‘This will be a breakthrough’: Saudia buys 100 electric planes to revolutionize domestic travel

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Updated 31 October 2022

‘This will be a breakthrough’: Saudia buys 100 electric planes to revolutionize domestic travel

‘This will be a breakthrough’: Saudia buys 100 electric planes to revolutionize domestic travel

Riyadh: Saudi Arabian Airlines has agreed to buy 100 innovative electric vertical take-off and landing planes as it seeks to connect Jeddah with the Kingdom’s leading tourist destinations, according to one of the firm’s leading officers.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Group Chief Marketing Officer Khaled Tash said Saudia — the airline operated by his firm — will be the first in the region to make use of the technology.

The deal has been struck with German company Lilium, which is in the final testing phase for the aircraft, with operations expected to start in two years.

Tash said Saudia will be using the aircraft to improve access to destinations alongside the Red Sea and Makkah.

“That will actually be our first priority in the next few years to connect to the airport with Makkah whereby some of our premium passengers can land in Jeddah airport, take one of these small planes and go to Makkah and back in a few minutes. That will be a breakthrough,” he said.

The executive insisted the announcement shows air mobility in Saudi Arabia is set to move into a different era.

“When we think about what’s happening in the country, Vision 2030 is about a lot of transformation that is happening in the Kingdom and maybe today’s announcement, that we made with Lilium, is probably a testimony to how Saudi national champions like Saudi airlines are walking the talk,” Tash said.

“We want to be at the forefront of innovation, EVTOLs — or electric, vertical, takeoff and landing aircrafts — are the future of air mobility, I think in especially short distances. For us to be the first Middle Eastern and North African within that region, the first airline to make this step towards EVTOLs, I think that means a lot for us,” he added.

Tash used the example of seaplanes connecting the islands of the Maldives as delivering economic benefits to tourism — something he hopes will be replicated in Saudi Arabia.

The commitment to 100 vehicles will also offer value for money for his firm, he added, saying: “By moving by big players like Saudia moving into early adoption of such a technology or such an innovation, that will have, hopefully a very good impact on the cost.”

“So if we start with Jeddah to Makkah and then with with Jeddah to the Red Sea or Jeddah to AlUla URL, or Jeddah to King Abdullah Economic City, the more use cases we can find for this, the more commercial opportunities we will have and the less cost it will be,” he said.

“So if I have an aircraft that goes 20 times between Jeddah and Makkah each day, it will definitely be cheaper than going six times a day,” he added.

As well as the economic case for buying the aircraft, there is also a clear environmental benefit.

Tash was clear that while sustainability is a very important topic under the Vision 2030 umbrella, it is also for Saudia. 

“We think that electric, in terms of these kinds of EVTOLs, is the future for aviation, and we believe that our sustainability initiatives will be further strengthened,” he said.

“It’s not the only sustainability initiative that we're doing. We’re working on so many different fronts. We have one of the youngest fleets in general in our entire fleet that also has less emissions. We are committed to work on sustainability, more and more,” Tash added.

Aramco JV breaks ground on China petchem complex

Aramco JV breaks ground on China petchem complex
Updated 20 sec ago

Aramco JV breaks ground on China petchem complex

Aramco JV breaks ground on China petchem complex

RIYADH: A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Wednesday for a major integrated refinery and petrochemical complex being developed by Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Co.

Saudi Aramco will own a 30 percent stake in the joint venture, while Norinco Group and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group will hold 51 percent and 19 percent shares respectively. The project will be built in the city of Panjin in China’s Liaoning province. On March 26, it was announced that the complex was expected to be fully operational by 2026. Aramco is expected to supply up to 210,000 barrels per day of crude oil feedstock to the facility.

Mohammed Y. Al Qahtani, Aramco executive vice president of downstream, said: “This complex is a cornerstone of our efforts to support a world-class, integrated downstream sector here in China, as petrochemicals will play a vital role in our joint success. Once complete, we believe HAPCO will be a model for China’s modern petrochemicals industry moving forward, able to deliver lower carbon products, chemicals, and advanced materials.”

Mohammed Y. Al Qahtani, Aramco executive vice president of downstream. (Supplied)

The facility will combine a 300,000 barrels per day refinery and a petrochemical plant with an annual production capacity of 1.65 million metric tons of ethylene and 2 million metric tons of paraxylene. 

On March 27, Aramco also announced it had signed definitive agreements to acquire a 10 percent interest in Shenzhen-listed Rongsheng Petrochemical Co. Ltd. for $3.6 billion. 

Combined, the partnership with Rongsheng and the HAPCO joint venture would see Aramco supply a total of 690,000 bpd of crude to high chemical conversion assets in China, in line with its strategy of converting four million bpd of crude to chemicals by 2030.

Norinco Group Deputy General Manager Zou Wenchao said that the new venture will “play an important role in deepening economic and trade cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia and achieving common development and prosperity.”

“The project is of great significance for Panjin to promote increasing chemicals and specialty products, strengthening the integration of the refining and chemical industry. It is a symbolic project for Panjin as it seeks to accelerate the development of an important national petrochemical and fine chemical industry base,” said Jia Fei, Panjin Xincheng chairman of the board.

UAE approves 24 initiatives as it aims doubling country’s re-export by 2030   

UAE approves 24 initiatives as it aims doubling country’s re-export by 2030   
Updated 11 min 25 sec ago

UAE approves 24 initiatives as it aims doubling country’s re-export by 2030   

UAE approves 24 initiatives as it aims doubling country’s re-export by 2030   

RIYADH: The UAE government has approved 24 national initiatives that will increase the country’s re-export sector by 100 percent over the next seven years.   

The creation of a national re-export committee is one of the proposals, which primarily supports raising re-export rates. In collaboration with local governments, they focus on developing new specialized fields and a value-added program for re-export.   

“We will double the country’s re-export by developing specialized areas in cooperation with local governments, establishing the International Trade Links Center, launching supportive programs, and increasing foreign investments in the service sector,” UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said.   

The total value of the UAE’s re-exports surpassed 600 billion dirhams ($163.3 billion) for the first time in 2022, reaching 614.6 billion dirhams, which is a 14 percent increase compared to 2021. 

The country’s 10 biggest re-export markets experienced significant annual growth, with a total gain of 13 percent compared to 2021.   

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, India, Oman, Kuwait, China, the US, Hong Kong and Belgium are among the 10 markets. The main re-export products were telephones and diamonds, but airplane components, petroleum liquids, headphones, and vehicle parts also witnessed significant development.   

At the discussion, the cabinet examined more than 19 projects aimed at transforming the UAE into a worldwide talent magnet, as well as the findings of the Supreme Committee for Free Trade Negotiations.   

“We signed comprehensive economic partnership agreements with four countries, and we are currently negotiating with many other countries, and we are beginning to see the impact of the agreements on the country’s foreign trade figures... 2023 will be the strongest economic year for the country in its history, God willing,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.   

The cabinet also approved the restructuring of the Digital Wellbeing Council headed by Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Emirates Genome Council headed by Khalid bin Mohammed bin Zayed. The two councils strive to improve the quality of life for the people of the UAE.   

“Science and knowledge have always been key drivers of the UAE’s development. Our priority is to ensure the best healthcare and quality of life for our people,” UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said.   

RSG signs global hotel brand Rosewood to manage 110-key property in AMAALA 

RSG signs global hotel brand Rosewood to manage 110-key property in AMAALA 
Updated 38 min 9 sec ago

RSG signs global hotel brand Rosewood to manage 110-key property in AMAALA 

RSG signs global hotel brand Rosewood to manage 110-key property in AMAALA 

RIYADH: Saudi construction firm Red Sea Global has signed on the international hospitality brand Rosewood Hotel & Resorts to manage a 110-key hotel at its upcoming integrated wellness destination AMAALA.

Rosewood AMAALA which also features 25 residences will explore “what it truly means to be regenerative,” the company said in a press release, adding that it will offer “unique experiences that weave together wellness and sustainability.” 

“Rosewood’s values of prioritizing both people and planet through impactful offerings connect seamlessly with the development’s larger vision, and we look forward to embracing our role of providing a wellness oasis nestled within this ambitious project,” said Sonia Cheng, CEO at Rosewood Hotel Group. 

The property will be surrounded by the world's fourth-largest reef and the scenic Hijazi mountains as RSG aims to protect the environment and enhance the natural ecosystems. 

“Rosewood AMAALA has been meticulously designed to seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor living while offering guests a level of privacy and exclusivity often found in an all-villa resort,” said John Pagano, group CEO of RSG. 

The property's overall design will be based on sustainability, and the larger AMAALA development has set meaningful targets for zero impact. The entire destination will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy and will strive for a zero-carbon footprint and zero waste to landfill. 

The giga project, the first phase of which is currently underway, is set to welcome the first guests in 2024. It will consist of eight resorts offering upwards of 1,200 hotel keys. Once complete, 

AMAALA will be home to more than 3,000 rooms across 25 hotels, and around 900 luxury residential villas, apartments, and estate homes. 

In January, RSG awarded a nearly SR1 billion ($270 million) contract to Saudi-based Al-Ayuni Investment and Contracting Co. to develop utilities infrastructure systems at one of its resorts. 

The firm will carry out the work in the first phase of development at AMAALA, while also working on minimizing Triple Bay’s carbon footprint. 

The Public Investment Fund-owned developer earlier this month partnered with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to create a facility on Shura Island as part of the tourist attraction’s development.  

The resort will have 149 rooms and suites, six restaurant and lounge outlets, events spaces, and a marine discovery center. 

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 
Updated 29 March 2023

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 

ADNOC begins work on project that converts CO2 into rocks 

RIYADH: Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. has begun working on a pilot project in Fujairah to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into rock formations.

ADNOC will install a direct air capture unit to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well as install solar panels to power the operation, according to MEED.

“It will be the first carbon negative project of its kind in the region,” ADNOC said on its social media platform. 

The oil company is collaborating with Fujairah Natural Resources Corp. and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., or Masdar, to carry out the project. 

Powered by solar energy supplied by Masdar, the project will use British-Omani geoscience company 44.01’s carbon capture and mineralization technology to extract the compound from the atmosphere.  

ADNOC CEO Sophie Hildebrand said: “As the first energy company in the region to run a carbon-negative project of this kind, this pilot marks the latest step in our $15 billion investment into projects that will reduce our carbon footprint and help us achieve our net zero by 2050 ambition.”  

After taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the project will mix it with seawater, and inject it into peridotite rock formations underground in order to safely and permanently mineralize it. 

“Following a successful pilot, this technology will contribute toward our plans to increase our carbon capture and storage capacity to 5 million tons per year by 2030,” added ADNOC. 

The UAE company also revealed that Fujairah has been specifically chosen for its abundance of peridotite, a type of rock that naturally reacts with carbon dioxide to mineralize it.  

In January of this year, the state energy company announced its $15 billion investment on decarbonization projects by 2030.  

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 
Updated 29 March 2023

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 

Saudi banks’ net profits surge 7.5% to $1.4bn: SAMA 

RIYADH: In the backdrop of a looming global banking crisis, Saudi lenders continue to maintain strong credit growth driven by corporate loans.  

This has helped banks operating in the Kingdom record an aggregate year-on-year net profit of 7.5 percent to SR5.18 billion ($1.38 billion) in February 2023, the latest official data showed.   

In February 2022, the aggregate profit of Saudi banks was SR4.82 billion, noted the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, in its monthly report issued on Tuesday. 

On a month-on-month basis, however, the aggregate profit of banks, was down 19 percent in February, against January’s SR6.41 billion. 

A research report prepared by Al Rajhi Capital, which has analyzed the SAMA monthly data, attributed this modest growth in profits to the ongoing pressure on the cost of funding. 

“Mortgage origination came in at SR7.1 billion, lower than January, but slightly better than our expectations,” stated Al Rajhi Capital, a company that is authorized to engage in securities activities in Saudi Arabia. 

Al Rajhi said its updated estimate for monthly mortgage origination for 2023 is SR6.8 billion, which is a bit lower than the previous estimate of SR7.0 billion.  

The SAMA report noted that loans given to the private sector in February rose over 11 percent year-on-year to SR2.32 trillion. 

Based on these figures, Al Rajhi analysts expect Saudi banks’ loan growth to be around 10 percent in 2023, which they said, is on the conservative side as “we see upside risks to it.”   

This comes as the combined deposits of Saudi banks rose by 8 percent year-on-year to SR2.30 trillion in February. 

Al Rajhi analysis noted that total deposits in the month of February grew 1.2 percent month-on-month, higher than credit growth of 0.9 percent, which the analysts said: “should ease some pressure on the funding side going forward.” 

The apex bank data showed that the aggregate assets of banks in the Kingdom rose by more than 11 percent year-on-year to SR3.66 trillion in February. 

Whereas, the total assets held by SAMA increased by SR830 million month-on-month to SR1.92 trillion in February 2023. 

This is when compared with February 2022 grew by SR130.4 billion. 

SAMA’s investments in foreign securities, which account for 55 percent of its total assets, declined by around 7 percent to SR1.04 trillion in February. 

The SAMA report further revealed that the foreign direct investment inflow in Saudi Arabia was SR29.6 billion in 2022, thus bringing the cumulative FDI balance in the Kingdom to SR1.8 trillion. 

The rise of FDI in Saudi Arabia clearly indicates the Kingdom’s growing popularity as a global investment hub, a goal outlined in Vision 2030. 

The report, however, added that the Kingdom’s FDI in 2022 witnessed a 60 percent fall compared to 2021. This massive figure of net FDI in 2021 was primarily attributed to a $12.4 billion infrastructure deal between Aramco and a global investor consortium, in which the consortium acquired a 49 percent stake in Aramco Oil Pipelines Co. 

Excluding this mammoth transaction, FDI inflows in 2022 increased by 14.5 percent compared to the year earlier, the SAMA report noted.