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US fast-food giant McDonald’s will sell a controlling stake in its China and Hong Kong business for up to $2.08 billion to a consortium including state-owned Citic and the Carlyle Group, it was announced Monday.

The deal is part of an international turnaround plan as McDonald’s struggles with sluggish growth at home.

Citic Limited, Citic Capital Holdings, Carlyle Group and McDonald’s will form a company that will act as franchisee for the chain’s business in mainland China and Hong Kong for 20 years, the companies said in a joint statement.

Citic is a vast Chinese state-owned conglomerate with interests in businesses ranging from energy and manufacturing to real estate.

It said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that the purchase would deepen its exposure to China’s consumer sector, “which is poised to be the main driver of China’s economy for decades to come”.

The burger chain last year announced plans to sell its over 2,600 restaurants in China and Hong Kong, after sales took a hit as tensions in the South China Sea hit earnings by US companies in the country.

Its China business also suffered a blow in 2014 after a food safety scandal involving one of its meat suppliers.

Citic and Citic Capital will have a stake of 52 percent, Carlyle will take 28 percent and McDonald’s will retain 20 percent of the new company.

It will focus on growth in China’s smaller regional cities and plans to open more than 1,500 restaurants in the mainland and Hong Kong over the next five years.

The burger chain has been overhauling its global structure under chief executive Steve Easterbrook to compensate for slower growth in markets such as France and the US, its largest market.

The global restructuring plan calls for refranchising 4,000 restaurants by the end of 2018, with the long-term goal of franchising 95 percent of its outlets.

The new company will focus on menu innovation and enhanced restaurant convenience, and McDonald’s existing management team will continue to lead the business, the statement said.

McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in mainland China in 1990 and currently employs over 120,000 people, it said, adding that the fast-food chain is the country’s second-largest.

It was one of the largest-ever China deals for asset manager Carlyle, which has invested more than $7 billion of equity in the world’s second-largest economy, according to the statement.

The deal is expected to be closed in mid-2017 pending regulatory approval.

Rival Yum Brands, owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, last year split off its $6.9 billion China business into a separate company, Yum China, to focus on its huge but struggling restaurant empire in the country.

 

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The Nigerian Naira against the United States dollar at the parallel market on Friday has fallen to 493, from 490 on Thursday as increased dollar demand weighed on the market.

Forex traders said the local unit plummeted following an increased demand for the dollar and other hard currencies by parents seeking to pay school fees of wards studying overseas.

The naira had closed flat against the dollar at the official interbank window and at the parallel foreign exchange market last Tuesday, the first official trading day of the year.

It closed at 305 to a dollar at the official window, the same rate it closed on the last working day of 2016, while the local currency closed at 490/dollar on the black market.

The naira had similarly closed at 490/dollar on Friday, the last official trading day of 2016.

“In the week ahead, we expect pressure on the naira to linger, especially at the parallel market, as unmet demand from the official market continues to stoke imbalances,” United Capital had said in a research note to clients on Tuesday.

The local currency also closed flat at 490/dollar last Wednesday and Thursday at the parallel market, before recording loss on Friday.

Economic and financial experts have expressed divergent views over the outlook of the naira this year.

The naira beat analysts’ expectation and closed the year 2016 at 490 against the dollar at the parallel market.

Due to the persistent pressure on the naira, currency and financial analysts had predicted that the local currency would hit 500/dollar on or before the new year.

The naira has been under severe and continuous pressure as the scarcity of the US currency continues to create ripples in the financial markets and economy.

The CBN had about two weeks ago sold about $1bn on the forward market to clear a backlog of dollar obligations in selected sectors.

Traders said the CBN told banks to prioritise airlines, manufacturing firms, petroleum products importers and agriculture, the sectors worst hit by the dollar shortage, in the auction.

The CBN has struggled to support the naira as the country’s external reserves continue to fall.

 

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According to PREMIUM TIMES Nigeria, Dangote Cement remains the most capitalized company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), as at December 16, 2016, with a market capitalization of N2.9 trillion.

This represents 31.56 per cent of the whole stock market capitalization as at December 16, 2016. Nigerian Breweries and Nestle Nigeria, all in the manufacturing sector, trailed Dangote Cement with market capitalization of N1.13 trillion and N642.05 billion respectively.

The recurrent expansion of Dangote Cement’s manufacturing capacity in its plants based in Nigeria and across Africa to meet the increasing demand for its products continues to reflect in its top and bottom lines. This is despite the high cost associated with investment in capacity building to sustain future growth by increasing market share beyond the shores of Nigeria.

The company’s track record of strong earnings and share price has helped it to outperform the whole market in terms of relative price stability and as the most capitalised equity on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Its current share price at N170 per share has been considered cheap and attractive by stock market analysts.

They noted that 2016 year end will be another impressive full year result despite the harsh business environment.

They are of the view that backed with its expansion drive to other African countries, the company is currently consolidating its position, while growing sales revenue with robust profitability.

The managing director of APT Securities and Securities Limited, Mallam Kurifi Garuba, said the stake controlled by Dangote Cement on NSE is highly significant.

According to him, this is why Dangote Cement, for instance, determines the direction of the market most times. Whenever there is any price drop in Dangote Cement, the market will decline and if there is any rise in shares of Dangote Cement, the market closes positively.

A look at the company’s scorecard for the five-year period, 2011 to 2015, the increased capacity to satisfy Nigeria’s rising demand for cement, estate development and other infrastructure development have put an end to historical reliance on imports. Today, Nigeria has been turned into a net exporter of cement as reflected in the company’s increasing number of millions of metric tons produced per annum and earnings released.

The regular release of its financials in compliance with the post listing requirement makes DangCem’s corporate governance strong, such that investors can forecast and plan their investment.

Meanwhile, the sales revenue of the company for the period under review grew consistently from N235.91 billion a year after it was listed on the NSC to N491.73 billion, an increase of 108.35 per cent. Also, its bottom line was up by 44.01 per cent to N181 billion from N125.91 billion in 2011 after it hit a profit level in excess of N200 billion in 2013.

The shareholder’s funds for the period was up by 117.94 per cent from N295.83 billion in 2011 to N644.72 billion.

The company recorded a Price Earnings Ratio of 13.99x in 2015, reducing investors waiting period from all time high of 17.71x in 2013 and 16.30x in 2014 respectively. On the other hand, the said earnings per share was same as 7.32 per cent of its price at the released date.

The book value as at the last financial year was N37.84, the highest so far in the company’s existence as a quoted entity. This is however relatively low, compared to its market value. The growing net assets and robust retained earnings would further boost the company’s business to earn more and grow shareholders’ funds.

The estimated ratio also reveals that Dangote Cement’s profit margin for the period has consistently been above the benchmark internationally, ranging from 36.82 to 53.37 per cent. This is healthy and shows the commitment of management to reduce cost and in the process support profitability that would create value for its shareholders.

On the strength of the figures posted, the stock is fairly priced at N240 each, considering fund managers and investor’s preference for consistent dividend, competent management to drive profitability and business model of the company

In the last five years, the company has consistently rewarded shareholders with dividend, supported by improving numbers. Within the period under consideration, it had paid a total dividend of N25.25 per share, excluding the bonus of one new ordinary share for 10 given in 2011.

Speaking at forum in Lagos recently, Dangote said the company has recorded a 47 percent growth in sales volumes between January and February 2016.

He said the company can export up to $500 million worth of cement annually from Nigeria to neighboring West African countries. He disclosed that 2018 to 2020 there will be no need by Dangote Group of businesses to get foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The company in September 2016, has made it known that it has turned to locally-mined coal to power its plants in a bid to end disruptions caused by gas shortages and lower its production costs.

The president of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote said, “All our cement plants have been converted to coal,” adding they would use 12,000 metric tonnes of coal each day.

Dangote’s move is unusual in an era when power generation is shifting away from coal. Coal used to generate U.S. power fell in April to its lowest monthly level since 1978, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a June report.

Also, the managing director of Dangote Cement, Mr. Onne Van der Weijde, said the management is confident of delivering strong growth this year despite the challenging economic conditions facing Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

He said the company achieved particularly strong sales growth in Nigeria but expect the final quarter to be lower because of the high fourth quarter base in 2015 and also because of the price increase that became effective on 1st September 2016.

He said: “This price increase will have an immediate and positive impact on margins in fourth quarter, as will the elimination of LPFO from our fuel mix, as we increase our use of coal and as higher gas levels return. We do not expect to use LPFO again this year. From January 2017, our use of own-mined coal, sourced in Nigeria and paid for in Naira, will further improve margins and significantly reduce our need for foreign currency.

“As we have previously made clear, our focus will be to improve margins through cost controls and the adjustment of prices. We have new capacity coming on stream in Congo and Sierra Leone and expect Tanzania to increase its market share in the coming months.”

Weijde disclosed that foreign exchange constraints in Nigeria have made them to reconsider the pace of expansion and they now believe that a longer-term building programme will enable a more measured approach that balances their ambition for growth with the realities of obtaining foreign currency in this difficult environment.

 

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A Chinese firm, Hawtai plans in two years to roll out its sports utility and sedan brand of vehicles at the Eastern vehicle Assembling Limited (EVAL) in Enugu, for the Nigerian market billed for inauguration by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The company, when fully operational, would create over 750 jobs and  roll out yearly, 6000 units of steel capacity vehicles, just as research conducted by the company indicated that at least 30 per cent raw materials input locally sourced would form part of assemblage of the 21st century stock of cars.

EVAL’s Managing Director, Sir Joseph chika Okechukwu, who briefed newsmen in Enugu, said the firm was investing about N5 billion on the project, which he added, was in line with Federal Government’s effort to localise industries.

He stated that President Buhari would on Friday launch the vehicles and lay the foundation stone of the project sitting on 50 hectares of land at Egede, Ninth mile, Udi council area, adding that the vehicles are 100 percent steel construction.

“The project is one of a kind because the vehicles we are about to bring into Nigeria, is a 21st century technology vehicles. They are 100 per cent steel construction. This is in partnership with Hawtai in China. The vehicles are highly technological,” he stated.

Okechukwu, who was part of the Federal Government’s delegation during President Buhari’s visit to China, added that the interest in the Hawtai range of cars increased after the visit where the delegation discussed with officials of the company.

Okechukwu stated that the cars would benefit Nigerians due to their economy and other security features that would enable them become user friendly, adding that after two years, there was the likely hood of increase in the workforce to about one thousand.

He said the target was to make the Southeast zone the “hub of vehicles”, stressing that the newly inaugurated free trade zone would accelerate the economy of the zone.

 

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The Nigerian equities market has suffered great declines in trade value this year especially in the month of November, leaving investors with a combined loss of N660bn

As of the last day of trading on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange in October this year, the NSE market capitalisation closed at N9.349tn, while the All-Share Index was 27,220.09 basis points.

But data from the NSE showed that by November 30, which was the last day of trading for the month, the NSE capitalisation stood at N8.689tn, while the NSE ASI was 25,241.63 basis points.

This, therefore, means over seven per cent decline in the NSE market capitalisation and investors’ worth in the one-month period.

Between September 8 and November 8 this year, the equities market recorded a decline of N396bn, which represented a fall of 4.18 per cent of the shareholders’ fortunes in two months. On November 8, the NSE market capitalisation plunged by N180bn for the day at the close of trading on the floor of the Exchange.

For the third quarter, investors in the equities market lost N432bn of their fortunes compared to the second quarter of the year.

In the space of three months, the NSE market capitalisation had slid to N9.733tn from N10.165tn. The NSE All-Share Index as of June 30 was 29,597.79 basis points, while at the end of the third quarter on September 30, it stood at 28,335.40.

The President, Fund Managers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ore Sofekun, described the current state of the equities market as challenging for investors, adding that the prevailing economic recession was not helping the situation.

She called on investors to study trends in the market and make informed decisions if they were nursing a buy or sell consideration.

Sofekun also advised investors in the capital market to consider diversification of their investment portfolios to achieve a good spread of their investment risks.

The African Securities Exchanges Association recently urged all bourses on the continent to seek the elimination of capital gains tax on their securities and roll out new products like derivatives in the face of decreased interest from foreign and local investors.

Global funds, which sought African assets in the years up to 2015, have been cutting their holdings, due to the commodity price crash last year and the anticipated interest rates increase in the United States.

Adding to the challenge, economic growth in Africa this year is projected to be the slowest in two decades, reflected in bourses like the NSE, where daily volumes have shrunk by two-thirds to $10m, as foreign investors quit, put off by the slowdown and capital controls.

For instance, between September 28, 2015 and September 28, 2016, the NSE market capitalisation had dropped by N873bn from N10.572tn to N9.699tn; while the All-Share Index also fell to 28,236.23 basis points from 30,762.29 basis points.

There was also a significant drop in the volume of transactions in the market, as it dropped to 159.046 million from 266.652 million in the period.

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The Nigerian Communications Commission has suspended its directive to telecommunications operators to increase tariffs on data services available on their networks.

The suspension followed the uproar that the announcement of imposition of a price floor on the network operators has generated. The price floor, which would have taken effect today (Thursday) is about 200 per cent higher than what mobile telecommunications operators currently charge for data.

In a statement issued by the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, in Abuja on Wednesday, the commission said the decision to suspend the directive was taken after due consultation with industry stakeholders and in view of the general complaints by consumers across the country.

Ojobo stated, “The commission has weighed all of this and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of a study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.

“Recall that the commission wrote to the mobile network operators on November 1, 2016 on the determination of an interim price floor for data services after the stakeholders’ consultative meeting of October 19, 2016.

“The decision to have a price floor was primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants.”

He added, “The price floor in 2014 was N3.11k/MB, but was removed in 2015. The price floor that was supposed to flag off on December 1, 2016 was N0.90k/MB.

“In taking that decision, the smaller operators were exempted from the new price regime by virtue of their small market share. The decision on the price floor was taken in order to protect the consumers, who are at the receiving end, and save the smaller operators from predatory services that are likely to suffocate them and push them into extinction.”

Ojobo noted that the price floor was not an increase in price, but a regulatory safeguard put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anti-competitive practices by dominant operators.

Consumers, however, believe that it is a new consumption tax imposed by the regulator since they have opposed a plan by the government to impose a nine per cent tax on telephone calls made in the country.

Ojobo further explained, “Before the now suspended price floor of N0.90k/MB, the industry average for the dominant operators, including MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, EMTS Limited (Etisalat) and Airtel Nigeria Limited, was N0.53k/MB.

“Etisalat offered N0.94k/MB; Airtel, N0.52k/MB; MTN, N0.45k/MB; and Globacom N0.21k/MB.

“The smaller operators/new entrants charge the following: Smile Communications, N0.84k/MB; Spectranet, N0.58k/MB; and NATCOMS (ntel), N0.72k/MB.”

He added that the NCC, as a responsive agency of the government, took into consideration the feelings of the consumers and so decided to suspend the new price floor.

Despite the announcement of the suspension, the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers warned the Federal Government that it would resist any attempt in the future to increase data tariff rates in the country.

The NATCOMS stated this on Wednesday, some hours after the NCC said it had suspended action on the new price floor of data tariff.

The association said that the directive to implement the new price floor, in the first place, was “insensitive, callous and diabolical, so we will resist it should the Federal Government turn around in the future and decide to increase data tariff rates.”

The NATCOMS President, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said, “Since the NCC is an agency of the Federal Government, the purported directive was designed by the government to cast more financial burden on the already depressed citizenry.”

SOURCE: THE PUNCH

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The Director, Banking and Payment System, CBN, Mrs. Tokunbo Martins, stated that the nation’s currency (Naira) has lost about 85% of its value in the last two years.

She stated this at the weekend in a presentation made at a round-table discussion organised by the Risk Managers Association of Nigeria, RIMAN, in Lagos.

She said the Nigerian economy, including the banking sector, was facing various kinds of risks as a result of the challenges of high inflation, naira depreciation, oil price crash and decline in manufacturing output.

The CBN director then called on risk managers to rise to the task of maintaining robust risk management practice in the banking sector.

“There is a need to avoid the situation the world experienced during the global financial crisis through the use of regulations and standards. During the global financial crisis, risk managers got significant amount of the blame.

“The nation’s Gross Domestic Product has contracted by 2.2 per cent, inflation has gone up to above 18 per cent, the currency has depreciated by about 85 per cent in the past two years, and manufacturing has contracted by three per cent,” she said.

The member of the Board of Trustees of RIMAN further stated that, “The oil that we produce, apart from the price, has fallen by about 70 per cent. The volume has also contracted a great deal and banks are exposed to manufacturing, oil and gas, and to the government.

“The government’s revenue has declined. Non-performing loans have increased. We do have a very cocktail of risks in our hands. What is the future of risk management? It is more and more regulation and standards.”

 

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The naira weakened to 470 on Thursday, from 465 on Wednesday, as fresh dollar scarcity hit the official and parallel foreign exchange markets.

The local currency had appreciated to around 450 after security agents carried out series of raids on Bureau De Change operators, who sold the greenback above the N400 stipulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Security agents have been raiding the offices of the BDC operators, ordering them to sell dollar at a lower rate in a bid to break the fall of the local currency.

However, the naira started recording losses gradually again as scarcity of the greenback weighed on the forex markets.

“The clampdown on the black market operators by security agents has negatively impacted dollar supply to the market,” one Bureau de changer operator told Reuters.

Economic and currency experts have said getting security agents after the BDC operators cannot get the ailing naira to stabilise.

At the official market, the naira closed at 305 against the dollar, the level it has closed since August.

The naira is expected to depreciate slightly further in coming weeks at both the official and parallel markets on the back of gradual increase demand for forex by small businesses stocking for the Christmas and New Year sales.

Meanwhile, on the teeming streets of Lagos, the once omnipresent money-changers are going underground.

They’ve become the latest target of security agents in a desperate move by the Federal Government to bolster the naira.

That is creating a parallel market within the black market, according to analysts at Lagos-based Afrinvest West Africa Limited.

One trader in the Lagos suburb of Surulere, who asked not to be identified as he feared arrest, said he would continue using the old rate with trusted customers and refused to sell dollars to others.

“The black market will go further underground,” an analyst at Afrinvest, Omotola Abimbola, said.

“The fact that they went as low as getting security forces on the streets shows a new level of desperation,” he added.

 

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The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has concluded plans to increase its support and commitment to boost fish production in the country, noting that fish business is a venture with a lot of potential investment opportunities in the country.

The Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Shehu Ahmed, explained that fish farming is a veritable tool for increased fish production and alleviation of poverty for sustainable livelihood and achieving food security in Nigeria.

According to him, fish is the highly traded commodity in the world, saying that it is on this premise his ministry is promoting increased fish production through aquaculture and shrimp value chains.

He added that the value chains will create an enabling environment for increased and sustainable production of aquaculture and generate employment for the nation’s teeming population.

The permanent secretary during the opening ceremony of Atlantic Shrimpers Limited (ASL), shrimp farm in Badagry, Lagos, said successive governments have continued to recognize the strategic role of agriculture in national economic development so as to provide adequate food for a growing population, supply adequate raw materials, expand the market for agro allied products, create employment opportunities, increase foreign exchange earnings and diversifying its economic revenue base.

He however lauded ASL for its investment in shrimp production, saying that the firm is playing a commendable role strengthening the agribusiness space in Nigeria through the rational exploitation and export of non-oil products.

“This farm has played a commendable role not only in the area of export of fish, but opening these areas for development and job creation,” he said.

He added that the current administration’s approach to repositioning the agricultural sub sector for growth is to apply its agricultural roadmap to achieve self sufficiency in food production, enterprise promotion, productive employment and wealth generation for the country, maintaining that this move is to address the challenge of a growing population, declining revenue and the attendant austerity biting harder day by day.

Also speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Segun Awolowo, said the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is working on the certification for export to the European Union (EU), pointing out that the ministry is at its final stage to completing the move.

“We will be working with the government of the Netherlands to help fast-track non-oil export from Nigeria to the EU so that all those rejects we get, the backlogs and the challenges we face exporting to the EU will be addressed. The most important thing is to build capacities of our exporters to be export ready, because most of the industries in Nigeria are not export orientated and for us to get out of the recession is by earning foreign exchange in a sustainable way which is boosting export of our non-oil products,” he added.

He said the council is working with the United Nations Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Training Fund (ITF) to have a skills gap survey in order to bridge the skills gap in the country.

He said in terms of non-oil export so far this year, Nigeria has not done so good, saying that non-oil export figures declined from $3 billion two years ago to $1.6 billion, owing to the low price of oil and the inactive Export Expansion Grant (EEG).

The Chairman, ASL, Stewart Harper, commended the State and Federal government for support the company has received so far, stating that this kind of investment is the first step for Nigeria to export.

He pointed out that with its state-of-the-art shrimp farm, it will be creating jobs to over 1300 people in the country, saying that Nigeria cannot afford to rely on the ocean forever, but also depend on its land to drive economic growth and Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).

“We get a lot of help from the State government and also from the federal government. The government is doing what it can do. Getting the certification we need to export products to the EU is very important and we believe hard work is currently being done towards this direction. We should be able to get our products into the EU because it is a big market,” he said.

 

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Air New Zealand has been crowned best airline in the world for the fourth consecutive year, with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic also rated in the top 10 in the global rankings.

Other winners of the annual Airline Excellence and Top 10 awards include Virgin Australia, which took the title for best business cabin and Emirates was praised for offering the best in-flight experience.

The 2017 awards were generated by global product and safety website airlineratings.com, which ranked the top airlines overall, best cabins of each class and highlighted the best entertainment, catering and cabin crew worldwide.

To be named one of the top 10 airlines in the world, carriers have to show leading innovations in passenger comfort and must have achieved a seven-star safety status.

Air New Zealand was honoured for the fourth year due to its in-flight innovations, financial performance and environmental leadership and commitment to a young fleet, according to the Australia-based website.

AirlineRatings .com editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Thomas, said: “In our objective analysis Air New Zealand came out number one in virtually all of our audit criteria, which is an exceptional performance.”

The airline also took the top gong for best premium economy class for the third time, in a year which has seen investments in a streamlined and refurbished fleet, a multi-million dollar lounge redevelopment and three new international routes.

Australian airline, Qantas, scooped the second prize leaping up from fourth place last year.

The airline was praised for its financial turnaround and is set to take delivery of its first Boeing 787s in 2017. The lie-flat beds on all of its A330s have ensured a high customer approval rating.

Aviation stalwart Singapore Airlines took third place after introducing its new premium economy, revamped business class and the new A350, this past year. It was also awarded a prize for best economy offering.

The Hong Kong flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, held the fourth spot this year while Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Australia moved three places higher, taking the number five slot. Virgin Australia has introduced its new business class while Virgin Atlantic reintroduced a number of 787s.

British Airways has stormed into the top 10 at number six following the introduction of its 787s and A380s while rolling out cabin enhancements.

A pioneer of luxury, Middle Eastern carrier Etihad Airways was named the seventh best airline in the world as it launches new aircraft 777X and increased its fleet of 787s. It also has 65 A350s on order.

While flyers can opt for The Residence suite, a three bedroom ‘penthouse in the sky’ with its own butler and chef for approximately $38,000 (£26,000 or N17.1million), the airline’s first-class offering is also making waves. Etihad won the world’s best first class award.

Japanese carrier, All Nippon Airways, scored eighth place following the launch of its 777x, while Taiwanese airline Eva Air took the ninth spot.

Germany’s largest airline Lufthansa held the number 10 spot again this year.

Airlineratings .com developed its seven-star ratings system after two years of evaluation and the system is now endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

 

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