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BlackRock gets new Saudi mandate to manage infrastructure fund

Published 25 Oct,2021 via Bloomberg Markets - BlackRock Inc. has been hired by Saudi Arabia to manage a new investment fund established to help finance a drive to upgrade infrastructure across the world’s biggest oil exporter.

The U.S. asset manager will help Saudi Arabia create and oversee the National Infrastructure Fund, which expects to be involved in financing around $53 billion worth on projects over the next decade in industries from power and water to health care, according to a statement on Monday.

The size of the fund hasn’t been determined yet, but it will be backed entirely by the National Development Fund, a Saudi government entity chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

“There is huge interest from investors around the world in infrastructure and our role with NIF is to help institutionalize the infrastructure market in Saudi Arabia in order to attract more foreign capital,” said Yazeed Almubarak, chief executive officer and director of BlackRock Saudi Arabia.

BlackRock’s ties to the kingdom have been expanding as the crown prince, who assumed his de facto leadership in 2017, has sought to get better returns on investment of the nation’s oil wealth, while also diversifying the economy and opening it up to more foreign capital.

The world’s largest asset manager, which opened an office in Saudi Arabia over two years ago, is also advising the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund on its investment framework for environmental, social and governance issues. BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink is a frequent visitor to Saudi Arabia, and usually appears at the annual investment showcase in Riyadh organized by the wealth fund.

Spending Pathways

Saudi Arabia has meanwhile been looking to shift a greater share of public-sector spending outside the budget by channeling investment through its wealth fund and the National Development Fund. Despite a surge in oil prices, it plans to keep fiscal expenditure restrained and projects a small surplus in 2023 after years of deficits.

The Public Investment Fund, as the wealth fund is known, has already outlined plans to spend $40 billion a year domestically, including on huge new projects including tourism destinations on the Red Sea and an entirely new city called Neom that’s expected to cost $500 billion.

Set up in 2017, the NDF oversees other state development funds and banks. The new infrastructure fund will invest both debt and equity in new projects, and offer sweeteners like credit guarantees to encourage foreign and domestic investors to commit money into the kingdom.

“Infrastructure is critical for economic diversification and is a fundamental pillar element of” reforms known as Vision 2030, said Stephen Groff, governor the National Development Fund.

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Halal Industry
The world’s most consumed edible oil Is facing a supply crunch

Published 25 Oct,2021 via Bloomberg Markets - Palm oil production in Malaysia is on course for its weakest showing in five years as planters grapple with the worst-ever labor shortage in the second-biggest grower, and the low yields are likely to last through March.

The country’s output may slide below 18 million tons this year, according to Nageeb Wahab, chief executive at the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, a growers’ group that represents 40% of palm plantations by area. That’s a drop of at least 6% from last year and the lowest annual volume since 2016.

Palm, the most consumed edible oil, has been a leading driver of this year’s stunning rally in global vegetable oil markets. Lower supplies in Malaysia and a crop disaster in Canada, the top grower of canola, have coincided with pent-up demand as economies reopen. Palm oil has repeatedly notched fresh records, while canola climbed to an all-time high and soyoil hit a 13-year peak in May.

“Even before the pandemic we were already short of workers -- mainly harvesters -- but it was never this bad,” Nageeb said by phone from Kuala Lumpur. “The shortage is becoming worse month by month. This is a historic crunch of workers and it’s causing a multi-year shortfall in production.”

Yields will taper down toward the year-end and will likely remain weak in the first quarter of 2022, Nageeb said. Production may improve in the second quarter, but on the condition that harvesters -- including the 32,000 foreign workers the government had approved -- are allowed to enter the country.

Moreover, the lack of skilled harvesters on estates have left fresh fruit bunches rotting on trees, preventing farmers from capitalizing on palm’s record rally. It also means that they’ve “missed the boat” on the crop’s high production months that usually run from August to October, Nageeb said.

“We never had that peak production this year because of the high crop losses,” Nageeb said. The industry is losing around 20%-30% of potential production this year and will miss out on about 20 billion ringgit ($4.8 billion) in revenue, or about double the amount last year.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has offered a glimmer of hope on the labor shortage, saying Friday that the country will allow entry of fully-vaccinated migrant workers into the plantation industry on a case-by-case basis, although the quota and arrival dates have not been decided.

The volatile mix of production issues, either because of the weather or coronavirus restrictions, and resurgent global demand mean the industry is in the midst of unprecedented times. “We’re in uncharted waters because of historical high prices and price volatility,” said Marcello Cultrera, an institutional sales manager and broker at Phillip Futures in Kuala Lumpur.

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Congestion at Pakistan's ports causes headache to petrol, oil shippers

Published 25 Oct,2021 via Dawn - Port congestion and relating infrastructure constraints have put the shippers of strategically important supplies in a tough situation besides economic losses to the nation as the ministries of energy and maritime affairs like to run port operations to their preferences.

This results in underutilisation of port infrastructure and an unnecessary wait for ships and resultant heavy demurrages that ultimately stand transferred to consumers and sometimes even thre­a­ten the supply chain with disruptions, said an official.

He added that the two ministries had been in contact to put in place standard operating procedures (SOPs) to operate the country’s port facilities and supply chain to optimal potential but to no avail.

In a working paper submitted to the ministers for energy and maritime affairs, the Directorate General of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has pointed out difficulties being faced by the oil industry which in recent weeks kept lined up in dozens to wait for discharging various petroleum products (POL).

The two ports in Karachi — Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Fauji Oil Terminal (Fotco) — handle POL imports and are managed in a way that crude oil and petrol are predominantly handled at KPT, while diesel, furnace oil and some petrol cargoes are berthed at Fotco. There is only one jetty at Fotco and three are at KPT. Fotco can handle 14-15 vessels in a month, which is sufficient only for diesel and petrol cargoes.

However, due to six-seven cargoes of furnace oil arriving in a month during the summer season, the berthing sequence cannot be followed on a ‘first come first serve’ or any other basis. These limitations compel the petroleum division to monitor the cargo berthing at Fotco in view of the overall supply situation of the three products across the country which then intervenes through the maritime affairs ministry for prioritising certain cargos to avoid supply disruption.

As White Oil Pipeline (WOP) originates from Fotco, the entire diesel requirement of upcountry locations is met by transport of high speed diesel through WOP. The multi-grade movement project for transporting petrol in addition to diesel is completely booked to capacity. Therefore, additional volume of petrol is expected to be handled at Fotco — a challenge that required careful and vigilant handling.

The maritime affairs ministry has been worry of frequent interventions by the Petroleum Division and asked it to keep certain issues in mind before requesting priority of oil vessels at relevant ports. It directed that there should be proper lineup of POL vessels in accordance with the laycan assigned and that Pakistan National Shipping Corporation’s (PNSC) vessels, including those chartered by it, would take precedent as per the government policy.

The Petroleum Division believed that this preference was limited to PNSC’s own ships under the government decisions and the maritime affairs ministry was adding the chartered ships at its own and more often than not creating problems for the petroleum supply chain.

The ministry has also asked the Petroleum Division that oil companies should be clearly directed to resolve payment issues well in time with charterers to avoid delays in berthing or cancellation of pilots. Also, product samples should be taken at the outer anchorage to save time and assigning priority to oil vessels should not be a norm rather an exception and hence applied selectively only in urgent cases.

The Petroleum Division was of the opinion that the maritime affairs ministry should not protect PNSC’s interests at the cost of disrupting the oil supply chain in the country as in the past PNSC vessels had been given priority and that the refineries had expressed reservations over lapses of vessel nominations and delayed arrivals of crude vessels. “PNSC should also be persuaded to focus on better performance and delivery,” it insisted.

The oil industry on the other hand agitated that a single jetty at Fotco was congested and development of a second jetty was urgently required. It pointed out that a new jetty could be developed in less than $80 million but oil companies and the exchequer were paying more than this amount every year on demurrages, fees, etc.

The industry highlighted that Fotco and KPT handled over 450 vessels a year that waited an average of at least five days and the oil companies paid about $45m in demurrage alone last fiscal year.

Ogra has advised the government that maintenance and repair of Oil Pier-I should be postponed till December 2021 and Oil Pier-II Chiksan marine loading arm should be repaired urgently and night navigation facility be made available. Ogra has also advised that vessels less than 40,000 tonnes should not be allowed berthing.

In a working paper, the Petroleum Division has suggested that Fotco should be converted into a purely finished products and fuels jetty while condensate and naphtha export vessels should be shifted to Keamari (Karachi Port) from Fotco (Port Qasim). It has also demanded that a dedicated tanker discharge line from Fotco jetty to WOP should be installed to handle discharge of petrol and diesel cargoes separately. Besides night navigation facilities at Fotco, the Petroleum Division has also demanded that implementation of channel widening plan of Port Qasim for LNG vessels should be expedited for which “PQA has been charging a hefty amount per vessel”.

Simultaneously, it said, construction of an additional petroleum jetty at Port Qasim should be expedited, besides ensuring “necessary repairs and arrangements for integrity and maintenance at the three oil piers at KPT” and Pakistan State Oil should be facilitated to implement its project relating to pipeline connectivity between the KPT and PQA for flexibility of operations and security of supply chain of petroleum products.Copyright

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Islamic Lifestyle
Jordan's tourism revenues up almost 40% in Q3 2021
Published 24 Oct,2021 via The Jordan Times - Tourism revenues in the third quarter of 2021 increased by 39.35 per cent to reach JD1.207 billion by the end of September compared with the decrease of 72.5 per cent during the January-September period of 2020, the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) said on Sunday.

Tourism has continued to improve for the sixth consecutive month, where tourism revenues in September increased by JD222.2 million to JD284.7 million compared with September 2020, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported, citing CBJ figures.

The bank attributed the hike to the improvement in the epidemiological situation and the number of vaccinated people in the Kingdom.

CBJ data showed an increase in the number of tourists in September by some 289,000 to around 319,600 tourists.

At a quarterly level, the number of tourists in the January-September period of 2021 went up by some 397,500 to 484,100 visitors, compared with the decline of 73.5 per cent during the same period of 2020.

Non-resident Jordanians comprised 47.4 per cent of the total tourism revenues, Arab tourists (excluding Gulf nationals) 25.3 per cent and Gulf tourists comprised 14 per cent.

Jordanians’ expenditures on tourism abroad in the January-September period of 2021 also went up by 98.6 per cent to JD437.6 million, compared with the 73.4 per cent drop in the same period of 2020, the CBJ added.

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Islamic Lifestyle
Injazat and Kalaam Telecom to collaborate on bringing state-of-the-art Cybersecurity solutions to Bahrain and Kuwait

Published 25 Oct,2021 via bizbahrain - Building cyber defense capabilities in Bahrain and Kuwait took a significant step closer with an agreement signed between Injazat, the UAE’s home-grown technology champion in Digital Transformation, Cloud, and Cyber Security, and Kalaam Telecom, a leading Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Managed Digital Solution provider in the region for digital transformation.

In the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between the two companies, they have announced their commitment to collaborate on exploring opportunities towards building a customized Cyber Fusion Center (CFC) in Bahrain and Kuwait and provide Cyber Security services to government and semi-government entities, leveraging both parties’ assets, know-how and capabilities.

The MoU was signed by Ussama Dahabiyeh, Chief Executive Officer at Injazat, and Veer Passi, CEO at Kalaam Telecom, during the GITEX Technology Week that was held at Dubai World Trade Centre last week. Under the agreement, both companies will specifically evaluate the framework to develop high level business plans towards establishing state-of-the-art Cyber Fusion Centres that will significantly bolster the security posture for Kalaam’s client portfolio in both Bahrain and Kuwait. Modelled after Injazat’s very own Cyber Fusion Center, the platform co-created in collaboration with Kalaam will adopt an intelligence-driven, collaborative, and automated security approach much needed for countering advanced security threats.

The region has experienced a significant increase in cybercrime, witnessing 2.57 million phishing attacks over a period of just three months in 2020, as per a recent Kaspersky report; and Middle East governments are acutely aware of the new threat landscape associated with digitization. Injazat’s Cyber Fusion Center is distinctive as it provides a proactive and unified approach to neutralize potential threats before they occur using behaviour analytics and machine learning. The platform leverages an Artificial Intelligence-based recommendation engine, which suggests remediation actions based on previous behaviour patterns and reduces response times.

The partnership will further support Kalaam’s successful track record of over 16 years as a leading provider of mission critical technology infrastructure in supporting more than 5000 enterprises within the GCC region and government bodies alike, in their digital growth. With four data centers, two in Bahrain, and two in Kuwait, supported by its terrestrial fiber cable system, KNOT, and consortium ownership of submarine cable EIG, Kalaam offers fully redundant infrastructure that ensures total reliability to its customers working in partnership with them, to devise tailored, innovative, industry-specific solutions through its consultative approach.

Underlining the significance of the partnership Ussama Dahabiyeh, Chief Executive Officer at Injazat, said: “Our expertise and capability through Injazat’s Cyber Fusion Center stands alone in the MENA region. Our approach consolidates traditional security functions with new capabilities into a single, integrated entity. Through the agreement signed today with Kalaam Telecom, we are delighted to explore the opportunity to collaborate on providing our knowledge and expertise to develop and deploy next-generation cyber capabilities and solutions in Bahrain and Kuwait. Partnerships such as this are part of our strategic approach at Injazat, especially cross border industry partnerships, which are extremely vital in growing the region’s digital economy, accelerating innovation, and supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem. We eagerly look forward to seeing the results of this partnership being implemented to create a superior integrated defense platform in Bahrain and Kuwait.”

Veer Passi, CEO at Kalaam Telecom said, “We are excited in partnering with Injazat, which will enhance Cyber Security solution capabilities for our customers. With Injazat’s proactive Cyber Fusion Center capabilities, this partnership will aim to offer strong solutions to protect organizations from the rapidly growing cyber-attacks and data breach threats evolving in the internet driven market. Kalaam continues to strengthen its partner ecosystem to offer one-stop digital solutions that meets the demand of enterprises, international carriers, governments, and SMEs within the region, with its highly innovative product lines, including: Managed Networks, IoT, AI, Cloud, Cyber Security solutions and data center services.

Injazat launched the region’s first ever Cyber Fusion Centre (CFC) in June 2020 to boost protection against data breaches and cyber-attacks. The CFC stands apart from any competitor in the radically different approach it takes to cyber defense by proactively managing advanced threats, unlike traditional Security Operations Centers, that is more focused on identifying and reacting to incidents. Cyber Fusion Centers also help organizations to streamline their systems and assimilate information into actionable strategies and tactics, while improving productivity and reducing costs.

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Islamic Finance
ADIB Egypt launches digital consumer financing arm
Published 24 Oct,2021 via Daily News Egypt - ADIB received the Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority’s (FRA) approval to launch its consumer financing arm in Egypt, the bank revealed on Sunday.

ADI-Consumer Finance is set to offer Egyptian customers easy and quick access for financing the purchase of their aspired products and services. It will feature products that will allow customers to enjoy the freedom of affordable and clear instalment schemes that suit their financial capabilities and are Shari’a compliant.

“The launch of ADI-Consumer Finance is a pivotal milestone in our journey in Egypt, reflecting our strategic ambitions to strengthen our leadership as an organization and pioneering the digitisation of finance in support of our customer’s aspirations,” said Mohamed Aly, CEO and Managing Director of ADIB-Egypt.

“As part of ADIB, one of the largest financial organisations with extensive regional reach and experience, ADI-Consumer Finance, is our response to market evolution and transformations that are reshaping customer needs. Led by a great team of industry experts with extensive knowledge in banking, consumer finance, and digital transformation, ADI-Consumer Finance is on a clear path to redefine Egypt’s consumer financing ecosystem,” he continued.

“The introduction of ADI-Consumer Finance is a strategic pillar in our commitment to widening financial inclusion in Egypt; an essential requisite and catalyst of economic growth that is core to Egypt’s overarching vision,” Aly added.

“Backed by ADIB, ADI-Consumer Finance will provide a reliable customer experience that is accessible, swift and seamless and offers financing options tailored to the needs of each customer,” said Yasmine Helal, CEO of ADI Consumer Finance.

“Moreover, as one of the first Shari’a compliant consumer finance vehicles, ADI-Consumer Finance offers customers full transparency, allowing them to clearly foresee their repayment plans, easily manage their instalments options and plan their finances,” Helal added.

© 2021 Daily News Egypt.


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UK’s CDC’s development financing portfolio in Egypt amounts to €440 m, allocated to 39 companies

Published 24 Oct,2021 via Daily News Egypt - Egypt shares strategic relations with the United Kingdom, where the UK’s Development Finance Institution, CDC has been supporting the private sector since 2003, as the CDC’s development financing portfolio in Egypt amounts to €440m, allocated to about 39 companies, according to Ministry of International Cooperation.

It has also contributed to providing more than 30,000 jobs, across different sectors, including sectors of new and renewable energy, and health.

The CDC has worked for over 70 years in promoting sustainable long-term growth of companies in Africa and South Asia, as its investments portfolio amounts to $9.3 bn directed to more than 1,200 companies in emerging economies.

The press statement was issued as the Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat, virtually met with the Chairperson of the UK’s Development Finance Institution, CDC, Graham Wrigley; the CDC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nick O’Donohoe; and the CDC’s Coverage Director of Egypt, Sherine Shohdy. This meeting aims to identify future areas of cooperation that come within the framework of supporting Egypt’s development efforts, to further enhance the private sector’s engagement; and to achieve Egypt’s Vision 2030, which aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During the meeting, Al-Mashat reviewed the Government of Egypt’s efforts in achieving sustainable development; stressing its commitment to achieving development across all sectors. She added that the structural and economic reforms being implemented are to ensure the sustainability of development efforts.

The Minister further mentioned that what helped cushion the country during the pandemic is the homegrown economic reform program, which led to Egypt’s achievement of positive growth rates despite recessions in most countries of the world.

Al-Mashat stated that Egypt works to achieve development through various financing resources, such as the concessional development funds the Ministry of International Cooperation provides through development partners. This is in addition to the partnerships between the Government of Egypt, development partners, and the private sector. The Ministry’s development financing portfolio encompasses 377 projects amounting to $25bn, ensuring the spread of the projects across the 17 SDGs.

The Minister called on international financial institutions, including the CDC, to further provide soft development funds to developing countries to advance their progress towards green transition, and to empower them to preserve the environment. This would also enhance developing countries’ economic flexibility, especially through creating innovative financing and blended financing tools, in light of the lack of concessional development funds needed to bridge the SDGs financing gap, which is estimated at $3.7trn.

For his part, Chairperson of the CDC Group, Graham Wrigley, applauded the Government of Egypt’s development efforts across various fields, despite the economic challenges facing the world; praising its commitment to push forward the region’s green transformation. Wrigley referred to the role the Ministry of International Cooperation plays in enhancing joint cooperation work with international institutions to support development visions. He also affirmed the CDC’s readiness to cooperate to promote development and provide further support to the private sector.

© 2021 Daily News Egypt.

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Islamic Lifestyle
Pakistan, Turkey to produce TV series on Salahuddin Ayubi

Published 22 Oct,2021 via Dawn - Pakistan and Turkey will jointly produce a television series on the life of warrior Salahuddin Ayubi as Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday stressed the need to familiarise the young generation with Muslim history and expressed the hope that the use of multimedia could prove helpful in this regard.

“The series on the life of Salahuddin Ayubi will make the youth aware of his historic role,” the prime minister said while meeting filmmaker Shehzad Nawaz and Turkish producer Emre Konuk.

“It is high time to make dramas and films based on historical narrative rather than opting for routine topics,” he said.

In view of the upcoming Pakistan-Turkey joint production of the television series on Salahuddin Ayubi, the prime minister said even the West regarded him as a great man.

PM stresses need for familiarising the young generation with Muslim history

The prime minister said that Salahuddin Ayubi had announced a general amnesty after the historic conquest of Jerusalem.

Senator Faisal Javed, Syed Junaid Ali Shah and Dr Kashif also attended the meeting.

During the meeting, the prime minister was briefed on details of the joint project of the television series between Pakistan and Turkey.

It was highlighted that the planning of the series had been finalised, while shooting of the series will commence in April next year.

Chashma Canal

Prime Minister Khan also chaired a meeting on integrated agriculture and development plan for KPK, especially the Chashma Right Bank Canal (CRBC), and said: “The construction of Lift-cum-Gravity project of Chashma Right Bank Canal (CRBC) would be a real game-changer for the socio-economic uplift of a vast area in southern KPK.”

“Once completed, the project would irrigate around 300,000 acres of barren land in the KPK. This would not only ensure food security in the region but would also earn huge foreign exchange for the country by exporting agricultural produce to the Middle East,” he said.

The prime minister directed authorities concerned to adopt effective measures to boost up corporate farming in the area.

“It would not only raise income levels of farmers in the area but would also kick-start integrated development by eradicating poverty, eliminating hunger and ensuring good education, health care and other civic facilities for the local population,” the prime minister said.

“We need to exploit full potential of the vast natural resources in the area for socio-economic progress of the people,” he said.


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