Price and speed start to matter for UAE's online grocery apps and shoppers
Retail|: Dubai: The price battles are now being fought on and by UAE’s e-grocery apps. A new one – Yeepeey – has launched promising shoppers they can get the same prices offered at stores… and even the same promotions. “Yeepeey’s objective is to eliminate mark-ups and reduce service fees to a minimum or even free to give users the ability to stay home and order their essentials more frequently at in-store prices,” said a statement issued by it. And delivery? Between 30-45 minutes. Read More Half of UAE online shoppers will not go back to portals hit by data breaches Photos: Let robots sort out your online orders… with help from humans Focus on speed Prices and delivery times are being all important for online grocery apps now that more shoppers in the UAE are quite comfortable with ordering in their daily/weekly needs. Just recently, Carrefour confirmed launch of its quick service delivery, with the average time set at 60 minutes. As part of the launch, Carrefour Now will deliver free of charge until May 15 for a product range of up to 31,000 everyday items. Carrefour isn’t the only one – other delivery-focussed apps such as Talabat have ventured out with their own ‘q-commerce’ – for quick – feature. It's all about speed now - from the moment the order gets done to delivering it at the doorstep. Carrefour NOW is setting a hot pace with its 60-minute delivery. Image Credit: Supplied Yeepeey’s formula By “reducing” service fees, Yeepeey’s promoters expect to get backing from cost-conscious shoppers. “Ordering basic essentials via an e-grocery app was way more expensive than buying it from the store itself,” said Monish Chandiramani, co-founder. “Even though the convenience plays a major role, consumers still don’t like to pay extra mark-ups over and above the prices displayed in the grocery stores in additional to the exorbitant delivery fee. “With the ease in movement restrictions, consumers would simply prefer walking down to their nearby stores for small purchases.” Yeepeey, was conceptualized after Chandiramani noticed he was spending more on the same amount of groceries when shopping through the e-grocery apps available then. 'Q-commerce' is the next big thing. All of the leading names in the grocery and F&B space have launched 'q' versions, with the promise of delivery in or around 60 minutes. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News Happening on food deliveries too It’s more or less a similar situation with food delivery apps, with Careem and noon recently coming out with changes in the way they bill their restaurant clients on orders placed. What this means for the consumer is lower cost of ordering in a meal. “Even in online, the same strategies used in physical retail will apply – more entrants will mean there will be pressure on what apps can charge,” said a restaurant operator. We did observe that customers were having to pay a heavy price for the convenience and that’s the problem we’re trying to solve by subsidizing the cost of convenience without compromising on quality Monish Chandiramani of Yeepeey
Indian rupee could slip to 76 to $1 if current pressure persists
Markets|: Mumbai: The Indian rupee has turned into Asia's worst-performing currency from being the best in the previous quarter. It's poised for more losses as a resurgence in coronavirus cases to a record threatens to hamstring the economy. The rupee weakened past 75 per dollar for the first time in eight months this week. Federal Bank Ltd. expects it to fall further to 76 by year-end. The currency's slide may be exacerbated by unwinding of short dollar positions against the rupee, which ICICI Bank Ltd. estimates has grown to $50 billion. The mayhem is also weighing on dollar bonds from India's issuers, which have under-performed Asian peers this month, as India overtook Brazil as the second-worst-hit COVID-19 nation in the world. Stricter restrictions on movement across the country are reviving memories of last year when extended lockdowns squeezed demand and pushed the economy into its worst contraction in nearly seven decades. "Economic growth is going to get more impacted than what we are expecting," said V. Lakshmanan, head of treasury at Federal Bank Ltd. in Mumbai. "We are underplaying the impact of COVID-19." Quite a drop The rupee slumped 2.6 per cent against the dollar so far in April after falling 0.1 per cent in the quarter ended March. It fared better than other Asian currencies in withstanding rising US yields in the last three months thanks to a rare current-account surplus, economic recovery and heavy foreign inflows. Traders are concerned that the rupee's tailwinds could start fading. Rising commodity prices may push the current-account into a deficit in the fiscal year that started in April, while the central bank's quantitative easing announced last week is seen adding to the liquidity glut, worsening the rupee's woes. However, Barclays Plc expects the Reserve Bank of India to defend the rupee using its massive foreign reserves. "The RBI will likely sell USD into this bid as this move is relatively outsized," said Ashish Agrawal, head of FX and emerging markets macro strategy research. He expects the rupee to climb to 73 per dollar by year-end and sees the latest bout of weakness as a catchup to losses suffered by other emerging market currencies in March.
Overconfidence and other don'ts when it comes to job interviews
Analysis|: I usually say that I have taken part in hundreds of interviews. With all honesty, however, I have no idea how many. What I know for sure is that I have sat in on too many recruitment, promotion, and other interviews to switch careers from one focus or regional specialisation to another. After crossing a certain threshold of interviews for the same purpose, it becomes somewhat easier to decide who is a good fit, who do you expect to succeed, and who may not have done the right things yet but has potential. With time and more interviews, this data - accumulated naturally in one’s head because of the continuous exposure to hundreds of candidates - enables interviewers to finetune the analysis and assessment from one cycle of interview to the next. I share here experiences and lessons from those many interviews. No matter how smart you are, or think you are, do not walk in with a baseball cap There was this one candidate who came in wearing the country’s traditional outfit and a baseball cap to go with it. Because of that baseball cap, the candidate was a “no” the second he walked in. We anyway did engage in a conversation for the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps advise the candidate to not walk into interviews with baseball caps. The candidate was still persona non grata at the end of the interview, for both lack of content and lack of cultural understanding. Do not put on your résumé what you cannot discuss It first felt like the candidate was the interviewer and us the interviewees from the candidate’s posture and the way the candidate was engaging with the panel. Being cool and accommodating, we still tried to engage in a conversation. The tipping point was when the candidate was asked to talk about an 8,000-word thesis, and the candidate would not. Members of the interview panel tried to reword and rephrase the question in three different ways, and the answer was basically that we would not have understood it even if the candidate attempted to explain, which the candidate was not willing to do, nonetheless. Do not tell us where you are going to be in 5-10 years if we did not ask There was one candidate who asked for the top job as soon as they walked in. Confidence is great, but overconfidence can be problematic. There are questions in any decently structured interview that will eventually bring you closer to answering the long-term plan and what one is aiming to achieve. That specific interview went downhill, not because of the big announcement at its beginning, but because there was no content to support it, nor potential to signal hope. A non-stationary chair is a trap, and so is the table with nothing but water on it If you place your phone on the table, then you are telling everyone in the interview that you would either be somewhere else, or that you are waiting for a call or a message that is more important than the interview. Moving the chair around, or shifting your position non-stop in the chair can be perceived as lack of interest and focus. Since this does not apply to everyone, we tend to advise candidates against it if they tick all of the other boxes required to pass the interview. Do not be a certificate collector This, I believe, is the hardest to explain in an interview. There are always candidates who have done a couple of master’s and have moved quite a lot between jobs. Such jobs, at times, do not even show an overall clear trend of specialisation, rather random picks that come with higher pay and benefits. To interviewers, this shows that there is no commitment to one organisation, or at least to one’s own career path and area of interest. In a nutshell, there are no set rules on how to go about an interview and what are the key steps to ensure success in one. Yet, interviewees can improve their chances by not saying or doing things that may be misunderstood by interviewers. Overconfidence is surely a killer, more so if not backed up by content and clear-cut specialisation. Finally, it is important to show interest and motivation by avoiding cues that would be culturally unacceptable in an interview. The last thought that I want to leave you with: Can the result of an interview be decided in the first 30 seconds? Abdulnasser Alshaali null The writer is a UAE based economist.
Ramadan 2021: UAE hotel rates at lowest point with staycation offers
Tourism|: Dubai: Hotel rates in the UAE are dropping to their lowest point of the year, as operators come up with staycation packages for Ramadan and ahead of the crucial Eid holidays demand spike. Current occupancy/booking levels during the Ramadan weeks are at 30-40 per cent and could yet inch up towards the 50 per cent mark as UAE residents try to cash in on the offers available. “Shorter booking times have been a trend that developed due to the pandemic,” said Philip Wooller, Director for the Middle East and Africa at STR, the hospitality industry focused consultancy. “So, there is the potential for last-minute bookings to pull these numbers further upward.” For hotels, any percentage gains will be welcomed, as they work on their staycation packages. Based on industry feedback, Eid-related occupancy levels could be in the 60-65 per cent range. “The UAE is showing signs that occupancy will strengthen over the Ramadan period and will be very close to historical performances,” said Wooller. And it’s not just on the stays that hotels are rolling out sweet deals. What’s on offer At the W Abu Dhabi on Yas Island, there is a special group rate, where customers can book Iftar with their colleagues, friends or family before April 2 to receive a 15 per cent discount. The hotel is also offering a Ramadan staycation experience, with average rates at Dh300 to Dh1,000. Guests can do Suhoor either in their own room or head over to the Wet Deck restaurant and savor with a Dh110 credit. For those who just want to indulge in the culinary options, the Garage at W Abu Dhabi is offering a selection at Dh195 per person. For those who prefer breaking their fast from the comfort of their rooms, there is the ‘Iftar2Go’. Guests can choose between a set menu or create their own combinations. Rates range from Dh125 to Dh165. Extend the deal Ritz-Carlton in Dubai said it will continue promoting its existing staycation offer all the way through the Eid break. The package includes overnight accommodations, breakfast and a la carte lunch, or dinner at one of the hotel’s outlets and all-day access to swimming pools, spa, and beach facilities. (Children under 12 years can dine and stay for free.) A deluxe suite can be booked for Dh2,750, while a family room is around Dh5,700. At the Five, there is a ‘pay 3 stay 4/pay 6 stay 8’ package, where guests can get access to a private beach, swimming pools, restaurants and spa. The hotel also gives the option for an express PCR test for Dh200. “Not only can you do the test from the comfort from your own luxury room, results come back within 24 hours meaning you can travel safe,” says Five on its website. Fares ranges from Dh700-Dh1,000 per night. “UAE hotels are taking the proactive approach on special offers during Ramadan, which should have a positive impact, especially on the F&B (food & beverage) front,” said Wooller. Hotels on the Palm are getting into the action, whether it's on F&B promotions or the full stay over. Some are even throwing in special rates on PCR tests. Image Credit: Gulf News Second-highest Despite everything they had to contend with, the UAE tourism sector recorded a 54.7 per cent hotel occupancy rate in 2020 – the second highest in the world after China – while the global rate dropped to 37 per cent under the weight of the pandemic. Hotels in the Middle East region recorded just 43 per cent occupancy. This is in parallel to the significant decline in tourist activity, which fell by 74 per cent around the world and 76 per cent in the region. “The UAE tourism sector’s accomplishments over the past year are a result of the notable efforts made by all relevant parties to promote the sector at the federal and local levels,” said Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises. “This is in addition to the proactive measures the UAE implemented to deal with the outbreak and minimise its impact on public health.” UAE hotels will expect a repeat performance for Ramadan 2021.
UAE audiences still love films, whether at drive-in or multiplex: Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas CEO
Dubai: “Let’s build a drive-in…” For Cameron Mitchell, it was the ‘Eureka!’ moment he - and the cinema business in the UAE - was searching for to get viewers back after multiplexes were closed during the COVID-19 lockdown phase. Of course, get them queuing up and watching in socially distanced ways… It was also the time when doubts were set to rest whether UAE residents would ever return to the cinemas amidst a pandemic. “The drive-in cinema at Mall of the Emirates was delivered in about five days – from when we said “Let’s do it” to its opening,” said Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas and Majid Al Futtaim Leisure & Entertainment. “At the time, it was one of the only cinemas that was open globally. People just embraced it. We feel it came at a time when people needed some good news, when they wanted to spend some time with their family – outside of their homes. “We were getting a lot of feedback on social media that people were really missing the experience. With all the cinemas closed, we looked at what we could do. We spoke to the government whether we could run a drive-in, following their guidance on the number of people that could be together at any given time. “We worked through the protocols with them, and these were similar to those being followed at the malls. We also worked with our sustainability team to offset the carbon emissions from the cars at the drive-in so that it wouldn’t adversely affect the environment.” As far as ideas go, the return of the drive-in cinema viewing proved an instant hit. Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas introduced one at Mall of the Emirates, which was the first attempt at getting audiences back to the big screens. Image Credit: Supplied Work in progress The drive-in was as much about making a statement of intent as it was about gauging potential viewer interest in catching a flick at a big screen. With cinemas having re-opened subsequently, the drive-in has dropped in prominence as a box-office draw – but it sure had its moments. Recently, VOX Cinemas opened the biggest multiplex in Sharjah, at the brand new City Centre Al Zahia. That’s 1,485 additional seats spread over 16 screens, and puts VOX Cinemas firmly in line to “hit 1,000 screens in about three to four years and that will take us to the Top 10 cinema operators globally,” the CEO said. “We are investing $100 million annually and we will stick to that.” Curbs on capacity It will be some time before catching a cinema heads back to pre-COVID-19 times. For one, there are strict limits on the audience numbers for each show, and these vary across Gulf markets. But Mitchell says it’s about adapting as every other business and sector has been doing. But did the pandemic force a re-think on existing Majid Al Futtaim multiplex projects in terms of seating capacity or number of screens? “It was never considered to downsize - we show about 400 movies a [normal] year,” he said. “It’s about giving customers the right experience along and where they have the ability to see any film at a time convenient to them. Maximising the size of a location is always critical. “We have a mix of different screen sizes – that matters. Whether it’s for someone who wants to catch the latest release in its first week at a 400-seat cinema, or who prefers 80- or 100-seat cinema after six to 10 weeks from its release. “No cinema operator can sit back and say we hope people come back. We are sticking to the investments we have announced [on new screens]. Yes, last year was disastrous for the industry and that too coming from a record year in 2019, when between 6-7 billion people went to the cinema.” Getting them back... and following the strict safety and social distancing protocols. Before the pandemic, Middle East cinemas had their best box-office returns ever with 55 million visits. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Saudi is central Some of that bullishness stems from all that can be done in the near- to mid-term in Saudi Arabia, which allowed cinemas to operate in 2018 after a long gestation period of 35 years. VOX Cinemas currently operates 12 cinemas and 134 screens in the Kingdom and is fast catching up on the 22 cinemas and 237 screens it has in the UAE. “In Saudi Arabia, we are running the cinemas 24 hours a day - there is demand for it,” the CEO added. “If customers are looking for something, we deliver it. We are entering a number of new cities across this market including Hail and Jubail “Saudi Arabia in three- to five years will be a $1 billion market on its own - it is going to be a Top 10 global market very, very quickly.” Pent-up viewing Even before COVID-19 came calling, the global cinema industry has had its share of worst-case scenarios to contend with. Web-delivered content was building audiences worldwide, and the thinking was it will massively eat into cinema’s viewer base. Is cinema entering a crisis phase? To that Mitchell has one short and eloquent response: “Rubbish…” “What we have seen in recent months is people are missing not going to the cinemas. As cinemas returned, we are seeing phenomenal results. We released ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ and I think we had a 35 per cent increase in business in one week on the back of that single release. Globally, it went on to reach almost $300 million. “As and when movies get released, people will race back to the cinemas. Of course, they are a little bit nervous, “Yes, you can watch movies at home, but we definitely see there is a market for both. Our region admitted 55 million cinema visits in 2019 and we are predicting 90 million to 100 million next year. The cinema experience here is better than anywhere else in the world and the line-up is incredibly strong. “In some markets where operators aren’t as focussed on the cinema experience - food, ambience, concepts, and whatever else - maybe there attendances have plateaued. But in our markets, we expect to see strong growth. Anyone who thinks those people are going to stay at home moving forward are just kidding themselves.” Now, that's meant for a big screen viewing. UAE audiences shared that sentiment, making a rush to the cinemas to catch the duel. Image Credit: Warner Bros.
Bernard Madoff, mastermind of giant ponzi scheme dies
Markets|: New York: Bernard Madoff, the Manhattan investment adviser who promised stellar returns to his A-list clients and instead defrauded them of more than $19 billion in history's largest Ponzi scheme, has died. He was 82. His death was confirmed by the New York law firm of Brandon Sample, Madoff's attorney. Madoff's home since July 2009 was the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina, where he was serving a 150-year term. He requested compassionate early release, citing end-stage kidney disease, in February 2020. Like Charles Ponzi, whose 1920 con earned him a place in the annals of crime, Madoff seemed to deliver stunning returns to his clients, when in fact he was paying existing investors with money from new ones. Unlike Ponzi, who soared and fell in the course of one year, Madoff achieved a level of respect and acclaim among finance professionals - he was chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market in 1990, 1991 and 1993 - and kept his ruse going for at least 15 years, even under the gaze of regulators who visited his office to inspect his records. His thousands of clients entrusted him with more than $19 billion in principal and were led to believe, through fake statements and trade confirmations, that they had almost $65 billion among them in their accounts. Irving Picard, the trustee appointed to unwind the accounts, had recovered more than $14.4 billion to partially reimburse clients who lost money. Client List Madoff's big-name investors included Fred Wilpon, then-majority owner of the New York Mets; husband-and-wife actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick; Henry Kaufman, former chief economist at Salomon Brothers; the late Boston philanthropist Carl Shapiro; two of Europe's wealthiest women, Alicia Koplowitz of Spain and Lilliane Bettencourt of France; charitable foundations of director Steven Spielberg and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel; and New York and Yeshiva universities. Contributing to Madoff's facade was the existence of legitimate businesses alongside the fraudulent one at his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. The company's market-making and proprietary-trading units, run by his sons and brother, occupied the 18th and 19th floors of the red, cylindrical Lipstick Building in Midtown Manhattan. Madoff's 17th-floor office, where the fraud was run, was off-limits to most employees. With his promise to deliver steady returns through markets bullish and bearish, Madoff built such a sterling reputation that he had to turn some prospective investors away. He owned homes in Manhattan and Montauk in New York state, Palm Beach in Florida, and Cap d'Antibes on the French Riviera. He sailed on a yacht called "Bull" and lavished jewelry on his wife, Ruth. The end The fraud collapsed in December 2008, when plunging equity markets prompted clients to seek more withdrawals than he could accommodate. His sons Andrew and Mark notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation that their father had confessed to them. "The money is gone," Andrew Madoff quoted his father as telling the family. "It's all been one big lie." Andrew Madoff recalled the quote for Laurie Sandell's "Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family" (2011), an authorized biography. Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to fraud, money laundering, perjury and theft. In court, and in later interviews from prison, he insisted that he had run a genuine investment business for many years before finding himself unable to maintain the generous returns his clients had come to expect. He said that - "to the best of my recollection" - the fraud began in the early 1990s, during a recessionary period for the U.S. economy, and that he "believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients." "As the years went by, I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come," he said. Prosecutors said the fraud began in the 1980s, if not earlier. Family Fallout As for Madoff himself, he lost not just his wealth and freedom but the once-strong bonds of family. The oldest of his two sons, Mark Madoff, who had been head of sales at the firm, killed himself on Dec. 11, 2010, the second anniversary of his father's arrest. He was found hanging from a dog leash attached to a pipe in the living room of his Manhattan apartment. His suicide was the final straw for his mother, Ruth Madoff, who said it prompted her to break off all communications with her imprisoned husband. "I was responsible for my son Mark's death, and that's very, very difficult," Bernard Madoff said in a May 2013 telephone interview from prison, according to CNN Money. "I live with that. I live with the remorse, the pain I caused everybody, certainly my family, and the victims." In September 2014, his son, Andrew, died of cancer. SEC case His father worked for Manhattan-based Everlast Sporting Goods Manufacturing Co., the maker of boxing equipment, before opening his own sporting-goods manufacturer, Dodger Sporting Goods Corp., which sold the Joe Palooka punching bag. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1951 after struggling with rising raw-material prices due to the Korean War, Diana B. Henriques wrote in "The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust" (2011). His father then set up a brokerage firm, Gibraltar Securities, in his wife's name and at the family home's address. The SEC, in 1963, accused the company of failing to file required financial reports, and the Madoffs withdrew their registration. Innovator image That push led to the creation of the Nasdaq exchange. It also allowed Madoff "to add a few brushstrokes each year to his portrait as a committed market innovator, an ally in the crusade to drag the nation's tradition-bound markets into the modern age," according to Henriques. "I was very driven," Madoff said in a 2011 interview with the Financial Times. "But I was always outside the club, the club being the New York Stock Exchange and white-shoe firms. They fought me every step of the way." When, exactly, Madoff began cooking the books was the subject of dispute. During his guilty plea in court, Madoff said, "To the best of my recollection, my fraud began in the early 1990s," when a bear market was making it impossible for him to "satisfy my clients' expectations." His response, he said, was to claim he was employing a strategy, which he called "split strike conversion," using well-timed investments in and out of Standard & Poor's 100 Index companies, hedged by options contracts in those same stocks.
Bentley celebrates 200,000 production milestone
auto|Business|Luxury|: Bentley is commemorating the creation of its 200,000th vehicle since the company’s founding in 1919. The car in question – a Bentayga Hybrid destined for a customer in China – met the oldest surviving Bentley, the EXP 2, alongside some of the firm’s longest-serving members of staff. It’s the latest in 155,582 cars built at the firm’s Crewe headquarters since 2003 too, the year that the original Continental GT was launched, marking the start of a new era of more modern sports cars for the company. Today, Bentley builds 85 cars a day – the same amount that would’ve taken it a month to produce two decades ago. Bentley’s chairman and chief executive, Adrian Hallmark, said: “This production of the 200,000th car is just the latest landmark on the extraordinary journey that Bentley has been travelling since its foundation in 1919. “In 2003, the introduction of the Continental GT represented a transformative moment for the brand, and this Bentley alone, has represented 80,000 sales of our total 200,000, and created both a new segment, and a contemporary image foundation for the Bentley business. “The pace of progress has accelerated significantly since 2003 and we are now entering the next period of transformation as we pursue our Beyond100 strategy, with the aim of positioning Bentley as the global leader in sustainable luxury mobility.” Bentley recently announced that it would move to full electrification – either via plug-in hybrid or standard hybrid- by 2026, before switching the entire model range to electric-only 2030.
Bitcoin approaches $65,000 with Coinbase listing fueling demand
Banking|: New York: Bitcoin breached the $64,000 level for the first time as investor demand for all things crypto surged amid Coinbase Global Inc.'s public debut. The direct listing of the biggest U.S. crypto exchange is seen pushing tokens even more into the mainstream of investing, exposing legions of potential buyers to the digital asset class that have grown into a $2 trillion industry in little more than a decade. Bitcoin, the original and biggest crypto coin, is valued at more than $1 trillion alone after a more than 800 per cent surge in the past year. Other digital assets also advanced on Wednesday. Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency, climbed to a record, while Bitcoin Cash jumped more than 10 per cent at one point. The cryptocurrency Dogecoin surged following an endorsement from TV personality Guy Fieri. And exchange tokens, such as Binance Coin, also saw their value rise, with BNB, as it's known, gaining 3%, according to CoinMarketCap.com. If Coinbase is valued at $100 billion as expected, it would be worth more than the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market combined. Given its size and visibility, Coinbase is likely to be popular with actively managed equity funds, particularly growth managers, essentially making a large swath of stock holders passive investors in crypto. "It's a huge step forward for the industry and the legitimacy it brings in the eyes of investors and regulators," Mati Greenspan, founder of Quantum Economics, said on Bloomberg TV. Growing mainstream acceptance of cryptocurrencies has spurred Bitcoin to a 120% rally since December, as well as lifting other tokens to record highs. That's despite lingering concerns over their volatility and usefulness as a method of payment. Attention from regulators is poised to intensify as Coinbase becomes a public company. "As the direct listing on the Nasdaq will reach a wider investment base other than the usual crypto evangelists, investors must expect much greater government scrutiny," said Nigel Green, CEO and founder of deVere Group. The token was volatile during the morning, climbing as much as 2.7 per cent to $64,869. It has risen for seven straight sessions, its longest winning streak since the start of the year.
US-based investment firm picks up stake in Abu Dhabi tech firm Group42
Business|: Dubai: Investment firm, Silver Lake, has made a “substantial” investment in Group42, the Abu Dhabi-based company that specializes in AI and cloud computing. Proceeds from the investment will be used to help G42 scale in the UAE and international markets. The terms of the investment transaction were not publicly disclosed. In connection with the deal, Egon Durban, Managing Partner of Silver Lake, will join the G42 board of directors. “G42 has not only experienced tremendous growth in recent years, but has done so by partnering with large-scale clients to address the most complex technology challenges. We are excited to have this opportunity to work with them,” said Durban in a statement. “Silver Lake’s mission is to build and grow great companies in partnership with founders and management teams,” he added. Over the past year, G42 partnered with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health on COVID-19 pandemic management to provide scalable diagnostics and a successful nationwide vaccine rollout. The company also expanded its capabilities through the acquisitions of Injazat, a regional market leader for digital transformation IT services, and Khazna Data Centers, a commercial wholesale data center provider. In 2020, G42 became the first UAE-based company to establish an office in Israel, following the signing of the Abraham Accords. “We aim to work with the best technologies and the best partners to deliver value to every market in the world - our business verticals range from energy, to healthcare, to finance. Now is the right time to partner with Silver Lake to further expand our possibilities,” said Peng Xiao, Group Chief Executive Officer of G42.
Dubai Islamic Bank closes lowest-ever pricing on an AT1 issuance from the GCC
Banking|: Dubai: Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC (DIB) has priced a $500 million Perpetual Non-Call 5.5-year Additional Tier 1 Sukuk with a profit rate of 3.375 per cent per annum. This transaction represents the lowest ever pricing achieved by a GCC bank (both conventional and Islamic) on an Additional Tier 1 instrument and the lowest ever on a US dollar AT1 Sukuk globally. Despite the volatility witnessed in credit markets during the past month on account of US Treasury rates, achieving this landmark success in the current scenario is testament to the bank’s strong credit profile and standing with international and regional investors. The deal was priced intraday after completing investor calls, which were attended by several local, regional and international investors. Despite the record low yield, the Sukuk was 5.6x oversubscribed with an orderbook that peaked at $2.8 billion which is a further testament to investors reaffirming their commitment to UAE and DIB in particular. “We are very pleased with the outcome of our issuance today. Given that markets had been fairly volatile during the last several weeks on account of underlying US Treasury rates rising rapidly, successfully executing this issuance at the lowest-ever pricing on a USD AT1 instrument is an achievement we are all proud of," said Dr. Adnan Chilwan, Group Chief Executive Officer, DIB. The Sukuk is issued under DIB Tier 1 Sukuk (5) Ltd. and is listed on Euronext Dublin and NASDAQ Dubai. Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD Capital, First Abu Dhabi Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank acted as Joint Lead Managers and Bookrunners on this transaction.
Dubai logistics firm Tristar drops IPO plans
Markets|: Dubai: Logistics firm Tristar has dropped plans for an initial public offering in Dubai due to insufficient demand from investors, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. Tristar began its public share sale on April 4, setting a price range that implied a market capitalisation of 2.64-3.24 billion dirhams ($719-$882 million). The company saw weak demand for its shares, said the sources, who declining to be named as the matter is not public. The offering was planned to close on April 15. Tristar was not immediately available to comment. Part-owned by Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility, Tristar had previously intended to list in London, but plans were scrapped after turmoil at London-listed healthcare firm NMC shook investor confidence in Gulf companies. Tristar said earlier this month it expected to raise between Dh438 million and Dh537 million as part of its primary offering, and another 90 to 240 million from a secondary offering. BofA Securities and Citigroup were global coordinators and joint bookrunners on the deal.
Ajman cancels fees related to government tenders
Business|: Dubai: Ajman on Wednesday announced cancellation of fees related to “Request for Proposals’ in bids and tenders, in order to ease the participation of more companies. Sheikh Ahmed bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Representative of His Highness the Ruler of Ajman for Administrative and Financial Affairs, issued Resolution No. (15) of 2021 concerning the amendment of some provisions of Resolution No. (128) of 2011 regarding the Financial Policies and Procedures Manual for the Government of Ajman. This resolution announces the cancellation of fees related to “Request for Proposals’ in bids and tenders, in order to ease the participation of companies and encourage them to do business in the emirate, as well as maintain an attractive business environment that supports and motivates investors. This resolution highlights Ajman government’s keenness to advance economic activities in the emirate, thereby boost the growth of the national economy and support the sustainable development process in the country. “These endeavors will contribute to attracting quality investments and maintaining an increase in the rates of investment flows to the emirate of Ajman, which help establish its position as a leading hub for business and investments for both international companies and start-up,” said Al Nuaimi.
Kuwait asks banks to employ citizens in top leadership positions
Banking|: Dubai: Kuwait's central bank asked local lenders to employ its citizens to leadership positions as Gulf nations expedite their push toward nationalization. Kuwaiti nationals should comprise at least 70% of the banking sector's upper and middle-level managements, the regulator said Wednesday. Banks will have until the end of 2023 to implement the changes. It follows similar moves in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Kuwait's prime minister last year said the country's expatriate population should be more than halved to 30% of the total, as the coronavirus pandemic and a slump in oil prices send shudders through Gulf economies. Foreigners account for nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait's 4.8 million population.
Bahrain's Gulf Air makes progress in delaying jet deliveries
Aviation|: Dubai: Bahrain's Gulf Air has made good progress in its efforts to delay some Airbus and Boeing aircraft deliveries, its acting chief executive said on Wednesday. The state-owned carrier has been seeking to push back the delivery schedule of some new jets amid a slump in global travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. "We had to go renegotiate the delivery dates. We haven't cancelled anything," Acting CEO Waleed Abdulhameed Al Alawi told an online event organised by aviation consultancy CAPA. "We have actually negotiated with the main suppliers Boeing and Airbus and we've got good progress with these two scenarios." Al Alawi told Reuters in January the airline would receive some aircraft this year but was seeking delays in Airbus A320neo and Boeing 787 Dreamliner deliveries. "At the moment no airline would be keen on receiving aircraft or accepting delivery flights to park these airplanes because of costs," he told the CAPA event. The state-owned carrier was currently operating at about 50% or 60% of its pre-pandemic levels, he said.
UAE and Dubai government entities come together to host global celebration at Expo 2020 Dubai
Business|: Dubai: Key UAE and Dubai government bodies have committed to the structure of delivery of critical services and provision of facilities that will maximise Dubai and the UAE's preparedness to welcome the world for Expo 2020 Dubai, to ensure the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and Asia is a resounding success. Formalising the support of their respective entities, Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA); Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Director General of Dubai World Trade Centre Authority; Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director General, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs Dubai; Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Airports; Dawood Abdul Rahman Al Hajri, Director General, Dubai Municipality; and Awadh Seghayer Al Ketbi, Director General, Dubai Health Authority, signed an operational responsibility matrix that will drive alignment and readiness for Expo 2020 Dubai. By mapping out the vital roles and responsibilities for the mega-event, Expo 2020 and government entities will ensure a seamless Expo visit on par with the positive experiences visitors have become accustomed to in Dubai one of the world's most visited cities and the UAE. Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibani, Director General of His Highness The Ruler's Court of Dubai and Chairman of City Readiness Committee to host Expo 2020 Dubai, said, "Dubai and the UAE are renowned the world over for offering an exceptional experience for residents and tourists alike a result of a deep-rooted spirit of hospitality, world-class infrastructure, cutting-edge technology and globally competitive economic models." "Today, government entities, who have been active contributors to the nation's success story, have committed to their crucial roles in making the largest event to take place in the Arab region an overwhelmingly positive experience for visitors, reinforcing the readiness of Expo, Dubai and the UAE to welcome the world for a six-month celebration of creativity, innovation, human progress and culture." Consistently ranked among the safest cities and countries in the world, Dubai and the UAE continue to attract tourists and new residents, and are home to the busiest airport in the world for international travel, Dubai International Airport. Running from October 1, 2021 until 31st March 2022, Expo 2020 will coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the founding of the UAE, and highlight the country's role as a global connecting hub for people, ideas and innovation. Expo 2020 Dubai's site has been built to high environmental and sustainability standards, as well as the highest technological infrastructure, making it a true reflection of what responsible future cities could look like.
Dubai Financial Services Authority and the Bank of Italy signs agreement to cooperate
Banking|: Dubai: The Dubai Financial Services Authority and the Bank of Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate continued cooperation in the area of financial supervision. This MoU focuses on cooperation and information exchange in supervision and resolution of financial institutions including the important area of fighting financial crime. The legally non-binding agreement builds on a previous MoU signed by the two Authorities in 2013 and updates the framework for effective cooperation and information exchange between the two authorities including procedures for on-site inspections of supervised entities physically located in the jurisdiction of the other authority. "The DFSA places high important on compliance with international standards of regulation and supervision, including pro-active cooperation and collaboration with other regulators. These areas are even more critical in today’s dynamic market. Supervisory cooperation allows safe and efficient cross-border flows of capital, talent, and knowledge," said Bryan Stirewalt, Chief Executive of the DFSA. "Our strategic cooperation with the Bank of Italy has significantly enhanced communication between the two financial ecosystems, bringing continuity, stability and certainty to our respective economies.”
Geely's iconic Lotus Cars mulls raising $1 billion
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. is considering raising about $1 billion to help expand its iconic British sports and racing automotive business Lotus Cars into the electric vehicles market in China, according to people familiar with the matter. Geely is working with advisers to sound out potential investor interest in a funding round that could value Lotus's EV operations at about $5 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Separately from the fundraising, the Chinese company is also weighing an initial public offering of Lotus Cars, or just the British carmaker's EV business, as soon as next year, the people said. A listing could value the entire business, including its combustion-driven sports and racing cars, at more than $15 billion, the people said. Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. shares rose as much as 6.6% in their biggest advance in a month, outperforming a 1% gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index. The all-electric Evija hypercar photographed in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied Chinese billionaire Li Shufu's Geely, which also controls Sweden-based Volvo Car AB, purchased a stake in Group Lotus in 2017. It owns 51% of the company, including both Lotus Cars and consultancy Lotus Engineering, while Malaysia's Etika Automotive Bhd. owns the remainder, according to a press release. Under Geely, Lotus in 2019 launched its all-electric Evija hypercar, a 1,972-horsepower coupe that costs about $2 million. Considerations are ongoing and details including size and timing could change, the people said. A Geely representative declined to comment. Representatives for Lotus didn't immediately comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. Geely is seeking to expand into electric vehicles amid a booming market in countries including China. Polestar, the electric carmaker controlled by Volvo Car and its owner Geely, is exploring options for going public as soon as this year, Bloomberg News has reported. Investor mania over EV-related stocks has pushed the share prices of players including Nio Inc. and Xpeng Inc. to stratospheric levels. That intense interest has also spawned a wave of EV upstarts raising billions and racing to list via special-purpose acquisition companies. More than $180 billion has been raised globally through SPAC IPOs in the past 12 months, Bloomberg-compiled data show.
Banks lead UAE stocks' coming back
Markets|: Dubai: Abu Dhabi and Dubai stocks bounced back from the last session's drop, following the lead set by global markets that looked upward after a drop in US bond yield guided investors towards more risky but higher-gain equity assets. The UAE rally was led by the banking stocks in contrast to their performance on Tuesday when they played the biggest drag on the indexes. Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange traded 0.4 higher at 6,045 points with First Abu Dhabi Bank providing the single-biggest impetus and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank joining the list of gainers. The banks and other stocks in GCC markets and globally have seen volatility in recent trading sessions as investors lacked guidance towards a particular direction ahead of first-quarter earnings. Soaring to maximum RAK for White Cement and Construction Materials soared 15 per cent, hitting the maximum ceiling a stock is allowed to reach in a single session. The stock leap comes after its board of directors proposed to hand out 5 per cent of its capital in full-year dividends despite reporting a decline in the last year's profits. Wednesday's gains have wiped out most of the losses so far this year as they narrowed down to 2.5 per cent after overshooting 17 per cent on the backdrop of disappointing full-year results. Dubai Financial Market advanced 0.4 per cent to trade at 6,045 points, recouping some of the losses in the previous two sessions. Financial pack led the advances with Emirates NBD and Dubai Islamic Bank acting as the biggest boost. Property shares also provided their own contribution as Damac Properties, Emaar Properties and Emaar Development all heading higher. Dubai property stocks have recently displayed a better performance than their peers in other sectors, getting clues from Emaar's sales numbers that more than doubled for the first three months of the year. The emirate's real estate market has the worst days behind it as some segments are winning back the buyers and overall property prices have stabilized and are set to rise next year. Results call the shots Qatar Exchange traded unchanged as gains in energy and materials stocks were countered by underperforming industrial shares. Oman's 30-company index edged up marginally with Al Jazeira Services picking up 1.9 per cent after reporting a four-fold spike in the first-quarter profits. The index gains were capped by Renaissance Services that dropped 2.1 per cent after its profits plunged 34 per cent for the same period.
US to go ahead with $23 billion defence sales to UAE
Business|: Washington: US President Joe Biden’s administration has told Congress it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in defence equipment sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, drones and other equipment, congressional aides said on Tuesday. A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons. The Trump administration told Congress in November it had approved the US sale to the UAE as a side deal to the Abraham Accords, an agreement in September in which the UAE agreed to normalise relations with Israel. In the last months of the Trump administration, Israel reached deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco as part of the accords. The $23.37 billion package contained products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp, including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. Delivery from 2025 The State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday the estimated delivery dates on the UAE sales, if implemented, were for after 2025 or later. The government anticipated “a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE” to ensure a stronger security partnership, the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We will also continue to reinforce with the UAE and all recipients of US defense articles and services that US-origin defense equipment must be adequately secured and used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict,” the statement said.
Egypt seizes Suez ship 'Ever Given' pending $900 million compensation
Business|: Cairo: Egypt seized a giant container vessel that closed off the Suez Canal last month as it sought compensation of over $900 million for the blockage. A court in the city of Ismailia granted the request regarding the Ever Given vessel at the behest of the Suez Canal Authority, state-run Ahram Gate reported on its website. It did not say who the SCA wants compensation from. The ship's insurer for third-party losses, the UK P&I Club, said in a statement that it received a claim for $916 million, the size of which is "largely unsupported." It said it was disappointed that the vessel was arrested on Tuesday. Egypt's move underscores the legal complications following the container vessel's grounding on March 23, which closed the canal for almost a week and roiled shipping markets. Logjams are expected to continue in the coming weeks at major ports such as Singapore and Rotterdam because of disruptions to schedules, according to supply-chain data provider project44. The SCA has said compensation is needed to cover losses of transit fees, damage to the waterway during the dredging and salvage efforts, and the cost of equipment and labor. It has calculated that it missed out on about $15 million of transit fees each day. The U.K. P&I Club said the claim included a $300 million salvage bonus and another $300 million for loss of reputation, but not the professional salvor's claim for its services. It said a generous offer was made to settle the claim and that negotiations will continue. Calls to the SCA weren't answered. A spokesman for the Ever Given's owner, Japan-based Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., declined to comment on compensation while discussions with the SCA are underway. The company said the crew is still on board the ship, which is now in the Great Bitter Lake, about halfway along the canal. The charterer, Taiwan's Evergreen Marine Corp., said in an email it hadn't received any information from the ship's owner about a court order.