Bitcoin, Ethereum rise as Japan aids Russian sanctions: crypto moves – Arab News
RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded higher on Monday, rising 5.78 percent to $47,201.35 as of 8:00 a.m. Riyadh time.
Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $3,333.50up by 6.03 percent, according to data from Coindesk.
Japan plugs Russia’s crypto loophole
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan will rewrite its foreign exchange regulations to stop Moscow from evading Western financial sanctions with cryptocurrency assets, government officials said Monday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in a press conference that Japan is updating the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act to strengthen protections against potential sanctions-busting by Russia through digital assets.
According to Saisuke Sakai, senior economist at Mizuho Research and Technologies, the revision “presumably enables the government to apply the law to crypto-asset exchanges such as banks and oblige them to scrutinize whether their clients are Russian sanction targets.”
Sakai further said that the government probably formulated the legal revision plan to comply with stricter Western standards and the high level of public support for sanctions against Russia.
RIYADH: The ongoing war on Ukraine has so far cost the country $564.9 billion in terms of damage to infrastructure and lost economic growth, according to the country’s economy minister.
Yulia Svyrydenko reportedly said the fighting had damaged or destroyed 8,000 km (4,970 miles) of roads and 10 million square meters of housing.
The impact of the war can be felt across the globe particularly in the European countries. The disturbance has led many countries such as Belgium to forecast their growth forecasts. 
Belgium’s central bank has cut its growth forecasts in 2022 and 2023 due to the impact on consumer spending and trade from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The bank now estimates 2022 growth at 2.4 percent, down from a previous forecast of 2.6 percent. For 2023, its forecast has fallen to 1.5 percent from 2.4 percent and for 2024 risen to 1.9 percent from 1.6 percent.
Spain’s 2021 deficit 
Spain’s final 2021 budget deficit will be narrower than expected, Budget Minister Maria Jesus Montero told La Sexta television network on Monday.
Spain is due to release the full-year 2021 deficit figure on Thursday. The government’s original official target was for a deficit equivalent to 8.4 percent of the gross domestic product in 2021, and 5 percent deficit in 2022.
Spain announced €16 billion ($17.5 billion) in direct aid and soft loans on Monday to help companies and households weather sky-high energy prices that are pushing up inflation and stoking social discontent.
The government will approve on Tuesday the package to mitigate the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at a corporate event.
“The war response shock plan will protect industries and citizens,” he said.
Irish retail sales rise
Irish retail sales volumes rose 0.9 percent month on month in February and were 3.1 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels two years earlier, data showed on Monday, suggesting rising inflation has yet to dampen consumer spending.
With annual inflation at a 21-year high of 5.6 percent, the value of retail sales rose by 6.2 percent compared to a year ago, almost three-times the 2.2 percent year-on-year rise in the volume of sales in February.
The value of fuel sales jumped by 46.5 percent in the year to February, while the volume rose by 18.1 percent over the same period, the Central Statistics Office said.
US trade deficit 
The US trade deficit in goods narrowed in February as exports rebounded, data showed on Monday, which could provided a lift to economic growth in the first quarter.
The deficit fell 0.9 percent to $106.6 billion, the Commerce Department said. Exports increased 1.2 percent, offsetting a 0.3 percent gain in imports. Trade has subtracted from gross domestic product growth for six straight quarters.
South Africa’s maize harvest 
South African farmers are expected to harvest 10 percent less maize in the 2021/2022 season compared with the previous season, the government’s Crop Estimates Committee said on Monday.
The CEC’s second summer crop forecast estimates the 2022 harvest at 14.684 million tons, down from the 16.315 million tons harvested last season.
The harvest is expected to consist of 7.570 million tons of white maize, used for human consumption, and 7.115 million tons of yellow maize, used mainly in animal feed.
UAE hopeful of growth 
The UAE is hoping the economy will grow by 5 to 6 percent this year as it recovers from the pandemic, and by the same pace over the next few years to help double the economy by 2031, its economy minister said on Wednesday.
“The whole world is recovering and I think we are in a recovery phase after the pandemic, (but) predicting growth as well this year is a challenge,” Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri told Reuters on the sidelines of the “Investopia” conference in Dubai, referring to the Russia-Ukraine war and oil prices.
The IMF expects the UAE economy to grow by 3 percent this year after it expanded by 2.1 percent in 2021.
The UAE’s non-oil economy has benefited from public spending, credit growth and improving business sentiment, and its hosting of the Dubai World EXPO has boosted tourism.
UAE attracts FDI
Foreign direct investment into the UAE rose to $20.7 billion in 2021, up 4 percent from 2020, the economy minister told Sky News on Monday.
Sri Lanka in talks with India 
Sri Lanka has sought an additional credit line of $1.5 billion from India to import essentials, the island nation’s central bank governor said on Monday, amid its worst economic crisis in decades.
The country of 22 million people is struggling to pay for essential imports after a 70 percent drop in foreign exchange reserves in two years led to a currency devaluation and efforts to seek help from global lenders.
Fuel is in short supply, food prices are rocketing and protests have broken out as Sri Lanka’s government prepares for talks with the International Monetary Fund amid concerns over the country’s ability to pay back foreign debt.
Sterling edges higher 
Sterling edged higher versus the euro on Monday, with investors focusing on the Bank of England’s next moves to tame inflation while avoiding recession risks.
The pound lost ground against a strengthening dollar as concerns about a prolonged war in Ukraine boosted demand for safe-haven assets.
RIYADH: Entrepreneurship is a form of economic diversification and the Royal Commission for AlUla has created a platform to support the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, said AlUla CEO Amr Al-Madani.
The platform, called Vibes AlUla, aims to boost entrepreneurship through the provision of shared mentorship programs, services and office spaces. The hub is used to train around 80 entrepreneurs in a range of first-step business principles and a further 60 micro and small businesses. 
Talking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Riyadh, Al-Madani said diversity enables sustainability and sustainable growth uplifts communities.
He affirmed AlUla’s commitment to help entrepreneurs on how to best position their ideas. 
“The first opportunity that we are responsible to provide for entrepreneurs that quite already exists is to give them (a) sizable market, to create sustainable demand by incentivizing visitors to come reintroduce AlUla in a new form that excites people to come and buy the services of these entrepreneurs,” he said. 
Job creation
Over 3,000 jobs have already been created in the tourism sector by entrepreneurs who offer new mobility choices and new experiences. 
“Micro enterprises are one way to accelerate economic growth because instead of looking for a job, each one creates one plus one, one plus two jobs,” he said, affirming that jobs cannot be created by the government alone unless they are unsustainable. 
Al-Madani said entrepreneurship will be the bedrock for a sustainable economic growth as AlUla becomes a tourist destination for natural and cultural heritage. 
Inspired by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and economic diversification plans, AlUla wants 70 percent of its economy to rely on tourism by 2035. 
However, to become a sustainable economy, there has to be multiple economic drivers like film industry, specialized education, agriculture and craft, Al-Madani added.
Promoting young talent
Speaking of Saudi youths, Al-Madani said that engaging with the global talent is important for growth and it would not constitute a threat to the locals talent.
“Saudis who are supported, usually outperform their peers globally when they work on a Saudi context, because they deeply believe in Vision 2030,” he explained. 
RIYADH: The Middle East hit a record investment amounting to $2.6 billion in 2021 as entrepreneurship booms in Saudi Arabia, revealed MAGNiTT, a startup data provider for emerging venture markets.
“We are only scratching the surface in terms of the potential for the region,” MAGNiTT CEO Philip Bahoshy told Arab News, on the sidelines of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, in Riyadh.
As an entrepreneur seeking to raise funds, he said there has never been a better time to pitch to regional investors.
Although Bahoshy believes that country has no bearing on a business’ success, he said that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt are becoming the ideal locations for any startup to succeed.
MAGNiTT CEO said that the data shows that each of these geographies has an increased level of investment and deal flow. “But the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the three largest hubs that are evolving into the must-be locations for any founder who wants to be successful here in the region.”
Scale is the name of the game, said Bahoshy, adding that a business needs to be “operating in multiple geographies.”
He underlined that the regional governments at all levels are making it easier for startups to get access to markets, talent, and funding.
Transparency of data
Aiming to aggregate all venture capital investments across emerging venture markets, MAGNiTT’s chief said the company was created out of “the need for transparency of data and information.”
Bahoshy said that from what the company covers, the emerging market space is booming in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, and Turkey. “It’s really good to see the engagement that’s happening here at a local level.”
As the company has a strong presence in the MENA region and other countries, he said they are able to apply a methodology to report on ecosystem growth in emerging venture markets that they now cover.
Starting from five interns to now 30 employees working globally, MAGNiTT’s CEO said their goal is to continue to strengthen the product, the revenue, and the business propositions for their clients.
It wants to continue to develop more analytical tools, crack the valuation model, increase the depth of research, and continue to provide that as a solution for clients, Bahoshy concluded.
RIYADH: Qawafel, a Saudi-based B2B chocolate marketplace, aims to expand its operation to other industries and is eyeing a greater share of the market, Turki Alayyad, its co-founder and CEO, told Arab News.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Riyadh, Alayyad said the company is seeing huge year-on-year growth and aims to triple its gross merchandise value by expanding its services in the Kingdom.
He told Arab News the startup served as a “bridge between supply and supplier of chocolate and retailers.” Alayyad said the company’s future expansion plans include other industries as well.
“We don’t think we will expand at the moment in the region, we still have more (to cover) in the Saudi market, however, we will expand in terms of product. We are (also) aiming to digitalize the chiller and frozen industry,” Alayyad stated.
Founded in 2020, Qawafel raised $3 million in seed funding in October 2020. Since then, it has been steadily growing and also supplying raw materials to suppliers.
Alayyad said the company plans to offer more services including a ‘”buy now pay later” option.
He said: “Qawafel is reaching more than 5,000 shops in terms of retailers, we are reaching as well to more than 188 points, by point (we mean) a village or a town or a city across the Kingdom.”
Alayyad also said that they closed the year 2020 with around $1 million in gross merchandise value, the year after it increased “400 times,” and the firm is now aiming for a “quarter-million dollars” this year.
RIYADH: Saudi Central Bank’s net foreign assets fell 1.2 percent in February, according to data published on its website.
Net foreign assets of the bank, also known as SAMA, fell by SR19.9 billion ($5.31 billion) to SR1.59 trillion.
This is the third consecutive month of decline. 
Assets have dropped for a total of SR85.5 billion since November 2021. Looking at the central bank’s reserve assets — an indicator SAMA discloses as part of IMF reporting — it fell by the same SR19.9 billion in February to $442 billion due to a similar drop in foreign currency reserves.
The latter’s smaller component — “foreign currency and deposits abroad” – saw the third monthly drop in a row of $3.87 billion, while “investment in foreign securities,” which makes up about two-third of the total — fell by $594 million.
The February decline in foreign currency reserves also affected the level of the central bank’s total assets, which fell by $9.41 billion in month to $478 billion.
Foreign currency reserves contribute about 75 percent to the central bank’s total assets. The rest are gold and foreign currencies with SAMA, cash in vault, as well as “other miscellaneous assets.” Noticeably, the latter component also fell by $3.27 billion during February.
As a result, SAMA’s total assets fell again — for the third month in a row, which is rather unusual. Last time it happened in February-April 2020, though the aggregate drop was much bigger at the time — $47.9 billion compared to $26.8 billion in the period between December 2021 and February 2022.