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Saudi bourse’s quarterly profit falls on lower trading services, listing fees

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Saudi woman walks at the Saudi stock market (Tadawul), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri//File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Tadawul Group, the kingdom’s stock exchange operator, posted a 21.7% decline in first quarter net profit on Sunday on a slowdown in trading services and listing fees.

The bourse reported a net profit after tax and zakat of 140.6 million riyals ($37.48 million) in the three months to March 31, down from 179.6 million riyals in the same period last year, according to a bourse filing.

Tadawul went public in December, raising 3.78 billion riyals from investors in a listing that was 121 times oversubscribed.

The Saudi stock market is the Arab world’s largest. Its listed companies have a market capitalisation of nearly $3.2 trillion.

($1 = 3.7509 riyals)

Stock Markets

Explainer-Ukraine looks for ways to get its grain out

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sergei Yarosh, head of Mlybor (flour mill) enterprise, shows a handful of grains at the facility after it was shelled repeatedly, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Edgar Su

By Pavel Polityuk and Silvia Aloisi

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine is seeking ways to get grain and vegetable oils out of the country by breaking a months-long blockade of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea by the Russian navy and moving more by land.

The war, together with Western sanctions against Russia, have sent the price of grain, cooking oil, fertiliser and energy soaring.

That in turn is threatening a global food crisis as many countries count on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, including some of the poorest.

Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of the global wheat supply, and their importance has been underscored by an Indian export ban and adverse crop weather in North America and Western Europe.

Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus – which has backed Moscow in the war and is also under sanctions – account for over 40% of global exports of the crop nutrient potash.

HOW MUCH GRAIN IS STUCK IN UKRAINE?

Grain is one of Ukraine’s main industries, with exports totalling $12.2 billion in 2021 and accounting for nearly a fifth of the country’s exports.

Prior to the war, Ukraine exported 98% of its cereals and oilseed via the Black Sea, at a rate of up to 6 million tonnes per month. Typically, only a fraction of its exports went by rail, where transport costs are higher.

But with the ports blocked and the railway system unable to cope with the extra volume, the country is currently only exporting between 1-1.5 million tonnes a month.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week accused Russia of using food as a weapon in Ukraine by holding “hostage” supplies for not just Ukrainians, but also millions around the world. The Kremlin says it is the West that triggered the crisis by slapping sanctions against Moscow.

According to a U.N. food agency official, nearly 25 million tonnes of grain were stuck in Ukraine as of early May due to infrastructure challenges and the naval blockade. As prices surge, U.N. agencies are having to cut food rations for refugees and displaced people by up to half in parts of the Sahel, for example, due to a massive funding shortfall.

WHY CAN’T THE GRAINS GET OUT OF UKRAINE BY LAND?

Exporting by train is a challenge because the Ukrainian rail system operates on a different gauge to European neighbours such as Poland, so the grain has to be transferred to different trains at the border where there are not many transfer or storage facilities.

Kyiv has also been stepping up efforts to ship via the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta. But as of mid-May, only about 240,000 tonnes of grain – or 1% of the volume stuck in Ukraine – had passed through, its manager Florin Goidea told Reuters.

Re-routing grain to Romania involves transport by rail to ports on the Danube river and loading cargoes onto barges for sailing towards Constanta – making the process complex and costly.

WHAT OTHER OPTIONS ARE BEING DISCUSSED?

Western powers have been discussing the idea of setting up “safe corridors” to allow grain to be shipped out of Ukrainian ports.

But officials have warned that any such corridor would not be possible without Russian consent.

Ukraine says it needs “guarantees of security”, with deputy economy minister Taras Kachka telling Reuters last week that having “vessels of third countries in the area …would be an ideal situation.”

Russia’s foreign ministry in turn said that if it were to heed a United Nations appeal to open access to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, the removal of sanctions against Russia would also have to be considered, the Interfax news agency reported.

Making things even more difficult are drifting mines in the Black Sea, which each side accuses the other of planting.

Insurance costs for any vessel braving these shipping lanes would also likely be very high.

The situation has taken on added urgency because of a shortage of grain storage space in Ukraine, where the next crop will be harvested from July.

Up to 35% of Ukraine’s total storage capacity of 61 million tonnes could still be used up by the old 2021 crop by the time the new harvest comes in, according to research centre APK-Inform.

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Stock Markets

U.S. CDC recommends re-isolation if COVID recurs after taking Pfizer’s pill

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pill Paxlovid is packaged in Ascoli, Italy, in this undated image obtained by Reuters on November 16, 2021. Pfizer/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Patients who experience recurrence of COVID-19 symptoms after completing treatment with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)’s drug Paxlovid should isolate again for five days, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an advisory issued on Tuesday.

Dozens of individuals have reported rebounding COVID symptoms on social media or to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after taking Paxlovid, but Pfizer suggests the experience is rare. A recent rise in COVID cases has driven up use of therapeutics in the country.

The CDC in its advisory that case reports suggest that recurrence results in mild symptoms, and there have been no reports of severe disease so far. The agency still continues to recommend the oral antiviral drug as a treatment, despite the possibility of recurrences.

A brief return of symptoms may be part of the natural history of SARS-CoV-2 infection in some persons, regardless of treatment with Paxlovid, the agency said.

CDC recommends that patients with COVID rebound can end their re-isolation period after five full days if there is no fever for 24 hours and symptoms improve, but such patients should wear a mask for a total of 10 days after rebound symptoms begin.

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European shares fall as business growth data deepens slowdown worries

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© Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Staff

By Susan Mathew

(Reuters) -European shares ended lower on Tuesday, tracking declines in global stock markets with business expansion data for May renewing investor concerns over slowing economic growth and monetary policy tightening.

The pan-European STOXX 60 index closed 1.1% down, giving back almost all of Monday’s gains.

PMI data showed euro zone business growth slowed this month and a shortage of raw materials held back expansion in manufacturing, adding to worries over global growth.

Europe’s largest economy, Germany, meanwhile, remains on the growth path helped by a sustained rebound in services, although demand outlook looks bleak amid inflation and supply issues. German shares gave up 1.8%.

“The clouds are packing above the eurozone economy,” said Bert Colijn, senior economist, Eurozone at ING. “And the question is really how long the service sector can continue to profit from consumers… when we also see that purchasing power is under extreme pressure due to high inflation.”

“Inflationary pressures are barely abating and… this is a warning that it is likely to remain quite hawkish for the European Central Bank,” he said, signalling a period of sustained pressure for stocks.

All major sectors posted broad declines, with luxury stocks and retailers in the lead, which take a hit when disposable income is squeezed.

The French index, packed with luxury stocks, slumped 1.7%, the top decliner among regional peers.

Tech stocks on Europe fell 2.7% along with Wall Street after Snapchat-owner Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP)’s profit warning hurt other major social media stocks. Frankfurt-listed shares of Snap plunged 44.6%.

“Snap seems to have taken the blame for the market’s inability to hold its limited gains, but in reality, investors are still taking every chance they can to cut back on stocks, particularly those previous market darlings in the tech sector,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trading platform IG.

The STOXX 600 is now down more than 12% from this year’s highs hit in early January.

Worries about monetary policy tightening to control surging inflation, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and COVID-19 curbs in China restricting demand in the world’s second-largest economy have all weighed on markets.

Tele2 plunged 7.9% after investment company Kinnevik sold a 7.2% stake in the telecoms operator.

Barclays (LON:BARC) rose 3.2% on starting a suspended 1-billion-pound share buyback programme.

Shares of UK power generating companies Drax, Centrica (OTC:CPYYY) and SSE (LON:SSE) plunged between 7.5% and 14% after the Financial Times reported that the British government could extend the windfall tax to power generators.

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