week it would convert its Hong Kong secondary listing into a dual primary listing which analysts said could ease the way for the Chinese ecommerce giant to switch primary listing venues in the future.

In premarket trading Friday, US-listed shares of China Life Insurance and oil giant Sinopec fell 5.7 percent about 4.3 percent respectively. Aluminium Corporation of China dropped 1.7 percent, while PetroChina shed 4.3 percent. Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co. shed 4.1 percent.

A spokesperson for NYSE declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the audit watchdog overseen by the SEC, did not immediately provide comment.

Losing Patience? 

Market-watchers were split over what the delistings might mean for the audit deal, with some saying it was a bad sign.

“China is sending a message that its patience is wearing thin in the audit talks,” said Kai Zhan, senior counsel at Chinese law firm Yuanda, who specializes in US capital markets.

The companies said their US traded share volume was small compared with those on their other major listing venues.

PetroChina said it had never raised follow-on capital from its USlisting and its Hong Kong and Shanghai bases “can satisfy the company’s fundraising requirements” as well as providing “better protection of the interests of the investors.”

Global fund managers holding US-listed Chinese stocks are steadily shifting toward their Hong Kong-traded peers, even as they remain hopeful the audit dispute will eventually be resolved, Reuters reported this week.

“These companies are very thinly traded with very small US market cap so it is not a loss for US capital markets,” Brendan Ahern, CIO of Krane Funds Advisers, which has a New York-listed fund focused on Chinese tech plays, wrote in an email.

He and analysts said the delistings could pave the way for China to comply with the US requirements, since the five companies concerned likely have sensitive information China would not want exposed in an audit review.

“We see this as a positive sign. This is consistent with our view China will decide what companies would be allowed to be US-listed and thus subject to SEC’s audit investigations,” Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

China Life and Chalco said they would file for delisting on Aug. 22, with it taking effect 10 days later. Sinopec, whose full name is China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, and PetroChina said their applications would be made on Aug. 29.

China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom were delisted from the US in 2021 after a Trump-era decision to restrict investment in Chinese technology firms.

That ruling has been left unchanged by the Biden administration amid continuing tensions. 

Saudi real estate markets rise as ground realities change: JLL CEO

Saudi real estate markets rise as ground realities change: JLL CEO
Updated 17 sec ago

Saudi real estate markets rise as ground realities change: JLL CEO

Saudi real estate markets rise as ground realities change: JLL CEO
  • Demand for residential properties in Riyadh is expected to continue to strengthen in the longer term

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s retail sector witnessed an increase in retail space and a strong recovery in domestic demand following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in the first half of 2022, according to the head of global real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

The underlying demand for residential properties in Riyadh remains strong, and it is expected to continue to strengthen in the longer term as the government fuels its ambitious target to make the city one of the 10th largest in the world by 2030, said a senior JLL official.  

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Thierry Delvaux, CEO, Middle East, Africa and Turkey at JLL, said: “The real estate is reviving. Since the relaxation of the restrictions, we are seeing a greater movement of people. 

The office rates are very high at the moment. And when it comes to rents, we are seeing significant growth. Retail centers are reporting high levels of footfall.

Thierry Delvaux, CEO, Middle East, Africa and Turkey at JLL

“We are also seeing a comeback from firms that planned to open new offices.”

As a result, the demand for office real estate is rising — reflected in growing occupancy rates, which for Grade A buildings are nearly full, pointed out Delvaux.

Agreeing that the property market has reached the pre-pandemic level, the JLL CEO said: “The office rates are very high at the moment. And when it comes to rents, we are seeing significant growth.”

Demand for retail shops is also increasing. Delvaux said that retail centers are reporting high levels of footfall, especially malls.

Commenting on residential properties witnessing strong demand in Riyadh, Delvaux said: “Rents and prices for residential real estate in Riyadh is growing, and we are seeing single-digit growth for both.”

The northward trend is not just limited to Riyadh but also other major cities such as Jeddah.

“If you talk about Jeddah, we are seeing limited supply. Demand is growing, resulting in a significant impact on residential rents and prices,” added Delvaux.

Improving growth outlook

On the growth rate of the real estate market this year compared to last year, he said: “It depends from sector to sector. 

“For example, the residential sector is seeing single-digit growth in terms of rents. 

“Offices are also seeing very healthy rental growth due to higher demand levels and quite scarce supply for office space.” 

The outlook for the Saudi real estate market in the second half of 2022 remains encouraging.

“In the short to medium term, we expect the population of Riyadh to grow in line with the Vision 2030 program to double its population and increase homeownership to 70 percent by 2030, suggesting that the demand will continue to grow.”

Riyadh aims to increase its residents from 7.5 million today to between 15 million and 20 million in 2030 under ambitious plans unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Future Investment Initiative summit held in the Saudi capital last year.

Changing market dynamics

Speaking at the JLL roundtable on the importance of sustainability in enhancing the transparency of the real estate market, Delvaux said that he is witnessing a growing interest in transparency standards and sustainability, which could be a game changer.

“We understand the significant impact we can create through our work in Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding: “In addition to reducing our emissions, we are also making strategic investments in sustainability services and capabilities, leveraging the breadth and strength of our global platform and local expertise.”

According to JLL’s latest Global Real Estate Transparency Index, the Kingdom maintained its position in the top 50 global rankings, boosting its position at a regional level. It ranked 49 on the index.

The roundtable also focused on the vulnerabilities faced by the Middle East and North Africa region while highlighting the concerted efforts made by the Kingdom to bring about green innovation in real estate.

The initiatives include introducing the Mostadam Green Building Rating System tailored to the Kingdom’s local climate and environmental characteristics and the Saaf Certification Program.

Also noteworthy is the retrofitting of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs’ building in Riyadh by the National Energy Services Co., also known as Tarshid, with energy efficiency measures to reduce a facility’s energy consumption.

“With Saudi real estate industry’s momentum toward decarbonization and transparency, the country has emerged as one of the world’s top 50 most transparent real estate markets,” said Saud Mohamed Al-Sulaymani, the country head of JLL Saudi Arabia, while speaking at the roundtable. 

With Saudi real estate industry’s momen-tum toward decarbon-ization, the country has emerged as one of the world’s top 50 most transpa-rent real estate markets.

Saud Mohamed Al-Sulaymani, Country head of JLL Saudi Arabia

He also emphasized that hosting the upcoming UN climate conferences in Egypt and Dubai provided an excellent opportunity for the region to shed light on its climate change risks and vulnerabilities and showcase its action plans to mitigate and adapt to them.

Separately, the National Housing Co. recently signed nine agreements totalling SR2 billion ($533 million) with a number of national strategic partners on the sidelines of the Distinguished Cities Projects Exhibition in Riyadh.

The agreements with national partners aim to provide project management services, engineering supervision, design work implementation, housing unit construction, and evaluation services.

Furthermore, the agreements make it easier to manage the printing environment and control consumption, as well as ensure the quality of infrastructure, improve operational sustainability and develop projects.

Earlier this month, the company signed an agreement to finance and develop a portfolio of projects worth more than SR40 billion, which will result in the construction of more than 150,000 housing units in 11 cities across Saudi Arabia.

Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region

Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region
Updated 18 min 57 sec ago

Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region

Top 10 most funded mobility-tech startups in MENA region
  • After producing several unicorns, the shared mobility market is set to expand

CAIRO: The shared mobility technology landscape, which includes ride-sharing, car-renting and taxi-ordering models, has been on the rise in the Middle East and North African region ever since global players such as Uber and Lyft rode a wave of success in the business.

After producing several unicorns, the shared mobility market in the region is set to expand with a compound annual growth rate of 18.4 percent from 2022 to 2030 as the annual market is predicted to witness a 16.9 percent increase, according to Grand View Research Inc.

Arab News has compiled a list of the 10 most funded mobility-tech startups from the MENA region.

1. Careem

Total funding: $771.7 million

Founders: Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson

Investors: Alpha Partners, Arzan Venture Capital, BECO Capital, Bild Alternative Investment, Coatue Management and 22 others

Headquarters: UAE

Recognized to be the Middle East’s first unicorn startup, Careem has transformed the ride-hailing sector in the region, attracting global competition and acquisitions to the industry.

The company first started as a car-booking app. It later entered the food delivery space and now operates as a super app.

Founded in 2012, Careem is the second most funded startup in the region. It obtained unicorn status in 2018 and was later acquired by global ride-hailing giant Uber for $3.1 billion in 2020.

2. Swvl

Total funding: $264 million

Founders: Mostafa Kandil, Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Sabbah

Investors: BECO Capital, Endeavor Catalyst, MSA Capital, Oman Technology Fund, Arzan Venture Capital, Sawari Ventures, VNV Global, Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital and others

Headquarters: Founded in Egypt, based in the UAE

Founded in 2017, Swvl is a tech-enabled mass transit solutions provider offering intercity, intracity, business-to-business and business-to-government transportation services.

The company is another unicorn founded in the MENA region, also listed on the Nasdaq.

Currently operating in 20 countries across four continents, Swvl went public after it completed a merger with special purpose acquisition company Queens Gambit Growth Capital and was valued at $1.5 billion in March 2022.

3. Yassir

Total funding: $43 million

Founders: Noureddine Tayebi and El-Mahdi Yettou

Investors: Y Combinator, P1 Ventures, French Partners, ACE & Co., Venture Souq, WndrCo, DN Capital, Kismet Capital, Spike ventures, Quiet Capital, Endeavor Catalyst, FJ Labs, Venture Souq, Nellore Capital, Moving Capital and other investors

Headquarters: Algeria

Established in 2017, Yassir offers on-demand services such as ride-hailing and last-mile delivery in 25 cities across Algeria, Canada, France, Morocco and Tunisia, with over 3 million users.

The startup started as a ride-sharing platform and later became a super app adding last-mile delivery and financial services for its users.

The company raised $30 million in series A funding in June 2021 in a bid to expand into Western Africa and Europe in 2022.

4. ekar

Total funding: $34 million

Founder: Vilhelm Hedberg

Investors: Polymath Venture and other investors

Headquarters: UAE

Founded in 2016, ekar offers on-demand access to a network of car-share, subscription leasing vehicles and other mobility options, including peer-to-peer rentals.

Operating across seven cities with a fleet of 2,300 vehicles and 250,000 users in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the company is one of the region’s first fully contactless car-sharing apps.

The company raised $17.5 million in series B funding in 2019, announced its launch in Thailand in 2022 and plans to expand into Malaysia, Turkey and Egypt later in the year.

5. Udrive

Total funding: $17.3 million

Founders: Nicholas Watson and Hasib Khan

Investors: Cultiv8 and Oman Holding International

Headquarters: UAE

Another car rental app Udrive provides a pay-per-minute rental service for UAE residents and tourists, clocking in over 2 million trips.

Founded in 2016, the company allows users to pick up a car from any location available and is then returned to any parking location in the same city.

In its latest funding round, Udrive raised $5 million to support its plans to expand in the Middle East and enhance its technology.

6. Fenix

Total funding: $5 million

Founders: Jaideep Dhanoa and IQ Sayed

Investors: Emkan Capital and Panthera Capital Ventures

Headquarters: UAE

Established in November 2020, Fenix provides a different kind of mobility using electric scooters on a subscription-based service.

Founded by two ex-Careem executives, the company has one of the largest electric vehicle fleets in the region as it operates in four cities.

In 2021, the company raised a $5 million seed funding to support its goals to become the first national micro-mobility operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

7. Telgani

Total funding: $4.2 million

Founder: Abdulkader Almkinzy

Investors: 500 Startups, Saudi Venture Capital Co., Impact46 and others

Headquarters: Saudi Arabia

A car rental platform, Telgani allows users to rent a car through its mobile app that is then delivered to their doorstep.

Founded in 2018, the company also enables users to pick the car and the location they want to travel to and provides them with nearby options.

In November 2021, Telgani secured a $2.5 million pre-series A funding led by Saudi venture capital firm, Impact46.

8. Ousta

Total funding: $3.1 million

Founder: Nader El-Batrawi

Investors: Angel investors

Headquarters: Egypt

Founded in 2016, Ousta is Egypt’s first local ride-sharing application that was established to compete with ride-hailing companies Uber and Careem.

The company did not disclose any of its operations to the media since its fundraising of $1.5 million in 2016.

9. KOI Ride

Total funding: $3 million

Founder: Kayla Kroot

Investors: CEG Invest and Taurus Wealth

Headquarters: UAE

KOI Ride is a B2B ride-hailing service startup that offers end-to-end ground transport services and connects online booking portals with licensed transportation providers.

Established in 2015, the company offers services in Dubai, London, New York, Las Vegas, Cancun, Istanbul, Bodrum, Antalya, Izmir and Dalaman.

In June 2022, KOI Ride raised $3 million in an investment round to support its expansion into 24 cities across Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.

10. Urent

Total funding: $1.5 million

Founder: Omar Al-Ashi

Investors: Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al-Maktoum

Headquarters: UAE

Urent, another player in the car rental space, is a UAE-based platform aiming to revolutionize the car rental industry in the region.

The company offers a peer-to-peer vehicle sharing platform, creating a whole community based on trust.

It is dubbed to be the Airbnb for cars.

In June 2019, Urent raised seed funding and, in 2020, raised an undisclosed pre-series A funding.

Expo City Dubai officially opens, aims to bring back Expo 2020 Dubai visitors

Expo City Dubai officially opens, aims to bring back Expo 2020 Dubai visitors
Updated 01 October 2022

Expo City Dubai officially opens, aims to bring back Expo 2020 Dubai visitors

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

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 is returning with free immersive projections five days a week, from Wednesday to Sunday, after sunset. (Expo City Dubai)

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

Gasoline price to shape EV  demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC
Updated 01 October 2022

Gasoline price to shape EV demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC

Gasoline price to shape EV  demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC
  • KSA has implemented energy price reforms to unlock economic and environmental benefits for the country

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

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

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.