Oil Updates — Crude up; Russian oil and gas output to decline this year

Oil Updates — Crude up; Russian oil and gas output to decline this year
Brent crude futures rose 34 cents or 0.44 percent to $78.46 a barrel at 11.30 a.m. Saudi time. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 28 March 2023

Oil Updates — Crude up; Russian oil and gas output to decline this year

Oil Updates — Crude up; Russian oil and gas output to decline this year

RIYADH: Crude prices rose on Tuesday amid rising indications of strengthening demand in China.

Brent crude futures rose 34 cents or 0.44 percent to $78.46 a barrel at 11.30 a.m. Saudi time, while West Texas Intermediate US crude was up 45 cents, or 0.62 percent, to $73.26 a barrel.

China's crude oil imports are expected to rise 6.2 percent in 2023 to 540 million tons, according to an annual forecast by a research unit of China National Petroleum Corp. on Monday.

Russian oil and gas output to decline this year: Energy Minister

Russia’s Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov said on Tuesday that the country had managed to successfully re-direct its oil exports to new markets, but that oil and gas production was expected to decline in 2023.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that Russia needed to focus on boosting energy exports to so-called “friendly” countries, as he said Russian oil supplies to India jumped 22-fold last year.

Novak said energy revenues accounted for 42 percent of Russia’s federal budget in 2022 and added the country’s energy industry was sustainable, despite the challenges faced by Western sanctions.

BP, ADNOC offer to buy 50 percent of Israel’s NewMed Energy

BP and Abu Dhabi’s state oil giant on Tuesday made an offer to acquire 50 percent of Israeli offshore natural gas producer NewMed Energy for around $2 billion.

The offer would involve acquiring NewMed’s free-floating shares and taking the company private and would mark Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. and BP’s entry into Israel’s growing energy sector.

ADNOC and BP said they intend to form a new joint venture as part of the deal that will be “focused on gas development in international areas of mutual interest including the East Mediterranean.”

NewMed is the largest stakeholder in the giant Leviathan offshore field, operated by Chevron, which produces 12 billion cubic meters of gas that are supplied to Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

The field’s partners are planning to further expand its production and are also exploring plans for a liquefied natural gas terminal to further boost exports.

The offer is a further sign of the strengthening economic ties between Israel and the UAE since the two countries agreed to normalize ties in 2020.

(With input from Reuters) 

Saudi real estate fund signs deals worth $3.64bn to boost housing market   

Saudi real estate fund signs deals worth $3.64bn to boost housing market   
Updated 16 sec ago

Saudi real estate fund signs deals worth $3.64bn to boost housing market   

Saudi real estate fund signs deals worth $3.64bn to boost housing market   

RIYADH: Aiming to boost Saudi Arabia’s housing market, the Kingdom’s Real Estate Development Fund inked finance agreements worth SR13.7 billion ($3.64 billion) in the first quarter of 2023.   

The deals sought to offer housing benefits to 21,000 citizens during the first quarter, according to the National Development Fund’s quarterly report. 

Such agreements are in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy that aims to provide adequate and affordable housing opportunities for Saudi families.   

The fund also deposited over SR2.7 billion into the accounts of Sakani beneficiaries during the first quarter of 2023, the report said.   

The Sakani program was launched in 2017 by REDF to facilitate home ownership in the Kingdom by developing new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals and financing their purchase.   

Furthermore, the fund’s real estate advisor service recorded over 36,000 recommendations for housing and financing during the first quarter, in addition to approximately 53,000 new beneficiaries, showed the report.   

Saudi Arabia’s NDF provided over SR30 billion funding support in the first quarter of 2023, according to the report.   

The funding was allocated through a number of cooperation agreements and financing support for various economic sectors with an aim to achieve the social, economic and cultural goals envisioned in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.    

This comes after the fund approved over SR135 billion in financing support for 2022, its annual report released in January showed.     

Additionally, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund approved financing agreements valued at SR875 million with 24 businesses to support the objectives of the National Strategy for Industry.    

Various achievements, agreements and new initiatives that helped in maximizing the developmental impact on the Saudi economy were also highlighted in the report.   

In May, the Kingdom’s housing market got a fresh stream of liquidity, with Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. announcing SR3.5 billion in sukuk issuances.  

The latest issuance of SRC, owned by the Public Investment Fund, marked the sixth tranche under its upsized SR20 billion sukuk program. 

The real estate finance company will keep boosting market liquidity and assisting lenders and investors, which will stabilize the Saudi mortgage market, stated SRC CEO Fabrice Susini. 

Furthermore, this move will also speed up the rise of homeownership in the country, he added.   

“The positive response from investors to SRC’s latest sukuk issuance is a clear testament to the strength of the Kingdom’s housing market and economy,” Susini said. 

Egypt’s foreign reserves rise by $110m in May  

Egypt’s foreign reserves rise by $110m in May  
Updated 10 min 29 sec ago

Egypt’s foreign reserves rise by $110m in May  

Egypt’s foreign reserves rise by $110m in May  

RIYADH: Egypt’s foreign reserves saw a month-on-month increase in May of around $110 million to hit $34.66 billion, the latest data from the Central Bank of Egypt showed. 

After the economic breakdown following the Ukraine-Russia war, Egypt’s net international reserves dropped from a high of $40.9 billion in February 2022 to a record low of $33.14 billion in August of that year.   

However, the North African country’s NIR gradually increased in the past nine months.   

According to the central bank, Egypt’s international reserves comprise approximately $26.7 billion in foreign currencies, $7.95 billion in gold and $27 million in special drawing rights.   

The International Monetary Fund defines the SDR as an international reserve asset created to supplement the official reserves of its member countries. 

The IMF is currently assessing Egypt’s economic environment to release the second installment of a $3 billion loan approved in December 2022.   

According to data announced by the country’s central bank last month, Egypt’s net foreign assets deficit increased by $1.66 billion to $24.42 billion in March 2023 from 22.76 billion in February.   

Egypt’s current account deficit also dropped 77.2 percent to $1.8 billion in the first half of its fiscal year.   

The financial institution revealed this deficit reduction was fueled by Egypt’s current account turning a $1.41 billion surplus in the October to December quarter of 2022 as imports dropped and exports rose. 

This shift came after the country saw a $3.19 billion deficit between July and September — the first quarter of Egypt’s fiscal year. 

During most of 2022, import restrictions were in place to tackle the country’s current account shortfall.

KAPSARC bags key UN Environment Program role

KAPSARC bags key UN Environment Program role
Updated 38 min 11 sec ago

KAPSARC bags key UN Environment Program role

KAPSARC bags key UN Environment Program role

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will soon become an active partner in global ecological governance after the UN granted the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center a key role in its environmental activities. 

According to a KAPSARC press note, the think tank will now be able participate in global energy, climate and environment dialogues, as well as adopt an observer status, after being handed a place in the UN Environment Program.

Building on its accreditation by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, KAPSARC’s new status will enable it to deliver evidence-based reporting and policy recommendations, particularly in this crucial phase of climate change conversations. 

Brian Efird, director of strategic partnerships at KAPSARC, highlighted that this accreditation grants the center “the privilege of receiving unedited working documents of the UN Environment Assembly at the same time as the Committee of the Permanent Representatives.” 

He added: “Moreover, KAPSARC gains the ability to submit written contributions, actively participate in official UNEA meetings, and make valuable oral and written contributions during these sessions.” 

KAPSARC has already embraced its commitment to the UNEP by participating in the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Paris from May 29 to June 2. 

The discussion focused on developing an international framework to address plastic pollution. 

During the conference, KAPSARC played a significant part in the discussions, contributing expertise and insights to help shape effective global strategies and policies in the area.

KAPSARC highlighted the value of a circular plastic economy, including reduction, reuse, recycling and removal strategies. The center expressed support for technologies that can contribute to these goals. 

Top Saudi banks maintain profitability in Q1 despite global headwinds: Alvarez & Marsal

Top Saudi banks maintain profitability in Q1 despite global headwinds: Alvarez & Marsal
Updated 06 June 2023

Top Saudi banks maintain profitability in Q1 despite global headwinds: Alvarez & Marsal

Top Saudi banks maintain profitability in Q1 despite global headwinds: Alvarez & Marsal

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s top banks have continued to register steady earnings growth while maintaining profitability despite global headwinds amid rising interest rates, according to global professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal.

The analysis by the New York-headquartered company revealed the Kingdom’s leading 10 banks collectively recorded 2.7 percent quarter-on-quarter growth in net profits during the first three months of the year to hit SR17.3 billion ($4.61 billion).

The report noted that the boost in profitability was driven by significant growth in non-core income and a rise in cost efficiencies.  

The Saudi banks managed to enhance and maintain the return on equity well above the pre-pandemic levels as their aggregate RoE increased by 67 basis points to 15.2 percent in the first quarter against the previous three months. 

Their return on assets remained stable at 2 percent, with average total assets growing by 3.7 percent during the same period, the report noted. 

“We consider the Saudi banks’ capital position to be strong. Profitability for the quarter marginally improved due to an increase in operating income, mainly owing to a growth in non-core income which was further supported by higher impairments,” said Asad Ahmed, managing director and head of Middle East financial services at Alvarez & Marsal, in a statement. 

He noted the higher interest rate environment is causing customers to migrate to interest-bearing instruments that could likely affect the cost of funding for some banks in the coming months.  

“Looking ahead, we expect banks to face a slowdown in credit growth and a possible uptick in non-performing loans due to the higher interest rate environment. Saudi Central Bank has maintained its interest rates in line with the US Federal Reserve, and we expect this to continue,” added Ahmed.  

The report further revealed that Saudi banks recorded a 4.7 percent growth in deposits and a 3.2 percent rise in loans and advances. 

Highlighting the growth of the private sector in the Kingdom, the analysis found that retail loans and corporate loans witnessed a quarter-on-quarter growth of 2 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively.  

The report further pointed out that the net interest margin of these top banks in Saudi Arabia during the first quarter remained stable at 3.08 percent, although it is slightly down from the 3.15 percent recorded in the previous three-month period.  

Saudi Arabia’s top 10 listed banks analyzed in the report include Saudi National Bank, Al Rajhi Bank, and Riyad Bank, as well as Saudi British Bank, Banque Saudi Fransi, and Arab National Bank.  

The other banks examined by Alvarez & Marsal were Alinma Bank, Bank Albilad, Saudi Investment Bank, and Bank Aljazira. 

The analysis looked at these banks’ key performance areas, including size, liquidity, income, operating efficiency, risk, profitability, and capital.

UAE In-Focus — Air Arabia to double fleet capacity in 12 months

UAE In-Focus — Air Arabia to double fleet capacity in 12 months
Updated 06 June 2023

UAE In-Focus — Air Arabia to double fleet capacity in 12 months

UAE In-Focus — Air Arabia to double fleet capacity in 12 months

RIYADH: Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s low-cost airline, has unveiled plans to double its current fleet capacity within the next 12 months, state-run news agency WAM reported. 

According to Adel Al-Ali, group CEO of Air Arabia, the expansion will strengthen both inbound tourism and the emirate’s long-term vision of attracting regional and global visitors. 

Al-Ali also highlighted the significant growth of visitors to Abu Dhabi, which witnessed 15.9 million guests in 2022, nearly triple the number seen in 2021.  

“Air Arabia Abu Dhabi is supporting the UAE capital’s growing prominence as a global tourism and business hub. Doubling the fleet strength will be crucial to meet growing passenger demand for low-cost travel as the city records a new wave of tourism growth,” said Al-Ali. 

In collaboration with Etihad Airways, Air Arabia has been playing a crucial role in catering to the growing low-cost travel market segment in the region. 

“Committed to providing the highest quality of service to our customers, we are exploring new and agile technologies and services to enhance customer experience and provide a distinctive value proposition to all our passengers,” he added. 

UAE’s Ministry of Finance imposes new tax 

The UAE’s Ministry of Finance has announced a new decision regarding taxing income earned by foreign companies and non-resident juridical persons from real estate and other immovable properties. 

According to the new decision, such entities will be subject to corporate tax on income generated from these dead assets, WAM reported. 

However, income from real estate investments earned by foreign individuals or UAE residents, directly or through any legitimate bodies, will not be subject to corporate tax, provided they are not involved in a licensed business activity. 

UAE and Vietnam eye stronger trade ties  

The UAE and Vietnam have started discussing a comprehensive economic partnership agreement to boost bilateral trade. 

Thani Al-Zeyoudi, the UAE minister of state for foreign trade, discussed the agreement while attending a bilateral meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chin during a visit to Hanoi, WAM reported. 

“Vietnam is the UAE’s leading trade partner among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with bilateral non-oil trade totaling $8.7 billion in 2022, which accounts for 27 percent of trade with the bloc,” Al-Zeyoudi said. 

The purpose of the meeting was to mark the initiation of negotiations for the agreement. 

The discussions also touched on the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference, which will be held in Abu Dhabi next year. 

“The proposed UAE-Vietnam comprehensive economic partnership agreement will push these figures even higher and underline the benefits of open, rules-based trade,” Al-Zeyoudi added. 

Dubai empowers startups to fuel digital transformation  

Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy announced it attracted 30 startups in the technology sector in the first three months of 2023 to boost the development of the digital economy and enhance investor appeal.  

The chamber has also successfully conducted 10 interactive workshops designed specifically for the private sector, concentrating on distinct aspects of the digital economy, WAM reported.  

These workshops provided valuable insights and practical guidance to help businesses thrive in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.

“We aim to chart a roadmap for strengthening the emirate’s digital infrastructure, develop legislation that supports the growth of tech companies, and enhance the digital economy’s competitiveness and contribution to Dubai’s overall economic growth,” said Omar Al-Olama, chairman of Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy.

With an ambitious strategy, the chamber is set to attract 300 new digital startups in the years ahead. 

It will host the highly anticipated Expand North Star summit in October as part of this initiative.   

The event, recognized as the region’s largest gathering of startups, will serve as a platform to highlight the emerging growth opportunities within Dubai’s thriving digital economy.