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Wednesday, May 22, 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.
Gulf Times
Business
Qatar, GCC central banks mirror US Federal Reserve's rate hike

Mirroring the move by the US Federal Reserve (Fed) Qatar and other GCC central banks have all raised rates by 25bps or 0.25%.On Wednesday, Qatar Central Bank raised the QCB deposit rate (QCBDR) by 25 basis points, to 5.75%.QCB also decided to raise the banks’ lending interest rate (QCBLR) by 25 basis points, to become 6.25%, and the repurchase rate (QCB Repo Rate) by 25 basis points, to become 6%The revised rates took effect on July 27, QCB said.According to Oxford Economics, this is likely to be the final hike of this cycle, given that inflation has peaked and economies are slowing rapidly.“We still think the Fed will start cutting rates next year, encouraging banks across the GCC to ease policy rates,” Oxford Economics said in its weekly briefing on Thursday.“We expect the hike to be last of this cycle but think the Fed will stay committed to its data-dependent approach.“The Fed will likely start cutting rates next year, which will allow the GCC central banks to begin easing policy. Still, rates will likely only come down gradually, which will drag non-oil GDP growth in the region down to 3.9% in 2024, from 4.4% this year,” Oxford Economics noted.Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) downgraded its expectations for economic growth in Saudi Arabia, following the cuts to oil supply in April and June.But Oxford Economics said it thinks its revised 2023 forecast is still “too optimistic”, as it expects the supply cuts to be extended into September.“We have downgraded our GDP growth forecast for the Mena region to 2.6% for this year, and to 3.1% for 2024,” Oxford Economics noted.The researcher said inflation has “probably peaked” across the GCC, but unlike the rapid rise in prices, it expects the inflation rate to reduce only slowly into 2025.“Risks remain to the upside given tentative signs of food prices rising globally and waning demand in advanced economies. Conversely, if the US economy avoids a recession later this year, the Fed may delay the cutting cycle, keeping rates higher for longer across the GCC,” Oxford Economics said.In its mid-year update of global forecasts, the IMF slashed the 2023 GDP growth forecast for Saudi Arabia to 1.9% from 3.1%. The revision reflects the decision by Opec+ in April to gradually decrease oil output, as well as the voluntary one million barrels per day cut by Saudi Arabia through July and August.In its baseline, Oxford Economics forecasts GDP growth at 1.1% this year, expanding to 3.9% in 2024. In Egypt, the 2023 IMF projection is in line with our forecast but there is a large diversion for 2024.Oxford Economics baseline incorporates another devaluation against the dollar in mid-September and another 200bps hike to key policy rates this year.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar second in world in approved LNG liquefaction capacity in April: IGU

Qatar is second in the world in terms of approved LNG liquefaction capacity by market, as of end-April 2023, shows a study by International Gas Union (IGU).In its ‘World LNG report – 2023’, IGU noted the approved LNG liquefaction capacity in Qatar (as of April this year) was 31.2mn tonnes per year (mtpy).In this regard, only the US is ahead of Qatar with 59.1MTPY.New LNG liquefaction capacity in Qatar is by way of the North Field expansion, which comprises North Field South (NFS) and North Field East (NFE).Ultimately, the expansion project will boost Qatar’s LNG production capacity from the current 77MTPY to 126MTPY.Global energy majors such as TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, Shell, Eni and ConocoPhillips are QatarEnergy’s partners in the multi-billion dollar North Field expansion project, the largest LNG development in global history.This unique project is characterised by the highest health, safety, and environmental standards, including carbon capture and sequestration, to reduce the project’s overall carbon footprint to the lowest levels possible.The North Field expansion plan includes six LNG trains, of which four trains will be part of the North Field East and the remainder part of the North Field South project.The North Field expansion will provide significant benefits for all sectors of the Qatari economy during the construction phase and beyond.As of April this year, IGU noted there were some 22 markets operating LNG export facilities around the world.The US surpassed Australia to become the market with the largest operational liquefaction capacity at 88.1MTPY. Australia’s liquefaction capacity is 87.6MTPY followed by Qatar with 77.1MTPY.The US increased its total operational capacity to 88.1MTPY by April with Calcasieu Pass liquefaction facility (10MTPY) and Sabine Pass LNG T6 (5MTPY).“The top three LNG export markets- US, Australia and Qatar currently represent more than half of global liquefaction capacity,” IGU said.As of April, 178.3MTPY of liquefaction capacity is either under construction or approved for development, of which approximately 44% is in North America.There is currently 997.1MTPY of potential liquefaction capacity in the pre-FID stage, a slight drop of 37.4MTPY compared to 2022. “With the Russia-Ukraine conflict still ongoing and a huge decline in Russian piped gas volumes being sent to Europe, a wave of proposed liquefaction projects has emerged to offset the loss of Russian supply. Some projects have also been fast-tracked to help meet demand.“However, a fair share of pre-FID projects is unlikely to proceed due to weak economic conditions and increasingly stringent environmental restrictions on fossil fuel projects. Saying that, small-scale LNG remains a growing segment with significant potential,” IGU noted.

Passengers at British Airways’ check in desks at London Heathrow Airport. Majority of airlines around the world have started making profits after passengers returned to the skies, making the best use of restriction-free travel, post-pandemic.
Business
Macroeconomic trends hit consumer spending; airfares may soften by year-end

Majority of airlines around the world have started making profits after passengers returned to the skies, making the best use of restriction-free travel, post-pandemic.Airline quarterly profits have shot past pre-pandemic levels with the industry on track to a profitable, safe, efficient, and sustainable future.According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Willie Walsh, airline net profits are expected to reach $9.8bn in net profit this year based on the projected $803bn of revenues.The estimated net profit this year is more than double the previous forecast of $4.7bn in December 2022. In his report to the 79th IATA Annual General Meeting in Istanbul in June, Walsh said global air passenger traffic is currently more than 90% of 2019 levels.Some 4.35bn people are expected to travel in 2023, which is closing in on the 4.54bn who flew in 2019. Cargo volumes are expected to be 57.8mn tonnes, which has slipped below the 61.5mn tonnes carried in 2019 with a sharp slowing of international trade volumes.Certainly, demand looks robust for the rest of the summer, but industry captains have struck a cautious tone about travel demand for the rest of the year and warned fares may soften by 2023-end on macroeconomic trends.Consumer price inflation, higher interest rates and higher mortgage rates might affect consumer spending in the second half of the year, cautioned Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary.“Ryanair might have to stimulate demand through lower prices this winter, when we will have 25% more seats to fill than in 2019,” O'Leary noted.Airfares have surged alarmingly, up to 50% in key international markets of late, which industry experts say hampers industry recovery.On the other hand, airport charges have remained flat even as inflation rates soared over 10% since 2019, a recent study by Airport Councils International (ACI) Asia-Pacific has shown.The study, undertaken in collaboration with Flare Aviation Consulting, examined around 36,000 routes in the top 10 aviation markets in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, reveals an alarming increase in international airfares by up to 50%, while domestic routes went up by less than 10%.The markets that saw the highest airfare increase are India (41%), United Arab Emirates (34%), Singapore (30%) and Australia (23%).Unexpectedly, in the first quarter of 2023, despite a progressive increase in traffic, domestic airfares have continued to increase in several of these markets, including India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan, only decreasing marginally on international routes.ACI Asia-Pacific noted that airlines are capitalising on low competition and pent-up demand to increase profits and recover losses incurred during the pandemic, while airports continue to provide enhanced services to passengers despite incurring heavy operational and capital expenditures.Expressing concerns about the high-pricing practice, Stefano Baronci, director general, ACI Asia-Pacific said: “These excessive airfares threaten the industry's long-term recovery and may have a far-reaching influence on the associated industry by reducing demand for air travel and increasing the financial burden on the already stressed sector. Airlines should exercise fair pricing that supports recovery and safeguards consumers’ interests.“A supply-demand imbalance should not be exploited by airlines at the expense of customers by restricting the capacity, especially international one which is a key driver of social and economic growth and a major source of revenues for the airport sector. We urge airlines to carefully consider the long-term impacts of their pricing decisions. At the same time, governments must consider liberalising markets through policies such as open skies, which will allow competition while keeping airfares under control.”Fuel prices and inflation are responsible for a significant portion of airfare increase. Fuel prices went up 76% in 2022 compared to 2019. The airlines’ costs increased as the consumer price index saw an average 10% increase over the same period.Obviously, higher airfares make it more expensive for passengers to travel by air. This will deter some potential travellers, particularly budget-conscious individuals or families, who may opt for alternative modes of transportation or choose to postpone or cancel their trips altogether.Consequently, airlines are likely to face dwindling demand for their services, in the medium term.As air travel plays a vital role in tourism industry, higher airfares will have a negative impact on the sector, both domestically and internationally.Pratap John is Business Editor at Gulf Times. Twitter handle: @PratapJohn

Gulf Times
Business
Middle East and Central Asia growth to decline on Saudi slowdown this year: IMF

The Middle East and Central Asia growth has been forecast to slow to 2.5% this year weighed down by the bigger than expected slowdown in Saudi Arabia, the International Monetary Fund has said.IMF cut its 2023 GDP growth projection for Saudi Arabia to 1.9% in its latest World Economic Outlook update released on Tuesday, to reflect the impact of prolonged oil production cuts.The fund revised its growth forecast for the world's top oil exporter from 3.1% projected in its May regional outlook; in June, it said growth could ease to 2.1% in 2023."The downgrade for Saudi Arabia for 2023 reflects production cuts announced in April and June in line with an agreement through Opec+...whereas private investment, including from ‘giga-project’ implementation, continues to support strong non-oil GDP growth," the IMF said.The Saudi economy grew 8.7% last year, as high oil prices boosted revenue and led to the kingdom's first budget surplus in almost 10 years, according to Reuters.But global macroeconomic worries and an uncertain demand outlook have weighed on prices, pushing growth projections lower.The world's top oil exporter said earlier this month it would prolong an extra production output cut on top of a broader Opec+ deal, and has raised prices for most of its crude to Asian customers in August for a second month.The IMF has upgraded its forecast for world GDP growth in 2023 to 3.0% (+0.2% from its April projection), but still slowing from 3.5% in 2022. This included upgrades for the US to 1.8% (+0.2% from earlier), the eurozone to 0.9% (+0.1%), and the UK to +0.4% (+0.7%), where it no longer sees a recession this year.China's growth was unchanged at 5.2% but both India (financial year 2023/2024) and Japan’s were uprated, to 6.1% and 1.4%, respectively.The IMF also expects global core consumer prices to decelerate more gradually than the headline rates.“The fund’s latest upgrades echo improving incoming economic indicators, especially in developed markets. But its world growth projection for next year was unchanged at 3%, which is still modest by historic standards,” National Bank of Kuwait Economic Research said.

"Bank profitability has been bolstered by higher interest rates and a larger net interest margin. The banking sector risk rating is BBB,” says EIU.
Business
Qatar external liquidity 'comfortable' on 'strong' trade position: EIU

Qatar's external liquidity is “comfortable” on “strong” trade position supported by high energy prices, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has said in its latest country update.The country’s sovereign credit strengths, it said, are large fiscal and current-account surpluses, which are expected to limit borrowing, and huge external assets.Also, Qatar’s public debt has fallen sharply over the past two years, EIU said and noted sovereign risk rating remains ‘A’.With regard to Qatar’s currency – riyal, EIU said, its peg to the dollar will continue to be backed by healthy foreign reserves and the huge assets of the Qatar Investment Authority (the sovereign wealth fund), which are worth an estimated $475bn.The currency risk rating is ‘BBB’. The rating, EIU said, is supported by strong international demand for Qatar's hydrocarbons exports and by a large current-account surplus.Although the negative net foreign asset position of Qatar's banks remains large, the authorities are taking steps to limit reliance on short-term non-resident deposits and external funding, EIU noted. “The sector is well regulated and strong prudential indicators insulate banks from a deterioration in asset quality. Bank profitability has been bolstered by higher interest rates and a larger net interest margin. The banking sector risk rating is BBB,” EIU remarked.Qatar's over-reliance on hydrocarbons exports remains a “vulnerability”, exposing the country to global energy price movements, EIU said.The economic structure risk rating is ‘BB’.In its previous update, EIU said Qatar's overall business environment score has improved, from 6.60 for the historical period (2017-21) to 7.74 for the forecast period.This has helped Qatar's global ranking to improve by 15 places, from 36th to 21st, although it retains its regional ranking, in third place. The largest improvements in terms of scores are in the infrastructure and market opportunities categories.“Qatar's fairly open foreign investment regime, open trading relationships with regional partners and sophisticated capital markets will remain strong aspects of its business environment.“The main shortcomings are in policy towards private enterprise and competition and in access to financing for small and medium-sized enterprises; these are expected to improve in the medium term,” EIU noted.

A Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) is anchored during the opening of the LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven, Germany on December 17, 2022. Europe’s largest gas consumer Germany became a new LNG importer in 2022, with its first LNG terminal, the 5.5 mtpy Wilhelmshaven FSRU starting operation.
Business
Qatar among three major LNG suppliers to Europe in 2022: IGU

Qatar was among the three major liquefied natural gas suppliers to Europe who accounted for 70% of LNG inflows in 2022, the International Gas Union has said in a report.After a slow-growth period from 2018-2021, Europe accelerated regasification capacity additions in 2022 by bringing 14.5mn tonnes per year (mtpy) online, about 47% of global capacity additions last year.The escalation of regional geopolitical tensions has spurred regasification construction by European markets to reduce dependency on Russian gas and enhance energy security.Most of Europe’s new capacity in 2022 was in the Netherlands, which added 8.8mtpy in total.This, IGU said, included the 2.9mtpy expansion of the Gate onshore LNG terminal and the installation of the 5.9 mtpy Eemshaven FSRU, which were commissioned in July and September respectively.Finland brought a small-scale onshore terminal Hamina LNG online last year with capacity of 0.1 mtpy.Europe’s largest gas consumer Germany became a new LNG importer in 2022, with its first LNG terminal the 5.5 mtpy Wilhelmshaven FSRU starting operation in December.The floating terminal is planning an expansion in 2023 by installing another FSRU Excelsior, which will add regasification capacity by 3.7 mtpy.This year, 16.8 mtpy of LNG import capacity has been commissioned in Europe as of April 2023 from four new terminals: Finland’s Inkoo FSRU, Germany’s Lubmin FSRU and Elbehafen FSRU, and Turkey’s Gulf of Saros FSRU, IGU said.Another four projects in Europe with combined capacity of 9.78 mtpy are underway and aim to start up in 2023.Utilisation of European regasification facilities spiked to a record-high of 65% in 2022 from 41% in the previous year, with LNG imports growing significantly by over 66% year-on-year.Many European markets imported LNG at maximum capacity last year to meet gas demand, amid heightened geopolitical tension between Russia and Ukraine and reduced pipeline flows from Russia.France ran its LNG import terminals at full capacity for most of 2022 with Belgium’s utilisation rate averaging 142% last year.In the past, Europe has typically only imported LNG when winter was approaching to meet peak demand, instead mainly relying on stable piped gas for the rest of the year.“Spiking LNG demand from Europe and a lack of growth in global LNG supplies resulted in a tight market in 2022 and soaring gas prices,” IGU noted.Title Transfer Facility (TTF) prices reached a record high of around $100/mmBtu last August, following a major decline in Russian piped gas.The main gas pipeline to Germany from Russia, Nord Stream 1, ceased transmissions to Europe in late August 2022 and one month later an act of sabotage took this pipeline out of service via an explosion, IGU said.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar FDI outflow surges 1391% y-o-y to $2.38bn in 2022: Emirates NBD

Qatar has seen a surge in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outflows of 1391% year-on-year (y-o-y) from a mere $160mn in 2021 to $2.38bn in 2022, Emirates NBD research has said in a report.In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, Qatar came in third in terms of FDI outflows last year, the report noted.The GCC region achieved a net positive FDI of $15.25bn in 2022, after a substantial surge of 369% y-o-y.However, this net positive in Foreign Direct Investment for the region is mainly attributed to the substantial decrease in FDI outflows by Kuwait, rather than an increase in FDI inflows.In fact, the total FDI inflows in the region experienced a 18% y-o-y decline, dropping from $45bn to $37bn. The region’s decline in FDI inflows parallels the global decline in FDI, which were down by 12% in 2022 according to UNCTAD’s ‘World Investment Report 2023’.Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been at the heart of the GCC countries’ economic vision to grow their economies and diversify away from oil and gas, Emirates NBD said.The region has achieved significant success in deploying capital in various asset classes across the globe, evident from the prominent position of GCC sovereign wealth funds, which consistently make headlines and rank amongst the largest globally. Nevertheless, when it comes to attracting capital to the region, there is still a lot of room for growth.Meanwhile, the UAE led the GCC region in FDI inflows in 2022, attracting $22.73bn, representing a 10% y-o-y increase. Dubai accounted for approximately half of the total FDI inflows, attracting $12.8bn.The top five sectors for FDI inflows in Dubai in 2022 were transportation and warehousing with a 45% share, hotels and tourism and alternative/renewable energy with a 9% share each, software and IT services accounting for 8%, and consumer products with 5%.Saudi Arabia came in second place amongst its GCC neighbors in total FDI inflows with $7.89bn in 2022, a decline of 35% y-o-y. Saudi Arabia’s decline in FDI inflows comes after a record figure of $19.29bn in 2021, the highest in the Kingdom’s history, which can be attributed to the privatisation law passed to facilitate public private partnerships and ease of regulations for foreign investors. The privatisation law has enabled Aramco to sell a 49% stake in its pipelines for $12.4bn to a consortium led by the US-based EIG Global Energy Partners. The Aramco deal accounted for 65% of the total FDI inflows in 2021.Oman followed in third place with $3.72bn, down 8% y-o-y.

Gulf Times
Qatar
Food inflation in Qatar among world's lowest: World Bank

Qatar’s food inflation was less than 2% year-on-year between July 2022 and May 2023, making it one of the lowest figures globally, World Bank's latest data indicate.In its food price inflation tracker, World Bank said Qatar’s food price inflation stood at 4.8% in July last year, 6.4% (August 2022), 4.6% (September 2022), 1.3% (October 2022), 0.3% (November 2022), 1.5% (December 2022), -0.6% (January this year), -1.9% (February), 0.7% (March), 1.4% (April) and -1.5% (May).In the tracker, a traffic light approach was adopted to show the severity of food inflation, and the colour coding was determined based on historical food price inflation targets and expert consultation with the World Bank Agriculture and Food Unit.Qatar’s colour code is green, which according to World Bank, indicates food price increase is less than 2%.The International Monetary Fund is the core data source for food inflation, supplemented by Trading Economics, World Bank said.Globally, information between February and May this year for which food price inflation data are available shows high inflation in most low- and middle-income countries, with inflation higher than 5% in in 61.1% of low-income countries, 79.1% of lower-middle-income countries, and 70% of upper-middle-income countries, with many experiencing double-digit inflation.In addition, 78.9% of high-income countries are experiencing high food price inflation, according to the World Bank.The most-affected countries are in Africa, North America, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.The agriculture and cereal price indices closed 4% and 12% percent lower compared to a few weeks ago, while the export price index closed at the same level. The decline in the cereal price index was primarily driven by a sharp decline in maize prices, which dropped by 21% compared to a few weeks ago.Wheat prices also declined by 3% while rice prices increased by 1 percent over the same period.On a year-on-year basis, maize and wheat prices are both 19% lower, and rice prices are 16% higher.Compared to January 2021, maize prices are 4% lower, while wheat and rice prices are 1% and 3% higher.In real terms, food price inflation exceeded overall inflation in 79.8% of the 163 countries where data is available, the World Bank noted.The agricultural and cereal price indices closed 4% and 12% lower, respectively, while export price indices closed at the same level as two weeks ago.The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development–Food and Agriculture Organisation (OECD-FAO) Agricultural Outlook 2023-2032 highlighted the threat to global food security from the surge in agricultural input prices in recent years.One of the key concerns raised in the report is global food insecurity resulting from the surge in agricultural input prices in recent years.The outlook suggests that rising fertiliser costs can lead to higher food prices.

Q-Max LNG carrier Mekaines operated by Nakilat. PICTURE: www.nakilat.com
Business
Nakilat's large ships change global LNG carrier landscape 'dramatically', says IGU

Global LNG carrier landscape changed dramatically when Qatari shipping line Nakilat introduced the Q-Flex (210,000 to 217,000 cm) and Q-Max (263,000 to 266,000 cm) vessels, specifically targeting large shipments of LNG to Asia and Europe, IGU said in a report.The current global LNG fleet is relatively young, considering the oldest LNG carrier operating was constructed in 1977, IGU said in its ‘World LNG report – 2023’.Some 87.7% of the fleet is under 20 years of age, consistent with the rapid growth of liquefaction capacity since the turn of the century. In addition, newer vessels are larger and more efficient, with superior project economics over their operational lifetime.With financial and safety concerns in mind, ship owners plan to operate a vessel for 35-40 years before it is laid-up, although challenges from upcoming emissions reduction regulations (notably, the IMO’s EEXI and CII) could reduce this or incentivise retrofits or conversions.Due to the rapid development of technology and emissions regulations, the life duration may become shorter, IGU noted.At the end of its operating life, a decision can be made on whether to scrap a carrier, convert it to an FSU/FSRU, or return it to operation should market conditions improve materially.When commissioning a newbuild, a shipowner determines vessel capacity based on individual needs, ongoing market trends, technologies available at the time, and increasingly, with a view to future environmental regulations and demand for LNG.Liquefaction and regasification plants also have berthing capacity limits, while certain trade-lanes may limit vessel dimensions, all of which are important considerations regarding ship dimensions and compatibility.The needs of individual ship owners are also largely affected by market demand, which means newbuild vessel capacities have stayed primarily within a small range around period averages.Due to the early dominance of steam turbine propulsion, vessels delivered before the mid-2000s were exclusively smaller than 150,000 cm as this was the range best suited for steam turbine propulsion systems, many of them equipped with ‘Moss-type’ cargo tanks.The LNG carrier landscape changed dramatically when Qatari shipping line Nakilat introduced the Q-Flex (210,000 to 217,000 cm) and Q-Max (263,000 to 266,000 cm) vessels, specifically targeting large shipments of LNG to Asia and Europe.These vessels, IGU noted achieved greater economies of scale with their SSDR propulsion systems, representing the 45 largest LNG carriers ever built.After the wave of Q-Class vessels, most newbuilds have settled at a size between 150,000 and 180,000cm. This capacity range now makes up 62% of the current fleet.The technological developments that steered adoption of this size are two-stroke propulsion systems, such as the ME-GI, X-DF, STaGE and more recently ME-GA types, that maximise fuel efficiency between 170,000 and 180,000 cm.Another crucial factor is the new Panama Canal size limit – only vessels smaller than this size were initially authorised to pass through the new locks, imperative for any ship engaged in trade involving US LNG supply.The Q-Flex LNG carrier ‘Al Safliya’, which is larger than 200,000 cm, became the first Q-Flex type LNG vessel and the largest LNG carrier by cargo capacity to transit the Panama Canal in May 2019.While 174,000 cm remains the most common newbuild size, larger ships have once again gathered interest from ship owners. There are fifteen 200,000 cm vessels currently on order, IGU said.

Travellers at the Daxing International airport in Beijing. Air passenger numbers are expected to double by 2040 as recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is almost complete. Some 4.4bn passengers are expected to fly in 2023 and international traffic has now increased from a standstill in April 2020 to reach about 84% of 2019 levels.
Business
Initiatives to enhance passenger throughput amid surge in air travel demand

Air passenger numbers are expected to double by 2040 as recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is almost complete. .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[55757]**Some 4.4bn passengers are expected to fly in 2023 and international traffic has now increased from a standstill in April 2020 to reach about 84% of 2019 levels.With passenger numbers expected to double by 2040, the focus has once again turned to aviation infrastructure on the ground.Airports around the world have experienced increasing passenger numbers over the years, driven by factors such as population growth, economic development, and the growing accessibility of air travel. This has led to congestion at many airports, particularly those in major cities or popular tourist destinations.Already, in summer 2022 there were issues with congestion at key nodes in the air transport network.Both London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol were forced to limit flights, for example, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA). In fact, the majority of the top 100 airports are expected to be capacity-constrained by 2030.The demand for air travel is projected to grow significantly in the coming decades, especially in regions like Asia and Africa. This growth could put additional strain on airport infrastructure and operations.To address this issue, airport authorities and governments will have to invest further in expanding and upgrading airport infrastructure, implementing advanced technologies, and adopting more efficient air traffic management systems.With new airports few and far between, especially in mission-critical cities, the industry’s only option to accommodate demand is greatly improving passenger facilitation through the existing airport footprint."Automating manual processes and even moving them off airport will be integral to the success of this initiative," IATA noted.“The main reasons passengers need be checked by airline, airport, and border control agents are for identification, access control and travel documentation checks, such as confirmation of a visa,” points out Alan Murray Hayden, IATA’s director (Airlines, Airports and Security Operational and Compliance Solutions).“But many of these procedures can all be pushed off airport through a combination of 'Timatic' and contactless travel as stipulated by IATA’s One ID initiative,” Hayden says.As early as next year, the International Air Transport Association will roll out an upgraded version of Timatic is a one-stop verification platform that enables airlines to confirm whether a passenger is eligible to fly.Pre-pandemic, more than 700mn passengers per year had their passport details, visa requirements, and other travel-related documentation checked by Timatic.According to IATA, Timatic is integrated in almost all airline departure control systems as part of their check-in process, making it an essential element in speeding up passenger processing times and improving throughput.Typically, about 85% of passengers are green-lighted for travel with various issues red-flagging the remaining 15%. And the whole process is virtually instantaneous, from the latest government requirements being inputted to the outcomes of passenger checks.The new version of 'Timatic AutoCheck' is expected to deliver an improved passenger experience, more efficient operations, and reduced costs.“Before, a passenger trying to check-in online might just have received a note asking them to see an agent,” explains Murray Hayden.“There would have been no explanation, and the situation would have to be resolved at a counter just prior to the flight, causing queues and anxiety.“Now, a passenger will get explicit information about a problem in clear, conversational language and they will have the ability to upload a visa or other details that will allow them to pursue an automated process.”In turn, check-in staff are freed up to deliver more value-added services and there is less likelihood of mistakes being made due to time pressure. Airlines avoid costly fines as a result.Contactless travel, encapsulated by the ‘One ID’ initiative of IATA, is the second crucial element in facilitating increased passenger throughput and processing speed without expanding the airport footprint.One ID will bring multiple benefits to all stakeholders. Passengers will have a much-improved travel experience and no longer need to juggle between different documents.By having the opportunity to share the minimum data necessary with airlines, airports and governments prior to departure, passengers can arrive at the airport ready to fly and can pass all airline touchpoints using biometrics. Queues and repetitive documentation checks will be consigned to the history books.One ID will also enable significant cost savings for airlines and free up staff for value-added services, bringing further commercial opportunities. And governments will benefit from strengthened border control thanks to pre-travel, quality data.Industry experts say the ability of airports to handle increasing passenger numbers and avoid congestion will ultimately depend on the proactive measures taken by airports, governments, and the aviation industry as a whole to address the challenges posed by growing air travel demand.

Qatar was the second top global LNG exporter in June, while leading GECF member countries, according the Gas Exporting Countries Forum. PICTURE: www.qatargas.com
Business
Qatar second top global LNG exporter, top GECF exporter in June

Qatar was the second top global LNG exporter in June, latest data from the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) has shown.Among the GECF member countries, Qatar topped in liquefied natural gas exports last month.Total global LNG exports reached 32.18mn tonnes during June. The increase in LNG exports from non-GECF countries and a rise in LNG reloads outweighed the lower LNG exports from GECF member countries.The share of non-GECF countries and LNG reloads in global LNG exports increased from 50% and 0.6%, respectively, from a year earlier to 50.4% and 0.8% in June 2023.Conversely, GECF's market share in global LNG exports decreased from 49.4% to 48.8%.During H1, 2023, cumulative global LNG exports reached 205.45mn tonnes, indicating a 4.1% increase (8.06mn tonnes) y-o-y.Last month, the US, Qatar and Australia were the top LNG exporting countries, GECF noted.In June, LNG exports from GECF member countries and observers declined by 1% (0.15mn tonnes) y-o-y, reaching a total of 15.69mn tonnes.The weaker LNG imports were driven by Russia, Egypt, Nigeria, Malaysia, Equatorial Guinea, Norway and the United Arab Emirates.Conversely, LNG exports increased in Qatar, Angola, Algeria, Mozambique, Trinidad and Tobago and Peru.During H1, 2023, cumulative LNG exports from GECF member and observer countries increased by 2.2% (2.13mn tonnes) y-o-y, totalling 99.93mn tonnes.In Russia, higher maintenance activity at the Sakhalin 2 and Yamal LNG facilities led to a reduction in LNG exports, the report said.Lower feedgas availability in Egypt and Nigeria contributed to the decline in LNG exports in both countries.In June, Egypt did not export any LNG cargo.The decline in Malaysia's LNG exports was mainly attributed to weaker exports from the Bintulu LNG facility.An unplanned outage at the Hammerfest LNG facility caused a drop in LNG exports from Norway.On the other hand, lower maintenance activity at the Qatargas LNG and Soyo LNG facilities boosted LNG exports from Qatar and Angola.In Algeria and Trinidad and Tobago, higher feedgas availability supported the increase in LNG exports from both countries.The continued ramp-up in LNG exports from the Coral South FLNG facility drove Mozambique's LNG exports higher.In June, global LNG imports expanded sharply by 6.8% (2.09mn tonnes) y-o-y to reach 32.85mn tonnes.This growth was primarily driven by a strong rebound in Asia Pacific's LNG imports, with higher imports in Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) also having some contribution. Conversely, the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region experienced a decline in LNG imports.During the first half (H1) of 2023, cumulative global LNG imports grew by 4% (7.95mn tonnes) y-o-y to 206.62mn tonnes.The bulk of the increase in global LNG imports during H1 2023 came from Europe, followed by Asia Pacific, LAC and North America. This offset the lower LNG imports in the Mena region, GECF noted.

A view of the Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar's principal site for the production of liquefied natural gas and gas-to-liquids (file).  IGU noted that liquefaction plants in the Middle East ran at high utilisation rates over the year, with Qatar and UAE performing at 107% and 99% respectively.
Business
Qatar LNG liquefaction plants achieve 100%-plus utilisation rates in 2022: IGU

Qatar’s LNG liquefaction plants achieved utilisation rates in excess of 100% in 2022, the International Gas Union (IGU) said in its ‘2023 World LNG Report’.IGU noted that liquefaction plants in the Middle East ran at high utilisation rates over the year, with Qatar and UAE performing at 107% and 99% respectively.Global operational liquefaction capacity totalled 478.4mn tonnes per year (MTPY) as of end-2022 with the utilisation rate averaging 89% of pro-rated capacity, a notable increase compared to 80.4% in 2021.Global liquefaction plants have seen higher utilisation rates following the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict at end-February 2022 with Europe increasing LNG imports to offset reduced piped gas flows from Russia.At the same time, some export facilities have been running below average.For example, IGU noted that a fire at the Freeport LNG export facility in the US took the liquefaction plant offline for several months from June 2022.In Australia, a fire and employee strike at Prelude FLNG led to sporadic liquefaction production disruptions with similar issues or technical hurdles seen at NLNG in Nigeria, Snohvit LNG in Norway and MLNG in Malaysia.As a result, operational liquefaction plants maximised LNG production to meet surging European LNG demand leading to a high price premium compared to other regions worldwide.Despite outages and upstream supply disruptions, nine out of 22 LNG exporting markets achieved higher-than-average utilisation rates in 2022.Besides Qatar and the UAE, these included Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Oman, Equatorial Guinea, the US and Australia.Liquefaction plants in the US were fully utilised in 2022 with a utilisation rate of 100% compared to 103% in 2021. This was despite Freeport LNG going offline in the second half of 2022, suggesting the loss of its export volumes was partially offset by increased supply from other operational liquefaction plants in the US.This, IGU said, was also boosted by Calcasieu Pass LNG which added total capacity of 10 MTPY in February last year.Liquefaction plants in other regions that did not operate above average utilisation rates in 2022 were constrained by feedgas supplies from linked upstream fields, unexpected maintenance, or industrial action, which limited liquefaction production levels through the year, IGU said.In Africa, utilisation at the Nigeria LNG (NLNG) liquefaction plant averaged 67% in 2022, after averaging 72% in the first half of 2022 and 61% in the second half of 2022.The reduced overall rate was caused by significant flooding across its upstream gas supplies’ production regions, which required several gas production wells to be shut.NLNG has experienced multiple outages since August 2022 and declared force majeure from October 2022 to end-November 2022.In Australia, the 3.7 MTPY Darwin LNG (DLNG) operated by Santos experienced issues with feedgas supply from the Bayu-Undan gas field.Gas production from the Bayu-Undan gas field is estimated to cease at end-2023 with the operator considering backfilling options to support future LNG production once Bayu-Undan has been fully depleted.Santos had decided to proceed with the $311mn Darwin pipeline duplication project to enable gas from its offshore Barossa field to flow to DLNG with the first gas expected in H1,2025.Offshore Australia, Prelude FLNG (3.6 MTPY) performed far below capacity last year with its utilisation rate averaging just 32%.It followed a four-month maintenance period from December 2021 to early April 2022 after a fire. Production was halted again due to industrial action which lasted from June to late August 2022. Another fire-related shut-down occurred in December 2022 following a 46-day maintenance period, causing Prelude’s production to remain muted, IGU noted.

Gulf Times
Business
GCC issuers waiting for 'best launch window' for sukuk issuance: S&P

GCC issuers are waiting for the “best launch window” for sukuk issuance, S&P Global has said in a report.Issuance of sukuk denominated in foreign currency was up about 9% in the first half (H1) of 2023, thanks to Saudi Arabia and a few new issuers.S&P now anticipates further issuance this year, since some Gulf issuers are already prepared, just waiting for the best launch window.S&P now forecast global issuance will total $160bn to $170bn this year, which is higher than its initial estimate of $150bn, but still slightly below the figure in 2022 as local currency sukuk issuance declines.In the first half of this year, total issuance was down by 17.5% to $83.2bn compared with $100.7bn in the same period last year.“We continue to expect muted issuance activity overall. We have revised upward our estimate of sukuk issuance to $174.1bn from $155.8bn in 2022 by better capturing the volume of local currency-denominated issuances.“However, issuance volumes are still lower than in 2021. Year on year, the market saw a drop of almost 25% in the first half of 2023, primarily due to lower issuance by the Saudi Arabian government. We think liquidity constraints in the Saudi banking system in the first half of the year was the main reason for this, since it implies subdued local demand.“We saw a marginal decline in the UAE and also in Turkey, where we think this related more to the environment amid the legislative and presidential election. In the UAE, we note that the federal authorities issued their first local currency-denominated sukuk during the period.“We expect to see more such issuance in the next few years as the UAE authorities continue efforts to develop the local capital market.”Despite less supportive market conditions, S&P saw foreign currency-denominated sukuk increase by about 9% in the first half of this year. This stemmed from sovereign and government-related entities, as well as from banks tapping the sukuk market to ease liquidity pressure in Saudi Arabia.S&P also saw a couple of new issuers reach the finish line. Egypt tapped the sukuk market for the first time in a transaction that was priced in a similar manner to conventional bonds.US-based Air Lease Corp also tapped the market during this period, using some of its leased aircrafts as underlying assets.“We expect to see more traction in the foreign currency sukuk market in the second half of 2023. Many issuers in the Gulf are on the lookout for opportunities the market may have to offer. They are also seeking to benefit from the current rates situation, under the assumption that central banks are not yet done with inflation and further rate hikes may be on the horizon,” S&P added.

Gulf Times
Business
Digital payment system gains solid ground in Qatar as cheque processing declines: QCB

Digital payment system is gaining solid ground in Qatar, QCB data reveal as the percentage of cheques processed to the total electronic fund transfers in the country declined from 63% in 2018 to 38% in 2021.In its 13th Financial Stability Report, the Qatar Central Bank said this “underscores the shift in consumer preference for digital payment methods” in the country.Despite introducing several electronic payment methods, cheques traditionally remained as one of the preferred payment modes in Qatar for a large segment of the population mainly because “cheques are considered as a sort of guarantee” on future payments, the QCB noted.However, the use of cheques in Qatar has been consistently declining relative to other electronic payment modes.The changes associated with Covid-19 have further accelerated the transition away from cheques as more people opted for digital alternatives.In terms of absolute value, the number of cheques processed in the Electronic Cheque Clearing System (ECCS) in 2021 remained at 3.95mn, marginally lower than the last year.Of which, 33,000 were high-value cheques with a face value of more than QR1mn and they were settled in RTGS on a gross basis. As in the previous year, the small value cheque payments with a face value of less than QR10,000 accounted for a major chunk (57.1%) of the total volume.Similarly, the large value cheque payments with a face value of more than QR100,000 accounted for 7% of total transactions, but in terms of the value, they accounted for 78% of total payments settled in 2021.The QCB noted that during the year, Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) settled 462,000 large value electronic transactions worth QR2.2bn on a gross basis, a growth of 35% in volume and 1.8% in value over the previous year.In addition, RTGS settled batches of net interbank obligations arising from other payment systems and large value cheques on a gross basis.The QCB manages a number of payment and settlement systems such as RTGS, ECCS, QATCH that facilitates fund transfers, NAPS (National ATM and Point of Sale Switch) that acts as an electronic payment gateway for switching and settling of ATM/POS/e-commerce transactions and the Qatar Mobile Payment System (QMPS).As in the previous years, RTGS and NAPS continued to remain the most systemically important systems with RTGS handling 82.2% of the total customer and interbank payments in value terms and NAPS handling 91.1% of the payments in terms of volume, the QCB noted.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker leaves the dock after discharging at PetroChina's receiving terminal in Dalian, Liaoning province, China. In 2022, Qatar accounted for bulk of Middle East to Asia LNG trade at 36.1mn tonnes, which was 9.1mn tonnes higher than in 2021, according to IGU.
Business
Qatar accounts for bulk of LNG supplies to Asia in 2022: IGU

LNG trade between the Middle East and Asia was the third largest globally in 2022, with Qatar accounting for bulk of the supplies, the International Gas Union (IGU) said in its ‘2023 World LNG Report’ released on Wednesday.Middle East to Asia LNG trade accounted for 40.6mn tonnes in 2022, up 6.7mn tonnes on the year before, IGU said.Qatar accounted for bulk of the LNG exports at 36.1mn tonnes, which was 9.1mn tonnes higher than in 2021, IGU noted.In 2022, global LNG trade flows continued to be dominated by intra-Asia Pacific trade (97.9mn tonnes), mainly driven by a rise in exports from Australia to Japan (31.2mn tonnes), South Korea (11.6mn tonnes), Chinese Taipei (7.6mn tonnes) and from Malaysia to Japan (11.8mn tonnes).Most of the remaining supply from Asia Pacific went to Asia (37.8mn tonnes) as seen in previous years.Exports from Australia to China alone totalled 22.8mn tonnes in 2022.Notably, Asia Pacific shipped 0.2mn tonnes to Europe, including one cargo from Australia to the Netherlands, one cargo from Indonesia to France and one from Indonesia to Turkiye.“Despite being a long distance with high shipping costs, the cargoes helped meet Europe’s immediate needs for LNG to offset lower Russian piped gas volumes,” IGU said.The second-largest LNG interregional trade flow was from North America to Europe at 55.2mn tonnes, a 148% increase compared to 2021, again largely compensating for Europe’s loss of Russian piped gas volumes.North America sent 14.2mn tonnes to Asia Pacific (6.2mn tonnes to South Korea and 4.4mn tonnes to Japan) and only 1.9mn tonnes to China.IGU report indicated trade from the Middle East to Asia Pacific fell to 30.7mn tonnes last year from 36.3mn tonnes in 2021.Africa prioritised Europe’s need for LNG in 2022, exporting 28.6mn tonnes to Europe, compared to 23.8mn tonnes in 2021.By contrast, African exports to Asia fell to 4.3mn tonnes last year from 11.4mn tonnes in 2021, mainly driven by a reduction in exports there from Egypt (-3.1mn tonnes), Nigeria (-1.5mn tonnes) and Angola (-1.4mn tonnes).Even though Russia pipeline exports to Europe fell significantly in 2022, Russian LNG exports to Europe increased by 2mn tonnes to 14.8mn tonnes.The second largest offtaker of Russian LNG was the Asia Pacific region, which imported 11.5mn tonnes from Russia in 2022. Most of Russia’s remaining LNG went to Asia, with China the main customer.Europe was the largest offtaker of LNG from Latin America, receiving 5mn tonnes of LNG from the region, a 95% or 2.4mn tonnes increase compared to 2021.In Europe, Norway was the sole LNG producer after bringing Snøhvit LNG back online in mid-2022 following an outage.Norway exported all of its 2.7mn tonnes of LNG output to Europe last year, IGU noted.

The survey collected bank’s opinion on the level of risk on various risk factors. Seven risk factors are provided under ‘global risks’ while six factors are provided under domestic macroeconomic risks.
Business
Majority of Qatari banks consider cyber risks 'high to very high', says QCB

Majority of Qatari banks consider “risks from cyber world” has "high to very high risk", Qatar Central Bank (QCB) said in its Financial Stability Report.Vulnerabilities on account of ‘risk from fraud’ is also considered to be reckoned among high risk factors as opined by banks, QCB said in its ‘Risk perception survey – 2022’.The Risk Perception Survey (RPS) was conducted among 16 banks including the Qatar development Bank.The survey collected bank’s opinion on the level of risk on various risk factors. Seven risk factors are provided under ‘global risks’ while six factors are provided under domestic macroeconomic risks.The survey also sought bank’s opinion on various risk elements on ‘credit risk’, ‘liquidity risk’, ‘market risk’ and ‘operational risk’. The risk levels are captured through a five-point ‘Likert scale’ ranging from ‘very low’ to very high’.The responses received on each risk variables are converted into an index ranging from 0 to 100, where zero represents no risk and 100 represents very high risk as per the opinion of the surveyed banks.The heat map on “global risks” suggests uncertainty around Covid-19 pandemic’ is considered as very high risk in 2021.However, the risk levels will have been moderated in 2022 and further reduce in 2023 as expected by the banks.According to QCB, ‘geopolitical uncertainties’ and ‘uneven global recovery’ are considered as next major risks in 2022 and 2023.Among the domestic macroeconomic risks ‘reduction in market liquidity’ is considered as the major risk event by the respondents followed by "volatility in equity market" and "fall in residential/commercial property prices".In 2023, banks consider fall in property prices will be major risk event followed by lower domestic growth.The survey also captured banks perception on the major risk factors from the given set of events pertaining to credit, liquidity, market, and operational risks.Among the given vulnerabilities, “default from real estate developers” and ‘default from large borrowers” are considered by majority of the banks as the major risk factors.“Deposit withdrawal from wholesale depositors” is considered as the major risk factor in case of liquidity risk, QCB said in its 13th Financial Stability Review.“Banks also opined that the risk level due to ‘reduced liquidity inflows from foreign inter- bank market’ may increase in 2022 and 2023. Among market risk factors, interest rate shock from domestic and developed countries are of high risk and the risk level is expected to (have) increased in 2022 and increase in 2023,” QCB noted.

NAPS
Business
NAPS processes 148mn debit card transactions worth QR92.1bn in 2021: QCB

Qatar's National ATM and Point of Sale System (NAPS) processed 148mn debit card transactions worth QR92.1bn in 2021, up 23% on 2020, according to the Qatar Central Bank's 13th Financial Stability Review.Almost two-thirds of these transactions were merchant payments performed at POS terminals deployed across the State by the banks and other e-commerce transactions.However, in terms of the value, ATM transactions accounted for more than half of the total NAPS payments and the ATM transactions saw an increase in 2021 compared to the previous year, indicating that cash payments in the economy were gaining momentum again, after a sharp decline seen during 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.The e-commerce payments through the QCB’s QPay system continued to grow as in the previous years.In 2021, transactions through the QPay channel, grew by 53% whereas the number of transactions through the ATM channel grew by 8.4% and the POS transactions grew by 25.5% as compared to the previous year.The seamless support extended by the financial institutions and the merchants in providing contactless card payments for in-store and online purchases to the consumers during the pandemic to avoid cash and contact with payment terminals as well as more and more merchants moving to e-commerce platforms attributed to such a large-scale migration from cash payments to POS and e-payments, the QCB said.The retail payment system QATCH that facilitates the settlement of bulk direct credit and direct debit transactions handled nearly 10mn transactions in 2021.As in the previous years, transactions processed in QATCH grew in both value (13.8%) and volume (13.6%) terms over the previous year.NAPS is primarily used for the settlement of interbank merchant payments and ATM transactions. NAPS connects all automated teller machines (ATMs), point-of-sale (POS) terminals, and payment gateways offered by the local banks to a central payment switch that in turn re-routes the debit card transactions between a merchant’s bank and the card issuer bank and settles the transactions on central bank money.In addition, the system supports routing and settling of GCC interbank debit card transactions.

Gulf Times
Business
Transactions processed in QCB's payment and settlement systems total QR4.4tn in 2021

The total number of transactions processed in various payment and settlement systems of the Qatar Central Bank amounted to QR4.4tn in 2021, the QCB said in its 13th Financial Stability Review.The usage of electronic payment methods in Qatar has increased significantly in recent years due to changes in consumer behaviour in view of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the regulatory measures initiated by QCB.As a result, the number of transactions processed in various payment and settlement systems operated by the QCB crossed 162mn in 2021 compared to 133.5mn transactions processed in 2020, registering an overwhelming growth of 21.7%.“This was primarily characterised by the increased usage of debit card transactions,” QCB noted.Of the total transactions, customer payments accounted for 45.8%, followed by central bank operations (39.6%) and other interbank payments (15.2%).The QCB manages a number of payment and settlement systems such as Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), Electronic Cheque Clearing System (ECCS), QATCH that facilitates fund transfers, NAPS (National ATM and Point of Sale Switch) that acts as an electronic payment gateway for switching and settling of ATM/POS/e-commerce transactions and the Qatar Mobile Payment System (QMPS).As in the previous years, RTGS and NAPS continued to remain the most systemically important systems with RTGS handling 82.2% of the total customer and interbank payments in value terms, and NAPS handling 91.1% of the payments in terms of volume.Although the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic had a marginal impact on payments volume, particularly in the first and second quarters of 2021, overall, the year witnessed a sharp increase in volume and a moderate growth in value indicating that the Qatar economy is indeed in the growth trajectory.While the total value of customer payments grew by 4.3% in 2021, that of interbank payments remained unchanged, the QCB said.Regarding the central bank market operations, as in the previous years, the value and volume of QMR deposits remained much higher than those of QMR loans indicating that the banking system had adequate liquidity during the year, the QCB noted.