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Israeli 5-minute battery charge aims to fire up electric cars

Technology|Business|: Herzliya, Israel: From flat battery to full charge in just five minutes - an Israeli start-up has developed technology it says could eliminate the "range anxiety" associated with electric cars. Ultra-fast recharge specialists StoreDot have developed a first-generation lithium-ion battery that can rival the filling time of a standard car at the pump. "We are changing the entire experience of the driver, the problem of 'range anxiety'... that you might get stuck on the highway without energy," StoreDot founder Doron Myersdorf said. The innovation could eliminate the hours required to recharge an electric car, he said. Hundreds of prototypes are being tested by manufacturers. His company, based in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, is backed by four key investors: German automobile manufacturer Daimler, the UK's British Petroleum and the electronic giants Samsung and TDK. Myersdorf, who set up the company in 2012, has tested the battery on phones, drones and scooters, before tackling the big prize of electric vehicles. 'Revolution' But Eric Esperance, an analyst at Roland Berger consulting firm, cautioned that while ultra-fast charging would be a "revolution", many stages remain. "We are still far off from the industrial automotive market," he told AFP. In 2019, the Nobel Chemistry Prize was awarded to John Goodenough of the US, Britain's Stanley Whittingham and Japan's Akira Yoshino for the invention of lithium-ion batteries. "This lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery is now used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on awarding the prize. Myersdorf said charging "speed was not part" of the original design that won the Nobel, so he worked on what was "considered impossible": a lithium-ion battery good to go in minutes. "We wanted to demonstrate that you can take a lithium-ion battery, replace some of its materials and then charge it in five minutes," he said. The engineer switched the original graphite in the battery's negative anode with silicon. "We are taking that amazing innovation of the lithium-ion battery and upgrading it to extreme fast charging capability," he said. Batteries are assembled in a laboratory equipped with large glass boxes, sealed to keep oxygen out. StoreDot chemists clad in goggles and white coats build 100 batteries a week, sent to companies for possible use in their products. 'Fossil fuel-free society' The team is already working on a second generation of batteries to cut costs. While the design cycle of a vehicle is "typically four to five years", they are looking to speed up the process. "We are working on taking this solution to the market in parallel, by designing the manufacturing facilities that would be able to mass produce this battery," Myersdorf said. The Nobel jury praised the lithium-ion battery for being able to "store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society". As public opinion shifts towards prioritising the climate change crisis, manufacturers are gearing production towards less polluting vehicles. But the road is long. On the ground, charging stations would have to be adapted for the new generation batteries, costing between $1,500 and $10,000 depending on capacity. Electric cars are also still expensive, and in 2019 they represented only 2.6 percent of global sales, according to the International Energy Agency. For Myersdorf, the sooner the world switches to electric vehicles the better, pointing to the "huge impact on the planet". But recycling lithium-ion batteries remains a problem, with Esperance noting that each has a lifespan of between 3,000 and 3,500 charges. "We must set up a recycling system, as there is for lead-acid batteries," he said. "Today, this network is just being set up." Both the extraction and recycling of lithium pose ecological, political and economic challenges for technology to overcome.

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Saudi Aramco to benefit from oil price and demand recovery

Markets|: Dubai: Saudi oil giant Aramco will benefit from the oil prices and demand recovery according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML). “We believe that Aramco is uniquely positioned in the global oil world to meet potential resurgence of oil demand. Should bullish oil price demand assumptions materialize, we would expect Aramco to generate close to $100 billion in free cash flow in 2022,” BoAML said in a report. The bank said, the company can go beyond its commitment of paying $75 billion dividend. We believe that dividend upside is also possible at higher oil prices/output given Aramco’s stellar cash flow generation. Higher dividend Oil last week crossed $65/bbl as market tightened. In 2020 the oil market experienced the perfect storm of collapsing demand amid a Saudi Russian price war. Yet, this year oil has staged a remarkable recovery as Brent prices crossed $65/bbl in February. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, is benefiting as oil rebounds from last year’s slump amid OPEC+ production limits and signs of a global economic recovery. Brent, a benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, jumped 4.9 per cent last week to $69.36 a barrel as of Friday, its highest close in almost two years. “Our scenario analysis suggests Aramco would be well placed to implement higher dividend distribution guidance beyond its $75 billion minimum. We concurrently increase our oil price for 2020 to $60/bbl and adjust our 2020 estimates to reflect the new oil price forecast. Control of spare capacity Declining oil prices in 2020 led to an industry wide capex and production collapse. The collapse left OPEC+ in general, and Saudi Aramco in particular, in control of the bulk of global oil spare capacity. At maximum sustainable capacity of 12 million bpd and proven ability to produce even more, Aramco is one of the few companies globally that can substantially boost output without committing additional capex. “We expect Aramco’s output to remain largely controlled by the OPEC+ agreement in 2021. However, taking into account the expiry of the OPEC+ agreement in 2022 and post-pandemic demand resurgence, Aramco’s production outlook could be substantially higher,” BoAML said The bank estimates that under a $65/bbl and 11million bpd production scenario, Aramco could come close to $100 billion of cash flow generation. “Given Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) interest in additional cash dividends from Aramco, the shareholder outlays potentially could also be materially higher than the $75bln minimum, in our view,” the bank said.

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VAT applicable for services provided by artists, influencers, says Federal Tax Authority

Business|: Dubai: The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) said on Sunday said that supplies provided by artists and social media influencers for consideration are subject to Value Added Tax (VAT). VAT applies to any online promotional activities performed on behalf of other businesses for a consideration, such as promoting a product in a blog or a video or otherwise promoting a business on a social media post; any physical appearances, marketing and advertising related activities; providing access to any social media influencers’ networks on social media, and any other services that the SMIs may provide for a consideration, said FTA. This announcement was shared in the latest Basic Tax Information Bulletin issued by the FTA on the tax treatment of supplies provided by artists and social media influencers. The bulletin clarified that if an artist or influencer incurs any costs in providing a supply and subsequently recovers that cost from its client, such reimbursement falls within the scope of VAT in the UAE. According to the bulletin, UAE-based artists and social media influencers, who make taxable supplies are required to register for VAT, provided the value of their taxable supplies and imports in the last 12 months exceeded, or is expected to exceed in the next 30 days, the mandatory registration threshold of Dh375,000. Artists and social media influencers may also voluntarily register for VAT if the value of their taxable supplies and imports or taxable expenses incurred in the last 12 months exceeded, or is anticipated to exceed in the next 30 days, the voluntary registration threshold of Dh187,500. Any such taxable person must issue tax invoices for all supplies subject to the standard rate of 5 per cent. The bulletin emphasized that for the purposes of calculating the threshold, artists and social media influencers should take into consideration all the taxable supplies that they make, even if such supplies do not fall within the scope of their core artistic or influencer activity. Artists and social media influencers providing taxable supplies and services are eligible for the recovery of any input VAT, with the exception of blocked items such as certain entertainment services, and purchased, leased or rented motor vehicles that are available for personal use. If a non-resident artist or social media influencer contractually provides services to a VAT registered recipient in the UAE, the artist or social media influencer would not be required to register for VAT as it is the recipient of such services who is obliged to account for VAT under the reverse charge mechanism. Where an artist or social media influencer provides services to unregistered UAE-based individuals or businesses, and the place of supply falls within the UAE, there is no registration threshold. Therefore, where an artist or influencer provides any services to such an unregistered recipient, they will be required to register for VAT in the UAE immediately and charge VAT on the supply. If an artist or social media influencer receives goods (such as a mobile phone) in return for their services, the goods are treated as consideration for the services rendered. Where the entirety or part of the consideration is non-monetary, the value of the supply is the monetary part plus the market value of the non-monetary part, less the VAT amount. At the same time, where the person supplying the goods to the artist or SMI in exchange for services is registered for VAT, such person will also need to account for VAT on the supply of goods.

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UAE banks expect revival in credit demand from Q1 2021

Banking|: Dubai: UAE banks expect to see an increase in credit demand in the first quarter of 2021 according to the fourth quarter 2020 credit sentiment survey of the Central Bank of UAE. The Credit Sentiment Survey is a quarterly publication of the CBUAE, which collects information from senior credit officers from all banks and financial institutions extending credit within the UAE. The survey respondents are expecting an increase in overall credit appetite for both business and personal loans in the current quarter. Credit standards for business loans are predicted to tighten, while credit standards for personal loans are expected to ease marginally. Survey results for the December 2020 quarter revealed a moderate increase in appetite for business loans within the UAE, coupled with a continuous tightening of credit standards. Demand appetite for personal loans, however, remained unchanged although credit standards tightened moderately. Loans to corporates and SMEs For the December quarter, survey respondents reported that demand for business loans has moderately declined with a net balance measure of -10.6, which was evident across all Emirates. The decline in demand was especially marked in the case of loans to small and medium enterprises, conventional loans, and expat loans. The primary factors influencing the change in demand for business loans were revealed to be customers’ sales, property market outlook, and seasonal influences. With respect to expectations for the March 2021 quarter, survey respondents expressed an optimistic outlook for business loan demand, expecting a notable increase across all Emirates. Personal loans Survey results indicated that demand for personal loans remained unchanged, in aggregate, as suggested by a net balance measure of 0 for the December quarter. The muted demand was attributed to the weakening of demand in Dubai, which was offset by a strengthening of demand in Abu Dhabi and Northern Emirates. By market segment, demand for personal loans decreased moderately in the December quarter across the board, with the exception of personal – credit card and Islamic loans, which increased, and personal – other, which remained unchanged. The decrease in demand was most notable among housing – other (includes refinancing, renovations), non-housing – investment, and housing – investment. The change in demand for loans was largely supported by change in income, housing market outlook, and financial market outlook. With respect to expectations for the next quarter, survey respondents expect the demand for personal loans to recover with a notable increase. Why sluggish loan demand in 2020? Demand for loans (credit demand) at retail and corporate levels has been affected last year, resulting in overall poor credit growth (low single digits). The pandemic and contraction in many sectors have forced corporates to postpone of capital expenditures. This has led to a lower loan demand from businesses. Shutdowns, job losses and salary cuts in the private sector are to blame for the poor demand for retail loan products such as personal loans, auto loans, mortgages and credit cards. There’s a flip side too. When the loan demand declined, banks tightened their lending norms to guard against rising loan losses and higher provisions. This is attested by the credit sentiment surveys of the Central Bank of UAE.