How sleeper travel is about to turn fast and 'cool'
Your car’s backseat probably does not have it, but soon the cheapest of berths on Indian Railways’ fast trains will provide you your own AC vent. If you are a bookworm, there will be a reading light too. And if social media is your thing, don’t worry, every berth will have its own charging point for nightlong chats and marathon photo sharing.
India reopens its doors, restores most visas issued to foreigners
India has decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas — except electronic, tourist and medical visas — as part of a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign and Indian nationals.
Despite coronavirus, traders stock up in hopes of festive cheer
Indian businesses are stocking up more ahead of this year’s big festival season than at any time in the last five years, expecting people whose earnings were relatively unaffected by the pandemic to spend the money they saved during months of lockdowns.
COVID-19: Kuwait Airways to resume flights to Saudi Arabia on October 25
Kuwait|Aviation|: Kuwait City: Kuwait Airways has announced that it will resume flights to Saudi Arabia starting on October 25, according to a statement issued on Wednesday. The airlines stated that they would be flying to three Saudi cities, Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Kuwait Airways halted flights between the two neighboring countries back in March as countries restricted travel to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Saudi Arabia resumed domestic and international flights last month, after the airport was closed for around seven-months.
Small developers in Dubai have options other than banks to get a project off the ground
Property|Analysis|: To get a project funded, it is essential for a developer to demonstrate a track record of timely project completion. However, it is observed that, today, most of the banks have a very low appetite to fund private developers. Also a few banks that do some funding for smaller developers have a differential lending criteria vis-a-vis large names - and regardless of the track record of small developers. This will then require private developers to reach out to non-banking financial companies even when they charge predatory financial costs. The developer must demonstrate a clear vision about the size of a project, so that it is within his capabilities and capacity. It is essential that developers also outline all the “soft costs” associated with the projects, including obtaining permits along with engineering, infrastructure and other construction-related costs. Never lose sight of estimates Developers must have all finances pertaining to the project well-documented, to provide the financer a detailed estimate of all the costs incurred on the project. Good financial discipline is extremely essential for the success of a project, and may include - but is not limited to - timely vendor payments, and ensuring contractors and workers associated with the project are paid on time. Real estate financing requires meticulous planning on part of the developer to obtain all of the desired objectives. To make the project viable, the developer must work extensively to optimize project costs through value engineering, the building’s design, sourcing of materials through the supply chain – and all done in advance. Be open to multiple funding options These must be done before narrowing down to a particular financing route. Developers can also consider taking expert advice from consultants specializing in project funding, who can recommend appropriate methods. - Developers can also opt for debt financing, as a funding avenue for their projects, wherein the developer can borrow money from a creditor, after having discussed the terms for future repayment in advance. This requires keeping track of periodic or regular interest payment, calculated based on a previously agreed upon coupon rate. Tap other developers' interest Some other avenues developers can consider for raising funds to complete their project include applying for a grant where a certain amount of money will be provided by a government body or organization to fulfill a particular project. It would be beneficial to partner with other real estate developers who can help manage the costs by sharing buildings, equipment, expertise and workloads. Sales can provide source of income, however, if private developers launch multiple projects in a year, they should be extremely careful to be able to demonstrate strong sales and insure that the projects have sufficient net worth to service the debt in case a drop in sales has been witnessed. Kalpesh Kinariwala is Chairman of Pantheon Group.
Iraq’s Rasheed Bank provokes anger with second marriage loan offer
Mena|Banking|: Cairo: An Iraqi state-owned bank has provoked anger among pro-women advocates after it announced a loan for civil servants marrying for the second time. Al Rasheed Bank said that would-be beneficiaries from the loan of 10 million Iraqi dinars (8,389 dollars) should not have previously got a marriage loan and should be in service for at least two years. “A marriage loan will be offered to the civil servant married for the second time on condition neither he nor his first wife has benefited from a marriage loan,” the bank said in a statement, according to Iraqi media. The offer has drawn sharp criticism. “It is shameful that such a statement comes from a respectable government bank. Women are not a commodity for display or sale,” Hanan Al Fatlawi, an advisor to the Iraqi prime minister for women’s affairs, tweeted. Iraqi lawmaker Rizan Al Sheikh urged Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi to step in and scrap the controversial loan that it described as a sign of “administrative confusion”. She was quoted as threatening street protests unless the decision is revoked. “Government and private banks should shift towards a policy of employing the woman and motivating her success by offering loans for small-scale projects instead of turning her into a commodity through unfair decisions,” Al Sheikh. In reaction, the bank denied that the loan is aimed at encouraging second marriages. “It is meant for those who are divorced and widowed, and people with special family circumstances, the bank said. “As a bank, we have no legal right to prevent or encourage second marriage. This loan is available for men and women, and designated for those whose circumstances may oblige them to marry again,” it added. Iraq is grappling with a tough economic crisis amid falling oil prices and COVID-19 spread.
Emirates' Dubai South cargo terminal to operate as hub for COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Dubai: The Emirates SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal in Dubai South has opened and will serve as an anchor hub for cold chain storage and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The freight division of Emirates has also set up a dedicated rapid response team to coordinate requests from various partners to streamline the carrier’s response to vaccine transportation requests. “Dubai is well-positioned to serve as a gateway and distribution hub for COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates. "We have the infrastructure and logistics connections, and a geographic location that puts markets representing more than two-thirds of the world’s population within an 8-hour flying radius.” Read More Etihad Cargo upgrades its pharmaceutical delivery with 'PharmaLife' Cargo will remain significant to airlines next year Pharma-specs Emirates SkyCentral DWC has over 4,000 square metres of temperature controlled GDP certified dedicated pharma storage area allowing for large scale storage and distribution of the potential COVID-19 vaccines. Overall, it is estimated that the facility can hold around 10 million vials of vaccine at a 2-8 degrees Celsius temperature range at any one point of time. In addition to cold storage, Emirates SkyCargo will also offer dedicated zones for services such as re-icing and repackaging of vaccines for global distribution for its customers. Through a combination of scheduled and charter flights, the cargo carrier will then be able to fly the vaccines to markets where they will be most needed.
More than 1,000 aircraft go through UAE airspace each day - that's up 200% over April
Aviation|: Dubai: The number of aircraft flying through the UAE's airspace has risen to 1,000 a day - and that's a 200 per cent gain on April numbers. The higher aircraft movements will spell some hope for a troubled global airline industry, still ravaged by low demand and worries about flying in a pandemic. The launch of two new UAE airlines Air Arabia Abu Dhabi and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi - will also provide expectations of a faster growth in aircraft movements... and in demand. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has received its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the GCAA (General Civil Aviation Authority), completing the last step in the regulatory processes for launch. UAE airlines have been adding more routes across their networks after the COVID-19-induced halt. Emirates now flies to 99 destinations, which is about 63 per cent of the airline’s pre-pandemic network. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad has 58 destinations up and running - nearly half of the routes it was running in March. Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director-General of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, said the impact of the pandemic on the aviation sector is gradually fading away. But IATA sees fewer travellers But industry forecasts suggest it will be a while before passenger numbers reach back to pre-COVID-19 levels. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) lowered its 2020 passenger traffic forecast for the Middle East to reflect a “weaker-than-expected” recovery. Passenger numbers in the region are expected to reach only 30 per cent of 2019 levels, down from the 45 per cent that forecast in July. The Middle East is expected to see 60 million travelers in 2020, compared to 203 million last year. Global traffic started to pick up globally in April and May, but Africa and the Middle East are “lagging behind global recovery,” said Muhammad Ali Albakri, Regional Vice-President at IATA. Cargo as saviour However, transporting cargo has helped airlines keep their fleet busy. In August, air cargo capacity for the Middle East was down by only 24 per cent. “They have fared better in terms of the reduction in capacity, which reflects the speed by which carriers in that region mobilized passenger aircraft for cargo-only operations,” said Glyn Hughes, IATA Global Head of Cargo.
Pakistan is heading for an IPO spree, with as many as 10 companies lining up to go public
Markets|: Karachi: Pakistan's market for initial public offerings is coming out of hibernation and heading for a record year. The nation, which has posted the fastest equity rally in Asia since March, will host about 10 new share sales in the fiscal year to June 2021, according to its top adviser Arif Habib Ltd. That follows a 17-month streak of no new initial share sales and beats the previous record of nine deals in 2008. "IPOs will always be active when the stock market is performing and company valuations are good," Arif Habib's CEO Shahid Ali Habib said in Karachi. "There is a lot of liquidity too with funds shifting allocation from the fixed-income class to equities." Read More COVID-19: Pakistan ramps up health spending in budget Pakistan professionals head to Kuwait after more than a decade Some good pickings Pakistan's benchmark stock index has jumped 52 per cent since March, beating runners-up Vietnam and India, and gaining twice as much as China. Yet, it remains one the world's cheapest markets with forward price-earnings multiple of 7.4 times. The appeal of momentum and valuation is luring companies to tap public funds. Pakistan had two company listings in July. Now, Agha Steel Industries Ltd. is raising 3.8 billion rupees ($23.5 million), in the country's third-largest deal from the private sector. Also, industrial-automation company Avanceon Ltd. and rubber-products maker Service Industries Ltd. plan to list their subsidiaries. Arif Habib, which has led two offerings this year, expects at least another five deals. The adviser has handled half of the 36 initial public offerings in the past decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Equity gains in Pakistan have been partly fueled by falling returns on fixed income after benchmark interest rates fell by almost half to 7 per cent. The nation's economic growth is also recovering thanks to a drop in new virus cases.
US proposes not to issue business visas for H-1B speciality occupations
The US State Department in a federal notification Wednesday proposed to make changes to its existing visa regulations under which foreign professionals, which would fall under H-1B, would not be issued temporary visa for business, as has been widely prevalent currently.