With 20 new routes, Wizz Air aims to add value to the Saudi market: CEO

Exclusive With 20 new routes, Wizz Air aims to add value to the Saudi market: CEO
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Updated 30 August 2022

With 20 new routes, Wizz Air aims to add value to the Saudi market: CEO

With 20 new routes, Wizz Air aims to add value to the Saudi market: CEO
  • The low-cost carrier expects profits this summer making profits for the first time since the pandemic

RIYADH: With massive expansion plans and eyeing soaring profits, Jozsef Varadi, CEO and co-founder of Wizz Air, says the airline is creating its own market by offering “very low fares” to attract new travelers instead of targeting passengers of other carriers.

The European budget carrier on Thursday announced the launch of 20 new routes with a capacity of 1 million new seats from Bucharest, Budapest, Catania, Larnaca, Milan, Naples, Rome, Tirana, Varna, Venice and Vienna to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia.

“This is a large-scale investment, this is the single biggest route we have announced in the history of Wizz Air,” Varadi told Arab News. 




Jozsef Varadi, CEO and co-founder of Wizz Air

He said Wizz Air is launching new networks that have been underserved or not served at all.  

“We are not coming to Saudi Arabia for the sake of competition, we are coming to add value to the market,” he said.

Financial strength

Varadi said that Wizz Air is financially well positioned as it has the capacity to commit such an investment when many other airlines are still recovering from the pandemic. 

The low-cost carrier expects profits this summer making profits for the first time since the pandemic. 

“We are complementing what has been achieved already. We don’t really target passengers of other carriers. We create our own market by stimulating the market ourselves, we apply very low fares so we are getting new travelers,” he added.

Expansion plans

The Wizz Air official said the airline plans to expand its fleet by 2027 adding 400 aircraft. 

“The whole European airline industry has recovered 90 percent of its European capacity, so we are not only recovered, but we are much ahead of the game versus (the) pre-pandemic levels,” he added.

The carrier has a network of 1,000 routes, adding new markets during the pandemic such as Italy, Albania and the UAE.

“It is not only that we are recovering our markets, but we have been able to also add new markets to the franchise,” he said. 

Sustainability

According to Varadi, countries in the region are diversifying their economies away from oil, enhancing their tourism sector and other industries, and that is very good for the airline business in the long run.

He told Arab News that the European airline is also investing in sustainable aviation fuel.

“We also have to do our part to push these technological developments going forward, as opposed to just waiting for things to happen,” he said. 

The airline has set a target to reduce 25 percent of its carbon footprint by 2030. 

Varadi said Wizz Air flies the youngest fleet of aircraft. “Over 50 percent of the fleet is now on new technology. So, we are by far the greenest airline in Europe and the Middle East,” he said.

The company also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to discover the next decarbonized technology for aircraft manufacturing.

“We are focused on the longer term, we are focused on hydrogen-powered aircraft, and we are trying to play our role in both streams of initiative,” he said.

The carrier had roughly around 7 percent of its capacity designated for Ukraine and Russia combined but due to the geopolitical situation it had to stop its operations in that sector and distribute its capacity across its network.

“Recently, we contemplated restarting Abu Dhabi, Moscow as a route, but now we are reversing it, because of operational reasons...we are seeing that it is now too risky,” he added.


Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides
Updated 8 sec ago

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides
  • Family trip back home to India brings delight to employee
  • Super app had 10th anniversary in July 

 

DUBAI: Hailing app Careem has celebrated the completion of 1 billion rides across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

The billionth journey was completed by Captain Razak Uppattil, who has completed 10,500 rides since joining Careem four years ago. 

To commemorate the milestone, the Dubai-based super app gave Uppattil a trip back home to visit his family in India.

He said: “It’s the people that I get to meet from all over the world that I really enjoy.

“I have three children back home in Kerala, India, and I am so excited I’ll see them soon.”

Genera Tesoro, who was Careem’s 1 billionth passenger, was given a year of ride-hailing trips to mark the milestone. 

Careem, which marked its 10-year anniversary in July, is now operating in more than 100 cities in 14 countries. It recently expanded its fleet in Qatar by more than 50 percent ahead of the World Cup.


Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company

Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company
Updated 02 December 2022

Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company

Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company
  • AIC will unlock a wide range of investment opportunities for domestic and international investors across number of sectors

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has established a company to operate as its investment arm in the Aseer region of Saudi Arabia.

The Aseer Investment Company will promote and stimulate local and foreign direct investment to develop and transform the region into a year-round tourism destination.

AIC will unlock a wide range of investment opportunities for domestic and international investors across number of sectors including tourism, hospitality, healthcare, sports, education, food, and many other fast-growing domestic industries.

The company will contribute to fostering public-private partnerships, creating jobs for the local community and promoting the region’s tourism and attractive investment opportunities.

“Aseer Investment Company aims to become a leading facilitator of broad-ranging investment opportunities in Aseer, Raid Ismail, head of Direct Investments for the Middle East and North Africa at PIF said.  

“AIC will promote the region’s rugged mountains, stunning nature, and storied culture, preserve its ancient history and heritage, and transform it into a world-class tourist destination for visitors from across the globe in line with PIF’s strategy and Vision 2030,” he added.

The establishment of the company is in line with PIF’s strategy to unlock the capabilities of promising sectors in Saudi Arabia, support the country, and in line with Asir’s region position as a leading investment destination.

Saudi Arabia is offering investment opportunities worth $6 trillion in the travel and tourism sector through to 2030.

Speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 29, the Saudi Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khateeb said: “We built our tourism industry against the backdrop of a global disaster (COVID-19 pandemic). And we now have $6 trillion of investment opportunities through 2030,” said Al-Khateeb.

Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector will create 1 million jobs by 2030 and the Kingdom will welcome 100 million visitors, said Qusai Al-Fakhri, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Development Fund earlier this year.

The sector will create one of every three new jobs in Saudi Arabia in the next decade, as the nation focuses more on the growth of non-oil sectors, said Al-Fakhri.

Talking about the progress of the Saudi tourism sector at the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh, he said: “Last year, with the support of the tourism ecosystem, and the larger government ecosystem and enablers, Saudi Arabia achieved record levels of domestic tourism that is remarkable globally.”

Al-Fakhri also noted that the tourism sector is expected to contribute 10 percent to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by the end of this decade.


TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell
Updated 01 December 2022

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index on Thursday fell 74.26 points to close at 10,840.74 after touching a peak of 10,957.64 at 10:20 SAST, reflecting a sense of ambiguity among investors. 

The parallel market Nomu also finished its trail 497.85 points lower at 18,903.74 after snowballing to 18,778.82 at 11:53 SAST. 

The advance-decline ratio, however, bucked the trend, with 126 stocks of the listed 219 heading north and 75 turning south. The total trading turnover was SR4.86 billion ($1.29 billion). 

Sahara International Petrochemical Co., in a regulatory filing on Thursday, announced a 15 percent cash dividend or SR1.50 per share, resulting in a dole out of SR1.087 billion for the second half of 2022. The company’s share price picked the drift and closed 5.72 percent higher to SR37.90. 

Taiba Investments Co. on Thursday also announced that it awarded a construction contract worth SR283 million to Orient Construction Company Weavers Ltd. to build a four-star Novotel hotel project in Madinah. The stock closed lower at SR26.90 after peaking at SR27.10. 

Meanwhile, Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. (Solutions) informed Tadawul just before closing about its agreement with Saudi Telecom Company worth SR372.92 million to provide technical, administrative and logistical services. The share closed slightly lower at SR246. 

The Capital Market Authority on Thursday also Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co.’s request to increase its capital through a rights issue worth SAR 346.5 million. 

There was a blip of a bullish wave in the Software & Services index, which closed up 401 points at 36,540.33. The Healthcare Equipment & Services index also increased 103.04 points to close at 9,380.2.  

However, some of Thursday’s biggest losers were the Saudi British Bank, the National Company for Learning and Education, Arab National Bank, The Company for Cooperative Insurance and Bank Albilad. 

The Diversified Financial index was under the weather in November as it recorded the steepest decline of 15.9 percent in the Gulf Cooperation Council in November. 

A Kamco Invest research report highlighted that the Saudi Stock Exchange witnessed the after all the constituents of the index reported declines. 

Barring the Consumer Service index, the monthly sectoral performance chart declined across the board.  

The Utilities and Capital Goods indices were next with a decline of 15.2 percent and 11.7 percent, followed by Consumer Durables & Apparel and Materials indices with declines of 10.8 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively. 


Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund

Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund
Updated 01 December 2022

Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund

Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund
  • Egypt also aims to start production at a series of proposed green hydrogen projects in 2025-2026
  • The Sovereign Fund was set up in 2018 with a goal of attracting private investment in state-owned assets through partnerships and co-investments

CAIRO: Egypt plans to award deals next year to build 21 water desalination plants in the first $3 billion phase of a program that will draw on cheap renewable energy, the CEO of the country’s sovereign fund said on Thursday.
Egypt, which recently hosted the COP27 UN climate talks and is trying to boost lagging investment in renewables, also aims to start production at a series of proposed green hydrogen projects in 2025-2026, Ayman Soliman told the Reuters NEXT conference.
Egypt depends almost entirely on the Nile for fresh water, and faces rising water scarcity for its population of 104 million. The desalination program aims to generate 3.3 million cubic meters of water daily in the first phase, and eventually reach 8.8 million cubic meters daily at a cost of $8 billion.
There had been expressions of interest from more than 200 developers from at least 35 countries for the first phase, Soliman said.
The Sovereign Fund was set up in 2018 with a goal of attracting private investment in state-owned assets through partnerships and co-investments.
It is currently focused on getting private consortia to develop brownfield infrastructure, and private equity to develop state-owned enterprises ahead of public listings.
Privatization plans in Egypt have been repeatedly pushed back, with the government blaming delays on economic shocks including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine as well as on legal obstacles. The plans have also met resistance from advocates of continued state control, analysts say.
’ECONOMIC CONSTITUTION’
Soliman said a state ownership policy that is meant to map out which parts of the economy are open to private investment would serve as the government’s “economic constitution” going forward, and as a platform to crowd in private investment despite the rising cost of capital.
“We as a fund are very sharply focused on trying to find those champions to scale up, be it in agriculture be it in tourism, be it in infrastructure, or be it in banking financial services,” he said.
At the climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, the government converted into framework agreements nine of 15 memoranda of understanding (MoU) for green hydrogen projects concentrated in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) that would produce millions of tons of hydrogen and ammonia.
At least another three or four MoUs were close to being converted, and more MoUs were planned, with cheap renewable costs and the scale of the potential fuel export market toward Europe making Egypt competitive, Soliman said.
Framework agreements give developers access to specific locations to allow them to plan production.
“This is not a competition. We are creating a pipeline or a blueprint for that process, aiming to start production in 2025-26 and all the developers are working backwards from there,” Soliman said.
So-called green or clean hydrogen is produced using electrolyzers powered by renewable energy to split water from oxygen. It is seen as a potential future power source that could reduce emissions, though to date it is largely limited to experimental projects. Analysts say challenges facing its growth include high costs and energy inputs, as well as safety concerns.
Egypt’s projects would have desalinated water built in, and quantities required would be negligible compared to those produced under the national desalination scheme, according to the Sovereign Fund.


Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  
Updated 01 December 2022

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will become the world leader in sustainable metal production, as the Kingdom explores its mining potential, as a part of its economic diversification in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030, according to Khalid Al-Mudaifer, vice-minister for Mining Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.   

Speaking at the Mines and Money conference in London, Al-Mudaifer said that minerals are indispensable to the energy transition from hydrocarbons to renewables.   

“Decarbonization – the net-zero transition – cannot happen without minerals and metals: a lot of minerals and metals. We need to scale up discoveries and we need to scale up production,” said Al-Mudaifer.   

He added: “The World Bank says that by 2050 the production of minerals such as graphite, lithium, cobalt and copper needs to increase by nearly 500 percent to meet the future demand for clean energy technologies. To achieve a ‘below 2°C increase’ future, the Bank estimated that more than 3 billion tons of minerals and metals are required.”   

The vice-minister added that mineral and metal supply chains need to become more resilient to meet rising demands, and noted that the ongoing geopolitical tensions have exposed the vulnerabilities in the sector, which may result in “cost spikes of some minerals by 350 percent.”   

The minister further pointed out that the potential of Saudi Arabia in the mining sector largely lies in precious and base metals including gold, zinc, copper, and silver, in addition to a few speciality metals like niobium and tantalum.  

He went on and said that Saudi Arabia is already the world leader in phosphate fertilizer production.   

Al-Mudairef also added that Saudi Arabia is ramping up the green hydrogen production need as a part of its renewable energy push, and the Kingdom will have the largest green hydrogen plant operational by 2026, with a production capacity of 250,000 tons annually.  

Earlier in October, during the Future Investment Initiative, Al-Mudairef said that Saudi Arabia’s ambition is to become a global hub for green minerals and related technologies.

“Minerals now are the medicine to heal our planet,” he said.   

He added that the mining sector should embrace advanced technologies to reduce carbon footprints.

“We need technologies in discovery and survey, and we need technologies in processing and producing green hydrogen and green minerals and to reduce the footprint for smaller mines for the future,” said Al-Mudairef.