NEOM’s hanging stadiums will help make the giga-project a top-rated tourist hub: CEO

NEOM’s hanging stadiums will help make the giga-project a top-rated tourist hub: CEO
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Updated 30 November 2022

NEOM’s hanging stadiums will help make the giga-project a top-rated tourist hub: CEO

NEOM’s hanging stadiums will help make the giga-project a top-rated tourist hub: CEO

RIYADH: The hanging stadiums within Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion giga-project NEOM will make tourists reimagine and visualize the future, as the Kingdom steadily pursues its ambitions to become a global tourism hub by 2030, according to its CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr.

Speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 30, Al-Nasr noted that everything in NEOM will be connected to tourism business models.

“In The Line, we want people to come and see how sports stadiums are built, and where they are built. The sports stadiums in NEOM are 300 meter high, loose and hanging in the air,” said Al-Nasr.

He added: “We did not build sports stadiums in NEOM loose just for the sake of having it loose. We believe in the best use of space.”

During his talk, Al-Nasr said that OXAGON, the industrial city in NEOM also has all the potential to become a world-class tourist destination, where visitors can come and see how the future will be.

“It is in OXAGON where all industries will be, and it is the port of NEOM. Yet, we would like to see tourists spending a day or two in OXAGON. They will see the future of industries in OXAGON. Everything in NEOM is built for the future era. We want them to come and see how future sea ports will operate,” he said.

According to Al-Nasr, NEOM’s location has all the potential to turn it into a global tourism hub.

“We are just two hours from Europe. Believe it or not, we see Africa within miles. We are a connection of three continents,” he noted.

Al-Nasr added that NEOM’s plan to launch a new airline is to ensure non-stop travel to visitors from their destination to Saudi Arabia’s mega city without any stop in the middle.

Al-Nasr further noted that NEOM’s tourism will be a blend of past and future, as the region is 5,000 years old with a rich heritage.

“NEOM is where all religions have passed through, and this is the region where prophets have passed through. So, in NEOM, we will blend the past and the future,” said Al-Nasr.

He added that 95 percent geographical area of NEOM, which is equal to 25,000 kilometers, will be an untouchable natural reserve.

Al-Nasr went on to say that everything that is being built in NEOM will be a piece of art which will elevate the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia.

“In NEOM, we will never use the term solar panels or plants, instead, we call them solar parks. Everything we are developing, we wanted it to be a piece of art, a piece of attention and a piece of attraction to our tourism,” said Al-Nasr.


King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change

King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change
Updated 12 sec ago

King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change

King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change

RIYADH: King Abdullah Financial District signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sumitomo Corp. Middle East FZE to utilize its innovative and eco-friendly technology to tackle climate change by reducing the heat island effect on surfaces within KAFD on Tuesday in Riyadh.

“For us, partnering with Sumitomo on this new technology is extremely important, because as a district, as KAFD, reducing greenhouse emissions and reducing the heat island effect are extremely important, and this technology with Sumitomo will help us,” Gautam Sashittal, CEO of KAFD, told Arab News.

According to Sashittal, from a KAFD point of view, being a sustainable district is very important. “We have several initiatives that have been implemented and are being implemented, and that is just part of our sustainable solutions to burnish our credentials,” he said.

Sumitomo, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 global trading and business investment company, Sumitomo Corporation Group, signed the agreement with KAFD and Management Company to support KAFD’s goals for smart city development and technological advancements to create energy-efficient, intelligent buildings.

The products manufactured by Sumitomo in Japan use state-of-the-art technology that will be applied in KAFD to reflect infrared radiation, which in return reduces surface temperature, heat flow, and maintenance costs caused by the heat island effect.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to collaborate on this project with KAFD, implementing our advanced solutions. Sustainability is a top priority for both companies. With this agreement, we look forward to working with KAFD DMC and sharing our experiences to enhance energy efficiency in its facilities,” Hajime Mori, managing director of Sumitomo Corporation Middle East FZE said.

Heat islands are created in cities that experience higher temperatures, when structures and pavements begin to absorb and re-emit heat from the sun to surrounding areas, intensifying the effects of climate change and potentially having a harmful effect on health.

Through the agreement, Sumitomo is already in line to begin pilot testing in several locations within KAFD for two products, one of which is called MIRACOOL. This product reduces surface temperatures of buildings and facilities that are exposed to solar radiation. The other product is PERFECT COOL, which is a solar heat-blocking pavement that reduces surface temperature by applying a cooling coat to the pavement surface.

Through this cooperation, KAFD will implement the PERFECT COOL coating that will reflect infrared radiation through a combination of special heat reflecting pigment that reduces the increase in road surface temperatures during the day and suppresses radiant heat at night.

“Combatting climate change is a priority for KAFD as a modern, sustainable metropolis. It’s estimated that by 2030, 1.9 billion people will be exposed to heat stress, and this collaboration with Sumitomo is an excellent opportunity for the district to develop heat resilience and sustainable cooling solutions.

By lowering the temperature, we will contribute to a better living and working environment for our tenants and residents and employees,” the CEO of KAFD DMC said.

Sashittal explained to Arab News that the use of the technology in the pavements not only reduces the heat island impacts but also increases the longevity of KAFD assets.

“We have looked at several initiatives in order to minimize our carbon footprint. We have an intelligent waste evacuation system for the entire district, we have water recycling opportunities, we have district cooling plants that supply chilled water across the districts,” he said.

“Last year we went through a major greenification drive, and today we have about 700 palm trees, 4,000 canopies, we have almost about half a million shrubberies and bushes that we have planted last year, and all of this actually compliments what we are doing with Sumotoma, which is about reducing the heat, making it more comfortable and sustainable.”


Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 
Updated 01 February 2023

Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

RIYADH: Oil prices were mixed on Wednesday as signs of slowing inflation in the US eased fears that the world’s largest oil user may face a recession because of further interest rate hikes and a weaker dollar-supported some buying interest. 

Brent crude futures lost 41 cents, or 0.48 percent, to $84.49 a barrel at 08.15 a.m. Saudi time. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 34 cents, or 0.43 percent, to $79.21 a barrel. 

Meanwhile, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, will meet on Wednesday, when they are expected to maintain the status quo on output.  

In October 2022, OPEC+ had agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels per day, which equals to about 2 percent of world demand, from November 2022 until the end of 2023. 

Oilfield services firm Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

Oilfield services firm Atlas Energy Solutions Inc. filed for a US initial public offering on Tuesday, at a time when drilling activities around the world are picking up from pandemic lows. 

According to a Reuters report, the Texas-based firm was preparing for a public listing that could value it between $2 billion and $3 billion including debt. 

Atlas joins a small minority of IPO-bound firms that have chosen to proceed with their proposed listings even amid a global market rout that has prompted many startups to shelve their stock market flotation. 

Energy companies were among the biggest winners of last year as the war in Ukraine piled pressure on the commodities supply chain. 

Western sanctions on top energy exporter Russia tightened global supplies, forcing Europe to look for other sources of oil and gas and driving business growth as companies ramped up production to meet soaring demand. 

Atlas Energy plans to float its shares on the New York Stock Exchange and expects to trade under the ticker symbol “AESI.” 

Goldman Sachs, BofA Securities and Piper Sandler are the lead underwriters of the offering. 

Mexico state-run oil firm Pemex places bond totaling $2 billion 

Mexico state-run oil company Pemex placed a bond Tuesday worth $2 billion, the company said in a statement. 

The new fundraise — which was five times oversubscribed — will be largely used to refinance some of the cash-strapped company’s mounting debt, it added. 

(With input from Reuters) 


Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions
Updated 01 February 2023

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions
  • Iraq has in recent months been making efforts to ensure its banking system is compliant with the international electronic transfer system known as SWIFT

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s premier said Tuesday that new banking regulations had revealed fraudulent dollar transactions made from his country, as the fresh controls coincide with a drop in the local currency’s value.
Iraq has in recent months been making efforts to ensure its banking system is compliant with the international electronic transfer system known as SWIFT.
Referring to the new controls, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani hailed “a real reform of the banking system,” but denounced “falsified invoices, money going out fraudulently,” in particular as foreign currency payments for imports.
“That is a reality,” he said in an interview on state television.
The adoption of the SWIFT system was supposed to allow for greater transparency, tackle money laundering and help to enforce international sanctions, such as those against Iran and Russia.
An adviser to Sudani had said that since mid-November, Iraqi banks wanting to access dollar reserves stored in the United States must make transfers using the electronic system.
The US Federal Reserve will then examine the requests and block them if it finds them suspicious.
According to the adviser, the Fed had so far rejected 80 percent of the transfer requests over concerns of the funds’ final recipients.
Before the introduction of the new regulations, “we were selling $200 million or $300 million a day,” Sudani said.
“Now, the central bank provides $30 million, $40 million, $50 million,” he said, questioning: “What were we importing in a single day for $300 million?“
“There are products that were entering (Iraq) for prices that make no sense. Clearly, the objective was to take foreign currency out of Iraq,” he said. “This must stop.”
Money may have been transported to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan province “and from there to neighboring countries,” Sudani said, without specifying whether he was referring to Turkiye, Iran or war-torn Syria.
He said the new controls had been planned for two years, in accordance with an agreement between Iraq’s central bank and US financial authorities, and deplored previous failures to put them in place.
Iraq, which is trying to move past four decades of war and unrest, is plagued by endemic corruption.
The official exchange rate is fixed by the government at 1,470 dinars to the dollar, but the currency was trading at around 1,680 on Tuesday on unofficial markets amid dollar scarcity.
The drop has sparked sporadic protests by Iraqis worried about their purchasing power.
Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and the new central bank chief will be among a delegation traveling to Washington on February 7 to discuss the new mechanism and the fluctuating exchange rate, Sudani said.


Lebanon to devalue currency by 90% on Feb. 1: Central bank chief

Lebanon to devalue currency by 90% on Feb. 1: Central bank chief
Updated 31 January 2023

Lebanon to devalue currency by 90% on Feb. 1: Central bank chief

Lebanon to devalue currency by 90% on Feb. 1: Central bank chief

BEIRUT: Lebanon will adopt a new official exchange rate of 15,000 pounds per US dollar on Feb. 1, Riad Salameh, the central bank governor, said. 

The new rate marks a 90 percent devaluation from its current official rate. The shift from the old rate of 1,507 to 15,000 is still far off the parallel market, where the pound was changing hands at around 57,000 per dollar on Tuesday.

The change will apply to banks, Salameh said, leading to a decrease in the equity of the institutions at the center of the country’s 2019 financial implosion.

Analysts expect the shift to have less impact on the wider economy, which is increasingly dollarized and where most trades take place according to the parallel market rate.

The pound has lost some 97 percent of its value since it began to split from the 1,507 rate in 2019.

Salameh told Reuters that commercial banks in the country “will see the part of their equity that is in pound decrease once translated into dollars at 15,000 instead of 1,500.”

In order to ease the impact of this shift, banks would be given five years “to reconstitute the losses due to the devaluation,” he said.

Salameh said the change to 15,000 was a step toward unifying the country’s multiple exchange rates, in line with a draft agreement Lebanon reached with the IMF last year that set out conditions to unlock a $3 billion bailout.


Exxon smashes Western oil majors’ profits with $56bn in 2022

Exxon smashes Western oil majors’ profits with $56bn in 2022
Updated 31 January 2023

Exxon smashes Western oil majors’ profits with $56bn in 2022

Exxon smashes Western oil majors’ profits with $56bn in 2022

HOUSTON: Exxon Mobil Corp. posted a $56 billion net profit for 2022, the company said on Tuesday, taking home about $6.3 million per hour last year, and setting not only a company record but a historic high for the Western oil industry.

Oil majors are expected to break their own annual records on high prices and soaring demand, pushing their combined take to near $200 billion. The scale has renewed criticism of the oil industry and sparked calls for more countries to levy windfall profit taxes on the companies.

Exxon’s results far exceeded the then-record $45.2 billion net profit it reported in 2008, when oil hit $142 per barrel, 30 percent above last year’s average price. Deep cost cuts during the pandemic helped supercharge last year’s earnings.

“Overall earnings and cash flow were up pretty significantly year on year,” Exxon Chief Financial Officer Kathryn Mikells told Reuters. “So that came really from a combination of strong markets, strong throughput, strong production, and really good cost control.”

Exxon said it incurred a $1.3 billion hit to its fourth quarter earnings from a EU windfall tax that began in the final quarter and from asset impairments. The company is suing the EU, arguing that the levy exceeds its legal authority.

Excluding charges, profit for the full year was $59.1 billion. Production was up by about 100,000 barrels of oil and gas per day over a year ago to 3.8 million bpd. Adjusted per-share profit of $3.40 beat consensus of $3.29 per share, according to Refinitiv data. Shares were up about 1 percent at $114.70.

“It’s a headline beat,” Biraj Borkhataria from RBC Capital said in a note, despite lower chemical margins, lower-than- expected downstream gains and plans for higher maintenance works in refineries this quarter.