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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.
HE the Finance Minister Ali bin Ahmad al-Kuwari speaking at a panel session at the Doha Forum Sunday. Picture: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar
Qatar to account for 40% of all new LNG supplies by 2029: Al-Kuwari

HE the Finance Minister Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari said Qatar will account for about 40% of all new LNG supplies by 2029 and noted the country is providing the world with the “cleanest” hydrocarbon source of energy. He was speaking at a panel session at the Doha Forum Sunday.The minister spoke about the investments Qatar have made in developing its LNG resources, particularly the North Field expansion.The project includes six mega trains, each with a production capacity of 8mn tons per annum of LNG, four of which are in the North Field East (NFE) expansion project, and two in the North Field South (NFS) expansion project.This major expansion will add 48mn tons per year to the global LNG supplies.Stressing the importance of investing in cleaner energy sources, al-Kuwari said Qatar believed natural gas is a “transition fuel” until the net-zero emission targets are reached.Qatar has firmly supported the role of natural gas as a central component of any energy mix on the road to a realistic energy transition.He said lack of investments in developing conventional energy sources have already caused a shortfall in supplies around the world.Al-Kuwari stressed the need for setting realistic goals vis-à-vis climate change. It should be about a reasonable and realistic shift to cleaner alternatives to power economies around the world.In reply to a question, al-Kuwari said the surplus from Qatar’s budgets is divided between servicing debt, sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and central reserves.QIA, he said, is focused on “investments for future generations.”The minister also spoke about Qatar’s support of International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) and Resilience Support Trust (RST) mechanisms for financial supportQatar has shown global leadership by pledging 20% of its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) holdings towards IMF’s PRGT and RST mechanisms. It demonstrates Qatar’s leadership role in supporting least developed countries overcome economic shocks and challengesSDR is an international reserve asset created by the IMF to supplement other reserve assets of member countries.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar banking sector records growth in overall loan book, deposits in October: QNBFS

Qatari banking sector recorded a growth in its overall loan book and deposits in October, a report by QNB Financial Services (QNBFS) has shown. The sector’s total assets increased 1% MoM (up 1.8% in 2023) in October to reach QR1.93tn, QNBFS said in its latest monthly report. Total assets increase in October was mainly due to a gain by 1.2% in domestic assets and 2.5% in foreign assets. Assets grew by an average 6.9% over the past five years (2018-2022), QNBFS said and noted liquid assets to total assets was at 31.1% in October, compared to 31.5% in September this year. October recorded an increase in both the credit facilities offered and deposits held by the local banks. The overall loan book gained in October. Loans went up 1.5% during that month to reach QR1,275.6bn. Loans gain in October was mainly due to a rise by 3.1% in the public sector and 0.8% in the private sector. Loans moved up by 1.6% in 2023, compared to a growth of 3.3% in 2022. Loans grew by an average 6.7% over the past five years (2018-2022). Loan provisions to gross loans was at 3.9% in October, compared to 4% in September. Total public sector loans was higher by 3.1% MoM (-1.6% in 2023). The government segment (represents 29% of public sector loans) was the main growth driver for the public sector with a surge by 11.2% MoM (-6.8% in 2023). The government institutions’ segment (represents 64% of public sector loans) edged up 0.1% MoM (-1.6% in 2023). However, the semi-government institutions’ segment moved lower by 1.1% MoM (+31.0% in 2023). The services segment was the main driver for the private sector loan rise. Services (contributes 31% to private sector loans) increased 2.5% MoM (+9.1% in 2023), while general trade (contributes 21% to private sector loans) moved up by 0.7% MoM (+5.8% in 2023) and consumption and others (contributes 21% to private sector loans) was marginally up MoM (+5.4% in 2023). However, the real estate segment (contributes 21% to private sector loans) declined 0.3% MoM (-5.5% in 2023) in October. Outside Qatar loans moved up by 2.1% MoM (2.9% in 2023) during October. Deposits moved up 2.7% during October to reach QR979.3bn. Deposits increase in October was mainly due to a gain by 2.7% in the private sector and by 3.5% in the public sector. Deposits have gone down by 2% in 2023, compared to a growth of 2.6% in 2022. Deposits grew by an average 4% over the past five years (2018-2022), QNBFS noted. Loans to deposits ratio went lower during the month to 130.3% in October. Loans went up 1.5% in October to reach QR1,275.6bn, while deposits moved up 2.7% that month to reach QR979.3bn. An analyst told Gulf Times, “The main highlights for the month of October 2023 is the continued growth in both loans and deposits. The overall loans growth was pushed higher by both the public and private sectors. The government overdrafts increased in October, signalling short-term funding needs for the government, while the services segment increase in the private sector indicates the continued demand and growth in the tourism sector. “The companies and institutions segment showed good growth in deposits, along with the government and semi-government institutions.”

Gulf Times
Qatar
Qatar drives Middle East's prominence in global LNG landscape: IGU

The Middle East, led by Qatar, will be an important region in the global LNG landscape, the International Gas Union (IGU) said in its latest report.With ongoing expansion plans at the huge North Field, Qatar could "potentially boost" LNG export capacity to 126mn tonnes per year (MTPY) by 2030, from 77.8 MTPY (as of August 2023) it said.“Given the low-cost production of North Field East fields and shipping cost advantages, Qatar is primed to serve both European and Asian LNG demand in the long term,” IGU said in its ‘Global gas report 2023’.Qatar, Russia, and Nigeria are the next three dominant exporters of LNG to Europe, with the region’s largest being France, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands, it said.The report noted global gas demand decreased by 1.5% in 2022 compared to 2021, with large declines in Europe and Asia offset by strong growth in North America.Falling demand in the regions hit hardest by the energy crisis persisted during the first half (H1) of 2023 and was primarily driven by industrial slowdown and decreased heating demand caused by a mild winter in the northern hemisphere.Although global demand dropped by 1.5% in 2022, regional demand destruction was a lot more pronounced, IGU said.Europe’s gas demand decreased by almost 12% in 2022 year-on-year, in response to the supply and price shocks coming on the heels of the Russia-Ukraine war.The good luck of a very mild 2022-23 winter was a major contributor to Europe’s reduced gas demand, together with significant losses in industrial demand, gas to coal switch, and renewables uptake.Spikes in international spot LNG prices caused the demand in Asia to fall by 18 bcm (1.9%) in 2022 compared to 2021.Significant demand destruction also happened in South Asia, where the price of LNG became unaffordable, causing switching to coal wherever possible and leading to shortages and blackouts.For instance, Pakistan and Bangladesh saw a 12% and 15% reduction in gas demand, respectively. On the contrary, North American gas demand grew by 4.8% or 49 bcm year-on-year in 2022, a notable increase driven primarily by increased gas-fired power generation as well as residential and commercial applications.The North American market prices remained largely isolated and affordable, due to its predominantly regional nature with domestic production.IGU noted that from January to August of this year, the European Union (EU) saw a cumulative gas consumption decrease of roughly 10% year-on-year (both an effect from industrial slowdown and the EU’s intentional switch from gas to other energy sources), while China saw gas demand grow by 5.4% year-on-year during H1, 2023.

Darren Hulst, Boeing vice president (Commercial Marketing).
Business
Middle East set to require more than 3,000 new airplanes by 2042: Boeing

The Middle East region, which is driven by GCC-based carriers, will require more than 3,000 new airplanes by 2042, a forecast by planemaker Boeing has shown.The Boeing forecast shows the region’s fleet will more than double by 2042 with new-technology widebodies leading the way.Addressing a media roundtable on Thursday, Boeing vice-president (Commercial Marketing) Darren Hulst said widebody airplanes will comprise 45% of deliveries to Middle East airlines over the next 20 years ─ the highest percentage of the 10 global regions featured in Boeing’s Commercial Market Outlook (CMO) forecast.The region’s fleet of dedicated freighters is projected to more than double to 180 jets by 2042, according to the CMO, Boeing’s annual long-term forecast of demand for commercial airplanes and services.“Airlines in the Middle East have increasingly expanded their influence and reach, transforming the region into an international air transit hub,” said Hulst.“Air travel and cargo demand continue to gain momentum, driven by significant economic growth and national development plans. As airlines in the region will require efficient and versatile fleet solutions, Boeing products will be ready to meet market demands,” Hulst noted.The CMO projects delivery of 3,025 new commercial airplanes in the Middle East by 2042, including 1,350 widebodies.Of the new aircraft, single aisle will comprise 1,570, freighters 70 and regional jets 35.Many airlines in the region provide service between major population centres in Asia, Africa and Europe via growing hubs that offer efficient connectivity. As a result, a higher proportion of widebody aircraft are needed to carry larger passenger volumes.The Middle East’s single-aisle fleet is also expected to more than double as low-cost carriers (LCC) and short-haul networks continue to develop and expand.By 2042, nearly half of the region’s aircraft will be single-aisle jets.The CMO (for the Middle East through 2042) shows two-thirds of new deliveries will support air traffic and cargo growth while one-third will replace older airplanes with more fuel-efficient models.The total fleet will increase 2.4 times to 3,360 airplanes — 1,610 (48%) will be single aisles, while 1,520 (45%) will be widebodies.The commercial fleet will generate demand for $335bn in aviation services including maintenance, repair, training and spare parts until 2042.

Passengers at the Riyadh International Airport. The Middle East seems to have bounced back from the demand destruction caused by the Covid-19 pandemic with domestic and inbound travel reviving the region’s tourism economies.
Business
Domestic, inbound travel revives Middle East region’s tourism economies

The Middle East seems to have bounced back from the demand destruction caused by the Covid-19 pandemic with domestic and inbound travel reviving the region’s.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[99388]**tourism economies.The number of leisure visitors to the region in 2023 is expected to reach 33mn, compared with 29mn in 2019.This 13% increase means that the Middle East is the only region fully recovered from the pandemic in volume, according to the WTM Global Travel Report.When measured in dollar terms, the Middle East, GCC countries in particular, lead the way, in terms of growth, with a 46% increase in inbound spend compared with 2019, noted the report produced in association with Tourism Economics, which was published to mark the opening of this year’s WTM London.The Middle East is also outperforming all other regions for domestic travel, which has grown by 176% since 2019, albeit from a low base.The success of the region’s recovery from the pandemic is driven by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar with their commitment to tourism showing signs of success.The report notes that some GCC countries are investing heavily in tourism infrastructure, viewing tourism development as a key strategy to diversify away from hydrocarbons reliance.Juliette Losardo, exhibition director, World Travel Market London, said, “The Middle East is one of the most exciting and dynamic regions for tourism.The positive findings from WTM Global Travel Report show that the initial investments made in developing new tourism infrastructure are already paying dividends.“The WTM team continues to work closely with our sister event, Arabian Travel Market, to ensure continued support to the region in its ongoing endeavours.”Julia Simpson, president, and CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) pointed out that tourism was growing at double the rate of the global economy as a whole and had the ability to “put food on the table, and break people out of the informal into the formal economy.”She said young people’s association of travel with poor sustainability needed addressing so that this was not a barrier.Simpson stressed that the growth in travel was ‘decoupling’ from the growth in carbon emissions because of efforts made in the sector and by some destinations.Travel leaders also talked post-pandemic trends at World Travel Market, London with enduring shifts in consumer behaviour and inflation in some markets having an effect.In a session responding to the WTM Global Travel Report, Patricia Page-Champion, Hilton’s senior vice president and global commercial director said: “85% now of business travel is through small to medium businesses.”She added there was also an upturn in ‘bleisure’ – people combining business and leisure, with one in four people now bringing a loved one with them as part of a trip in 2024, partly enabled by the rise in flexible working.“Experience is the new luxury,” said Peter Krueger, chief strategy officer and chief executive officer Holiday Experiences for TUI, explaining that although customers were buying the same package holiday components of hotel, flight and transfers, “It’s the experience that triggers the sale, it’s no longer sun and beach.”Krueger also explained how the growing demand for sustainability made strong economic sense.He referred to a couple of hotels in the Maldives that ran on diesel where solar panels were installed and expected to recoup the money in one and a half to two years.“You can earn so much money on sustainability,” he said. “All of our hotels are sun and beach destinations so what you have is a lot of sun!”With a wide spread of markets, Krueger was unconcerned about the financial downturn in some countries. “We see more of a shift in source markets and destinations,” he explained, with, for instance, North America picking up any European slack for the Caribbean and Europeans controlling their budgets by choosing all-inclusive or good value destinations like Bulgaria.Concerning technology, Krueger stressed the importance of digital for a company with a customer base the size of the population of Australia: “If you have a scale of 27mn customers but everyone wants to have a personalised holiday, how do you match this? The answer is technology.”

Qatari banks’ have seen an uptick in loans in September, driven by the private sector and exceeded QR1.25tn, according to QNB Financial Services
Business
Qatar banks record uptick in loans, deposits in September: QNBFS

Qatari banks’ have seen an uptick in loans in September, driven by the private sector and exceeded QR1.25tn, QNB Financial Services has said.The local banks have also seen a surge in deposits, driven by both the private and public sectors, QNBFS said in its ‘Qatar Monthly Banking Sector’ update.Deposits with local banks rose 2.8% during September to reach QR953.3bn, QNBFS said.According to QNBFS, total assets of local banks went up 2.4% to reach QR1.92tn. Total assets increase in September was mainly due to a rise by 1.8% in domestic assets and 6.6% in foreign assets.The overall loan book went up 0.8%, QNBFS said. Total private sector loans climbed up 1.7% month-on-month (m-o-m), +2.5% in 2023) in September.The services and trade segments were the main drivers for the private sector loan rise.Services (contributes 31% to private sector loans) gained 2.5% m-o-m (+6.4% in 2023), while general trade (contributes 21% to private sector loans) increased by 3.2% m-o-m (+5% so far this year).Consumption and others (contributing 21% to private sector loans) went up by 1.6% m-o-m (+5.4% in 2023), with the real estate segment (contributes 21% to private sector loans) going up by 1% m-o-m (-5.2% in 2023) in September.Total public sector loans declined by 0.9% m-o-m (-4.6% in 2023). The government institutions’ segment (represents 66% of public sector loans) dropped 2% m-o-m (-1.8% in 2023), while the government segment (represents 27% of public sector loans) dipped by 3.9% m-o-m (-16.2% in 2023).However, the semi-government institutions’ segment shot up 27.8% m-o-m (+32.5% in 2023).Outside Qatar loans moved lower by 1.9% m-o-m (-4.9% in 2023) during September.Public sector deposits surged up by 4.2% m-o-m (-9% in 2023) in September.Looking at segment details, QNBFS noted the government segment (represents 27% of public sector deposits) was the main growth catalyst for the public sector, rising by 10.5% m-o-m (-18.6% in 2023).The government institutions’ segment (represents 57% of public sector deposits) moved up by 1.1% m-o-m (-6.5% in 2023) and the semi-government institutions’ segment increased by 5.7% m-o-m (+1.7% in 2023) in September.Private sector deposits moved up by 2.8% m-o-m (+0.1% in 2023) in September. On the private sector front, the consumer segment rose significantly by 4.6% m-o-m (+7.2% in 2023), while the companies and institutions’ segment increased by 0.8% m-o-m (-7.0% in 2023) during September.Non-resident deposits edged up by 0.2% m-o-m (-7.6% in 2023) in September.Qatar banking sector loan provisions to gross loans was at 4% in September, compared to 3.9% in August.The sector’s liquid assets to total assets was at a higher 31.5% in September, compared to 30.5% in August this year.An analyst told Gulf Times: “The highlights for September is the continued growth in loans for the private sector, mainly driven by the services and trade segments, which went up by 2.5% (QR6.3bn) and 3.2% (QR5.4bn) respectively, indicating an upbeat in both tourism and trade.“The overall deposits surge by 2.8% (QR25.6bn) was driven by both the private and public sectors, with the consumer segment being attracted by the higher interest rate environment and the government deposits rising with favourable oil and gas prices.”

Hussein al-Abdulla, Commercial Bank executive general manager and chief marketing officer and head (Alternative Assets).
Business
Commercial Bank offers 130+ services on mobile banking app; clocks 'impressive' 93% customer satisfaction rate

With mobile banking serving as its primary customer interface, Commercial Bank is now offering more than 130 services in the new and revamped mobile banking app with an “impressive” 93% customer satisfaction rate, top executives have said.Addressing a media roundtable on Thursday, Hussein al-Abdulla, Commercial Bank executive general manager and chief marketing officer and head (Alternative Assets); and Shanawaz Rashid, executive general manager and head (Retail), said Commercial Bank has been at the “forefront of digital transformation” in the financial sector in Qatar, leveraging cutting-edge technology.“95% of Commercial Bank retail customers are now digitally registered. 86% of our transacting customers are digitally active and 80% of our retail customers are onboarded using digitised approach,” Shanawaz Rashid noted.He said, “Migration to digital processes has enabled staff to focus on core banking functions. This pivotal measure has resulted in a boost in the overall productivity and contribution to the retail banking sector.“Our self-service machines have significantly enhanced the overall customer experience. Suite of products sold in branches have expanded to include wealth, insurance and mortgage deals. Multi-product instant onboarding has reduced onboarding time from 50 to 25 minutes,” Rashid said.Rashid stated, “The digital revolution holds immense potential to propel our banking sector forward, and we are gradually unlocking synergies combining both worlds. Our services are driven by state-of-the-art technology, and through them, we are reshaping our customer’s everyday lives. The bank has focused on digitising our payment solutions to provide even greater value and convenience in our customers’ banking journey.”Commercial Bank's latest financial innovation is a cashier less payment solution, enabling customers to walk into a store, collect their groceries, and leave without the need to wait in line for payment.Hussein al-Abdulla remarked: “This level of technology has always been poised to shape the future. We’ve all heard the stories, but today, this is the new reality in Qatar, and we owe it to our advanced payment solutions.“Our dedication to introducing first-of-its-kind with cutting-edge technologies has underscored the pivotal role our bank plays in the digital revolution. This recognition has earned Commercial Bank numerous awards from prominent financial awarding bodies worldwide.”Commercial Bank received the ‘Top Innovation in Mobile Banking Award in the World 2023’ from Global Finance, ‘Leader in Qatar in Digital Solutions, Corporate Banking, and Corporate Social Responsibility’ from Euromoney in 2022, ‘Most Innovative Bank Award in the Middle East’ from World Finance in 2023, and many more.The media roundtable focused on the transformative impact of digital advancements on the banking industry.

Blocked funds have always been a major hurdle before airlines, which prevent them from freely accessing or repatriating their earnings from certain countries. Blocked funds refer to money held by governments, often as a result of regulatory requirements or economic policies and these severely impact an airline's cash flow.
Business
$500mn of airline funds held up in Middle East and Africa; industry calls for urgent action

Blocked funds have always been a major hurdle before airlines, which prevent them from freely accessing or repatriating their earnings from certain countries. .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[96884]**Blocked funds refer to money held by governments, often as a result of regulatory requirements or economic policies and these severely impact an airline's cash flow.When a significant portion of their revenue is locked in a foreign country, it limits their ability to cover operational expenses, invest in new equipment, or expand their services.When funds are blocked, airlines find themselves in a financial bind, especially if they are unable to convert their earnings into a usable currency. This leads to reduced profitability, delayed payments to suppliers, and difficulties in meeting financial obligations.Blocked funds hinder an airline's ability to maintain and upgrade its fleet. This results in delayed maintenance schedules, reduced safety margins, and decreased competitiveness in terms of service quality.Without access to their earnings, airlines may find it challenging to invest in new routes, purchase additional aircraft, or expand their services in the affected countries. This limits their ability to tap into potentially lucrative markets.The global body of airlines – IATA has seriously taken up the issue, which reached a critical point in the Middle East and Africa region.“We have worked to help clear $2.5bn in blocked funds over the last year. There is always more work to do. Today six countries in the region - Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Yemen are collectively holding on to over $500mn of airline revenues that must be processed for repatriation,” noted IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh at the 56th AGM of Arab Air Carrier’s Organisation (AACO) in Saudi Arabia recently.He said IATA and AACO are “partners in supporting the development of air connectivity” in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.“We work together and have always found great strength in partnership through far too many crises,” Walsh said.The IATA chief also said safety is a key issue for the global airline industry.He said the region is tracking (in the first half of 2023) at 1.2 accidents per million flights—slightly higher than the global average but is tracking towards an improvement on the region’s full year 2022 performance which was 1.3 accidents per million flights.Aviation is incredibly safe. And the performance of the region’s carriers is no exception. The goal must always to be to improve. And at these very high levels of safety performance, the best way to improve performance is through detailed data analysis.“With your help we are creating the world’s most comprehensive database for aviation safety through our Global Aviation Data Management (GADM) initiative. We don’t yet have a comprehensive picture of the Mena region due to limited contribution by airlines from this region.But by contributing, you’ll enable us to have the complete picture of safety performance and that in turn we enable you to analyse trends and events that may not yet be evident to you or highlight issues that appear specific to your area of operation.“A good example of this data at work is our analysis of GPS signal loss. We have numerous reports from carriers operating in the region on GPS signal loss, which could potentially be a result of GPS jamming or GPS signal interference. Knowing this from contributed data is helping our work with ICAO and others in finding solutions,” Walsh noted.Another huge challenge is decarbonising the aviation industry.“But getting to net zero CO2 by 2050 will secure our future and that is a great opportunity—albeit not an easy one to achieve.Once again, we can learn from Europe and the mistakes that they are making in this critical area. Suppressing growth and pricing flying to a point that is beyond the reach of the majority of Europeans, may appear an attractive option for the political elite in Brussels but it ignores the massive economic contribution that aviation makes and the opportunity that aviation represents in other parts of the world,” Walsh said.He said IATA believes that it is possible and credible to decarbonise the industry while continuing to facilitate its growth and economic contribution.“The various roadmaps that we published earlier this year outlining the path to net zero, confirm our longstanding assumption that Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) will be the major contributor to the industry’s decarbonisation. We estimate that SAF will account for about 62% of the decarbonisation that we will need,” Walsh said.

Gulf Times
Business
GCC chemical industry accounts for $70bn exports in 2022: GPCA

The GCC chemical industry accounted for $70bn exports in 2022, Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) said and noted China, India and Turkiye are the largest export markets for the Gulf countries.Over the past decade, the GCC region has established significant chemical trade relations with China, India, and Turkiye. It has consistently maintained a favourable chemical trade balance, reflecting the region’s competitive edge and comparative advantage in producing and exporting chemical products.“The persistence of a trade surplus in chemicals indicates the economic strength and profitability of the chemical trade relationship between the GCC region and its counterparts in China, India, and Turkiye,” noted Dr Sana Ben Kebaier, head (Economic Research Department) at GPCA.Within this consortium of trade partners, China emerged as the most pivotal counterpart for the GCC in the chemical sector during 2022, constituting 25.3% of the total GCC chemical exports.Subsequently, India stood as the second most significant trading partner, accounting for 21.1% of the GCC’s chemical exports during the same period.As economies regained momentum, the demand for chemicals across various sectors rebounded, driving the increased trade value. In 2022, the chemical exports from GCC to India and Turkiye reached an unprecedented level, setting a new record, which can be attributed to several factors.First, the recovery from the pandemic, resulting in the resumption of economic activity and increased consumer demand. Second, the strengthening of commercial relations through bilateral agreements and diplomatic efforts, such as the UAE-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).Third, the expansion of industrial sectors in all regions, driving demand for chemicals. Fourth, the market diversification strategies of the GCC, India, and Turkiye and fifth, the positive impact of regional integration initiatives.Taken together, these factors have created favourable conditions for enhanced cooperation, market access, and an increase in the volume of trade in the chemical sector between the GCC region, India, and Turkiye.According to GPCA, establishing a free trade agreement (FTA) in the chemical sector between the GCC and its partners offers a promising outlook.The simulation results indicate a substantial increase in trade volume and economic integration. Trade creation effects are expected to reach $408.3mn with China, $215.8mn with India, and $42.3mn with Turkiye.“This paints a picture of stronger diplomatic relations, expanding market opportunities, and aligned strategic objectives. On the flip side, the trade diversion effect suggests that the GCC countries can expect trade to shift from previous partners to these FTA countries due to the removal of trade barriers,” GPCA noted.

Gulf Times
Business
Europe likely primary region for GCC telecom operators’ expansion: Moody's

GCC telecom operators are actively looking for and investing in telecommunications enterprises within Europe and potentially in Africa and Asia, Moody’s Investor Service said in a report.This increased market activity, which is evident since 2022, follows several quiet years, Moody’s said in a report.Thanks to the buoyant macroeconomic environment in their domestic markets, the companies demonstrate solid financial performance and benefit from robust balance sheets.Now, they are eager to deploy their significant resources, diversify from oil-dependent or emerging market economies, increase their buyer power over vendors and preserve growth in consolidated revenue and earnings.“These investments could be credit supportive in the long term,” Moody’s noted.But the acquisition benefits will depend on the balance between the maturity and growth potential of new geographies. Previous investments in African and Asian enterprises have so far demonstrated mixed results because of currency and macroeconomic volatility and the sometimes unpredictable legal and regulatory environment in some regions.Therefore, the GCC operators are currently trying to strike a balance between more stable operating environments and some potential for growth in telecommunications markets.According to Moody’s, Europe is likely to be the primary region for expansion. It complements the GCC companies' existing footprint and provides for diversification into more developed jurisdictions. The recently announced deals confirm this direction.However, European governments will be cautious in approving acquisitions of strategic telecom assets by foreign investors. This makes the acquisition of sizeable minority shareholdings a potentially attractive option.The report noted GCC operators are investing in digital consumer services and tech enterprise solutions in parallel with their expansion into new markets.These are complementary to their core connectivity offering and leverage the existing customer base while diversifying from their traditional telecom businesses.Moody’s expects the GCC telecoms operators' annual revenue to increase by 3% on average in 2023-24.The GCC telecoms operators are catching up with the global trend of tower infrastructure divestment, it said. In theory, this should bring operational benefits and help unlock the monetary value of the assets while reducing operating expenses and capital spending.Higher valuation multiples for tower infrastructure than for telecoms operators create a financial arbitrage opportunity.Although tower valuation multiples may compress now because of higher interest rates, limiting potential upside for sellers, they will remain far above those of telecoms operators.Therefore sales of tower infrastructure have the potential to help the companies unlock monetary value and provide cash for deleveraging or capital spending, maximising shareholder value and improving return on capital employed.Moody’s noted tower sales will also help the GCC telecoms operators optimise operating costs and capital spending thanks to sharing of the infrastructure.In addition, as the GCC operators progress with their 5G rollout, collocation arrangements should be strongly beneficial because of the high density of towers on the surface required for this technology.However, depending on tower lease arrangements, currently increased inflation may temporarily curtail the expected benefits because of higher indexation of lease costs, Moody’s said.

Travellers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in, Georgia, US. The demand for air travel met well in August, latest update from International Air Transport Association indicate, which is a huge sigh of relief for an industry that got totally decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in huge losses in terms of revenue, passengers and jobs.
Business
People fly to reconnect, explore, and do business; airline industry en route to profitability

Heading into the last few weeks of the year, the global airline industry seems to be nearly fully recovered to 2019 levels of demand. .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[94091]** The demand for air travel met well in August, latest update from International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicate, which is a huge sigh of relief for an industry that got totally decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in huge losses in terms of revenue, passengers and jobs. “For the year to date, international traffic has increased by 50% versus last year and ticket sales data show international bookings strengthening for travel in the last part of the year. The global airline industry expects to fly 4.4bn travellers this year,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. The focus, however, has not been on getting back to a specific number of passengers or flights, but rather on meeting the demand by businesses and individuals for connectivity that was artificially suppressed for more than two years, he noted. Total traffic in August (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) rose 28.4% compared to August 2022, according IATA. Globally, traffic is now at 95.7% of pre-Covid levels, the association said in its report released recently. In August, industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres grew 28.4% year-on-year and reached 95.7% of August 2019 levels. In seasonally adjusted terms, passenger traffic increased 1% month-on-month, indicating a slowing but still positive trend globally. Seat capacity, measured in available seat-kilometres (ASKs), rose 24.9% year-on-year and was only 3.1% under 2019 levels. Airlines in all regions have achieved growth in traffic and passenger load factors (PLFs), compared to the same month in 2022. Across the whole industry, PLFs have trended near those of 2019, an indication of high demand for air travel and good financial performance for airlines. African and Middle Eastern carriers saw 26.1% and 27.3% year-on-year growth in international RPKs in August, respectively. For both regions, traffic levels are still approaching full recovery, maintaining their upward trends observed since earlier this year. Total domestic RPKs grew 9.2% over 2019 numbers and 25.4% over 2022 levels, maintaining the improvement trend observed in recent months. On the hand, the recovery in international RPKs experienced a decrease compared to July, now standing 11.5% below August 2019 levels. While recovery trends in domestic and international traffic have been diverging since May this year, international RPKs have maintained their growth, albeit at a slower pace than domestic traffic and relative to the strong performance of international traffic in 2019. Two key airline markets- China and India have seen substantial growth in domestic RPKs over recent months. In China, traffic almost doubled compared to last year, with 93.6% annual growth in August, albeit from a higher base. Domestic demand in the country remained 20.8% above pre-pandemic numbers while ASKs were 33.9% higher than August 2019 levels, resulting in a lower monthly PLF. In India, domestic traffic stood above pre-pandemic levels for the 7th consecutive month. RPKs increased 6.7% over 2019 levels and 23.2% year-on-year. Based on the most recent data and developments for the country’s airlines, the Indian domestic market indicates that it has resumed its pre-pandemic growth trend. International RPKs in the Asia Pacific region surged 98.5% year-on-year, almost doubling when compared to the previous year but still down 24.5% compared to 2019 numbers. Nonetheless, the region’s PLF was 5.5 ppts higher than in August 2022 (1.4 ppts above August 2019 levels), revealing the high demand for travel in the region. Despite sustaining a positive trend in levels, the recovery of industry-wide international RPKs has been regressing since May 2023. While most regions have seen continuous recovery, Europe’s momentum has been losing steam over the most recent months. In addition, August 2023 saw lower passenger traffic numbers than July, an unusual pattern in contrast to the historical seasonal trends. The region also faces a wider range of capacity constraints, which could further hinder traffic recovery. International RPKs performed by European carriers were 9.8% lower in August compared to pre-Covid levels, while the load factor remained 2.3 ppts below. At the IATA Annual General Meeting in Istanbul in June, IATA projected that with $803bn of revenues, airlines will share $9.8bn in net profit this year, although industry experts say margins are wafer thin. That said, the pandemic years are behind us, and borders are open as normal. Despite economic uncertainties, people are flying to reconnect, explore, and do business. Airports are busier, hotel occupancy is rising, local economies are reviving, and the airline industry has moved into profitability. Clearly, airlines are en route to a profitable, safe, efficient, and sustainable future.

Woqod has a dynamic plan for the construction of new petrol stations that is being reviewed periodically according to the conditions of fuel demand and the need for fuel stations
Business
Woqod to open one more fuel station to total 118 by year-end

Woqod (Qatar Fuel) will open one more fuel station before the year-end, taking the total to 118, said company managing director and CEO Saad Rashid al-Muhannadi.Woqod, he said, pursues a “dynamic” plan vis-à-vis construction of fuel stations, taking into account the current and future requirements.Al-Muhannadi said the company has installed some 26 Electrical Vehicle Chargers (EVCs) in as many as 19 petrol stations in Qatar in co-operation with Kahramaa.Last year, Kahramaa and Woqod had signed an agreement to supply, install and operate some 37 charging units for electric vehicles distributed over 22 sites in the country.Al-Muhannadi noted that Woqod is studying several other options in order to increase the income from non-petroleum products segments, which will be “applied” during the current year.He informed that the Cabinet has approved the renewal of Woqod’s concession for an additional five years.Currently, Woqod holds “exclusive concession in Qatar to distribute, sell, transport and market refined petroleum products and gas within the country including airports and seaports.“Woqod Group will continue deploying all efforts in enhancing the benefits of its shareholders and all stakeholders, by taking appropriate initiatives in developing the petroleum products distribution sector in the country.“This will be done within the framework of Qatar’s general policy of modernisation, development, strengthening the pillars of the country's national economy and securing the permanent supply of fuel in accordance with the best international standards in the fields of health, security, safety and environmental considerations,” al-Muhannadi said.Meanwhile, Woqod Group’s consolidated net profit (attributable to the shareholders) for the period ended on September 30 amounted to QR712mn, compared to QR763mn registered during the same period in 2022.This represents a decrease of QR51mn, or 7%.Earnings per share for the period amounted to QR0.72 compared to QR0.77 for the same period last year.“The decrease in net profit and earnings per share was due to supply and demand factors for petroleum products during the period concerned,” Woqod said after a meeting of the company’s Board of Directors presided over by company chairman Ahmed Saif al-Sulaiti.The Board also approved Woqod’s Group's capital and operational budget for 2024, the company said in a statement.

A ground crew worker carries a jet fuel pipe under a passenger aircraft on the tarmac at Vienna International Airport (file). The crisis in West Asia threatens to broaden into a regional conflict, which will have repercussions on oil supply and a spike in price including that of jet fuel.
Business
Concerns about jet fuel price spike on projected tight oil supply

The crisis in West Asia threatens to broaden into a regional conflict, which will have repercussions on oil supply and a spike in price including that of jet fuel. .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[90987]** Oil prices added a war premium as the crisis unfolded, although thus far, there has been no direct impact on physical supply, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). There is concern though that the crisis could broaden to a regional conflict, which would have repercussions on oil supply. Many international carriers halted their flights to the West Asian region earlier this month. The service suspension comes after a robust summer for air travel with revenue growth for international destinations outpacing sales of domestic tickets. The global average jet fuel price last week fell marginally by 0.3% compared to the week before to $121.20/barrel, IATA said in its latest Jet Fuel Price Monitor. The market was also spooked by sanctions imposed by US on two shipping companies, which had violated the $60-per-barrel cap on Russian crude, creating some uncertainty over what that could do to Russian oil supply, the global body of airlines noted. The price of jet fuel has a significant impact on airfares, as it is one of the most substantial operating costs for airlines. Jet fuel is a major expense that directly influences an airline's profitability and pricing strategy and accounts for up to 20% of an airline’s operating expenses. Higher fuel costs jack up ticket prices, and conversely, airfare drops with lower fuel costs. A lower fuel burn-per–hour rate reduces the cost of flying an aircraft. The less it costs to fuel an aircraft, the more airlines can reduce ticket prices, obviously attracting more travellers. Analysts say many airlines around the world are reviewing their hedging strategies in view of the situation. Currently, there is a huge demand for jet fuel with the international travel and tourism industry continuing its recovery run to pre-pandemic levels. According to IATA, global origin-destination (O-D) passenger traffic increased 28.9% in second quarter (Q2) 2023 compared to Q2, 2022, reaching 954mn passengers. This brought worldwide passenger traffic near to pre-pandemic levels, only 3.5% lower than in the second quarter of 2019. When jet fuel prices rise, airlines often seek to pass on some of the increased costs to passengers by adjusting airfares. While airlines might not fully pass on the entire fuel cost increase to passengers, they do tend to reflect a portion of it in their ticket prices to help maintain financial viability. Airlines sometimes engage in fuel hedging, a financial strategy where they lock in fuel prices at a certain level for a specified period. Invariably, this strategy provides a degree of predictability in fuel costs, even if market prices fluctuate. If an airline has effective fuel hedging in place, analysts point out it might be able to mitigate the immediate impact of sudden fuel price spikes on airfares. The airline industry is highly competitive, and airfares are influenced by various factors beyond just fuel prices. The price of jet fuel is a critical factor influencing the operating costs of airlines, which in turn impacts their pricing decisions. While airlines often pass on a portion of increased fuel costs to passengers, they must balance this with considerations like competition, demand elasticity, and broader economic conditions. As a result, the relationship between jet fuel prices and airfares is complex and varies based on a multitude of factors. There are perceptions that oil supply will tighten towards the end of the year in view of the crisis in West Asia and the region comprising Russia and Ukraine and the international travel and tourism industry recovering to pre-pandemic levels.

Ahmad Saif al-Sulaiti, this year’s winner of the ‘lifetime achievement award for the advancement of Qatar’s energy industry’ as part of the Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Energy Awards 2023’, is a seasoned energy industry professional whose remarkable career has spanned 46 years.
Business
Ahmad Saif al-Sulaiti’s ‘exceptional’ achievements set benchmark in Qatar's energy industry

Ahmad Saif al-Sulaiti, this year’s winner of the ‘lifetime achievement award for the advancement of Qatar’s energy industry’ as part of the Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Energy Awards 2023’, is a seasoned energy industry professional whose remarkable career has spanned 46 years.He embarked on his journey with Shell Qatar as a trainee, where he honed his skills in offshore operations and oil rigs.Al-Sulaiti then pursued higher education in the UK and graduated with a Higher Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Carlette Park College in 1984.Renowned for its practical engineering expertise, Carlette Park College, now a part of Wirral Metropolitan College, provided him with a strong foundation for his future endeavours.After completing his studies in the UK, al-Sulaiti returned to Shell Qatar, where his acquired knowledge was immediately put to use in offshore operations.He continued his dedicated service with Shell until the company's holdings in Qatar were nationalised. Subsequently, he transitioned to QatarEnergy (formerly Qatar Petroleum), where he furthered his expertise in the oil and gas industry.With a wealth of experience in managing large-scale oil and gas field operations, al-Sulaiti's career highlights include his instrumental role in transforming Dukhan into the modern city it is today.During his tenure, he led initiatives that significantly improved the city's infrastructure, including the development of roads connecting Dukhan to Doha. His visionary leadership and dedication have not only reshaped Dukhan but also earned the city prestigious architectural and township development awards.Al-Sulaiti's “exceptional” career achievements have set a benchmark in the Qatari oil and gas industry. He has contributed his expertise to various organisations, serving on the Boards of Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding Company and Qatar Fuel (Woqod). Additionally, he has held key positions such as chairman and vice-chairman of Nakilat, showcasing his leadership acumen and strategic vision.Currently serving as the executive vice-president – Operations at QatarEnergy, al-Sulaiti continues to make significant strides in the industry, demonstrating his unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation.His wealth of experience and profound impact on Qatar's energy landscape solidify his position as a respected leader in the sector.

HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Chairman of Board of Trustees, The Al-Attiyah Foundation, hands over the ‘lifetime achievement award for the advancement of Qatar’s energy industry’ to Ahmad Saif al-Sulaiti at a ceremony in Doha Wednesday night. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam 
Business
Six eminent persons honoured with Al-Attiyah International Energy Awards for Lifetime Achievement

The distinguished Executive Vice-President (Operations) at QatarEnergy, Ahmad Saif al-Sulaiti, was among the winners of the 2023 Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah International Energy Awards for Lifetime Achievement announced and distributed last night.Al-Sulaiti was honoured with the “Lifetime achievement for the advancement of Qatar’s energy industry”.James Mulva (US), the former Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips was recognised with the lifetime achievement award for ‘Advancement of International Energy Policy and Diplomacy.’Hundreds of dignitaries attended the prestigious event, where six remarkable individuals were honoured for their illustrious careers and outstanding contributions to the energy industry.This year’s winners included Professor Jonathan Stern (UK), Distinguished Research Fellow of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, who collected the Advancement of Natural Gas prize; Professor Sally M Benson (US), Deputy Director for Energy at the White House Office of Science, who picked up the Advancement of Education for Future Energy Leaders gong; Professor Michael Gratzel (Switzerland), Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, who won the Advancement of Renewables award; and Richard Black (UK), author and former Environment Correspondent for the BBC, who was recognised with the Advancement of Energy Journalism accolade.The awards were handed over to the winners by HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, former deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Chairman of Board of Trustees, The Al-Attiyah Foundation.The Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah International Energy Awards celebrates the legacy of HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah by honouring individuals for their lifetime achievements in the fields of work and policy that his 40 years of distinguished contributions to the global energy industry.The nominees are recognised for outstanding records of accomplishment in their sector over the span of their careers, acknowledging individuals who have made an exceptional impact on the energy industry with distinct personal achievements for a consistent and prolonged periods.To ensure only the worthiest industry leaders receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award, the Al-Attiyah Foundation International Selection Committee selects and scores a list of outstanding candidates. The results are then aggregated to determine the winners.At the ceremony, HE al-Attiyah said: “It brings me great pleasure to acknowledge the exceptional and gifted individuals for their invaluable contributions to the energy sector through the Al-Attiyah Awards.“The recipients this year have made profound impacts on our industry, leaving behind impressive legacies for generations to come.”ExxonMobil and North Oil Company sponsored this year's Al-Attiyah International Energy Awards, with support from Al-Attiyah Foundation member companies including QatarEnergy, Qatar Electricity & Water Company, Woqod, QNB, QatarEnergy LNG, Dolphin Energy, Shell Qatar, Qatar Airways, Qapco, ConocoPhillips, Marubueni, Qafco, Q-Chem, Gulf Helicopters, Qatar Cool, Excelerate Energy, JTA Holding and Sasol.

Workers connect a Total tanker truck to an Airbus A350 passenger plane, operated by Air France-KLM, during fuelling with sustainable aviation fuel, at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France (file). Global aviation industry is convinced of the fact that promotion of SAF will go a long way in meeting its commitment of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But industry captains are also aware that not enough SAF is available as of now. A recent IATA update showed SAF constituted 0.1% of fuel uptake at the moment.
Business
With 0.1% of fuel uptake, tapping into SAF for aviation's net-zero goal remains uphill task

Global aviation industry is convinced of the fact that promotion of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will go a long way in meeting its commitment of net-zero carbon emissions by.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[87676]**2050. But industry captains are also aware that not enough SAF is available as of now. A recent IATA update showed SAF constituted 0.1% of fuel uptake at the moment.Panelists at the CEO Roundtable at the inaugural World Sustainability Symposium in Spain recently, had a detailed look at sustainable aviation fuels.There was agreement that, in the short to medium term, getting enough SAF will be challenge because of the shortfall in production and the time it takes to ramp up that production.It was also noted that demand for feedstocks is very competitive. Even in the longer term there is no realistic power alternative for long-haul flights before 2050.Increasing production will rely heavily on public policy and, in this context, the merits of mandates and incentives were examined in detail.Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, noted that mandates without supply is simply a tax. “You can’t buy something that doesn’t exist,” he said.Anne Rigail, CEO, Air France, believes that mandates could play a role as long as they don’t introduce competitive distortion. But she stressed that there must also be incentives and currently, that isn’t there.Rigail revealed that Air France buys SAF from the United States because it is less than half the price of SAF in Europe.In Latin America, geography makes aviation essential to connectivity. Roberto Alvo, LATAM CEO, has set his airline a target of using 5% SAF produced in the region by 2030.But he admitted that he “does not know where it will come.” Alvo hopes the target will start the conversation, however, and provide a positive signal to the market.Essentially, there are no SAF policies in the region and LATAM is one of the funders of a study examining what the right policies will look like.Alvo noted that the region could become a big SAF producer, but he also warned that the correct balance has to be found and anything that made air fares in the region more expensive would restrict demand and harm economies.Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, meanwhile, is determined to use 10% SAF by 2030 and has signed a number of offtake agreements.Asia-Pacific has some SAF production but a major catalyst for the region will be China’s SAF policy, which is expected in the near future.Patrick Healy, Chair, Cathay Pacific, says that policy will likely incorporate lessons learned to date from other region and have elements of carrot and stick. China is committed to decarbonisation and aims to be net zero by 2060.Airlines have used every drop of SAF produced to date, but governments must speed up this transition to SAF with policies that enable investors to come in and generate a return. The panel concurred that this creates a significant opportunity in job creation and GDP.“We need to take something that is technically possible and make it commercially realistic,” said Walsh.The debate also took in the problems regarding carbon offsets, which have received a bad press for simply “passing the buck” on decarbonisation.Rigail, for example, said that Air France no longer offer offsets to passengers but instead allow them to “buy” SAF.Even so, carbon offsets are a necessary part of the net-zero target. The Carbon Offset Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is a good first step and aviation needs to build on the credibility that it brings.International Air Transport Association recently unveiled a series of roadmaps aimed at providing step-by-step detailing of critical actions and dependencies for aviation to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.These roadmaps address aircraft technology, energy infrastructure, operations, finance, and policy considerations leading to net zero.Walsh noted, ‘SAF production is less than 0.1% of what we need for net zero. But the trend is positive. In 2022, SAF production tripled to 300mn litres. And while critics of our industry dismiss that figure as irrelevant, it’s important to remember that airlines used every single drop costing almost $350mn.“With the right supportive policies, reaching 30bn litres by 2030 is challenging but achievable. That would be about 6% of the 450bn litres annual production capacity we need in 2050. We think it will be the tipping point because achieving it will establish the trajectory needed to scale up for 2050.”

Gulf Times
Qatar
Qatar’s real GDP growth projected to be 2.4% this year, 2.2% in 2024: IMF

Qatar’s real GDP growth is projected to be 2.4% this year and 2.2% in 2024, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Tuesday.In its World Economic Outlook released on the sidelines of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Marrakesh, Morocco Tuesday, IMF said the country’s current account balance will be 17.6% this year and 15.4% in 2024.Qatar’s consumer price (CPI) is projected to be 2.8% this year and 2.3% in 2024.According to the IMF, growth in the Middle East and Central Asia is projected to decline from 5.6% in 2022 to 2% in 2023, before picking up to 3.4% in 2024, with a 0.5 percentage point downward revision for 2023 and a 0.2 percentage point upward revision for 2024.The change for 2023 is attributable mainly to a steeper-than-expected growth slow-down in Saudi Arabia, from 8.7% in 2022 to 0.8% in 2023, with a negative revision to the latter of 1.1 percentage point.The downgrade for growth in Saudi Arabia in 2023 reflects announced production cuts, including unilateral cuts and those in line with an agreement through OPEC+.Private investment, including that from “gigaproject” implementation, continues to support non-oil GDP growth, which remains strong and unchanged from previous projections.The downgrade for 2023 also reflects cuts to the growth forecast for Sudan to about –18.3% (a downward revision of nearly 20 percentage points) reflecting the outbreak of conflict, deteriorating domestic security, and the worsening humanitarian situation.The upgrade for 2024 reflects the unwinding of some of the announced production cuts, IMF said.Global growth is forecast to slow from 3.5% in 2022 to 3% in 2023 and 2.9% in 2024.The projections remain below the historical (2000–19) average of 3.8% and the forecast for 2024 is down by 0.1 percentage point from the July 2023 Update to the World Economic Outlook.For advanced economies, the expected slowdown is from 2.6% in 2022 to 1.5% in 2023 and 1.4% in 2024, amid stronger-than-expected US momentum but weaker-than-expected growth in the euro area.Emerging market and developing economies are projected to have growth modestly decline, from 4.1% in 2022 to 4% in both 2023 and 2024, with a downward revision of 0.1 percentage point in 2024, reflecting the property sector crisis in China.Forecasts for global growth over the medium term, at 3.1% are at their lowest in decades, and prospects for countries to catch up to higher living standards are weak.Global inflation is forecast to decline steadily, from 8.7% in 2022 to 6.9% in 2023 and 5.8% in 2024.But the forecasts for 2023 and 2024 are revised up by 0.1 percentage point and 0.6 percentage point, respectively, and inflation is not expected to return to target until 2025 in most cases.Risks to the outlook are more balanced than they were six months ago, on account of the resolution of US debt ceiling tensions and Swiss and US authorities’ having acted decisively to contain financial turbulence, IMF noted.The likelihood of a hard landing has receded, but the balance of risks to global growth remains tilted to the downside.China’s property sector crisis could deepen, with global spillovers, particularly for commodity exporters, IMF said.

Qatar is strategically positioning itself as a leading fintech hub in the Middle East and a pioneer in digital transformation and sustainability within the financial services sector, PwC Middle East said in a report. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
Qatar strategically positioning itself as leading fintech hub in Middle East : PwC

Qatar is strategically positioning itself as a leading fintech hub in the Middle East and a pioneer in digital transformation and sustainability within the financial services sector, PwC Middle East said in a report.The country recognises the potential of fintech and has established initiatives to foster a strong and sustainable fintech ecosystem, PwC said in its latest ‘Qatar banking sector report’.Qatar's digital transformation is making considerable progress towards achieving its National Vision 2030 of building a digital economy.Strategic initiatives like the Doha cloud region by Google Cloud and the implementation of OpenAI's GPT technology in the Azure Qatar Cloud are expected to empower Qatari companies with long-term benefits.However, while embracing emerging technologies, banks must also consider risk mitigation and regulatory policies for successful implementation.Qatari banks have embraced ESG (environmental, social, and Ggovernance) practices and are adopting sustainability measures.Leading banks have integrated ESG factors into their strategies and reporting, aligning with global frameworks and supporting green financing and social inclusion.Despite challenges, banks aim to build a sustainable future through technology and data governance. The government's emphasis on environmental impact during the FIFA World Cup 2022 has led to strategic partnerships for sustainable finance initiatives.However, widespread ESG implementation is still evolving in the market and climate risk management will still be a challenge for most of the banks.In the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region, including Qatar, supervisory efforts focused on core banking activities, with initiatives aimed at customer and data protection, data infrastructure establishment, and promoting ESG practices.Qatar's regulators took proactive steps to strengthen the financial system and launched initiatives for sustainable finance, green finance, and fintech development.“We are expecting further execution guidelines to be issued in the digital banking and fintech areas,” PwC noted.According to the report, Qatari banks have experienced single digit growth of total assets and liabilities over the financial year of 2022 (FY 2022 vs FY 2021).Growth of aggregated assets accelerated in FY 2022 by 3.6% to QR2.02tn compared to QR1.95tn for FY 2022, and by 3.3% CAGR over the three-year period (FY 2022 vs FY 2020) evidencing that the banking industry in Qatar has been expanding at a fast pace over the past three years.These observations underscore the importance of effective capital allocation, risk management and responsiveness to market conditions in maintaining profitability and competitive advantage in the banking sector.Growth of aggregated liabilities accelerated in FY 2022 by 3.5% to QR1.79tn compared to QR1.73tn for FY 2021, and by 3.3% CAGR over the three-year period (FY 2022 vs FY 2020).On another note, foreign liabilities accounted for 10.4% of the sector’s funding FY 2022 (11.2% FY 2019) and net external debt decreased by almost 8% of Qatar’s forecasted GDP FY 2022.The report reveals that banks in Qatar have reported gradual growth in balance sheet and financing portfolio. Earnings metrics, including gross income, operating income, and profit before tax demonstrate growth and highlight high adaptability to the changing interest rate environment.Banks in the country have been continuously developing their digital capabilities by prioritising customer-centric approaches and digital innovation, according to the report.Developing new digital products, embracing an open banking mindset and establishing strategic partnerships with fintech companies, guided by complementary regulations, are all factors helping to strengthen their positions.Furthermore, the Qatari government's emphasis on environmental impact during the FIFA World Cup 2022 has led to strategic partnerships for sustainable finance initiatives.Therefore, leading Qatari banks are also integrating ESG factors into their strategies and reporting, aligning with global frameworks and supporting green financing and social inclusion.Ahmed al-Kiswani, Qatar Financial Services Sector leader, PwC Middle East commented, “Qatar is strategically positioning itself as a leading fintech hub in the Middle East and a pioneer in digital transformation and sustainability within the financial services sector. We remain confident that the financial sector in Qatar is well placed to adapt to a changing financial environment and continue to grow.”