GulfNews Business

GulfNews Business

UAE needs to create pools of harvested rainwater for its needs

Analysis|: The UAE's food security hinges on its imports — nearly 85 per cent of its total requirement. If the nation follows the same trade trajectory, food import costs are projected to increase to $400 billion by 2025. Although UAE's economic and political leverage allows such a trade deficit, it does not align with today's changed reality, characterized by supply-chain disruptions and emphasis on self-reliance. The obvious solution is to enhance localized agricultural production. But this is easier said than done. Sub-optimal soil conditions, arid climate, acute water scarcity and erratic rainfall leave the UAE with several impediments to food production. And since water is the most important determinant of agricultural productivity, the lack of it means that the scope can be limited. Disproportionate As things stand, agriculture already accounts for 65 per cent of water use in the UAE, which is disproportionately high. Increasing the demand on desalination plants, too is not a viable solution, taking into account the high carbon emissions this would involve. Such a conflicting set of conditions is not unique. Many nations, particularly in the Middle East, are grappling with multi-faceted challenges to food security. This was further aggravated during the pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, 690 million people were chronically undernourished, while three billion could not afford a nutritious diet. As a result, agriculture attracted renewed focus, in the recent WEF Davos 2021. Policymakers and business elites echoed the pressing need to shape agricultural policies and partnerships for a more inclusive and sustainable future. However, unlike previous editions, Davos 2021 strongly advocated for a framework that addresses the interplay between agriculture and issues such as water scarcity, climate change and deforestation. The great reset underway lends a perfect window to introduce such holistic approaches to addressing food scarcity. If the pandemic showed us anything, it was that we are capable of decisive actions when faced with adversity. And in the context of the UAE, this endeavour - to drive sustainable agriculture - relies heavily on harnessing renewable resources. The UAE has poured massive investments into desalination and wastewater treatment. Today, the nation is a global leader in those domains. Concurrently, cloud-seeding initiatives were launched to enhance precipitation. But there is still a need for cost-effective and scalable mechanisms to harvest rainwater and avert flooding. Centralized rainwater harvesting systems, which are expensive to install and have limited catchment area, are not viable. Decentralize To extract maximum value, we need decentralized systems that are employable by individual farmers and institutions alike, as per requirements. Thanks to technology, such systems are now possible. These decentralized systems tick all the sustainability boxes in line with Davos Agenda's push for a holistic approach. They essentially enable self-reliance and sufficiency in the agriculture ecosystem, by harnessing a renewable source of water. Widespread deployment could, in time, reduce the load on desalination plants and help reduce the water-related carbon footprint of the UAE. According to the WEF, with rapid urbanization and increasing population, water and food scarcity are set to become even more challenging, if they are not addressed using proactive solutions. Making this change will require multi-stakeholder participation, and strong tech and capital flow to farming communities. But taking a smart approach to addressing fundamental systemic challenges, like water scarcity, can help alter the equation fundamentally, and drive sustainable food security. - Chandra Dake is CEO of Dake Rechsand.

GulfNews Business

Gulfood 2021: Egyptian snack brands keep thriving on sweet nostalgia

Retail|: Dubai: Molto chocolate-filled croissants, Lambada wafers, Freska bars and Temmy’s cornflakes are just a few of the snacking essentials Egyptians grew up on.. “One of my favourite things to do when I go back is to go to a koshk (a street vendor) to buy some candy,” Samia Khalifa, an Egyptian living in Dubai, said. These household names are produced in Egypt and principally targeted at the domestic market. They tend to take inspiration from US snacks, for example, with the Egyptian cookie brand ‘Borio’ inspired by Oreo, and the chips brand ‘Days’ inspired by - you guessed it - Lays. However, Egyptian companies are also producing their own unique snacks as well, to offer more affordable options rather than the pricey imports. One of the most loved is Molto, a bag of mini stuffed croissants. Breaking into the UAE market has not been easy for some of the all-time favourite snack brands from Egypt. Those that have are often sold at select stores only. Image Credit: Supplied No stopping for COVID-19 So much so the company that owns it, Edita, was launching new products and flavours even during the pandemic, and generating an instant response from those with a sugar craving. “ On whether Edita plans to launch Molto in the UAE, a company spokesperson at Gulfood 2021 gave a firm ‘No’. And which would cause any amount of heartburn for Egyptian expats. Nevertheless, Egyptians can find some of their favourite candies at select supermarkets in the UAE And Snacks like Lambada Wafers and Droo cakes can be purchased at just the one store in the UAE - Al Khebra Al Raidah Hypermarket in Sharjah. Super niche Hany El Masary, a partner at the company told Gulf News that they are hoping to expand the range of Egyptian produced goods in the UAE. “We get Egyptians visiting from all over the UAE, so they can get their hands on nostalgia snacks as well as other food,” he said. Some are having trouble penetrating the market. Senyorita Group, the food company that creates Lion, Windows and Days chips, are struggling to enter the market as the competition in the UAE is already so high. “I myself grew up eating Lion and Days chips, but the one that is most widespread in Egypt is Windows,” said Nada Mohammed, a representative at Senyorita Group. “We have been trying to enter the UAE market for years, but Lays is such a dominant force, that it has been really difficult. “I think the one that could stand out the most is Windows, as it is more unique.” (The brand is named after the shape of the chip itself, a square shape with lines down the middle.) There are around 400,000 Egyptian expats in the UAE. To give them a feel of home, there are the Egyptian restaurants, coffee shops (Ahawy) and a multitude of koshari spots. Plus the music and movies. Now, only if Egyptians could have more of their favourite snacks from the past.

GulfNews Business

Personal finances could always do with a 'deep cleaning'

Analysis|: Since last year, we’ve been fortunate with having more time and space to think, reflect… and clean up. While some measures may seem extreme, that deep cleaning gave us a sense of control. For many, their finances took a toll, and as salaries were revised, this created a financial mess. Pandemic or not, deep cleaning your finances is an essential task because you are aware where you stand. Doing so on a regular basis can make life easier, and your financial journey a lot more comfortable. If you don’t know that extra Dh100 that crept into your phone bill, it’s time to start thinking and asking questions. Here are four ways to deep clean your finances and the benefits it will bring: Read More Travel and tourism workers endured biggest wage cuts, longer furloughs during COVID-19 GameStop mania exposes SEC's failure as regulator Stay informed If you have a problem remembering what you spent, then it is a problem. With Apple Pay and Google Pay and most leading banks offering online payments, it’s been easier to track spending. If a diary and a pen is what works for you, then create a finance journal and fill it up at the end of the day (or week). No matter how small the amount is, if you think you haven’t spent it, it’s good to ask questions and follow up. Clean the 'waste bin' Dusting and cleaning your budget will surely reveal some spending patterns. Now, it’s time to identify areas in your budget to make adjustments. The strategy will must work with your lifestyle and goals in mind. Plan to clean up debt Once you have figured out how much you owe and how much you’re paying in interest, create a debt repayment plan based on your budget. Next you will want to look for ways to either increase your payments or reduce your interest rates in order to pay off the debt quicker. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, sit with an advisor or even ask your family for their opinion. Increase income Especially during the pandemic, we saw a rise in online trading. People finally took the effort to learn about the stock market. While it is a full time job, it can be done remotely. Online trading requires you to learn, observe and make planned decisions. You should never believe that it is a game of luck. - Ali Hasan is CEO of Evest.

GulfNews Business

Indian newspapers ask Google to pay publishers 85% of ad revenues

Business|India|: Dubai: India’s largest media body - representing more than 1,000 newspapers with 71 million copies in circulation in 19 languages - has asked Google to share at least 85 per cent of the digital giant’s advertising revenue with publishers. The demand from the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) came on Thursday in a letter written by its president L. Adimoolam to Google India vice-president and country head Sanjay Gupta. Noting that Indian publishers continued to invest heavily to support “quality journalism with credible news, current affairs, analysis, information and entertainment”, Adimoolam said that the proprietary content generated out of this expensive and rigorous process ultimately provided Google its credibility and authenticity in India. Clear lack of transparency However, in return, Indian media publishers were facing a very opaque advertising system, as they were unable to get details of Google’s advertising value chain, he said. “The Society insisted that Google should increase the publisher share of advertising revenue to 85 per cent, and also ensure more transparency in the revenue reports provided to publishers by Google,” the INS said in a statement made available to Gulf News. “The society has demanded Google should pay for news generated by the newspapers which employ thousands of journalists on the ground, at considerable expense, for gathering and verifying information.” The letter was sent on the same day that Australia’s parliament passed a law to make Google and Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms. Countries like the UK and Canada are also mulling similar laws. “In the dialogue we are having with Google for the past three months, we are trying to figure out an appropriate monetisation model that would work out in favour of both parties,” Mohit Jain, vice-president of INS, told Gulf News in a phone interview from Mumbai. “Over time, if this approach does not work out, some publishers are also looking at working with the government for legislative support on the same.” Australian government has shown the way in taking on digital media giants and have them pay for part of the content they place on their platforms. Image Credit: Reuters Fast paced growth According to a FICCI-EY 2020 report, India’s digital news readership has grown to more than 300 million users and the country remains the world’s fastest-growing advertising market. Ad revenues of Facebook and Google in India rose to $1.58 billion in FY19, with the two companies garnering nearly 70 per cent market share of India’s online advertising space. According to Dentsu Aegis, India’s online ad spend is expected to reach $3.87 billion by 2022. But beleaguered Indian media companies have seen major layoffs and shut down of operations since the pandemic-triggered lockdown last year, and are now looking up to the government to enact legislation similar to Australia to make Google and Facebook share ad revenues. “It is also noted that Google has recently agreed to better compensate and pay publishers in France, the European Union and notably in Australia,” the INS said. “However, newspaper publishers [in India] are seeing their share of the advertising pie shrinking in the digital space, even as Google is taking a giant share of advertising spends,” the society said. India's news publishing industry is at a critical juncture. While digital readership has shot up significantly, there is limited gains on the revenue side for the content creators. Image Credit: AFP

GulfNews Business

British Airways' owner offers no forecasts as 2020 operating loss soars to $9b

Aviation|: London: British Airways parent IAG SA posted a 7.43 billion-euro ($9 billion) operating loss in 2020 and said it can't provide an outlook as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter air travel. The group's first loss in almost a decade included exceptional charges of 3 billion euros against plane retirements, restructuring and fuel-hedging measures. CEO Luis Gallego said an international commitment to digital health passes and wider COVID-19 testing is required to reopen travel, on top of moves already being explored in countries including the UK. "Getting people traveling again will require a clear roadmap for unwinding current restrictions when the time is right," he said. Read More Outlook for airlines deteriorating in 2021: IATA Global airline body IATA plans COVID travel pass for end of March Strain on finances IAG has had to cut jobs, borrow money and sell stock to stay afloat, with BA particularly hard because of its reliance on a trans-Atlantic market that's still virtually closed. Short-haul specialists such as EasyJet are counting on a quicker rebound as the UK's vaccine roll-out helps spur leisure bookings. Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA separately reported a 16.63 billion kroner ($1.95 billion) loss in the fourth quarter, including impairment costs related to aircraft purchases. The Scandinavian carrier is restructuring under an examinership process in an Irish court and will offer a detailed plan next week. The company has said it plans to raise new equity in late March or early April, and focus on regional flights after turning away from the low-cost, long-haul business that put price pressure on major carriers like British Airways IAG attempted to purchase Norwegian Air in 2018, but dropped the plan after its bids were rejected and losses mounted at the smaller company.

GulfNews Business

UAE's zero-tolerance on money laundering is netting results

Banking|: The actions by the UAE Central Bank to fine 11 banks Dh45.76 million is a strong signal that as a financial services regulator, the UAE is working on areas of improvement identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). One of the key issues identified in the FATF Mutual Evaluation Report issued in April 2020 was for there to be more dissuasive enforcement actions by authorities. The sanctions against the 11 banks is only one such in a series of actions. The Central Bank imposed sanctions on two exchange houses for weak anti-money laundering (AML) and combatting financing of terrorism (CFT) compliance measures, issuing fines of Dh500,000 and Dh950,000 in October last. Read More UAE Executive Office to combat money laundering, terrorism funding UAE: An exchange house was fined Dh504,000 by the Central Bank of UAE Crackdowns On February 10, another exchange house was fined Dh504,000 for weak AML and CFT compliance frameworks. These come in the wake of the establishment of the Executive Office of Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism. The UAE Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) – the UAE’s federal securities and capital market sector regulator – has issued administrative fines to entities it regulates for AML-compliance shortfalls. These are really a step in the right direction and comes when other parts of the UAE Government conducted their own action to combat financial crimes. Last year saw the Ministry of Justice temporarily suspended 200 law firm licenses for AML failures, resulting in fines of Dh100,000 each on seven law firms that were unable to rectify identified failures adequately. The UAE Ministry of Economy also announced in November that it had established a dedicated AML Department. Recently, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department announced the Abu Dhabi Criminal Courts had sentenced a former chairman of a government-owned company as well as its CEO to 15 years’ imprisonment for money laundering. It was accompanied by an order to pay Dh501,000 as compensation to the companies they represented, return Dh8 billion public funds that were misappropriated, and for the expatriate CEO to be deported after serving his sentence. No leeway for offenders The judgement is the latest in a string of recent money laundering cases, with criminal sentences also being announced in November and December last. Following the establishment of specialized AML Courts in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain and Ajman through various resolutions, it is clear the UAE judicial and law enforcement agencies are working to crack down on those looking to abuse the financial and economic opportunities. Dubai was ranked in eight place as a financial centre in the Global Financial Centre Index in September 2019. And the UAE is a major financial, logistics, business and legal hub for the Middle East and a gateway to several regions. The latest actions are a real testimony to the UAE Government’s commitment to tackle financial crime and AML/CFT risks and to protect the gateway opportunities the UAE offers from criminal activity. - Samir Safar-Aly is Senior Associate at Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla.

GulfNews Business

Boeing 777 makes emergency landing in Moscow with engine trouble

Aviation|: A Boeing Co. 777 aircraft operated by Rossiya Airlines made an emergency landing in Moscow at 4:44 a.m. local time due to engine trouble, less than a week after a similar aircraft flown by United Airlines Holdings Inc. suffered a dramatic blowout over Denver, shedding debris onto neighbourhoods below. The Rossiya Air flight was operating as a cargo service from Hong Kong to Madrid, according to an employee at Sheremetyevo International Airport, who declined to be named. Neither Boeing nor Rossiya Air were immediately available for comment. The crew of the plane requested to make the emergency landing after one of the left engine control channels failed, according to Interfax. No injuries were reported. The type of engine wasn't immediately clear. Last Saturday's incident in Colorado involved a PW4077 engine made by Pratt & Whitney, a division of Raytheon Technologies Corp. A preliminary examination of fragments from the engine suggested suggested a crack that grew gradually over time prompted the failure. The incident led to groundings of all the Boeing 777s around the world that use the engine. In another incident on Feb. 20, a Boeing 747-400 cargo jet operated by Longtail Aviation suffered a failure with its Pratt & Whitney engine shortly after takeoff from Maastricht in the Netherlands. That failure was contained, meaning debris didn't escape laterally and damage the body of the plane, but two people on the ground were injured. The engine was from the same PW4000 family as the United flight.

GulfNews Business

Busting some myths about food security and ways to get there

Analysis|: To know what food commodities a country is good at producing, look at its farmers. Agriculture has a memory of its own when it comes to the cultivation of food commodities. Farmers, when left to their own devises, are more adept at cultivating commodities that safeguard their access to food and protect livelihoods. Historically, this resulted in the accumulation of agricultural knowhow and an underlying understanding of comparative advantage. Unlike farmers, governments are more interested in cultivating commodities that they consider important to their food security and being self-sufficient in them. Based on that, they deploy protectionist measures, such as tariffs on food imports, and introduce subsidies to drive farmers from what they have always been good at producing to what governments want them to produce. Read More UAE's facilities management industry needs immediate help UAE businesses can no longer get by thinking short-term options Undercuts legacy knowhow This drive by governments does not only impede farmers’ knowhow but undermines the decades’ old comparative advantage too. Governments’ drive to be self-sufficient is as old as time, and so is the search for land that is agriculturally more productive. This, for instance, has been a key driver behind the Mongol Empire’s ventures into foreign lands. The same has been observed during the Khediviate time in Egypt and Sudan. Actually, the Khedive realised that Egypt’s lands will not be enough to feed Egypt’s burgeoning population, and that productive Sudanese lands could be utilised and cultivated to make food security ends meet. Culture of protectionism To achieve self-sufficiency, even if only half successfully, countries resort to protectionist measures that would help them in implementing their self-sufficiency policies. Most of those are enacted behind a façade of protection for farmers and their livelihoods. The fact is that such protection takes the form of tariffs on the imports of food commodities that countries want to grow domestically, as well as agricultural and other subsidies to promote the cultivation of the same. Protectionist measures also include buying farmers’ produce at fixed prices. That is done safeguarding them from international price fluctuations for the commodity that they cultivate, like the case is with rice in Thailand. Another is what India did last year, prior to its recent agriculture-related reforms, when a ban on onion exports was aimed at securing domestically produced onions for local consumption. This made sure that higher international onion prices did not trickle down to domestic markets. Artificial ways In all cases, these measures, along with others, have been planned and carried out under the premise of reaching self-sufficiency for the betterment of the population, accomplished by producing food needs within the country’s borders. Thus, domestic food prices are kept under control by curbing exposure to international price fluctuations. Realistically, though, protectionist and other measures to skew the food production map in one country’s favour versus another can be quite disruptive to the natural, and sometimes implicit, comparative advantage that a country possesses. The encouragement to grow certain commodities, but not others, push farmers to grow what the country is willing to support in order to not lose their livelihoods. Even if that means abandoning decades old knowhow of what they are good at producing. Theirs to lose As this goes on, what could have always been a country’s comparative advantage may be lost for good as farmers move away from it to accommodate a country’s self-sufficiency aspirations in a food trade market that is more globalised than ever. The longer this goes on, the further countries move away from their historic comparative advantage to one that they can only retain via protectionist measures and costly subsidies. The only way for countries to not lose historic comparative advantage for good is by looking inwards when assessing what commodities their farmers have always been good at producing, without protection. Start from there to specialise in those commodities again. Whereas this cannot be done without risks in a globalised food market, the move away from all-out self-sufficiency to one that is based on historic comparative advantage, driven by what farmers have always known can be grown productively in the land, is the way forward. This, nevertheless, can only be sustainable if more countries come to terms with its importance for a more sustainable domestic food security and an enhanced global one in the future. Such inclusive food security, for farmers and countries, can only be arrived at when farmers specialise and countries trade. The last thought that I want to leave you with: can quantitative analysis unearth historic comparative advantage? - Abdulnasser Alshaali is a UAE based economist.

GulfNews Business

UAE's facilities management industry needs immediate help

Property|Analysis|: The world of UAE's real estate sure has its opportunities… and challenges . Its stakeholders must rise to these challenges in a more concerted way than in the past. The barrage of issues they are confronted with requires wholesale transformation - but they still ignore key aspects. Doing so will have far-reaching consequences. For instance, the facilities management sector is part of lots of discussion, but solutions to its problems are at a nascent stage. Many stages need alignment in any built-up environment’s lifecycle, from land acquisition to the building’s management. FM aligns these goals for each party's best interests. Although even in the midst of recent changes passing through the real estate sector, the FM side of it still has a limited footprint. Read More Salary waivers and employee relief fund - here's how one FM company saved jobs, including in UAE Dubai must get developers, property companies to follow rules in setting service charges Wilful ignoring Within it lies solutions for many ongoing industry woes such as cost reduction, better maintenance, and better coordination to lower carbon footprint. But key considerations are being ignored between the design, construction and maintenance-related service level agreements as well as on service fees. Developers have long been circumventing critical components for cost reasons, compromising the minimum needs for sustainable FM standards. In the current context, the way the common area maintenance costs are set needs a return to basics. These are often inadequate and lost in translation between different stakeholders, leading to insufficient allocation. Get parameters right To provide for needed maintenance and lifecycle management costs, defined parameters have to be followed. But what we see are undue considerations provided to other costs such as property management or utility. This is due to diktats from institutional investors and developers. Traditionally, this responsibility rests on landlords, but the return on investments overrides all other considerations in today’s landscape. All FM considerations are done for compliance or regulatory purposes, or as pure tokenism. Even benchmarks are not correctively arrived at. I see most FM standards being arrived at as a function of CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) than on actuals. Burdening the future The investor-developer nexus is ignoring FM stipulations. Blame it on the market situation or cost pressure, but circumventing maintenance needs will only escalate the future costs and business continuity needs. While compliance related-costs are provided, that too is inadequate. There is an uneven allocation of expenses between administration expenses, property management and core maintenance. Market pressures in terms of low demand have further aggravated this, with property owners demanding lower service fees. The time is now to engage them in clearing the air, improving trust through effective engagement and transparent cost provision. In this debate, all have to share the blame. From consultant to construction, developers to investors, and end-users too with their reluctance to pay for the intrinsic cost for maintenance. Time to play defined parts Each has to play a role for needed reforms. Developers and the construction industry must revisit their basics as vested interests have gone too far in ignoring fundamentals. The regulator must also plays its role, as the FM domain remains compromised and in disarray. The compliance stipulations in context to build environments are complex. These mostly remain confined to safety, and not necessarily on sustainability for effective maintenance, low carbon footprint and economic costs. There is minimal consumer understanding of critical maintenance impact and its basic costs they should maintain. To build sustainable FM regimes that essentially lowers the costs, each player must ensure adequate provision of standards across the property’s lifecycle. - Tariq Chauhan is Group CEO at EFS.

GulfNews Business

Will Indian rupee again favour UAE's NRIs by dropping below 20 for one dirham?

Markets|: Dubai: Will the rupee again hit 20 to the dirham? Early trade in the currency markets has the rupee pegged at 19.90, and tantalizingly close to a level that would cheer NRI residents in the UAE with plans to remit some of their upcoming salary payment. (In dollar terms, the Friday rate is at Rs73.10 for a dollar.) It was on April 22 last year that the rupee dropped to a record low of 76.90, hit by heavy foreign fund outflows from the Indian stock markets and as the global economy was grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak. Fears that the Indian economy is heading into an unprecedented contraction speeded up the outflows. But nearly a year down the line, it’s a different set of circumstances that the economy and rupee are facing. “With the easing lockdown restrictions, the pickup in economic activities, increase in consumer demand and benign inflation, India will continue to remain an attractive destination for foreign institutional funds,” said Rahul Gupta, Head of Research -Currency at Emkay Global Financial Services. With fundamentals on solid footing, the more likely prospect would be the rupee trading in the 71.50 to 73.50 range. If so, NRIs would have to make do with getting less than 20 for their dirham. Rupee's been holding to a tight range against dollar/dirham in recent weeks. Image Credit: Nivetha Dayanand Softer US stance President Joe Biden’s approach is also spurring foreign investors’ confidence in emerging markets… and India has been a prime beneficiary. The BSE index is hovering near the 50,000 points mark, and the widespread impression is that key sectors will be coming up with vastly improved results in the current quarter. (The BSE was at 49,991 at 9am UAE time on Friday.) “As long as this trend holds, over the next six months, the rupee may remain firm against the dollar… and therefore against the dirham,” said Anindya Banerjee, DVP for Currency Derivatives and Interest Rate Derivatives at Kotak Securities. “With the new administration in the US expected to be more open to globalisation, foreign investors are buying into emerging market assets.” Read More Indian economy: Will RBI keep rates steady in the years to come? Indian stocks attract over $22 billion in 2020 But will rupee gain more? Upcoming corporate results for the January to March period will be decisive in keeping the bullish mood going. The central government’s budget earlier in the month had done much to soothe investor sentiments on which way the economy is going. There was none of the market trantrums after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the key proposals. The rupee too was as steady as it goes. The four factors that drive the rupee’s status are foreign direct investment and debt flows; portfolio flows into Indian stocks; speculative forces operating in dollar-rupee derivatives in onshore and offshore markets; and the Indian central bank’s buying and selling of dollar. “Three out of four conditions have been favourable to the rupee due to improving macroeconomic situation, government reforms,” said Banerjee. Plus, “The high-interest differential offering in dollar-rupee forwards/futures contracts. “However, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) has not allowed the rupee to appreciate as its peers in other emerging markets.” Close to one-year peak While several emerging market currencies are at two- or three-year highs, the rupee is still short of a one-year high against the dollar. The RBI bought nearly $160 billion over the past nine months to prevent the rupee from appreciating to a point where the country’s exports feel its impact. Only if the RBI reduces the pace of its dollar buying in the coming weeks, can the rupee appreciate to the plus 20 to the dirham level. NRIs will just have to bide their time. “We can't comment on what’s best for an individual,” said Supin James, General Manager, Purshottam Kanji Exchange in Oman. “It all depends on their need to send money back home. But compared to February 2020, the rate of transfer is the same - so we say it is always a good time to send money.”

GulfNews Business

GameStop share ride: shooting star or rocket to the moon?

Business|: San Francisco: After rocking the stock market at the end of January due to a speculative buying frenzy, shares in video game store chain GameStop are buzzing anew on Wall Street. GameStop shares more than doubled in price on Wednesday then rocketed further on Thursday in trading so heated that stock market operators tapped the brakes to cool the situation. GamesStop ended the formal trading day at $108.73, up 18.56 per cent, but lost ground in after-hours trading. Trading driven by emotion or risk-taking rather than business fundamentals put the spotlight back on GameStop's wild ride, which has captured attention due to what some see as a battle between ordinary folks and titans of Wall Street. Why a new surge? The spike in shares of GameStop, traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol GME, began a day after it was announced that its chief financial officer Jim Bell will step down on March 26. GameStop contended in a filing with US financial regulators that Bell's departure was not the result of any disagreement about the company's activities or practices. However, news website Business Insider cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter as saying Bell was ousted by new GameStop board member Ryan Cohen, an activist investor known for shaking companies up to get them on paths to success. Cohen, a co-founder of online pet products shop Chewy, taking a stake in GameStop was among the triggers that caused shares to lift off early this year. Amateur investors on online forums seemingly intoxicated by their cumulative power to move share prices went on to flex their buying muscle on shares in other companies such as AMC cinemas and headphone maker Koss. What happened in January? An army of amateur investors, many exchanging advice and opinions on a popular forum at the Reddit website, began buying up GameStop in defiance of hedge funds that had bet shares in the company would tank because the video game disk-selling company is out of synch with the Internet age. Institutional investors seeing the David and Goliath battle taking place between amateurs and hedge funds moved in to profit from market movements, adding to the volatility. What began as dueling stock market bets came to represent ordinary people striving to claim some of the wealth hoarded by the financial elite. US regulators began investigating practices of hedge funds and whether brokerage platforms, including free trading app Robinhood, moved to protect financial professionals suffering huge losses as shares in GameStop rocketed. Investor Charlie Munger, business partner of billionaire Warren Buffet, this week lamented what he saw as a lot of people using stock markets to gamble as they might when betting on horses, with those handling transactions the most likely to profit. Will the rocket crash? After peaking at more than $347 in late January, GameStop shares fell back to about $40 at the end of last week. Given market prices can be driven by emotion and speculation rather than clear business factors, it is a guess how high they may rocket or how quickly they may plunge. Members of the WallStreetBets forum on Reddit continued to tout GameStop shares as heading for the moon. "I feel like the people who are still holding GME from last month are stuck at the top of Everest and we just built a rescue helicopter out of tinfoil and used car parts," wrote a Reddit user from the account of Healthy_Mammooth_1066. "Hang in there diamond hands. Help is on the way." Diamond hands is a WallStreetBets reference to someone who has held onto shares long and hard. What is happening with GameStop trading is evidence of a change in the markets, according to Thomas Gorman, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey Whitney and an authority on trading regulation. "The battle recently between what appears to be smaller retail investors on one side trading through Robinhood and against the large shorts is not a one-off event," Gorman said. "To the contrary, it is just the opening salvo in what is likely to be a shift in the markets where large shorts cannot simply step in and trade against a struggling company." Short selling is when investors who think a stock is overpriced borrow shares and sell them, expecting to buy them back more cheaply then pocket the difference.

GulfNews Business

Beyond Meat signs long-term agreements with McDonald's, KFC parent

Business|: Washington: US plant-based meat substitute start-up Beyond Meat announced Thursday it has signed partnerships with fast-food giants McDonald's and Yum! Brands, the parent company for KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. The "strategic" agreements will cover a three-year period for McDonald's and "the next several years" for Yum! Brands, according to two separate statements from Beyond Meat. Beyond Meat will be the main supplier for the patty in the McPlant, the plant-based burger currently in testing phase in McDonald's restaurants around the world. The two companies, which have worked together since 2019, also plan to work together to explore and develop other menu items, including plant-based options for chicken and eggs, they said in the statement. The goal is to help McDonald's offer a large variety of plant-based products. "This strategic agreement is an important step on our journey to bring delicious, high quality, plant-based menu items to our customers," said Francesca DeBiase, McDonald's executive vice president, in the statement. Yum! Brands was the first group to offer a plant-based chicken substitute through its KFC chain in 2019 in the United States, through a collaboration with Beyond Meat. They followed the move last year with a pizza option at Pizza Hut, offering vegetable-based sausages supplied by the start-up. "We expect this Beyond Meat partnership to strengthen our brands' capability to offer delicious, plant-based menu items that are driven by consumer demand for more diverse protein options and our brands' strategies in local markets," said Yum! Brands CFO in the statement. The financial terms of the two agreements were not disclosed.

GulfNews Business

UAE's private jet travel is readying for an 'Uber for the skies' experience

Aviation|: Dubai: You’ve done it – take out the phone, open an app and make a booking for a ride to come and drop to your choice of location. It could be a ride to the home, office, a meeting… or even down to the airport. Now, a company wants to take the same concept of ride-hailing beyond the airport and up to the skies. That’s right, create an “Uber for the skies…,” is how Ravi Thakran, the Singapore-based Chairman and Managing Partner of GCC Asia Growth Fund. Let’s be clear – Thakran is not engaging in wishful thinking. One of his entities – Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp. – earlier this month acquired US-based Wheels Up Partners Holdings, whose business model is based on offering seats on any available private jet that’s there in their neighbourhood. The intention – make private jet travel available to more than just the super-rich or corporate clients. And the rates? In the range of “Business Class plus…”Ravi Thakran, who has had stints with LVMH, Swatch and Nike, has set sights on bringing in a few changes to the business of private jets. His plan? Expand the user base.Irish Eden R. Belleza/Gulf News Wheels Up's way Headquartered in the US, the Wheels Up concept works on connecting prospective fliers with private jet owners or operators. The model works on expanding the base of users of private jets beyond the xtremely wealthy, the celebrities and top corporate executives. Wheels Up services include membership programmes, on-demand private flights across all cabin categories, aircraft management, and aircraft sales. It manages the private jet fleet of Delta Air Lines. In 2020, the company flew more than 150,000 passengers, utilizing its access to over 1,500 owned, managed, and third-party partner aircraft. With its plans to head to the Middle East and Far East hubs, Wheels Up wants to further its fleet of ready-to-fly jets. Heading to the Middle East The deal, which values Wheels Up at $2.1 billion and get a listing on NYSE, will see the company expand its reach beyond the US into the Middle East and Asia. But will this concept fly in untested markets? “During the pandemic, while there were headwinds for the airline industry as such, it actually created a tailwind for private jet aviation,” said Thakran, who in another avatar was the head of Asia operations at the French luxury goods giant LVMH, which is the home of Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Christian Dior. “In the Middle East itself, private jet flying during 2020 was up 20 per cent plus, while in the US, it was up by 36 per cent. And in many other parts of the world, there was similar double-digit growth. “There are between 850 to 1,500 private jet aircrafts in the MEA region, but which spend 90-95 per cent of the time on the ground. A 95 per cent utilisation rate is way too low. “With Wheels Up, we are bringing a new-generation tech platform that will be able to connect aspirational consumers on one side and tens of thousands of private aircraft on the other.” That’s where the Uber concept comes in. $ 2.1 Billion What Wheels Up is valued at after the latest deal Take up rates soar Thakran’s views about COVID-19 and private jet demand are on the ball. Demand shot up immediately after several countries imposed lockdown measures and those who could afford it chose to fly private to get back to wherever they wanted. Corporates flew in or out their key executives as and when they needed, and ensure business continuity. (In the UAE, there were a handful of business houses that chartered private jets to help those who were stranded here a chance to return.) Now that more fliers have had a taste for private jets, Thakran reckons it will become habit forming. “It was a first-time experience for many - they are not going to go back to commercial flights,” he added. “There’s a McKinsey study that says 90 per cent of those who can afford to fly in private jets have not done so because they feel it’s too costly. Or have concerns about how to go about it.” This is where the Wheels Up app and systems kick into gear. Tap a few times on the app and the prospective flier gets to have a selection rates and jets to make the ride happen. Much like an Uber… “When you create a subscription model like Wheels Up, it creates a much faster adoption rate,” said Thakran. “You have the dynamic pricing, which we think it will generate higher adoption rates. The whole process becomes as easy as buying a ticket for the NBA or NFL.” Partner search Outside of the US, Thakran reckons Wheels Up’s best prospects would lie in the UAE and Middle East, as well as in the Far East. The plan is to rope in a partner, preferably one from the UAE. “In the Middle East, the UAE is the best place to exploit this concept,” he said. “With the new aerospace hub that the UAE is building and the investments that have gone in, I don’t think there’s another region in Asia Pacific that’s putting as much focus into aviation. “A partnership with a player in the UAE and create a central hub for the region will be a fantastic. There is Saudi Arabia is upping investments in this field - but UAE has the advantages. We will be encouraging Wheels Up to consider an alliance, do a collaboration.” Change mindset But to get traction, Thakran and Wheels Up will need to work on mindsets as well. The majority of the private jets in the Middle East are owned by high networth individuals or corporates. “The Middle East has always believed in a full ownership model,” said Thakran. “But if a number of owners of these 850 jets can be convinced to place their aircraft on the Wheels Up platform, their utilisation rates will shoot up. “If 5 per cent is the actual utilisation rate in the US, it’s even less for private jets in the UAE and Middle East. We could change that. There are way to monetize that time, and it will be great for everyone - provided that jet owners are open to leasing their aircraft.” That’s what Wheels Up and Thakran will hope to find out… soon.

GulfNews Business

US fines Boeing $6.6m over regulatory lapses

Aviation|: Washington: The US aviation oversight agency announced Thursday it fined Boeing a total of $6.6 million (Dh24.24 million), for a series of lapses in the manufacturer’s regulatory and safety obligations. Most of the penalties were imposed for failing to live up to a 2015 deal to “improve and prioritize regulatory compliance.” “Boeing failed to meet all of its obligations under the settlement agreement,” Federal Aviation Administration head Steve Dickson said. “I have reiterated to Boeing’s leadership time and again that the company must prioritize safety and regulatory compliance, and that the FAA will always put safety first in all its decisions,” Dickson said in the statement. Though the amount was small for the global aerospace giant, it was the latest in a steady stream of negative news about Boeing, after its two deadly crashes of the 737 MAX — which has only just returned to the skies — and a recent scare involving a 777, although that was attributed to the Pratt & Whitney engine. Of the total fines, $5.4 million stem from deferred penalties under the terms of the 2015 agreement because Boeing missed some of its improvement targets, and because some company managers did not sufficiently prioritize compliance with FAA regulations, the regulator said. Boeing previously paid $12 million in civil penalties in that case. The company also will pay $1.21 million to settle two enforcement cases in which management “exerted undue pressure or interfered with” an internal quality-control, including “in relation to an aircraft airworthiness inspection,” the FAA said. Boeing said in a statement: “We are strengthening our work processes and operations to ensure we hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards of safety and quality.” The FAA itself has been the subject of intense scrutiny, especially in its handling of the MAX certification in the wake of the tragic accidents that killed 346 people and led to the aircraft being grounded worldwide for 20 months. The FAA came in for fresh criticism over its handling of the MAX in a report released Wednesday night by the Transportation Department’s inspector general that found “weaknesses” in the certification process. The report also said FAA engineers “continue to face challenges in balancing certification and oversight responsibilities” in dealing with Boeing.

GulfNews Business

Would you pay $125 to join them on Clubhouse, this elitist app?

Dubai: You probably heard about Clubhouse and feel like you’ve been left out of the club. If you haven't yet, well, it’s the latest social networking craze in town. The platform has an air of elitism: Clubhouse is an invitation-only audio-chat. And it’s currently available only on iPhones. It’s less than a year old. But clubhouse’s unique proposition of audio-only social networking has sent people scampering for invitations. Some adjectives used by users to describe it: “Fascinating”, “incredible”, “mind-blowing”. The platform has been depicted as the “Netflix of talk”, or the “Zoom of podcasts”. The app is barely one year old (launched in April 2020). But its popularity has gone through the roof in the last few months. Here's what we know so far: What’s all the big buzz about Clubhouse? Who are the founders? Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. The legal entity behind Clubhouse is Alpha Exploration Co. SPC LLC, based in Oakland, California. Rohan Seth (left) and Paul Davison, co-founders of Clubhouse. Image Credit: Screengrab Can I download it? Yes. However, it’s only available on iOS at the moment (iPhones). Anyone who has the ability to download the app can go into the App Store and download Clubhouse. How do I get access to the app? As of the moment, it’s only an invite-only social media platform. It means that to access the app, you should be invited by someone who is already on there. To actually access the features of the app, you must receive a Clubhouse invite from somebody already on there. Should I download Clubhouse even if I don’t have an invite? It’s strongly recommended that you do, because even you don’t get an invite, you can already download the app and reserve your username (these days, usernames have become precious real estate on the social media platforms) Why is it still an invite-only app? According to media reports, Clubhouse owners still don’t have the infrastructure in place to currently support a public release that would potentially lead to millions of people following the the platform. That’s why they’re keeping it by-invitation only, slowly spreading the word organically to different communities. So clearly, the invite-only strategy is working. What makes it unique? It’s quite unlike any other social media — it is entirely audio-based. So, as an audio-only social media platform, there are no pictures, and no videos either. It is entirely audio-based. Meaning that you can communicate with people one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-one. You can either talk to or listen to people on the platform. How is it different from Facebook, Twitter or Zoom? It is a social networking platform that’s unlike anyone has done before. It’s a bit like Zoom, in terms of permissions. The person who sent the invite (created the room) would give the guests the permission to speak. But people in the room can say whatever they want. But unlike Zoom, it is audio only. Upside: you don’t have to look your Sunday best on the screen for the meeting. You can jump in, or leave, anytime. But unlike Twitter or Facebook, Clubhouse is not moderated. A surprise chat between tech billionaire Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on Clubhouse propel the app to the top of the startup charts and sparked a scramble for invitations to the exclusive, by-invitation-only service. Image Credit: Reuters If it's just audio-only app, why is every going gaga over it? Celebrities and high-profile venture capitalists started promoting it in May, when Clubhouse was still in beta (test stage). That’s how it started grabbing increasing attention. As mentioned earlier, the app requires an invite in order to join. Public figures on Clubhouse include Ai Weiwei, Lindsay Lohan and Roger Stone. Robinhood founder Vlad Tenev is also on it. And so are Arab stars like Mona Kattan, Saudi women’s wear designer Awra Al Banawi, Lebanese actress Razane Jammal, lifestyle influencer Lana El-Sagely. With Clubhouse, think of a live podcast where anyone can participate in — even as everyone else uses other apps simultaneously. Clubhouse feeds the desire to be heard, without the need to be seen. There’s no fear of drawing the ire of others for leaving your camera off (no camera is involved in Clubhouse). While platforms like Zoom and Tiktok have dominated our locked down world, Clubhouse is seen just as an added layer, which many social media savvy people don’t want to miss out on. Specifically, what’s the experience like? Just imagine an audio-only platform. Clubhouse has been described as a number of many things : Clubhouse has been described as a number of many things: ■ Part-talkback radio ■ Part-Conference call ■ Part-Houseparty. ■ Audio-chat allows users to listen to conversations and discussions – and speak too. ■ It’s almost like tuning in to a live podcast. So, isn’t it like a podcast? It depends on your podcast preferences. Also, all the people are talking on their iPhones. They don't see each other, so it’s like listening on a phone call. Why is Elon Musk on Clubhouse? It’s his right. And, like everybody else on the app, he probably got invited by someone else, who had been invited earlier by another, and so on. Early this month, it was reported that Elon's banter with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev over the short-squeeze on the trading app has triggered a stampede for Clubhouse app. It was initially limited to a small community, mainly consisting of venture capitalists. ■ On February 1, 2021, it was in the news when Tesla founder Elon Musk hosted an audio-chat on Clubhouse with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev. The event maxed out the app conversation room limits and was live-streamed to YouTube. This took Clubhouse to the top of the startup charts and sparked a scramble for invitations. ■ On February 14, 20201, Clubhouse was in the news again when Musk sent this Tweet out, apparently directed to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Until then, Clubhouse was an outlier app, obscure and unknown to many. Some call it the “Elon Effect”, which also happened to Bitcoin. Is it true the Clubhouse invitations are now for sale? The the rate vary widely, we found one e-Bay ad entry whcih offers Clubhouse invite from $125. Another one goes for for $15, and still another for $19.99. The add states: “Clubhouse Invite READY to be texted to you App Invitation (GUARANTEED). Invite texted to you - please include your phone number in notes at payment.” [Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee the authenticity of these offers.] How much money does clubhouse make? Zero. Zilch. Nada. (For now) It still doesn’t have an Android app (*as you read this on February 25, 2021) It’s still an invite-only iOS app. What's the force behind its flourishing? Most people around the world still endure lockdowns, where relationships are lived in a virtual world. In that world, apps like Zoom and Tiktok have flourished. Now, it’s Clubhouse’s turn. Ppeople continue to search for ways to connect while remaining isolated from one another. There are several factors that help boost its massive popularity: Good timing with the launch amid a pandemic Ability to meet 5,000+ people, socially distanced, but talking about a specific topic Invite-only format (which has drawn Silicon Valley insiders), who treated the app like a “safe space" to speak to their followers. Growth strategies deployed by start-up founders to drive downloads and hook users Good timing with the launch amid a pandemic (ability to meet 5,000+ people, socially distanced, but talking about a specific topic). “It’s either dead by July (2020) or it’s something big.” Josh Felser, co-founder of venture firm Freestyle and an early Clubhouse user in May 2020 In May 2020, when it had only 1,500 users, the app was valued at nearly $100 million. On January 21, 2021, it had 2 million users, with a market valuation estimated at $1 billion. Can I join? Only if you are invited. You can’t just download the app (available only on the Apple store at present) and create an account. You have to be invited by an existing member. Existing users only have two invites available at first. What do I do when I join? ■ You can select topics of interest so that the app will recommend conversation “rooms” or individuals you may want to follow. Once in, it is like a conference call with some people on the call talking, and most listening in. ■ Once the conversation is over, the room is closed and the live audio-chats disappear. How many users does it have? At the beginning of the February, Clubhouse had 2 million users. It is now valued at $1 billion, and is considered a “Unicorn” startup — like AirBnb, Uber and SpaceX. 5,000 number of people who can simultaneously join a Clubhouse chat room, which can then also be livestreamed on Youtube How many people can be in a conversation? The current limit is 5,000 people per Clubhouse room. What’s unique, however, is that users in a room can live-stream on YouTube as was done during the Musk interview. Is there an Android equivalent for this? Not yet. But it is reportedly being worked on. Is anyone else planning to compete with Clubhouse? Facebook is building an audio chat product similar to Clubhouse, New York Times reported, quoting people with knowledge of the matter. What's  next for Clubhouse? It remains to be seen. There's talk about other possibilities: Members of parliament holding a session/debate on important legislation. Live classes. Live concerts. Live events. Small community meetings. Corporate board meetings. Possibly with millions of people listening in via a Youtube link. Would you pay to be on Clubhouse?

GulfNews Business

Volvo and Geely call off merger

China's Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. and its Swedish affiliate Volvo Cars will collaborate more closely on electric and self-driving vehicles while putting off earlier plans to merge. The manufacturers will preserve their separate corporate structures while cooperating more closely on powertrains, electrification and autonomous-driving technology, according to a joint statement. While they'll no longer pursue a combination as announced in February of last year, new listings could be on the table. "The deeper collaboration will enable existing stakeholders and potential new investors in Volvo Cars and Geely Auto to value their respective standalone strategies, performance, financial exposure and returns,” the companies said Wednesday. "We will also have the opportunity to explore capital market options." Billionaire Li Shufu has been forging ties with a vast array of companies as Geely pushes to stay abreast of the two great shifts hitting the industry: electrification and automation. In less than a month earlier this year, Geely agreed to collaboration pacts with search-engine heavyweight Baidu Inc., Apple Inc.'s Taiwanese manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd. Li has long championed partnerships and consolidation as ways for automakers to pool resources for costly initiatives including self-driving cars. In the course of building a global carmaking empire over three decades, he's become Daimler AG's largest shareholder and snapped up Volvo in 2010. He's also amassed stakes in European legacy brands such as Lotus as well as Malaysia's Proton. Earlier this week, Geely announced it plans to set up a new unit for smart-car development. Volvo sounded out investors about a potential listing in 2018, but early feedback indicated a lower-than-expected valuation and the company tabled the idea.

GulfNews Business

9 top immigration and citizenship by investment consultants in the UAE

Business|: Bayat Legal Services . Image Credit: Supplied Key services Business immigration and economic citizenship specialists, the Bayat Group offers meaningful advice and benefits to businesspersons on complex immigration and citizenship laws and process applications for citizenship, residency and migration. Registration and accreditation Member of the Canadian Bar Association Key programmes Process applications for citizenship for the Caribbean nations, including Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, St Lucia, and St Kitts & Nevis and more, Malta, Turkey and Cyprus. It also processes applications for residency to Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria and Spain and migration to Canada, Australia, the UK and US. Contact details 04 355 4646 Bayatgroup.com Y-Axis . Image Credit: Supplied Key services Immigration representation for permanent residency, business visas, tourist and visit visas, telephone consultations, rejected visa applications, administrative appeals tribunal assistance, free counselling Years of service 21 years Specialisation Immigration, visas, career counselling Registration and accreditation IELTS testing venue with the British Council British Council IELTS registration centre Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) Member of Migration Institutes of Australia (MIA) Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) Powered By Salesforce.com; 3CX Contact details 04 248 3900; Y-axis.ae WWICS . Image Credit: Supplied Key services WWICS offers comprehensive services in the area of skilled, student, business immigration along with residency/citizenship by investment programmes. Registration and accreditation WWICS is a global, fully-licensed legal firm with an expert panel that comprises ICCRC members, MARA agents, immigration practitioners,financial advisory and investment consulting entities. Key programmes Residency/citizenship by investment programmes, permanent residency visa, business investment immigration, study visa, tourist visa and work permit Contact details 04 4434247; Wwicsgroup.com 111 Immigration . Image Credit: Supplied Key services Citizenship, residence, and immigration by investment Registration and accreditation 111 Immigration is specialised law firm, which is well recognized by several governments and officials. Key programmes Any programme related to citizenship, residence and immigration by investment laws is its specialty. Contact details  04 3851115; 111immigration.com Guide Consultants . Image Credit: Supplied Key services Consultancy and marketing services for clients pursuing citizenship and residency by investment through national CBI programmes. Registration and accreditation Guide is a licensed and authorised agent in all five Caribbean nations: Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, The Commonwealth of Dominica, and Saint Kitts and Nevis Key programmes Citizenship and Residency by Investment Programmes Contact details 04 385 8850; Guideconsultants.com Step Global . Image Credit: Supplied Key Services Step Global specialises in US and Canadian immigration with a focus on investment and entrepreneur programmes. Registration and Accreditation Step Global is registered as a Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC) company. Its Managing Director, Preeya Malik, is a US-licensed lawyer with a Canadian background. Key Programmes US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Programme US L-1 Visa US E-2 Investor Visa Canada Immigrant Investor Programme Canada Provincial Entrepreneur Programme Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme Contact Details 04 770 7825 Stepglobalgroup.com Al Kherdaji Intenational Legal Consultants . Image Credit: Supplied Key services Investment-related legal services, economic migration, private wealth legal counseling, and business immigration Registration and accreditation Licensed legal services providers by RAK International Corporate Centre (RAKICC), accredited legal consultants by several international organisations and arbitration centers, and recognised economic migration legal consultants by many countries’ Citizenship by Investment units. Key programmes Citizenship by Investment: Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Vanuatu, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Montenegro, Malta and Turke Residency by Investment: Malta, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Ireland Business immigration: USA, UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, South East Asian countries Contact details 050 5751948; Ailc.legal; Chamconsultingltd.com Vazir Group . Image Credit: Supplied Key services Faster timeframes to process applications; exclusive, unique and personalised programmes in GCC; financial support; dedicated customer manager, and end to end services Registration and accreditation Vazir Group is a registered and accredited UAE immigration consultant Key programmes Canada: Entrepreneur Permanent Residency, Owner Operator, Provincial Immigration, Boosting Point, Foreign Worker programme — work permit, Foreign Work Permit programme (i.t.), Nurse/Caregiver Direct PR, Nurse/Caregiver Work Permit, Truck Driver Work Permit, Skilled Worker programme, and Fast-track programme The Caribbean: Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica Greece: Golden Visa Programme Turkey: Citizenship by Investment Program Greece + Turkey: Turkish passport and Greece Golden Visa programme Portugal: Golden Visa Programme Contact details  04 243 8581, Vazirgroup.com Cosmos Immigration . Image Credit: Supplied Key services Immigration advice, appeal for refused visa, business planning and forecasting layout, visa application, education assessment for Canada and USA, Skill assessment for Australia, and licensing support for professional occupations specifically healthcare and engineering sectors. Registration and accreditation Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), Migration Agents Registration Authority in Australia (MARA), Immigration Advisers Authority in New Zealand (IAA), and a proud partners of IDP – Global for IELTS Achievements Cosmos has the maximum visa success ratio, 100 per cent accuracy in documentation for visa application, and 100 per cent successful outcome for student visa application Key programmes Permanent residency, study permit, business immigrant visa, investment programme, visit visa, Canada Super visa, self-employed visa, start-up visa, spouse/dependent visa,and returning resident visa. Contact details 04 357 7796 Cosmosimmigration.com

GulfNews Business

Pandemic spurs demand for global migration

Business|: The era of Covid-19 upended life as we know it, with no sector left unaltered. In the case of immigration, the pandemic gave people all over the world the opportunity to pause for a while and analyse their lives — and in many cases this led to wanting a better life overseas in a safe country with benefits such as free healthcare and education. One interesting side effect of the health crisis has been that countries have had the chance to shine — or not — in the eyes of a particularly engaged global audience. Three of the biggest winners were Australia, New Zealand and Canada, who all showed great care for their citizens while managing to incur only minimal impact to everyday life. For New Zealand, migration has long been the chief driver for the population of the isolated island nation, which increased by half a million people in the past six years alone. The country’s profile received a massive boost last year as it drew global praise for its handling of Covid-19, which resulted in a very low death rate. But it is Canada that remains arguably the most popular migrant destination for expats living in the Middle East, says Sara Alam, Service Manager, Cosmos Immigration. Canada is the top destination for young students who are seeking affordable and safe education. Sara Alam, Service Manager, Cosmos Immigration “Each year thousands choose Canada as a dream country to seek citizenship,” she says. “It is also the top destination for young students who are seeking affordable and safe education.” Alam, however, cautions that students who are currently preparing to apply for a Canadian study visa should consider policy changes due to travel restrictions. Right now, travellers arriving to Canada by air – aside from a few exceptions – are required to take a Covid-19 molecular test prior to exiting the airport, and another test towards the end of their 14-day quarantine period at their own cost. They will also be required to reserve, prior to their departure for Canada, a three-night stay at a government authorised hotel at their own cost while they await the results of their test. Yet, despite the pandemic, Canada is on track to shatter its Express Entry record. The Canadian government has taken a welcoming approach towards immigrants during these challenging times, which is a positive sign for skilled professionals considering relocation options, says Alam. It is essential to be well informed and consult with someone who listens to you and advises correctly based on your current circumstances and future goals – not just someone who urges you to choose the supposedly easier option. Karun Luthra, Migration Consultant, Vazir Group On the other hand, Australia has designed its migration plans to achieve a range of economic and social outcomes – mainly to fill skill shortages in the labour market. Karun Luthra, Migration Consultant at Vazir Group, urges those seeking greener pastures in another land to conduct proper research and approach experts for advice before even starting the application process for another country. “It is essential to be well informed and consult with someone who listens to you and advises correctly based on your current circumstances and future goals – not just someone who urges you to choose the supposedly easier option.”