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Despite challenges, Asia’s aerospace industry plots rebound at Singapore air show

As a depleted Singapore Airshow winds down, delegates reported growing optimism as the hard-hit Asian aerospace market begins to recover despite emerging concerns around labor shortages, rising costs, and supply chain challenges.

Organizers had estimated attendance of more than 13,000 ahead of the four-day show – still a shadow of previous years — but attendees said that even on Tuesday, the busiest day, only a few thousand people appeared to be at the show. Final numbers are yet to be compiled, organizers said.

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Still, repeat visitors such as Eric Noel, an executive at a flight training center in Arizona, said the atmosphere was livelier than the last show in February 2020, when late exhibitor dropouts due to the emergence of COVID-19 left empty spaces and half-finished booths, giving an eerie feel to the display hall at a time of significant market uncertainty.
Attendees at the show on Thursday ventured outside into the scorching midday sun to watch the final set of flying displays,
including a flyby of a US B-52 bomber, a design that first flew in the 1950s.
This year’s show was the largest event of any kind in Singapore since the start of the pandemic, though the low turnout was a prime example of the devastating effect that strict health and border controls have had on the aviation industry over the last two years.

Yet there is optimism about a reopening in Asia, with host country Singapore on Wednesday announcing an opening to
quarantine travel from more countries after an initial pausewhen the omicron variant emerged late last year.
“People want to get back face to face because we have all figured out Zoom is fine, but it doesn’t really make it happen,” Domhnal Slattery, chief executive of aircraft lessor Avolon, said at the show.
His firm on Wednesday signed a deal to lease at least 100 flying taxis to AirAsia Aviation Group, which aims to launch an air ridesharing business in Southeast Asia.
With passenger travel down during the pandemic, Asian airlines have relied on the cargo market for survival, and freight was the star of the show in terms of major deals.
Singapore Airlines on Wednesday finalized an order for seven Airbus A350 freighters, while Etihad Airways placed a provisional order for seven of the same model.
Singapore Technologies Engineering also racked up more orders for passenger-to-freighter conversions, a business that has helped keep its hangars and workforce occupied during the slowdown in passenger travel.
On the defense side, there were no major deals but manufacturers were hopeful of a rebound as Asian countries emerge from the economic rubble of COVID-19 and look for cost-effective ways to upgrade their militaries.
As demand begins to bounce back, there are growing concerns about cost inflation and difficulties in the supply chain, for both commercial and defense manufacturers.
Sean Padfield, senior vice president, aerospace at seatbelt manufacturer SCHROTH Safety Products said his lead times for
parts from his company’s suppliers had doubled, making it harder to meet customer commitments.
“We’re really trying to smooth out by adding some robustness to our supply chain, like having multiple suppliers for the same parts,” he said on the sidelines of the show. “But one thing we realized in the aviation space, some of these parts are so specialized, it takes a long time to get another supplier up and running to deliver at the same quality and quantity.”
Other industry challenges revolve around labor after major workforce cuts made when demand collapsed in 2020, leading led
some workers to retire or change industries.
“There is a general labor shortage and the only way to get labor back to work is higher rates,” said Kailash Krishnaswamy,
senior vice president of aftermarket services at Spirit AeroSystems. “Where we have the opportunity we are trying to pass off that pricing to the customer. We are trying to build in automation where needed if possible.”

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Iraq boosts gold reserves by two percent in single day in gradual buildup

Iraq’s central bank boosted its gold reserves by about 2 percent in a single day last week as part of what it calls a gradual plan to stock up on the precious metal that’s seen as a traditional haven in times of economic distress.

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Iraq bought 2.5 tons of bullion on Thursday to bring its reserves to 132.73 tons, Mazin Sabah, director general of the central bank’s investments department, said in an interview in Baghdad. The strategy is to acquire more gold in the second half of the year, Sabah said.

“Our current plan is to buy small quantities over multiple times, not a big quantity in one go, Sabah said.

Central banks around the world are expanding their holdings of bullion amid escalating geopolitical and economic risks. Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer, resumed gold purchases in 2022 after a four-year hiatus, under a program to diversify its roughly $100 billion in foreign assets.

Iraq’s central bank bought 34 tons of gold last June, a one-time increase of 35 percent in its holdings. It stores bullion with the Bank of England and the Bank of France.

Sabah said the central bank’s approach is to add to its gold reserves whenever the precious metal’s price reaches a level that matches the investment department’s guidelines.

Gold, which was within touching distance of a record earlier this month, had its third consecutive weekly loss as signs of resilience in the US economy increased the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates. The metal is more appealing to investors for returns when rates are low.

Gold demand from central banks fell to 228.4 tons in the first quarter, down 40 percent from the preceding three months, according to a report from the World Gold Council. While that’s still strong, it’s the second straight quarter of decline, a sign the institutions’ historic bullion binge may be coming to an end.

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Ambani-backed EV maker is said to weigh raising $85 mln

Altigreen Propulsion Labs Pvt Ltd. is considering raising about 7 billion rupees ($85 million) in a new funding round as the Indian electric cargo vehicle maker looks to ramp up its production and invest in new models, according to people familiar with the matter.

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The company, which counts billionaire Mukesh Ambani among its backers, is seeking a valuation of around $350 million in the new round, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. Some of its existing investors could tag along and sell their shares, the people said.

Deliberations are at an early stage and details of the fundraising could still change, the people said. Altigreen Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Saran confirmed to Bloomberg News that the company is in the midst of fundraising and targets to wrap it up by July.

Founded in 2013, Altigreen designs and manufactures electric cargo three-wheelers and has an annual production capacity of 55,000 vehicles, according to its website.

The firm raised around 3 billion rupees in a series A round last year that was led by Sixth Sense Ventures. Ambani’s Reliance New Energy Ltd., Xponentia Capital Partners, Momentum Venture Capital and Accurant International also participated.

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Binance taps Teng to run all regional markets in swift ascension

Binance tapped Richard Teng to head all its regional markets outside of the US, a swift and steady ascension for the executive that joined the world’s biggest crypto exchange just under two years ago.

Teng’s new position, effective Monday, is an expansion of his previous role leading Asia, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, according to a company spokesperson. He joined the firm in August 2021 as Chief Executive Officer of Singapore, and rapidly climbed the ranks amid a tumultuous time in the digital assets sector.

Teng’s expanded responsibilities comes at a time when Binance is under fire from US authorities over compliance issues. Outside of the US, there have been a flurry of developments.

It is launching a new platform for Japan residents after buying a local crypto firm, and its joint venture in Thailand recently secured licenses for a digital exchange. In Australia meanwhile, the permit for its derivatives business has been canceled pending a review of its local operations.

“Richard’s international experience and regulatory background as well as global relationships will be an asset to Binance as it seeks to navigate the complexities of the global regulatory landscape, said Chia Hock Lai, board chairman of the Blockchain Association Singapore.

Teng’s additional responsibilities, which he shared on LinkedIn on Monday, comes just over a month after he took charge of Asia on top of leading Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Before joining Binance, Teng held other senior positions in the traditional financial sector. These include being CEO of Abu Dhabi Global Market, chief regulatory officer at the Singapore Exchange Ltd. and director of corporate finance at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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