The Saudi economy: ‘With great challenges come great opportunities’

Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest Corp.
Updated 10 April 2017
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The Saudi economy: ‘With great challenges come great opportunities’

JEDDAH: Few would dispute that Saudi Arabia’s economy has witnessed some tough times.
But as this week’s Top CEO Conference will hear, there are some golden opportunities amid the gloom that followed the oil-price crash.
Some of the burning issues facing corporations today will be discussed at the conference, which is being held for the first time in Saudi Arabia after previous editions in Dubai.
Held under the theme “Adapting to Disruption: New Roles, New Realities,” the event is organized by Dubai-based Trends magazine, an international publication on Arab affairs, in association with Insead business school.
Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest Corp, the publisher of Trends, said that it is significant that this is the first time the event will be held in the Kingdom.
The country, grappling with significant economic challenges, last year laid out the ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to wean it off its addiction to oil.
“With great challenges come great opportunities,” Hawari told Arab News.
“Hosting the Top CEO Conference and Awards in Saudi Arabia made sense, as Saudi (Arabia) is the giant economy of the region and it is fully taking on its role (as the) engine of growth for the region.
“Saudi Arabia is preparing itself (for) a transformation that will benefit society and create more jobs for our children. The issues are complex and the Top CEO Conference addresses many of those.”
The diversification of the economy is the underlying theme of Saudi Arabia’s reform plan — something that is common to strategies pursued by some other regional countries.
“Moving away from an oil economy has become a necessity for the entire GCC,” Hawari said.
“We believe that the Arab world has a lot to offer... (Members of) our new generation are bringing with them expertise and experience from the outside and a deep knowledge on how to take forward our societies.”
Key factors in this regional change include corporate governance and transparency, ensuring fair competition, and creating jobs — all issues that are set to be addressed at the Top CEO event.
The roller coaster ride in oil prices is not the only factor impacting the Arabian Gulf. New technology is also turning old business models upside down.
“One of the key issues Top CEO is focusing on this year is disruption,” said Hawari. “The full impact of the technology revolution is hitting the region. This makes the life of business leaders extremely challenging, as they need to have their eyes on 10 different things to take forward their organizations.
“A new norm is shaping and changing many status quos in regional business.”
The Top CEO event is set to be held on April 10-11 at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) near Jeddah.
In its third edition in 2017, the accompanying awards will honor the top 100 chief executive officers after evaluating their companies’ listings on the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) stock exchanges.


50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

Boom Supersonic co-founder, Blake Scholl, poses for a photograph in front of an artists impression of his company's proposed design for an supersonic aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, at the Farnborough Airshow, south west of London, on July 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

  • Boom Supersonic’s aircraft is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year
  • The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people

WEYBRIDGE, United Kingdom: Luxury air travel faster than the speed of sound: A US start-up is aiming to revive commercial supersonic flight 50 years after the ill-fated Concorde first took to the skies.
Blake Scholl, the former Amazon staffer who co-founded Boom Supersonic, delivered the pledge this week in front of a fully-restored Concorde jet at the Brooklands aviation and motor museum in Weybridge, southwest of London.
Boom Supersonic’s backers include Richard Branson and Japan Airlines and other players are eyeing the same segment.
The company aims to manufacture a prototype jet next year but its plans have been met with skepticism in some quarters.
“The story of Concorde is the story of a journey started but not completed — and we want to pick up on it,” Scholl said.
The event coincided with the nearby Farnborough Airshow.
“Today... the world is more linked than it’s ever been before and the need for improved human connection has never been greater,” Scholl said.
“At Boom, we are inspired at what was accomplished half a century ago,” he added, speaking in front of a former British Airways Concorde that flew for the first time in 1969.

Boom Supersonic’s aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year.
“If we can’t continue where you left off, and build on that, then the shame is on us,” Scholl said, addressing himself to an audience that included retired Concorde staff.
“Our vision is to build a faster airplane that is accessible to more and more people, to anybody who flies.”
Boom Supersonic is making its debut at Farnborough and hopes to produce its new-generation jets in the mid-2020s or later, with the aim of slashing journey times by half.
The proposed aircraft has a maximum flying range of 8,334 kilometers (5,167 miles) at a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 kilometers per hour.
If it takes off, it would be the first supersonic passenger aircraft since Concorde took its final flight in 2003.
The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people.
Some analysts remain skeptical over the push back into supersonic.
“Supersonic is not what passengers or airlines want right now,” said Strategic Aero analyst Saj Ahmed, stressing that many travelers wanted cheap low-cost carriers instead.
Ahmed said supersonic jets were “very unattractive” because of high start-up development costs, considerations about noise pollution and high prices as well as limited capacity.

Independent air transport consultant John Strickland also noted supersonic travel was unproven commercially.
“Business traffic, on the face of it, is the most lucrative for airlines,” Strickland told AFP.
“But if there is an economic downturn or something happens where the market for business class traffic drains away, then you have nothing else left to do with that aircraft.
“I think it’s going to be some time before we see whether it can establish a large viable market... in the way that Concorde never managed to do.”
These concerns have not stopped interest from other players.
US aerospace giant Boeing had last month unveiled its “hypersonic” airliner concept, which it hopes will fly at Mach 5 — or five times the speed of sound — when it arrives on the scene in 20 to 30 years.
And in April, NASA inked a deal for US giant Lockheed Martin to develop a supersonic “X-plane.”