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Bahrain’s metro project on track

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Expected to be operational by 2023, the project will cost between $1bln and $2bln and cover a total area of 109kms
Bahrain’s metro project will further cement the kingdom’s position in the region as the best place to live and work – by providing people alternative means of transport, according to an expert.Expected to be operational by 2023, the project will cost between $1 billion and $2bn and cover a total area of 109km.To be implemented in four phases, the development will feature six lines with electric driver-less trains capable of carrying 43,000 passengers per hour from more than 20 stations spread across the country.

“We welcome the fact that the metro project appears to be progressing,” Alliance of Rail New Entrants secretary general Nick Brooks told the GDN.

He also noted that consultancy tenders for phase one of the metro project were announced earlier this year. Three companies –Al Zayani Engineering, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers Middle East (PwC) – were shortlisted last month to provide transaction advisory and consultancy services for phase one of the project.

“Ultimately, we hope that the metro will be attractive to all sections of Bahraini society and provide a genuine alternative to cars or taxis,” said the top official of Europe’s new rail association based in Belgium.“This will make Bahrain a more attractive place to work and live in.“Apart from helping reduce the carbon footprint, new metros are often much more fast and comfortable than the car.”

Mr Brooks also hoped the rail network will one day link the entire GCC.“We hope that there will also one day be a passenger rail network linking the GCC, starting with a rail link across King Fahad Causeway.

“There are many commuters using the causeway who would surely prefer a smoother and faster ride by rail than is currently the case by road.”

Mr Brooks was speaking ahead of his participation in the upcoming Bahrain Rail Congress 2019 that will be held on October 2 and 3 at the Hotel Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea and Spa. Government representatives, ministries, industry experts, technology leaders and global rail innovators are expected to take part in the event.

Mr Brooks is one of the speakers at the event along with Metro Istanbul project director Mehmet Dagli, Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (India), Signalling and Telecommunications chief engineer Sanjay Kumar, and Kuwait’s Public Authority for Roads and Transportation director-general Suha Ashkanani. Other speakers from Bahrain include Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry infrastructure adviser Loay Ghazaleh along with three officials from the Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry.

This includes two advisers to Minister Kamal Ahmed and the Land Transport sector assistant under-secretary Nada Deen. Mr Brooks said he will speak about the comprehensive rail systems in Europe and opening up transport for the people.

“We prefer market opening as the best method to get the most value out of every dinar invested.“That means competitive tenders for metros, rather than a direct award to one specific operator, and open data for the metro, so that it can best integrate into other public transport modes by means of consolidated ticketing for buses, cycles and future mobility as a service (car-sharing).”

He said this will offer people door-to-door travel options that will rival the individual motor car. He said he will also talk about competition on the tracks in Intercity GCC rail.

“Wherever direct long-distance rail operators compete on the same tracks in Europe, we have witnessed improved quality, lower prices and often double the ridership (than beforehand) because people are then attracted to rail from other modes of transport such as buses and flights,” added Mr Brooks. Bahrain’s nationwide monorail network was first proposed and approved by the Cabinet in 2008, but stalled shortly afterwards due to the global financial crisis.

On October 6, 2015 new bids for the construction of the light rail network were invited by the Tender Board, as part of Bahrain’s section of a pan-Gulf railway.The GCC Railway, which is on track to be operational by the end of 2023, will connect a cargo station in the Khalifa Bin Salman Port in Hidd and a passenger terminal in Salmabad to a train station in Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s section of the railway project, from the station in Hidd to the station in Saudi, will extend 75km, including the upcoming 25km King Hamad Gauseway.

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Business

Qatar To Block Uber And Careem Acquisition Deal

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With both companies facing setbacks in their acquisition journey, it’s becoming more difficult to decipher the future of this deal. In a recent filing, Qatar’s competition authority reveals the blockage of Uber’s proposed multi-billion acquisition of Careem in the country, as reported by MENAbytes. The statement lacks a couple of key details; however, the decision was made privately between the establishments back in August 2019 and hasn’t been publicly announced yet by the governing body in Qatar.

In Qatar, Careem’s business equates to only 1.8% of its overall business worldwide. Although this incident could count as a setback for both companies, this news hardly translates as bad news. As reported by MENAbytes earlier this year, the price of the $3.1 billion deal could decrease if Careem and Uber fail to obtain regulatory approvals in its respective market.

According to Uber’s filing, Uber and Careem aim to seek further review of the decision. The filing also revealed that the Uber and Careem deal has been under review by various antitrust agencies in the region including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It should be noted that the United Arab Emirates is the only country that has formally approved of the Uber-Careem deal as disclosed by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy.

Additionally, earlier in May of this year, the Egyptian authority met with officials from Uber and Careem to discuss the aforementioned proposition, with certain media outlets issuing statements warning both companies against the merger and the possibility of the companies facing multi-million-dollar fines. Similarly, in a statement issued by Careem to Reuters, Careem has exited the Sudanese market less than a year after launching in Sudan’s capital, and just three months after Uber announced its acquisition. Both Uber and Careem had reported that the deal is expected to close in early 2020 but these complications serve as obstacles in the face of the ride-hailing giants.

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Markets

Saudi cinema market to hit over $1.2bln by end of 2030: report

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Though Riyadh accounts for a major part of the cinema market, Jeddah and other regions are set to see continuous growth

Saudi Arabia’s cinema market is expected to exceed $1.2 billion by the end of 2030, a recent research report said. According to ResearchAndMarkets.com, the kingdom’s largest city and capital Riyadh accounts for a significant part of the cinema market but other regions like Jeddah are set to witness continuous growth.

The report noted that the primary source of income for cinemas is tickets/box office. Other sources include advertisements and sale of food and beverages at the multiplex. The standard format of cinema holds the highest market share in Saudi, but 3D/4D, IMAX, and VIP/Premium ‘will be the choice of Saudis in the upcoming years’, according to the report.

In January last year, Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF established Development Investment Entertainment Company (DIEC) with an initial funding of $2.7 billion to set up entertainment centres that include cinemas over the next several years.

DIEC is projected to directly contribute SAR 1 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Saudi Arabia and create 1,000 direct jobs by 2020, according to a study by Belgium’s state-owned investment promotion agency Flanders Investment and Trade.

Saudi Arabia’s biggest cinema operator and subsidiary of Dubai’s Majid Al Futtaim group VOX Cinemas opened the kingdom’s first multiplex in April 2018 after authorities lifted a 35-year ban on cinema. The group’s CEO told Zawya in May that the company is opening a new cinema almost every month in the kingdom. 

“Saudi authorities are working towards social and economic development of people by utilizing the untapped potential of the non-oil sector. Lifting the 35-year ban on Cinema industry was one of the steps taken to achieve ‘Vision 2030’ by government.” The ResearchAndMarkets.com reprot noted.

According to Quality of Life Program 2020, part of Saudi economic overhaul blueprint ‘Vision 2030’, more than 45 cinemas will be developed in the kingdom by 2020.

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New risk cover from UAE’s Etihad Credit Insurance aims to boost SME exports

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‘SME Protect’ to provide local firms cost-effective alternative to traditional Letters of Credit and cash payment
Etihad Credit Insurance (ECI), the UAE Federal export credit company, has launched ‘SME Protect’, an online export credit solution designed for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).

‘SME Protect’, which will be available to exporters and re-exporters in the UAE from September 1, 2019, aims to protect companies from the risk of non-payments by their buyers overseas, by providing guarantees for their accounts receivables.
According to Saed Alawadi, CEO of Dubai Export Development Corporation, Board Member and Chairman of the Executive Committee at ECI, development of the SME sector is a key focus area for the UAE government as part of its agenda for economic diversification through promotion on non-oil sectors.
“This one-of-a-kind solution… will provide the necessary protection for SME exporters to capitalize on opportunities across regional and global markets. We expect our solution can provide one of the tools to make UAE companies competitive globally.”

The UAE’s SME sector, which represents 95 percent of companies in the country and 86 percent of non-oil private employment, was under-penetrated in terms of insurance support, “a gap we felt we could fill,” ECI CEO Massimo Falcioni said.

ECI is targeting to insure approximately 100 SMEs between September 2019 and January 2020.
It took more than a year to develop SME Protect solution and the process involved setting up focus group discussions in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah to identify the main challenges and a country-wide survey that reached out to 140 entrepreneurs.

“The survey found that the mode of payment of SMEs is unique in the UAE with only three percent selling on open credit and most (60 percent) preferring cash or advance payment,” he said. Under open credit norms, the exporter ships the goods to the buyer and receives payment at a later date.
In terms of sectors, he continued, 82 percent of the SMEs in metal and related products sell on cash, and 18 percent sell on Letters of Credit (LC).

“In electrical equipment, 62 percent sell on cash and 30 percent LCs, and in chemical and chemical products, it is 58 percent cash and 42 percent LC; in both Food & Beverage and Machinery, it is 54 percent still on cash payment.”

Saed Alawadi, CEO of Dubai Export Development Corporation, Board Member and Chairman of the Executive Committee at ECI (3rd from left), Massimo Falcioni, CEO of ECI (2nd from left), Swarna Lata, Director of Commercial Underwriting of ECI (1st from left), Ali Saleh Al Ali, Director of IT & Operations (4th from left), at the SME Protect launch press conference
Falcioni explained that cash-based export contracts ensured immediate cash availability for SMEs but eroded their competitiveness. “When they try to go into international markets and expand their business, it is very challenging because there are other companies that offer more competitive open credit terms.”

He said private insurers, like banks, were not interested in providing export credit insurance business to SMEs due to the “too small” size of business. And where they did, they were quick to reduce the credit limit in order to reduce their exposure and protect their balance sheet, he noted.

“The survey also found that 43 percent had difficulties in payment collection, which affected their ability to penetrate high-growth market segments. So if you want to add competitiveness to the SMEs in the UAE, you need to give them an instrument like SME Protect which gives them chance to sell on open credit terms,” said the ECI chief.
ECI’s partner bank network for SME Protect includes First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), Emirates NBDRAK Bank, Standard Chartered, Natixis and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB). Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC) is the reinsurance partner for SME Protect solution.
The contribution of the SME sector to the UAE’s GDP is forecasted to increase to 53 per cent in 2019 from about 49 per cent in 2018, according to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority. The UAE government aims to increase this rate to around 60 per cent by 2021.

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Markets

Delivery Hero’s Carriage shuts down operations in Egypt five months after the launch

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Carriage, the Kuwait-headquartered food delivery company owned by Delivery Hero, has shut down its operations in Egypt just five months after its launch, MENAbytes has learned. The development has been confirmed by many Carriage (Egypt) employees who shared the update on social media. We’ve learned that today is the last day of company’s operations in Egypt.A source familiar with the matter has told MENAbytes that the decision was made by the management of both Delivery Hero and Carriage. Delivery Hero apparently wants to put all their efforts and resources into Otlob, another Delivery Hero-owned company which happens to be the market leader in Egypt.

The Kuwaiti company that was acquired by Delivery Hero in 2017 had launched operations in Egypt in March earlier this year and had over 1,000 restaurant partners. Carriage that’s operational in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE, like Uber Eats and Careem Now, is a three-sided marketplace comprised of restaurants, delivery partners (couriers), and customers. In some of its markets, Carriage delivers groceries, flowers, medicines, and few other things as well. It had over 500 couriers in Egypt and was doing over 3,000 daily orders in recent times.

The company had ended its exclusivity agreements with its restaurant partners over a month ago without explaining details. The decision of closure was informed to restaurants, delivery partners, and even the employees some of whom had been working with Carraige since November last year (during its pre-launch phase), just two days ago. Carriage has not made any public announcement about the closure of its operations yet.

All of Carraige’s employees in Egypt the employees have been given the option to work for other Delivery Hero companies including Otlob, Talabat, and HungerStation. Talabat and HungerStation don’t have operations in Egypt but employ some staff (for customer services mainly) in the country. Those Carriage employees who don’t want to work for other Delivery Hero companies, we’ve learned, will be allowed to leave but according to local labor law, will be given compensation for their full contract period.Glovo, another international last-mile delivery player had exited Egypt a few months ago only to make a dramatic come back a month later. Delivery Hero, interestingly, owns a small stake in Glovo as well.

Unlike Delivery Hero’s other markets (including UAE, Saudi & Kuwait), the company won’t have its two or more brands competing with each other anymore in Egypt. Otlob will now be company’s only brand in the country and will be competing with the likes of Uber Eats, Glovo, Elmenus (ordering only) and to some extent Halan as well.

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Media

1.3 Million Podcast Listeners In The UAE

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New statistics released by markettiers MENA, a broadcast specialist,  reveals around 1.3 million regular podcast listeners in the UAE alone.The report was conducted by Opinion Matters, an insight agency. There has been around 2,006 respondents. Participants aged 16+ in the UAE between. The report looked at other markets -primarily the USA – to understand, predict and speculate in comparison to the UAE market.

The company said in a statement that around 16 percent of the adult population in the UAE is tuning into podcasts at least once a week.The results show that around 92 percent of the regular podcast listeners trust the medium more than traditional media. “Podcast listeners’ trust slightly drops to 89 percent for radio and 86 percent for TV,” said the statement.

Cheryl King, the Managing Director of markettiers MENA said in the statement that “the trust that podcast listeners place in the content they are listening to, represents a huge opportunity that brands shouldn’t ignore.” “Although the podcast scene in the region is still in its relative infancy, it is clear that it is primed to take off, and forward-thinking brands can get ahead of the curve and capitalize on the appetite for this medium which is undergoing a renaissance like we’ve never seen before,” King added.

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Business

GCC announces $125bln new projects in first half

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Saudi Arabia was the frontrunner, riding high on the back of $63.5bn in project announcements
MANAMA: As many as $125 billion worth of new projects have been announced in the GCC countries during the first six months, including $63.5bn worth of developments announced in the second quarter of 2019, according to a new report.These are part of the estimated 27,000 active projects in the GCC, worth $2.52 trillion at the end of the first half, said regional construction intelligence provider BNC Group in its latest report.Saudi Arabia was the frontrunner, riding high on the back of $63.5bn in project announcements, comprising 50pc of total project released in the second quarter, it stated.
During the first half of 2019, project owners in the GCC countries have also awarded new construction contracts worth $49bn, a 33 per cent jump compared to the corresponding period in 2018.Unveiling the report, BNC chief executive Avin Gidwani said: “GCC project awards during first half of 2019 and the second half of 2018 were consistent, saved by the exponential growth in contract awards seen during the first half of the year and the major spike in utility contract awards during the first quarter of 2019.”“The latest BNC Construction Intelligence provides a robust construction sector – not only in terms of new project announcements, but also new construction contracts and project completion, as the development activities gains momentum despite challenges including geopolitical tension across the region and slow global economic growth forecast,” he added.

The GCC states also witnessed the completion of $88.5bn worth of construction projects in the first half as the region’s construction sector remained robust.The construction project completions across all sectors in the second quarter surged to $46.5bn with the list dominated by the urban construction sector with a 46pc share of the total value of the completed construction projects. The majority of them were registered in the UAE, the second largest Arab economy, said the report.The latest BNC Projects Journal states that the overall GCC construction market expanded 12pc year-on-year, with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE growing by 12pc.“Geopolitics during the quarter added drama and insecurity to construction as regulatory changes in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to uplift the market and invite stability and prosperity, were revealed,” said Mr Gidwani.

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Business

UAE, Saudi non-oil sector key to reignite ME growth

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The non-oil sector of the UAE and Saudi Arabia is expected to a play key role in generating economic growth and employment in the Middle East as the regional economies face a challenging 2019, the Institute for Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) said. The non-oil sector in the GCC to accelerate from an estimated 2.3 per cent last year to 2.6 per cent in 2019 as several proxy indicators of economic activity paint a positive picture, with the credit to the private sector trending up in most GCC countries, ICAEW said in its latest Economic Insight report produced in partnership with Oxford Economics.

Other bullish indicators include some improvements in the quarterly average of the purchasing manager index, a gauge of the health of the private sector in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two largest economies in the GCC, in first quarter compared to last quarter 2018, the report said. The non-oil sector resilience in the GCC is supported by various pro-growth government initiatives, expansionary budgets and fiscal stimulus plans, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, ICAEW said.

“In other notable developments, deflationary pressures were evident in several GCC countries in the beginning of 2019, largely reflecting material declines in the ‘housing and utilities’ component of the CPI index, which traditionally has the largest weight in the consumer basket,” ICAEW pointed out in its report. Michael Armstrong, ICAEW regional director for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, said the outlook for Middle Eastern economies remains challenging for the rest of 2019 as global developments continue to be of crucial importance to the region.

“Growth prospects for the Middle Eastern economy have deteriorated as geopolitical risks, involving Iran especially, have risen in the last year. Continued uncertainty in the global oil market means increasing non-oil revenues is vital for regional economies – governments in the region have been proactive, but they must continue to support their economies with pro-growth initiatives.” Mohamed Bardastani, ICAEW economic advisor and senior economist for the Middle East at Oxford Economics, said the slump in oil prices has put significant pressure on Oman in the last year – oil revenue still amounts to 60 per cent of the nation’s total budget revenue. “There is a dire need for an improvement in the non-oil sector and delaying the introduction of VAT has a had significant effect on the fiscal deficit. Oman must continue with its economic diversification efforts to drive growth in its economy,” Bardastani added. Oil producers in the region will also see limited growth in the oil sector, the traditional engine of economic growth and a primary source of government revenues, given the anticipated extension of the output cuts by Opec+ to balance the international oil markets. Oil prices are forecast to average around $67 in 2019, down by some 5.6 per cent from the average of $71 last year, according to the report.-

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News

Kaspersky finds 60% rise in users hit by password stealers in 2019

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The number of users, targeted by the stealers, peaked from less than 600,000 in the first half of 2018 to over 940,000 during the same period in 2019

Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity company founded in 1997. Kaspersky’s deep threat intelligence and security expertise is constantly transforming into innovative security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers around the globe The use of malware designed to harvest consumers’ digital data – known as password stealers – has seen a significant rise in 2019. According to Kaspersky’s data, the number of users, targeted by the stealers, peaked from less than 600,000 in the first half of 2018 to over 940,000 during the same period in 2019.  

Password Stealing Ware (PSW) is a major weapon in the cybercriminals’ toolkit to sabotage users’ privacy. This malicious type of software grabs data directly from users’ web browsers using various methods. Quite often, this information is sensitive and includes access details for online accounts as well as financial information – like saved passwords, autofill data and saved payment card details.  In addition, some families of this type of malware are designed to steal browser cookies, user files from a specific location (for example, a user’s desktop) as well as app files, such as messenger services. 

Over the past six months, Kaspersky has detected high levels of activity by the stealers in Europe and Asia. Most frequently, the malware has targeted users in Russia, India, Brazil, Germany and the USA.  One of the most widely spread Stealer Trojans was multifunctional Azorult, detected on the computers of more than 25% of all users who encountered Trojan-PSW type malware in the examined period.

“Modern consumers are increasingly active online and understandably rely on the internet to carry out many tasks in their daily lives. This fills their digital profiles with more and more data and details and makes them a lucrative target for criminals as they could be monetized in numerous ways afterwards. By securely storing passwords and credentials, consumers can use their favorite online services in confidence that their information will not be put at risk. This should be also supported by installation of security solution as one can never be too careful,” notes Alexander Eremin, security researcher at Kaspersky.

Kaspersky recommends that consumers follow this advice to ensure their passwords and other credentials remain secure: Do not share passwords or personal information with friends or family as they could unwittingly make them vulnerable to malware. Do not post them on forums or social media channels. Always install updates and product patches to ensure protection from the latest malware and threats. Start using reliable security solution like Kaspersky Password Manager that is designed to securely store passwords and personal information, including passports, driver’s licenses and bank cards. 

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