President Moon, Ruling Party Win Landslide in South Korea: Press Coverage

President Moon, Ruling Party Win Landslide in South Korea: Press Coverage

A snapshot of South Korean and regional press coverage of the re-election of President Moon Jae-In – April 16

South Korean Press

Genera Election – “The ruling bloc achieved a sweeping victory in the general election, Wednesday, winning nearly three-fifths of the 300 National Assembly seats. The landslide win has made the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), and its ‘satellite’ offshoot Civil Together, an unprecedented political presence that will be able to pass any bill without the cooperation of other parties ― except for constitutional revisions that require a two-thirds majority ― a huge boost for the Moon Jae-in administration,” Korea Times reports

Economy – “The landslide victory of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) in Wednesday’s general election will give an impetus to President Moon Jae-in’s key economic policies, such as income-led growth, fiscal expansion and control over chaebol, according to economic experts, Thursday. Amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, the experts said the government will keep trying to play a bigger role after garnering nationwide support,” Korea Times reports.

Politics – “The ruling Democratic Party (DP) of President Moon Jae-in won a landslide in Wednesday’s general elections, securing a solid majority in the 300-member National Assembly with a satellite party. The DP and Citizen Party (CP) won 180 seats, the first time since Korea introduced its current political system in 1987 that any single political group has won three-fifths of the legislature – enough to pass any bills other than a constitutional amendment,” Korea JoongAng Daily reports.

Politics – “This year’s parliamentary elections in South Korea, held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, solidified the dominance of its two major parties but laid bare the deep-rooted regionalism and saw a record number of female candidates taking constituencies. Although electoral reforms led to the overcrowding of the field, with 35 parties putting forward candidates, the race was between the governing Democratic Party and the main opposition United Future Party, and the former came out with an unprecedented sweep of 180 seats out of 300 up for grabs,” Korea Herald reports.

Regional Press

General Election – “South Korea’s left-leaning ruling party won a landslide victory in Wednesday’s general election, partial results showed, after the coronavirus pandemic turned the political tide in President Moon Jae-in’s favor. The country uses a mix of first-past-the-post seats and proportional representation, but even before all the individual constituencies were decided, Moon’s Democratic party had taken 163 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, an absolute majority. Its sister party was expected to win another 17 proportional representation seats — due to be declared later Thursday — for a total of 180,” AFP/Japan Today reports.

General Election – South Korea’s ruling party has secured a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, in what is viewed as a huge boost to the power of President Moon Jae-in. Data from the National Election Commission yesterday showed that the liberal Democratic Party (DP) and its affiliated Together Citizens’ Party won a combined 180 seats in the 300-member Parliament, a majority that will allow it to push through most Bills. This is the largest majority that any party has won since 1987,” Singapore Straits Times reports.

Economy – “If South Korea’s president can leverage his success fighting the coronavirus to help his party win Wednesday’s elections, it could give him fresh momentum to reshape an economy reeling from the pandemic. Moon Jae-in’s success in containing one of the first flashpoints of the virus outside China has revived his approval ratings and will likely help his Democratic Party of Korea keep control of the National Assembly. The crisis has also brought Moon’s opposition closer to him in support of economic stimulus, with the only big question now being the amount,” Bloomberg/Japan Times reports.

Policy – The thumping win by President Moon Jae-in’s left-leaning Democratic Party in Wednesday’s National Assembly election puts the government in a strong position to push ahead on key policy objectives,” Nikkei Asian Review reports.

 

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 16

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 16

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 16

Lebanon Economy – “The IMF has projected that Lebanon’s gross domestic product will contract 12 percent in 2020, the largest contraction since the end of the country’s 15-year civil war. Lebanon is currently in the midst of ongoing financial and currency crises, and the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has further damaged the country’s wilting economy. The country saw a 6.5 percent contraction in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook titled ‘The Great Lockdown’ published in April. In 1990, the year Lebanon’s civil war came to a close, the GDP growth backslid 13.4 percent, according to IMF data,” Al-Arabiya English reports.

Regional – “Debt levels, unemployment and budget deficits will spike as the Middle East endures a coronavirus-led recession, piling pain on economies already hit by conflicts and an oil price slump, the IMF said on Wednesday. Almost all countries in the Middle East and North Africa will see their economies contract as they lose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues, the global lender said,” AFP/Jordan Times reports.

Saudi Arabia Bonds – Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) announced that the kingdom’s bond sale to raise $7 billion has been heavily oversubscribed. The dollar-denominated bond was more than 7 times oversubscribed with total orders amounting to more than $54 billion, MoF said in a statement. The kingdom has issued a total of $7 billion, consisting of three tranches,” Zawya reports.

Aviation/Etihad – “Etihad Airways will operate a reduced network of scheduled passenger flights from May 1 to June 30, subject to UAE government travel restrictions being lifted, and the carrier aims to gradually return to full schedule as controls are lifted globally. ‘The monumental challenges being faced by all airlines, and our customers, have been beyond measure,’ Tony Douglas, group chief executive, Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement on Thursday. ‘However, we remain cautiously optimistic and will push ahead with our plans to resume normal flying, while striving to better serve and support our customers and our employees,'” The National reports.

Egypt Economy – “The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department Jihad Azour said on Wednesday that the economic reform program Egypt launched prior to the coronavirus pandemic has helped it absorb economic shocks, uplift economic growth rates, and boost the country’s banking sector. Azour said that the tourism and export sectors, as well as Egyptian expat remittances, which are a key source of hard currency for the country, are the most affected by the crisis,” Ahram Online reports.

UAE/China – “The ongoing coronavirus pandemic will likely be a catalyst for Dubai and the UAE to diversify its supply chain beyond China, with which it has been largely reliant, according to a senior official from the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF). At the moment, China is the UAE’s leading trade partner, accounting for more than 9 percent of the UAE’s non-oil trade. According to Peter Noack, the DFF’s executive director for future foresight and imagination, the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions from China may lead to the UAE and other countries re-assessing the diversify of its suppliers and trade partners,” Arabian Business reports.

Oil Demand – OPEC on Thursday again slashed its forecast for global oil demand this year due to the coronavirus outbreak and said the reduction may not be the last. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries now expects global demand to contract by 6.9 million barrels per day, or 6.9%, in 2020, it said in a monthly report. Last month, OPEC expected a small increase in demand of 60,000 bpd,” Reuters reports.

GCC Oil/India – “India will divert 19 million barrels of Gulf oil from state-run firms to strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs), skipping direct purchases from producers to help refiners get rid of extra oil as their storage is full, three sources said. India’s decision to divert cargoes meant for state refiners will not soak up excess oil from the market following the demand collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but it will help local companies to avoid demurrage charges at a time of expensive freight,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran’s official death toll from the new coronavirus rose by 92 to reach 4,869 on Thursday but a parliamentary report said the actual number could be much higher. Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur, speaking on state television, also said the total number of cases of people infected with the coronavirus has reached 77,995. However, a report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry,” Reuters reports.

Iran – “Almost five billion dollars of the Islamic Republic’s money is missing, says the Director of the Supreme Audit Court of Iran (SAC), Adel Azar. Based on the official rate of 42,000 rials for one dollar, the Islamic Republic government distributes billions of cheap dollars among local importers to buy essential goods from overseas. Many of these importers are politically well-connected individuals,” The Baghdad Post reports.

Tunisia Economy – “Tunisia’s vital tourism sector could lose $1.4 billion and 400,000 jobs this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, an official document showed, as the country seeks a loan guarantee from bilateral partners to issue sovereign bonds this year. In a letter sent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was reviewed by Reuters, Tunisia’s central bank governor and finance minister said the country’s economy would shrink by up to 4.3 percent, the steepest drop since independence in 1956,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 15

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 15

Top business stories from Sub-Saharan Africa from the pages of the regional press – April 15

Regional Forecast – “The global coronavirus pandemic is going to send Africa into its first recession in 25 years, as economies get battered by lockdowns. According to the World Bank Africa’s Pulse report, the continent’s economic growth will also drop from 2.4 per cent in 2019 to between -2.1 to -5.1 per cent in 2020, impacted by the virus outbreak,” The East African reports.

Regional/Covid-19 – “In a report to be released later this week, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) outlines different scenarios and outcomes as well as the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had across the continent. The detailed report estimates 300,000 deaths in a best case scenario and 3m in a worse case one. In a call with African Business where a preview of the report was presented, the authors said they thought that the death estimate would be lower given the early and intense interventions taken by African governments,” African Business reports.

Nigeria Economy – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday projected Nigeria’s economy would contract by -3.4 percent in 2020 from 2.2 percent in 2019. The Washington-based Fund expects the economy to grow by 2.4 percent in 2021. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday projected Nigeria’s economy would contract by -3.4 percent in 2020 from 2.2 percent in 2019. The Washington-based Fund expects the economy to grow by 2.4 percent in 2021,” Business Day reports.

Uganda Economy – “Uganda could emerge from the COVID-19 crisis as the most resilient compared to the other countries in the region, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said. In the latest report of the global outlook for 2020, the IMF says Uganda’s growth will be 3.5% this year down from 5% in 2019. This is far better than Kenya’s that will drop from 5.6% in 2019 to 1% this year. Tanzania will only grow at 2% this year after dropping from 6.3% last year,” The Independent reports.

South African Airways – “Regional carrier South African Airways could be one of the first victims of the storm that has hit the global airline industry as it has been denied any further funding by its government owner. The national carrier must now look for other ways to recover from the coronavirus crisis and a local form of bankruptcy protection. SAA’s external debt is guaranteed by the state in the event of the carrier’s collapse,” Business Day reports.

Ethiopian Airlines – “Ethiopian Airlines on Tuesday announced it had lost $550 million in revenue since January attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, said the airlines were forced to suspend passenger flights to 91 international destinations due to the global pandemic,” The East African reports.

Zambia/IMF – “Zambia’s only option is to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as years of excessive borrowing coupled with the effect of the coronavirus pandemic have left it struggling to pay its debts, the main opposition leader said. The country’s eurobonds have been among the world’s worst performing this year and its currency has depreciated by 23% against the dollar as the global Covid-19 pandemic halts supply chains, forcing down the price of copper that accounts for most of Zambia’s exports. The economy will shrink by 3.5% this year, according to the IMF,” Business Day South Africa reports.

Zimbabwe/IMF – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive board has approved an immediate debt service relief to 25 member countries as part of measures to alleviate the economic impact of the deadly coronavirus. Zimbabwe is not on the list of beneficiary countries having cleared its US$108 million arrears in 2016 and is now working on clearing about US$2.2bn owed to the World Bank and African Development Bank,” Zimbabwe Chronicle reports.

South Africa Economy – Covid-19 has had a sudden and catastrophic effect on the global economy and South Africa has not been spared. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to contract sharply by –3% in 2020, which is much worse than during the 2008–2009 financial crisis. The South African Reserve Bank said on Tuesday that it expects the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 to contract by 6.1%, compared with the -0.2% estimated just three weeks ago when the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) last met. GDP is then expected to grow by 2.2% in 2021 and by 2.7% in 2022,” The Mail and Guardian reports.

Cities –  “As part of its analysis to inform COVID-19 policy responses, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), calls for adequate consideration of the vulnerability of city economies as African governments consolidate efforts and define stimulus measures to mitigate national and regional economic impacts. As engines and drivers of economic growth, cities face considerable risks in light of COVID-19 with implications for the continent’s resilience to the pandemic,” states Thokozile Ruzvidzo Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division of the ECA. Africa’s cities are home to 600 million people and account for more than 50% of the region’s GDP. This is even higher at more than 70% for countries such as Botswana, Uganda, Tunisia and Kenya. A third of national GPD (31%) comes on average from the largest city in African countries. As such, the economic contribution of cities in the region is far higher than their share of population,” New Business Ethiopia reports.

Humanitarian – “The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has selected Addis Ababa as a humanitarian shipment hub for Africa to distribute medical supplies with Ethiopian Cargo. The first cargo flight arrived in Ethiopia on April 13 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) loaded with aprons, face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks and thermometers procured by the World Health Organization (WHO) for distribution to 32 African countries. In association with UN WFP, the government of Ethiopia opened a new hub inside Bole International Airport from which Covid-19 supplies, equipment, and humanitarian workers will be transported by air across Ethiopia and Africa,” Logistics Update Africa reports.

Africa 2021 – “Africa is expected to reverse an economic contraction linked to the coronavirus crisis next year after containment measures are eased, the International Monetary Fund said, but the impact will be felt for years to come. Sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product is on track to shrink this year by 1.6% — its worst performance on record — because of the combined effects of the disease and plummeting oil and commodities prices. That is around 5.2% lower than the IMF’s pre-pandemic forecast,” Reuters reports.

 

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 15

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 15

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 15

Regional Outlook – “The Middle East and North Africa economy will contract by 3.3 percent this year, the biggest slump in four decades, hammered by the coronavirus and low oil prices, the IMF said on Tuesday. In its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund said that the damage would be much worse than the region’s last major shock, the 2008-09 global financial crisis, when it managed to post modest growth,” AFP/Arab News reports.

Oil Price – “Oil fell 4% towards $28 a barrel on Wednesday, pressured by reports of persistent oversupply and collapsing demand due to global coronavirus-related lockdowns and a lack of coordinated oil purchases for strategic storage. The International Energy Agency (IEA) on Wednesday forecast a 29 million barrel per day (bpd) dive in April oil demand to levels not seen in 25 years and said no output cut could fully offset the near-term falls facing the market,” Reuters reports.

Shipping/Hormuz Security – “A Hong Kong-flagged handy product tanker at anchorage in Fujairah was boarded by armed men yesterday and told to head to Iran, a flare-up of tensions in the Strait of Hormuz not seen for a number of months. Security consultants Ambrey report that four skiffs carrying armed personnel came alongside the ship moored in the vicinity of Fujairah Outer Anchorage and ordered the crew to lower a ladder, then embarked. Prior to the incident, the handysize tanker had been displaying on AIS that it was destined for Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. However, this destination was then changed to Iran. The vessel then moved within three nautical miles of the port of Kooh Mobarak, Iran,” Splash247 reports.

Libya Economy – “The forced decline in oil and gas production has caused the loss of more than $ 4.1 billion USD since January 17th, with current oil production in Libya down at 80,510 barrels per day, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) has said,” The Libya Observer reports.

Iran/IMF – “The International Monetary Fund is still assessing Iran’s request for $5 billion in emergency financing in a process which is taking time partly because of the IMF’s limited engagement with Tehran in recent times, a senior IMF official told Reuters. Iran, the Middle East country worst affected by the new coronavirus outbreak, approached the IMF last month to request the $5 billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative, an emergency programme that aids countries faced with sudden shocks such as natural disasters,” Reuters reports.

GCC Bonds – “The bond market in the GCC remains resilient despite the coronavirus pandemic, with issuance from the region likely to top $100 billion this year, according to Franklin Templeton. The fund manager, which at the beginning of this year forecast issuance by Gulf sovereign and corporates entities would hit $95bn this year, has revised its estimate higher to $105bn, Mohieddine Kronfol, chief investment officer for global sukuk and Mena fixed income, told a media conference call on Wednesday. Any local currency issuance, which stood at $40bn last year, would be in addition to foreign currency deals, he noted,” The National reports.

UAE/NMC – “ADCB has initiated criminal legal proceeding with the Attorney-General in Abu Dhabi against a number of individuals in relation to NMC Health Group, the UAE’s largest healthcare operator…The charges relate to a missing $4 billion plus that was taken out by NMC Health from local and international banks — and without any of that amount figuring in the company’s books,” Gulf News reports.

Oman – “Oman told ministries and other government units to cut spending further and announced measures to support the private sector and safeguard Omani jobs from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, state media said on Wednesday. The finance ministry directed all ministries and civilian government units to reduce approved liquidity for development budgets by 10%. It said state companies would no longer be set up for business activity, giving priority to the private sector,” Reuters/Zawya reports.

Iran/Hotels – “The new coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, has inflicted 30 trillion rials ($187 million) in losses on hotels, the Iranian Hoteliers Association estimates. Hotels in Iran, in addition lodgings and guesthouses, have had to shut down since the spread of COVID-19, as they were among the first to be affected by the outbreak,” Financial Tribune reports.

Saudi/Newcastle Utd – “A potential takeover of English Premiership side Newcastle by a Saudi Arabian-backed group appeared to move closer on Tuesday after legal documents were lodged with the UK’s regulator of companies. But several other proposed bids to buy the club from Mike Ashley have all come to nothing during the controversial British businessman’s 13 years as owner of the northeast side,” Arabian Business reports.

Egypt Economy – “It wasn’t unexpected, but the ban on visitors to Egypt’s famed Pyramids amid the coronavirus pandemic still came as a shock to souvenir vendor Sayed el-Gibri and other tourism workers. As the virus spread, the government stepped up preventive measures, culminating in a ban on all international flights in and out of the country. There was little el-Gibri could do. ‘Everything collapsed in a flash,’ he said as he stared at the almost empty ancient complex in Giza, just outside of Cairo. The worldwide pandemic could financially drown the vulnerable in Egypt. The partial lockdown threatens the livelihoods of many of Egypt´s 100 million residents, one of three of whom were already living in poverty, according to government figures,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Egypt/Wheat – “Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, bought a smaller quantity of wheat than anticipated on Tuesday at a rare international purchasing tender held as the country’s local buying season of the grain begins. The state grain buyer said on Tuesday it bought 120,000 tonnes of Russian wheat as the country looks to bolster its strategic reserves amid the coronavirus outbreak,” Ahram Online reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 14

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 14

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional press – April 14

Morocco – “State fund CDG said that the losses due to coronavirus could amount to $5.4 billion with Morocco expecting a recession in 2020,” The North Africa Post reports.

Bahrain/Investcorp – “Investcorp, a Bahrain-headquartered global alternative investment manager, has announced the first closing at $275 million, of its Asia food brands private equity platform. The platform is jointly owned and managed by Investcorp, China Resources, one of the world’s largest owners and distributors of food brands in Greater China and Fung Strategic Holdings Limited, a member of Fung Investments, the private investment arm of the families of Victor and William Fung,” Asharq Alawsat reports.

Saudi Arabia/E-Commerce – “Online payments in the Kingdom jumped by more than 400 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported — an indication of a significant shift toward online shopping in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The number of online payments reached 7.3 million, valued at SR1.79 billion ($475.81 million),” Arab News reports.

Oman/Budget – “Oman’s finance ministry has told all government agencies to cut their operating budgets by at least 10 percent this year to counter a slide in oil prices, including by reviewing salaries and benefits. The move comes after the government cut the budget allocated to government agencies for 2020 by 5 percent last month in response to the financial challenges the oil-exporting nation faces,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.

Syria/Remittances – “As much of the world remains confined to their houses, Syrians in the diaspora are struggling to generate income and find ways to send money back home. ‘I’ve been trying to send my family $300 for weeks now, but can’t figure out how,’ a Syrian from Damascus who is living in Jordan and asked for their name not to be mentioned told Syria Direct. Usually, the Damascene would ask a friend traveling to Syria to transport the money for them, but after the closure of the Syria-Jordan border crossing, that is no longer an option,” Syria Direct reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak in the country has reached 4683, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV. Ninety-eight people have died in the past 24 hours, he said,” Reuters reports.

UAE/Aviation – “Air Arabia and Etihad have no plans to delay the launch of a low-cost Abu Dhabi-based airline in a joint venture – but the timing will depend on market conditions, an Air Arabia spokesman said on Tuesday. Air Arabia Chief Executive Adel Ali said in November that the airline would be operational in the second quarter of 2020. However, the new coronavirus outbreak has since brought international travel to a near halt,” Reuters/Gulf News reports.

UAE/Retail – Dubai-based retail giant Majid Al Futtaim, which operates Mall of the Emirates, has waived rent fees for its tenants for the duration of the Covid-19 government mandated store closures. In a statement to Arabian Business, it said it is keen to help retailers retain working capital while the shopping malls are closed,” Arabian Business reports.

Jordan – “Jordan’s banks responded to central bank calls to cut interest rates charged to small and medium sized firms and individuals feeling the effects of the coronavirus crisis on Monday with a 1.5 per cent reduction from the end of April. Monday’s interest rate move announced by Jordan’s Banking Association, which represents commercial banks, follows prodding by the central bank after monetary authorities cut key benchmark interest rates in mid-March to 2.5 per cent from 3.5 per cent,” Reuters/The National reports.

Regional/Sukuk – “The sukuk market will see a significant reduction in issuance volumes in 2020. The drop in oil prices and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic will take a toll on important sectors in core Islamic finance countries, including in real estate, hospitality, and consumer-related businesses, S&P Global Ratings noted yesterday The rating agency believes that government measures will result in lower issuance from both corporate entities and central banks. In addition,  most government issuers may turn to conventional bond markets rather than issue sukuk as they grapple with the impact of weaker economic environment on their budgets,” The Peninsula reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 11-13

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 11-13

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional press – April 11-13

Egypt/Tourism – “Egypt’s Minister of Planning Hala El-Said said on Monday that tourism revenues in the current fiscal year (2019/2020) are expected to reach about $11 billion instead of the $16 billion expected before the outbreak of the coronavirus. The minister did note, however, that a degree of growth rate recovery is expected by the second half of the upcoming fiscal year,” Ahram Online reports.

Oil Prices – “The minimal impact on oil prices from a global deal for record output cuts showed that oil producers have a mountain to climb if they are to restore market balance as the coronavirus shreds demand and sends stockpiles soaring, industry watchers said. After several days of deliberation, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia hammered out an agreement to cut output by 9.7 million barrels per day in May and June, equal to nearly 10% of global supply. Other major producers like the United States and Canada gave indirect commitments to cuts as well, playing up forecasts for drastic production declines in coming months due to the free-fall in prices,” Reuters reports.

Saudi Arabia/Ports – “The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) said on Monday it had signed an agreement worth more than $1.9 billion with Saudi Global Ports (SGP) to build and operate container terminals at a port in Dammam. SGP will build, operate and transfer the container terminals on a 30-year contract. The project will increase the capacity at King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam by more than 120 percent to reach 7.5 million containers and add more than 4,000 jobs in the ports and logistical sectors, the Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser said,” Arab News reports.

Saudi/Egypt/Vodafone – “Saudi Telecom Co, the kingdom’s biggest telecoms operator, said on Monday it needed more time to complete processes related to a planned deal to buy Vodafone Group’s 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt. Saudi Telecom in January struck a preliminary deal to buy the stake for US $2.4 billion, seeking growth in the Arab world’s most populous nation,” Reuters/Egypt Independent reports.

Saudi Arabia –  “Saudi Arabia’s oil revenue could decline by 145 billion Saudi riyals based on an oil price of $40 per barrel for the benchmark WTI crude, said Al Rajhi Capital in a report Monday. After multiple rounds of meetings, OPEC+ and other oil producing nations decided to cut oil production by record levels to help balance oil market. As per the decision, around 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) will be cut, starting from 1 May 2020 for two months. Thereafter, from July to December 2020, the cut will taper to approximately 7.6 million bpd. From January 2021 to April 2022 the cut would be approximately 5.6 million bpd,” Zawya reports.

MENA Oil Consumption – “The Middle East’s consumption of oil products from gasoline to jet fuel will add to pressures on global oil demand for this year as countries led by the energy-dependent Gulf region face economic slowdown, extended lockdowns and an oil price crash that will slam budgets already constrained by the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for oil products in the region will drop by a record 2.9% this year, with jet fuel/kerosene consumption plunging 15% and gasoline use falling by almost 6%, according to latest estimates from S&P Global Platts Analytics. The region covering 14 countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Iran had contributed to global oil demand growth in 27 of the past 29 years. This year, global oil demand is set to contract for the first time in 11 years,” S&P Global Platt’s reports.

UAE/NMC – “NMC Health, which has been placed under a UK court-appointed administration, announced on Monday the formation of a new board of directors that has been entrusted with the immediate priority of implementing corporate governance changes in the group.
Richard Fleming, Mark Firmin and Ben Cairns of Alvarez & Marsal Europe, the joint administrators, have appointed four new non-executive directors with broad international restructuring experience to provide more robust governance and oversee the work with the management teams in the individual NMC businesses,” Khaleej Times reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “President Hassan Rouhani said the ban on inter-province travels placed to curb coronavirus transmission will be lifted on April 20, as Iran’s daily infection tally declines. During the meeting of the coronavirus taskforce chaired by Rouhani on Sunday, the president announced that restrictions on road trips across Iran’s 31 provinces will be removed starting next Monday, President.ir reported,” Financial Tribune reports.

Saudi/Asia Spot Price – “Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant Aramco has set the May price for its Arab light crude oil to Asia at a discount of $7.3 to the Oman/Dubai average, down $4.2 a barrel from April, according to a document seen by Reuters on Monday,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.

Libya/OPEC – “OPEC is to exempt Libya from a plan to slow down oil production for a period of two months, starting next May, due to the production lost through the closure of ports and fields by pro-Haftar militias east of Libya,” Libya Observer reports.

Iraq/Electricity – “The Iraqi government on Sunday announced it was taking ‘measures’ regarding national electricity production in preparation for increased demand in the summer months ahead. Over 16 years after the fall of the Saddam Hussein-led regime, the Iraqi government is yet to address low electricity supply in the country. Baghdad meets a part of its demand by purchasing resources it needs to supply its power plants from its neighbors like Iran,” Kurdistan24 reports.

Algeria – Algeria faces economic and social turmoil if crude prices continue to collapse, experts have warned, with the oil-dependent country reeling from a year of popular protests, political turmoil and now, coronavirus. The North African country is an example of how hydrocarbon economies are likely to face unrest if oil prices remain at near two-decade lows due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a price war between key players Saudi Arabia and Russia,” AFP/Gulf News reports.

East Asia Business Telegraph Weekly – April 12

East Asia Business Telegraph Weekly – April 12

A weekly round-up of leading business/economic stories shaping East Asia from the pages of the regional press – April 12

Aviation/Air Asia – “The founders of AirAsia Group Bhd will not take salaries and its staff has agreed to an as much as 75% cut in pay due to the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the airline, its chief executive said late on Saturday. Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said in an Instagram post that he and Executive Chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun ‘will not be taking a salary during this period,’ while staff from across the business ‘have accepted temporary pay reductions of anywhere between 15-75%, depending on seniority, to share the impact this is having on our business.’ The budget airline has no incoming revenue and 96% of its fleet is grounded, Fernandes said,” Reuters/Edge Markets Malaysia reports.

Japan/Uniqlo – “Fast Retailing, owner of casual clothing chain Uniqlo, forecast a 44% fall in full-year (September-August) profit after the coronavirus outbreak hit sales in China and dealt a setback to its ambitions of conquering the U.S. and European markets. The pandemic briefly disrupted Uniqlo’s supply chain throughout China and forced it to shut over half of its 750 stores in the country, the company’s biggest growth market in recent years. ‘This is the biggest crisis for humanity since the end of the war,’ CEO Tadashi Yanai told a news conference on Thursday,” Japan Today reports.

China/Autos – “China’s passenger car market saw a strong month-on-month rebound in March as business resumption gained momentum amid further containment of the novel coronavirus epidemic. Retail sales surged more than 300 percent from February to 1.04 million units, and 90 percent of dealers were back on track for services and mostly online sales, the China Passenger Car Association said yesterday,” Shanghai Daily reports.

China/Hubei – “Chinese e-commerce giant JD announced it will invest more than 6 billion yuan ($849 million) in Hubei, the hardest-hit region by the COVID-19 outbreak on the Chinese mainland, over the next three years. The investment is part of a bid to help boost the economic recovery and development of local small and medium-sized enterprises in the area,” China Daily reports.

Shipping – “Container shipping companies are cancelling sailings and merging routes to cut losses and stay afloat amid a drop in demand and a worsening outlook for global trade because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of “blanked” or cancelled sailings rose last week from 45 to 212, according to a report by shipping consultancy Sea-Intelligence on Monday. The report added that the largest capacity withdrawal was from the Asia-Europe routes, where 29 to 34 per cent of capacity has been removed,” The South China Morning Post reports.

World Trade – “Global trade could plummet by a third this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Trade Organization said Wednesday, warning the deepest recession ‘of our lifetimes’ could be on the horizon. ‘COVID-19 has completely upended the global economy and with it international trade,’ WTO chief Roberto Azevedo told reporters in a virtual briefing from Geneva. The global trade body was projecting that ‘trade in 2020 will fall steeply in every region of the world, and basically across all sectors of the economy.’ he said,” AFP/Jakarta Post reports.

S. Korea/Doosan – “Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction, as we know, is in deep financial trouble. The company, which has staggered through years of growing losses, has finally reached out to the government for help. Its ballooning debt level and lack of new contracts have taken a toll on the Doosan Group, the 15th largest conglomerate in Korea, with even distant affiliates taking hits to their credit ratings. For the past several years, good news has been hard to come by at Doosan Heavy Industries. Domestic energy policies have turned away from coal and nuclear power — historically, the construction firm’s bread and butter. Similarly, the international company has suffered from a global shift toward renewable energy sources and pivoted away from traditional ones.” Korea JoongAng Daily reports.

S. Korea/KIA – “Kia Motors Corp., South Korea’s second-biggest carmaker, is considering temporarily suspending some of its plants in the country later this month due to the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, industry sources said Sunday. It is planning to halt operations of three factories — two in Gwangmyeong, south of Seoul, and one in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul — from April 23-29, according to the sources. The company runs nine domestic manufacturing facilities, including one as a joint venture. The three plants produce most of Kia Motors’ export vehicles, including the Sportage and Soul,” The Korea Herald reports.

Indonesia/Coronavirus – “Indonesia has imposed curbs on public transport ahead of the annual exodus to home villages that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the government said on Sunday. About 75 million Indonesians usually stream home from bigger cities at the end of Ramadan, due this year at the end of May, but health experts have warned against a surge in cases after a slow government response masked the scale of the outbreak,” Reuters reports.

Taiwan – “If the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lasts beyond the summer, Taiwan could find it hard to see its economy grow by even just 1 percent, business leaders said Friday (April 10). Most forecasts from before the pandemic saw Taiwan’s Gross Domestic Product expand by at least 2 percent during 2020, though as the virus started affecting more countries, economists and institutes started adjusting the figure downward to just above or under 2 percent,” Taiwan News reports.

Aviation/Vietnam/Cambodia – Vietnam’s national flag carrier is divesting its stake in Cambodia Angkor Air and has also signed a contract to sell five aircraft. This information was revealed in post-audit notes to Vietnam Airlines’ audited 2019 consolidated financial statement released Friday, which explains how the company has been impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic this year,” VN Express reports.

Singapore/Digital Payments – “The coronavirus pandemic is likely to help drive digital payments’ adoption in Singapore, with non-cash payments expected to take a 54% market share in 2020, a report by GlobalData revealed. Coupled with the support of the government, cashless payments are expected to grow exponentially in the country, eventually taking more than half of market share at 61% in 2023,” Singapore Business review reports.

Philippines/Coronavirus – “The number of Covid-19 cases in the country soared to 4,648 as the death toll also rose to 297, with the highest number of deaths so far in a day – 50 — reported. In a virtual presser, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that as of 4p.m. Sunday (April 12), the Department of Health (DOH) reported 220 new cases (PH4,429-PH4,648),” Business Mirror reports.

Petrochemicals – “Energy traders have chartered at least ten clean tankers to load refined products — primarily the blendstock naphtha — in the Americas this month for shipment to Asia, where Covid-19 containment measures are loosening and petrochemical plants are starting up,” Argus reports.

 

Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 10

Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 10

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.

Pakistan/Capital Flight – “Over 79 per cent of all foreign investment in the country’s capital markets — including bonds and equities — has fled the country in the last 40 days. The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) latest data issued on Thursday showed the pace of outflows from the country’s treasury bills, Pakistan Investment Bonds (PIBs) and equity markets has accelerated,” Dawn reports.

Pakistan/IMF – “Pakistan is going to get $1.4 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next week to boost its foreign exchange reserves and get some budgetary support in the wake of the economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government requested the IMF last month for a low-cost, fast-disbursing loan under the fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to deal with the adverse economic impact of COVID-19,” Financial Daily reports.

India/Coronavirus– “Despite India reporting nearly 200 COVID-19 deaths in last one month, the country’s death rate of about 3% is lower than the global rate, and also much lower than several European countries like the UK, Italy and Spain, according to some medical experts. India had reported its first COVID-19 death from Karnataka on 10 March. Suggesting that a relatively young Indian population may be one of the reasons for the low mortality rate due to the pandemic, experts have attributed the high number of fatalities in countries like Italy and Spain to their elderly population which are more susceptible to developing complications after contracting the infection,” LiveMint India reports.

India – “As many as 400 million Indians, including migrant workers and daily wage earners, are at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty because of the covid-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said. The Geneva-based body’s warning comes at a time when the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across India and a complete relaxation of the lockdown post April 14 looks bleak,” LiveMint India reports

Sri Lanka/Hambantota – “Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, run by China’s CM Ports group said it has stocked up on bunkering fuel to supplyto supply ships passing the island as the global shipping industry is hit by the fallout of Coronavirus. Bunkering operations are run with Chinese petroleum firm Sinopec,” EconomyNext reports.

India/Tycoons – “The only Indian tycoon whose net worth is unscathed as the deadly coronavirus roils markets worldwide can thank nation’s hoarders with millions scrambling to stock up on staples amid the world’s biggest isolation effort. The net worth of Radhakishan Damani, who controls Avenue Supermarts Ltd., has surged 5% this year to $10.2 billion, singling him out as the only billionaire with gains among the 12 richest Indians whose wealth is tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Shares of Avenue Supermarts, which contribute nearly all of the wealth to Damani’s net worth, have advanced 18% this year,” Hindustan Times reports.

Bangladesh/IMF  – “Bangladesh is seeking $700 million in financial backing from the International Monetary Fund after rolling out its biggest-ever stimulus package. The government hopes the move will prevent the coronavirus pandemic from ravaging its trademark macroeconomic stability,” Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Australia/N. Zealand – “Australia and neighboring New Zealand, almost unique among anglophone countries, have so far been successful in largely suppressing the spread of Covid-19 within their countries, and in particular, keeping deaths low. Australia, with a population of 25 million, has had just over 6,000 infections, and 50 deaths. New Zealand, a country of 5 million people, which closed its borders the day before Australia, has had 1,200 infections and so far only one death from Covid-19,” The Guardian reports.

Oil Markets – “Opec and non-Opec oil producing countries at a crucial ministerial meeting held via a video conference on Thursday agreed to slash oil output by a massive 10 million bpd until July, and a further eight million bpd cut through the end of 2020. And after much wrangling, Mexico – the lone nation resisting any deal during the marathon talks – finally agreed, thanks to intervention from US President Donald Trump, who  “generously” agreed to cut American oil output by an additional 250,000 bpd to help Mexico contribute to global reductions, his Mexican counterpart said,” Dubai-based Khaleej Times reports.

World Trade – “The decline in world trade due to Covid-19 will likely exceed the trade slump brought by the global financial crisis of 2008‑09, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Wednesday, with merchandise trade expected to decline 13-32% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘These numbers are ugly – there is no getting around that,’ said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdh,” Economic Times of India reports.

Iran/IMF – “Iranian authorities have called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to accelerate processing Tehran’s request for an emergency loan which it requires for fighting a pandemic. The governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnaser Hemmati said on Thursday that the IMF is expected to consider Iran’s request for a $5 billion loan under its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), a mechanism which is available to all member countries facing an urgent balance of payments need,” Iran Daily reports.

Indonesia/Food Supply – “Food supply in Indonesia could be put at risk during the coronavirus pandemic as fewer farmworkers might be available to work the country’s rice fields while the government might also find it hard to import other staple food as exporting countries withhold supplies for domestic use, a local economic think tank has warned,” Jakarta Globe reports.

East Africa/Locusts – “The locust WhatsApp hotline has been pinging nonstop as farmers and herders across large swathes of rural Kenya send in video clips of massive swarms flying overhead, blocking the light of the sun like a Biblical plague. This infestation of desert locusts first arrived in East Africa last June, feeding on hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops and pastureland and chomping a path of destruction through at least eight countries (Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan). Scientists say these devastating insects never left East Africa: in fact, favorable wet conditions due to above average rainfall this season means they are likely to achieve two generations of new breeding by June this year, increasing their population size up to 400 times,” Quartz Africa reports

Kenya/Safaricom – “Peter Ndegwa has started his tenure as Safaricom chief executive officer with a vote of confidence from investors after the company’s stock gained 1.7 per cent on his first day in office. A day after the telco closed its financial year that ends on March 31, Mr Ndegwa heads a company that is the heartbeat of trading at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and which must keep re-inventing to maintain its position as East Africa’s most profitable company,” The East African reports.

Oil Market – “Oil market fundamentals have reached ‘horrifying’ levels following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, with global storage capacity expected to be exhausted by May, Opec’s secretary-general told ministers at an emergency meeting on Thursday. ‘The supply and demand fundamentals are horrifying; the expected excess supply volumes on the market, particularly in the [second quarter of 2020], are beyond anything we have seen before,’ Mohammed Barkindo said in his opening remarks at a virtual conference of Opec and non-Opec producers,” Abu Dhabi-based The National reports.

Thailand – “Shutdowns from the pandemic could trigger a tsunami of job losses in Thailand especially for employees who don’t have a regular salary, low-paid workers and people without a written contract. The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) says that as much as 7 million workers could be out of a job by June because of shutdowns from the pandemic,” Thailand Business News reports.

Malaysia – “Growth in private consumption will likely drop sharply, due mainly to the movement control order (MCO), which was imposed since March 18 following the Covid-19 pandemic, BIMB Securities Research said. In a report issued on Friday, it said from a short-term point of view, flagging consumer sentiments due to the virus outbreak will weigh on private consumption,” Kuala Lumpur-based Star reports.

Sri Lanka/Reserves – “Sri Lanka’s gross official reserves were 7.5 billion US dollars (USD7,525.7mn) by the end of March, down from 7.9 billion US dollars in February, the latest Central Bank data showed. By the end of March, the foreign currency reserves were 7,119.1 million dollars while the reserve position in the IMF was 65.3 million dollars,” Lanka Business Online reports.

S. Africa/Eskom – “Debt-stricken power company Eskom told investors it does not need to approach the government for more support, even as a Covid-19-related national shutdown slashes revenue. The company needs to raise R89bn this year and R56bn of that will come from an existing state bailout, CEO Andre de Ruyter and CFO Calib Cassim said on the call, according to investors who listened to it,” South Africa’s Business Day reports.

S. Africa/Coronavirus – “South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and ministers will take a 33% pay cut for the next three months, and the money will be diverted towards social and economic relief measures to help the country weather the Covid-19 pandemic. Ramaphosa on Thursday said the country would extend its original 21-day national lockdown, instituted on Mar. 27, until the end of April,” Quartz Africa reports.

Seychelles/Coronavirus – “Seychelles will from midnight on Wednesday shut down non-essential services and restrict the movements of people for 21 days to prevent the spread of Covid-19. All shops including restaurants, take-away-food outlets will remain closed except grocery stores and pharmaceuticals the statement said.The announcement comes after a 26-year-old Seychellois man, who works as a ground handling staff at the international airport, tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, bringing the nation’s total cases to 11,” CGTN reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 10

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 10

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional press – April 10

MENA/Growth – “The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is facing a 3.7 percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) this year because of twin hits from the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of demand for oil, the World Bank is forecasting. The fall in GDP, which amounts to about $116 billion off the region’s economies, has accelerated from the 2.1 percent downturn the bank estimated just last month. In October 2019, the bank said Middle East economies would grow by 2.6 percent this year,” Arab News reports.

Oil Market – “Oil market fundamentals have reached ‘horrifying’ levels following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, with global storage capacity expected to be exhausted by May, Opec’s secretary-general told ministers at an emergency meeting on Thursday. ‘The supply and demand fundamentals are horrifying; the expected excess supply volumes on the market, particularly in the [second quarter of 2020], are beyond anything we have seen before,’ Mohammed Barkindo said in his opening remarks at a virtual conference of Opec and non-Opec producers,” The National reports.

Oil/OPEC+ – “An agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia for record oil-production cuts was endangered late as Mexico refused to participate in the curbs and left the meeting without approving the deal. The impasse, which came after more than 9 hours of talks via video link, cast doubt over a global effort to revive the oil market from a debilitating coronavirus-induced slump. The OPEC+ group won’t cut output without Mexico’s participation and doesn’t intend to meet again on Friday, instead focusing on talks at the G-20 gathering also scheduled that day,” Bloomberg/Gulf News reports.

UAE/NMC – “Just two years after its market value soared to more than $10 billion, NMC Health Plc was placed in administration by a London court as the troubled health-care provider succumbed to creditor demands. NMC, the Middle East’s largest hospital operator, will be run by administrators Alvarez & Marsal, Judge Sebastian Prentis said via videoconference Thursday. It’s a boost for state-owned Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC, which is owed $963 million. It had pushed for administration in a bid to get management to relinquish control,” Bloomberg/Arabian Business reports.

Region/IMF – “IMF funding aimed at helping countries hit by coronavirus will likely go to oil importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region – which include Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia – as well as oil exporters Iran and Iraq, according to a new report from MUFG Bank. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is moving to provide aid to counter the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shutdown economies across the world and caused a massive hit to global industries such as tourism and aviation. On top of the 70,000 people killed so far, the virus has necessitated lockdown measures, which are likely to cause a recession that will dwarf the 2008 financial crisis,” Al-Arabiya reports. 

Iran/IMF – “Iranian authorities have called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to accelerate processing Tehran’s request for an emergency loan which it requires for fighting a pandemic. The governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnaser Hemmati said on Thursday that the IMF is expected to consider Iran’s request for a $5 billion loan under its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), a mechanism which is available to all member countries facing an urgent balance of payments need,” Iran Daily reports.

Lebanon/Inflation – “Inflation in Lebanon in the month of February 2020 alone reached 11.4 percent as the prices of basic commodities surged to alarming levels, according to the Consultation and Research Institute,” The Daily Star of Lebanon reports.

N. Africa – “The African Development Bank (AfDB) has set up a new $10 billion facility to help ameliorate the negative impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on the continent. In a statement, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said that the fund would include $5.5 billion for sovereign operations in the countries where the bank operates, and $3.1 billion for sovereign and regional operations in countries that benefit from the African Development Fund, the AfDB’s arm for fragile countries. An additional $1.35 billion will be for private sector operations,” Ahram Online reports.

Tunisia/Libya Logistics – “A cargo shipping line between Tunisia and Libya is to be launched in the second week of April, Tunisia’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics revealed. The service is for Tunisian goods destined for Libya but currently stalled due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) curfews and border closures in both countries,” Libya Herald reports.

Saudi/Shipping – “Partial completion of International Maritime Industry’s (IMI) vast new shipyard, within the King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Services in Ras Al Khair on Saudi Arabia’s east coast may not be due until late this year of early next, but this has not held up the start of operational activities, including newbuild rig, ship and repair projects with shareholders and third parties according to Julian Panter, IMI’s Vice President of Business Development,” Sea Trade Maritime News reports.

The Red Sea Economic Times – April 9

The Red Sea Economic Times – April 9

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 9, 2020

Suez Shipping – “The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) is introducing new and enhanced toll rebates for containerships and LNG carriers.For containerships on the backhaul from Northwest Europe, including the Med ports of Tangier and Algeciras transiting the Suez Canal and heading direct for southeast Asia calling Port Klang, Malaysia eastwards will be granted a 6% reduction in tolls,” Sea Trade Maritime News reports.

Yemen Cease-Fire – “A unilateral two-week ceasefire called by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has come into effect. The coalition said it wanted to support UN efforts for a political solution and help stop coronavirus spread, though no cases have been reported in Yemen. UN Secretary General António Guterres welcomed the move,” BBC News reports.

Saudi Arabia Oil/OPEC+ – “Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed in principle Thursday on a deal to carry out the biggest organized oil-production cuts in decades, after a month-long feud and drop in due to the coronavirus crisis devastated oil prices. Prices shot higher ahead of the announcement before abruptly losing momentum and shedding most of their gains on a day of volatile trading. U.S. crude was up 3.4% at $25.95 a barrel and Brent crude oil was last up 3.2% at $33.91 a barrel, having earlier been up 10%,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Egypt/Eritrea – “There have been unconfirmed reports that Egypt may be moving close to an agreement with Eritrea, with which ties have been warming in recent years, to host a new Egyptian naval base on Nora island. Cairo traditionally dismissed the idea of overseas regional bases owing to political sensitivities but has been investing in a new strategy to bolster its maritime power,” Arab Weekly reports.

Egypt/Reserves – “The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said that it has used US$5.4 billion from its foreign currency reserves during March due to the coronavirus crisis. The funds went to partially cover foreign portfolio investment outflows through the CBE’s foreign exchange repatriation mechanism, to accommodate for the domestic market’s foreign currency needs to import strategic goods, and for the repayment of external debt service obligations,” Egypt Independent reports.

Sudan Dam Diplomacy – “The Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas said on Tuesday that although he expects negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to resume soon in Washington, DC, he has ruled out the possibility that the government of Sudan will play the role of intermediary with regard to the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the filling and operations of the dam. Abbas explained that since Sudan is a party to the negotiations, and participating in order to preserve its interests, it cannot possibly be neutral or act as a mediator between the other two parties,” Egypt Independent reports.

Sudan – “Sudanese authorities on Wednesday announced a rise in the price of bread in the capital Khartoum, nearly a year after the fall of President Omar Al-Bashir. A tripling of the price of bread had been the trigger for street protests against Bashir in December 2018 — demonstrations that went on for months until the army deposed the longtime ruler on April 11 last year,” Arab News reports.

Shipping – “Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) announced the launch of a new shipping line connecting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with East African countries through the shipping line “CMA CGM”, the world’s leading company in shipping services. It is also the first container shipping-line to reach King Fahd Industrial Port in Yanbu, on the Red Sea coast, which contributes to enhancing the movement of exports and imports to and from Yanbu,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Saudi/Aviation – “British architect firm Foster + Partners has been awarded a design contract for Red Sea International Airport in Saudi Arabia. The airport is set to serve one million passengers by 2030, and is part of the country’s ‘Red Sea Project’ which aims to create a new luxury tourism destination in the coming years. Foster + Partners talk about what they aim to achieve in this project, the unique considerations involved with developing a project in this region,” Airport Technology reports.

Djibouti/Coronavirus – “Djibouti on Thursday confirmed the first coronavirus fatality in the country. The Health Ministry said in a statement on Twitter that a patient who was suffering from heart issues contracted the virus at a hospital, and died late Wednesday after one week in intensive care. As of Wednesday evening, Djibouti recorded 135 coronavirus cases, including 25 recoveries, according to the official Djibouti news agency,” Anadolu Agency reports.

Environment – “As seas warm and acidify with climate change, corals worldwide are bleaching – but in the north of the Red Sea there is a ray, or rather reef, of hope,” Future Planet BBC reports.

Eco-tourism – “Most colours disappear the deeper you go, but even 15 metres below the surface, Egypt’s Red Sea was an artist’s palette of electrifying Pantones. Soft corals and writhing anemones popped with vibrant hues, and clouds of Calippo-orange anthias fish were testimony to a healthy reef. It’s a rare picture of positivity on our ailing blue planet, and one painted by the very absence of human hand,” Travel Weekly reports.

Djibouti/Film – “If you’re having a tough time recalling the last movie you watched from Djibouti, it’s likely because you have never watched one before. With an almost non-existent film industry in the country, Lula Ali Ismaïl, tells a beautiful coming of age story of three young female Djiboutian teenagers at the cusp of womanhood. Dhalinyaro offers a never-before-seen view of Djibouti City as a stunning, dynamic city that blends modernity and tradition—a city in which the youth, like all youth everywhere, struggle to decide what their futures will look like. It’s a beautiful story of friendship, family, dreams and love from a female filmmaker who wants to tell a “universal story of youth,” but set in the country she loves—Djibouti,” Okay Africa reports.

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