Big business comes to Saudi Arabia

An ad featuring Future Investment Initiative (FII) at Times Square in New York. (Twitter photo)
Updated 24 October 2017
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Big business comes to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Saudi capital will today host the A-list of global corporate leadership in the most keenly awaited business gathering of the year.
Dozens of the biggest names in global business have arrived in the Kingdom for the Future Investment Initiative (FII), which is being hosted by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) — the body that is spearheading a slew of economic reforms.
The FII is being held under the patronage of King Salman while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is set to welcome some 2,500 delegates today.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde and BlackRock boss Larry Fink are among those attending the event, which is being called the “Saudi Davos” — a reference to the Swiss town that hosts the main World Economic Forum meeting each year.
“We see FII as a unique opportunity for the global community to bring together aspirational thinking around the future of the world economy,” said Pedro Oliveira, Oliver Wyman’s regional managing partner.
Saudi Arabia is undergoing unprecedented economic and social reforms as the Kingdom seeks to reduce reliance on oil and gas revenues while creating thousands of new jobs for a youthful population.
The FII will see “internationally-renowned business leaders and influencers discuss ... how the challenges of the future can be addressed,” said PIF Managing Director Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan.
Bankers and fund managers in the audience will be especially interested to hear about the planned initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco, the national oil company.
Aramco CEO Amin Nasser will be among the homegrown business heavyweights at the conference.
On Monday, he quashed market rumors about possible delays to the planned IPO, which could raise $100 billion from investors.
“We have always said that we will be listing in 2018, and to be more specific, in the second half of 2018,” he told CNBC in an interview.
He added: “The IPO is on track. The listing venue will be discussed and shared in due course.”
The Aramco IPO is being seen as a touchstone for wider financial reforms that is drawing interest from the world’s biggest money managers — many of them attending the three-day event in Riyadh.
It has spurred interest from several international banks and rating agencies have set up operations in the kingdom in anticipation of a flood of new deals.
One of them is S&P Global Ratings, a credit ratings agency that assesses the creditworthiness of companies and countries seeking to raise debt.
S&P said on Monday it has opened a branch in Riyadh, making it the first international credit rating agency to be fully licensed to operate in Saudi Arabia.
Companies in Saudi Arabia have typically used bank loans to meet their financing needs, but that is expected to change.
“As Saudi Arabia’s capital markets evolve to match the size of the country’s economy, there is a prime potential for greater debt issuance,” said Meshari Al-Khaled, the newly appointed S&P office head in Riyadh.


Pakistan PM receives Saudi crown prince at Rawalpindi airbase

Updated 51 min 31 sec ago
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Pakistan PM receives Saudi crown prince at Rawalpindi airbase

  • Islamabad puts out all stops for Crown Prince Salman's first official visit
  • Trip expected to enhance historically close bilateral ties and expand cooperation in trade and investment

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was received by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa as he landed in Rawalpindi on Sunday evening to sign a host of important investment deals during a two-day visit.

Prime Minister Khan broke protocol by personally driving the Saudi royal from the Nur Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi on the outskirts of the capital city of Islamabad.

The trip, the crown prince's first to the country since he became the heir-apparent in April 2017, is being seen by Pakistan as one of the most important state visits in recent memory. It is aimed at boosting bilateral ties, long defined by security and defense deals, by expanding economic cooperation and sealing several investment deals.

During the visit, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are expected to sign memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in various sectors including investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture, and sports. Deals of over $20 billion will be signed, information minister Fawad Chaudhry told Arab News on Sunday.

The crown jewel in the investments is a $10 billion refinery and petrocomplex to be set up in the port of city of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan. 

Pakistan has put out all stops for the visit of the powerful Saudi heir, with Saudi and Pakistani flags, welcome banners and huge portraits of the crown prince, PM Khan and Pakistani President Arif Alvi put up at several key points in Islamabad.

Security was tight in the capital on the weekend, with authorities restricting entry into the Red Zone, a diplomatic enclave which houses important state-owned buildings including the Prime Minister House, President House and the Supreme Court.

The crown prince -- who is accompanied by a coterie of officials from the Saudi Royal family, key ministers, and leading businessmen -- is expected to discuss bilateral, regional, and global issues during meetings with the president, the prime minister, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The Saudi royal will also attend a dinner at the PM House on Sunday night and a luncheon at the Presidential Palace on Monday. He will co-chair with PM Khan meetings of joint working groups in many sectors including energy, trade and media on Monday.

“A delegation of Pakistan’s Senate will also call on the crown prince to discuss ways to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries,” the Foreign Office said in a statement, adding that Saudi ministers would meet their counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation in their respective fields.

"On the sidelines of the visit, the businessmen of the two countries will meet to discuss opportunities for collaboration in the private sector,” the statement read.

“The visit...will significantly enhance bilateral ties between the two countries in all spheres of cooperation,” the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.