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.


Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. (Supplied)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

  • The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021
  • SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is fast catching up with the world’s ever-growing energy and technology scene ahead of 2030. In fact, the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) may soon prove a global destination for energy industry investors.

The new energy city mega-project is being developed by Saudi Aramco, which received authoritization to embark on the initiative in the summer, and is operated, managed and maintained in partnership with the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON). 

With projections that the megacity will create more than 100,000 jobs, it is considered one of the most up-and-coming energy parks in the world.

SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower.

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. 

The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021, while the final phase of the project is set for completion in 2035. With all this on track, the 50-square-kilometer project is poised to be a magnet for foreign and domestic investment. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday. (SPA)

What’s more, Aramco’s espousal of SPARK will also help businesses indulge in technological development, manufacturing and exports channels and build a world-class energy supply chain. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Energy Minister and Aramco Chairman Khalid Al-Falih declared SPARK a special economic zone (SEZ) in which businesses can enjoy exclusive benefits. 

“We are looking forward to collaborating with our first anchor partners at SPARK,” said Saudi Aramco President and CEO, Amin Nasser.

SPARK has already attracted investment from foreign and local companies to produce and manufacture goods and services. The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $1.6 billion. 

The park is set to attract industrial investors in the water, power, petrochemical and wastewater sectors, among others. 

Facilities at SPARK will also help investors bridge gaps in local production back home, increasing competition in the long run. 

“This energy city is exciting because it brings together a multitude of businesses,” Mark McCollum, president and CEO of Weatherford Corp, told SPARK.

“We firmly believe that collaboration and cooperation among service companies and individual providers to the energy sector is vital in breaking new ground.”

The King Salman Energy Park is also set to promote small and medium-sized enterprises. With focus on energy production, it also provides opportunities for investment in residential and commercial real estate projects.

Nasser said that the “King Salman Energy Park will spur a new era of growth for one of the Kingdom’s already thriving sectors. What’s more, it will serve as a central gateway to the region’s economies since Aramco is at the heart of the global oil and gas industry.”