Has the Alibaba Train Left the Station?

Has the Alibaba Train Left the Station?

Is it time to buy Alibaba?

That’s the question posed by the popular investment newsletter, the Motley Fool, published in Yahoo Finance. The author of the piece, Anders Bylund, notes that the NYSE-listed Chinese e-commerce giant “is on a roll” and “the company is crushing Wall Street’s expectations in the COVID-19 lockdown era,” with share prices roaring 64% higher over the last 52 weeks.

So, Bylund asks: Is it too late to jump aboard Alibaba’s skyrocketing bandwagon or is the stock still a buy?”

A few choice cuts from the piece below:

Alibaba’s sales rose 30% year over year to $21.8 billion in August’s first-quarter report. Earnings increased by 15% to $2.10 per share. The results breezed by Wall Street’s consensus estimates, which had pointed to earnings near $1.98 per share on approximately $21.3 billion in top-line revenue.

On the earnings call, CEO Daniel Zhang noted that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated Alibaba’s business in many ways. Consumers are doing more shopping online and enterprises rely on cloud computing resources like the Alibaba Cloud platform to an unprecedented degree…

Alibaba is expanding its operations outside Chinese borders, including a deep interest in starting direct e-commerce operations in the United States. Political tension between Washington and Beijing is making that ambition difficult to pursue right now but investors should keep this expansionist agenda in mind for the long haul.

In the meantime, there’s a real risk that the Trump administration might take action to obstruct Alibaba’s business on American soil. According to a recent report in the Chinese newspaper Global Times, Chinese analysts worry that the U.S. government might block Alibaba’s semiconductor development efforts and cloud computing services ahead of the election in November…

Buying Alibaba shares is a direct bet on the Chinese economy, in the long run, magnified through the lens of booming e-commerce and cloud computing operations. The stock is also fairly affordable, trading at just 30 times trailing earnings and 25 times forward estimates. That adds up to a solid buy. Some investors might prefer Pinduoduo or JD, but Alibaba offers the best balance between risk and long-term rewards, in my opinion.

For the full piece, go here

The Top Ten Largest Chinese Companies

The Top Ten Largest Chinese Companies

The Fortune magazine Global 500 annual list of the world’s largest companies by revenue has always been a high-profile, headline-grabbing snapshot of global business. This year, however, it’s also a snapshot of our emerging geo-economic order.

For the first time in the three decade history of the list, US companies do not comprise the largest number on the list. That distinction goes to China.

Clifton Leaf, Editor-in-Chief, of Fortune magazine put that into perspective when he wrote, “there were precisely zero Global 500 companies based in mainland China in 1990 when we began our survey. Today there are more giant for-profit enterprises there than anywhere else on earth.” Three of the top five largest companies in the world are Chinese — Sinopec Group, State Grid, and China National Petroleum.

The Fortune 500 Global list includes state-owned enterprises and ranks companies by total revenue. Thus, those tech-heavy companies that top market capitalization lists are not as prominent in the Global 500. In compiling the list, the editors included Hong Kong as part of the mainland China list, but did not include Taiwan.

At final tally, China held 124 spots in the Global 500, while the U.S held 121 spots. In the year 2002, there were 197 U.S-based companies on the list. In 2003, there were only 11 China-based companies in the Fortune Global 500.

It has been a remarkable rise for Chinese enterprises. Here are the Top Ten China-based companies in the Global 500, with their China ranking on the left, total revenues following and their global ranking in parentheses.

Company/China Ranking Revenues in $ (Global Rank)
1.     Sinopec Group $407 Billion (2)
2.     State Grid $384 Billion (3)
3.     China National Petroleum Corp $379 Billion (4)
4.     China State Construction Engineering $206 Billion (18)
5.     Ping An Insurance $184 Billion (21)
6.     Industrial & Commercial Bank $177 Billion (24)
7.     China Construction Bank $159 Billion (30)
8.     Agricultural Bank of China $147 Billion (35)
9.     Bank of China $135 Billion (43)
10.  China Life Insurance $131 Billion (45)

Some other interesting findings from the Fortune Global 500

  • The world’s 500 largest companies generated $33.3 trillion in revenues and $2.1 trillion in profits in 2019. This year’s Fortune Global 500 companies employ 69.9 million people worldwide and are represented by 32 countries.
  • WalMart topped the global list again, with $524 billion in revenues
  • Five Chinese companies entered the Global 500 for the first time – Shanghai Construction Group, Shenzhen Investment Holdings,  Shenghong Holding Group, Shandong Iron and Steel Group, and Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding

To explore the Fortune 500 Global list, complete with some excellent interactive maps, go here

US Stocks Roar to New Highs Despite Pandemic

US Stocks Roar to New Highs Despite Pandemic

What Pandemic?

While global economies, most businesses, and entire industries are reeling from the multiple blows delivered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S stock market continues roaring to new heights.The S&P 500, the bellwether index that measures the performance of 500 companies listed on U.S exchanges, continues to shatter records. Consider this:

  • The S&P 500 hit a new record of 3,508 on Friday
  • The index has seen its best August returns in 36 years
  • The index is up for five straight months and has hit a record 7 times
  • The index is up nearly 60% from its March Covid-19 induced low, and is up nearly 9% on the year
  • The tech-heavy Nasdaq index of stocks is up more than 36% on the year

One prominent analyst even suggests that the S&P could hit 3,900 soon, another new record.

So, what gives?

In a sense, the Federal Reserve gives.

Naeem Aslam, a contributor at Forbes, has a good take on why the Federal Reserve should be our first destination in analyzing today’s U.S market.

The answer has been out front all along—the Fed is supporting this stock market rally. If anyone forgot the famous saying, “Do not fight the Fed,” then yesterday was another clear reminder.

 

The Fed has changed its monetary policy framework, and now it is going to target an average of 2% inflation instead of a peak of 2%. This means that interest rates will stay lower for longer and that the Fed is comfortable in allowing the economy to run a little hotter—meaning both inflation and employment could overshoot their targets.

 

The Fed has been considering altering its monetary policy for a while, but the coronavirus pandemic triggered this initiative.

In many ways, we are witnessing a new Federal Reserve, one that ha taken on a much more active role in the U.S economy, and not just monetary policy. Axios had a good piece a couple of weeks ago on where the Fed is going. “The Federal Reserve is undergoing an overhaul. Conceived to keep inflation in check and oversee the country’s money supply, the central bank is now essentially directing the economy and moving away from worries about rising prices,” the piece notes.

Axios went on to write that ‘the move to act less quickly and forcefully to tamp down on inflation has been in the works for years, but some economists fear that the Fed is moving too far from its original mandate.” For a look at what this all means, take a look at the Axios piece here and we will continue to watch this space because of its enormous implications for not only the U.S, but the global economy.

 

TikTok, Chinese apps banned in India

TikTok, Chinese apps banned in India

As Chinese and Indian troops were clashing in the Himalayas on June 16 in a brutal brawl leading to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, hundreds of millions of people across India were enjoying or downloading Chinese-based apps like TikTok and WeChat. No longer.

In response to the border clashes, India recently banned the use of dozens of Chinese apps. This piece below from Tech Crunch gives a good overview of how deep Chinese apps had penetrated the Indian market.

India bans TikTok, dozens of other Chinese apps

As Coronavirus Captures Headlines, South China Sea Tensions Rising

As Coronavirus Captures Headlines, South China Sea Tensions Rising

While global headlines focus on the recent clash between Indian and Chinese military forces in a Himalayan border region, China has also flexed its muscles recently in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Beginning in mid-April, a Chinese survey ship accompanied by coast guard vessels entered Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, near an oil exploration vessel contracted by Petronas, the Malaysian state oil firm, and stayed in the region for approximately a month. The move was seen as threatening, and Malaysia deployed naval vessels to the region. The Chinese ship eventually retreated.

Around the same time, Vietnam protested the establishment of two new administrative units established by the government of China in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, Chinese jets have repeatedly entered Taiwan’s Air Identification Zone in the last week, according to a Reuters report.

As tensions heat up in the South China Sea, it’s worth remembering how vital this waterway is to global trade. To wit:

  • Some $5 trillion of world trade passes through the South China Sea, accounting for nearly 1/3 of all global seaborne trade
  • There may be some 28 billion barrels of oil in the waters, waiting to be exploited
  • Additionally, there is an estimated 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas
  • The sea also contains 10% of the world’s fisheries

Anti Panda has a good piece in the Diplomat today, based on a CSIS survey, of how Southeast Asian elites view the growing competition in the South China Sea.

GCC States, Labor Markets and Covid-19

GCC States, Labor Markets and Covid-19

I was delighted to join colleagues Raymond Karam (AGSIW), Steffen Hertog (LSE), Eman Al-Hussein (AGSIW), and Tariq Haq (ILO), deftly moderated by Robert Mogielnecki (AGSIW), for a discussion on GCC labor markets in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic on May 20. The full video link is below

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – May 1 – May 5

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – May 1 – May 5

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – May 1-5

Aviation/Tim Clark – “More airlines could have collapsed or consolidated globally without government intervention amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the aviation industry will see a decline in passenger traffic as well as the number of aircraft used by carriers once the crisis subsides, Emirates president Tim Clark said. ‘It might have happened had there not been massive state intervention over the last months,’ Mr Clark said in an interview with The National. ‘You would have seen companies that would have ordinarily sought to merge, amalgamate with others to relieve themselves jointly of the financial predicament they face,'” The National reports.

Iran Currency – “Iran’s parliament has passed a bill allowing the government to slash four zeros from the rial, Iranian state media reported on Monday, after a sharp fall in the value of the currency as a result of crippling U.S. sanctions. Iran’s national currency will be changed from the rial to the Toman, which is equal to 10,000 rials, under the bill,” Reuters reports.

Egypt/Tourism – “Egypt is allowing hotels to reopen for domestic tourists on condition they operate at no more than 25% capacity until the end of May and implement a range of other health measures to guard against the new coronavirus, the cabinet said on Sunday. The virus has shut down Egypt’s tourist sector, which accounts for 12%-15% of gross domestic product, leading to losses estimated at $1 billion per month,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Egypt Economy – “Egypt’s non-oil private sector activity collapsed in April, hit by a shutdown in the tourism industry, weakening demand and the imposition of a curfew as the government battled the new coronavirus pandemic, a survey showed on Tuesday. IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the non-oil private sector came in at 29.7 last month, down from 44.2 in March and far below the 50.0 threshold that separates growth from contraction. It was the lowest reading since the survey began nine years ago,” Reuters/Ahram Online reports.

Morocco Economy – “In light of the novel coronavirus crisis, the international rating agency Fitch Ratings has downgraded the Moroccan economy outlook from stable to negative. The new revision follows Morocco’s “severe hit” from the coronavirus pandemic, which will cause the sharpest gross domestic product (GDP) contraction in 25 years, according to the agency,” Morocco World News reports.

Ride Hailing/Careem – “Dubai ride-hailing company Careem is laying off 31 percent of its workforce to cope with the impact of Covid-19, which has led to an 80 percent drop in its overall business, according to a letter from its CEO addressing staff. Coronavirus-related restrictions have also led to a 90 percent drop in the company’s ride-hailing business and 60 percent in its delivery business across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan,” Arabian Business reports.

Lebanon/IMF – “Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva discussed the government’s plan to rescue the economy from its worst crisis in three decades…Lebanon formally asked the IMF for a loan of at least $10 billion (Dh36.7bn) on Thursday. The economy has buckled under the weight of mounting debt that forced the country to default on eurobonds in March.Lebanon’s gross domestic product is set to contract 12 per cent this year, according to IMF projections. The country’s debt ballooned to $92 billion at the end of January, making it one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios worldwide,” The National reports.

UAE/NMC – “More than 300 staff members at NMC Trading, the division that handles distribution of medical equipment and personal care brands, have been laid off, and with more likely to follow. These cuts could provide the first hints of what the UK High Court appointed administrators hope to do with NMC Health’s individual divisions. ‘Even before the administrators came in, NMC Trading was seen as the first candidate to be sold off and help the Group generate some funds to clear off part of the debt,’ said a senior official with the Group. ‘Now, with the administrators in control, nothing much changes on that strategy – anything that is seen as non-core will be sold,'” Gulf News reports.

Saudi Riyal – “The Saudi Arabia’s central bank on Monday affirmed its commitment to the exchange rate policy of pegging the Saudi riyal to the US dollar. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) said the currency peg was a strategic option that contributed to the growth of the Kingdom’s economy for more than 30 years,” Arab News reports.

Coronavirus.Majid Al-Futtaim – “Alain Bejjani is in no doubt about the destructive power of the ‘tsunami’ that has swept over the world with the coronavirus pandemic. The chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), one of the biggest and best-known conglomerates in the Middle East, told Arab News: ‘This is beyond business. This will change how we live on this Earth as human beings in societies. The coming 10 years will be marked by the reverberations of this crisis,'” Arab News reports.

Iran/Coronavirus – “More than 64% respondents to an opinion poll in Tehran said they need government aid amid the coronavirus outbreak. According to the telephone survey of 1,028 residents conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency from April 5-8, a total of 64.4% said they need government aid due to the economic hardship inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak, 34.6% said they don’t and 1% didn’t respond,” Financial Tribune reports

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 29-30

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 29-30

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 29-30

Regional Aviation Plummets – “Middle East’s passenger numbers plummeted by nearly half in March, the most disastrous month so far for the aviation business, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Wednesday. Figures released by IATA showed that air traffic in the region, measured in total revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) plummeted 45.9 percent last month compared to the same period a year ago, reversing a 1.6 percent increase in February. Capacity also fell 33.5 percent and load factor dropped 13.7 percentage points to 59.9 percent,” Zawya reports.

Lebanon Crisis – “The Lebanese government met Thursday to approve a long-awaited plan to rescue the debt-saddled economy from its worst crisis in decades, following a fresh wave of angry streets protests. A lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic has added to the economic woes besetting the country, which include soaring inflation, a liquidity crunch and a plummeting currency. In March the cash-strapped government defaulted on its sovereign debt for the first time,” Arabian Business reports.

Lebanon/IMF – “Lebanon’s government signed off on a rescue plan that relies on financing from the International Monetary Fund to begin an overhaul of an economy facing its worst financial crisis in decades. President Michel Aoun described Thursday’s Cabinet session as a historic day for the country “because it’s the first time an economic, financial plan is approved” that would place Lebanon on the path of reforms.Ministers backed the proposals with slight amendments of the original draft, he said on Twitter. Some of the items in the plan will require parliamentary approval,” The National reports.

US/Saudi – “As the United States pressed Saudi Arabia to end its oil price war with Russia, President Donald Trump gave Saudi leaders an ultimatum. In an April 2 phone call, Trump told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that unless the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) started cutting oil production, he would be powerless to stop lawmakers from passing legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from the kingdom, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The threat to upend a 75-year strategic alliance, which has not been previously reported, was central to the U.S. pressure campaign that led to a landmark global deal to slash oil supply as demand collapsed in the coronavirus pandemic – scoring a diplomatic victory for the White House,” Reuters reports.

UAE/NMC – “NMC Health, the troubled UAE-based hospitals group, has been the victim of fraud, forgery and impersonation on a multibillion-dollar scale, according to its founder and former chairman B.R. Shetty. In a strongly worded statement, Shetty detailed what he described as ‘serious fraud and wrongdoing’ at the company and at his other major business venture, the financial services group Finablr, as well as at some of his private companies and against him personally,” Arab News reports.

UAE/TAQA – “Shareholders of the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) approved a deal to combine assets with Abu Dhabi Power Corporation’s (ADPower), creating one of the largest utilities companies in the GCC, UAE state news agency WAM reported Wednesday. The deal will see ADPower transfer the majority of its water and electricity, transmission, and distribution assets to TAQA, leaving the company with majority stakes in almost all power and water generation plants in the UAE. The deal is scheduled to close in the third quarter of 2020,” Al-Arabiya Business reports.

UAE/Aviation – “The UAE airlines will lose $6.8 billion (Dh25 billion) in revenues due to the impact of impact of coronavirus, putting 378,678 jobs at risk, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) latest data released on Thursday. The figures are higher than IATA’s previous forecast released three weeks ago when it predicted $5.36 billion revenue loss and 287,863 jobs at stake in the UAE,” Khaleej Times reports.

Abu Dhabi Aviation – “Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which will be the emirate’s second low-cost airline, plans to start operations by the fourth quarter this year, foreseeing no delays on its plans. The company said its strong cash position as well as a UK government-backed loan meant the group remained in a healthy position despite challenges faced by the industry after the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a complete halt,” Gulf News reports.

Egypt/IMF – “A one-year bailout loan Egypt may receive from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not lead to a rise in the prices of commodities and services, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Egypt said it had asked the IMF for financial assistance to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus,” AhramOnline reports.

Tunisia – “Tunisia will start relaxing its coronavirus lockdown next week, reopening parts of the food and construction sectors and allowing half of government employees to return to work, it said on Wednesday. Its lockdown, in place since March, has stopped 25,000 cases of the virus and 1,000 deaths, Health Minister Abdelatif el-Makki said on television. Tunisia, which has about 500 intensive care beds, has confirmed fewer than 1,000 cases in all,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Saudi Budget – “Saudi Arabia revealed that government spending for Q1 2020 has increased to $60 billion with total revenue standing at $51 billion, leaving a $9 billion deficit. Saudi financial results were released amid difficult conditions faced by the international economy, as oil revenues take a nosedive with prices in the global markets tumbling under the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, which also impacted the results of the non-oil sector. That reversed a first quarter surplus of around $7.4 billion in 2019,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Kuwait/Jazeera Airways – “Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways has laid off over a third of its staff and can dip into its cash reserves to get through the coronavirus crisis, its chairman said. Several governments around the world are supporting airlines hammered by the pandemic that has virtually halted international travel. Kuwait halted all commercial flights on March 13 as the Gulf Arab state rolled out restrictions to control the spread of the virus that has now infected 3,740 people and killed 24 there,” Reuters/Zawya reports.

Turkish Airlines – “Turkish Airlines will not operate any domestic or international flights until May 28, the company announced on April 28.  Turkey’s national flag carrier said the decision to extend the suspension of operations has been taken in the public interest,” Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Geopolitics – “On Thursday, Germany has officially announced that it has designated the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as terrorist organization. In a statement, the German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that Hezbollah criminal activities violate all international laws, adding that the organization was behind a multitude of attacks resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries worldwide,” Baghdad Post reports.

Eastern Star Aviation Times Weekly – April 29

Eastern Star Aviation Times Weekly – April 29

Airbus Survival – “Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury gave a dramatic warning to employees that heralds potentially deeper production cuts than initially planned. ‘The survival of Airbus is in question if we don’t act now,’ he wrote in a letter to staff sent on April 24. Airbus was ‘bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed,’ Faury said. ‘We must now act urgently to reduce our cash-out, restore our financial balance and, ultimately, to regain control of our destiny,'” Aviation Week reports.

Airlines Recovery – “The planemaker Airbus has warned that the aviation industry could take as long as five years to recover to the levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic, as customers such as British Airways try to secure their survival by cutting thousands of jobs. The Airbus chief executive, Guillaume Faury, warned on Wednesday that it could take ‘three to five years’ for passengers to be as willing to fly as before the crisis,” The Guardian/Skift reports.

AirAsia – “AirAsia intends to take no new aircraft deliveries in 2020 and is relooking Airbus order, the carrier revealed on April 29, 2020. Two of the company’s carriers, AirAsia Malaysia and AirAsia X Malaysia, together have orders for 480 planes left unfilled with the European manufacturer. ‘We do not intend to take any new aircraft deliveries this year with the target to end 2020 with 242 aircraft, a net reduction of 1 aircraft from last year,’ Executive Chairman of AirAsia Group, Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said in the company’s statement. ‘We are relooking at our orderbook with Airbus,'” Aerotime reports.

Air Cargo – “The International Air Transport Association (Iata) warned of an “immediate and severe” shortage in global air cargo capacity due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Global air cargo demand fell 15.2 per cent in March, compared to the same month last year, while capacity shrank by nearly a quarter, Iata said in a statement on Wednesday. The coronavirus crisis has idled passenger planes, leading to a nearly 44 per cent cut in the belly hold capacity that carried air cargo. ‘At present, we don’t have enough capacity to meet the remaining demand for air cargo,’ Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general, said. ‘The gap must be addressed quickly because vital supplies must get to where they are needed most,'” The National reports.

Air India – “In light of current circumstances, the government of India has extended the deadline for bids for Air India. The new date, June 30th, gives potential bidders two more months to submit an offer for the state-run carrier. The government’s decision hardly comes as a surprise considering the current conditions. However, this could be the first of many extensions as companies and airlines deal with heavy financial losses. Many potential bidders for the airline, such as the Tata Group (majority owners of Vistara and AirAsia India) and Hinduja Group, will likely wait for their financial situations to improve before such a purchase,” Simple Flying reports.

South African Airways – “South African Airways seems to have reached the end of the line. Despite clinging on to life for the past few months, the airline is now just days away from either being wound down slowly or liquidated quickly, depending on the actions of its 4,700 employees. This would make way for a new national carrier, one which it is hoped will provide jobs for the many who are set to lose out with the closure of SAA,” Simple Flying reports.

Thailand Rescue – “Eight Thai carriers have sought a soft loan of around Bt25 billion ($771 million) from the Thai government, according to a 24 April Reuters report that cites a Thai AirAsia executive. Tassapon Bijleveld, the executive chairman of Thai AirAsia and its parent company Asia Aviation, added that the carriers seeking the loan are Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, NokScoot, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, Thai Lion Air, Thai VietJet Air, and Thai Smile,” Cirium/Flight Global reports 

BA Job Cuts – “British Airways (BA) today launched a consultation process likely to result in 12,000 layoffs among its 42,000 staff. The move was confirmed in a statement issued by the UK carrier’s parent group, IAG, which also owns Spain’s Iberia and Ireland’s Aer Lingus. The airline has requested talks with trade unions and it is unclear, for now, how many of the company’s approximately 4,500 pilots and 16,000 cabin crew might lose their jobs. Pilots union BALPA said it intends to oppose the proposed layoffs,” AIN reports.

UAE/Aviation – “The UAE airlines will lose $6.8 billion (Dh25 billion) in revenues due to the impact of impact of coronavirus, putting 378,678 jobs at risk, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) latest data released on Thursday. The figures are higher than IATA’s previous forecast released three weeks ago when it predicted $5.36 billion revenue loss and 287,863 jobs at stake in the UAE,” Khaleej Times reports.

RwandAir – “RwandAir has resumed cargo flights to Guangzhou, China, as the airline embarks on a recovery path following suspension of passenger flights in March to stop the spread of Covid-19. The airline has been operating cargo flights only to Brussels and London at least once a week using its A330 jets, and had suspended cargo flights to China in February,” The East African reports.

Middle East Aviation – “’Urgent’ help is needed to help airlines across the Middle East and North Africa, where many are ‘struggling to survive’ amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Muhammad Al Bakri, the regional vice president of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). On Thursday, IATA said that MENA airlines could lose $24 billion worth of passenger revenue compared to 2019 – approximately $5 billion more than it had forecast at the beginning of April,” Arabian Business reports.

Abu Dhabi Aviation – “Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which will be the emirate’s second low-cost airline, plans to start operations by the fourth quarter this year, foreseeing no delays on its plans. The company said its strong cash position as well as a UK government-backed loan meant the group remained in a healthy position despite challenges faced by the industry after the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a complete halt,” Gulf News reports.

Etihad Airways – “Etihad has suspended all online sales for flights before June 16, the airline announced on Wednesday. Bookings are currently only being accepted for flights that are scheduled to depart after that date, although these bookings are subject to change,” Arabian Business reports.

Egypt/Aviation – “Egypt’s Nile Air on Sunday urged the government to buy stakes in private airline companies to help them survive the crisis caused by the new coronavirus pandemic. The North African country grounded flights on March 19 until further notice among a raft of measures to slow the spread of the respiratory disease. Private airlines appealed to the government last month to intervene to halt their losses,” Reuters/Ahram Online reports.

Singapore Airlines – “The worsening environment for aviation amid the Covid-19 pandemic has made it very difficult for airlines to tap debt capital markets, Singapore Airlines (SIA) has said, in explanation of the need for its proposed $15 billion debt and equity capital raising. It was responding to questions from the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), or Sias, in a Singapore Exchange statement on Friday evening, ahead of the April 30 extraordinary general meeting (EGM), when shareholders are to vote on the move,” Singapore Straits-Times reports.

Indonesia/Aviation – “In an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Indonesian authorities will prohibit both international and domestic air travel from tomorrow through to June 1st. Largely an Islamic country, this move coincides with the start of Ramadan – a time when Muslims travel to their hometowns,” SimpleFlying reports.

Thailand/Aviation – “Suvarnabhumi airport is set to resume its services on Friday when airlines restart flights following a month-long suspension over Covid-19 fears, airport general manager Suthirawat Suwanawat said. Wg Cdr Suthirawat said the number of foreign travellers had fallen considerably since the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand banned all international flights from landing in Thailand at the start of this month,” Bangkok Post reports.

Lion Air – “Thai Lion Air is reducing its workforce again amid the freezing of its business due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The airline informed its staff in a statement last week that almost 120 employees with less than a year’s experience would be let go on the understanding that they would be the first priority for recruitment in the future if business returns to normal,” Bangkok Post reports.

Etihad/Air Arabia – “Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, the new joint venture between Etihad Airways and Air Arabia, secured its air operating licence, making it the UAE’s fifth national airline once it begins service from the capital. The new discount carrier, which was expected to start operations in the second quarter of 2020, is working with the UAE’s civil aviation regulator to finalise its launch date once market conditions improve and skies re-open, it said in a statement on Thursday,” The National reports.

Middle East Aviation Losses – “Air traffic in the Middle East and North Africa is set to plummet by more than half this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, a global aviation body said on Thursday,” AFP/Jordan Times reports.

India/Aviation – “Airlines in India are likely to suffer a revenue loss of 11.2 billion dollars this year leading to 2.9 million jobs at risk as passenger demand falls by 47 per cent due to COVID-19 crisis, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Friday. The latest estimates from IATA indicate a worsening of the country impact from coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions in the Asia Pacific region,” Business Standard reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 28

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 28

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 28

Lebanon Unrest – “Protests against growing economic hardship erupted in Tripoli and spread to other Lebanese cities on Tuesday, with banks set ablaze after a night of rioting that left one demonstrator dead, according to security and medical sources. A collapse in the currency, soaring inflation and spiralling unemployment are convulsing Lebanon, in deep financial crisis since October. A shutdown to fight the new coronavirus has made matters worse for the economy,” Reuters reports.

UAE/China – “United Arab Emirates-based RS Global Energy, fully-owned by Angola-based Ridge Solutions Group, announced on Sunday that it has signed a five-year copper cathode supply deal with China’s Xinjiang Wal Optoelectronic Technology. Ridge Solutions Group said in a press statement that it would supply 525,000 metric tonnes (MT) of Copper Cathode Grade A (non-London Metal Exchange (LME) registered) to the Chinese firm,” Zawya reports.

Abu Dhabi Aviation – “Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which will be the emirate’s second low-cost airline, plans to start operations by the fourth quarter this year, foreseeing no delays on its plans. The company said its strong cash position as well as a UK government-backed loan meant the group remained in a healthy position despite challenges faced by the industry after the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a complete halt,” Gulf News reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran’s daily coronavirus caseload rose by 12.2% on Tuesday while overnight deaths dropped sharply by 26%, health officials announced. According to a Health Ministry tally gathered from the reports of laboratories and medical schools across the country, Iran has registered 1,112 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the national total to 92,584, ISNA reported,” Financial Tribune reports.

Morocco Contraction – “Morocco’s planning agency revised downwards on Tuesday its growth forecast for the second quarter to -6.8 percent year-on-year instead of an earlier estimate of -1.8 percent as the coronavirus lockdown hit both foreign and domestic demand,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports

Dubai Tourism – “Dubai is aiming to reopen for tourists as early as July as it looks to gradually come out of a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted tourism and air travel, according to its tourism chief. The return of tourism will happen in a staggered approach and may be pushed back until September, depending on when other countries ease travel restrictions, Helal Al Marri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday,” The National reports.

Africa Free Trade – “The implementation of a mammoth African free trade agreement will not begin on July 1 as planned due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, a senior official said on Tuesday. ‘It is obviously not possible to commence trade as we had intended on 1 July under the current circumstances,’ Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, said during a conference call,” Ahram Online reports.

Jordan/Covid-19 – “The World Bank approved a $20 million (Dh73.4m) project to help Jordan deal with the health effects of the Covid-19 outbreak. The Covid-19 Emergency Response project, part of a $6 billion global rapid response programme approved by the lender’s directors earlier this month, will support the Ministry of Health’s efforts in detecting and preventing the spread of the pandemic, as well as strengthening public health preparedness, according to a statement,” The National reports.

Abu Dhabi Ports – “Abu Dhabi Ports has installed Covid-19 testing facilities at Zayed Port and Khalifa Port to help safeguard maritime personnel in the emirate, it was announced on Tuesday. The new facilities – which were constructed in just one day – can process up to 700 tests a day. They are accessible to all Abu Dhabi Ports employees, contractors and subcontractors active in the ports,” Arabian Business reports.

Sudan Economy – “Sudan’s annual inflation rate has topped 80 percent, the government said Tuesday, as the country grapples with an acute economic crisis. ‘The annual inflation rate reached 81.64 percent in March, compared to 71.36 in February,’ the Central Bureau of Statistics said in a statement, attributing the rise to price hikes including on food,'” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Turkey Economy – “Turkey’s government aims to begin reviving the economy in late May after a sharp slowdown due to measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, while minimizing the risk of a second wave of infections, a senior official said on Tuesday. Separately, the head of a group of Turkish malls – which closed their doors independently last month – said there were plans for a gradual reopening from May 11 depending on demand from retailers and approval from a health advisory board, Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

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