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.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 25-27

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 25-27

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 25-27

Egypt/IMF – “Egypt is seeking an aid package from the International Monetary Fund to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said Sunday. In a televised press conference with the central bank governor and other ministers, Madbouli did not specify the size of the one-year financial aid package the government was seeking from the IMF alongside technical assistance,” AFP/Arab News reports

Iran/China – “Iran’s commercial exchanges with its top trading partner China stood at $3.94 billion during the first three months of 2020 to register a 30.4% decline compared with the corresponding period of 2019. As data provided by the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China show, Iran’s exports to China totaled $1.81 billion, indicating a 52.7% year-on-year decrease,” Financial Tribune reports.

Turkey – “Turkey may run out foreign currency reserves as early as July if the pressure on its lira currency keeps intensifying, analysts at TD Securities estimated, while a number of analysts said its net reserves excluding swaps may already be negative,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.

Lebanon – “Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces in northern Lebanon Monday amid a crash in the local currency and a surge in food prices. Dozens of young men smashed the fronts of local banks and set fire to an army vehicle, as the protests turned into riots,” Baghdad Post reports.

Iran/Iraq/US – “Washington on Sunday granted Iraq a 30-day extension to a waiver allowing it to import Iranian gas for its dilapidated power grids despite American sanctions, an Iraqi official said.Washington on Sunday granted Iraq a 30-day extension to a waiver allowing it to import Iranian gas for its dilapidated power grids despite American sanctions, an Iraqi official said,” Al Bawaba reports.

UAE/Etihad Airways – “Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways plans to resume passenger flights on Saturday, May 16, the airline has announced. In a statement posted online, Etihad said that it is ‘working closely with the UAE government and global aviation authorities, our aim is to gradually return to a fuller schedule as soon as it is safe for us to do so,'” Arabian Business reports.

UAE/NMC – “NMC Health, the embattled firm now in administration, asked the London Stock Exchange to delist its shares, following a string of revelations about the financial position of the company. The ‘continued listing of the shares in NMC Health incurs significant cost and adds complexity in a situation where decisions need to be made quickly in partnership with the group’s stakeholders. Against this backdrop, the administrators have concluded that delisting NMC Health’s shares is appropriate’, the company said in a statement to London Stock Exchange on Monday,” The National reports.

Lebanon/Riad Salameh – “When times were good it was rare for anyone to complain about Riad Salameh, Lebanon’s central bank governor of 27 years. As the country emerged from a 15-year civil war in 1990 and dealt with a series of major events, including the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, conflict with Israel in 2006, domestic strife in 2008 and the global financial crisis that same year, Mr Salameh was hailed as a hero for maintaining the stability of the economy and the peg of the Lebanese pound to the dollar…The picture is very different today,” The National reports.

UAE/ADNOC – “Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) and Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) have issued a joint tender for what is said to be a first-of-its-kind project in the Middle East and North Africa. The tender sets out to develop and operate the region’s first high-voltage, direct current sub-sea transmission system that will connect Adnoc’s offshore oil and gas production facilities to ADPower’s onshore electricity grid,” Gulf News 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.

Saudi Aramco/EV – “A new hybrid electric-petrol engine reducing harmful  greenhouse gasses by 50 percent could be developed from a study by scientists at Saudi Aramco and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Developed in collaboration with scientists in China, it could bridge the gap between traditional internal combustion engines and the next generation of fully electric motor engines. It was unveiled in a paper published in the prestigious journal Applied Energy,” Arab News reports.

Morocco/Covid-19 – “A total of 4.3 million families headed by workers in the informal sector will benefit from a stipend granted from the Special Fund for the Management and Respond to COVID-19, said the minister of economy, finance, and administrative reform, Mohamed Benchaaboun, on Monday in Rabat,” Morocco World News reports.

East Asia Business Telegraph Monitor Weekly – April 26

East Asia Business Telegraph Monitor Weekly – April 26

China/Exxon Mobil – “Multinational oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil yes­terday broke ground on its solely funded chemical com­plex in Huizhou, in southern China’s Guangdong Province, a sign of China’s rebounding economy as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic fades…The complex, worth US$10 billion, will be built in two phases. The first with a 1.6 million ton-per-year ethylene cracker and down-stream production equipment is scheduled to be completed by 2023 when construction on the second phase will begin,” Xinhua/Shanghai Daily reports.

SE Asia/Private Equity – “Indonesian private equity firm Northstar Group announced the closure of its fifth flagship funds to be invested in companies and start-ups working on COVID-19 recovery and sectors such as consumption, digital economy and finance. The funds, representing one-third of the company’s US$800 million target, will be invested in growth-stage companies and early-stage start-ups in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries,” Jakarta Post reports.

S. Korea/Shipbuilding – “The South Korean government has pledged a hefty KRW1.25trn ($1bn) to support the country’s ailing shipping industry severely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The aid to shipping is part of a government KRW40trn emergency relief package to seven key industries including shipping, so as to cushion the impact of COVID-19,” Sea Trade Maritime News reports.

S. Korea Economy – “Korea’s economy is expected to contract 0.3 percent this year, a private research institute said Sunday, as the coronavirus pandemic crippled economic activities worldwide. The forecast by Hyundai Research Institute, however, is higher than the IMF’s, which has predicted that Korea’s economy will shrink 1.2 percent this year as the global economy is expected to face its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s over the pandemic. The world economy is expected to contract 3 percent this year, the IMF said,” Korea JoongAng Daily reports.

Regional/Food – “The battle for market share in Asia’s meatless meat sector is heating up, even amid an economic slowdown driven by Covid-19 lockdowns, which have badly affected the restaurant industry. Industry participants agreed that public concern over health and food safety in the wake of the pandemic will boost the long-term fortunes of alternative protein makers such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, the two best-known manufacturers. The pandemic, along with the African swine fever, which decimated China’s pig herds, are expected to accelerate consumer adoption. Moreover, interest among Asian entrepreneurs has grown alongside that of investors and consumers,” South China Morning Post reports.

N. Korea/Kim Jong Un – “A special train possibly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was spotted this week at a resort town in the country, according to satellite images reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, amid conflicting reports about Kim’s health and whereabouts. The monitoring project, 38 North, said in its report on Saturday that the train was parked at the ‘leadership station’ in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23. The station is reserved for the use of the Kim family, it said,” Korea Times reports.

Japan/Covid-19 – “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team are likely to extend the state of emergency for the coronavirus in prefectures still struggling to curb the pandemic, sources said Friday. The emergency declaration was set to expire on May 6, when the Golden Week holidays officially end,” Japan Times reports.

Japan/Mitsubishi – “Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors Corp said Friday it expects 26 billion yen ($240 million) in losses for the fiscal year through next March, as sales plunge because of the coronavirus pandemic. Tokyo-based Mitsubishi, allied with Nissan Motor Co, announced the revision to its earnings projection. The maker of the Pajero sports utility vehicle earlier forecast a profit of 5 billion yen ($46 million),” Japan Today 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.

Malaysia/Palm Oil – “Palm exports from Malaysia’s biggest producer of the edible oil, Sabah state, will be hit by a closure of private jetties due to coronavirus-related curbs, an industry body said on Saturday. Sabah accounts for about a quarter of the total palm oil produced in Malaysia, the world’s second biggest producer and exporter of the widely used vegetable oil after Indonesia,” EdgeMarkets reports.

Philippines/Remittances – “The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Friday kept its negative growth projection for overseas Filipino worker (OFW) remittances this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect deployment,” Manila Times reports.

Philippines/ADB – “THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a record $1.5 billion loan for the Philippine government to fund its fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” BusinessWorld reports.

Vietnam/Growth – “Standard Chartered Bank forecasts Vietnam’s economic growth will slow to 3.3 percent in 2020 due to a worsening of external conditions. In an economic outlook report titled ‘Darkest Before The Dawn’, the bank forecast manufacturing growth is likely to decline sharply on slowing global demand, with growth rate expected at close to 3 percent compared to around 11 percent in 2019,” VN Express reports.

Cambodia Logistics – “The Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) has expressed concern about the severe impact on the logistics and transportation sector which faces a downturn in business due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it said in a statement on Saturday. A supply shortage of imported raw materials from China has led to a loss of jobs in the garment sector, the Kingdom’s largest industry and largest user of logistics services, it said,” Phnom Penh Post reports.

Singapore/Lim Oon Kuin – “The letters started to arrive in early April. One after the other, the titans of global finance, from JPMorgan to HSBC Holdings, demanded the immediate and urgent repayment of hundreds of millions of dollars in loans. On the receiving end was Hin Leong, one of the most powerful and secretive names in oil trading. Founded in 1963 by a Chinese immigrant known to everyone in the industry as OK Lim, it was a giant in the world of shipping fuel from its base in Singapore. Over the decades it had become one of the most fabled trading houses, the source of a billion-dollar fortune, and the subject of stories about legendary deals that made rivals sweat. But earlier this month, as oil prices collapsed in the fallout from the coronavirus, its foundations crumbled,” South China Morning Post reports.

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 24

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 24

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 24

Turkey Economy – “Turkey’s economy faces growing risks as it enters a downturn with dwindling reserves and a fragile lira, financial markets signaled on Friday, as data showed factories slowing due to the coronavirus outbreak. For the first time since the worst day of a currency crisis in 2018, the Turkish lira on Wednesday briefly breached 7 versus the dollar after the central bank slashed rates twice as much as expected,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.

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.

Regional Aviation – “Middle Eastern and African governments are failing to take the action required to protect their airlines from the economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday. Several states have stepped in to help airlines, with travel demand decimated by the outbreak, such as the US, Singapore and Australia, though few in the Middle East have made their intentions clear,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Iran/US Conflict – “President Hassan Rouhani called on Iran’s armed forces on Friday to seek regional stability while maintaining vigilance against ‘provocations’, state TV reported, as a war of words with arch-enemy the United States escalated. The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday Tehran would destroy U.S. warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump warned Tehran over ‘harassment’ of U.S. vessels,” Reuters reports.

Oil Price – “Oil prices rose on Friday, but both the Brent and U.S. benchmarks were on track for their third straight week of losses as global production shutdowns failed to keep pace with the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Reuters reports.

GCC Banks – “The strength of earning capacity of banks in the GCC will help them navigate the shocks related to COVID-19 and the oil price drops, S&P Global Ratings said yesterday. It expects most of the banks to generate positive net income in 2020. The rating agency noted the GCC banks have raised around $20bn of hybrid capital the GCC banks instruments over the past five years and some of them are reaching their first call dates in 2020,” The Peninsula reports.

Lebanon Pound – “The Lebanese central bank set an exchange rate of 3,625 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar to be applied by money-transfer firms on Friday, 58 per cent weaker than the official peg as the country grapples with its financial crisis, a central bank source said. The new rate is seen as part of wider moves by the central bank away from a peg in place since 1997, bankers said. Though the official pegged rate of 1,507.5 pounds is still in place, it amounts to an effective devaluation of the pound, they said,” The National reports.

Egypt/ENI – “A deal struck between Spanish gas firm Naturgy Energy Group, Italy’s Eni and the Egyptian government to resolve a series of disputes over a shuttered gas plant in northern Egypt has fallen through, Naturgy said on Thursday. The agreement had been due to end Naturgy’s business interests in Egypt and dissolve a joint venture between Naturgy and Eni, while Eni and state-owned Egyptian firms would have increased their holdings in the Damietta plant,” Ahram Online reports.

Turkey/China – “Turkish industrial goods exports to China have rallied as Chinese factories resume production and businesses reopen after a shutdown to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. ‘After the Chinese economy reopened gradually, acceleration started in firms exporting to China,’ said Murat Kolbaşı, the chairman of the Asia-Pacific Business Council of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK)…’Some 75% of factories have restarted production in China, and domestic demand is now around the level of 60%-80%,’ Kolbaşı told Anadolu Agency (AA),” Daily Sabah reports.

DP World – “DP World has launched new online logistics tools and services, covering sea, land and air shipping around the world.The new connected ecosystem of platforms will enable freight forwarders and any business, to book shipments of cargo from and to anywhere in the world, by any combination of sea, land and air,” Sea Trade Maritime News reports.

Mauritania – “The International Monetary has approved a grant of $130 million (Dh477.1m) for Mauritania – under the Rapid Credit Facility – to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The new funds will help the north-west African nation to increase spending on health services and social protection programmes, said IMF in a statement,” The National reports.

UAE/Retail – “In accordance with the announcement by the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, Al Futtaim will open its malls across the UAE on April 25 (Saturday), with trading hours of 12pm-10pm. Family entertainment, cinemas, gyms, prayer rooms, changing rooms and shisha services will remain closed, as per the directive. The opening comes in line with the supreme Committee of Disaster Management’s announcement of the partial easing of restrictions on movement in Dubai. Prior to opening, both malls are mandated to comply with the various guidelines and protocols and the partial opening is within strict health and safety guidelines,” Khaleej Times reports.

 

Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 24

Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 24

Top business stories from countries across the Indian Ocean region: Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE and Yemen. Collectively, they account for 35% of the world’s population and nearly 20% of global GDP.

East Africa – “All five East African Community countries should brace for drastic drops in their economic growth rates this year as a direct result of the global coronavirus crisis. The International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook projections for 2020 pegs Kenya and Tanzania’s respective GDP growth rates at one per cent and two per cent respectively in 2020, down from 5.6 and 6.3 per cent respectively in 2019. Uganda will maintain a 3.5 growth rate this year, compared with 4.9 per cent in 2019,” The East African reports.

South African Airways – “South African Airways (SAA) is set to lay off all of its employees at the end of April. A document detailing the airline’s severance package, obtained by Bloomberg, shows  that 4,700 employees will leave the company by the end of this month. The collapsing airline will reportedly make sales of its assets to foot the salary pay-outs,” Bloomberg/The Standard reports.

Virgin Australia – “Virgin Australia Holdings owes A$6.90 billion (S$6.24 billion) to more than 10,000 creditors based on an initial review and will seek a three-month payment waiver from aircraft lessors, according to the company’s administrators,” Reuters/Singapore Straits Times.

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.

Facebook/Reliance – “With the pandemic battering assets and oil nosediving, Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani needed a win to stem the investor exodus from Reliance Industries Ltd., the energy conglomerate he’s been trying to reinvent. This week, Facebook Inc. and its Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg delivered just that. The U.S. social-media giant said it will buy about 10% of Reliance’s digital assets for $5.7 billion — its biggest purchase since acquiring WhatsApp six years ago,” Bloomberg/Economic Times reports.

UAE/DP World – “DP World, the Dubai-based ports and logistics giant, said the real impact of Covid-19 will be seen from the second quarter onwards after it posted a 1.7 per cent dip in first-quarter shipping container volumes. The ports operator warned that global trade and container volumes are forecast by industry analysts to decline in 2020, with estimates on the scale of the drop ranging from 3 per cent to 10 per cent, it said in a statement on Thursday,” The National 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.

East Africa Locusts – As the East African Community partner states are continuing to grapple with the effects of Covid-19, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned of a possible re-invasion of locusts in the region,” The Tanzania Daily News reports.

Kenya/Ports – “Importers in the region have called on the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and the Kenya Ship Agents Association to increase the free demurrage quota and free cargo period as a result of slow clearance and transportation of goods due to lockdowns and curfews imposed by various countries,” The East African reports.

Pakistan/ADB – “The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has pledged to provide $1.7 billion to Pakistan to combat the economic impacts of coronavirus in the country, it was learned on Friday. The assurance was given by the ADB President to the Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar, during a virtual meeting,” Business Recorder reports.

Pakistan/Moody’s – “The financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilaterals has lowered Pakistan’s financing risks from the coronavirus-related economic shock even though its fiscal deficit may touch double digits. ‘The substantial financial support from official-sector creditors reduces Pakistan’s financing risks,’ said the Moody’s investors service on Thursday, adding that the fiscal stimulus announced by the government could widen the country’s budget deficit to 9.5-10 per cent of GDP,” Dawn reports.

Bangladesh/Port – “State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said the government is pledged-bound to keep the operational activities of Chitagong port in the normal pace for national interest. Khalid Mahmud told this journalists after a view-exchanging meeting with senior officials of Chattogram Port at the port building on Thursday, reports BSS,” Dhaka Tribune reports.

Sri Lanka/Fitch – “The shock to Sri Lanka’s economy from the coronavirus pandemic will exacerbate already-rising public and external debt sustainability challenges following tax cuts and an associated shift in fiscal policy late last year. The pandemic will especially hurt the tourism sector, which, combined with weaker domestic demand, will further damage Sri Lanka’s public and external finance metrics,” Lanka Business Online reports.
Yemen/Flood – “Flash floods caused by heavy rains have hit Yemen’s interim capital, Aden, leading to a power outage and city-wide immobilization. Eight people, including five children, have been killed and dozens injured, officials said. The deaths take the national toll to at least 15 after the United Nations said that seven other people were killed by flooding in the north, where the country’s long conflict is raging between the government and the Iran-backed Houthi militias,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.
Malaysia Airways/Air Asia – “Merging money-losing state carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd with budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd is one of the options to ‘save’ them as the Covid-19 crisis batters the industry, Malaysia’s second-most senior minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali told Reuters on Friday,” Reuters/Edge Markets Malaysia reports.
Singapore Airlines – “Covid-19’s grounding of airlines worldwide has ensured that only the fittest and best-supported fliers will survive. With rich government backing, Singapore Airlines Group (SIA) is well-positioned to ride out the turbulence and boost its post-pandemic global market share. Singapore is now estimated to have the world’s largest number of idle aircraft after global travel restrictions forced SIA to ground 96% of its approximately 200-plane fleet on March 23. With infections sharply rising in the city-state and elsewhere, it is unclear when normal operations will resume,” Asia Times 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.

 

Mozambique/Militants – “Some 52 young people were shot dead or beheaded in the country’s north as an Islamist insurgency gains strength. Local and national security services as well as foreign mercenaries have been unable to stop the militants,” AllAfrica.com reports.

 

Seychelles/Covid-19 – “The Seychelles Health Authority said on Thursday that it is maintaining the extension of the prohibition of outdoor movement until May 4, four days longer than the April 30 date previously announced. Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon said during a weekly press conference that the additional days will ensure more time for active surveillance and monitoring,” Seychelles News Agency reports.

 

Geo-Strategy – “If Chinese military planners thought they could use the Covid-19 crisis to steal a march in the Indian Ocean, they may have been mistaken. India may be under the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown, but its navy is not. On April 14, the Indian Navy issued a public statement saying that its Eastern Naval Command’s Dornier squadron continues its maritime surveillance missions and that its naval assets remain ‘mission-ready and prepared for immediate deployment should the need arise,'” Asia Times reports.

 

India/Geo-Politics – “Amid this entire crisis, India has been playing an important role. India’s role could be considered at both the domestic level – the steps taken to tackle the crisis at home — and the diplomatic level — India’s assistance to other countries, especially in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), amid the pandemic…One of the first steps taken by India was to evacuate citizens of different countries along with its own citizens from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the first COVID-19 outbreak. Those evacuated as compassionate cases included citizens from Indian Ocean Rim countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Maldives, South Africa, and Madagascar. India not only evacuated these people, but also quarantined them in India as a precautionary measure before sending them to their respective countries.” The Diplomat reports.

India/Covid-19 – While death rates in some countries have risen sharply in recent weeks, in India the opposite seems to be happening, at least in some places, leaving hospitals, funeral parlours and cremation sites wondering what is going on. ‘It’s very surprising for us,’ said Shruthi Reddy, chief executive officer of Anthyesti Funeral Services, which operates in of Kolkata and Bengaluru,” LiveMint India reports.

Sri Lanka/India – Sri Lanka is set to enter into an agreement with the Reserve for a currency swap worth moe than $400 million to boost foreign reserves and ensure financial stability of the country which is badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, The Times of India reports.

India/Foreign Investment – “Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund has said it would close six yield-oriented, managed credit funds with total assets under management of Rs 25,856 crore in India from April 23 over severe market dislocation and illiquidity caused by the coronavirus pandemic…Franklin Templeton is shutting these fixed-income and credit-risk funds run, locking in Rs 308 billion ($4.1 billion) of investors’ money,” Hindustan Times reports.

Maldives/IMF – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a disbursement of 28.9 million US dollars to the Maldives as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continued to rise, local media reported. The Executive Board of the IMF approved the disbursement on Thursday under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF), which the government can use to manage fiscal needs and balance of payments amid a worsening COVID-19 outbreak, reports Xinhua,” Financial Express reports.

Troubles Mount for Sudan Amid Covid-19 Challenge

Troubles Mount for Sudan Amid Covid-19 Challenge

Two recent articles on Sudan, one in the New York Times and the other in Asharq Al-Awsat, highlight the immense challenges faced by the East African country over the next year amid the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the IMF, Sudan faces a 7.2% economic contraction – disastrous for an economy that was already having difficulty creating jobs for its mostly young and rural population.

According to the article in Asharq Al-Awsat, some 80% of the population are dependent on agriculture, and the sector accounts for some 44% of GDP.

An excerpt from the piece below:

Food security in Sudan faces new challenges as the government takes restrictive measures on stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus.

 

The measures have greatly affected producers especially those working in the agriculture sector, which represents 44% of the Sudanese economy.

 

The curfew imposed on producers in the agriculture and industrial sectors threatens the future of food security in the African country, where preparations for summer seasonal crops are usually made in April and May.

The New York Times reported on the stark lack of ventilators and overall preparedness for a major coronavirus outbreak in the country of 41 million people.  A doctor was quoted as saying: “On a normal day in Sudan you can’t find a ventilator. It’s going to be a disaster. Those who have immunity will live, and those who don’t will have to pray.”

An excerpt from the piece below:

“The government is in a position (where it has) to make very difficult decisions when they don’t have that sense of security,” said Nada Abdelmagid, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

 

International donors have held back, demanding a reform plan and the lifting of fuel subsidies costing about $3.5 billion a year.

 

Potential donors from the West and the Gulf have postponed from April to June a “Friends of Sudan” economic conference, and with the pandemic there could be more delays.

 

The European Union and United States have pledged 80 million euros ($86.62 million) and $13.7 million respectively to aid the coronavirus efforts. Two shipments of supplies have arrived from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

 

Red Sea Economic Times – April 23

Red Sea Economic Times – April 23

Business and Economic News from the Red Sea region and littoral states Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti from regional, international, and industry media – April 23, 2020

Yemen/Flood – “Flash floods caused by heavy rains have hit Yemen’s interim capital, Aden, leading to a power outage and city-wide immobilization. Eight people, including five children, have been killed and dozens injured, officials said. The deaths take the national toll to at least 15 after the United Nations said that seven other people were killed by flooding in the north, where the country’s long conflict is raging between the government and the Iran-backed Houthi militias,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Yemen/Flooding – “Heavy thunderstorms that brought flooding and damaging winds to parts of the Arabian Peninsula earlier in the week are being blamed for multiple casualties in the region. A storm system swept across the Arabian Peninsula on Monday and Tuesday, sparking thunderstorms that produced flooding downpours, gusty winds and frequent lightning strikes across the region,” AccuWeather reports.

Sudan/Covid-19 – “With just a few hundred ventilators and international aid slow to materialise, Sudan’s fledgling government knows it has an uphill battle against a coronavirus pandemic that has brought far richer countries to a standstill. The number of cases of the novel coronavirus is still small and doctors say they are able to cope so far, but they are concerned that a healthcare system that has been underfunded for decades will not be able to cope if numbers spike,” The New York Times reports.

Sudan/Food Security – “Food security in Sudan faces new challenges as the government takes restrictive measures on stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus. The measures have greatly affected producers especially those working in the agriculture sector, which represents 44% of the Sudanese economy,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Eritrea – “Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki has delivered his first public address on the coronavirus pandemic since the country recorded index case on March 21. In a message broadcast via public broadcasters, Eri-TV and Radio Dimtsi Hafash, he likened the COVID-19 pandemic to a sudden war that the world least expected and was thus not fully prepared for,” AfricaNews reports.

Saudi Arabia Debt – “Saudi Arabia may borrow an additional 100 billion riyals ($26.6 billion) this year and the total debt could reach 220 billion riyals ($58.5 billion), said Minister of Finance, Acting Minister of Economy and Planning, Mohammed al-Jadaan on Wednesday. The Kingdom will draw down no more than 110-120 billion riyals ($29.2-31.9 billion) from its reserves to finance a government deficit caused by oil price collapse and the coronavirus pandemic,” Al-Arabiya reports.

Eritrea/Ethiopia – “Ethiopia has stopped granting automatic asylum to Eritreans entering the country. The United Nations and aid groups say the previously unannounced policy change, which went into place about three months ago, put Eritreans trying to flee the country at the mercy of unscrupulous human smugglers. For years, Ethiopia had an ‘open-door’ policy towards refugees from countries such as South Sudan and Eritrea, earning it widespread acclaim among international donors,” New Delhi Times reports.

Djibouti Floods – “In the night between 20 and 21 April, Djibouti city received 80 mm of rainfall in few hours (half of the annual average), triggering widespread flash floods. Heavy rains also occurred in other areas of the country, causing some damages,” ReliefWeb reports.

Suez Receipts – “Tax and non-tax proceeds from Egypt’s Suez Canal fell by 4.7% year-on-year (YoY) to EGP 35.91 billion during the first seven months of fiscal year 2019/2020, compared to EGP 37.7 billion. Taxes on Suez Canal’s earnings reached EGP 18.8 billion from July 2019 to last January, compared to EGP 19.4 billion in the year-ago period, according to recent data released by the Ministry of Finance,” Hellenic Shipping News reports.

Egypt/Subsidies – “Egypt plans to cut spending on fuel subsidies by 47% in its 2020/21 budget to 28.193 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.8 billion), an explanatory note for its draft budget published showed. It allocates 52.963 billion pounds for fuel subsidies for the 2020/21 fiscal year. Last December, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum Tarek al-Mala said that support for petroleum products fell to 7.250 billion pounds ($451.4 million) in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2019-2020, compared with 13 billion pounds estimated in the budget, compared to 23.25 billion pounds a year ago,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Yemen War – “A two-week ceasefire in Yemen announced by a Saudi-led military coalition expired on Thursday without leading to a permanent truce, raising fears that the country’s war will grind on and shatter its already weakened ability to combat coronavirus,” Reuters reports.

Yemen/Hodeidah – “Pro-government Yemeni health workers launched a wide-scale sanitation and disinfection campaign in the war-ravaged port city of Hodeidah on Tuesday, as part of preventive measures to fight COVID-19 in the impoverished Arab country. According to a local official, who asked to remain anonymous, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government funded an initiative to sanitize many residential areas where poor families are living in Hodeida,” Xinhua reports.

East Africa Locusts – As the East African Community partner states are continuing to grapple with the effects of Covid-19, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned of a possible re-invasion of locusts in the region,” The Tanzania Daily News reports.

Egypt/Tourism – “Tourism and medical sources in the Red Sea governorate on Saturday announced the end of quarantine for employees at hotels and resorts in Hurghada. These tourism staff concluded the entire period of quarantine which began since the facilities were first closed, the sources said, confirming that none of them had the coronavirus,” Egypt Independent reports.

Saudi/Red Sea Project – “The developer behind Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project has begun phase one of its operations breaking ground on the construction of a 1.5 million sq. meter coastal village area which will house workers, staff and management of the mega-city project…The Red Sea Project is a planned megacity on Saud Arabia’s western coast and will cover 28,000 sq. km in total area including 200 km of coastline. The city will welcome its first visitors by the end of 2022 and will be fully completed by 2030,” Saudi Gazette reports.

Djibouti Climate – “Once known as French Somaliland, and later the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas, the tiny country of Djibouti on the Horn of Africa gained independence in 1977. Roughly the size of Wales, it lies at the southern entrance of the Red Sea, opposite Yemen, and is bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia…Though this is not a world record, Djibouti city is one of the hottest inhabited places on the planet, with an average year-round temperature of 28.5C (83F),” The Guardian reports,

Tourism – “Since everything is going virtual now because of the social distancing measures that people have adopted to try and contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, why not add virtual hiking to the list! Red Sea Mountain Trail announced that today marks the first days of its 50-day-long virtual hike thru, with pictures, maps, and stories of the land they cover. The Red Sea Mountain Trail normally takes 10 days to walk, so every 5 days, their official Facebook page will publish a post about a day on the trail,” ScoopEmpire reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 23

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 23

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 23

Region/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.

Saudi Arabia Debt – “Saudi Arabia may borrow an additional 100 billion riyals ($26.6 billion) this year and the total debt could reach 220 billion riyals ($58.5 billion), said Minister of Finance, Acting Minister of Economy and Planning, Mohammed al-Jadaan on Wednesday. The Kingdom will draw down no more than 110-120 billion riyals ($29.2-31.9 billion) from its reserves to finance a government deficit caused by oil price collapse and the coronavirus pandemic,” Al-Arabiya 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.

UAE/Lulu – “An Abu-Dhabi based investment firm has agreed to buy a stake worth just over $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) in LuLu Group International, which runs one of the Middle East’s largest hypermarket chains, according to people familiar with the matter. The company acquired an almost 20 per cent holding in the Abu Dhabi-based supermarket group founded by Indian entrepreneur Yousuf Ali MA, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private,” Gulf News reports.

Eithad/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.

Saudi Aramco – “Saudi Aramco has isolated 15,000 employees on offshore oil rigs in order to ensure a continued supply of petroleum products to the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company told Al Arabiya English. Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s energy giant, is the world’s most valuable company, and pumps more oil on a daily basis than any other producer in the world,” Al-Arabiya reports.

UAE/E-Commerce – “The Carrefour UAE portal has been upgraded into a full-scale online marketplace, which means that it will now be competing against the likes of Amazon and noon. In the initial push, some Majid Al Futtaim’s mall tenants have already joined the platform, including Borders, LUSH, Tavola, Arabian Oud and Jacky’s,” Gulf News reports.

Majid Al Futtaim – “One of the biggest private employers in the Middle East has no plans to cut salaries or lay off any of its 44,000 workers, but the pandemic is changing its thinking about food security, retail and tourism. Majid Al Futtaim owns and operates hundreds of grocery stores and more than two dozen malls in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. In Gulf Arab states, it has more than 19,000 employees, mostly from the Philippines, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Egypt. The workers’ salaries provide vital income for their families at home,” AP/Arab News reports.

GCC Remittances – “Global remittance flows will tumble 20 per cent this year as the coronavirus pandemic drags the economy through a recession, deepening hardship for families in poor and developing nations, according to the World Bank. Transfers to low- and middle-income countries from workers abroad probably will plunge by a fifth to $445bn, the Washington-based development institution said in a report on Wednesday,” Gulf Business reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran reopened its parks and recreation areas on Wednesday in line with its phased easing of coronavirus restrictions, following a recent decline in infections and deaths. The National Coronavirus Taskforce announced that parks and recreational areas are once again open to the public, if they comply with the Health Ministry’s guidelines, ISNA quoted,” Financial Tribune reports.

 

Egypt/Subsidies – “Egypt plans to cut spending on fuel subsidies by 47% in its 2020/21 budget to 28.193 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.8 billion), an explanatory note for its draft budget published showed. It allocates 52.963 billion pounds for fuel subsidies for the 2020/21 fiscal year. Last December, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum Tarek al-Mala said that support for petroleum products fell to 7.250 billion pounds ($451.4 million) in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2019-2020, compared with 13 billion pounds estimated in the budget, compared to 23.25 billion pounds a year ago,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Morocco Tourism – “If Morocco does not urgently mobilize a plan to save its tourism sector, the country will lose over MAD 138 billion ($13.85 billion) between 2020 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 crisis, revealed a study by the National Tourism Confederation (CNT),” Morocco World News reports.

DP World – “The logistics sector is facing ‘uncertainty’ amid the Covid-19 pandemic despite a relatively stable first quarter for Dubai-based ports operator DP World, according to group chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem. In a statement on Thursday, DP World said that it handled 17.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in Q1. Gross container volume fell by 1.7 percent year-on-year on a reported basis, and up 0.3 percent on a like-for-like basis,” Arabian Business reports.

Qatar/Vodafone – “Vodafone Qatar reported a net profit of QR48m for the first quarter of 2020, representing an increase of 10 percent year-on-year; the company’s highest achieved quarterly net profit,” The Peninsula reports.

Syria/Covid-19 – “As Damascus confirmed its forty-second case of the coronavirus and third death from the resulting disease, the government’s transparency has been questionable, as the slow rate of growth of the virus that causes COVID-19 in Syria has not followed the same exponential curve seen in most other countries. ‘The problem is that there is no access to official information, the relevant ministries do not share numbers,’ said Mohamad Katoub, the policy and advocacy manager for the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression,” Syria Direct reports.

 

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 22

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 22

Top business stories from Sub-Saharan Africa from the pages of the regional press – April 22

South African Airways – “South African Airways (SAA) is set to lay off all of its employees at the end of April. A document detailing the airline’s severance package, obtained by Bloomberg, shows  that 4,700 employees will leave the company by the end of this month. The collapsing airline will reportedly make sales of its assets to foot the salary pay-outs,” Bloomberg/The Standard reports.

Africa/Covid-19 – “COVID-19 has now spread to all corners of Africa and, as the rate of infections increase, the continent’s economies are coming to a crashing halt, risking the reversal of two decades of economic progress. Trade has been the heartbeat of Africa’s economic success, with the UK alone importing £12.7bn in goods and services from Africa in 2016, much of which from the agriculture sector,” The Africa Report reports.

Nigeria Oil – “For weeks now Nigeria has been engaged in an usual battle to find enough buyers for its oil, and now global storage for crude oil is filling up with the harsh reality coming back home soon to hit homes, businesses and jobs as government finances collapse in Africa’s most populous nation. Tens and probably hundreds of millions of barrels of Nigeria’s flagship crude grade Bonny Light are held up inside ocean-going vessels in international waters around the world and buyers, when they come, are offering as low as $12 a barrel in the physical market, cheaper than a basket of tomatoes,” Business Day 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.

East Africa – “All five East African Community countries should brace for drastic drops in their economic growth rates this year as a direct result of the global coronavirus crisis. The International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook projections for 2020 pegs Kenya and Tanzania’s respective GDP growth rates at one per cent and two per cent respectively in 2020, down from 5.6 and 6.3 per cent respectively in 2019. Uganda will maintain a 3.5 growth rate this year, compared with 4.9 per cent in 2019,” The East African reports.

South Africa/Aviation – “The South African government will work with trade unions to ensure that a new financially viable and competitive airline emerges from South African Airways (SAA) business rescue process, the public enterprises ministry said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports.

S. Africa/Super Group – “S&P Global Ratings downgraded the long-term national scale rating of Super Group from zaAAA to zaAA due to the effects of Covid-19 and its negative impact on the transport and motor industries worldwide,” The Star reports.

Ghana Ratings –  “Fitch Ratings has affirmed Ghana’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘B’ with a Stable Outlook,” Fitch Ratings reports.

West Africa Migration – “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected mobility across West Africa. As of the end of March, borders remained open only in Benin, the Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone. International air travel was also almost entirely halted; only Benin and Togo were still open to international flights, and Sierra Leone’s airport was open with restrictions. Border closures have stranded travelers in a variety of locations across the region,” ReliefWeb reports.

East Africa Locusts – As the East African Community partner states are continuing to grapple with the effects of Covid-19, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned of a possible re-invasion of locusts in the region,” The Tanzania Daily News reports.

Nigeria/Covid-19 – “Confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus reported in Nigeria jumped by 117 on Tuesday night, the highest daily figure reported by NCDC since it recorded the first case in February,” Business Day reports.

Kenya Debt – “The amount of debt falling due this year has dropped by Sh29 billion after reconciliations passed through the supplementary budget by the National Treasury. The drop has revised what Kenya planned to pay this year to Sh253.2 billion, down from the Sh282.3 billion that was contained in the original budget for 2019/20,” The Daily Nation reports.

Uganda Reserves – “Bank of Uganda has said foreign reserves are expected to decline from 4.2 months import cover to 3.5 months. In his presentation during the Stanbic Bank webcast discussion on the impact of Covid-19 last week, Dr Adam Mugume, the Bank of Uganda executive director for research, said there was need to mobilise resources to support foreign reserves that are expected to take a hit due to Covid-19. The decline, he said, will also be experienced in the case international reserves that will fall to 3.6 months import cover in the 020/21 financial year,” The Daily Monitor reports.

Zambia Gold – “THE Bank of Zambia (BoZ) says preparations to start keeping gold as an alternative foreign reserve with a mining firm have advanced,” Zambia Daily Mail reports.

Zimbabwe Cotton – “Stakeholders in Zimbabwe’s cotton industry are seeking a subsidy on cotton producer price during the forthcoming season after international lint prices crushed to historic levels due to coronavirus,” The Herald reports.

 

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