Qatar’s economic growth stabilizes after FIFA World Cup boom: IMF 

Qatar’s economic growth stabilizes after FIFA World Cup boom: IMF 
The World Cup was hosted by Qatar in 2022. Shutterstock.
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Updated 22 November 2023
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Qatar’s economic growth stabilizes after FIFA World Cup boom: IMF 

Qatar’s economic growth stabilizes after FIFA World Cup boom: IMF 

RIYADH: The economic growth of Qatar has normalized after the country’s strong fiscal performance in 2022, driven by the FIFA World Cup, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

In its consultation report released on Nov. 21, the IMF disclosed that Qatar’s economic outlook in the medium term seems favorable, with output expected to expand by about 1.75 percent per annum during 2023–25. 

It further revealed that the medium-term expansion would be fueled by the nonhydrocarbon sector, which is expected to grow at 2.75 percent, driven by domestic demand. 

“Qatar’s economic growth has normalized in 2023 following the World Cup-driven boom. Medium-term growth is set to increase to around 5 percent per annum supported by LNG production expansion,” said IMF in the report. 

The report added that the country’s reform to achieve its National Vision 2030, which aims to ensure sustainable development by the end of this decade and is guided by the Third National Development Strategy, will also start to bear fruit. 

The IMF added that inflation in Qatar will likely moderate to 2 percent this year, while fiscal and current accounts are projected to remain in surpluses over the medium term. 

Qatar’s Planning and Statistics Authority also revealed on Nov. 15 that higher expenses toward communication, recreation and food led the country’s inflation to rise 2.52 percent in October on an annual basis. 

Additionally, the IMF report said that inflation has moderated following monetary policy tightening in tandem with the US Federal Reserve, consistent with the currency peg to the US dollar. 

“Broad fiscal discipline amid sizeable hydrocarbon windfalls in 2022–23 has strengthened fiscal position significantly and is commendable. Continued fiscal prudence is expected under the upcoming 2024 budget,” added the IMF. 

According to the IMF, the Qatar Central Bank has successfully maintained price and financial stability. 

Moreover, the banks in Qatar remain healthy, although the non-performing loan ratio has increased as pandemic-related restructured loans turned non-performing. 

“The QCB has refined macroprudential measures to reduce further risks associated with banks’ external asset-liability mismatches, especially those of short maturities, which is welcome,” noted the IMF.   

The agency also pointed out that continued diligence is critical to strengthening the banking sector in a “higher-for-longer” interest rate environment. 


Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research

Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research
Updated 12 sec ago
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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 3 min 43 sec ago
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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 World Trade Organization’s 13th 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, non-governmental 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. 

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 towards 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.  

It quoted the minister as saying that the “Women Exporters in the Digital Economy Fund” offers an opportunity to celebrate the invaluable contributions of women entrepreneurs and businesses worldwide, recognizing their vital role in driving economic growth. 

The WAM report further added that Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of foreign affairs, has earlier announced that the Emirate 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 13th ministerial conference. 


Goldman Sachs, Mubadala sign $1bn private credit partnership to invest in Asia Pacific 

Goldman Sachs, Mubadala sign $1bn private credit partnership to invest in Asia Pacific 
Updated 49 min 20 sec ago
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Goldman Sachs, Mubadala sign $1bn private credit partnership to invest in Asia Pacific 

Goldman Sachs, Mubadala sign $1bn private credit partnership to invest in Asia Pacific 

RIYADH: Business entities in the Asia Pacific region are poised to benefit from a $1 billion partnership between Emirati firm Mubadala Investment Co. and Goldman Sachs.   

To be managed by Private Credit at Goldman Sachs Alternatives, with dedicated on-the-ground teams across multiple Asia Pacific markets, the partnership aims to deploy long-term capital, offering customized private credit solutions to high-quality companies and sponsors in the region, according to a press statement.   

The release added that the global Private Credit team, consisting of 165 experienced credit investment professionals managing over $110 billion in assets, leverages Goldman Sachs’ network and capabilities to source and underwrite global lending opportunities.   

Marc Nachmann, global head of asset and wealth management at Goldman Sachs, said: “This partnership bolsters the expansion of our Asia Credit platform and investment in new opportunities across the Asia Pacific region where bespoke credit solutions are needed.”   

He added: “We continue to believe our rigorous underwriting and dedicated on-the-ground sourcing provides us differentiated investment opportunities.”    

The collaboration plans to invest across the private credit spectrum, targeting multiple Asia Pacific markets, with a particular focus on India.  

This aligns with both firms’ endeavors to continue scaling their investment activity in the growing Asia Pacific credit market.   

“The diverse and rapidly growing economies, as well as the increasing private equity deal volumes, are significantly driving demand in Asia Pacific for customized credit solutions from non-traditional lenders,” said Omar Eraiqat, deputy CEO of diversified investments at Mubadala. 

“This partnership with Goldman Sachs compliments our aspirations to grow our private credit exposure in Asia Pacific, a region that is central to Mubadala’s strategic growth initiatives,” he added.   

Meanwhile, the Global Head of Private Credit at Goldman Sachs Alternatives Greg Olafson, said: “With strong economic growth in the region and favorable conditions for private lenders to support the growth of leading companies by providing flexible, long-term capital, we believe we are at the early stages of a defining era for private credit in Asia Pacific.”

Head of Credit Investments at Mubadala Fabrizio Bocciardi, also said: “We look forward to working alongside Goldman Sachs to unlock new opportunities throughout the Asia Pacific region, a leading driver of global economic growth.” 

Since 2009, Mubadala’s Credit Investments unit has been interested in private debt prospects, with a particular focus on direct lending to the middle market as well as large-cap firms across a wide range of industries and asset classes. 


ADNOC Distribution to host Investor Day to showcase new growth strategy

ADNOC Distribution to host Investor Day to showcase new growth strategy
Updated 26 February 2024
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ADNOC Distribution to host Investor Day to showcase new growth strategy

ADNOC Distribution to host Investor Day to showcase new growth strategy

RIYADH: UAE’s energy retailer, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. Distribution, is set to host an Investor Day to inform the market about its recent strategic growth plans.

ADNOC, listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, reached $1 billion in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization in 2023 and intends to continue its upward trajectory by projecting further EBITDA growth throughout the period 2024 to 2028.

The company also aims to elevate its involvement in international operations within Saudi Arabia and Egypt while considering inorganic possibilities with a strong balance sheet and cash flow.

“ADNOC Distribution has demonstrated a robust track record of value creation through its smart growth strategy, pursuing new opportunities in domestic as well as international markets,” Bader Saeed Al-Lamki, CEO of the firm, said

He added: “Since its market debut in late 2017, the company has delivered robust financial performance and doubled shareholder value. 2023 was a transformative year for ADNOC Distribution, with the company generating EBITDA of over $1 billion, an increase of 33 percent compared to 2018.”

ADNOC Distribution is expanding its range of low-carbon energy solutions, such as biofuels, electric vehicles, and hydrogen, to bolster the decarbonization efforts within the transportation sector. Additionally, the company is broadening its non-fuel retail offerings.

In 2023, ADNOC Distribution experienced significant growth in fuel volumes and non-fuel retail business across Gulf Corporation Council markets, achieving a notable four-year-high conversion rate of 25 percent.

As part of its updated business strategy, ADNOC Distribution will persist in investing in the core UAE market.

Furthermore, the company aims to enhance its existing network by expanding its non-fuel retail business and optimizing real estate assets to solidify its position as the preferred brand for both retail and commercial customers.

The firm also seeks to improve its operational efficiency to reach up to $50 million in additional savings by 2028, in addition to the $130 million in like-for-like cost savings achieved between 2019 and 2023.

“The company is well positioned to take advantage of evolving energy markets and enter a new phase of growth. We remain committed to a disciplined capital allocation and delivering attractive and visible shareholder returns,” Al-Lamki added.

According to a press statement by ADNOC, the firm is placing sustainability at the core of its day-to-day operations, reducing its carbon footprint while exploring emerging opportunities and enabling customers to decarbonize.