Saudi education and health sectors to open full foreign ownership

Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
Updated 25 August 2017
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Saudi education and health sectors to open full foreign ownership

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will allow foreign investors to take 100 percent ownership of companies in its health and education sectors, the head of the kingdom’s investment authority told Reuters.
It is the latest move by the country to gradually ease ownership restrictions on foreign firms, which have previously been required to set up a joint venture with a local partner.
“We are opening up education centers to have ownership 100 percent, all types of education even from primary school. This is something new for Saudi,” Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), said.
In the health sector, the ministry will “just be a regulator and not a service provider anymore,” said Omar. This will open up $180 billion of investment opportunities in that sector over the next five years, he said.
He did not say when the relaxation on foreign ownership would come into effect.
The Saudi government, seeking to diversify the economy beyond oil exports amid a slump in oil prices, told Reuters in April that it was launching a privatization program that would raise more than $200 billion.
However, it has not so far clarified foreign ownership and operating rules in many sectors. Many private equity firms and other potential foreign investors say majority or full control of projects is important to allow them to cut costs and improve efficiency.
The government is studying whether to sell off all public hospitals and 200,000 pharmacies, and has begun the process for the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Vice Minister for Economy and Planning Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri said in April.
Meanwhile, the education ministry has hired HSBC as financial adviser for its plans to privatise construction and management of school buildings.
SAGIA’s efforts to ease ownership restrictions for foreign firms in recent years have included opening the wholesale and retail sectors in 2015. This month it announced it would allow full foreign ownership of engineering services companies.


RBS says Saudi bank merger boosts its core capital

Updated 16 June 2019
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RBS says Saudi bank merger boosts its core capital

  • RBS had a 15.3% interest in Alawwal bank
  • The changes would boost the banks CET1 core capital ratio by 60 basis points

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) said on Sunday the completion of a merger between Alawwal bank and Saudi British Bank would lead to RBS shedding $5.9 billion of risk weighted assets and boost its core capital.
RBS, through Dutch subsidiary NatWest Markets N.V., was part of a consortium including NLFI and Banco Santander S.A. that held an aggregate 40% equity stake in Alawwal bank, the British bank said in a statement. RBS also had an interest equivalent to a 15.3% stake in Alawwal bank.
RBS said that as a result of the merger completion, it would recognise an income gain on disposal of the Alawwal bank stake for shares received in Saudi British Bank of almost $503 million and a reduction in risk weighted assets of nearly $5 billion.
RBS also said the deal would extinguish legacy liabilities of almost $377.
The changes would increase the bank's CET1 core capital ratio by 60 basis points, it said.
The merger will also help RBS to focus on its target markets, RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said in a statement.
RBS, which was rescued in 2008 with a nearly $57 billion capital injection by the British government, has been shrinking its overseas operations since the financial crisis to focus on its UK lending operations.