Wyndham takes future of Ramada in its own hands with reintroduction of direct franchising in KSA 

Special Wyndham takes future of Ramada in its own hands with reintroduction of direct franchising in KSA 
Ramada is Wyndham’s largest brand in Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (Supplied)
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Updated 05 December 2022

Wyndham takes future of Ramada in its own hands with reintroduction of direct franchising in KSA 

Wyndham takes future of Ramada in its own hands with reintroduction of direct franchising in KSA 

RIYADH: In alignment with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ strategy to expand its midscale offering in the Middle East, the company has reintroduced direct franchising and management rights for the Ramada brand in Saudi Arabia.

This announcement by the world’s largest hotel franchising company, with approximately 9,100 hotels across more than 95 countries, replaces exclusive master license agreements for the brand in the Kingdom.

With more than 900 hotels globally, Ramada is Wyndham’s largest brand in Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa, with over 200 hotels in approximately 40 countries in the region, of which over 30 are in the Middle East and Africa alone.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the recently held World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh, Dimitris Manikis, president EMEA at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said: “With this announcement we, as Wyndham, are 100 percent responsible for the development of the Ramada brand in Saudi Arabia. It was the right time for us to step in and take the destiny or the future of Ramada in our own hands.  It’s a major step for us.”

He added: “This signifies our belief in the future of the Kingdom and that we want to have a direct relationship with our partners here.”

Going on to explain that Wyndham was in the franchise business where they worked with local partners, Manikis said, as a company, they are “asset light.”

“Just to give you an idea, out of the 9,000-plus hotels, we don’t own any hotels,” he said, adding: “We give our local partners the brand, we give them the technology, the distribution, and we support them through a franchise agreement.”

As part of the company’s expansion plan in Saudi Arabia, Wyndham has recently opened Ramada by Wyndham in Riyadh's King Fahd Road, its 13th hotel in the country.

According to Manikis, the real strength of Wyndham was in economy and midscale offerings, and that is where he believes the future is for Saudi Arabia.

“We are committed to contributing to the development of the Kingdom’s tourism through the expansion of our mid-market and economy presence, to help bring even more accommodation options to suit all visitors to the Kingdom,” Manikis said.

He added: “Five percent of the world travels luxury, 95 percent is ordinary people like me that want to travel and have a great and affordable experience.”

“Hospitality is not just about stay at the hotel. It’s about the restaurants. It’s about the theme parks. It’s about a holistic experience,” Manikis continued.  

Not surprisingly he said that, from an investment perspective, Wyndham is working with the Saudi government to look at the midscale and economy sector.

“I believe there’s a huge future for that sector in Saudi Arabia,” he reiterated.

Manikis was also very optimistic about the future of the hospitality sector in the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia is on the map,” he said.

“You would be crazy not to have Saudi Arabia as one of your top three destinations for the next five years in terms of arrivals, in terms of adding your brands, investments and bringing people in. You cannot close your eyes to what is happening in Saudi Arabia at this point, you just cannot ignore it.”

Moving on to talk about the hospitality industry in general, Manikis said it was one of the most resilient industries in the world. “We survived COVID-19 but we lost valuable people, we lost enormous talent,” he said. “Our number one priority now is to bring the talent back,” he concluded. 


Asia set to use half of world’s electricity by 2025: IEA report

Asia set to use half of world’s electricity by 2025: IEA report
Updated 08 February 2023

Asia set to use half of world’s electricity by 2025: IEA report

Asia set to use half of world’s electricity by 2025: IEA report

BERLIN: Asia will for the first time use half of the world’s electricity by 2025, even as Africa continues to consume far less than its share of the global population, according to a new forecast released on Wednesday by the International Energy Agency.
Much of Asia’s electricity use will be in China, a nation of 1.4 billion people whose share of global consumption will rise from a quarter in 2015 to a third by the middle of this decade, the Paris-based body said.
“China will be consuming more electricity than the European Union, United States and India combined,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s director of energy markets and security.
By contrast, Africa — home to almost a fifth of world’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants — will account for just 3 percent of global electricity consumption in 2025.
“This and the rapidly growing population mean there is still a massive need for increased electrification in Africa,” said Sadamori.
The IEA’s annual report predicts that nuclear power and renewables such as wind and solar will account for much of the growth in global electricity supply over the coming three years. This will prevent a significant rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, it said.
Scientists say sharp cuts in all sources of emissions are needed as soon as possible to keep average global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That target, laid down in the 2015 Paris climate accord, appears increasingly doubtful as temperatures have already increased by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the reference period.
One hope for meeting the goal is a wholesale shift away from fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil toward low-carbon sources of energy. But while some regions are reducing their use of coal and gas for electricity production, in others consumption is increasing, the IEA said.
The 134-page also report warned that electricity demand and supply are becoming increasingly weather dependent, a problem it urged policymakers to address.
“In addition to drought in Europe, there were heat waves in India (last year),” said Sadamori. “Similarly, central and eastern China were hit by heat waves and drought. The US also saw severe winter storms in December, and all those events put massive strain on the power systems of these regions.”
“As the clean energy transition gathers pace, the impact of weather events on electricity demand will intensify due to the increased electrification of heating, while the share of weather-dependent renewables will continue to grow in the generation mix,” the IEA said. “In such a world, increasing the flexibility of power systems while ensuring security of supply and resilience of networks will be crucial."


Kenya’s integrated tax system helped raise number of active taxpayers by 5.8m, says revenue authority executive

Kenya’s integrated tax system helped raise number of active taxpayers by 5.8m, says revenue authority executive
Updated 08 February 2023

Kenya’s integrated tax system helped raise number of active taxpayers by 5.8m, says revenue authority executive

Kenya’s integrated tax system helped raise number of active taxpayers by 5.8m, says revenue authority executive

RIYADH: Kenya’s integrated tax system, also referred to as the “itax”, has helped raise the number of active taxpayers in the country by 5.8 million to hit 7.4 million in 2022, according to Mohamed Omar, the commissioner for strategy, innovation and risk management at the Kenya Revenue Authority.

 Speaking during a panel discussion on the first day of the Zakat, Customs, and Tax conference in Riyadh, Omar highlighted the significant impact of digitizing the tax system.

“The itax had an impact and we saw shifts in numbers. So, around 2014 there were 1.6 million active taxpayers, these were people who do regular returns and regular payments, the number in 2022 was 7.4 million, so that’s about more than four times,” he revealed.

He went on to explain that, as a result of digitizing the tax system, the growth in revenue was more than the nominal growth in the gross domestic product.

In addition to this, the filing system has also seen significant improvement.

“By 2017, 100 percent filing and payment was being done online; that was not happening before,” he stressed.

George Betselis, governor of the Independent Authority of Public Revenues in Greece, also spoke about the digitization of the tax system with a special focus on the COVID-19 pandemic era.

“During the pandemic, we needed to find digital solutions for at least being able to receive front end and provide front-end digital services. Our tax offices were closed, so we had to accommodate requests,” he said.

 The Zakat, Tax, and Customs conference aims to tackle global experiences in the fields and discuss the future of digitizing those sectors as well as propelling trade and protecting national security.


SNB Capital announces completion of $267m AT-1 sukuk

SNB Capital announces completion of $267m AT-1 sukuk
Updated 08 February 2023

SNB Capital announces completion of $267m AT-1 sukuk

SNB Capital announces completion of $267m AT-1 sukuk

RIYADH: SNB Capital on Wednesday announced the completion of a private placement Additional Tier 1 perpetual sukuk worth SR1 billion ($267 million).

According to an official statement, the transaction was received with overwhelming demand from a diverse investor base having a bid cover ratio of 2.1 times. Investors included financial institutions, public sector, qualified individual investors, corporates, family offices, asset managers and insurance companies.

Commenting on the development, Ammar Alkhudairy, the chairman of SNBC, said: “This issuance by SNBC is a pioneering endeavor that compliments and supports SNB’s group vision of being the premier financial services group in the region that provides seamless banking and capital markets support to the Kingdom’s ambitious growth plans”

The issuance, which is non-call for five years, was priced a fixed annual coupon rate of 5.8 percent with quarterly payment until the first call date. 

Rashid Sharif, CEO of SNBC, said: “The issuance further strengthens our capital base to continue our journey supporting the development of the Saudi Capital Market guided by Vision 2030 strategic goals and objectives.”


Closing Bell: TASI arrests downward slide; closes up 38 points to 10,508 

Closing Bell: TASI arrests downward slide; closes up 38 points to 10,508 
Updated 08 February 2023

Closing Bell: TASI arrests downward slide; closes up 38 points to 10,508 

Closing Bell: TASI arrests downward slide; closes up 38 points to 10,508 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index gained 38.22 points — or 0.37 percent — on Wednesday to close at 10,507.72. 

While MSCI Tadawul 30 Index edged up 0.21 percent to 1,439.54, the parallel market Nomu closed 0.76 percent higher to 19,212.09. 

TASI’s total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR3.41 billion ($910 million), with 99 stocks of the listed 224 advancing and 100 receding. 

Saudi Public Transport Co. was the topmost gainer, soaring 6.56 percent to SR17.54.  

Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance Co. was the second-highest grosser, rising 3.82 percent to SR157.80. The company on Tuesday received Saudi Central Bank’s approval to renew its insurance activities license. The license is valid for three years, starting from March 26, 2023, the insurer informed Tadawul. 

The other top gainers were Alkhaleej Training and Education Co., Savola Group and Sahara International Petrochemical Co. All three stocks advanced within the 3-4 percent range. 

The worst-performing stock of the day was Banque Saudi Fransi, which dropped 4.63 percent to SR37.05. 

Other poor performers were Saudi British Bank, Al Alamiya for Cooperative Insurance Co., Riyad Bank and Amana Cooperative Insurance Co. 

Among sectoral indices, 13 of the 21 listed on the stock exchange declined; one remained flat while the rest advanced. 

On the announcements front, Elm Co.’s wholly owned subsidiary, Saudi Company for Electronic Information Exchange, inked a revenue-sharing agreement with Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority. 

The agreement’s value exceeds 5 percent of total revenue as per audited financial statements for 2021. The contract has no fixed value. Instead, it depends on the number of executed transactions, and the company receives a percentage of the fees of such transactions. 

The five-year agreement will provide customs electronic and operational services, starting from the issuance of the effective date certificate. Its share price fell 0.37 percent to SR375.60. 

Al Moammar Information Systems Co. and Mobile Telecommunication Co. Saudi Arabia, also known as Zain KSA, signed, on Feb. 7 a non-binding memorandum of understanding. 

The 12-month MoU will be renewed based on the two parties’ agreement, MIS said in a statement on Tadawul. 

As per the MoU, MIS and Zain KSA will explore potential opportunities for cooperation through the design, launch, and offering of certain products and services.  

MIS also signed another MoU with the Ministry of National Guard to support the digital transformation journey of the ministry by developing a data center strategy, information security, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies in the enterprise space. MIS’s share price rose 1.94 percent to SR94.50. 


Integration of zakat, tax bodies with customs to be completed in Q1: ZATCA governor 

Integration of zakat, tax bodies with customs to be completed in Q1: ZATCA governor 
Updated 08 February 2023

Integration of zakat, tax bodies with customs to be completed in Q1: ZATCA governor 

Integration of zakat, tax bodies with customs to be completed in Q1: ZATCA governor 

RIYADH: The complete merger of the General Authority of Zakat and Tax with the General Authority of Customs will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2023, revealed ZATCA Gov. Suhail Mohammed Abanmi.  

While speaking at a panel discussion at the Zakat, Tax and Customs Conference in Riyadh on Wednesday, Abanmi said that ZATCA faced so many challenges to integrate these bodies, but it is successfully completing the process as the authority carried out several studies to understand the possible hurdles that may come up in the journey.  

The integration between Zakat, Tax and Customs bodies was happening in phases, and the merging process is now in its final stages.  

It was in 2021 that the Saudi cabinet approved the decision to merge the General Authority of Zakat and Tax with the General Authority of Customs, to form an umbrella authority named Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, in line with the Kingdom’s efforts to restructure government agencies to speed the implementation of the goals outlined in Vision 2030.  

“The decision to integrate tax and customs bodies was taken in 2021, and it will be completed by the first quarter of this year,” said Abanmi.  

He added: “The integration of tax and customs bodies is a huge remarkable achievement. We faced so many challenges. But we successfully overcome those hurdles by conducting a study. The study was well detailed, and we found solutions for these challenges.”  

During the panel discussion, Abanmi also outlined the benefits of integration and noted that these efforts will mutually benefit both the customers and the government.  

“As customers use the same channel after the integration of tax and customs, it will increase the efficiency of the operations and enhance the satisfaction levels of the users. By integrating the two bodies; tax and customs, we reduced the cost of operational expenses and capital costs, and this will help the government,” he said.  

Abanmi further noted that integrating zakat, tax and customs bodies will also enhance cybersecurity, and added that it will also help reduce risks and tax evasion.  

Talking about the feasibility study conducted before taking the merging decision, Abanmi noted: “The decision to integrate tax and customs bodies under a single umbrella was decided after a study. This study looked into several international studies and analyzed previous experiences of integration that happened in UK, Estonia, Portuguese, and South Africa.”