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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
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 Pratap John
Pratap John
Pratap John is Business Editor at Gulf Times. He has mainstream media experience of nearly 30 years in specialties such as energy, business & finance, banking, telecom and aviation, and covered many major events across the globe.
Qatar Executive's new G700 fleet will enter full commercial service in June, and QE is already taking advance expressions of interest from clients to charter the new aircraft. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
Qatar Executive looks to enhance fleet; demand surges for business jets

Qatar Executive (QE), the corporate jet subsidiary of Qatar Airways Group, is adding more business jets to its fleet in view of demand from all over the world, noted Group CEO Badr Mohamed al-Meer.“At Qatar Executive, we already have a fleet of 15 G650s. Qatar Executive expects an additional eight G700 to be delivered in the near future, with two aircraft already received and two more set to arrive within weeks,” al-Meer said.He said the demand for private jets has been increasing since the Covid-19 pandemic.“People are preparing to fly more on private jets... and once they experienced what private aviation is all about, I think they got addicted to flying on our fleet.“The demand (for private jets) is from all over the world. We are the biggest operator of Gulfstream and we get requests from international customers. And this is why a big portion of our aircraft are based in Europe, US or in Asia. Basically, we are catering to demand from all over the world,” al-Meer revealed.He said the new G700 fleet will enter full commercial service in June, and QE is already taking advance expressions of interest from clients to charter the new aircraft.The G700 represents the future of private air travel, offering a superior flying experience with unrivalled design, technology, comfort and style.The aircraft offers an exceptionally spacious passenger cabin consisting of four individual living areas including a dedicated private rear stateroom with a permanent fixed bed.The bespoke cabins have been designed and meticulously crafted to meet the standards of Qatar Executive’s most discerning customers. The passenger experience has been augmented to include a revolutionary lighting system, the industry’s lowest cabin pressure altitude and natural lighting through 20 windows.The G700 also prioritises passengers’ comfort with a whisper-quiet cabin, along with 100% fresh air replenished every two to three minutes, and an ionising system for the cabin air, providing the highest air quality possible to date in a business jet. This innovation ensures passengers arrive more refreshed than with any other aircraft type.Asked about potential future orders for business jets, al-Meer noted: “We see a big demand for private business jets from all over the world. Our entire fleet is busy...our aircraft are flying. I am confident within two weeks, our new G700 will start flying. We already have long list of requests from customers to be the first to fly it.”The Qatar Airways Group CEO said: “Among major airlines, we have the highest load factor. It varies between 85 and 88%. Some of our aircraft have a load factor of up to 98%.“To meet additional demand, we need more aircraft – so more deliveries are required. The demand in the industry has picked up. It is very high. Unfortunately, for our passengers...our customers, we are not able to meet their demand because of the shortage of aircraft in the market.”

The world’s first Gulfstream G700, a premium business jet, owned by Qatar Executive (QE), the corporate jet subsidiary of Qatar Airways Group, was “exclusively revealed” at the Hamad International Airport on Wednesday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar
Qatar Executive reveals world’s first Gulfstream G700 premium business jet at HIA

The world’s first Gulfstream G700, a premium business jet, owned by Qatar Executive (QE), the corporate jet subsidiary of Qatar Airways Group, was “exclusively revealed” at the Hamad International Airport Wednesday.By welcoming the delivery of two new Gulfstream G700 aircraft to the fleet, Qatar Executive has become the worldwide exclusive commercial operator of the aircraft.Qatar Executive expects an additional eight G700 to be delivered in the near future, with two aircraft already received and two more set to arrive within weeks.The new G700 fleet will enter full commercial service in June, and QE is already taking advance expressions of interest from clients to charter the new aircraft.Qatar Executive is the first carrier to offer the Gulfstream G700 to charter customers, continuing to provide an ultra-modern fleet with the ultimate in aircraft capabilities, luxury and performance.At a media event held at the Qatar Executive Hangar as part of the reveal ceremony, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer Badr Mohammed al-Meer, said: “Today we welcome the industry’s highest performance ultra-long-range business jet, Gulfstream G700 aircraft to the Qatar Executive fleet.“We are proud to enhance our existing fleet of 15 Gulfstream G650ER aircraft to include the pinnacle of business aviation excellence and look forward to seeing our guests on board soon to experience this technologically advanced aircraft.”Gulfstream President Mark Burns said, “Qatar Executive has been a valued Gulfstream customer for nearly 10 years. We are honoured to have them as our international partner for the launch and first deliveries of the all-new G700. We look forward to growing their fleet in the months ahead.”The G700 represents the future of private air travel, offering a superior flying experience with unrivalled design, technology, comfort and style.The aircraft offers an exceptionally spacious passenger cabin consisting of four individual living areas including a dedicated private rear stateroom with a permanent fixed bed.The bespoke cabins have been designed and meticulously crafted to meet the standards of Qatar Executive’s most discerning customers. The passenger experience has been augmented to include a revolutionary lighting system, the industry’s lowest cabin pressure altitude and natural lighting through 20 windows.The G700 also prioritises passengers’ comfort with a whisper-quiet cabin, along with 100 per cent fresh air replenished every two to three minutes, and an ionising system for the cabin air, providing the highest air quality possible to date in a business jet. This innovation ensures passengers arrive more refreshed than with any other aircraft type.Combining the Qatar Airways Group’s signature personalised service with leading operational safety and management, the G700 is a fitting addition to Qatar Executive’s already ultra-modern-fleet. The new addition is also a testament to QE’s consistent drive to deliver excellence.The Qatar Executive G700 will also be on display at the upcoming 2024 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE2024) – Europe’s premier on-demand aviation and advanced air mobility event, taking place in Geneva from May 28 to 30.Ends

Qatar Airways has been experiencing 'very high' load factor across its network despite the “unfortunate conflict” in the Middle East, says airline Group CEO Badr Mohamed al-Meer. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Business
Qatar Airways sees 'very high' load factor across network: Group CEO

Qatar Airways has been experiencing “very high” load factor across its network despite the “unfortunate conflict” in the Middle East, says the airline's Group CEO Badr Mohamed al-Meer.“Our industry has proven to be resilient. Despite the unfortunate conflict in the Middle East – our numbers continue to grow, when it comes to passengers,” al-Meer said at a session at the recently concluded Qatar Economic Forum.He said the surge in passenger numbers has been reflected on traffic through the Hamad International Airport (HIA).“At HIA, we recorded 30% increase in passengers last year. This year, so far, from January 1 to May 14, we have seen a 27% increase in the number of passengers.”Al-Meer said: “Our load factor is the highest among major airlines. For example, we see our flights to the US having a 95-96% load factor, on average. Our flights to Australia, India and basically to our entire network, see load factor averaging between 85% and 88%, which is very high. This proves, people want to travel.”Asked whether the conflict in the Middle East or other geopolitical issues have an impact on the airline business, al-Meer said: “We have not seen any significant impact.”At the same panel session, RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo noted: “Demand has really grown, driven by people’s strong desire to travel. There is no major difference between the peak and slack season now. Demand has really grown, driven by people’s strong desire to travel.“Although my continent (Africa) also faces geopolitical issues, we have not seen any major impact. The demand still remains strong despite geo-politics.”She said airlines around the world have rebounded, post-Covid. Every airline now sees huge demand for seats.“There are lots of opportunities we need to tap into right now, particularly in Africa. Delaying that process is a big challenge,” she noted.Al-Meer also said all airlines are currently facing the “same problem” because of late deliveries of their orders.“We are one of the major airlines, which is trying our best to assess both Boeing and Airbus and trying to find solutions for them to make sure they deliver based on the timelines they have given us.“I know they are under so much pressure when it comes to the supply chain market...with their suppliers. But they need to put more pressure on those suppliers to make sure that airlines stop bleeding.”Al-Meer added: “The demand in the industry has picked up. It is very high. Unfortunately, for our passengers...our customers, we are not able to meet their demand because of the shortage of aircraft in the market.”

Qatar’s investment in recently upsized gas capacity expansion is likely to support private-sector activity, bank said in a research
Business
Qatar to see spike in growth when LNG capacity expansion goes online: Standard Chartered

Qatar’s growth is expected to spike above trend when the planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity expansion begins to go online in a few years, Standard Chartered said and noted the country’s investment in the recently upsized gas capacity expansion is likely to support private-sector activity.Standard Chartered bank in its ‘Global Focus Economic Outlook Q2-2024’, which covers the outlook for some 58 economies, key geopolitical issues and financial market implications this year and beyond, forecasts a “calm before the upsized gas boom” in Qatar and predicts the post-FIFA slowdown to change pace next year.Qatar now aims to increase output at the North Field by 85% versus 64% previously, which would take natural gas output to 126mn tonnes per year (mtpy) by end-2027 and 142mtpy by end-2030, from 77mtpy currently.Qatar’s investment in the recently upsized gas capacity expansion is likely to support private-sector activity, the bank said.The research notes Qatar’s private-sector credit growth was about 6% year-on-year (y-o-y) in January, exceeding GDP growth, which dipped to 1.0% y-o-y in Q2,2023 from 8.0% in Q4,2022.The planned expansion of LNG output and subsequent boost to GDP is also expected to rein in public debt to around 30% by 2027, Standard Chartered noted.Prior to that, the report estimates that public debt will decline to 37.5% of GDP by end-2024 and 35% by end-2025, from a peak of 73% in 2020 – assuming Qatar continues to use its surpluses to pay down external debt (external debt maturities are $4.8bn in 2024 and $2bn in 2025).Notably, the composition of government debt has shifted with foreign and domestic debt now at almost equal shares, from a 60:40 split in favour of external debt in 2020, it said.Meanwhile, the research shows Qatar’s net external asset position is improving.Qatar’s fiscal breakeven oil price is the lowest among oil-exporting regional peers, standing at just $50/barrel. Comparatively, reserves stood at $67.6bn in January, rising $10bn since early 2022.Moreover, non-resident deposits in the country have declined and now constitute less than 20% of total deposits – helping to address a historically important systemic vulnerability.“We see the end-2024 policy rate (deposit rate) at 5.25%, in line with our latest Fed forecasts,” Standard Chartered said.Overall, the Global Focus Economic Outlook Q2,2024 also indicates Asia is set to remain the primary engine of global growth, with Africa and MENAP expected to grow faster in 2024 than in 2023.It expects global GDP growth of 3.1% this year, unchanged from 2023, and 3.2% in 2025, an improvement from earlier forecasts of 2.9% and 3.1%.Muhannad Mukahall, chief executive officer and head of CCIB at Standard Chartered Bank – Qatar commented, “We expect to see positive growth in Qatar in the coming years as work on the substantial liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity expansion project begins to pick up pace.“The newly-announced expansion at North Field West adds a further 16mn tonnes of LNG per year to existing plans and will no doubt aid Doha on its quest to dominate the top spot for the world’s top LNG producers. Our research shows this will boost the private-sector, increase GDP and therefore massively stunt public debt.”

The Ahmed bin Ali Stadium took a top spot with a speed of 964.33 Mbps, ranking favourably in the leaderboard of global sporting events, second only to the Super Bowl in the US.
Qatar
Qatari stadiums deliver world-class 5G network performance during AFC Asian Cup: Ookla

Qatar moved into the "top spot" of Ookla’s Speedtest Index in February, surpassing the UAE, noted Ookla, which analysed the performance of 5G networks in selected stadiums during the AFC Asian Cup early this year.According to Ookla, Qatari stadiums delivered world-class 5G network performance during the AFC Asian Cup.All six stadiums tracked during the competition had a median download speed of at least 600 Mbps.The Ahmed bin Ali Stadium took a top spot with a speed of 964.33 Mbps, ranking favourably in the leaderboard of global sporting events, second only to the Super Bowl in the U.S.Superior network capabilities significantly enhanced web browsing and real-time online services. The high download speeds combined with ultra-low latency, under 34ms across the stadiums, suggest that fans experienced minimal lag when streaming, video calling, or gaming online.The web browsing experience over 5G was “excellent”, evidenced by the low webpage load times ranging from 1.0 to 1.4 seconds.Ookla said it used Speedtest Intelligence data to observe performance in the lead-up to and during the AFC Asian Cup. From September 2023 to February this year, Qatar witnessed significant advancements in 5G network speed.The median 5G download speed rose from 441.46 Mbps to 607.0 Mbps, and the upload speed increased from 24.79 Mbps to 36.66 Mbps.Speedtest Intelligence data show that all six surveyed stadiums recorded a median 5G download speed of over 600 Mbps and a median upload speed of over 90 Mbps.Ookla identified two distinct groups based on their 5G performance:The first group is where fans experienced the fastest speeds. It is led by Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, with a median download speed on 5G of 964.33 Mbps, followed by Al-Janoub Stadium and Khalifa International Stadium, with median download speeds of 899.27 Mbps and 888.36 Mbps, respectively.The second group of stadiums had weaker performance overall but still commanded very high speeds, ranging from 602.20 Mbps for Education City Stadium to 730.73 Mbps for Al Bayt Stadium.The leading stadiums in terms of median download speed also excelled in upload, with speeds exceeding 108 Mbps.Ahmed bin Ali Stadium and Al-Janoub Stadium had upload speeds of 110.46 Mbps and 110.87 Mbps, respectively.Education City Stadium was at the bottom of the list but still offered excellent download and upload speeds.Qatar welcomed over 1mn visitors during the group stage, beating the previous AFC record achieved 20 years ago during the 2004 tournament in China. During that period, Ooredoo reported 190 TB of data volume while 5G usage share reached 50.1%.The tournament concluded with an estimated 1.5 million fans attending 51 games. The final match attracted over 86,000 fans at Lusail Stadium, where Ooredoo reported total data traffic of 35TB and delivered an average download speed of 244 Mbps and an upload speed of 50 Mbps.These improvements contributed to elevating Qatar’s ranking to the number one position on the Speedtest Global Index in February this year, surpassing the United Arab Emirates, with a median download speed of 286.42 Mbps across all technologies.Qatar maintained its top spot in March, following the Asian Cup, with a median download speed of 313.3Mbps.To increase capacity and improve speed, operators have been deploying additional 5G sites and activating new 5G carriers, delivering exceptional network performance for their customers.

Gulf Times
Qatar
Qatar Airways to invest in an airline in southern Africa: Group CEO

Qatar Airways will soon announce investment in an airline in southern Africa, Group CEO Badr Mohamed al-Meer said yesterday."We are at the final stage of an equity investment in an airline in the southern part of Africa," al-Meer said at a panel session at the Qatar Economic Forum, saying the deal could be announced in two to three weeks. “This airline will complement the operations of Kigali and the operations of RwandAir as the airline that connects the West, East, and North of Africa. With that airline we are finalising the investment in the southern part of Africa.”Asked which airline Qatar Airways plans to partner with, al-Meer said, “It could be one of two or three carriers in the Southern part of Africa.”The southern part of Africa is a gap in Qatar Airways’ network coverage on the continent, he said and noted the national airline wants to expand the fleets of its partner airlines in Africa to improve connectivity.As a major international airline with a huge global network, Qatar Airways aims to bridge the gap in connectivity between the Middle East and Southern Africa.In 2019, Qatar Airways picked up a 60% stake in a new multi-billion dollar international airport being built in Rwanda (near Kigali) and has code share agreements with several airlines in Africa including Rwandair.The national carrier has an extensive African network, serving over 30 destinations, including South Africa's three major gateways.According to al-Meer, the airline's model involves covering all major parts of the continent. However, it needs to look at specific areas within Africa.The airline’s network in the Northern, Eastern, and Western regions is growing "organically," with a strong presence in Nigeria and a long-standing partnership with North Africa's Royal Air Maroc.The missing element to support its network is connectivity in Central and Southern Africa, al-Meer pointed out.Regarding Central Africa, al-Meer said Kigali was the best location for the airline and its partners to develop a hub.Last year, Qatar Airways Cargo launched a cargo hub at Kigali International Airport in partnership with RwandAir. This was the airline's first cargo hub outside Qatar.Al-Meer praised Rwanda for its investor-friendly approach and said, "they opened the doors...they welcomed us wholeheartedly.”Also speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, RwandAir CEO Yvonne Makolo said that the airport will be a key regional hub, given Rwanda's geographical location at the centre of Africa.She expects the airport to become operational by 2027 or 2028.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar 'bullish' about global demand for LNG, says al-Kaabi

HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi said Qatar is very bullish about global LNG demand in view of the rising population and expected growth in economies around the world.Al-Kaabi said Qatar’s LNG expansion projects are designed to help meet growing demand for cleaner energy driven by economic growth and rising populations and living standards.The minister was participating in a panel discussion on ‘The next stage of the global energy transition” at Qatar Economic Forum with the participation of Patrick Pouyanne, chairman and CEO of TotalEnergies, and Darren Woods, executive chair and CEO of ExxonMobil.Al-Kaabi noted, “If you look at the expectation of having 1.5 to 2bn more people in the next 30 years or so, that means we will need more energy, more power, and even more petrochemicals for materials we use every day. We also need to be fair to that population and make sure they have access to reasonably priced power.”Al-Kaabi, who is also the President and CEO of QatarEnergy, stressed that LNG will remain in demand for a very long time, adding “LNG is not going away any anytime soon, as was recently made clear by the G7 as well as by many countries around the world, who have changed their position of moving away from fossil fuels.”Discussing the energy transition, al-Kaabi said: “Many promises were made by politicians, who do not really understand the details of how to achieve this transition. And it was driven to a point where it became in vogue, if you will, for everybody to say ‘net zero, environmental, and green’, which got them elected. But now, as reality sets in five or six years later, they say we cannot achieve what we have promised. The problem is that targets were overstretched and could not have been reached anyway.”According to Bloomberg, Asian countries led by China, Japan and South Korea have been the main market for Qatari gas, but demand from European countries has grown since Russia's war on Ukraine threw supplies into doubt.In February, Qatar announced plans to expand output from its North Field, saying they would boost capacity to 142mn tonnes per year before 2030.Al-Kaabi said there could be further expansions to Qatar’s LNG production capacity."The technical capability of doing more in Qatar is going to be assessed in the future and, if there is more, we probably will do more," he said.In recent months, Qatar has inked LNG deals with France's Total, Britain's Shell, India's Petronet, China's Sinopec and Italy's Eni among others.Pouyanne and Woods both rejected concerns about overcapacity in the market as consumer countries move away from fossil fuels in a bid to limit global warming."I am not afraid. I think there is a place, a clear place for the gas in the transition," Pouyanne said."Things will not happen in a night like some people are dreaming," he said, adding: "Population is growing, energy demand is growing."Woods echoed the comments of the TotalEnergies’ Pouyanne."The demand for energy is being driven by economic growth and people's living standards rising," he said."There are billions of people around the planet who deserve better lives and are going to require affordable, available and reliable energy sources. And I think that's the challenge going forward,” Woods added.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar expects to sign more long-term gas supply deals this year: Al-Kaabi

Qatar’s LNG expansion projects are moving ahead on track and the country expects to sign more long-term natural gas supply deals this year to meet growing international demand, HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida al-Kaabi said yesterday.His remarks came during a panel discussion on ‘The next stage of the global energy transition” at Qatar Economic Forum with the participation of Patrick Pouyanné, chairman & CEO of TotalEnergies, and Darren Woods, executive chair & CEO of ExxonMobil.Al-Kaabi noted that Qatar’s LNG expansion projects are moving ahead on track towards an increased production capacity of 142mn tons per year.The country’s LNG expansion projects are designed to help meet growing demand for cleaner energy driven by economic growth and rising populations and living standards.“There will be further expansions to Qatar’s LNG production capacity. The technical capability of doing more in Qatar is going to be assessed in the future and, if there is more, we probably will do more," he said.The Minister noted, “With 18mn tons per year coming from our LNG project in Texas, Qatar will be doubling its LNG production capacity in the next few years.”He said, “North Field East and South are on track...we are in the construction phase as we speak. All the construction (activities) are going very well.”The minister said, “When Qatar announced that we are going to expand further (from 77mn tonnes per year to 126mn tpy), we said that we are appraising the fields further. And based on the technical results and capability of the field (long-term to sustain production for other projects that we have) we said we will assess the fields to see whether we can do more. After further appraisal, we found that we can do an additional 16mn tons per year, and by that going to 142mn tpy.”Al-Kaabi criticised last year’s media skepticism of Qatar’s ambitious expansion projects and reports saying it will have difficulty selling its LNG.“Today, I can report that since then, we have secured 25mn tons of long-term LNG sales; and I can tell you also on this podium that we are signing more this year. Our marketing team is doing a great job.“I don’t think there is a problem of selling LNG. Everybody is buying LNG, it is just agreeing on terms and conditions and pricing... but I think there's a huge demand out there, whether it's from Asia or Europe," al-Kaabi told the Qatar Economic Forum."I think even Europe is realising now they have to do something different to secure long term. They have been lucky with two warm winters,” he said.Al-Kaabi said, “We think there is a big demand in future, and we are going to expand to meet that demand. Technical capability of doing more in Qatar is going to be assessed in future. And if more needs to be done, probably we will do more.“But also, we are also big explorers around the world, one of the largest holders of exploration blocks in the world, some with my colleagues here. We are very bullish about demand going forward. If we have a reasonable economic growth going forward, I think the demand and supply will catch up and you need another phase of development of gas in the 2030s.”Ends

Gulf Times
Business
QCB plans to issue first guidelines on how to adapt AI: Sheikh Bandar

The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) plans to issue its first guidelines on how to adapt artificial intelligence (AI) in financial institutions in the country in a few weeks, said HE the QCB Governor, Sheikh Bandar bin Mohamed bin Saoud al-Thani.“Regulations are very important. That’s going to help financial institutions better adapt AI and mitigate the risks. At this stage, we are working on guidelines, which we have sent to financial institutions as a consultation paper. We are going to see their feedback. In future, there may be a framework that governs data, AI, risk modelling etc.Participating in a panel session entitled ‘Artificial intelligence and reinventing banking’ at the Qatar Economic Forum yesterday Sheikh Bandar said: “Any new technology is fraught with risks...but the question is what type of risks. My main concern is about cyber-attacks and abusing technology to attack financial institutions.“I am equally concerned about data privacy, biased data and market manipulation. As a regulator, first of all, we have to improve our institutional capacity. And we have to hire skilled people to closely monitor the new technology that has been adopted in financial institutions.”The QCB governor noted that AI is not a new topic for the financial industry.“Financial industry is data driven. Financial institutions use to have predicted models, algorithms and technology, for example trading. However, by adopting the new AI technology, we assume that it is going to enhance efficiency, customer experience, help manage risks better and compliance.”On AI and inflation, Sheikh Bandar noted: “In the mid to long-term, my own belief is that AI will contribute to bring down inflation. This is because AI is assumed to enhance efficiency, productivity and also improve profitability.“But in the short term, I believe AI could contribute to an increase in inflation a little bit. This is because lots of institutions will need to invest in hardware, software, new technology and training. And that might cause prices to increase a little bit.”Sheikh Bandar reiterated that Qatar will keep its currency (riyal) pegged to the US dollar.“We are pegged to the dollar. As a central bank, our main duty is to maintain the pegged rate. That’s why we are keeping the interest rate high in Qatar, despite inflation declining to a reasonable level.“Our job is to maintain the pegged rate...our job is to make sure there is no capital outflow from our market. So, we have to manage the balance between monetary policy and growth as well as protecting the economy from capital outflows.“Historically, this regime worked very well for the State of Qatar. We are going to keep our currency pegged to the US dollar.”On global inflationary outlook, Sheikh Bandar said: “In 2023, inflation improved significantly due to the improvement in supply chain and decline in the prices of food and energy. From the beginning of 2024, until now, inflation varied from country to country...one geography to another.“For example, in the US, inflation is still high. In the beginning of this year, there were expectations of three cuts for 2024. But now things have changed...because data coming from the economy has changed. In the US, inflation is still high. The interest rates might stay higher for longer.“While in Europe, we can see inflation declining to nearly 2%. A better situation than in the US.”He said no central bank will move to cut interest rate, unless they are confident enough that inflation is at its targeted level. They need more confident data to move and cut interest rates.Sheikh Bandar also said that political stability is essential to see growth in economies around the world.

Stephen Moss, Regional CEO, Middle East, North Africa and Turkiye, HSBC.
Business
HSBC continues to grow digital footprint, capabilities across Qatar, says regional CEO

As the region’s leading transaction bank, HSBC “continues to grow its digital footprint and capabilities” across the country in support of the Qatar Central Bank’s digital strategy, noted Stephen Moss, Regional CEO, Middle East, North Africa and Turkiye, HSBC.“Financing of the region’s new economic models and energy transition is at the heart of the opportunities we see ahead,” Moss told Gulf Times in an interview.“As the world’s largest trade bank with a network covering 90% of the world’s trade and capital flows, combined with our long-standing presence in the region, we are uniquely placed to help our clients navigate the inbound and outbound opportunities in the Middle East.“The Qatar Free Zone Authority (QFZA) is one such example. As one of the most significant developments to support economic transformation, the QFZA is opening up great opportunities for new companies to establish a presence in Qatar. HSBC became the first bank to establish a presence in the QFZA in 2020, offering advanced digital services to the free zone’s more than 200 investors.”Another fast-growing area attracting international investment is infrastructure, which has received a boost from the emergence of public-private partnerships (PPPs).The size of the Gulf’s giga project pipelines, estimated to be worth approximately $3tn, reflects the extent of the opportunity.“The PPP model has been mainly focused on power and utilities sectors in the Middle East but we are now seeing it expand to fulfil much broader infrastructure requirements, with social infrastructure a major recipient. That is good news for international investors,” Moss said.Asked how important the Middle East to HSBC’s strategic growth ambitions is, Moss said: “The Middle East’s investment-led significant economic transformation drive, Asia’s economic dynamism, and the necessity of creating sustainable economies are coming together to create very substantial business opportunities. HSBC, positioned at both ends of the Middle East-Asia corridor and with more than a century of history in each, is directly supporting clients to capitalise on this megatrend.“The bright spots are plenty and according to HSBC research, annual two-way goods trade between the two regions is projected to more than double from around $950bn in 2022 to over $1.9tn by 2035.“Take here in Qatar, for example, which has witnessed accelerated trade and investment with Asia, with China becoming Qatar’s largest import and export partner. The country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, has invested $1bn in India’s Reliance Retail Ventures and has stated its intention for further public and private investments in China’s retail, healthcare, tech and logistics sectors.“There is clearly more to come; last week Hong Kong and Qatar signed an agreement to increase connectivity between the financial hubs, a move which will include sharing best practices and facilitating training to promote business.“In short, billions of dollars of trade and investment are flowing between Asia and the Middle East. HSBC is uniquely positioned to connect clients in the two regions, and to use our long established on the ground presence, track record, and heritage at either end of the corridor to support new business and investment.”He said the four pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030 - economic, human, environmental and social development- provide clear opportunities for HSBC to contribute.HSBC Qatar actively invests in recruiting, developing, and retaining local Qatari talent. Qatari nationals currently make up 37% of HSBC’s total workforce in Qatar and the bank has a strong pipeline of Qatari talent, which it continually invest in.About future outlook for HSBC in Qatar, Moss stated: “As one of the first banks in Qatar, HSBC has helped lay the foundations of the banking and finance industry and played a part in several milestone developments.“Our growth story in Qatar is aligned directly to the country’s economic transformation, which has been shaped by visionary leadership – both in government and in institutions such as the Qatar Central Bank.”Across the Middle East, he noted HSBC covers $3.5tn of GDP, $2.6tn of trade, and processes $1.1tn of customer payments every year.“We support the region’s largest transactions and connect global investors to the Gulf’s fast-growing capital markets.“It is this perspective, which continues to give us great optimism about the outlook for the country, and the wider region and which makes HSBC truly proud to be celebrating our 70th anniversary in Qatar this year.”

A cargo handler prepares air freight containers for a British Airways flight at Heathrow Airport, in London. The air cargo sector stands as an indispensable linchpin in the realm of global trade, boasting unparalleled attributes of speed, global connectivity, reliability, and efficiency.
Business
Buoyed by global cross-border trade and industrial output, 2024 poised to emerge 'robust' for air cargo

With global cross-border trade and industrial production continuing to exhibit a steady upward trajectory, 2024 is poised to emerge as a robust year for the air cargo industry. .text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px; }@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;} } **media[170938]** The air cargo sector stands as an indispensable linchpin in the realm of global trade, boasting unparalleled attributes of speed, global connectivity, reliability, and efficiency. In the fast-paced world of commerce, where time is of the essence, air cargo transportation reigns supreme as the swiftest mode for shipping goods across vast distances. This rapid transit capability proves especially invaluable for the transport of perishable goods, high-value commodities, and time-sensitive deliveries, empowering businesses to meet stringent deadlines and swiftly adapt to dynamic market demands. Spanning the globe with its extensive networks, air cargo services form the vital arteries that interconnect distant markets, fostering seamless international trade. This expansive reach not only facilitates access to diverse suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers worldwide but also empowers businesses to actively engage and thrive within the global economic landscape. Underpinning the seamless operation of air cargo services are substantial investments by airlines in cutting-edge infrastructure, advanced technology, and stringent safety measures. This unwavering commitment to excellence ensures the dependable and secure transportation of goods, thereby enabling businesses to mitigate supply chain disruptions and uphold consistent product availability in the marketplace. While it is a fact that air cargo transportation entails higher costs compared to alternative modes such as sea or land freight, its efficiency for specific types of goods and shipments cannot be overstated. By circumventing congested ports, customs delays, and curbing inventory carrying costs, air cargo emerges as a compelling and cost-effective choice for countless businesses seeking optimal logistics solutions. In essence, the air cargo sector stands as a cornerstone of global commerce, embodying the epitome of speed, reliability, and efficiency, and continues to serve as a driving force behind the interconnectedness and prosperity of the global economy. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), global air cargo markets continued to show strong annual growth in demand based on its data in March. Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), rose by 10.3% to 23.1bn CTKs in March compared to March 2023 levels (11.4% for international operations). This is the fourth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth. Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), increased by 7.3% compared to March 2023 (10.5% for international operations). Middle Eastern carriers, including airlines based in the GCC, saw a 19.9% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March – the strongest of all regions. The Middle East–Europe market was the strongest performing with 38.3% growth, ahead of Middle East-Asia which grew by 19.6% year-on-year, IATA said and noted March capacity increased 10.6% year-on-year. Several factors in the operating environment should be noted, IATA noted. Global cross-border trade and industrial production increased by 1.2% and 1.6% respectively in February. In March, the manufacturing output Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) climbed to 51.9, indicating expansion. The new export orders PMI also rose to 49.5, remaining slightly below the 50 threshold that would indicate growth expectations. Inflation saw a mixed picture in March. In the European Union and Japan, inflation rates fell to 2.6% and 2.7% respectively, while rising in the US to 3.5%. In contrast, China experienced a slight deflation of -0.01%. This latest figure marks a return to deflation after February's brief period of inflation. IATA Director General Willie Walsh said, "Air cargo demand grew by 10.3% over the previous March. This contributed to a strong first quarter performance which slightly exceeded even the exceptionally strong 2021 first quarter performance during the Covid-19 crisis. With global cross-border trade and industrial production continuing to show a moderate upward trend, 2024 is shaping up to be a solid year for air cargo." Undoubtedly, air cargo sector serves as a vital artery of global trade, facilitating the movement of goods across borders with speed, reliability, and efficiency, thereby contributing significantly to economic growth and development on a global scale. Pratap John is Business Editor at Gulf Times. Twitter handle: @PratapJohn

Qatar is the second top global exporter of urea, Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association said in an update.
Qatar
Qatar second top global exporter of urea; set for higher fertiliser output: GPCA

Qatar is the second top global exporter of urea, Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) said and noted urea constitutes the biggest share of GCC agri-nutrient production, accounting for 43.6% of its total in 2022.Three other GCC countries - Saudi Arabia, Oman and UAE also rank among the global top 10 for urea exports, GPCA said in an update.According to GPCA, Saudi Arabia is the 5th largest global exporter followed by Oman (6) and UAE (9).Being an export-oriented and natural gas abundant region, the GCC stands as one of the primary global producers and exporters of urea, GPCA noted.GCC’s top five urea export partners (as of 2022) were India ($3.18bn), followed by Brazil ($2.33bn), US ($1.67bn), Australia ($1.43bn) and Turkey ($1.01bn), the update showed.It said Qatar’s urea production will scale up with the commencement of operations of the new Ammonia-7 plant, expected in 2026.QatarEnergy will develop and manage an integrated CCS in the new Ammonia-7 plant, which is expected to sequester 1.5mn tons of CO2 per year that can be used in the production of sustainable fertilisers, including urea.Total global production of urea in 2022 stood at 180mn tons. Global urea market demand stood at $131.54bn in 2022.Global urea production capacity is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.15% between 2021 and 2030.Urea accounts for approximately 62% of the global demand for nitrogen fertilisers. The Asia-Pacific region dominates the global urea market, accounting for 45% of total global production in 2022.According to GPCA, the first fertiliser plant in the GCC commenced operations in 1966, when Petrochemical Industries Company (PIC) started up in Kuwait with a capacity of 200,750tons per year (tpy) of urea and ammonia.Qatar’s foray into urea production was in 1973, when Qatar Fertiliser Company (Qafco)’s first fertiliser plant commenced operations with a capacity of 365,000 tpy of urea.Qafco 3 plant came to life in 1997. This plant doubled Qafco’s existing urea capacity, producing 730,000 tpy.Qafco 4 plant entered production in 2004. This increased Qafco’s urea production capacity to 2.993mn tpy.Qafco’s 5th plant, completed in 2011, boosted the Qatari company’s urea production capacity to 4.3 mtpy.GCC has “competitive advantages” for urea production and exports owing to its strategic location and competitive and abundant natural gas resources, GPCA noted.The GCC’s strategic export location, situated in between both Europe and the Far-East allows for shipments to key international markets.The GCC is home to an immense quantity of natural gas, with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE ranking in the global top 10 for natural gas reserves. Its abundance sees the GCC benefit from low cost of urea production, GPCA said.According to Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association, urea contributes to GCC economic diversification by reducing dependence on oil revenue, creating jobs and industrial development and providing value addition.The GCC’s reliance on oil-based exports exposes the region to market volatility. By diversifying their economies through using natural gas, an alternative revenue stream is provided that is less susceptible to oil price fluctuations.By investing in urea production, GCC countries can create employment opportunities and develop a pool of skilled workers capable of contributing to a more proficient urea industry.Urea production represents a value-added industry that allows GCC countries to add value to their natural gas reserves by using them as a feedstock for urea production, GPCA added.Ends

The Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar's principal site for the production of liquefied natural gas and gas-to-liquids (file). Qatar was the top global LNG exporter in March, according to GECF.
Business
Lower planned maintenance activity at Qatargas 4 boosts country's LNG exports: GECF

Lower planned maintenance activity at Qatargas 4, compared to a year earlier, boosted LNG exports from the country, the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) said in its monthly report for April.Qatar was the top global LNG exporter in March, GECF said.In March this year, LNG exports from GECF member countries and observers rose by 1.8% (0.3mn tonnes year-on-year) to 17.21mn tonnes, which is the highest historic rate of exports for the month.Besides Qatar, Angola, Malaysia, Russia and the UAE drove the increase in GECF’s LNG exports, offsetting lower LNG exports from Egypt and Nigeria.For the period January-March 2024, GECF’s LNG exports grew by 3.3% (1.62mn tonnes) y-o-y to reach 51.27mn tonnes.In March, the Mena region’s LNG imports rose sharply by 53% (0.15mn tonnes) y-o-y to 0.44mn tonnes.Kuwait continues to be the sole LNG importer in the region, with stronger LNG imports from Qatar and the US driving the increase in its LNG imports.Between January and March this year, LNG imports in the Mena region rose by 78% (0.51mn tonnes) to 1.17mn tonnes.In March, pipeline gas imports to the EU surged by 12% m-o-m to reach 14bcm. In the meantime, global LNG imports increased by 2.6% y-o-y, reaching 35.3mn tonnes, primarily driven by the Asia- Pacific region, with minor upticks from the LAC and Mena regions, collectively compensating for a notable drop in European LNG imports.The stronger LNG imports in Asia Pacific were propelled by higher gas consumption alongside competitive spot LNG prices, which stimulated spot LNG in price sensitive markets.On the supply side, global LNG exports grew by 2.3% y-o-y to 36.3mn tonnes.The club of LNG exporters continues to expand with the Republic of the Congo exporting its first LNG cargo in March.According to GECF, gas and LNG spot prices in Europe and Asia experienced an uptick, following a three-month period of decline. The average Title Transfer Facility (TTF) spot price stood at $8.5/mmBtu, reflecting an increase of 5% m-o-m.In addition, the average Northeast Asia (NEA) spot LNG price experienced a 2% m-o-m increase, reaching $9/million British thermal units (mmBtu).In the meantime, in the US, Henry Hub prices continued to decline, reaching a multi-year daily low of $1.25/mmBtu during the month. “Looking ahead, it is anticipated that increased demand from price-sensitive countries in South and Southeast Asia will support prices in the forthcoming months,” GECF said.

Commercial Bank executive general manager and head (Retail Banking) Shahnawaz Rashid, assistant general manager and head (Cards and Payments) Sudheer Nair and Commercial Bank staff at the agreement signing.
Business
Commercial Bank in 'exclusive partnership' with Novo Cinemas to elevate cinema experience for credit cardholders

Commercial Bank, a leader in innovative digital banking in Qatar, has announced an “exclusive partnership” with Novo Cinemas to offer a remarkable ‘Buy One Get One’ offer for its valued credit cardholders.The campaign, which is set to run from March 25-December 31 this year, “aims to transform the way customers enjoy their time at Novo Cinemas, turning it into an unforgettable cinematic experience.”Commercial Bank executive general manager and head (Retail Banking) Shahnawaz Rashid said: "This strategic alliance not only enhances the offerings for moviegoers but also underscores our commitment to deliver exceptional value to our credit cardholders. As Novo Cinemas continues to captivate audiences with immersive cinematic experiences, Commercial Bank is equally enthusiastic about extending exclusive deals and privileges to its customers. Together, we are poised to turn every cinema visit into a journey of entertainment and banking excellence.”Rashid told Gulf Times that a good number of Commercial Bank customers used their credit card to purchase tickets at Novo Cinemas.“I am sure this partnership is going to immensely benefit them,” Rashid said.Novo Cinemas chief executive officer Roger Abi Haidar said: "As an entertainment leader in GCC, we are thrilled to embark on this exciting partnership with Commercial Bank which underscores our dedication to delivering innovative cinematic experiences and high-value offerings in 7 locations across Qatar. Together, we look forward to creating memorable moments for Commercial Bank Cardholders, blending the magic of cinema with the convenience and rewards offered by Commercial Bank's innovative financial solutions."He told Gulf Times that Novo Cinemas are preparing to release many blockbuster movies in the coming months.He also said there is no “blackout period” for ticket purchase under Novo Cinemas partnership with Commercial Bank.Sudheer Nair, assistant general manager and head (Cards and Payments) at Commercial Bank, underscored the significance of the partnership with Novo Cinemas, stating: "The collaboration with Novo Cinemas marks a pivotal moment in redefining the customer experience for our selected Credit Cardholders.“Through this partnership, we are offering our Credit Cardholders exclusive benefits, making their leisure time even more memorable. Our commitment to providing an exceptional banking experience remains steadfast, and this collaboration is a testament to our dedication."Commercial Bank remains dedicated to redefining the very essence of banking for its customers in Qatar and beyond.To avail of this exclusive offer, customers can visit Novo Cinemas' official website at qa.novocinemas.com or use the Novo Mobile App for online purchases.

Energy exporter Qatar is expected to continue consolidating its public finances, reduce hydrocarbon exposure and support diversification efforts, the International Monetary Fund has said in its latest regional outlook
Business
Qatar expected to continue consolidating public finances, reduce hydrocarbon exposure: IMF

Energy exporter Qatar is expected to continue consolidating its public finances, reduce hydrocarbon exposure and support diversification efforts, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest regional outlook.Overall fiscal surpluses, however, are projected to narrow among GCC members that rely on public finances for their economic diversification (Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates), due to moderating hydrocarbon prices, the IMF said.Beyond 2024, non-hydrocarbon fiscal deficits as a percentage of non-hydrocarbon GDP are expected to generally improve across Mena oil exporters.Alongside, lower oil production and hydrocarbon prices are expected to drive a persistent decline in the external positions over the medium term.While non-hydrocarbon primary balances as a share of non-hydrocarbon GDP improved for Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, they deteriorated for Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, the IMF said.Still, overall fiscal balances deteriorated in 2023 for most GCC economies due to lower oil revenues following oil production cuts and broadly stable oil prices.While overall balances also worsened among non-GCC oil exporters amid lower oil revenues, non- hydrocarbon primary balances are estimated to have generally improved, the IMF noted.Resilience in the global economy and easing global inflationary pressures are positive developments for economies in the Middle East and Central Asia, the IMF said.Overall growth is projected to strengthen to 2.8% in 2024 (from 2% in 2023) and 4.2% in 2025.The conflict in Gaza has caused immense human suffering. In addition, Red Sea shipping disruptions and oil production cuts have added to existing vulnerabilities related to high debt levels and elevated borrowing costs.Accordingly, growth is projected to remain subdued, improving moderately to 2.7% in 2024 (from 1.9% in 2023).In 2025, growth is projected to strengthen to 4.2% as the impact of these temporary factors is assumed to fade gradually.Among the Gulf Cooperation Council members, non-hydrocarbon activity is set to be the main contributor to growth as countries continue to pursue growth diversification plans.Meanwhile, Mena emerging market and middle-income countries face rising fiscal pressures, with elevated interest payments eroding efforts to strengthen fiscal positions.The conflict in Gaza and Israel is adding to uncertainty, with the duration and impact of the conflict remaining highly uncertain, the IMF said. In addition, conflicts are also adversely impacting activity in some fragile and low-income countries, though the tide may start to turn for a few economies, with economic conditions projected to improve in 2025 as growth-dampening factors gradually wane.On the positive side, monetary tightening cycles appear to have ended in most countries as inflation is approaching its historical average in many Mena economies, with inflation close to or even below average in one-third of economies, the IMF said.

Workers connect a Total tanker truck to an Airbus A350 passenger plane, during fuelling with sustainable aviation fuel, at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France. All roadmaps assume that sustainable aviation fuels will be responsible for the greatest amount of CO2 reductions by 2050, according to a high-level joint review.
Business
Greatest decarbonisation in 2050 to stem from sustainable aviation fuel: Joint review

All roadmaps assume that sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will be responsible for the greatest amount of CO2 reductions by 2050, according to a high-level joint review.The International Air Transport Association (IATA), together with the Air Transportation Systems Laboratory at University College London (UCL), the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and the Mission Possible Partnership (MPP), released the Aviation Net Zero CO2 Transition Pathways Comparative Review.This is the first publication to compare 14 leading net zero CO2 transition roadmaps for aviation. The report aims to provide a “one-stop shop” for airlines, policymakers and all aviation stakeholders to better understand the key similarities and differences between the various roadmaps, and their visions for achieving net-zero carbon emissions for aviation by 2050.Specifically, the report compares the selected roadmaps in terms of their scope, key input assumptions, modelled aviation energy demand, respective CO2 emissions, and the emissions reduction potential of each mitigation lever (new aircraft technologies, zero-carbon fuels, SAF, and operational improvements).Key findings from this analysis include:• Possible pathways to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 differ significantly depending on the key assumptions of the authors regarding how decarbonisation technologies and solutions may evolve. Depending on these assumptions, the resulting role of particular levers in aviation’s decarbonisation will be more or less important.• All roadmaps assume that sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will be responsible for the greatest amount of CO2 reductions by 2050. The role of SAF varies from 24-70% (with a median value of 53%). This wide range reflects the uncertainties regarding potential supportive government action, the level of investments, cost of production, and profit potential, as well as access to feedstocks.• Technology and operational efficiency improvements are expected to have a similar role in the net zero transition across the roadmaps, together contributing to about 30% of the emissions reduction in 2050 in all scenarios.• The estimated emissions savings by hydrogen and battery-powered aircraft vary greatly across the roadmaps, depending on whether a strong pro-hydrogen policy is adopted, and on whether there is a rapid decline in renewable energy prices, enabling swifter uptake of electricity-based technologies.• To achieve net-zero CO2 emissions in 2050, almost all the global roadmaps suggest that the aviation sector will need help from market-based measures and carbon removals to address the residual emissions in 2050.Even if carbon removal technologies are considered an ”out-of-sector” mitigation measure, it is still both urgent and critical to develop these technologies as CO2 will be needed as feedstock for producing power-to-liquid (PtL) fuels.IATA’s senior vice-president (Sustainability) and chief economist Marie Owens Thomsen noted: “The Aviation Net Zero CO2 Transition Pathways Comparative Review demonstrates that there are multiple levers that can be used in different combinations to achieve the objective of decarbonizing aviation by 2050. All these levers will be needed in aviation’s transition.“While the impact of each varies across the roadmaps, all roadmaps expect the greatest decarbonisation in 2050 to stem from SAF. This report provides airlines, policymakers and all stakeholders with a useful tool to analyse and improve their policy, investment, and business choices.“It is particularly important for SAF where strong and urgent public policy support is needed to increase production. Without that, no version of the roadmaps will get us to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Air passengers these days demand seamless and secure payment solutions that match their fast-paced lifestyles. With modern payment methods like mobile payments, digital wallets, and contactless transactions, booking flights and making purchases is not only convenient but also swift, regardless of location or device preference
Business
Airlines work on seamless, secure and relevant payment instruments for passengers worldwide

Air passengers these days demand seamless and secure payment solutions that match their fast-paced lifestyles. With modern payment methods like mobile payments, digital.text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px;}@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;}}**media[165431]**wallets, and contactless transactions, booking flights and making purchases is not only convenient but also swift, regardless of location or device preference.For airlines, embracing these cutting-edge payment technologies is not just a choice but a necessity in remaining competitive and thriving in the industry. These methods drive revenue growth, enhance the overall customer experience, and streamline operational efficiency.Airlines heavily depend on ticket sales and ancillary services for revenue, and modern payment methods empower them to attract a diverse range of customers by offering flexible payment options tailored to individual preferences and requirements.Given the global reach of airlines, catering to passengers from various regions with different banking systems and currencies is imperative. Modern payment solutions facilitate seamless international transactions, enabling airlines to broaden their customer base and strengthen their market presence.The IATA Financial Settlement System (IFSS) stands as a cornerstone in the global aviation ecosystem, facilitating the secure and efficient movement of funds throughout the air travel value chain. Continuously evolving, IFSS has adapted lessons learned from unprecedented challenges such as the pandemic, enhancing its resilience and effectiveness.As customer behaviour evolves and new business models emerge, IFSS remains agile, accommodating the needs of a dynamic industry landscape while upholding its commitment to security and efficiency."“We want to know where we need to move to in the next three-to-five years,” noted Mohamed Albakri, IATA’s senior vice-president (Financial Settlement and Distribution Services).“Where is the value in the IFSS and how should the scope be improved? It must continue to be aligned with airline needs.One obvious answer is accepting new forms of digital payment. The Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP), one of the IFSS services, is based on a “collect on behalf” model from the travel agencies and also processes debit and credit cards.But airlines—responding to customer requirements—must be ready to accept many different forms of payment.The pandemic was an accelerator in the use of different payment instruments, a trend that Albakri believes is here to stay.In fact, there are estimated to be close to 200 forms of payments around the world, many of which are unique to a region or even a country.As many airlines are global entities, they need to assess which forms are the most relevant for their markets and their customer base. Studies have shown that sales can be lost if a customer’s preferred method of payment is not available.But being all things to all customers is easier said than done. Airlines have a multitude of costly back-office processes to integrate for every payment method, including reconciliation and reporting.“As indicated by participants in the IATA Financial Settlement System, potential opportunities could bring the value the IFSS offers to these other forms of payment as it does for BSP sales,” says Albakri.“In BSP sales, there are strong standards. But the same cannot be said about new digital processes. How is the payment managed, which data element is captured at what point, and exactly how does it get handed over?“At IATA, efforts are underway through the work of related standard management groups assessing the development of standards to facilitate the adoption of payment instruments that are relevant to airlines and their customers,” he adds. “We are also making solutions available to facilitate payment orchestration and instant bank transfers.”Albakri highlights a number of trends in the payment sphere. One of the most significant is digital currencies. This refers to the digitalisation of public money or cash from the central bank as opposed to cryptocurrency digital assets.Europe is getting closer to implementing the digital euro, China has already piloted the digital yuan (e-CNY), and the United Arab Emirates will have the digital dirham by end 2025.In fact, more than 130 countries around the world, representing 98% of global GDP, are reported to be studying the possibilities.Digital currencies, IATA says will give central banks better control and full visibility on every transaction and will allow them to incorporate additional services to merchants such as digital invoicing and statements. And it should also help merchants to negotiate better terms with incumbent payment service providers.Beyond digital currencies, Albakri notes that the digital payment sector has yet to mature. Failures, mergers and acquisitions will therefore be the order of the day over the next few years.Perhaps most importantly, payment is at the heart of modern airline retailing. Payment encapsulates the end-to-end journey and is a central pillar of the offer and order management process.If airlines aim to be truly customer-centric, then they must have seamless, secure, and frictionless payment at the core of their product.“A superior customer experience starts by making sure that customers can buy and pay without friction, using the payment method of their choice,” says Albakri. “Offering the service that customers want and making available their preferred payment method creates a win-win proposition for airlines and their customers.”Albakri added: “The payment landscape is larger and even more complicated than distribution. Airlines have taken back control of distribution, and they now need to take back control of payment.”

Gulf Times
Qatar
Qatar's real GDP growth forecast at 2.1% this year, 3.2% in 2025: World Bank

Qatar's real GDP growth has been forecast at 2.1% this year and 3.2% in 2025, World Bank said in its latest update Monday.The country’s debt to GDP stood at 42.4% in 2022 and 41.4% in 2023, World Bank noted.World Bank’s new Middle East and North Africa Economic Update, entitled ‘Conflict and debt in the Middle East and North Africa’, shows that lackluster growth, rising indebtedness and heightened uncertainty due to the conflict in the Middle East are impacting economies across the region.According to the report, MENA economies are expected to return to low growth akin to the decade prior to the pandemic. MENA’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise to 2.7% in 2024, which is a tepid increase from 1.9% in 2023.As in 2023, oil importing and oil exporting countries are likely to grow at less disparate rates than 2022, when higher oil prices boosted growth in oil exporters.For Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the World Bank noted the 2024 growth uptick reflects expectations of robust non-oil sector activity and fading out of oil production cuts towards the end of the year. GDP growth in almost all oil importing countries is expected to decelerate.The report looks at the economic impact of the conflict in the Middle East on the region. Economic activity in Gaza has come to a near standstill. The GDP of the Gaza strip dropped by 86% in last quarter of 2023.The West Bank has plunged into a recession, with simultaneous public and private sector crises.A recent World Bank report goes into further depth on damages to the Gaza Strip and catastrophic impacts on the people of Gaza.The economic impact of the conflict on the rest of the region has remained relatively contained, but uncertainty has increased. For example, the shipping industry has coped with shocks to maritime transport by rerouting vessels away from the Red Sea, but any prolonged disruptions to routes through the Suez Canal could increase commodity prices regionally and globally.The report also looks at rising indebtedness in the MENA region. Between 2013 and 2019, the median debt-to-GDP ratio for MENA economies increased by more than 23 percentage points.The pandemic made things worse as declines in revenue, together with pandemic support spending, increased financing needs for many countries.This rising indebtedness, the World Bank noted is heavily concentrated in oil-importing economies, which now have a debt-to-GDP ratio 50% higher than the global average of emerging market and developing economies.Approaching 90% of GDP in 2023, oil-importing countries in MENA have a debt-to-GDP ratio almost three times higher than that of oil exporting countries in the region.The World Bank report presents evidence that oil-importing countries in MENA have been unable to grow out of debt or inflate their debt away, making fiscal discipline essential to curb indebtedness.Critically, off-budget items which have played a large role in some MENA economies have been to the detriment of debt and fiscal transparency. The challenge for oil exporters is one of economic and fiscal-revenue diversification, given the structural change in global oil markets and the rising demand for renewable sources of energy. “Overall, MENA economies need to undertake structural reforms, chief among them transparency, to unlock growth and forge a sustainable path ahead,” the World Bank said.