Saudi Arabia may seek funding in Chinese yuan

A handout picture by the Saudi Royal Palace on August 24, 2017 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meeting with the China's First Vice- Premier Zhang Gaoli in Jeddah. Saudi Arabia is considering funding itself partly in Chinese yuan, a senior Saudi official said on Thursday. (Saudi Royal Palace / Bandar Al-Jaloud via AFP)
Updated 25 August 2017
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Saudi Arabia may seek funding in Chinese yuan

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is willing to consider funding itself partly in Chinese yuan a senior Saudi official said on Thursday, raising the possibility of closer financial ties between the two countries.
The Saudi government has started borrowing tens of billions of dollars abroad in the past year to cover a big budget deficit caused by low oil prices, but its foreign bond issues and loans have been denominated entirely in US currency.
Obtaining some funds offers more financial flexibility and would mark a success for China, the biggest market for Saudi oil, in its drive to make the yuan a top international currency.
“One of our main objectives is to diversify the funding basis of Saudi Arabia,” Vice Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri told a Saudi-Chinese conference in Jeddah.
“We will do that through access to investors or bodies of liquidity in the markets. China is by far one of the top markets. We will also access other technical markets in terms of unique funding opportunities, private placements, panda bonds and others.”
Tuwaijri added: “We will be very willing to consider funding in renminbi and other Chinese products, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and other divisions have shown interest for us to do that.”
Panda bonds are yuan-denominated bonds from non-Chinese issuers which are sold within China. An Liyan, chief executive of ICBC International, an arm of ICBC, the biggest Chinese bank, told the conference that her bank was willing to sponsor Saudi issues of panda bonds.
Tuwaijri said Riyadh was interested in raising money abroad not just to cover its budget deficit but also, more importantly, to finance major investment projects that would expand its economy and create jobs.
“Ideally, we would be funding through project finance and bond markets and other means,” he said.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference that Saudi Arabia and China planned to establish a $20 billion investment fund on a 50:50 basis.
“It is preliminary at this stage but the commitment from the top is there,” Falih said. He said the fund would invest in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, mining and materials, but did not give further details of its strategy.
China has announced plans to establish such joint investment funds around the world in recent years as a way to cement bilateral economic ties. In December 2015 Beijing said it would establish a $10 billion fund with the United Arab Emirates, and last October a plan for a fund with France was revealed.
The Jeddah conference followed a visit to China by King Salman in March during which as much as $65 billion of business deals were signed in sectors including oil refining, petrochemicals, light manufacturing and electronics.
Falih said on Thursday that he expected 11 business deals worth about $20 billion to be signed with China this week. He did not give details; some of the deals may be more detailed versions of agreements reached on the Asian tour, and some may be memorandums of understanding rather than concrete projects.
Saudi Arabia is keen to attract Chinese investment to new industries, such as manufacturing and tourism, that it hopes to develop as part of efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil exports.
But Riyadh is also eager to boost the profits of its main sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, which is believed to have around $180 billion of assets. The PIF is looking at investment opportunities in China’s shipping and transport systems and other infrastructure, Tuwaijri said.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 24 May 2019
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.

Opinion

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“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”