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Oil climbs as risk appetite returns despite virus fears

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Oil prices rose about 4 percent on Wednesday, extending gains from the previous session as improved risk appetite provided support despite data showing an unexpected rise in US oil inventories.

Brent crude futures gained $2.53, or 3.7 percent, to $71.88 a barrel by 10:48 a.m. EDT (1448 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $2.69, or 4 percent, to $69.89 a barrel.

Futures are rebounding after dropping around 7 percent on Monday, following a deal by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together known as OPEC+, to boost supply by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) from August through December. The sell-off was exacerbated by fears that a rise in cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus in major markets like the US, Britain and Japan will affect demand.

The price gains on Wednesday also come despite a rise in US crude stockpiles for the first time since May. Crude inventories rose unexpectedly by 2.1 million barrels last week to 439.7 million barrels, US Energy Information Administration data showed. Analysts had expected a 4.5 million barrel drop.

Still, gasoline and distillate inventories posted draws of 121,000 barrels and 1.3 million barrels, respectively.

“That crude oil build was obviously a surprise driven by a surge in imports and a plunge in exports,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York. “The only positive aspects of the report remain strong gasoline demand and a rebound in distillate fuels.”

JPMorgan analysts said global demand is expected to average 99.6 million bpd in August, up by 5.4 mbd from April. But they also said: “We only see 4Q21 demand recovering another incremental 330,000 vs. a normalized 2019 baseline as colder weather sets in for the northern hemisphere and peak travel season is behind us.”

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Aramco, Schlumberger lead a financing round for a hydrogen battery company

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EnerVenue, the first company to offer metallic hydrogen batteries, announced that it has raised $100 million in Series A funding, led by Schlumberger New Energy and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV)- Aramco Ventures’ capital programme, the company said in a statement.

EnerVenue has established a framework for a major distribution and manufacturing agreement with Schlumberger, which will contribute to the wider availability of its batteries in global markets.

The company develops robust, flexible, and secure battery energy storage solutions based on technology proven over decades of use under the most extreme flight conditions, including operating the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Enervenue was created in 2020 to bring the proven advantages of the metallic hydrogen battery into the electrical grid and other power applications, after a series of developments to significantly reduce cost and increase the availability of raw materials for the technology created by NASA in this field.

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Dubai’s DP World to invest $414.8m in London Gateway port

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Logistics operator DP World is investing £300 million ($414.8 million) to build a fourth berth at its London Gateway hub.

Construction will begin in October, the Dubai company said in a statement, as it aims to boost capacity for large vessels.

“As a central pillar of Thames Freeport, London Gateway’s new fourth berth will allow even more customers to benefit from world class ports and logistics,” said Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chairman of DP World.

Operated by DP World, the London Gateway is a port within the wider Port of London. It was opened in 2013.

British chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Thames Freeport will “create national hubs of trade, innovation and commerce, and attract investment” for the UK.

The investment will support this goal, he added, saying it will create new trade opportunities and support local jobs.

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SoftBank makes first Saudi startup investment in $125m deal with PIF-owned Sanabil

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Customer engagement startup Unifonic has raised $125 million in its latest funding round led by SoftBank and a unit of the Public Investment Fund.

News of the deal first came out in June, but was only officially announced on Wednesday, making it the first investment of SoftBank in a Saudi startup.

The Riyadh-based startup provides messaging, voice, and WhatsApp communication services to companies who want to engage with customers.

“From SMS for online banking to WhatsApp vaccination requests, Unifonic empowers organizations to transform customer experiences,” it said in a statement.

It claims to support businesses by providing a cost-effective communication infrastructure.

The Series B funds will be used to grow Unifonic’s platform in the Middle East, and further expand to Africa and Asia. It also plans to acquire companies in these markets.

“This raise is an important milestone in our journey, it will allow us to scale our offerings and expand our reach to enable more organizations to connect with customers reliably and effectively,” its founder Ahmed Hamdan said.

PIF unit Sanabil also took part in the funding round.

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