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

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.


Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

Updated 19 August 2019

Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

  • One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020
  • A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to set up arts academies, including two in the next two years, offering a step toward academic qualification and enlarging the Kingdom’s footprint in heritage, arts and crafts, and music.

The initiative is part of the Ministry of Culture’s Quality of Life program. 

The minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, said investment in “capacity building” was one of the most important elements in encouraging the cultural sector, which enjoyed unlimited support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Kingdom was rich in diverse arts, talents and artistic production, Prince Badr said, and the academies would be a first step toward academic qualification in the arts within the Kingdom.

One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020, targeting 1,000 students and trainees in long- and short-term programs. 

A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021.

The music academy in particular will be “the core of music production and talent development in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi musician, composer and producer Mamdouh Saif told Arab News.

The music industry was a large and diverse field, Saif said, and education was crucial. 

“The academy is the right place to launch the music industry in Saudi Arabia, and it will have a significant impact on Saudi youth, and young people in surrounding countries,” he said.

He expects “a very high turnout” for the academy among young Saudis. 

“Due to my expertise in this area, I receive many questions from people who want to learn music, but through private lessons,” he said.

“But the availability of an academy for this purpose, that teaches music in a methodological way, will be the right start for those interested in music.”