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Friday, June 21, 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.
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-8 freighter. Qatar Airwaysu2019 ,strategic, investment in a mix of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft has enabled it to provide agile responses and embrace every challenge, by offering the right capacity in each market to meet the increased passenger and cargo demand with great flexibility.
Business
Qatar Airways has 250-plus aircraft worth $72bn on order

In the last financial year, Qatar Airways added seven new aircraft to its fleet, which included two cargo aircraft and five Qatar Executive jets   Qatar Airways has more than 250 aircraft worth over $72.12bn still on order including options and letters of intent, the national airline said in its annual report for 2021/22, which was released on Thursday. In January this year, Qatar Airways announced a new order of up to 50 Boeing 777-8 freighters and two current generation 777 freighters, securing “ambitious plans” for the future of its cargo operations. Qatar Airways and Boeing also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a firm order of 25 737-10 aircraft and purchase rights for 25 additional airplanes, the report said. In June last year, Qatar Airways introduced the latest generation Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, featuring an ultra-modern business class suite, with a total passenger capacity of 311 seats; 30 business class suites and 281 seats in economy. In the last financial year, Qatar Airways added seven new aircraft to its fleet, which included two cargo aircraft and five Qatar Executive jets (as on March 31, 2022). Qatar Airways’ "strategic" investment in a mix of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft has enabled it to provide agile responses and embrace every challenge, by offering the right capacity in each market to meet the increased passenger and cargo demand with great flexibility. During the financial year 2021/2022, Qatar Airways said it “faced considerable capacity limitations, due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the group’s control.” The report said, “These capacity constraints were partially addressed through a number of different steps to balance commercial needs as swiftly as possible.” The airline brought back in to service four of the 10 Airbus A380 in order to increase the fleet capacity on key winter routes including London Heathrow and Paris. The national airline also re-introduced 14 of its A330 fleet to address the continued increase in capacity requirements due to the easing of travel restrictions during the peak of winter holiday period. Qatar Airways Cargo has maintained its position as the world’s largest air freight carrier, injecting much needed capacity in the market helping support global supply chains at a critical time during the pandemic. “The airline’s foresight and strategic investment in a varied fleet has enabled us to become highly flexible and non-reliant on a specific aircraft type. As a global airline we adapted our network to serve passenger demand and increase the sustainability of the operations,” the annual report noted.    

Airport cargo operations also increased by 13.10%, with 2,542,426 tonnes of cargo handled, Qatar Airways said in its annual report for 2021/22
Business
HIA serves 22mn-plus passengers in 2021-22

Airport cargo operations also increased by 13.10%, with 2,542,426 tonnes of cargo handled, the national airline said in its annual report for 2021/22.   The Hamad International Airport (HIA) served a total of 22,124,322 passengers in 2021/22, a 220.14% jump compared to the previous fiscal year. Airport cargo operations also increased by 13.10%, with 2,542,426 tonnes of cargo handled. HIA also witnessed growth in aircraft take-off and landing with 181,308 movements – a 54.5% increase from last year, Qatar Airways said in its annual report for 2021/22. MATAR, the Qatar Company for Airports Management and Operation, is a corporate subsidiary of Qatar Airways Group in a contractual agreement with the Government of Qatar to manage the operation of HIA. HIA served a total of 171 destinations between April 2021 and March 2022, and introduced nine new passenger destinations and two new airline partners during the fiscal year. Dhaka, Heathrow, Dubai, Kathmandu and Male were among the busiest departing destinations from the airport. HIA’s expansion is an investment into Qatar’s future, enhancing multi-dimensional offerings by integrating world-class art collections, lush greens as well as contemporary retail and dining concepts among other leisure attractions and facilities under one expansive terminal. Consisting of two phases, Phase A of the current expansion will increase the capacity to 58mn passengers annually by 2022, while Phase B will continue after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and will increase the capacity to more than 60mn passengers annually. MATAR is responsible for HIA’s expansion project, its readiness for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, its asset management, commercial activities, airline business development, environmental sustainability and international projects. As the ‘Official Airport Partner’ for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, HIA said it is “ready to create memorable experiences for football fans across the globe by hosting extraordinary fan activations in its terminal and ensuring seamless connectivity through the airport.”    

                Passenger revenue increased by 210% over the last year, due to the growth of the Qatar Airways network, increase in market share and higher unit revenue, for the second financial year in a row.
Qatar
Qatar Airways Group posts highest net profit in global airline industry for 2021/22

* Group reports 'record' net profit of QR5.6bn during fiscal 2021/22, highest in its 25-year history     Qatar Airways Group reported a “record” net profit of QR5.6bn during fiscal 2021/22, the highest ever in its 25-year history. Overall revenue increased to QR52.3bn, up 78% compared to last year and a remarkable 2% higher than the full financial year pre-Covid (i.e., 2019/20), the national airline announced on Thursday. Passenger revenue increased by 210% over the last year, due to the growth of the Qatar Airways network, increase in market share and higher unit revenue, for the second financial year in a row. Qatar Airways carried 18.5mn passengers, an increase of 218% over last year. Qatar Airways Cargo remained the leading player in the world as its revenue experienced an impressive growth of 25% over last year with the growth in cargo capacity (Available Tonne Kilometres) of 25% annually. The Group generated strong EBITDA margin of 34% at QR17.7bn. EBITDA was higher than the previous year by QR11.8bn due to “streamlined, agile and fit-for-purpose” operations across all business areas. These record earnings are the result of decisions made during the pandemic to expand the Qatar Airways’ passenger and cargo networks, with a more accurate forecast of the global market recovery, building further customer and trade loyalty and product excellence combined with strong cost control. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the national carrier grew to more than 140 destinations in 2021/22, opening new routes including Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Lusaka, Zambia; Harare, Zimbabwe; Almaty, Kazakhstan; and Kano and Port Harcourt, Nigeria; in addition to resuming flights to key markets across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The company has operated continuously the largest network among all Middle Eastern airlines, as measured by number or destinations as well as weekly flights. HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs and Qatar Airways Group Chairman Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi said, “Qatar Airways Group has demonstrated a robust role in the aviation industry, and these financial results are a clear indication of the Group’s strong performance. Against challenges during the previous period, I am delighted by the achievements that have been accomplished this year and by the way the Group has swiftly responded to these challenges.” Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker said, “This year, Qatar Airways Group celebrates a quarter of a century of history since its relaunch, whilst maintaining strong performance and growing profitability. Our commitment to providing the greatest choices to our passengers, maintaining the highest levels of safety in the industry and earning trust have made us proudly become the airline of choice for millions of travellers around the world. We have pursued every business opportunity and left no stone unturned as we aimed to meet our targets. “In 2021, we grew significantly to become the world’s largest global long-haul carrier in 2021 by RPKs. We also received the industry’s most prestigious accolade ‘Airline of the Year’ for a record-breaking sixth time in the Skytrax World Airline Awards in addition to recognition for the airline’s hub, Hamad International Airport as ‘Best Airport in the World’ 2021. “The Qatar Airways Cargo division also earned three major industry awards including Cargo Operator of the Year at the ATW Airline Awards; Cargo Airline of the Year, and Air Cargo Industry Achievement Award at Air Cargo Week’s World Air Cargo Awards. These achievements not only highlight our exceptional brand reputation but also our outstanding hard work across the Qatar Airways Group family.” “I am extremely proud of the decisions we have made to embrace efficiency and achieve strong cost control across several operational departments whilst engaging in environmental and sustainable initiatives. This has positioned us at the forefront in the field of sustainability, including environmental protection and social commitment. Our strategic investments in a varied fleet of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft has helped us overcome the significant challenges related to capacity constraints while balancing commercial needs as swiftly as possible.” Throughout this year, the Qatar Airways Group maintained a highly-successful and wealthy portfolio of regional and global partnerships to champion the brand across the world. Against the backdrop of the pandemic disruption, Qatar Airways Cargo transported more than 3mntonnes of air freight and securing eight per cent share in the global market. Cargo also transported more than 600mn doses of Covid-19 vaccines over the course of the pandemic to date and also concentrated its efforts in enhancing its ‘Pharma’ product and industry presence, while also ensuring commitment to its ground-breaking WeQare initiative, which consists of a series of positive and impactful actions in the form of chapters based on the core pillars of sustainability - environment, society, economy and culture. “This profit is not only a record for Qatar Airways Group, but also a record among all other airlines that have published financial results for this financial year worldwide,” the national airline noted. ends    

Travellers at San Francisco International Airport. The recent decision by the Biden Administration in the US to drop Covid testing requirement for international travellers is seen as big boon to the travel industry, aviation in particular.
Business
Airlines cheer US lifting Covid test requirement for inbound travellers

Beyond the Tarmac The global travel industry, aviation in particular, has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The safe easing or lifting of restrictions on travel is essential for the restart of travel and tourism and the return of the social and economic benefits the sector offers. International tourists and visitors are vitally important to businesses and workers across the globe who have struggled to regain losses from this valuable sector. In this context the recent decision by the Biden Administration in the US to drop Covid testing requirement for international travellers is seen as big boon to the travel industry, aviation in particular. Last week, the United States rescinded a 17-month-old requirement that people arriving in the country by air test negative for Covid-19, a move that follows intense lobbying by airlines and the travel industry. The requirement had been one of the last major US Covid-19 travel requirements. Its end comes as the summer travel season kicks off, and airlines were already preparing for record demand. Airlines have said that many Americans have not been not travelling internationally because of concerns they will test positive and be stranded abroad. The United States has required incoming international air travellers to provide pre-departure negative tests since January 2021. In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tightened the rule to require travellers to test negative within one day before flights to the United States rather than three days. Nick Calio, CEO, Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the largest US carriers, said the industry looks “forward to continuing to work with the administration to prioritise the safety and well-being of the travelling public and to ensure that air travel policies are guided by science.” Although the world is not out of the woods as yet with regard to the pandemic, tourism continues to recover at a strong pace, thanks to easing of restrictions. Globally, destinations welcomed almost three times as many international arrivals in the first quarter of 2022 as in the same period of 2021, with Europe leading the sector’s rebound, according to World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a specialised agency of the United Nations. According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism saw a 182% year-on-year increase in January-March 2022, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117mn international arrivals compared to 41mn in Q1, 2021. Of the extra 76mn international arrivals for the first three months, about 47mn were recorded in March, showing that the recovery is gathering pace. Europe and Americas lead the recovery: UNWTO data shows that during the first quarter of 2022, Europe welcomed almost four times as many international arrivals (+280%) as in Q1, 2021, with results driven by strong intra-regional demand. In the Americas arrivals more than doubled (+117%) in the same three months. However, arrivals in Europe and the Americas were still 43% and 46% below 2019 levels respectively. The Middle East (+132%) and Africa (+96%) also saw strong growth in Q1, 2022 compared to 2021, but arrivals remained 59% and 61% below 2019 levels respectively. Asia and the Pacific recorded a 64% increase over 2021 but again, levels were 93% below 2019 numbers as several destinations remained closed to non-essential travel. By sub-region, the Caribbean and Southern Mediterranean Europe continue to show the fastest rates of recovery. In both, arrivals recovered to nearly 75% of 2019 levels, with some destinations reaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Destinations opening up: Although international tourism remains 61% below 2019 levels, the gradual recovery is expected to continue throughout 2022, as more destinations ease or lift travel restrictions and pent-up demand is unleashed. As of June 2, some 45 destinations (of which 31 are in Europe) had no Covid-19 related restrictions in place. In Asia, an increasing number of destinations have started to ease those restrictions. Despite these positive prospects, a challenging economic environment coupled with the military offensive of the Russian Federation in Ukraine pose a downside risk to the ongoing recovery of international tourism. Export revenues to recover faster as spending rises: The latest issue of the UNWTO Tourism Barometer also shows that $1tn were lost in export revenues from international tourism in 2021, adding to the $1tn lost in the first year of the pandemic. Total export revenues from tourism (including passenger transport receipts) reached an estimated $713bn in 2021, a 4% increase in real terms from 2020 but still 61% below 2019 levels. International tourism receipts reached $602bn, also 4% higher in real terms than in 2020. Europe and the Middle East recorded the best results, with earnings climbing to about 50% of pre-pandemic levels in both regions. However, the amount being spent per trip is on the rise – from an average $1,000 in 2019 to $1,400 in 2021, WTO noted. A higher number of experts (48%) now see a potential return of international arrivals to 2019 levels in 2023 (from 32% in the January survey), while the percentage indicating this could happen in 2024 or later (44%) has diminished compared to the January survey (64%). Meanwhile by end April, international air capacity across the Americas, Africa, Europe, North Atlantic and the Middle East has reached or is close to 80% of pre-crisis levels and demand is following.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar’s GDP per capita estimated to scale up to $101,124 by 2026: FocusEconomics

Qatar’s GDP per capita has been estimated by researcher FocusEconomics to scale up to $101,124 by 2026. This year, FocusEconomics estimates the country’s GDP to be $79,881, $81,260 (2023), $86,222 (2024) and $93,617 (2025). Qatar’s GDP this year and in 2023 has been estimated at $213bn, $223bn (2024), $240bn (2025) and $257bn (2026). The country’s GDP growth this year will be 4.3% this year, 2.8% (2023), 2.8% (2023), 3.5% (2025) and 4.1% (2026). Current account balance, the researcher noted, will be $44.2bn this year, $35.3bn (2023), $27.6bn (2024), $32.2bn (2025) and $37.1bn (2026). FocusEconomics estimates Qatar’s merchandise trade balance to be $79.5bn this year, $78.8bn in 2023, $76.2bn (2024), $78.8bn (2025) and $87bn (2026). Merchandise exports may exceed $110bn this year, 2023 and 2024 and $116.4bn (2025) and $128.5bn (2026). Fiscal balance (as a percentage of Qatar’s GDP) has been estimated at 8.4% (2022), 5.5% (2023), 2.6% (2024), 3.3% (2025) and 4% (2026). The country’s debt (as a percentage of GDP) is estimated to fall continually, from 46 this year to 42 in 2026. Next year it may drop to 42.6, 43.9 (2024) and 43 (2025). Terming Qatar’s outlook stable, FocusEconomics said the non-energy economy appeared to perform well in Q1: The private-sector PMI averaged well in expansionary territory amid the reduced impact of the pandemic, while visitor arrivals soared in annual terms. However, the energy sector seemed to perform relatively poorly, with a double-digit annual decline in oil and gas output during February. The early signs for Q2 are positive: The PMI hit a series high in April, amid strong rises in both output and new orders, with the construction sector the top performer. Moreover, visitor arrivals were up 635% year-on-year in April. Qatar recently signed an energy partnership with Germany and pledged investment worth a total of roughly $18bn in Spain and the UK. “These moves bode well for Qatar’s trade ties and diversification efforts,” FocusEconomics said. GDP growth should accelerate this year due to stronger private consumption, higher energy prices, ongoing gas sector investment, improved ties with Gulf neighbours and the boost to tourism late in the year from the FIFA World Cup. The reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions remains the main downside risk. FocusEconomics panellists see a 4.3% rise in GDP during 2022, which is unchanged from last month’s forecast, and 2.8% growth in 2023. Inflation rose from 4.4% to 4.7% between March and April. Price pressures are expected to remain elevated for the remainder of the year, on elevated commodity prices and stronger domestic consumption. FocusEconomics panellists see inflation averaging 4% in 2022, which is unchanged from last month’s forecast, and 2.4% in 2023.

Gulf Times
Business
QatarEnergy embarks on largest LNG shipbuilding programme as part of NF expansion

QatarEnergy has embarked on the largest LNG shipbuilding programme as part of the North Field Expansion project, said HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi. “We have awarded a series of key offshore and onshore EPC contracts that are crucial for its timely execution,” HE al-Kaabi said Sunday. He said QatarEnergy will be working with its reliable business partners from China and Japan in the shipbuilding programme. In April, QatarEnergy signed a series of time-charter parties (TCPs) with a subsidiary of Mitsui O.S.K Lines (MOL) for the long-term charter and operation of four LNG ships, constituting the first batch of TCPs awarded under QatarEnergy’s massive LNG shipping programme. Concurrent with the signing of the TCPs, back-to-back LNG carrier shipbuilding contracts were signed between MOL and Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group (Hudong), a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), for the construction of four new LNG carriers to serve QatarEnergy’s LNG growth projects and future fleet requirements.

HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida al-Kaabi with Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of TotalEnergies Patrick Pouyannu00e9 addressing a press conference. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
QatarEnergy to announce partners for North Field South expansion by year-end: Al-Kaabi

QatarEnergy would announce partners for North Field South (NFS) expansion by the end of the year, HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida al-Kaabi said Sunday. NFS project will further increase the Qatar’s LNG production capacity to 126mn tonnes per year by 2027. With an expected production start date in 2027, the NFS project involves the construction of two additional mega LNG trains (with a capacity of eight mmtpy each) and associated offshore and onshore facilities. Senior QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies executives attended the agreement signing for the North Field East Eexpansion project. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam The NFS project was initiated as a result of QP’s successful onshore appraisal activities in the North Field and targets the monetisation of gas from the southern sector of the North Field. The North Field Expansion plan includes six LNG trains that will ramp up Qatar’s liquefaction capacity from 77mnn tonnes per year to 126mtpy by 2027. Four trains will be part of the North Field East (NFE) and two trains will be part of North Field South project. “Today, QatarEnergy is standing at the threshold of a new era with a stronger commitment to energy transition and to the safe, reliable, and trustworthy access to cleaner energy. We will continue to power lives in every corner of the world for a better tomorrow for all. This is our commitment,” al-Kaabi said

Saad Sherida al-Kaabi
Business
First gas from North Field East expected by 2026

First gas from the world’s largest LNG development - North Field East (NFE) expansion project, is expected by 2026, HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi said Sunday. NFE, he said, will increase Qatar’s LNG production capacity to 110mn tonnes per year (MTPY) from 77mn tpy now. “This is the world’s largest LNG development. It is also a very unique development in the LNG industry because of its advanced environmental characteristics, including significant carbon capture, sequestration technologies and capacity,” he said while addressing the media at the project’s JV agreement signing at QatarEnergy’s new headquarters in Doha Sunday. QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies will become partners in a new joint venture company (JV), in which QatarEnergy will hold a 75% interest while TotalEnergies will hold the remaining 25% interest. The JV in turn will own 25% of the entire NFE project, including the four mega LNG trains with a combined nameplate LNG capacity of 32MTPY. “Qatar has a unified approach, where all four trains are considered one unit. TotalEnergies' 25% stake in one virtual train gives it around 6.25% of the whole four trains,” al-Kaabi said. Al-Kaabi said it was "a marriage more than an engagement" as the agreement will last until 2054. He said, “Selecting our international partners in the project was another key element, which was kicked off through a competitive process that started in 2019. And as I mentioned before, thanks to the project’s economic competitiveness, financial resilience and its unique environmental features, we have received offers for double the offered equity. This is a testament to the attractiveness of this exceptional project and investment.”

Officials speaking during the press conference. Photos: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
QatarEnergy signs deal with TotalEnergies for Northfield East field

* QatarEnergy selects TotalEnergies as 1st international partner in world's largest $28.75bn North Field East expansion project * NFE project, which will expand Qatar’s LNG export capacity from current 77mn tonnes per year to 110MTPY, is expected to start production by end-2025 QatarEnergy has selected TotalEnergies as its first international partner in the $28.75bn North Field East (NFE) expansion project, the single largest project in the history of the LNG industry. The announcement comes at the conclusion of a competitive process that started in 2019 to select QatarEnergy’s international partners in the NFE project, which will expand Qatar’s LNG export capacity from the current 77mn tonnes per year (MTPY) to 110MTPY. The NFE project, which is expected to start production before the end of 2025, employs 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 partnership agreements between QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies were signed at the QatarEnergy’s new headquarters in Doha Sunday. The agreements were signed by HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, also the President and CEO of QatarEnergy and Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of TotalEnergies in the presence of senior executives from QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies. Picture: Shaji Kayamkulam The agreements were signed by HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, also the President and CEO of QatarEnergy and Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of TotalEnergies in the presence of senior executives from QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies. Pursuant to the agreements signed Sunday, QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies will become partners in a new joint venture company (JV), in which QatarEnergy will hold a 75% interest while TotalEnergies will hold the remaining 25% interest. The JV in turn will own 25% of the entire NFE project, including the four mega LNG trains with a combined nameplate LNG capacity of 32MTPY. In his remarks during the ceremony, al-Kaabi said: “This is a historic landmark for Qatar’s energy industry and for the world’s largest LNG development. The North Field East project is an iconic achievement that will not only ensure the optimal utilisation of Qatar’s natural resources but will also provide the world with the cleaner and more reliable energy it needs. “Today, QatarEnergy is standing at the threshold of a new era with a stronger commitment to energy transition and to the safe, reliable, and trustworthy access to cleaner energy. We will continue to power lives in every corner of the world for a better tomorrow for all. This is our commitment.” “We look forward to working closely with TotalEnergies, who are a long-term strategic partner that we have always trusted to support the efficient and safe delivery of our projects. I would like to thank all the team members in QatarEnergy and TotalEnergies for the excellent collaboration and for all their hard work that has led to this important moment. I also would like to express thanks and appreciation to the project’s team and to the Qatargas organisation for continuing to deliver the NFE project, and with an outstanding safety record,” al-Kaabi added. The minister said, “We are forever grateful to the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and for his unlimited support of Qatar’s energy sector.” As part of the partner selection process, he said “QatarEnergy had received offers for double the equity available, underscoring the high-quality investment case of the NFE project thanks to its economic competitiveness, financial resilience, and also its unique environmental features. “More partners are slated to join the NFE Project, as final terms have been agreed and the relevant announcements will be made soon.”

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Business
Middle Eastern carriers record 11.9% y-o-y decline in cargo volumes in April: IATA

Middle Eastern carriers have experienced a 11.9% year-on-year (y-o-y) decrease in cargo volumes in April, IATA said and noted the effects of Omicron in Asia and the Russia-Ukraine war continued to create a challenging operating backdrop. IATA’s April 2022 data for global air cargo markets showed a drop in demand and contraction in capacity. Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), fell 11.2% compared to April 2021 (-10.6% for international operations). Global demand is down 1% compared to April 2019. Capacity was 2% below 2021 (+1.2% for international operations). Both global capacity and international capacity decreased slightly in April compared to March. Asia experienced the largest falls in capacity. Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes decrease by 15.8% in April 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. This was the weakest performance of all regions and significantly slower than the previous month (-5.1%). Airlines in the region have been heavily impacted by lower trade and manufacturing activity due to Omicron-related lockdowns in China. Because of this, available capacity in the region fell 19.4% compared to April 2021, the largest drop of all regions. “The war in Ukraine led to a fall in cargo capacity used to serve Europe as several airlines based in Russia and Ukraine were key cargo players,” IATA said. And the zero-Covid in China led to capacity challenges due to flight cancellations because of labour shortages. New export orders, a leading indicator of cargo demand and world trade are now shrinking in all markets except the US. Global goods trade has continued to decline in 2022, with China’s economy growing more slowly because of Covid-19 related lockdowns (among other factors). The lockdowns have brought much of the world’s largest port, Shanghai, to a standstill. Supply chain disruptions due to the Ukraine-Russia conflict are also adding to the downward pressure on trade. IATA’s director general Willie Walsh said, “Air cargo demand fell by 11.2% in April and capacity contracted 2% compared to April 2021. The combination of the war in Ukraine and Covid-19 lockdowns in China have pushed up energy costs, intensified supply chain disruptions, and fed inflation. The operating environment is challenging for all businesses, including air cargo. But with China easing lockdown restrictions, there is cause for some optimism and the supply/demand imbalance is keeping yields high.”    

GPCA secretary-general Dr Abdulwahab al-Sadoun
Business
First regional Global Harmonised System in chemicals industry adopted across GCC

First regional Global Harmonised System (GHS) standard has been adopted in the six GCC states in collaboration with the GCC Standardisation Organisation (GSO), which will ensure the safe labelling of chemicals in the region. According to the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) the standard, entitled GSO 2654:2021 ‘Global Harmonised System (GHS) in Gulf Co-operation Council countries’ was developed by GPCA and adopted by GSO with immediate effect on the territories of all six GCC states. Its adoption marks a major milestone for the chemical and petrochemical sector in the Arabian Gulf, as it will help to build momentum to collectively implement the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals in the region, GPCA noted. GHS was developed by the United Nations as a single worldwide system for classifying and communicating the hazardous properties of industrial and consumer chemicals. Transporting hazardous chemicals can pose a significant risk to people and the environment. As a major hub for the production and export of chemicals and petrochemicals, it is particularly important for the GCC region to have robust Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability (EHS&S) standards that would prevent the devastating impact of chemical accidents and successfully communicate the hazards associated with chemical transportation. GPCA noted the GCC chemical industry produced 150mn tonnes of products worth $54.1bn in 2020. This figure is estimated to be significantly higher in 2022 as a result of a buoyant market, which saw petrochemical demand and product prices grow significantly. As the first of its kind in the GCC region, GSO 2654:2021 will become the standard for product stewardship and will help to dramatically transform the EHS&S landscape across the entire chemical and petrochemical value chain. Dr Abdulwahab al-Sadoun, secretary-general, GPCA, commented: “GPCA is proud to announce the culmination of our joint work with the GSO over several years into the region’s first GHS standard. This comprehensive benchmark has been adapted to serve the region with its unique requirements and continue to ensure the healthy EHS&S performance of the GCC industry on a global scale. “Working together towards one unified standard will ensure we continue to improve on our product safety record across the chemicals value chain, where every player – however big or small – will have the power to make a difference towards a more sustainable and safer future for the region, our roads and our communities.”    

Passengers watch inflight entertainment while sitting in economy class during an American Airlines Group Boeing 777-200 flight from Los Angeles International Airport.
Business
Global airline capacity leaps amid travel chaos in Europe

Beyond the Tarmac Amid travel chaos around the world, airline capacity seems to have bounced back globally with airlines scheduling nearly 95.2mn seats in early June. This, according to aviation consultant Deirdre Fulton, represents a definite leap. Late last month, the global airline capacity stood at around 90mn seats. Only one (country) market can have such an impact in just one week and that is China, where the re-opening of Shanghai from June 1 has triggered a big increase in capacity, with totals for Northeast Asia increasing week on week by a quarter or 3.4mn seats, Fulton said. Airports across Europe have struggled to cope with a post-pandemic rebound in demand, but British airports have been particularly hit by major disruptions early June. Across the UK, passengers faced lengthy delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights. To add to the sense of chaos being reported at European airports, many passengers are being told to arrive earlier than usual given they should expect to queue for longer, but the effect of this is that there are simply more people milling around the terminals. With easing of travel restrictions following two years of Covid-induced disruptions, airlines had clearly hoped for a bumper summer. But they have struggled to recruit staff after the turmoil of the pandemic, and complain it is taking longer to recruit new employees and vet them for security clearance. Schools in the UK were on a half-term break and the country also had a long public holiday weekend to mark Queen Elizabeth's 70 years on the throne. British transport minister Grant Shapps said the government would work hard with the aviation industry to avoid a repeat of the chaos at airports last week. Earlier, Shapps had said airlines should stop selling tickets for flights they could not staff, and urged the industry to sort out the problems. "The industry itself needs to solve it. The government doesn't run airports, it doesn't run the airlines. The industry needs to do that ," he told BBC. Shapps is of the opinion airline staff cuts during the pandemic had gone too deep. "We will work with the industry very hard ... to make sure we don't see a repeat of those scenes," he said. Beyond the UK, cancellations of flights for various reasons have caused travel chaos in Western Europe. “It seems clear from the ongoing challenges at some airports across Western Europe that this may be a difficult summer for travel. We have already seen easyJet scale back their summer 2022 schedule to try and get ahead of on-the-day cancellations, and every day at the moment seems to bring a fresh round of cancellations and delays for travellers,” Fulton told OAG, a global travel data provider. “Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for the staff shortages faced by the industry,” she said. Many who were made redundant or furloughed due to the Covid-19 pandemic moved into other industries, and for those entering the industry, the recruitment cycle for new employees at airports and airlines is much longer than in other industries. Thorough security and background checks can take up to between three to six months. For an industry that was still effectively shut down in the early part of 2022, ramping back up to deal with peak summer demand was always going to take a bit of time. While the US remains in the top spot as the largest country market for scheduled airline capacity, Fulton said China made significant inroads to the gap in the last week. Although things are not yet back to normal, capacity is returning, with the week on week comparison growing from -44.2% behind 2019 last week, to just 21.8% behind this week. Capacity in China has increased by more than a third (37.8%) compared to last week, reminding us that there are few country markets capable of switching capacity on in this way. Greece continues its steady growth this week, adding 5.5% capacity week on week and now reaching heights of 8.5% above 2019. Only four of the top 20 country markets remain above 2019 this week- India, Mexico, Vietnam and Greece. Staff shortages are being blamed for much of the recent disruption, particularly in Europe, with airports and airlines struggling to bring staff on board fast enough. These, OAG points out, are jobs where many of the previous staff who were furloughed have found other employment and new hires need to undergo security screening and training.

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Business
Qatar fiscal account surplus to widen in 2022: EIU

Qatar’s fiscal account surplus will widen in 2022 owing to recovering global oil and gas prices, easing public debt pressures, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has said in a report. The country’s macroeconomic indicators have improved in 2021, with positive economic growth resuming both globally and domestically, EIU said in its latest economic update. Qatar's debt obligations are high, but its ability to fully service them is not in doubt, with the support of ample foreign reserves and the assets of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA, the sovereign wealth fund), EIU said. According to EIU the riyal's peg to the US dollar will continue to be backed by healthy foreign reserves and QIA assets. EIU has put the currency risk rating at ‘BBB’. The rating is supported by elevated international hydrocarbons prices and a widening current-account surplus, and by rebounding financing and liquidity metrics. According to the researcher, the country’s banking sector risk is ‘BB-rated’. The net negative foreign-asset position of banks is large but stable. The sector is well regulated, and although net external liabilities pose risks, strong prudential indicators insulate banks from a deterioration in asset quality arising from the longer-term impact of the 2020 recession. The non?performing loan ratio is low, and profitability levels are moderate. Economic structure risk is BB-rated. Qatar's over-reliance on hydrocarbons exports remains a vulnerability, exposing the country to global energy price movements. The Qatar National Vision 2030 diversification programme will shape policy. Qatar's large stock of public debt weighs on the outlook, but a sound financial system is supportive, EIU said. In an earlier update, EIU said Qatar's overall business environment score has improved from 6.56 for the historical period (2016-20) to 7.35 for the forecast period. This has helped Qatar's global ranking to improve by eight places from 36th to 28th, although its regional ranking remains steady at third. The largest improvements, in terms of scores, are in the categories of infrastructure and market opportunities. 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, EIU said.    

TotalEnergiesu2019 senior vice-president for Mena, Laurent Vivier during his exclusive interview with Gulf Times in Doha. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Business
800MWp Al Kharsaah solar plant ‘major accomplishment’ towards developing renewable energy: Vivier

The 800 megawatt-peak (MWp) Al Kharsaah solar plant being constructed by Qatar with partners including TotalEnergies is a major accomplishment towards developing renewable energy, said TotalEnergies’ senior vice-president for Middle East and North Africa (Mena) Laurent Vivier. “We expect the plant to start producing in the coming months. It is another practical example of our co-operation with QatarEnergy. Something of this scale – 800 megawatt – in one single location is a huge accomplishment,” Vivier said in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times. Located just 80km west of capital Doha, the Al Kharsaah Solar PV Independent Power Producer (IPP) project is the country’s first large-scale solar power plant and is set to significantly reduce the environmental footprint. “Our worldwide renewable energy capacity is 10GW now. We want to go to 35GW in 2025. Our ambition is to achieve 100GW capacity by 2030,” Vivier noted. Electricity demand is set to rise faster than global demand for energy as a whole in the coming years. According to the International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Development Scenario, renewable energies will represent more than 35% of the world’s energy mix in 2040. Vivier said there is a huge potential to develop the solar production capacity in Qatar. TotalEnergies would support Qatar in this regard. “We want to use our experience in Qatar and our expertise to develop a PV plant in Iraq,” Vivier said. He said, “I know Qatar has a lot of focus on renewable energy now. I think Qatar will inspire many other energy-rich countries also to consider sustainable energy.” “By using solar energy for electricity generation, you can free up some natural gas that can be utilised in the international market,” he noted. TotalEnergies continues to expand across the entire renewable energy value chain based on an integrated approach. The energy major designs and finances photovoltaic solar plants, and builds and operates them as well. To ensure success and meet the growing demand for electricity, TotalEnergies is strengthening its expertise in renewable energies, especially in solar energy, given its many advantages. Combating climate change is an integral part of both TotalEnergies’ long-term growth strategy and its ambition to get to net-zero emissions for all its businesses by 2050, together with society. On Total’s transformation into TotalEnergies, Vivier said, “Our ambition is to be a world-class player in the energy transition. In the last one year, we have seen QP also becoming QatarEnergy.” In Qatar, TotalEnergies has been present since 1936, and is active in exploration and production, refining and petrochemicals, and marketing of lubricants, and renewable energies.    

Gulf Times
Business
Mena region has resources to catch up on climate transition: Oxford Economics

The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region possesses the financial and natural resources to transition towards low-carbon energy sources, Oxford Economics said in a report. By leveraging current economic diversification plans, the region can bridge the investment gap with "greener" capital stock. In doing so, some countries in the GCC could emerge as leaders in the fight against climate change. The report noted Mena has great potential for solar and wind energy, which can be harnessed with improvements in storage technology. The region also has potential for hydrogen and carbon capture, storage, and use (CCUS), it said. Yet, while the abundance of natural resources points to untapped renewable potential, electricity generation from renewables in Mena still lags the rest of the world. However, decarbonisation and encouraging green growth will require the right incentives. Carbon pricing will help renewable energy become more competitive, given the abundance of cheap fossil fuels in the region. Support for those adversely affected by the carbon transition, such as workers in fossil-fuel-related sectors, will also be necessary. That said, the transformation to a decarbonised economy can help the Mena region save on costs by increasing energy efficiency and seeking growth opportunities in renewables. Two GCC countries are already looking to develop their capabilities in blue and green hydrogen. Mena countries can also adapt to existing climate threats of rising temperatures and drought, and in doing so, reap the benefits of reduced pollution in their cities, Oxford Economics said. The World Bank estimates the Mena region needs to spend 8.2% of GDP to meet its infrastructure goals by 2030. Historically, the region has spent around 3% of GDP, with most of it coming from the public sector. This is consistent with observed gross fixed capital formation figures, which show that investment in the region currently lags the world average. “As the region strives to fill this gap, additional capital investments can be climate-friendly from the start, as it is easier to invest in green initiatives than having to clean up existing carbon-intensive industries,” Oxford Economics added.  

A traveller in the deserted hall at Hong Kong International Airport. International air traffic remains largely stagnant in Asia-Pacific due to ongoing travel restrictions in major markets, particularly China.
Business
International air traffic in key Asia-Pacific markets largely stagnant due to travel restrictions

Beyond the Tarmac International air traffic remains largely stagnant in Asia-Pacific due to ongoing travel restrictions in major markets, particularly China. The reopening of international air travel to and from China will not only accelerate growth in the region, but also provides a thrust to the aviation industry across the globe. China plays a key role in the region as most of South East Asian Airports and Australia are largely dependent on Chinese travellers, according to Airports Council International (ACI). The industry showed encouraging signs of recovery in the first quarter of 2022 — capacity was rebuilding in many parts of Asia Pacific and Middle East (ME) region; domestic passenger traffic made considerable progress; cargo growth has proven to be resilient and is above pre-pandemic levels. Despite the subdued pandemic environment, airports in the region continued to provide a safe and high service quality for the benefit of their passengers, noted a report by Airports Council International Asia-Pacific (ACI APAC) developed in partnership with Mott MacDonald — a global engineering, management and development consultancy. However, travel restrictions ranging from mandatory quarantines in designated facilities to pre-departure testing and on-arrival; suspension of international air travel in some parts of the region; geopolitical conflict and subsequent impacts on macroeconomic factors have proved to be detrimental to the overall growth of aviation. “Analysis shows that travel restrictions have to a large degree failed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 mainly due to the high infectious nature of the omicron variant and have turned out to be a deterrent for the recovery of aviation, impacting the economy of the region. Cargo business proves on the contrary the leading role that Asia-Pacific plays in the global economy. “Despite an improving trend, airport financial margins remained far below pre-pandemic levels and are economically unsustainable. It is therefore time to remove ineffective restrictions and enable nations to accelerate their economic growth. “To achieve a truly sustainable recovery from the slump caused by Covid-19, co-operation and the establishment of standards that harmonise the processes for international travel between states are crucial. The global recovery will only be realised with the escalation of vaccination campaigns, development of digital health passes, and supportive policies from governments,” said Stefano Baronci, Director General, ACI Asia-Pacific. Boosted by high rates of vaccination (70% or above in the six largest aviation markets), since early 2022, many countries have been easing entry requirements, but parts of Emerging and Developed East Asia (Japan, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Mongolia and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) have kept quarantine requirements in place. In Asia Pacific and ME, currently 20 countries have no significant entry restrictions, the report noted. While domestic passenger traffic has made considerable progress, with the easing of restrictions within some countries, international traffic, which is the key revenue driver for airports in terms of passengers’ commercial spend, has remained largely stagnant due to restrictions and geopolitical tensions in and around the region. Considering airline seat capacity as a proxy to measure the flow of passengers, as compared to 2019 Q1 data, domestic traffic has made a recovery of 92% of pre-pandemic levels, but international seat capacity was still down 67% during Q1 as travel restrictions, quarantine and testing requirements continued to hamper the growth of air travel. The total domestic seat capacity is expected to recover to levels exceeding 2019 by Q2, 2022 by approximately +4%. This is driven largely by Emerging East Asia (notably China), which has 15% more departing seats scheduled in 2022 than in 2019. Middle East domestic capacity remains below 2019 levels. In contrast, total international seat capacity in 2022 is 49% below 2019 levels, with significant variation between sub-regions. South Asia and the Middle East are only down about 15% on 2019 levels, while Emerging East Asia (China, Mongolia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is still down by 81%, and is once again experiencing stringent travel restrictions. Cargo growth has proven to be resilient in comparison with passenger traffic, and remains significantly above pre-pandemic levels. As passenger airlines returns providing more belly capacity, air cargo is expected to continue its growth trajectory, the ACI APAC - Mott MacDonald noted. The sub-regions with the largest cargo shares are Developed Asia (Japan, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau) with 32%, followed by Emerging East Asia with 29% and Middle East 16%. Developed East Asia was the only region in Q4, 2021 that recorded traffic levels above 2019 pre-Covid level. All other regions reported levels around 0.85% or above compared to 2019. The EBITDA and net profit margins, based on a selection of sampled airports handling 30% of total annual regional traffic volumes in 2030, indicates improving conditions in Q4 2021 (October to December), driven by an increase in passenger traffic and optimisation of operating costs. However, the margins remained far below pre-pandemic levels and are economically unsustainable. Quarterly revenues remain 58% below the same period last year. Although revenues are improving slowly with traffic recovery, they remain at low levels, leading to large operating losses for airports. Total operating expenditures have declined since the start of the pandemic, with the decline having halved in percentage terms in Q4, 2021 compared to the same quarter in the previous year. Overall satisfaction scores for airports have increased continuously throughout the pandemic up to Q4, 2021, and were around 5% higher compared to the same period in 2019. Similarly, Middle East performance is also above 2019 levels. With capacity rebuilding in many parts of Asia Pacific and the Middle East, the region's aviation industry is clearly experiencing green shoots of recovery. Pratap John is Business Editor at Gulf Times. Twitter handle: @PratapJohn    

HE Sheikh Bandar bin Mohamed bin Saoud al-Thani at The Euromoney Qatar Conference on Sunday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar
Qatari economy stronger than in 2020, GDP expected to grow 3.5% in 2022: QCB Governor

Qatar’s economy is much stronger than it was in 2020, HE the Governor of Qatar Central Bank (QCB) Sheikh Bandar bin Mohamed bin Saoud al-Thani said and noted the country’s GDP is expected to grow 3.5% in 2022. In his opening keynote at The Euromoney Qatar Conference on Sunday, Sheikh Bandar noted that occupies a distinguished position as one of the world's leading countries in the production and export of clean liquefied natural gas (LNG). The event was held under the patronage of HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani. HE Sheikh Bandar said the country's economy has proven strength and resilience despite the economic challenges imposed by the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. “This is a result of the directives of the wise leadership, and the economic and financial support plan that was implemented to assist the sectors affected by the measures to limit the spread of the pandemic,” the QCB Governor said. Qatar, he said succeeded in protecting the society from the catastrophic effects of the pandemic by adopting a balanced approach and taking measures and policies in the field of public health, which allowed a smooth and safe return to normal life. HE Sheikh Bandar said the existence of a flexible economy provides a strong basis that helps to plan for the future, as this flexibility is evident through the data related to the government budget and the current account, the official reserves of the state, and the strength of the financial sector, in addition to economic diversification. “The prospects are still bright, as economic activity is recovering, driven by several factors, including the recovery in domestic demand, the growth of private sector credit, and preparations to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” he said. With the rise in global oil and gas prices, international institutions expect higher GDP growth in Qatar in the range of 3.5% in 2022. On the other hand, inflation levels appear relatively moderate compared to the global rates. The current geopolitical tensions in Europe have not affected significantly on the levels of inflation, as it remained moderate. “Despite the low risks associated with the pandemic, we must stress the need to closely monitor the risks of supply chain disruptions. And despite the difficult challenges that the global financial sector has witnessed in recent times, Qatari banks still enjoy a good amount of capitalisation, high liquidity and they maintain the quality of their assets. The profitability of banks has remained stable, while the percentage of non-performing loans is still considered among the lowest in the region. “Moreover, (local) banks have been able to support their customers and borrowers during the pandemic, which confirms the strength and effectiveness of banking systems backed by the regulatory and supervisory framework.” Based on the positive data achieved by the economy and the banking sector in particular, he said a decision was taken to start the phase of gradual exit from the banking sector support measures. A plan was drawn up to end the facilities provided by Qatar Central Bank to banks by the end of this year in conjunction with the interim assessment of the banks situation. Interest rates were also raised in line with the policy of maintaining the exchange rate, with the continued emphasis on following up on everything related to global developments in order to protect the strength and safety of our banking sector. With the expectation that oil prices will continue at their current average rates, this will support the continued recovery in the country’s economic growth in the medium term, HE Sheikh Bandar said. This, he said “will allow us to absorb the cycle of financial tightening that has already begun by most central banks around the world”. Qatar Central Bank, the Governor, said is working on developing the regulatory environment to enhance the “digital society and the advanced financial environment”, through which “we seek to make Qatar a regional leader in the field of digital banking services”. To meet the increasing payment needs of residents and visitors, the number of companies providing financial technology services has been increased in the experimental virtual environment before licensing them, ensuring that the companies are more efficient and secure. As part of the current update of the payment system - a fully integrated payments platform will be implemented, including a Central Infrastructure System for an instant payments network at the national level. Qatar Central Bank is establishing the necessary infrastructure to enable banks to accept payments from digital wallets and in this regard, the bank is working on designing a new strategy for financial technology and intends to launch it during the last quarter of this year, he added.    

Abdulla Mubarak al-Khalifa, QNB Group Chief Executive Officer.
Business
More than 90% of QNB customer interface already digitised: Group CEO

More than 90% of QNB’s customer interface has already been digitised helping Qatar’s top bank “to achieve the highest levels of satisfaction and security,” said Abdulla Mubarak al-Khalifa, QNB Group Chief Executive Officer. In his keynote address at the Euromoney Qatar Conference yesterday, al-Khalifa said as part of its group-wide strategy, QNB defines innovation as a strategic enabler to identify new sources of revenue and create cost-saving opportunities. “We believe that innovation requires us to be more creative and flexible to respond to the complexities of the new normal. We are working to use and benefit from the latest technologies to provide digital banking services with a human touch. From this standpoint, we consider ourselves pioneers in digital transformation.” He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant challenges around the world. The unprecedented monetary and financial support measures taken by central banks and governments contributed to providing support to the global economy and enabled it to weather the storm and achieve recovery. He said the State of Qatar has also taken many measures to protect its economy and society in order to reduce the impact of this global shock. As a result, the impact of the pandemic has been limited. “Thanks to the effective management and support provided by the Government of the State of Qatar and the Qatar Central Bank, our banking sector enjoys flexibility and quality, with high levels of capital, liquidity, assets and profitability,” he said. As a result, he noted Qatar's economic performance is strong and its future prospects are stable. The Qatar National Vision 2030, backed by a massive programme of infrastructure development and investment spending, aims to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. “The State of Qatar is actively working to enhance the contribution of the private sector and is making every effort to ensure the success of hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022.” Qatar has one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world and is the main exporter of liquefied natural gas. Qatar decided to increase its production by 64% by 2027 through the expansion of the North Field. This will ensure the continuity of achieving growth in the country in the medium and long term. Al-Khalifa noted, “QNB Group was also able to overcome the challenges of the pandemic, as we continued to adhere to our goal of promoting prosperity and sustainable growth for our shareholders and communities. “Thanks to these efforts, we achieved a strong financial performance in 2021, and remain the largest financial institution in Qatar and a leading banking and brand in the region.” In Qatar, QNB offers a full range of comprehensive banking services that focus on sectors such as public services, transportation and logistics in addition to projects related to hosting the World Cup and expanding the North Field. “We are also keen to play a major role in supporting the hosting of the World Cup. We aim to help facilitate all services related to payments and transactions in order to provide a seamless experience during the tournament. Our strategic partnership with FIFA is an opportunity to promote the QNB name. I believe this will help us strengthen our brand, image and reputation worldwide. “All these achievements confirm the success of the State of Qatar, the banking sector and QNB Group in overcoming the impact of the pandemic.” However, al-Khalifa said, “We acknowledge that the pandemic has changed our way of life both professionally and personally. We know that the world has become more volatile and uncertain. Our operating environment has also become more complex and the number of factors to be taken into account when making decisions has increased significantly. “The pandemic has led to structural, technological and cultural shifts in the economic and social landscape. We are now dealing with a new normal that challenges all the ways of working, communicating, and thinking we were accustomed to. “Customers are moving from physical interaction channels to remote channels, and this digital transformation is affecting the banking sector. In addition, the focus on sustainability, ESG, and climate change is expected to impact portfolios, balance sheets, and banking institutions' operations.” Al-Khalifa said, “Under the Qatar National Vision 2030, innovation plays an important role in transforming the economy. Since the pandemic, innovation and digital transformation have remained a key priority, helping to enhance productivity, cost efficiency, customer focus and ultimately increase profitability.”