Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Norway's Vaar Extends Gas Deal with Germany's VNG by 12 Years

The deal provides for Vaar to deliver up to 5 billion cubic meters of gas over the period from 2024 to 2036 to VNG. Photo: VNG website
The deal provides for Vaar to deliver up to 5 billion cubic meters of gas over the period from 2024 to 2036 to VNG. Photo: VNG website
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Norway's Vaar Extends Gas Deal with Germany's VNG by 12 Years

The deal provides for Vaar to deliver up to 5 billion cubic meters of gas over the period from 2024 to 2036 to VNG. Photo: VNG website
The deal provides for Vaar to deliver up to 5 billion cubic meters of gas over the period from 2024 to 2036 to VNG. Photo: VNG website

Vaar Energi has extended by 12 years a long-term pact to supply natural gas to Germany's VNG, the Norwegian company said on Tuesday.

Norway became Europe's biggest gas supplier in 2022, overtaking Russia after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, to meet roughly a quarter of the continent's demand, Reuters reported.
"The agreement with VNG is a strong response to our European customers' need to ensure long-term energy supply," Vaar's Chief Executive Nick Walker said in a statement.

The deal provides for Vaar to deliver up to 5 billion cubic meters of gas over the period from 2024 to 2036 to terminals in Emden and Dornum in Germany, priced at market terms, the company added.

Oslo-listed Vaar is majority owned by Italy's Eni.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
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Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)

With many consumers abandoning physical cash, and in light of the accelerating development of crypto-currencies, central banks in the world have started working to ensure a legal and safe cover for the use of digital currencies.

According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 135 countries and monetary unions, representing 98 percent of global GDP, are exploring digital currencies for central banks, compared to only 35 countries in 2020.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicates that about two-thirds of the countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are considering adopting digital currencies for their central banks as a means to enhance financial inclusion and improve the efficiency of cross-border payments.

The Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) joined as a full participant in a multi-country digital currency initiative, known as the mBridge project, which was positioned as a potential alternative to the SWIFT payment system to enable faster and potentially cheaper international payments.

Head of Development at Binance in Saudi Arabia Bandar Altunisi told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt that the mBridge project was a cooperative initiative led by the BIS to explore the potential of digital currencies issued by central banks to facilitate trade and instant cross-border payments.

The project includes the central banks of China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the five participating central banks, the project includes 27 other official entities with observer status, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and central banks in many countries, including Norway, South Korea, and Türkiye, according to Altunisi.

“The mBridge project, which was launched in 2021, represents an innovative solution to address the gaps and challenges of inequality in the current procedures used for cross-border payments,” he explained.

Altunisi believes that the success of this project will contribute to accelerating cross-border payments and reducing their cost.

As for the importance of this project for Saudi Arabia, he noted that it will provide new settlement solutions for oil and gas exports. On a broader scale, trade will become more efficient, ultimately benefiting all parties involved, including the final consumer, he remarked.

He added that additional expertise in the field of Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) provided by the mBridge project will give regulatory authorities in Saudi Arabia more comfort and ease in allowing broader regulation and application of crypto-currencies and other solutions based on Blockchain technology.

Altunisi spoke about the difference between digital currencies that central banks are considering adopting and encrypted ones, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. He noted that the latter are decentralized currencies that use encryption techniques to boost the security of transactions and rely on Blockchain technology to ensure transparency and immutability of transaction records.

Digital currencies are digital copies of paper currencies issued and regulated by central banks, Altunisi stated, adding: “Unlike crypto-currencies, these digital currencies are centralized and usually aim to improve the efficiency of payment systems, bolster financial inclusion, and provide governments with better monetary policy tools.”