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No change in POL prices

ISLAMABAD (APP): The government on Sunday decided not to change the prices of petroleum products for next fortnight.

The existing prices would remain effective till March 15, said a press statement issued by the Finance Ministry.

Accordingly, petrol will be sold at Rs111.90 per liter, high speed diesel at Rs116.07, kerosene oil at Rs80.19 and light diesel oil at Rs79.23.

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BOP, Haleeb Foods join hands for dairy financing project to support farmers

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Bank of Punjab (BOP) and Haleeb Foods Limited (HFL) have entered into a far-reaching collaboration to deliver easily accessible financing to dairy farmers associated with HFL. This initiative will enable the dairy farmers to avail affordable financing from BOP, on soft terms and lowest markup rates. Such loans shall exclusively be utilized to expand and modernize their existing dairy-farming businesses.

The agreement signing ceremony was held at HFL Head Office, Lahore. Mr. Zafar Masud, (President & CEO – Bank of Punjab) and Syed Mazher Iqbal (CEO, Haleeb Foods signed the agreement in the presence of Senior Management from both the organizations, Dairy Farmers from across Punjab and notable Media Persons.

Expressing his views Mr. Zafar Masud (President & CEO – BOP) said, “We are excited to be partner on this initiative that has the potential to transform the agricultural landscape of Pakistan by promoting organized financial inclusion of Dairy farmers and improving dairy farming practice. Prioritizing the financial inclusion and well-being of small farmers is key to develop the agricultural sector, which in return contributes towards economic growth of Pakistan. BOP will also offer financial assistance under Federal Govt.’s Prime Minister Kamyab Jawan Scheme and Provincial Govt’s Punjab Rozgar Scheme (PRS) which will further strengthen Govt. initiative to empower the youth to undertake their own businesses”

Talking on the occasion Syed Mazher Iqbal (CEO – HFL) said, “Haleeb Foods has always been committed towards the economic growth of the country and community at large. We are happy to be a part of this initiative of greater public interest, which shall definitely help the otherwise unstructured / small-scale Dairy Farming Community. BOP taking an extension of PM Kamyab Jawan Scheme and Punjab Rozgar Scheme shall facilitate the small-scale dairy farmers associated with HFL. We strongly believe that this initiative has the ability to positively contribute to the landscape of the Agri Sector of Pakistan.”

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In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs

BASRA (Agencies): It’s nearly dawn and Zainab Amjad has been up all night working on an oil rig in southern Iraq. She lowers a sensor into the black depths of a well until sonar waves detect the presence of the crude that fuels her country’s economy.

Elsewhere in the oil-rich province of Basra, Ayat Rawthan is supervising the assembly of large drill pipes. These will bore into the Earth and send crucial data on rock formations to screens sitting a few meters (feet) away that she will decipher.

The women, both 24, are among just a handful who have eschewed the dreary office jobs typically handed to female petroleum engineers in Iraq. Instead, they chose to become trailblazers in the country’s oil industry, donning hard hats to take up the grueling work at rig sites.

They are part of a new generation of talented Iraqi women who are testing the limits imposed by their conservative communities. Their determination to find jobs in a historically male-dominated industry is a striking example of the way a burgeoning youth population finds itself increasingly at odds with deeply entrenched and conservative tribal traditions prevalent in Iraq’s southern oil heartland.

The hours Amjad and Rawthan spend in the oil fields are long and the weather unforgiving. Often they are asked what — as women — they are doing there.

“They tell me the field environment only men can withstand,” said Amjad, who spends six weeks at a time living at the rig site. “If I gave up, I’d prove them right.”

Iraq’s fortunes, both economic and political, tend to ebb and flow with oil markets. Oil sales make up 90% of state revenues — and the vast majority of the crude comes from the south. A price crash brings about an economic crisis; a boom stuffs state coffers. A healthy economy brings a measure of stability, while instability has often undermined the strength of the oil sector. Decades of wars, civil unrest and invasion have stalled production.

Following low oil prices dragged down by the coronavirus pandemic and international disputes, Iraq is showing signs of recovery, with January exports reaching 2.868 million barrels per day at $53 per barrel, according to Oil Ministry statistics.

To most Iraqis, the industry can be summed up by those figures, but Amjad and Rawthan have a more granular view. Every well presents a set of challenges; some required more pressure to pump, others were laden with poisonous gas. “Every field feels like going to a new country,” said Amjad.

Given the industry’s outsized importance to the economy, petrochemical programs in the country’s engineering schools are reserved for students with the highest marks. Both women were in the top 5% of their graduating class at Basra University in 2018.

In school they became awestruck by drilling. To them it was a new world, with it’s own language: “spudding” was to start drilling operations, a “Christmas tree” was the very top of a wellhead, and “dope” just meant grease.

Every work day plunges them deep into the mysterious affairs below the Earth’s crust, where they use tools to look at formations of minerals and mud, until the precious oil is found. “Like throwing a rock into water and studying the ripples,” explained Rawthan.

To work in the field, Amjad, the daughter of two doctors, knew she had to land a job with an international oil company — and to do that, she would have to stand out. State-run enterprises were a dead end; there, she would be relegated to office work.

“In my free time, on my vacations, days off I was booking trainings, signing up for any program I could,” said Amjad.

When China’s CPECC came to look for new hires, she was the obvious choice. Later, when Texas-based Schlumberger sought wireline engineers she jumped at the chance. The job requires her to determine how much oil is recoverable from a given well. She passed one difficult exam after another to get to the final interview.

Asked if she was certain she could do the job, she said: “Hire me, watch.”

In two months she traded her green hard hat for a shiny white one, signifying her status as supervisor, no longer a trainee — a month quicker than is typical.

Rawthan, too, knew she would have to work extra hard to succeed. Once, when her team had to perform a rare “sidetrack” — drilling another bore next to the original — she stayed awake all night.

“I didn’t sleep for 24 hours, I wanted to understand the whole process, all the tools, from beginning to end,” she said.

Rawthan also now works for Schlumberger, where she collects data from wells used to determine the drilling path later on. She wants to master drilling, and the company is a global leader in the service.

Relatives, friends and even teachers were discouraging: What about the hard physical work? The scorching Basra heat? Living at the rig site for months at a time? And the desert scorpions that roam the reservoirs at night?

“Many times my professors and peers laughed, ‘Sure, we’ll see you out there,’ telling me I wouldn’t be able to make it,” said Rawthan. “But this only pushed me harder.”

Their parents were supportive, though. Rawthan’s mother is a civil engineer and her father, the captain of an oil tanker who often spent months at sea.

“They understand why this is my passion,” she said. She hopes to help establish a union to bring like-minded Iraqi female engineers together. For now, none exists.

The work is not without danger. Protests outside oil fields led by angry local tribes and the unemployed can disrupt work and sometimes escalate into violence toward oil workers. Confronted every day by flare stacks that point to Iraq’s obvious oil wealth, others decry state corruption, poor service delivery and joblessness.

But the women are willing to take on these hardships. Amjad barely has time to even consider them: It was 11 p.m., and she was needed back at work.

“Drilling never stops,” she said.

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CBD to attract investors, promote economic activities: SAARC-CCI

ISLAMABAD (APP): President South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Iftikhar Ali Malik on Sunday said establishment of modern state of art multi billion dollar central business district project would attract foreign and local investors besides generating economic activities in the country.

Talking to a delegation of investors led by Muslim Khan Binowari, he said the government has offered an excellent package of incentives to investors to set up their business concerns in this superb project ideally located in the heart of city.

He said Punjab government on the special directive of the Prime Minister Imran Khan had also chalked out a master plan for timely execution of this project.

He said that project of central business district would be reflections of modern hub of commercial activities under one umbrella.

He said it would match top world class business establishments, adding that 300 acres tract of project land would meet the business needs of the investors.

Iftikhar Ali Malik asked the corporate sector to come forward and take full advantage of this one of the best opportunity for secured investment.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was taking keen interest in this project and directed to give him briefing on its progress monthly.

He further said Prime Minister has attached great importance to projects of Ravi Riverfront Development Authority and CBD which, he added, would play key role in further stimulating commercial activities besides enhancing economic growth.

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Grand JS Bank celebration held in Lahore

F.P. Report

LAHORE: JS Bank celebrated its Lahore, Sialkot and Gujranwala Retail and Product teams at a grand event held in Lahore on February 19th 2021. Held under the theme ‘The Power of You’, the event recognized high-performing JS Bank family members and their unmatched dedication to the Bank.

The event kicked off with an award ceremony recognizing key individuals followed by speeches from the President & CEO, Basir Shamsie and Chief Operating Officer, Imran Haleem Shaikh. Both key executives called upon JS Family members to continue their efforts to take the Bank forward. The night closed with a fantastic Qawali performance by Imran Ali Santoo, who gave the audience much-needed energy and entertainment.

Speaking at the occasion, Basir Shamsie stated, “You, our people are the backbone of our success, and we understand that it is thanks to You that the Bank has established itself as one of the fastest-growing and most customer-oriented banks in Pakistan. I am confident that you will In Sha Allah make this Bank one of the country’s top financial institutions soon. Saath mil kar barhna hai aagey!”

In 2020, JS Bank set new records in its deposit base, which stood at about Rs. 430 Billion. Besides this, Payroll financing crossing the Rs. 12 Billion mark while the Bank’s signature Gold Finance product stood at Rs. 7 Billion. The Bank was further recognized as the Best SME Bank at the Asian Banking and Finance Awards and as the Best Bank for SMEs and CSR at AsiaMoney 2020.

JS Bank is one of the fastest-growing Banks in Pakistan, with a domestic and international presence. The Bank is a leader in the digital banking, SME & consumer loans space. JS Bank has been recognized on multiple international and national forums, including the prestigious AsiaMoney, Asian Banking and Finance, DIGI and Pakistan Banking Awards. The Bank is part of JS Group, one of Pakistan’s most diversified and progressive financial services groups.

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Certified Real Estate Advisors Graduate as course by Graana.com & NUST concludes

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan receives its first-ever batch of certified real estate investment advisors after completing the Certification in Real Estate Science Level 1 course.

Launched in collaboration with the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), the four-week certification course was introduced by Graana.com with an ambition to make a difference in the real estate realm.

The graduation ceremony held at Professional Development Centre (PDC) NUST was attended by the Pro-rector Research, Innovation and Commercialisation NUST Mr. Nassar Ikran, the higher management of Graana, including CEO Graana.com Mr Shafiq Akbar, along with Group Directors Mr. Farhan Javed, Mr. Sharjeel E. Ahmer, and Mr. Arslan Javed General Manager PDC Mr. Salman Ahmed, and Programme Manager Mr. Muhammad Ali.

Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Shafiq Akbar said; “The vision of transforming the real estate sector was accomplished today, through the completion of Pakistan’s 1st Real Estate Certification course. On this landmark achievement, I thank NUST for joining hands to overcome this gap and urge other educational institutes to start such courses, as the transformation of any sector is only possible through formal education.”

“The introduction of Pakistan’s first course on real estate is a significant step towards restricting the sector through introducing formal education”, said Mr. Farhan Javed while celebrating this achievement.

Addressing the ceremony, Mr. Nassar Ikran lauded this initiative launched by Graana.com to transform the real estate sector through introducing formal education.

The educational course provides a learning experience by incorporating technological, management, and legal issues related to the primary and secondary real estate markets and profession. The session comprised assignments, presentations, group activities, case studies, mock trials and examinations.

Besides, Mr. Shafiq Akbar and Mr. Farhan Javed, the other experts who taught the course modules included the senior professionals of the company, Mr. Omer Abideen, and Ms. Iqra Musaddaq.

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Investors weigh new stock leadership as broader market wobbles

NEW YORK (Reuters): A shakeup in stocks accelerated by the past week’s surge in Treasury yields has investors weighing how far a recent leadership rotation in the US equity market can run, and its implications for the broader S&P 500 index.

Moves this week further spurred a shift that has seen months-long outperformance for energy, financial and other shares expected to benefit from an economic recovery, while a climb in Treasury yields weighed on the technology stocks that have led markets higher for years.

The two-track market left the benchmark S&P 500 down for the week, and sparked questions about whether it could sustain gains going forward if the tech and growth stocks that account for the biggest weights in the index struggle.

So far this year, the S&P 500, which gives more influence to stocks with larger market values, is up 1.5 percent, while a version of the index that weights stocks equally is up 5 percent.

“That just tells us the gains are less narrow, more companies are participating, and I think that’s healthy,” said James Ragan, director of wealth management research at D.A. Davidson.

The focus on market leadership comes as investors are weighing whether the S&P 500 is due for a significant pullback after a 70 percent run since March, with the rise in long-dormant yields the latest sign of trouble for equities as it means bonds are more serious investment competition. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note this week jumped to a one-year peak of 1.6 percent before pulling back.

Economic improvement will be in focus in the coming weeks, including the monthly US jobs report due next Friday, as will the country’s ability to ensure widespread coronavirus vaccinations, especially as new variants emerge.

Tech and momentum stocks helped drive returns in 2020 “when everyone was locked down and all they had was their computer,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Capital Management. “Now it seems with the vaccines, the stimulus and the prospect of reopening that we are looking out toward a recovery phase.”

The shift in the market this week is building on one that was fueled in early November, when Pfizer’s breakthrough COVID-19 vaccine news generated broad bets on an economic rebound in 2021.

Among the moves since that point: the S&P 500 financial and energy sectors are up 29 percent and 65 percent, respectively, against a nearly 9% rise for the benchmark index and 7 percent rise for the tech sector. The Russell 1000 value index has gained 16.5 percent against a 4.3 percent climb for its growth counterpart, while the smallcap Russell 2000 is up 34 percent.

“You definitely are seeing the reopening trade that has pretty much come alive here,” said Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager of Hodges Capital Management.

Despite the gains, there remains “plenty of room for the reflation trade to run from a valuation perspective,” Lori Calvasina, head of US equity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said in a report this week. RBC is “overweight” the financials, materials and energy sectors.

Rising rates tend to be favorable for more cyclical sectors, David Lefkowitz, head of Americas equities at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a note, with financials, energy, industrials and materials showing the strongest positive correlations among sectors with 10-year Treasury yields.

Still, how long the market’s reopening trade lasts remains to be seen. Investors may be reluctant to stray from tech and growth stocks, especially with many of the companies expected to put up strong profits for years.

Any setbacks with the economy or with efforts to quell the coronavirus could revive the stay-at-home stocks that thrived for most of 2020.

And with a GameStop-fueled retail-trading frenzy taking hold this year, banks and other stocks in the reopening trade may fail to draw the same attention from amateur investors as stocks such as Tesla, said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments.

“There isn’t the pizzazz to those stocks,” Meckler said. “There rarely is a potential for stocks to make the kind of moves that big tech growth stocks have made.”

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Stock gains power Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway to higher profit

WASHINGTON (Reuters): Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Saturday said quarterly operating income rose 14%, aided by improved results from its insurance businesses, while soaring prices of stock holdings such as Apple Inc led to a nearly $36 billion overall profit.

Fourth-quarter operating income rose to $5.02 billion, or approximately $3,252 per Class A share, from $4.42 billion, a year earlier. Net income, reflecting the stock gains, rose 23% to $35.84 billion from $29.16 billion a year earlier.

For all of 2020, operating income fell 9% to $21.92 billion, while net income fell 48% to $81.42 billion. Berkshire, whose shares trailed the broader market over the last decade and significantly in 2019 and 2020, repurchased about $9 billion of stock in the quarter, a sign Buffett considers his Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate undervalued. For all of 2020, Berkshire said it bought back $24.7 billion of its own stock, topping its old record $5 billion in 2019. “At a discount of 40% to intrinsic value, the repurchases looked extraordinarily compelling,” said Tom Russo, a partner at Gardner, Russo & Gardner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a longtime Berkshire shareholder. “Repurchases capture forever the benefits of Berkshire’s businesses for the remaining shareholders.” Berkshire stock has risen 4.8% this year, beating the Standard & Poor’s 500’s 1.5% gain.

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Pakistan earns US $224m from export of travel services in 1st half of fiscal year 2020-21

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan earned US $224.120 million by providing different travel services in various countries during the first half of the current financial year 2020-21.

This shows a decline of 18.54 percent as compared to US $275.114 million same services were provided during the corresponding period of the fiscal year 2019-20, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) said.

During the period under review, the personal travel services decreased by 17.98 percent, from US $272.224 million last year to US $223.290 million during July-December (2020-21). Among these personal services, the exports of personal expenditure however rose by 44.26 percent while the education-related expenditure however witnessed a decrease of 13.21.

In addition, the other personal services also decreased by 18.24 percent, out of which religious and other travel services witnessed a decline 94.19 and 18.10 percent respectively. Meanwhile, the exports of business services also dipped by 71.28 percent, from the US $2.890 million to US $0.830 million, the PBS data revealed.

It is pertinent to mention here that the services trade deficit of the country during the first half of the financial year (2020-21) decreased by 42.41 percent as compared to the corresponding period of last year.

During the period from July-December, 2020-21, services exports increased by 0.31 percent, whereas imports reduced by 15.68 percent, according to the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

The services worth US $2.844 billion exported during the period under review as compared the exports of US $2.835 billion in same period of last year, whereas imports of services into the country was recorded at US $3.821 billion as against the imports of US $4.532 billion, the data revealed.

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Pakistan receives its first-ever batch of certified real estate investment advisors

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Pakistan receives its first-ever batch of certified real estate investment advisors after completing the Certification in Real Estate Science Level 1 course.

Launched in collaboration with the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), the four-week certification course was introduced by Graana.com with an ambition to make a difference in the real estate realm.

The graduation ceremony held at Professional Development Centre (PDC) NUST was attended by the Pro-rector Research, Innovation and Commercialisation NUST Mr. Nassar Ikran, the higher management of Graana, including CEO Graana.com Mr Shafiq Akbar, along with Group Directors Mr. Farhan Javed, Mr. Sharjeel E. Ahmer, and Mr. Arslan Javed General Manager PDC Mr. Salman Ahmed, and Programme Manager Mr. Muhammad Ali.

Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Shafiq Akbar said; “The vision of transforming the real estate sector was accomplished today, through the completion of Pakistan’s 1st Real Estate Certification course. On this landmark achievement, I thank NUST for joining hands to overcome this gap and urge other educational institutes to start such courses, as the transformation of any sector is only possible through formal education.”

“The introduction of Pakistan’s first course on real estate is a significant step towards restricting the sector through introducing formal education”, said Mr. Farhan Javed while celebrating this achievement. Addressing the ceremony, Mr. Nassar Ikran lauded this initiative launched by Graana.com to transform the real estate sector through introducing formal education.

The educational course provides a learning experience by incorporating technological, management, and legal issues related to the primary and secondary real estate markets and profession. The session comprised assignments, presentations, group activities, case studies, mock trials and examinations.

Besides, Mr. Shafiq Akbar and Mr. Farhan Javed, the other experts who taught the course modules included the senior professionals of the company, Mr. Omer Abideen, and Ms. Iqra Musaddaq.