Legendary investor Mark Mobius could open business in Saudi Arabia

Mark Mobius. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2017
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Legendary investor Mark Mobius could open business in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Mark Mobius, the legendary investor, is considering setting up an office in Saudi Arabia for his firm, the $750 billion Franklin Templeton Investments (FTI) group.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Mobius, who is executive chairman of FTI’s emerging markets business, said that he expected a big increase in investment opportunities in the Kingdom as part of the economic transformation strategy being pursued under the Vision 2030 reform plan, and was exploring the possibility of a permanent presence in Saudi Arabia.

“In Saudi Arabia we still have to invest via proxies, but it’s quite possible we’d like to invest directly in Saudi Arabia, and we could do that via an office there. Saudi could become very big indeed,” he said.

“We would definitely consider opening an office in Saudi Arabia and getting a full investment licence. What would make it even more attractive would be if the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nations got together and unified their economies in terms of currencies and investment flows. It would be in the interest of Saudi Arabia to encourage that, and eventually include Egypt too in a big trading group,” he added.

Mobius currently invests in listed securities in Saudi Arabia in the food, banking and logistics sector, but is looking to expand his exposure to the country.

“At the moment, out of $500 million we have invested in the Middle East, some $270 million is in Saudi Arabia. But there is $29 billion of assets in the emerging markets group. We could easily double the investment in Saudi equities. If the reforms in the Kingdom move ahead, we could easily absorb another $200 million to $300 million in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

But he added that it was important for Saudi Arabia to be upgraded to emerging market status by MSCI and FTSE Russell, the index compilers. “Inclusion in the indices is vital,” he said.

Mobius, who has been investing in global emerging markets since 1987, said he was interested in any public offering of shares in Saudi Aramco, but with certain caveats.

“There are corporate governance issues that would leave a big question mark. The Saudi government is obviously running the show and will have to make it clear that the quoted element of Aramco is independent of the government. The way to do that is to have truly independent directors and ensure that they and the shareholders will get a chance to vote on key issues,” he said.

There were other issues regarding Aramco, he said. “It would also be good to spin off those things like schools, hospitals and social projects that are not strictly part of the oil business,” he said, although he conceded that dividend policy would be important in determining how global investors viewed these issues.


Saudi Arabia’s Maaden signs MoU with GE to discuss digital cooperation in mining sector

Updated 20 July 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Maaden signs MoU with GE to discuss digital cooperation in mining sector

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) signed a strategic memorandum of understanding (MoU) with General Electric (GE) on Thursday, which focused on exploring possible opportunities to support digital transformation in the industrial sector.
The two sides discussed opportunities for cooperation in advanced technical solutions that included the entire chain of Maaden’s mining operations, including activities at gold, copper, aluminum and phosphate sites.
The MoU includes utilizing GE’s technological expertise and modern applications in digital transformation, with Maaden to lead the company’s digital transformation programs.
The agreement is part of Maaden’s drive to partner with leading technology and digital solutions to leverage opportunities in technological innovation and the modern digital revolution, invest in leading technologies in its operations around the Kingdom, and enhance the company’s competitiveness as a major company in the mining sector both regionally and globally.
Maaden’s digital mining solutions will improve the company’s business by improving energy costs, enhancing reliability and efficiency of performance and productivity, while improving maintenance costs.
“The Kingdom is at the forefront of the digital transformation efforts in the industrial sector in the region with an ambitious vision. We are proud to support these ambitious visions and meet their goals,” said Darren Davis, Maaden Chief Executive Officer.
Davis stressed that a sustainable mining sector is one of the key pillars of the national economy, saying: “We are confident that our partnership with GE will be a qualitative leap toward achieving these goals and enhancing our competitiveness and sustainability through effective digital industrial solutions.”
“We are keen to build constructive partnerships with the industrial sector around the world to deliver innovative digital solutions that support operations.
“Major companies such as Maaden are of immense importance, and we recognize the impact of improved operations and enhancements,” said GE CEO Bill Roh, referring to its efficiency over other companies, and the Saudi economy as a whole.
“By collaborating to develop industry-specific and environment-friendly solutions in which Maaden manages its operations, we are moving toward achieving the desired digital transformation plans that we believe will deliver significant positive results,” added Roh.
The MoU aims to achieve the goals of Maaden, a pioneer in the Saudi mining sector, to accelerate the digital transformation of the Saudi mining sector, in line with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Maaden is working to take advantage of digital and technological transformation strategies and maximize its impact on all the company’s activities and products.
The construction of the largest 450-km treated water pipeline from Taif to support the company’s mining operations in the region, as well as the creation of artificial lakes in Ras Al-Khair for recycling water for industrial uses, are among the most prominent projects that reflect the company’s commitment to sustainability and achieving solutions, in addition to innovation and sustained economic growth, creating a professional environment that enhances talent capabilities, and ensuring the best service for communities within their professional fields.