Saudi Arabia tests air taxi flights in NEOM in collaboration with Volocopter  

Saudi Arabia tests air taxi flights in NEOM in collaboration with Volocopter  
The flight test campaign lasted over a week and built on 18 months of collaboration between NEOM, the General Authority of Civil Aviation and Volocopter. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 June 2023
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Saudi Arabia tests air taxi flights in NEOM in collaboration with Volocopter  

Saudi Arabia tests air taxi flights in NEOM in collaboration with Volocopter  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has hits yet another milestone in its efforts to improve the quality of life and promote a sustainable multimodal mobility system with the testing of air taxi flights in NEOM. 

The flight test campaign lasted over a week and built on 18 months of collaboration between NEOM, the General Authority of Civil Aviation and Volocopter, with the aim of implementing and scaling an electric urban air mobility ecosystem and test bed in NEOM, said a statement issued on Wednesday.  

Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, said: “The successful test flight of a Volocopter eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) is a tangible example of NEOM as a global accelerator and incubator of solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Driving the development of smart, sustainable, and safe mobility systems will improve livability and connectivity in cities around the world and reduce carbon emissions, creating a cleaner future for all.” 

The parties worked closely to ensure full regulatory compliance and safety ahead of the test flights. 

Commenting on the achievement, GACA President Abdulaziz A. Al-Duailej said it is yet another steady step toward achieving the goals of the Kingdom’s aviation sector’s strategy “through innovation and employing emerging technologies to create new industries that contribute to the output GDP (gross domestic product) and create more jobs.” 

He added: “It also confirms GACA’s commitment to enabling the safe integration of innovative air transport patterns that improve the mobility experience of individuals in urban areas and the quality of life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”  

In 2021, NEOM and Volocopter founded a joint venture to scale advanced air mobility, positioning NEOM as a collaborative, global living lab for the future of transportation. 

Christian Bauer, chief commercial officer of Volocopter, said: “It is beyond exciting to see our work from the past 18 months come to fruition. As the first eVTOL aircraft to ever test in Saudi Arabia, we are proud to have laid the groundwork for our future collaboration here in NEOM.” 




NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr, right, and Christian Bauer, chief commercial officer of Volocopter (Supplied)

The test campaign focused on the flight performance of the Volocopter aircraft in local climate and environmental conditions, as well as testing its integration into the local unmanned aircraft system traffic management system, the statement said. 

Volocopter eVTOLs will be key to NEOM’s smart and sustainable multimodal mobility system, which will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, generated by solar and wind energy sources.  

According to the statement, eVTOL aircraft will be used as air taxis and emergency response vehicles. These aircraft are quieter, more easily adaptable and cheaper to operate than the helicopters often employed today.  

“They have smaller on-ground infrastructure footprint, fewer operating restrictions, and employ smart and autonomous capabilities that ensure both safety and sustained relevance in future contexts,” it added. 

The test flight announcement builds on NEOM’s over $190 million investment and joint venture with Volocopter and positions the $500 billion giga-project as a leader in future mobility solutions.  

Volocopter expects to obtain type certification of its VoloCity air taxi in 2024, enabling future commercial operations. The company also recently announced the commencement of VoloCity serial production at its facilities in Bruchsal, Germany, with a capacity to deliver more than 50 aircraft a year under one-shift conditions.


Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  

Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  
Updated 26 February 2024
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Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  

Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index closed at 12,531.76 points on Monday, marking a decrease of 72.83 points or 0.58 percent.   

The parallel market Nomu concluded at 25,592.61, registering a fall of 109.54 points, or 0.43 percent. Alongside, the MSCI Index also descended by 3.81 points to settle at 1,616.76, a drop of 0.24 percent.   

By the day’s end, the main index posted a trading value of SR9.15 billion ($2.4 billion) with 42 stocks advancing and 186 declining. On the other hand, Nomu reported a trade volume of SR47.1 million.   

TASI’s top performer was Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co., which saw a 7.69 percent jump to SR31.50.

Maharah Human Resources Co. and Wataniya Insurance Co. also recorded notable gains, with their shares closing at SR7.21 and SR22.56, marking an increase of 6.19 percent and 5.82 percent, respectively. The Co. for Cooperative Insurance and Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. also fared well.   

On the announcement front, Saudi German Health successfully concluded the offering of its Saudi Riyal-denominated sukuk, reaching a total value of SR1 billion.  

The offering comprised 1 million sukuk, each with a nominal value of SR1,000, and a fixed annual yield of 7.20 percent, paid out quarterly over a maturity period of five years.  

The company has specified that under certain conditions detailed in the base prospectus and the final terms, the sukuk may be redeemed before their maturity date.

Investors can review these final terms, which will be available on Al Rajhi Capital’s website starting Mar. 6, 2024, the entity overseeing the subscription management for this issuance.  

The allocation of sukuk to investors will be finalized by the end of Feb. 29, with the settlement process concluding on Mar. 6, 2024.   

Furthermore, Saudi German Health plans to list the sukuk on Saudi Stock Exchange once all regulatory procedures necessary for the listing are completed, with an announcement to be made at the appropriate time.  

Moreover, Alinma Bank is set to bolster its Tier 1 capital through a strategic move to issue additional sukuk denominated in US dollars.   

This initiative, aimed at enhancing the bank’s capital base and supporting its general banking operations, follows a board resolution authorizing the CEO to manage the issuance process.  

The planned issuance will be executed by a special-purpose vehicle, targeting qualified investors both within Saudi Arabia and internationally.   

Participating as joint lead managers, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Alinma Investment Co., and Emirates NBD, have been appointed to oversee the issuance, as well as J.P. Morgan Securities, MUFG Securities EMEA, and Standard Chartered Bank.


Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories

Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories
Updated 26 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories

Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories

RIYADH: The number of industrial units in Saudi Arabia recorded a 10 percent surge year on year in 2023 to reach 11, 549, according to the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.

A spokesman for the minister, Jarrah bin Mohammed Al-Jarrah, revealed that the new industrial establishments were set up with an investment of SR1.54 trillion ($48.4 billion).

The rise in the number of factories falls in line with the Kingdom’s plan of boosting industrialization and achieving a target of 36,000 plants by 2035.

Moreover, the number of new industrial licenses issued in 2023 reached 1,379, with investments amounting to more than SR81 billion.

On the other hand, production began in a total of 1,058 factories during the same year with investments amounting to SR45 billion.

In addition, Al-Jarrah noted that the new licenses were distributed among 25 industrial activities, led by food products manufacturing with 244 permits, followed by the manufacturing of non-metallic mineral products (176) and the manufacturing of formed metal products with 165. A total of 123 licenses were issued to factories engaged in the manufacturing of rubber and plastic products.

With a vision to increase the number of factories to 36,000 by 2035, including 4,000 which will be fully automated, Saudi Arabia is poised to create a dynamic and innovative production landscape.

The adoption of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and robotics, positions Saudi industries as global leaders of this revolution.

The Kingdom’s industrial sector is experiencing sustained growth, with investments in manufacturing reaching $132 billion since the launch of the economic diversification strategy Vision 2030 in 2016.


Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research

Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research
Updated 26 February 2024
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Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research

Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research
  • British Chambers of Commerce: Commercial container prices up as much as 300%
  • Moody’s: Retailers could face ‘material impact on profitability by end of 2024’

LONDON: Disruptions to global trade caused by the Houthi campaign against shipping in the Red Sea is affecting more than half of all retailers in the UK.

Research conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce across more than 1,000 companies in the UK found that container shipping prices have jumped as much as 300 percent, while goods have been delayed for up to a month, prompting supply shortages and cash flow problems.

The Houthis launched their campaign against commercial vessels in November in a bid to end Israeli military strikes on Gaza, which began in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Air and sea strikes against the Houthis in Yemen by US and UK forces have so far failed to curtail the attacks. Eighteen Houthi targets were hit in airstrikes over the weekend.

The average cost of shipping goods from China to Europe has more than doubled, with most ships preferring to travel around Africa rather than risk attack by approaching the Suez Canal.

In 2023, around 22 percent of all commercial shipping containers passed through the canal, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. That total has since fallen by 82 percent, with 586 ships rerouting around Africa.

The BCC’s head of trade policy, William Bain, urged the UK government to provide more support to British retailers ahead of its budget next week.

“There has been spare capacity in the shipping freight industry to respond to the difficulties, which has bought us some time. And recent (government) data also indicates the impact has yet to filter through to the UK economy, with inflation holding steady in January,” he said.

“But our research suggests that the longer the current situation persists, the more likely it is that the cost pressures will start to build.”

Bain said new post-Brexit laws “adding to costs and delays” had made it “a difficult time for firms.”

Credit ratings agency Moody’s warned this month that retailers would experience a “material impact on profitability by the end of 2024” if the situation in the Red Sea did not significantly improve.

Bain said: “The UK economy saw a drop in its total goods exports for 2023 and, with global demand weak, there is a need for the government to look at providing support in the March budget.”

The crisis has also led to an increase in pressure on air freight companies, with delivery aggregator ParcelHero noting an uptick of 8 percent on spot rates between Europe and China, and 14 percent between China and the US.

Supply issues are expected to worsen in March as Chinese exports increase following the country’s New Year holidays, which concluded over the weekend.

David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero, said: “Initially, there was a scramble for aviation services as businesses rushed to get products out before the festivities began.

“Now the continuing demand for air freight on this route is because many ships are berthed for the duration and containers are stuck firmly in Chinese ports until manufacturing ramps up enough to restore full services.

“Air freight enables those companies manufacturing and operating in Asia to leapfrog the Chinese bottleneck.”


High 5G coverage shows Saudi Arabia is ‘technically advanced,’ says Nokia CEO

High 5G coverage shows Saudi Arabia is ‘technically advanced,’ says Nokia CEO
Updated 26 February 2024
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High 5G coverage shows Saudi Arabia is ‘technically advanced,’ says Nokia CEO

High 5G coverage shows Saudi Arabia is ‘technically advanced,’ says Nokia CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s 5G coverage is almost double the global average of 42 percent thanks to “really good operators that have high demands,” according to a senior industry executive.

Speaking to Arab News, Pekka Lundmark, CEO of telecommunications firm Nokia, underlined how the Kingdom’s 77 percent coverage rate marks it out compared to several parts of Europe which are not as well connected.

Lundmark also discussed the upcoming deployment of 5G Advanced technology – expected to enter the market around 2025 – noting that this shift is a step towards the development of 6G.

Reflecting on the connectivity progress in the Kingdom, the CEO said: “Saudi market is technically advanced. There are really good operators that have high demands, which is good, and then there are some particular characteristics, which you don't have (anywhere) else and just one example would be the Hajj season where the pilgrims do their rituals.” 

He added: “This is an enormous stress test for the network when they take their videos and pictures and want to be connected and you have millions of people in the same place ... the Saudi market is driving us from a global perspective for innovations in network performance.”

Lundmark also stated that 5G Advanced has significant capabilities including supporting emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality devices. These services require high bandwidth, extremely low latency, high quality of service, and reliability from the network.

“Then on the industrial side, one example is that it will include support for drones, drones will have many applications in different types of physical industries,” Lundmark stated.

Additionally, 5G Advanced will support digital twins, a concept where a digital replica of an industrial site is created.

“There’s a lot it's going to add. That's really good because sometimes I hear that, now 5G is ready and now we can start waiting for 6G which will come at the end of the decade. That is completely untrue. There is so much still to do on 5G,” Lundmark stressed.

Furthermore, he further discussed the significance of the Saudi market in this sector and its expected growth in the future, highlighting that despite a weak global performance in 2023, the Middle East and Africa, including the Kingdom, experienced 8 percent growth in the industry.

The focus is on collaborating with key operators and developing enterprise customers for industrial digitalization and other initiatives.

“The market is attractive for investment, the population is young which is not the case in most other parts of the world. There's a lot of capital available and the ambition level of the actors is very high,” Lundmark said.

He added: “You definitely have the right conditions for investment, and again, when I look globally, of course, there are also other places where there is a lot of reasons to invest.”

During the interview, Lundmark further discussed the importance of safety, productivity, and material efficiency, especially in industries like oil and gas.

An integral aspect of the Vision 2030 agenda involves diversifying the Saudi economy, establishing entirely new industries, and embracing the new generation of networks and extensive digitalization.

Lundmark believes this presents a significant opportunity for the Kingdom to “to leapfrog directly into digital industries” as the Kingdom is starting from scratch in many areas as opposed to modernizing established systems.

He added: “That is exactly why we feel that the Saudi market is so exciting.”


 


WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions 

WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions 
Updated 26 February 2024
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WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions 

WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions 

 

RIYADH: Global trading system accessibility, intellectual property, and dispute settlement take center stage as the 13th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference commenced in Abu Dhabi.   

The four-day event, starting on Feb. 26, will address these issues within the WTO, featuring the participation of trade ministers and senior officials from around the world, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The event will bring together 175 member states, private sector leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society representatives.  

The goal is to collaborate on advancing a more efficient, sustainable, and inclusive trading system while enhancing the effectiveness of trade policies and programs. 

Participants in this conference edition aim to build upon the achievements of the previous ministerial conference held in Geneva in June 2022. The event witnessed accomplishments in supporting fisheries, food security, and e-commerce, the SPA report added. 

Speaking on behalf of the Saudi government, Commerce Minister Majid Al-Qasabi began his video address by pointing out that the event provides a pivotal opportunity to mark the WTO’s 30th anniversary.  

“We all look forward to working with you to achieve successful outcomes of the MC 13. Such outcomes would support restoring trust in the multilateral trading system, that is facing significant challenges and headwinds, confirming the essential role of the WTO, and reiterating the global trade agenda,” he said.  

Al-Qasabi warmly welcomed Comoros and Timor-Leste as new members of the WTO, reaffirming the commitment to accelerating the remaining accession.  

He also announced the Kingdom’s approval of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, noting the WTO’s contribution to the economic growth and development of its members.  

The minister emphasized the importance for the Kingdom to achieve constructive and meaningful outcomes in Abu Dhabi and beyond. 

He concluded by reaffirming Saudi Arabia’s commitment to working constructively with all members to ensure the success of the 13th ministerial conference and beyond. 

Established in 1995, the WTO serves as the global authority governing international trade regulations. Its biennial ministerial conference acts as the paramount decision-making platform, bringing together ministers and senior officials from all member nations to assess, revise, and enhance the treaties shaping the global trade framework.  

Ahead of the event, WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala unveiled a $50 million initiative aimed at empowering female entrepreneurs in developing countries. 

The new fund looks to unlock the power of the digital economy, helping women exporters overcome financing hurdles and capture untapped opportunities. 

“This initiative embodies our collective commitment to empowering women,” Okonjo-Iweala said, adding that it is a crucial step toward addressing the financing gap faced by women entrepreneurs, who are “key drivers of economic growth and development.” 

Meanwhile, Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade and chair of the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference 2024, announced that the country allocated $5 million to the $50 million fund.  

Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of foreign affairs, earlier announced that the Gulf country will provide a $10 million grant to support several key initiatives of the WTO.  

He added that the grant would be allocated to the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the Enhanced Integrated Framework, and the WEIDE fund that will be launched during the event.