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.


Oil eases from 4-month high on global growth worries

Updated 55 min 14 sec ago
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Oil eases from 4-month high on global growth worries

  • The losses came amid worries over global economic growth after the US Federal Reserve highlighted signs of a slowing economy
SYDNEY: Oil prices edged lower on Thursday, retreating from a four-month peak, as fears of a slowing global economy weighed on market sentiment.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $60.16 per barrel at 0040 GMT, down 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their last settlement. WTI had earlier hit a high of $60.19 a barrel — the highest since November 12.
International Brent crude oil futures were at $68.47 a barrel, down 3 cents from their last close. Brent touched $68.57 a barrel on Wednesday, its highest since November 13.
The losses came amid worries over global economic growth after the US Federal Reserve highlighted signs of a slowing economy.
Markets have been underpinned, however, by efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to curb supply, and losses were checked as widely watched US data showed supplies were tightening.
“Oil markets appear convinced that the continued effects of the Saudi Arabia oil production cuts and falling exports to the US will continue to outweigh the concerns of rising US production,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at brokerage, OANDA.
US crude oil stockpiles last week fell by nearly 10 million barrels, the most since July, boosted by strong export and refining demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Stockpiles fell 9.6 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 309,000 barrels. The draw brought stockpiles to their lowest since January.
Gasoline and distillate inventories both fell by more than expected. Gasoline stocks fell by 4.6 million barrels, while distillate inventories fell by 4.1 million barrels.