GulfNews Business

GulfNews Business

Dubai Tourism to showcase city’s diverse tourism sector at Arabian Travel Market 2021

Tourism|: Dubai: The 2021 edition of the Arabian Travel Market will see Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) showcasing unique events, projects and initiatives designed to further accelerate tourism momentum in Dubai. Over 70 representatives from government bodies, hotels, destination management companies and tour operators will join Dubai Tourism at the Dubai stands in Hall 3 of the Dubai World Trade Centre to safely welcome stakeholders, partners and visitors to a key industry event within a physical setting, as part of continued efforts to lead the recovery of global tourism. Taking place for the very first time as a hybrid event from 16-19 May (physical) and 23-25 May (virtual), the Arabian Travel Market is a key fixture on the global travel and tourism calendar. This year’s event will feature industry discussions under the theme, ‘A new dawn for travel’. “ATM will play a pivotal role in strengthening the industry in what continues to be one of the most challenging periods for global tourism. With Dubai being the host destination and as one of the longstanding official partners of the event, our participation together with a cross-section of industry representatives is fundamental to the global efforts underway in dealing with a rapidly evolving situation as well as to drive post-pandemic tourism growth,” said Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Tourism. Visitors to the Dubai Tourism stand will have the opportunity to learn about a diverse array of offerings, activities and initiatives from its key departments. These include Dubai’s efforts to maintain its position as one of the world’s safest travel destinations, as well as plans for the Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. The Dubai College of Tourism will be demonstrating the breadth of its educational offerings to travel and trade partners, as well as the institution’s role in shaping the next generation of Dubai’s tourism workforce including the industry nationalisation programme Medyaf, which encourages Emirati nationals to take up roles in the sector and equips them with the necessary knowledge and skills to be employed in a tourist-facing role. The College will showcase the robust programme of its courses such as Dubai Way, an online learning platform which offers a series of new and engaging practical courses in keeping with domestic demand and global travel trends. There will also be five full-time vocational programmes and scholarships accepting admissions in September 2021, including Food & Beverage Service, Front Office and Hospitality Management. The gastronomy sector will also be a key promotional focus for Dubai Tourism during ATM, given Dubai’s position as one of the world’s top culinary destinations and the food capital of the region. The Dubai stand will also highlight key activities by government bodies and industry stakeholders, demonstrating the emirate’s successful public-private partnership model that continues to support its ever-evolving tourism landscape. Participants alongside Dubai Tourism at the stand include Dubai Police, Dubai Health Authority, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs - Dubai (GDRFA–Dubai) and Dubai Municipality. In addition, further to the announcement that Dubai aims to increase the contribution of creative arts to the emirate’s GDP from 2.6% to 5% in the next five years, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) and Dubai Culture will be championing Emirati arts and culture at the newly launched Al Quoz Creative Zone.

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Gates divorce roils world's biggest family philanthropy engine

Business|: New York:  It started with a safari in Africa. A young Bill and Melinda Gates, riding in the back of a truck, were on the continent for the first time in 1993 - there to see animals, nature and discuss their priorities as a soon-to-be married couple. But what they saw sparked a broader conversation about the enormous fortune they'd already begun to amass. "It was our first sustained look at extreme poverty," Melinda said in a speech in Abu Dhabi in 2016. It was "the beginning of our education about the challenges facing the world's poorest people." It was also the beginning of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic behemoth the couple built over the course of their 27-year marriage, which ended this week. In their note announcing the split, they said they would continue running the foundation together. Despite this assurance, news of the divorce sent a shock wave through the world of philanthropy. A commitment to giving In 2010, the Gateses, now worth about $145 billion, signed the Giving Pledge, a promise they co-created for the world's richest people to donate the majority of their wealth in their lifetime or will. They committed "the vast majority of our assets to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation." It remains to be seen how that money will be distributed in the wake of their split. The pledge is in no way legally binding, and Bill and Melinda have already explored other ways of giving back, tackling climate change and gender inequality, respectively, through their own investment firms. Their individual giving could expand now that there are two ultra-high-net worth households instead of one, said Elizabeth Dale, associate professor of nonprofit leadership at Seattle University. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is no ordinary family philanthropy; it's the largest of its kind on the planet. With more than 1,600 employees and offices around the world, it has a $50 billion endowment, and has already distributed more than $50 billion since its inception to causes like vaccine development and women's empowerment. It rivals large countries in its support, contributing more resources to research and development to combat malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases. It also has its ties to Wall Street The foundation trust distributes tens of millions of dollars in fees every year to investment managers and financial services firms. Some of the biggest recipients disclosed in the trust's most recent tax return included Marathon Asset Management, Wright Management, State Street Corporation and Green Court Capital Management, who all received more than $7 million in fees. Any change to Bill or Melinda's involvement in the foundation would have a big impact because of its unusual board size. Bill and Melinda make up two-thirds of the foundation's trustees. The third member is their friend Warren Buffett, who has added more than $27 billion of his own money to the foundation's coffers over the past 15 years. The Ford Foundation, which is roughly a fifth the size of the Gates Foundation, has 15 members on its board. The Rockefeller Foundation, at a 10th of the size, has no fewer than 12 at any time. And unlike those organizations, its living donors can influence its priorities and operations, said Greg Witkowski, a senior lecturer of nonprofit management at Columbia University. Dale and Witkowski agree the split won't immediately impact the foundation or the grants that have already been promised, but it could impact its future depending on how the couple's approach to philanthropy evolves as they separate. Differing approaches to philanthropy Greg Ratliff, who worked at the Gates Foundation for 10 years and is now senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, said their work was family-driven, meaning they only took on causes that Bill and Melinda were interested in. They each brought very different approaches to the work, he added. "It was sort of head and heart, and Melinda brought the heart and the personal component," said Ratliff, who worked on education and education technology projects at the foundation. He remembers how Bill would gravitate toward whatever technology or tools they were implementing in the schools, and Melinda would look to the impact their work had on the students and teachers. Dale said the fact that they have their own separate interests means their individual giving outside of the foundation could pick up. That's what happened following Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott's divorce in 2019. As a couple, they weren't big philanthropists, especially relative to their $137 billion net worth at the time. Shortly after their split, Scott received a quarter of the former couple's Amazon.com Inc. stake, worth about $38 billion then. She signed the Giving Pledge and in 2020 went on a philanthropic tear, giving away almost $6 billion to hundreds of small organizations in a matter of months. In other small coincidences, the Gates announcement of a split came in the form of a Twitter message, signed "Melinda Gates and Bill Gates," a departure from the "Bill and Melinda" on pretty much everything else the couple signs. And like Scott, Melinda has prominently embraced her maiden name since they announced the split, going by Melinda French Gates. The two women have worked together on shared causes, including the Equality Can't Wait Challenge in 2020, a $30 million award to organizations that come up with ways to advance women's power by 2030. In 2015, Melinda started Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company, "as a separate, independent organization" from the foundation to focus on solving issues impacting women and families. Bill also has his own side projects, like Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund that fights climate change by investing in green startups. Dividing the assets How the Gates fortune is split could determine which causes get more attention. Their complicated holdings have already begun untangling, with more than $2 billion transferred to Melinda this week alone. The bulk of it is from about 14.1 million shares in Canadian National Railway Co. For now, the foundation is projecting an image of calm. Carla Sandine, spokesperson for PATH, a global health non-profit and major grantee of the Gates Foundation, said they've heard the same thing as everyone else: nothing is going to change. "I think we have to trust that," said Sandine. PATH, based in Seattle, has received more than $2.2 billion from the Gates Foundation. The fact that the divorce of two people has caused so much anxiety and uncertainty in the nonprofit world highlights the problems with the modern philanthropy model, said Erica Foldy, associate professor of public and nonprofit management at New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. "What a few individuals decide to do has a massive impact on the health and well-being of millions or even billions of people," Foldy said. Sandine agrees that it's frustrating that the world depends on the generosity of individuals to solve its problems. "I think the fact that we would even talk about the future of global public health hinging on the relationship between individuals, I think it's reflective of a larger problem," Sandine said. "Public health around the world is not properly funded, so Bill and Melinda Gates have been filling massive gaps."

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UAE's Etihad Rail ready to manufacture sleepers locally

Business|: Abu Dhabi: Etihad Rail has set up local manufacturing facility to build sleepers in the UAE. Since its inception, Etihad Rail has ensured building the UAE’s national rail network with world-class standards, to contribute to supporting the growth of the nation’s industrial sector and advancing the country’s wider economic growth. The company referred to local sources to provide many of the main components required for building the network, in line with ‘Make it in the Emirates’ strategy, which was launched recently by the UAE. Sleepers are a vital component of the railway network, as they form the base for anchoring railway tracks. The company has built factories to manufacture railway sleepers locally, rather than importing them with the aim of achieving optimal efficiency in time, effort and costs, alongside reducing the environmental impact of importing goods into the UAE.Etihad Rail Etihad Rail The highest quality of raw materials that are available locally, are used in manufacturing the sleeper, which contributes in creating hundreds of jobs across the UAE. The first of the two Sleepers Factories is located in Al Mirfa, in Al Dhafra region of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The factory stretches over 13,000 square metres, and is able to produce 45,000 sleepers each month, manufacturing all sleepers required for Stage One of the project. The second factory, located in Saih Shuaib on the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, covers an area of over 9,000 square metres. Having taken 12 months to build and requiring 700,000 man hours, the factory can produce 1.1 million sleepers. The production of sleepers at the factories is conducted over a production line facility. With eight lines in operation, each line can produce 400 sleepers per day, with the factory producing 3,200 sleepers in every casting. Each sleeper produced at the factory undergoes a thorough quality and inspection test. These tests include dimensional tests, cube testing, and bending testing. Assessors check for any cracks before the sleepers are transported to the assembly area to be used.

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Gulf Air begins IATA Travel Pass trial on flights to London, Singapore

Aviation|: Dubai: Gulf Air will commence the trial of IATA's travel pass starting from May 7 on flights from Bahrain to London, Athens and Singapore. Passengers holding a biometric passport will be able to trial the app which helps passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with any government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information. The Travel Pass app will have an integrated registry of travel requirements to enable passengers to find accurate information on travel and entry requirements for all destinations regardless of their itinerary. Eventually, it will also include a registry of labs — making it more convenient for passengers to find testing centres and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination. "Gulf Air is proud to partner with IATA as one of the first airlines in the world to commence the trials and we look forward to initiating it on three routes starting from today," said Captain Waleed AlAlawi, Gulf Air’s Acting Chief Executive Officer. Passengers flying directly from Bahrain to London, Athens and Singapore will be notified with instructions on how to sign up to be part of the trial. "Through this live trial we hope to demonstrate that governments can efficiently manage travel requirements with complete confidence in the identity of the passenger and the veracity of the travel credentials," said Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security. "This is an important step in enabling international travel during the pandemic, giving people the confidence that they are meeting all COVID-19 entry requirements,” he added.

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DIFC Courts adopts digital authentication of documents

Banking|: Dubai: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts has acquired the qualified electronic seal solution Ethaq, a paperless initiative that enables digital authenticity of documents with the support of UAE PASS, the secure national digital identity platform for the UAE. Ethaq certificate is powered by Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC) and its Root Certificate Authority. It recognises the DIFC Courts as the first Dubai entity to acquire the entirely paperless certificate that enables court documents to be electronically signed, issued, and authenticated. Ethaq also integrates UAE PASS, the secure national digital identity platform of the UAE, in collaboration with Smart Dubai, to provide an end-to-end signing solution that combines both an electronic seal and an electronic signature solution based on digitally verifiable identities. The electronic seal Ethaq will also reinforce the security and integrity of the documentation and eradicates tampering of official documents, enabling users to digitally verify the authenticity of any legal documents through the DIFC Courts website. “As the first UAE Court to integrate this solution, we are maintaining our assertive push towards digital transformation and equipping our court users with the most advanced tools to ensure ease of accessing our services. This new innovative eService will ensure that the DIFC Courts continues to fulfil the requirements under the Dubai Paperless Strategy 2021 and create legal security and certainty for businesses in an era of technological disruption,” said Omar Juma Al Mheiri, Deputy Chief Justice, DIFC Courts. As part of a phased approach, the ‘Ethaq’ capability will initially be secured for all court user service documents, such as DIFC Courts Judgments and Orders, with a secondary implementation wave for all DIFC Courts internal and operational documentation. In 2018, launched as an initiative under the Courts of the Future, the DIFC Courts partnered with Smart Dubai to create the world’s first Court of the Blockchain. Building on existing dispute resolution services, the alliance is exploring how to aid verification of court judgments for cross-border enforcement. “This initiative reinforces the efficiency of digital services to support the city’s smart transformation and achieves the visionary goals set by the Dubai Cyber Security Strategy,” said Yousef Al Shaibani, Director General, Dubai Electronic Security Center In 2018, as part of its digital strategy, the DIFC Courts was also the first courts service in the region to launch the most globally advanced ‘paperless’ e-Bundling service, pioneering new online dispute resolution services. The secure cloud-based technology allows court documents to be uploaded from anywhere in the world, enabling judges, lawyers, and courts staff to access case information in various formats, across multiple locations, and share with numerous users, reducing the need for duplicate paper bundles. Over the past 12 months, the DIFC Courts has introduced several initiatives aimed at alleviating costs for court users, including the suspension of all fees related to the digital e-Bundling service, with over 100,000 case pages uploaded to this system in the first eight months of 2020, ensuring paper reduction of over 600,000 pages.

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How Saudi Arabia can reduce fiscal deficits and manage growth momentum

Analysis|: Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement of a narrowing of the budget deficit to $2 billion in the first quarter of this year from $29 billion in the fourth quarter and $9 billion in the first quarter of 2020 points to significant improvement in its public finances, according to rating agency Moody’s. “Although this improvement was largely driven by higher oil prices and a large seasonal drop in spending, the budget performance figures also reveal a structural improvement evident in the decline in the non-oil fiscal deficit to the lowest level in more than six years,” said Alexander Perjessy, VP-Senior Analyst at Moody’s. The improvement in public finances is attributed to the tripling of the value added tax (VAT) rate to 15 per cent last July and a nearly 50 per cent cut in capital expenditure so far this year, in line with the approved 2021 budget. Saudi fiscal deficit Image Credit: Moody's “The structural improvement reduces the fiscal exposure to fluctuations in global oil demand and prices. If sustained, it will also help reverse part of the fiscal deterioration that took place last year as a result of the coronavirus shock and arrest a further significant deterioration in the government's balance sheet,” said Perjessy. The rating agency said if the oil prices average around $60/barrel this year and the government maintains spending in line with the approved budget targets, the full-year fiscal deficit would narrow below 5 per cent of GDP in 2021 from 11.2 per cent of GDP in 2020. This, along with higher nominal GDP, would be sufficient to help reverse some of last year’s 10 percentage-point increase in the government’s debt-to-GDP ratio. Sensitive to oil price Saudi Arabia's public finances remain highly sensitive to fluctuations in the oil price as oil revenues continue to account for more than a half of total revenues, although this is down from an average of more than 70 per cent in 2014-18. The rating agency said a seasonal drop in spending, which tends to be the highest in the last quarter of the year and the lowest in the first quarter of the year, also drove the fiscal improvement in the first quarter. Both of these factors have reduced the quarterly fiscal deficit to one of the lowest on record in the past six years, bested only by a $7 billion surplus in the first quarter of 2019. Impact of spending cuts Moody’s said the Kingdom’s recent fiscal reforms such as the tripling of VAT to 15 per cent in July last year significant spending cuts has reduced the vulnerability of public finances to oil price declines. However, the rating agency also notes that a large budgeted cut in government capital spending (equivalent to nearly 2 per cent of GDP) will weigh on Saudi Arabia's economic recovery during 2021. Saudi spending cuts Image Credit: Saudi Ministry of Finance and Moody's Investors Service A part of the budget spending cuts is expected to be offset by investment spending on domestic projects by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its concluding statement of its 2021 Article IV consultation that quick COVID response has put Saudi economy on recovery path and reforms under Vision 2030 playing a key role in helping the economy navigate the pandemic.

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Tens of millions plunge into poverty in COVID-ravaged India

Analysis|: New Delhi: After dipping into his savings to weather India's snap pandemic lockdown last March, Manoj Kumar was just getting his head above water again earning 600 rupees ($8) a day as a construction worker in the tourist hotspot of Goa. He'd squirreled away enough for a trip last month to his native village in Bihar some 1,490 miles away for a wedding. He's still there, stuck in one of the nation's least developed states, as a fierce second COVID-19 wave triggers the world's worst health crisis and prevents his return. On a lucky day, he'll land some odd jobs that fetch him as much as 300 rupees. But there aren't too many of those chores left. So he's taking loans to feed and clothe his wife and three kids. "It is all in God's hands now," said Kumar, who's told his wife to curtail spending on items such as lentils, cooking oil and clothes. "I don't know when I will return. My family is worried and doesn't want me to go back as the cases are also rising in Goa." Kumar, 40, is one of the millions of migrant workers who form part of India's vast unreported informal sector, which accounts for half of its $2.9 trillion, domestic demand-driven economy. A protracted Covid wave is shrinking incomes and wiping out savings of people like Kumar, posing the risk of a double whammy for Asia's third-largest economy that's still struggling to recover from last year's pandemic-induced recession. The government estimates India's gross domestic product shrank 8% in the year ended March, its biggest contraction since 1952. Many economists are cutting their forecasts for the current fiscal year as rising unemployment and dwindling savings dim the chances of a double-digit growth. Shaun Roache, chief economist for Asia Pacific at S&P Global Ratings, slashed his prediction to 9.8% from 11% earlier. Fitch Solutions sees the economy expanding by 9.5%, a projection that's below the Bloomberg consensus of around 11%. "A drawn-out Covid-19 outbreak will impede India's economic recovery," Singapore-based Roache said. "The country already faces a permanent loss of output versus its pre-pandemic path, suggesting a long-term production deficit equivalent to about 10% of GDP." With the latest surge caused by a new coronavirus strain, total infections in India have risen to 21.5 million, a third of which were added just in the past three weeks alone. Experts have warned the crisis has the potential to worsen in the coming weeks, with one model predicting as many as 1,018,879 deaths by the end of July, quadrupling from the current official count of 234,083. Harsh and sudden As new travel restrictions are put in place in some of the nation's biggest economic centers to contain the outbreak, India's poor are likely to bear the brunt again, just as they did in 2020. They have yet to recover from the lockdown ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in late March last year. The harsh and sudden measure sparked an exodus of migrant workers from cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, as they trekked hundreds of miles to reach home. People like Kumar typically work without contracts and often for a pittance. The so-called informal economy in India employs approximately 411 million workers, according to calculations by Jeemol Unni, a professor of economics at Ahmedabad University, who relied on surveys by the government's National Statistical Office to arrive at the number. While the low-paying farm sector employs the bulk of them, construction comes second with about 56 million. Unprotected by unions and politicians, these laborers often miss out on handouts from governments. After meeting daily expenses, they are left with little to pay for health care and medicines - a risky situation especially when a pathogen is taking lives and sending thousands to intensive care at overcrowded hospitals running short of beds. Dip in savings Economists warn depleting household savings and falling incomes will have an impact on domestic consumption, which accounts for almost 60% of GDP. A study by Nikhil Gupta, an economist at Mumbai-based brokerage Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd., found that India's household savings dropped to 22.1% of GDP in the quarter through December, from 28.1% in the three months ended June last year. Full-year numbers show India's savings growth lagged behind the likes of the U.S., the U.K. and Japan, he said. "A slower rise in household savings, coupled with similar or slower decline in consumption, confirms weak income growth in India," Gupta said. "If so, the contribution of pent-up demand in growth recovery would also be limited in India compared with other nations." Data showed April jobless rate increased to nearly 8% from 6.5% in March, with more than seven million exiting the workforce last month, according to data from Center for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt., a private research firm. As a result of all the turmoil that started last year, income inequality is deepening in India. A study by Pew Research Center has shown an estimated 75 million people slipped into poverty since the pandemic began. The second wave is set to crush some more. For the study, Pew considered daily incomes of 150 rupees or less as poor, 151 to 750 rupees as low income and 3,750 rupees and above as high income. A study by the Azim Premji University in Bangalore showed even more alarming numbers. About 230 million individuals slid below the national daily minimum wage threshold of 375 rupees during the pandemic, it said. Though India could still emerge as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it will also be one of the most unequal countries, Oxfam, a non-profit organization said. Duvvuri Subbarao, a former governor of India's central bank, said the strife faced by the informal-economy workers could hurt India's long-term growth prospects. "Inequalities have intensified because the formal sector has nearly normalized while the informal sector remains distressed," he said. Slower growth would be bad news for workers like A.K. Singh, who was a cook for a monthly salary of about 20,000 rupees in a restaurant in Mumbai. He fled recently to his home town of Gorakhpur in northern India to start a tire business, for which he's waiting for a loan. "I used some of my savings and money I received from my last salary," he said. "But there's a lockdown here too for the past week. My shop was hardly open for two days during the week. What will we earn out of that?"

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Tough US jobs report shows Biden’s rocky road to full economic recovery

Business|Americas|: Washington: President Joe Biden reacted on Friday to a disappointing April jobs report by saying the US economy has a “long way to go” before recovering from its pandemic slump, and he urged Washington to do more to help the American people. US job growth unexpectedly slowed last month, likely restrained by shortages of workers and raw materials. Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 266,000 jobs, well below the nearly 1 million jobs economists expected and a sharp contrast to steady increases in growth from January to March. Biden and his team have said his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, the Democratic president’s first major legislative accomplishment, is helping to bring the economy back from its pandemic plummet, and they are pushing for another $4 trillion in new investments. “Today’s report just underscores in my view how vital the actions we’re taking are,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “Our efforts are starting to work. But the climb is steep and we still have a long way to go.” Stock indexes still climbed to record highs despite the news, as fewer investors feared the Federal Reserve would reduce its massive stimulus program anytime soon, and bet Biden’s investment plans would succeed. Political divide The jobs report highlighted an intractable political divide in Washington over government spending. Republicans and business groups blasted generous unemployment benefits in the relief package, contending they were stopping lower-wage Americans from going back to work. Critics object to the high price tag of Biden’s plans and warn they could bring inflation. Biden said he did not believe government benefits were hindering a return to work, and his economists backed him up. “It’s clear that there are people who are not ready and able to go back into the labor force,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters, citing parents whose children are still learning remotely. “I dont think the addition to unemployment compensation is really the factor that is making a difference. Jared Bernstein, a member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, told Reuters that Biden’s COVID relief and stimulus, known as the American Rescue Plan, had helped generate an average of more than half a million jobs per month, April not withstanding. “Those are big numbers, and the fingerprints of the American Rescue Plan are all over those additions,” he said. Bernstein and other officials said no course correction is required from the White House. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business lobby said the government should end the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits to ease a labor shortage. Some states, including Arkansas, Montana and South Carolina, have decided on their own to end the special federal unemployment payments for their residents, refusing federal cash in the hope that helps businesses find workers faster.

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China's export numbers stick to high growth trajectory, with more to come

Markets|: Beijing: China's exports rose more than expected in April, suggesting its trade out-performance could last longer than expected this year, fueled by global fiscal stimulus. Exports grew 32.3 per cent in dollar terms in April from a year earlier. Imports climbed 43.1 per cent, a sign of strong domestic demand and soaring commodity prices, resulting in a bigger-than-expected trade surplus of $42.85 billion for the month. Global appetite for Chinese goods remained strong in the month, thanks to stimulus packages introduced by developed economies that's helped to fuel demand for household goods, furniture and electronic devices. With vaccine rollouts accelerating and more economies opening up, China's export growth was widely expected to moderate this year as consumers start to spend more on services. But April's data shows that hasn't happened yet. "The export figure clearly reflects a recovering and expanding global economy," said Hao Zhou, an economist at Commerzbank AG. "Robust imports and exports also mean that China's manufacturing industry is still outperforming the services sector to lead the economic rebound." Key destination markets The US was the biggest export market in April, accounting for 15.9% of Chinese goods sold abroad. Southeast Asian nations bought 15.6% of exports while the EU purchased 15.1%. Exports to India surged 144% in April from a year earlier with the monthly value hitting a record $7.8 billion. The low base from a year ago also helped to underpin the strong results, but even on a two-year average growth basis which strips out those effects, April's export growth was 16.8 per cent, much stronger than pre-pandemic levels, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. "We expect China's export growth will stay strong into the second half of this year," said Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management Ltd, citing strong growth in US demand and continued coronavirus outbreaks in developing countries such as India causing production to shift to China. Those trends are likely to support China's currency, he added.

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Dubai's DP World to oversee development of Ethiopia-Berbera trade corridor

Markets|: Dubai: DP World and Ethiopia's Ministry of Transport have signed a MoU to develop the road linking Ethiopia to Berbera into one of the major trade and logistics corridors of the African country's international trade routes. The MoU was signed in Addis Ababa today by Dagmawit Moges, Ethiopia's Minister of Transport, and Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World. It follows a decision by the two parties to explore the potential for more logistics infrastructure and end-to-end services along the corridor to "unlock major economic benefits for Ethiopia". End-to-end service The entities would set up a joint venture logistics company. It is intended that for exports, DP World will offer services from origin in Ethiopia up to Berbera Port, while for imports, it will offer from the port of loading to the delivery in one of the dry ports in the hinterlands or the final destination of the consignees. DP World and its partners envisage investing up to $1bn over the next ten years in developing the supply chain infrastructure along the corridor. This will include dry ports, silos, warehouses, container yards, cool and cold chain depots, freight forwarding and clearing activities.  The MoU also envisages that the Ministry of Transport will oversee a review and resolution of regulatory obstacles facing the Ethiopian side of the Berbera Corridor. Moges said: "Ethiopia aims to diversify its port access facilities and services to improve its trade corridor access routes; utilizing the Berbera corridor will surely have a potential to make Ethiopia a front runner in logistics operations, boosting the competitive advantage of delivering our products to the world market. The development of this Corridor will not only meet with the growing demand of Ethiopian's international trade, but it would also enhance our Nation's capacity in utilizing our existing major corridor both in terms of volume of trade and efficiency."

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Philippines tightens controls on inbound travellers over COVID-19 variants

Philippines|Aviation|: Manila: Travellers entering the Philippines will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine, up from a week previously, as authorities try to contain more infectious coronavirus variants, the presidential spokesman said on Friday. The new controls will apply regardless of whether a visitor has been vaccinated and the first 10 days of quarantine will be in a government-accredited facility and the remainder at home, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a briefing. Visitors will get a COVID-19 test on the seventh day after arrival, but will still be required to complete a 10-day stay in a facility even if they test negative, Roque said. The Southeast Asian country is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia with more than a million infections, including those caused by variants first detected in Britain and South Africa, and more than 18,000 deaths. In a bid to prevent the entry of a variant first identified in India, the Philippines has temporarily barred travellers coming from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh from entering the country. The new controls come after five passengers arriving in the last month with a travel history to India tested positive for COVID-19. Samples had been taken in order to do genome sequencing, the health ministry has said. The Philippines also allowed a container ship with a travel history to India to dock on Thursday to provide medical assistance to 12 of the 21 Filipino crew members who tested positive for COVID-19. Out of the 12, two were in critical condition and had to be evacuated to a medical facility for treatment, while the others were receiving care on the ship, the transport ministry said on Friday.

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NRIs hit 'collective pause' on jewellery as India's COVID-19 cases spiral and gold shoots to $1,820

Retail|: Dubai: Gold prices have again shot past the $1,800 an ounce mark and heading towards $1,850, which comes at a most inconvenient time for jewellery shoppers… and retailers. In seven days, the Indian festival of ‘Akshaya Trithiya’ will be marked this year, when gold buying is considered as most auspicious. In a typical year, these seven days would have marked the start of one of the busiest buying periods for the UAE gold and jewellery sector. But this is far from being a typical year. There are few signs so far that expat Indians in the UAE are in a mood to add to their gold collections. And the price spiral is only one factor. Today’s Dubai Gold Rate for 22K is Dh206.75 a gram. Read More Dubai's gold retail workforce will have their COVID-19 vaccines before May 14's 'Akshaya Trithiya' Dubai's DMCC to get GCC's biggest gold, precious metals refinery in 2022 Brief drop and then... During a brief period in March, gold prices had dropped to $1,687 an ounce levels – and under Dh195 a gram in Dubai – and which led to improved buying patterns. “The mood is subdued – whatever they are hearing from India about COVID-19 deaths and oxygen shortages is being reflected in gold buying,” said a jeweler. “The price increase from $1,750-$1,780 levels from last month has only added to the demand drop.” Other market sources say that buying by Indian expats have dropped off “alarmingly” in the last two weeks. “It’s as if they have taken a collective pause until there’s some good news on the COVID-19 front from India,” said another retailer. “Many have sent additional remittances back to India ahead of any lockdowns, and that’s also going to affect Akshaya Trithiya buying.”

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Abu Dhabi utility powerhouse TAQA will interest conservative and aggressive investor alike

Markets|: The Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (or TAQA) is the UAE's fourth-largest listed company with a market capitalization of Dh154 billion. It had a solid first quarter due to its substantial economies of scale as a fully integrated utility company, with revenues of Dh10.3 billion, which is 3 per cent higher than the comparable period last year. The EBITDA was at Dh4.7 billion, up 12 per cent, while net income of Dh1.4 billion is an increase of around Dh2 billion. The first quarter of 2020 included a Dh1.5 billion post-tax impairment charge related to oil and gas assets. Meanwhile, free cashflows were strong at Dh3.4 billion for the current quarter. The rise in revenues was essentially due to higher commodity prices within the oil and gas segment. The average realized oil price rose by 29 per cent to $57.44/bbl in the first quarter versus the same period in 2020. Likewise, average realized gas prices rose to $3.41/mmbtu, up from $2.13/mmbtu. These along with lower operating expenses propelled EBITDA and net income. The oil and gas business was able to reduce both operating expenses and G&A (general and administration expenditure) by over 10 percent. On a group level, TAQA reduced operating expenses from Dh5.33 billion to Dh5.18 billion, which shows the emphasis the management is placing on cost reduction. Predictability helps On the capital structure, it was able to reduce the debt component from 49 per cent to 48 per cent. The Abu Dhabi entity was also able to reduce the cost of finance through new debt. One of the crucial strengths of TAQA is its highly predictable and reliable cashflow profile. Regulated and long-term contracted earnings represent over 90 per cent of revenues and EBITDA. The weighted residual life of current assets - excluding projects under development - is 12 years. The new ones likely to be commissioned in the next two years have 25 or 30-year purchase agreements. Also, a single regulatory framework in place for three networks - Transco, ADDC, and AADC - in Abu Dhabi ensures predictable cashflows. The company has an aggressive Vision 2030 plan, whereby it's planning to be a low carbon power and water champion in the GCC. It is deploying highly efficient reverse osmosis technology to two-thirds of its desalination portfolio by 2030. Another part of the strategy includes focusing on renewable energy, especially solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, to cover more than 30 per cent of its power generation. TAQA has also committed to investing an additional Dh40 billion to grow its UAE regulated asset base. Total UAE generation capacity will be raised to 30,000 MW from 18,000 MW currently. Regarding dividends for 2021, the management plans to issue 0.55 fils per share for the first three quarters and 1.10 fils in the fourth. TAQA has an approximately 2 per cent forward dividend yield and is suited for the aggressive and conservative investor alike. Vijay Valecha The writer is Chief Investment Officer at Century Financial.

GulfNews Business

British Airways parent IAG adds to 2020 losses with $1.4b hit in Q1-2021

Aviation|: London: British Airways parent IAG said it's expecting only a gradual reopening of travel including key trans-Atlantic services after losses continued to mount in the first quarter. IAG, which also owns Spain's Iberia and Aer Lingus of Ireland, will deploy 25% of its 2019 capacity this quarter, given "limited progress" in restoring markets. The group had an adjusted operating loss of 1.14 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in the first three months amid new COVID-19 lockdowns, following its first annual loss in almost a decade in 2020. With the UK poised to announce which countries will feature on a "green list" for the resumption of leisure travel from May 17, and the European Union planning a reopening from June, IAG said it's hopeful for a restart after long-haul specialists like BA and Iberia suffered the worst of the crisis. Even then, it will take until "at least" 2023 for passenger demand to reach pre-virus levels. "We're absolutely confident that a safe re-start to travel can happen as shown by the scientific data," CEO Luis Gallego said in a statement. "We're ready to fly, but government action is needed." Read More Etihad Airways to trial IATA Travel Pass on US, Canada flights until May 31 Global airline loss estimates inch closer to $50b for 2021: IATA US will be crucial While the US may not be included in the initial UK list of countries with the lowest restrictions for arriving passengers, successful vaccination programmes and falling coronavirus infection rates on both sides of the Atlantic means prospects are positive for an early return. Gallego called for a travel corridor without restrictions between the countries to allow for a prompt reopening. IAG had been forecast to report a quarterly operating loss of 1.13 billion euros, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts. The London-based group, which suffered a 7.43 billion-euro loss last year, said it's too early to provide earnings guidance for 2021.

GulfNews Business

Low-cost airline flyEgypt launches thrice weekly service to Ras Al Khaimah from Cairo

Aviation|: Dubai: The low-cost airline flyEgypt is the latest to touch down at Ras Al Khaimah International Airport, and marks an “acceleration” for the airport’s expansion strategy. “From a localised viewpoint, this service will support Ras Al Khaimah’s diversification strategy and further enhance RAK Airport’s strategic position as a logistics and transport hub for the region,” said Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation and Ras Al Khaimah International Airport. The first flyEgypt flight from Cairo International Airport landed in Ras Al Khaimah on Thursday, and the carrier will operate a thrice-weekly service. With flyEgypt also starting twice-weekly direct flights from Suhag in Egypt to Ras Al Khaimah, the partnership opens up the emirate to a 100 million people market. Read More Air Arabia, India's SpiceJet could add more routes from Ras Al Khaimah Connecting Egypt flyEgypt launched operations in 2015 as a charter airline. It is engaged in supporting the "revival of Egypt’s tourism industry", by connecting Egyptian destinations with the greater Middle East through scheduled flights alongside their European leisure travel product. It will fly to Ras Al Khaimah three times a week, with flights every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday and to Suhag twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. "Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is determined to play an instrumental role in repositioning the aviation sector as a major driver for economic activities in the new normal," said Sanjay Khanna, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah International Airport. "This new partnership is just one of many that the airport is establishing in pursuit of this goal. We are committed to opening up even more routes, with further partnership announcements to be made over the next two months.” The airport signed agreements with several carriers in the last three months to either commence operations or extend existing ones with added frequencies.

GulfNews Business

Abu Dhabi's fastest growing stock International Holding Co. to list another two subsidiaries

Markets|: Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s secondary market will remain busy, with International Holding Co. – the stock that’s still zooming on ADX charts – to list another two subsidiaries. “We believe in local product and many of our fastest growing companies are homegrown in the UAE,” said Syed Basar Shueb, CEO and Managing Director of IHC. “Emirates Stallion Group and Al Seer Marine are ambitious companies that have continued to expand in recent years. Listing on ADX’s Second Market, will offer investors an outstanding opportunity to participate in these well-established companies’ success journey.” The IHC stock on its own has put in triple-digit growth rates over the last year, and the streak continues to this day, with upbeat first quarter numbers.  These follow those of Palm Sports, Easylease and Zee Stores on ADX’s second market last year. The two new listings will commence shortly and include: Vast network of interests Over the last six months, IHC and its subsidiaries announced the pre-launch of the UAE’s first virtual wellness and prevention platform HealthyU, investments in UK-based DNA sequencing firm Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Quantlase Lab and Tamouh Healthcare, which recently developed the concept of Containerized Aid for Respiratory Emergencies (CARE), turning modular containers into fully equipped medical field hospitals. IHC also announced investments such as a stake in SpaceX, Elon Musk’s aerospace company, a partnership with DAL Group for an agricultural development in Sudan; and Multiply’s acquisition of a stake in New York marketing firm YieldMo. Emirates Stallion Group It has a diversified portfolio of businesses across engineering and construction, development and management of real estate. ESG operates five fully-owned subsidiaries, has 90 plus operational sites, 12 marketplace presence, and four associates and joint ventures. The company had assets of Dh394 million as of end 2020. Al Seer Marine It is into high-tech boat-building, unmanned systems development and manufacturing. The entity had assets of Dh717.8 million as at end 2020. According to Shueb, “IHC has continued to grow becoming the second-biggest company by value on the Abu Dhabi Securities exchange. We will continue to enrich our diversified portfolio with strong companies that are in line with our growth strategy and goals.”

GulfNews Business

After Dh897m loss, Dubai property fund Emirates REIT cuts management fees by 20%

Property|: Dubai: After taking a Dh897 million loss for 2020, the Dubai-focussed real estate fund Emirates REIT is pinning hopes on a quick turnaround this year. The losses were brought on by an “unprecedented” markdown in the value of its investment properties. Emirates REIT also confirmed it will be cutting its management fees by 20 per cent from this quarter all the way up to end of the year, which will be of some relief to the fund’s clients. The fund manages the GEMS Academy campus as well as the Index Tower at DIFC, one of the signature high-rises in that free zone. “Emirates REIT assets have witnessed a larger than normal drop in valuation due to the high volatility and lack of certainty of the real estate market,” said Abdulla Al Hamli, Chairman at Equitativa, which is the fund’s manager. “We trust that such volatility will recede and that following the decisive actions of the UAE government, the market is already on a fast recovery trajectory.” Read More Losses get steeper for Dubai real estate fund Emirates REIT, totals $244.2m Emirates REIT brings in Houlihan Lokey to review all options Tough on REITs The last two years have seen real estate investment trusts – essentially property funds – go through some tumultuous times in the UAE. It had forced others to delay their launch plans for REITs, while Al Mal Capital REIT went ahead with an IPO last December on DFM. The float generated a fairly healthy Dh350 million, but still lower than the Dh500 million the promoters initially had their eyes on. As for Emirates REIT, rhe “greatest impact of COVID-19 was witnessed in October 2020, during which the occupancy and income fell to its lowest point,” it said in a statement. “However, from November 2020, the REIT's income has begun a market recovery and only increased.” Pinning hopes on recovery This is what’s prompting the talk that this year will deliver that much needed improvement. Sylvain Vieujot, Executive Deputy Chairman and CEO of Equitativa, said: “Despite strong downward pressure on the market, our resilient property portfolio performed well, demonstrating its enduring value with each new and renewed tenant lease. We are particularly pleased with portfolio occupancy and longer-term leasing trends among our leading properties, as in the case of Index Tower which contributes so significantly to our overall income. “Having completed our earlier announced external review, led by global investment bank Houlihan Lokey, regarding strategic options for our portfolio, the Board believes Equitativa is now in a stronger position to confidently move forward with an improved operational structure necessary to deliver greater value to its shareholders.”

GulfNews Business

Dubai's F&B businesses deliver on the small wins this Ramadan - and keep costs down

Retail|: Dubai: Dubai’s F&B businesses – from fine dining restaurants to food court stalls – have been able to generate some much-needed cashflow and save on expenses during the Ramadan period, with the authorities waiving the need for special permits and screens. With these businesses having had to combat the COVID-19 fallout for 14 months now, operating at normal service during Ramadan is vital for survival. This was the first time that restaurants in Dubai were allowed to remain open during the day without a permit. With less than a week left of the fasting month, F&B operators look back at how the change in rules has affected their business. “It’s been a great help to operate during the day, especially since we’ve had reduced capacity for several months,” said Sergio Lopez, CEO of The Pangolin. “Additionally, with Ramadan falling earlier each year, and the weather still being good this time of year, it has been great to be able to operate as normal, while always following government guidelines and respecting Ramadan.” Ahead of Ramadan, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development issued a circular stating restaurants are not required to obtain a permit to remain open during the day and would also not have to screen visible dining areas during fasting hours. Although the circular came into effect from the first day of Ramadan, Lopez’s restaurant still saw a small decline at the start of the month. “The business had a bigger dip in the first couple of weeks of Ramadan, as customers, in general, were not so sure of the rules this Ramadan compared to other years,” said Lopez. The Pangolin is taking advantage of being open during the daytime hours by offering a summer breakfast promotion. There are also special beverage deals as well as lunch and dinner promotions that change depending on the day of the week. “We just launched a new Lazy Friday Lunch deal this month,” added Lopez Dubai waived the special permits F&B operators needed to operate during the day through the month of Ramadan. Image Credit: Antonin Kelian-Kallouche/Gulf News Business is steady “With Bella being a new opening, we were worried about how Ramadan would affect operations,” said Stefano Bassanese, General Manager at Bella Ristorante. “As we had only recently launched our business lunch, we were very grateful to be able to continue operating during the day as many of our non-Muslim guests had enquired before the start of Ramadan what our working hours would be.” According to Bassanese, their business has remained steady throughout the month. “We actually have a lot more “early-diners” who have come to Bella to end their fast,” he said. For Ramadan, Bella is offering a five-course Iftar menu available daily from sunset, at Dh250 per person. “When we planned this menu, we wanted to keep our authentic Italian cuisine, but fuse it with Arabic flavours and use local ingredients to create dishes that were both traditional yet contemporary to attract the fasting customers,” Bassanese explained. Navigate a crisis Bla Bla, a foodie destination and beach club in JBR, has been fully booked on most days. “We are absolutely grateful to be able to operate during the day,” said Andy Erokhin, Operations Director. “We are a brand new venue and launching such a large project during a pandemic was tough enough, so being able to be in business during Ramadan was great for us. “Because we offer so many different experiences and we’re still new to the market, we’ve been busy. The beach club is full on most days and the restaurant has seen an increase during the day with people having breakfast and lunch for business meetings and get-togethers.” Bla Bla’s breakfast deal is priced at Dh65 per person and includes a selection of dishes and breakfast items. “In the upcoming week, we are also announcing a new set lunch menu, which will be available during weekdays,” said Erokhin. “I think it’s important to be competitive and also to offer guests the best opportunities to try a range of the items on the menu.” Now that Ramadan is coming to an end, F&B brands have to brace themselves for warmer temperatures – and less inclination among patrons to step out. It’s always an uphill battle for F&B…