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UAE's Universal Tubes and India's Tata in world's first blockchain-led trade finance for steel

Banking|: Dubai: The first blockchain-based trade finance deal in the global steel industry has been struck – and it involves a UAE-based business. The transaction was done by UAE’s Universal Tubes & Plastic Industries Ltd. and the Indian metals giant Tata Steel. It involved Universal Tubes importing its order of flat carbon steel to the UAE from Tata Steel’s India base. The transaction, with HSBC Bank overseeing it, confirms the “operational viability of blockchain as an alternative to conventional exchanges of paper-based documentation”. It was done over the ‘Contour’ blockchain platform in which HSBC is a founding shareholder. “We are confident this will pave the way for widespread adoption by other clients, counterparties and industries, many of whom we are already in talks with,” said Sunil Veetil, Regional Head of Global Trade & Receivables Finance (GTRF) at HSBC. The platform allows all parties to have visibility of a trade with no single organisation having control of all the data. Why is it a first? Apart from being the first such in the steel industry, this was the first "integrated paperless letter of credit and eDocs transaction for a steel export". And also the first end-to-end paperless trade combining electronic bills of lading and digitised letter of credit in the steel commodity business. Go all out for blockchain While the transfer of goods between the UAE and India takes a relatively short time, the "administrative paperwork can often impede delivery," according to a statement by HSBC. "By using blockchain, the reduced transaction time will boost the efficiency of trade between the two countries, which is valued at around $60 billion with the UAE being India’s third largest trading partner." More options Trade finance is being seen as a natural fit for blockchain-created transactions. Earlier this week, there was the formal launch of one such platform – UAE Trade Connect – that brought together seven leading local banks, including First Abu Dhabi Bank, and Etisalat. The consortium’s intent is to de-risk chances of over- or under-invoicing in trade finance as well as other frauds. UAE Trade Connect will expand its base by adding more banks and aligning with similar blockchain initiatives at the global level.

GulfNews Business

UAE tenants rate chiller-free and no commission for brokers as top picks for rental moves

Property|: Dubai: Chiller-free rental options are at the top of the mind of UAE tenants seeking a new home to move into. If the deal can be struck without having to pay a broker commission, then all the better. At least, that’s what on their minds going by the search history. “With the tremendous amount of stock in the market, there are a number of agencies that are working with developers providing consumers with no commission structures and lucrative deals so they can attract more renters,” said Lynnette Abad, Director of Research & Data at Property Finder. These days, there are more landlords throwing in chiller-free options as a value-add, and probably hoping that would convince the prospective tenant to go for a lower rental property. Ahead of summer, real estate sources are talking about a rise in residents shifting to new rental premises. Provided one or two of their requirements are met. Multiple cheque options from the landlord has gone down the priority list compared to last year, indicating that residents are more certain of their job and income status. Read More Dubai's residents are heading for suburbs and rents are helping Dubai home rents turn even more affordable - now at lowest levels since 2011 No change at the top Dubai Marina remains the most searched for rental destination, based on Property Finder data, and followed by the Downtown. There’s also the budget-friendly Jumeirah Village Circle and the pricey Palm. (At Dubai Marina, interestingly, there are options for 12 cheques, with a one-bedroom being listed for Dh50,000 a year, with one month thrown in for free.) Jumeirah Village Circle has since January 2020 emerged as a favoured spot for those seeking newer properties but at more affordable entry points. Under pressure With rents now having dropped by more than 15 per cent in popular neighbourhoods, the most searched locations in Sharjah were Al Majaz, and followed by Al Nahda, Muwaileh, Al Taawun, and Al Khan. Reem Island remains the most sought after rental location in Abu Dhabi, and whereto rents have been trimmed by 10 per cent or more because of new ready properties or sudden vacancies created at older buildings. Al Raha Beach and Corniche Road residential options followed, while Khalifa City and Al Khalidiya too were popular on the search charts.

GulfNews Business

UAE's construction sector still hurting from 30% spike in material, shipment costs from December 2020

Property|: Dubai: The sudden increase in material and shipment costs since end-2000 remain the biggest challenge for the UAE construction sector, according to the head of Middle East operations at China’s biggest contractor. Construction material costs, depending on the category, have risen by 10-30 per cent in these four or five months, adding to the worries of contractors and developers alike. So far, the full weight of the cost increases have not been passed on to project clients – but that too could change. But it’s not just external factors that should worry industry players, according to Yu Tao, President and CEO at China State Construction Engineering Corp. (CSCEC), Middle East. To secure a project, “some contractors are tendering even with the price lower than their costs,” he said. “It further worsens the industry competition since profit margins for contractors are negatively impacted.” This need to secure work at any cost – even if means taking a loss if the project faces time and cost overruns – comes even as new construction work has dropped. “Due to the current macro-economic environment and the pandemic, clients/owners/developers are launching limited active tenders and projects,” said Tao. “Year 2020 was difficult for everyone. The value of project contract awards in UAE fell more than 30 per cent in the first six months of 2020. It’s true COVID-19 was a major factor behind this. “It is unknown how much lasting damage has been done as it has slowed economic activity. In construction market, most of the players are facing challenges under these circumstances. Price competitiveness remains a key differentiator at the bid assessment stage. “At the downturn, we focussed on our own operations rather than aggressively compete for marketshare or replace other companies. We are maintaining progress for the projects on hand and delivering for the clients.” Read More Rise and fall of UAE Arabtec: From building Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Louvre Abu Dhabi, to filing for bankruptcy UAE's private sector records best month since July 2019, but costs are rising: IHS Markit Construction of French Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is now complete Reliant on real estate Government-created project activity has picked up since the second-half of last year, related to industrial, utilities, oil and gas, renewable energy and even manufacturing. Many of these would have been planned earlier but actually getting launched now. Real estate development – one of the biggest contributors to the construction sector – continues to lag in terms of new project awards. Tao is hoping this situation gets rectified in the coming weeks. “UAE real estate has shown strong signs of bouncing back from the pandemic impact,” he said. “Hopefully, in the near future, it will attract more local and foreign investment and demand, leading to the recovery for construction. CSCEC will be trying to explore in real estate to see if there chances that we could contribute more to the region.” Tao is definitely keeping those options. In the recent past, some of the biggest Chinese construction companies have taken up projects in the UAE and Gulf - as well as extend project financing support through Chinese financial institutions. Take on direct share China State Construction Engineering Corp. is currently involved with a three-tower Downtown Views II project. It's rated as the single largest project awarded by Emaar since Burj Khalifa. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News From project financing support to taking a direct equity exposure with a local real estate partner could be a small step. There had been speculation that some Chinese contractors was already taking such steps. “Direct equity participation is highly dependent on the characteristics of the client and the project itself,” he said. “We will be carefully evaluating the details if we decide on this approach.” For now, his company certainly has a busy portfolio. A residential project its involved in is the Downtown Views II in Dubai. Featuring three residential towers and 1,509 apartments, “this is the largest single project awarded by Emaar Group after Burj Khalifa,” he added. “CSCEC has more than 40 on-going projects in the UAE and Gulf markets - some are ahead of schedule,” the official said. “Package A for Stage 2 of Etihad Rail is a national infrastructure project and on completion, it will link the principal centres of trade, industry, manufacturing, production and logistics with all the major import and export points of the UAE.”

GulfNews Business

Saudi Arabia picks up SR5 billion by fully privatizing flour milling

Markets|Saudi|: Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion riyal privatization of its flour mills industry is now complete. The Kingdom’s National Center for Privatization and PPP and the Saudi Grains Organization, which oversees the industry, are now fully divested from the Second Milling Company and the Fourth Milling Company. The final binding financial bids were submitted on April 19 after due diligence during the bidding phase. Earlier awards had featured Dubai’s Al Ghurair Investments as part of the winning consortium. Read More Saudi Arabia privatizes largest flour milling firm for $540m Saudi Arabia to start next phase of flour mill privatisation Winners of the latest The award of each Milling Company was decided based on the highest financial bids submitted by qualified strategic investors, which were thoroughly reviewed to ensure adherence to the terms stipulated in the Request for Proposal for the second batch of the privatization, in accordance with the privatization of the flour milling, as shown below. The Second Milling Company was picked up by a consortium of Abdulaziz AlAjlan Sons Co. for Commercial and Real Estate Investments, Sulaiman Abdulaziz AlRajhi International Co., NADEC, and Olam International ltd.. after putting up 2.138 billion riyals. The Forth Milling Company was won by a grouping of Allana International, Abdullah Al Othaim Markets, and United Feed Manufacturing Company, who bid with 859 million riyals. The Saudi Arabia flour sector is considered one of the biggest markets for the food staple in the Middle East and North Africa. The winning consortium will be hoping to tap both domestic and export opportunities with the takeovers.

GulfNews Business

Security beyond the card: How Mastercard is enabling inclusive growth

Banking|: The adoption of digital payments – in-store and online – was significantly accelerated in 2020 because of the dynamics of Covid-19. The speed, breadth, and permanence of this change, made possible by the fintech revolution and global digital transformation, is almost equalled by the growing sophistication of cybercrime. And so, as financial services providers work on pioneering exciting new digital services and products, so too must they invest in security solutions that protect consumers, businesses, and the global financial system. The diversity of platforms and devices complicates this challenge – financial services providers must consider the security risk of digital payments not only by cards but also by phones, mobile wallets, and wearable tech – across different networks and regulatory environments. From start-ups to growing SMEs, large-scale e-commerce providers and millions of consumers, the UAE’s push towards a safe, secure, and inclusive cashless economy is seamlessly advancing. Girish Nanda, Country Manager – UAE & Pakistan, Mastercard In this context the Economy 2021 Report by the Mastercard Economics Institute points to the permanence of these changes in how consumers shop and pay. The report shows that e-commerce is here to stay, with approximately 20-30 per cent of the Covid-related surge in online spending now a permanent behavioural shift: a significant uptick in the digital share of overall retail spending. If organisations like Mastercard can take the applause for pioneering digital payment technologies, they must also play a leading role to invest in and embedding crucial security features that enhance data privacy, tokenise transactions and give consumers peace of mind. Consumers can only enjoy the benefits of pioneering digital payment solutions if they know it is safe to do so. Innovative partnerships Achieving these critical objectives requires joined-up thinking and a collaborative approach to security infrastructure and innovation. Partnerships with state players are essential. In February 2021, Mastercard launched its Global Cyber Forward programme in collaboration with Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is the largest financial center in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region; and home to the DIFC FinTech Hive. This partnership is important because it brings the expertise of a globally trusted financial services provider into the beating heart of the region’s most significant enabler of financial technology enterprise. This vital partnership combines Mastercard’s cutting-edge cybersecurity capabilities with forward-thinking public sector organisations to create secure digital ecosystems at a national, local and city level. In doing so, they add momentum to the UAE’s ongoing digital transformation: enabling a thriving digital economy that supports entrepreneurship, financial inclusion, and economic growth – all elements that form an integral part of Mastercard’s multi-rail strategy. Multi-rail strategy Mastercard’s multi-rail strategy is specifically designed to deliver on those critical dynamics of inclusivity and sustainable growth which the digital economy can bring to a world beyond cash. By thinking beyond card payments, this multi-rail strategy enables Mastercard to converge new rails to reach every customer, merchant, and government player: seamlessly connecting stakeholders across the digital payments ecosystem and delivering choice to banks, businesses, and consumers. This requires an additional layer of security especially when the focus is on seamless connections that are useful for SMEs. These cybersecurity solutions are also part of the “SME-in-a-Box” solution that was launched by Mastercard to aid small and micro merchants across the Middle East and Africa to expand their customer base through digital platforms, enabling sustainable revenue growth. Inclusive growth That growth is, of course, threatened by cybercrime, which is why Mastercard launched its proprietary tokenisation solution called MDES for Merchants (M4M) in the UAE in August 2020. The new service uses tokenisation technology to speed-up and simplify the purchase process online and in-app by encrypting consumer data and replacing card numbers with digital tokens. This ensures that a consumer’s 16-digit card number is not stored anywhere, preventing improper usage at any other location, minimising online fraud. This security is imperative for SME success – small companies cannot afford to become victims of cybercrime. It is also crucial for major online brands like Zomato, talabat, Uber and HungerStation, using Mastercard’s digitised payment chains. From start-ups to growing SMEs, large-scale e-commerce providers and millions of consumers, the UAE’s push towards a safe, secure, and inclusive cashless economy is seamlessly advancing. Financial services providers must take that unique responsibility seriously if we are to achieve inclusive social and economic growth by staying one step ahead of the cybercriminals. Our societies depend on it. Advertiser's content