Emaar wants to do more business in Saudi Arabia

Mohamed Alabbar (left), Emaar Properties Chairman, at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. (Reuters)
Updated 26 October 2017
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Emaar wants to do more business in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Mohamed Alabbar, the Emaar Properties chairman, is keen to do further business with Saudi Arabia, and would like to help the Kingdom to develop the $500 billion Neom project announced at the opening day of the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Alabbar, who already has significant business partnerships with Saudi Arabia via the Noon e-commerce platform and the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), said of the Neom project: “It’s a big, exciting thing. If they call on us (Emaar), we would look on that positively. The Middle East as a whole is very short on infrastructure, and the project is a very significant addition. If we’re invited to participate, we would be honored.”
His company is the developer of the KAEC project, listed on the Tadawul as Emaar The Economic City, which has been in development since 2005. He said: “There have been challenges. We all got very excited about it but it needed support during the financial crisis in terms of facilitation. But it is still well on the path. It is a long-term project. I would imagine in five or six years we will see a lot more progress. We have to watch the cashflow and the finances according to market conditions.”
He is a joint investor with the Saudi Public Investment Fund in Noon, the e-commerce company set up last year to rival big firms such as Amazon in the online retail space.
He said that the Noon initiative was also a long-term project. “I’m very happy with it, but it’s still a baby.” He said the firm was already doing deliveries in the Kingdom, and had already had an effect on the Saudi market.
“Amazon is now dropping its prices. Any competition is beneficial to the country and its society. I will not allow any company to come in to a market and dominate the price of milk you give to your child. We don’t come to destroy your business, we will not kill local business.”
He added that he would like to do more business with PIF. “We’re on the phone to them all the time. We are dedicated to supporting the opening up of Saudi Arabia,” but did not elaborate on specific further projects with PIF.
He said that Saudi Arabia faced challenges in implementing its economic transformation strategy, but added: “Every country has challenges and I would not criticize another country because I am a foreigner here. If you are a true businessman you want to look into the future, and that is what the young leadership is doing here. The policy changes in the country are like a businessman restructuring his company.”


Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 27 min 32 sec ago
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Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.