Saudi Arabia’s inflation holds steady at 1.6% in January: GASTAT 

Saudi Arabia’s inflation holds steady at 1.6% in January: GASTAT 
The monthly consumer price index was primarily influenced by a 1.1 percent increase in prices for housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels. Shutterstock
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Updated 15 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s inflation holds steady at 1.6% in January: GASTAT 

Saudi Arabia’s inflation holds steady at 1.6% in January: GASTAT 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s inflation remained stable at 1.6 percent in January, compared to 1.5 percent in December 2023, official data showed.  

According to the latest report from the General Authority for Statistics, the monthly consumer price index was primarily influenced by a 1.1 percent increase in prices for housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels.

This uptick was driven by a 1.2 percent rise in actual rents for housing.  

In January, expenses for food and beverages rose by 0.3 percent, while restaurant prices increased by 0.2 percent.  

“Prices for rents were the main driver of the inflation rate in January 2024 due to their high relative importance in the Saudi consumer basket with a weight of 21 percent,” stated the GASTAT report.  

However, prices for personal goods and services decreased by 0.5 percent in January compared to the previous month.  

Similarly, expenses for transport declined by 0.1 percent, and clothing and footwear prices dropped by 0.6 percent.  

Healthcare expenses and tobacco prices decreased by 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, compared to December 2023.  

Compared to January 2023, housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels prices increased by 7.8 percent last month, driven by a 9.3 percent rise in actual rents. 

Similarly, food and beverage prices increased by 1 percent in January compared to the same month of the previous year, while expenses for restaurants and hotels edged up by 2.4 percent during the same period. 

In contrast, prices for furnishings, household equipment, and maintenance decreased by 3.3 percent year-on-year in January. 

Additionally, clothing and footwear prices dipped by 4.1 percent in January compared to the year-ago period, while transport expenses slid by 1.1 percent. 

Meanwhile, in another report, GASTAT noted that Saudi Arabia’s wholesale price index rose by 4.3 percent in January 2024 compared to the same month in 2023.  

According to the authority, this rise in WPI was driven by basic chemical prices, which went up by 34 percent. 

In January 2024, expenses of refined petroleum products increased by 12 percent compared to the year-ago period.  

Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s WPI rose by 2 percent in January compared to December 2023, driven by a 5.0 percent increase in the prices of other transportable goods. 


Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks
Updated 19 June 2024
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Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks

SINGAPORE: Oil prices eased slightly during trade on Wednesday but held near their highest levels in seven weeks, as the market weighed concerns over escalating conflicts against demand worries following an unexpected build in US crude inventories, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures eased 17 cents to $85.16 a barrel by 9:35 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude was down 22 cents to $81.35 per barrel.

Both benchmarks gained more than $1 in the previous session after a Ukrainian drone strike led to an oil terminal fire at a major Russian port, according to Russian officials and a Ukrainian intelligence source.

In the Middle East, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned of a nearing “all out war” with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, even as the US attempted to avoid a broader conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah.

An escalating war in the region raises the prospect crude supply from key producers could be disrupted.

Oil prices had recovered quite strongly in the last two weeks, amid potential disruption risks “in the event of a wider conflict, as geopolitical tensions are brought to a new front between Israel and Hezbollah,” said Yeap Jun Rong, a market strategist at IG in Singapore.

“Any cooling off between both parties seems difficult in the near term, which may keep oil prices well-supported as market participants shrug off pockets of weakness on the economic front, from weaker-than-expected US retail sales to mixed sets of data out of China this week.”

China data this week showed May industrial output lagged expectations, but retail sales, a gauge of consumption, marked their quickest growth since February.

Analysts in an ANZ Research report on Wednesday said a broader risk-on tone across global markets supported crude oil prices. Mixed US economic data for May has boosted bets the Federal Reserve will cut rates sooner rather than later, the analysts added, referring to strong industrial production and retail sales that barely rose.

Fed officials are looking for further confirmation that inflation is cooling and for any warning signs from a still-strong labor market as they steer cautiously toward what most expect to be an interest rate cut or two by the end of this year.

Interest rate cuts could reduce borrowing costs, spurring economic activity and lifting oil consumption.

Capping oil prices however, US crude stocks rose by 2.264 million barrels in the week ended June 14, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 2.2 million barrel draw in crude stocks.

Gasoline inventories, however, fell by 1.077 million barrels, while distillates rose by 538,000 barrels, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Official US stocks data from the Energy Information Administration are due at 6.00 p.m. Saudi time.  


Patchi founder and chocolate industry titan Nizar Choucair dies

Patchi founder and chocolate industry titan Nizar Choucair dies
Updated 18 June 2024
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Patchi founder and chocolate industry titan Nizar Choucair dies

Patchi founder and chocolate industry titan Nizar Choucair dies

RIYADH: Founder of the globally recognized Lebanese chocolate brand Patchi, Nizar Choucair, has died, leaving behind a legacy in the industry.

Choucair transformed his childhood love for chocolate into a global brand, boasting more than 200 branches worldwide.

In a message on social media, Patchi announced Choucair’s death, posting: “It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Mr. Nizar Choucair, our beloved founder. Mr. Choucair was a man whose warmth and generosity touched everyone who knew him.”

Patchi added: “His visionary approach transformed chocolate into an art that evokes emotions and creates cherished memories. His legacy lives on through Patchi, a brand that has reached hearts across cultures and celebrations. We honor his memory and the extraordinary heritage he built.” 

Choucair was renowned for saying: “In every piece of chocolate, there is a story to be told and a memory to be made.”

The brand’s story began in 1974 when Choucair, driven by his passion for chocolate since the age of 11, introduced the concept of chocolate gifting.

This approach elevated the food to new dimensions, enhancing customer engagement and brand loyalty.

Born in Beirut, Choucair moved to Kuwait at 18, initially working for a gas manufacturing company before returning to Lebanon to launch Patchi.

Patchi employs more than 5,000 people. Shutterstock

In 1990, he received a significant boost when Banque Du Liban gave him an interest-free loan, enabling him to modernize his factory with new machinery.

Starting with a single shop in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Choucair’s vision and entrepreneurial spirit saw Patchi expand worldwide.

Patchi, now a household name in luxury chocolates, has 203 stores globally, with a strong presence in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, as well as Qatar, the UAE, and the UK.

The brand entered the EU market in 1995 with boutiques in Paris and London. By 1999, the company expanded to Africa with a boutique in the Ivory Coast and opened a store in the US in 2000. 

Recognized by Forbes in 2005 as the top luxury brand in the Middle East and the 15th top brand in the region, Patchi continued to grow. 

In 2008, Patchi Silver boutique at Harrods in London was launched, featuring a box of chocolates wrapped in genuine leather and silk, selling for £5,000.

The brand, boasting as many as 62 branches in Saudi Arabia, is celebrated for its premium ingredients and distinctive packaging, all produced in-house. 

In a 2009 interview with The National, Choucair reflected on Patchi’s accessibility: “Our chocolates are not expensive at all. We sell to people who want more expensive, elaborate boxes, but we also sell to the chauffeur who comes to pick it up.”

This inclusive approach helped Patchi become a beloved brand across various demographics, according to Choucair.

The founder’s journey was marked by resilience and adaptability, navigating the challenges of the Lebanese civil war by relocating his family and operations multiple times. Despite these hurdles, his commitment to his brand never wavered. The chocolateries’ expansion continued, with Choucair personally overseeing the opening of new stores worldwide.

Under his leadership, Patchi grew to employ more than 5,000 people, maintaining a family-oriented business ethos. His five children have played active roles in the company, with three of them working alongside him..

Oussama Choucair is currently the CEO of Patchi in the UAE and sits on the board of the company’s conglomerate, which his father founded in Beirut during the 1970s.

Nizar Choucair’s passion for premium chocolate gifting has been passed down to his son, who oversees operations in the crucial UAE market. 

One of Oussama Choucair’s key projects is the construction of a new factory in Dubai Industrial Park, which will become Patchi’s largest manufacturing plant worldwide.

The family remains dedicated to expanding the business into new markets by forming strategic alliances with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Brunei as well as Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, and East Asia.

In 2012, Patchi launched a new brand identity to refresh its profile and reaffirm its commitment to the values that have made it the top choice for premium chocolate lovers.

The new brand identity was presented in a creative and modern style, reflecting the distinctive and fine quality that Patchi offers through its network of boutiques across Saudi Arabia.

The unveiling event occurred at the Patchi Boutique in Jeddah, attended by Zahid Nuri, then-general manager and co-founder of Patchi in Saudi Arabia.

Nuri stated: “The launch of Patchi’s new identity embodies the company’s dedication to its customers in Saudi Arabia and highlights our commitment to providing the best services, highest quality, and a variety of the most exquisite and finest chocolate gifts. This new identity marks a breakthrough that aligns with Patchi’s significant international expansion, solidifying its position as one of the largest global brands in the chocolate industry.”


Industries must halve emissions, make massive investments for net-zero by 2050: Oliver Wyman

Industries must halve emissions, make massive investments for net-zero by 2050: Oliver Wyman
Updated 18 June 2024
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Industries must halve emissions, make massive investments for net-zero by 2050: Oliver Wyman

Industries must halve emissions, make massive investments for net-zero by 2050: Oliver Wyman

RIYADH: Global industries must halve emissions by the end of this decade to reach 2050 net-zero targets, according to a new analysis urging for increased clean energy infrastructure spending. 

In its latest report, compiled in association with BAE Systems, US-based consultancy firm Oliver Wyman emphasized the urgency of preserving clean water, stopping deforestation, and protecting nearly 1 million threatened species to safeguard the planet. 

The UN has set ambitious climate targets, including reducing global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

Governments, particularly major emitters, are called upon to significantly enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions and take immediate, decisive actions to curb emissions, as outlined by the UN. 

Underlining the importance of acting swiftly, the Oliver Wyman report said: “To avoid the worst impacts of climate change and ecosystem degradation, we must cut global emissions in half, halt and reverse nature loss, and achieve climate resilience by the end of this decade.”

It added: “The scale of this challenge is monumental. It requires the wholesale reallocation of capital from brown to green, the transformation of assets and supply chains from climate-vulnerable to climate-resilient, and the protection and restoration of ecosystems on a global scale.”  

The report disclosed that just 1 percent — equivalent to $27 billion — of today’s $2.7 trillion annual infrastructure investment is climate-resilient. 

“By 2030, that $27 billion needs to have grown to $6.9 trillion. In the same period, investment in nature-based solutions must triple to $400 billion a year,” said the consulting firm.  

Supply chain resilience and sustainability  

The report indicates that climate-related supply chain disruptions are increasing globally, yet most firms lack the tools to analyze and manage these rapidly evolving remote risks. 

Oliver Wyman also pointed out that many companies have inadequate visibility into their supply chains and struggle to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities. 

“As many as 85 percent of chief procurement officers are unable to evaluate risks beyond their first-tier suppliers, resulting in significant blind spots,” said the consulting firm.  

It added: “Companies typically attribute over 90 percent of their physical climate risk exposure to direct operations and less than 10 percent to their supply chains, where in reality most of their material disruption risks reside.”  

The study further highlighted that the implementation of AI and remote sensing will transform this landscape, enabling companies to monitor and identify the environmental impact of their material suppliers and dependent infrastructure. 

Moreover, these technologies will allow risk managers and chief procurement officers to analyze data comprehensively, pinpoint their companies’ key strategic exposures, and assess disruption risks, thereby enabling them to address critical vulnerabilities effectively. 

“Companies can begin to monitor their suppliers in real-time, anticipate disruptions, and make informed decisions about how to restructure supply chains to minimize risk,” the report highlighted.  

Earlier this month, another report from the International Energy Agency highlighted the crucial role advanced technologies will play in transitioning to more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

The IEA analysis also noted that the pace of deploying digital technologies in the energy sector will depend heavily on the ability to build a workforce with the right skills. 

Furthermore, the think tank revealed that advanced technologies have the potential to enhance energy efficiency, reliability, connectivity, and reduce emissions. 

Prioritizing sustainable financing 

The Oliver Wyman report emphasizes that companies should categorize their supply chain activities into sustainable and unsustainable operations. This approach provides a clearer understanding of the environmental impact in different areas. 

“With this disaggregated, near real-time view of a corporation’s environmental footprint and physical risk exposure, capital providers will be able to more confidently target sustainable finance toward climate-resilient green projects in brown sectors,” said the report.  

Furthermore, this practice will incentivize transition without starving high-carbon sectors of capital. 

In addition, insurers and banks will gain a comprehensive view of a company’s physical risk exposures across its operations, enabling them to develop customized risk management solutions for critical vulnerabilities. 

The report also underscores that transitioning to a net-zero, climate-resilient future is not only an existential necessity but also a significant opportunity to reshape the global economy. 

“Trillions of dollars a year of investment is needed — in low-carbon technologies and infrastructure, nature-based solutions, resilient supply chains, and new business models,” said the consulting firm.  

It added: “Companies and financial institutions better able to quantify environmental risks and reliably assess how investment opportunities align with transition objectives will have a distinct advantage.”  

Last year, consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie released a report stating that global annual investments of $2.7 trillion are necessary to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and prevent temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. 

The report emphasized that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power must become the world’s primary sources of electricity to support the electrification of transport and the production of green hydrogen. 

In April, the IEA highlighted the need to scale up battery production to meet climate and energy security objectives set during the UN COP28 summit held in the UAE last year. 

At the event, nearly 200 countries agreed to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, accelerate energy efficiency improvements, and transition away from fossil fuels. 

The report also specified that achieving this goal would require deploying 1,500 gigawatts of battery storage by the end of this decade to support the expanded renewable energy capacity.


AI can help shipping industry cut down emissions, report says

AI can help shipping industry cut down emissions, report says
Updated 18 June 2024
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AI can help shipping industry cut down emissions, report says

AI can help shipping industry cut down emissions, report says

BENGALURU: The global commercial shipping industry could cut down its carbon emissions by 47 million tonnes per year by deploying artificial intelligence for sea navigation, a study by autonomous shipping startup Orca AI showed, according to Reuters.

The use of the technology could reduce the need for maneuvers and route deviation from close encounters with high-risk marine targets such as vessels, buoys and sea mammals by alerting the crew in real time, according to the report.

Shipping, responsible for moving about 90 percent of global trade, contributes nearly 3 percent to the world's carbon dioxide emissions. This share is anticipated to rise in the coming years unless stricter pollution control measures are implemented.

The International Maritime Organization aims to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2030, a target under threat from the ongoing Red Sea crisis.

"In the short term, it can lead to fewer crew members on the bridge, while those who are on the bridge will have a reduced workload and more attention to tackle complex navigational tasks, optimizing the voyage and reducing fuel and emissions," Orca AI CEO Yarden Gross told Reuters.

"In the long term, it will open the door to fully autonomous shipping."

Global carbon dioxide shipping emissions reached an estimated 858 million tonnes in 2022, a marginal rise from the previous year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

An average of 2,976 marine incidents are reported per year, Orca AI's study showed.

The reduction in route deviations could help ships shave off 38.2 million nautical miles per year from their travel, saving an average of $100,000 in fuel costs per vessel, according to Orca AI's report.

AI could also lower close encounters by 33 percent in open waters, it said.


Saudi Arabia’s international reserves highest in 18 months at $467.5bn

Saudi Arabia’s international reserves highest in 18 months at $467.5bn
Updated 18 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s international reserves highest in 18 months at $467.5bn

Saudi Arabia’s international reserves highest in 18 months at $467.5bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s international reserve assets reached SR1.75 trillion ($467.5 billion) in May, the highest in 18 months and an annual 6 percent increase, according to new data. 

Figures released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, reveal that these holdings encompass monetary gold, special drawing rights, the International Monetary Fund’s reserve position, and foreign reserves.

According to May’s figures, international currency holdings – including currency and deposits abroad and investments in foreign securities – constituted 95 percent of the total, amounting to SR1.66 trillion.

This category also registered a 6 percent increase during this period.

SDRs comprised 4 percent of the total, amounting to SR77.68 billion, and increased by 0.3 percent during this period. 

Created by the IMF to supplement member countries’ official reserves, SDRs derive their value from a basket of major currencies: the US dollar, euro and Chinese yuan as well as the Japanese yen, and British pound. They can be exchanged among governments for freely usable currencies when needed. 

SDRs provide additional liquidity, stabilize exchange rates, act as a unit of account, and facilitate international trade and financial stability. 

The IMF reserve position totaled SR12.72 billion, however decreased by 14 percent during this period. This category essentially represents the amount a country can draw from the IMF without conditions.

Fitch Ratings announced in March that it had affirmed Saudi Arabia’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating at “A+” with a stable outlook.

The agency highlighted that the Kingdom’s position reflects its robust fiscal and external balance sheets. It also noted improvements in governance driven by social and economic reforms, as well as efforts to enhance government institution effectiveness.

Saudi Arabia’s ratings are bolstered by its strong fiscal and external balance sheets, with government debt to gross domestic product and sovereign net foreign assets significantly stronger than the “A” and “AA” medians and substantial fiscal buffers in the form of deposits and other public-sector assets.

According to the agency, the Kingdom benefits from considerable fiscal buffers and boasts one of the highest reserve coverage ratios among rated sovereigns, at 16.5 months of current external payments. 

Fitch anticipates reserves to decrease to an average of $420 billion by 2024 to 2025 due to a narrowing current account surplus offset by investments from entities like the Public Investment Fund.

Sovereign net foreign assets are also projected to remain above 50 percent of GDP during this period, surpassing the “A” median of 6 percent.

The IMF praised Saudi Arabia’s “unprecedented economic transformation” in a June report, attributing its success to prudent government policies and effective diversification efforts.

It also highlighted strong domestic demand, ongoing financial reforms, and environmental policies as key strengths in the Kingdom’s evolving economic landscape. 

Following its official visit to the country, the IMF projected Saudi Arabia’s GDP growth to accelerate to approximately 4.5 percent by 2025, stabilizing at 3.5 percent annually over the medium term.

Non-oil growth is expected to reach 3.5 percent in 2024 before further increasing from 2025 onwards. Despite a projected decline in oil output in 2024 due to production cuts, there is anticipation for a recovery in 2025.

The IMF emphasized that Saudi Arabia’s diversification efforts are yielding positive results, stressing the need to sustain non-oil growth momentum, ensure financial stability, and enhance business competitiveness.