Saudi Arabia’s NDMC closes issuance of sukuk worth $920m

Saudi Arabia’s NDMC closes issuance of sukuk worth $920m
NDMC noted that the total value of bids stood at SR8.835 billion (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 January 2023

Saudi Arabia’s NDMC closes issuance of sukuk worth $920m

Saudi Arabia’s NDMC closes issuance of sukuk worth $920m

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Debt Management Center has closed the issuance of SR3.47 billion ($920 million) riyal-denominated sukuk for January 2023, according to a recent statement.

The sukuk offering was divided into two tranches, with the first at SR1.27 billion and set to mature in 2030.

The second tranche for January was SR2.2 billion, which will mature in 2035.

NDMC noted that the total value of bids stood at SR8.84 billion.

Sukuk, also called an Islamic bond, is a debt product issued according to Shariah or Islamic laws.  

In January, NDMC’s riyal-denominated sukuk Program showed a closing of SR1.23 billion less than in December.

In December 2022, NDMC closed the issuance of SR4.7 billion, which also came in two tranches.

The Saudi Riyal Local Sukuk Program is one of the Kingdom’s financing tools where the Ministry of Finance issues local instruments that are then organized by the NDMC and later divided into monthly tranches for investors.

Earlier in January, S&P Global predicted that global sukuk issuances are expected to continue declining in 2023 to about $150 billion compared to $155.8 billion in 2022 and $170.4 billion in 2021.

According to the S&P Global analysis, a decline in total sukuk issuances happened in most core Islamic finance countries, with only a few exceptions such as Malaysia and Turkiye which saw marginally higher numbers.

S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Mohamed Damak expects “lower and more expensive global liquidity, increased complexity, and reduced financing needs for issuers in some core Islamic finance countries to deter the market.”

He added: “However, we see some supportive factors in other areas.”

According to the S&P Global report, corporate firms are expected to contribute to issuance volumes, particularly in countries like Saudi Arabia where economic transformation programs are progressing steadily.

“The sukuk market seems to be lagging the conventional one when it comes to automation and issuance of digital instruments, which could accelerate growth and make the process more appealing,” added Damak.


COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, says he is listening, ready to engage

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, says he is listening, ready to engage
Updated 10 sec ago

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, says he is listening, ready to engage

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, says he is listening, ready to engage

BENGALURU: The UAE climate envoy and designated COP28 president said on Tuesday his country, which is due to host the summit later this year, was approaching the task with humility, responsibility and urgency. 

"It is not a conflict of interest. It is in our common interest to have the energy industry working alongside everyone on the solutions the world needs," Sultan al-Jaber, who is also head of the state oil giant ADNOC, said at the India Energy Week conference. "The UAE COP presidency is listening and ready to engage." 

Jaber's appointment to lead the climate summit this year fuelled activists' worries that big industry was hijacking the world's response to the global warming crisis. 

The UAE, a major OPEC oil exporter, will be the second Arab state to host the climate conference after Egypt in 2022. 

The UAE and other Gulf energy producers have called for a realistic energy transition in which hydrocarbons would keep a role in energy security while making commitments to decarbonization. 

"We cannot unplug the current energy system before we have built the new one," said Jaber, who was the founding CEO of Abu Dhabi renewable energy firm Masdar before becoming ADNOC chief.

"We must minimize their carbon footprint, only invest in the least carbon-intensive barrels and continue to reduce their intensity," he added. 

Jaber also said developing nations had seen little justice so far when it comes to energy transition and pointed to capital needed to fully operationalize the loss and damage fund approved in COP27. 

The deal to create the fund was hailed as a breakthrough for developing country negotiators at the Egypt summit last year but climate activists have since complained that the fund remains empty of cash. 

The Nov. 20-Dec. 12 COP28 will be the first global stocktake since the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015. 

On Tuesday, Jaber said that eliminating energy poverty was essential alongside keeping the goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. 

 

 


 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion
Updated 56 min 52 sec ago

 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

CAIRO: US-headquartered customer relations management platform Gameball secured $3.5 million in a seed funding round to fuel its Saudi operations as well as expand to European countries. 

Founded in 2020, Gamball provides an all-in-one customer intelligence and marketing CRM platform for consumer brands to analyze customer behavior, leverage first-party data, identify monetization opportunities, and execute retention strategies. 

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Ahmed Khairy, CEO of Gameball, said that the company plans to utilize its funding to expand sales and partnerships as well as customer support activities in the Kingdom. 

“We are planning to expand our commercial and customer support activities in the Kingdom. Our model is that we build a network of channel partners in each country in which we operate. This allows us to scale fast while benefiting from these partners who have local market knowledge and expertise,” Khairy added. 

The company witnessed organic growth since its inception and received positive feedback from large and small businesses using their platform to leverage customer retention with Gameball customers witnessing a three times increase in purchase frequency. 

“Saudi Arabia has powered our growth and as brands leverage insights from digital platforms, they are turning to us,” he added. 

Since its inception, Gameball served over 7,000 businesses, 20 million consumers, and processes more than $260 million worth of transactions every month. 

“With Gameball, it’s easy for brands to kick-start their journey on our platform. We anticipate at least 50 big retailers signing up this year. This will complement our diverse range of clients from around the world,” Khairy stated. 

Khairy explained that the business is not resource intensive and will continue to hire based on its growth and client demand as he plans to hire experts in business development and account management to be based in their office in Riyadh.  

Gameball has targeted Germany and the UK as part of its international expansion while investing in commercializing its product. 

“While we’ve secured funding, we want to be prudent about how we spend our capital. Right away, we’ll be hiring Country Managers in each of those countries and as our business scales, we’ll recruit for additional positions,” Khairy told Arab News. 


Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  
Updated 07 February 2023

Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

RIYADH: Oil prices rose for a second straight session on Tuesday, driven by optimism about recovering demand in China, and concerns over supply shortages following the shutdown of a major export terminal after an earthquake in Turkiye. 

Brent crude futures rose 80 cents, or 0.99 percent, to $81.79 per barrel at 08.25 a.m. Saudi time, while West Texas Intermediate futures rose 78 cents, or 1.05 percent, to $74.89 per barrel. 

Colombia’s oil output in December rises 5.24 percent 

Colombia’s crude oil production in December rose 5.24 percent versus the same month a year earlier, the government said on Monday. 

Oil output was up to an average of 784,343 barrels per day in December 2022, compared with production of 745,325 bpd in the same month in 2021, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said in a statement. 

Colombia’s oil production in December was the highest since April 2020, when the country produced an average of 796,164 bpd, the government said. 

Average oil production for the year rose 2.42 percent to 754,199 bpd, the ministry said, up from an average of 736,357 bpd in 2021. 

Natural gas output in December was 1.06 billion cubic feet per day, the ministry said, without providing a comparative figure. 

Gas production for the year averaged 1.07 billion cubic feet per day, down 1.29 percent versus 2021, when gas production hit almost 1.09 bcfd, the government said.     

State-run Ecopetrol produces the majority of the country’s oil.  

Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal, Iraq’s KRG pipeline halted after quake 

A massive earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria on Monday halted operations at Turkiye’s major oil export hub in Ceyhan and stopped key crude oil flows from Iraq and Azerbaijan, officials said. 

The Tribeca shipping agency said in a notice that the BTC terminal at Ceyhan that exports Azeri crude oil will be closed through Wednesday pending damage assessments. Azerbaijan uses the Turkish port of Ceyhan as its main crude export hub, with a flow of about 650,000 bpd. 

BP Azerbaijan said a “small” oil leak had been found at Ceyhan, which led to operations being halted, and had been stopped.  

After Monday’s earthquake, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government halted flows through the pipeline it operates that runs from Iraq’s northern Kirkuk fields to Ceyhan, the region’s ministry of natural resources said. 

The KRG had been pumping 400,000 bpd and Iraq’s federal government was pumping 75,000 bpd through the pipeline, an oil industry source told Reuters. 

Oil exports will resume after a “careful inspection of the pipelines is finalized,” the MNR said in a statement. 

Most upstream oil producers have several days of storage capacity, so KRG production should continue in the near term, the oil industry source added. 

The eastern Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan is some 155 km from the area of the magnitude 7.8 quake which struck southern Turkiye and northwest Syria early on Monday, killing more than 2,400 people across a swathe of the two countries as buildings collapsed. 

It was the worst tremor to strike Turkiye this century and was followed in the early afternoon by another large quake of magnitude 7.7. 

Turkiye’s state pipeline operator BOTAS said natural gas flows were halted to Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces and some other districts as a result of damage to a gas transmission line. 

(With input from Reuters)  


Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead

Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead
Updated 07 February 2023

Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead

Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead
  • Dr. Scott Nowson discussed evolving relationship between humans and tech on the sidelines of LEAP in Riyadh
  • “We’re many generations away from when AI becomes greater than human capabilities,” he told Arab News

RIYADH: Trust is key to the safe expansion of the use of AI solutions around the world, Dr. Scott Nowson, PwC Middle East’s artificial intelligence lead, has told Arab News.

As the debate ensues over human capabilities compared to artificial intelligence solutions, Nowson said that while there are “some skills and some tasks that are better suited to automation with technology” the use of AI is “still contingent upon human intelligence and awareness.”

Through his work in AI over the past 27 years, Nowson has examined the evolving relationship between AI and humans.

“There’s as much optimism as there is pessimism over AI,” he told Arab News during the second edition of the LEAP technology conference.

“People believe AI will completely replace us when I really don’t think it will. I think we’re many generations away from when AI becomes greater than human capabilities,” he added.

Dr. Scott Nowson, Artificial Intelligence Lead at PwC Middle East discusses the growing capabilities of AI in the MENA region. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

However, we must acknowledge that AI can perform some tasks better than humans, Nowson said, using the evolution of AI-assisted unmanned aerial vehicles as an example.

Recent research has also shown that self-driving cars can employ a more accurate view of roads than humans, making them safer and more functional than traditional vehicles.

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error accounts for 94 percent of all road accidents.

Nowson began studying AI 27 years ago at the University of Edinburgh, which opened one of the first dedicated undergraduate programs for AI in the world.

After studying cognitive science and completing a Ph.D. in natural language processing, Nowson has spent the past 16 years exploring the constantly evolving relationship between humans and technology across four continents. He has worked at PwC since 2019.

AI and its development, said Nowson, is not as new as most people think. “AI has been around for 60-80 years now,” says Nowson. “But it is only now that the rise of technology is pushing it into the public consciousness with ChatGPT and DALL-E.”

The latter is a model developed by OpenAI to generate digital images from natural language descriptions, called “prompts.”

Nowson added: “People are now thinking about AI and its implications on daily life more. We already witnessed technological change with the industrial revolution through robotic process automation. AI is just the next step in that.”

FASTFACTS

  • AI the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.
  • Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine vision.

Undeniably, the development of AI technology is moving fast. For many people, there are psychological hurdles to overcome in order to grasp the influence of AI on daily life.

Nowson said: “We need governments and leaders to be able to understand the capabilities of AI and understand the economic, political and societal implications, and handle them with good governance and responsibility.”

Building trust is the most important factor in expanding AI, he said, adding: “Trust is paramount among clients of PwC.”

Nowson said that PwC internally tests AI before taking new solutions to clients.

“This way, we have confidence in any solution, any approach, any strategy that we use because we’ve done it internally first,” he added.

“To that end, we have upskilled hundreds, if not thousands, across the Middle East region from our teams on the different AI technologies. This broadens the conversation to enable finding the best solutions through AI for problem solving.”

 


India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn

India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn
Updated 07 February 2023

India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn

India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn
  • The billionaire and Modi are from the same state and Adani has repeatedly denied allegations by Modi’s opponents that he had benefited from their close ties. Modi’s government too has denied allegations of favoring Adani

NEW DELHI: The crisis engulfing the Adani Group intensified on Monday as hundreds of members of India’s opposition parties took to the streets to press for a probe into allegations by a US short-seller against the conglomerate which triggered its market rout.
Shares in billionaire Gautam Adani’s companies have been in free-fall since a Jan. 24 critical report by Hindenberg Research, with group cumulative market losses now topping $110 billion, sparking fears of wider financial contagion.
Opposition parties, who last week called for a parliamentary panel to investigate the saga and disrupted proceedings, have questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closeness with Adani.
Protesters on Monday also expressed anger about investments made by state-backed Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and State Bank of India (SBI) in the Adani Group.
Adani has rejected in detailed rebuttals the Hindenberg report’s allegations of stock manipulation, use of tax havens and criticism that it had unsustainable debt.
The billionaire and Modi are from the same state and Adani has repeatedly denied allegations by Modi’s opponents that he had benefited from their close ties. Modi’s government too has denied allegations of favoring Adani.
At New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a Mughal-era observatory that doubles up as a protest site for all causes, protesters held up banners and shouted slogans against Adani. Some broke through barricades, forcing the police to detain them.
“Common man has invested his money in a businessman’s (Gautam Adani) company and the government is trying to save him. The government is supporting the businessman (Adani) and not the common man,” Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee General Secretary Shiv Panday was quoted as saying by ANI news agency.
Hundreds of members of the Congress party protested across the country, including outside several offices of state-owned insurer Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and State Bank of India (SBI), both of which have exposure to Adani group companies.
At Jantar Mantar some burnt a suitcase with an SBI logo on it. In Mumbai, a protester held a placard with Adani’s photo and the LIC logo, explaining with a bar chart “How much has LIC invested in Adani Group.”
LIC holds a 4.23 percent stake in the flagship Adani firm, while its other exposures include a 9.14 percent stake in Adani Ports and 5.96 percent in Adani Total Gas. SBI said last week its total exposure to Adani Group was 0.9 percent of its total loan book, or around 270 billion rupees ($3.30 billion).
LIC and SBI did not respond to a request for comment.
Separately, a move by Adani Group on Monday to calm investor nerves failed to stem the market rout. It said it would pre-pay loans of around $1.1 billion taken against pledged stocks in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, Adani Transmission and Adani Green Energy, allowing it to get back the shares.
Shares of Adani Enterprises closed down 0.9 percent on Monday after sinking as much as 9.6 percent in early trade. Adani Transmission dropped lost 10 percent, while Adani Green, Adani Total Gas Ltd. , Adani Power, and Adani Wilmar fell 5 percent each.
Adani Ports rose 9.3 percent, the only stock to buck the trend.
WORSENING CRISIS
The crisis has snowballed into the biggest business and reputational challenge for 60-year-old Adani, whose fortunes had rapidly risen in recent years as he expanded his conglomerate’s business interests that stretch from ports to mining.
Both houses of India’s parliament were adjourned on Monday, the third consecutive day, amid sloganeering and demands to launch an inquiry.
In the brutal fallout of Hindenburg’s report, Adani group flagship company Adani Enterprises Ltd. was forced to abandon a $2.5 billion share sale last week, and Adani lost his crown as Asia’s richest person and slipped down the global rankings of the wealthy.
Adani had planned to issue a credit report by Friday to address concerns raised by Hindenburg about its liquidity, Reuters reported. The report is expected to be released this week, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The stock market rout triggered a series of credit ratings warnings on Friday with Moody’s saying the group may struggle to raise capital, and S&P cutting its outlook on two group companies.
India’s banking and markets regulators, as well as the government, have initiated inquiries to calm spooked investors. The latter has written to various custodian banks asking for details on beneficial owners of offshore funds and foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), Reuters reported.