Saudi and British corporate giants sign $2bn deals

18 economic agreements were signed at the Saudi - UK CEO Forum. (Al-Ekhbariya)
Updated 09 March 2018
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Saudi and British corporate giants sign $2bn deals

LONDON: Some of the biggest corporate names from Saudi Arabia and the UK announced deals worth SR8 billion ($2.13 billion) in London yesterday.
About 18 agreements were signed as CEO’s from both countries gathered at a forum in London’s Mansion House which was part of a series of events arranged around a three-day official visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The crown prince this week met with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Prince Charles and  senior government officials as both countries set out plans to build £65 billion ($90.29 billion) trade and investment ties in coming years. 
The move comes as both countries embark on radical new economic journeys — which in the case of Britain involves leaving the EU and for Saudi Arabia means framing a social and economic future that is no longer reliant on oil. 
The pair see a number of synergies emerging from both processes, underscored by the flurry of deals signed yesterday.
The Kingdom is also simplifying and speeding up the paperwork needed to establish businesses in an effort to stimulate the SME sector while also drawing in more external investment.
Among the new partnerships announced yesterday was a preliminary agreement between Saudi Aramco and Royal Dutch Shell. 
“It is a discussion that began some time ago and now we have signed a memorandum to work on gas projects from upstream to downstream across the world and in Saudi Arabia. Concrete projects would be announced in due course,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told Reuters after the signing ceremony. Other deals covered sectors that included health, investment, innovation and energy. 
The crown prince also met British finance minister Philip Hammond at the Saudi embassy in London, a government spokesperson said on Thursday.
The UK visit cheered investors on the Tadawul Saudi stock exchange which led gains in Gulf markets yesterday.
The UK and Saudi Arabia have long-standing business ties, with about 6,000 UK firms engaged in business with the Kingdom according to the Saudi British Joint Business Council.


French state-owned bank drops plan to aid trade with Iran

Updated 21 min 18 sec ago
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French state-owned bank drops plan to aid trade with Iran

PARIS: French state-owned bank Bpifrance has abandoned its plan to set up a mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran, in the face of US sanctions against Tehran.
Earlier this year, the bank had said it was working on a project to finance French companies that wished to export goods to Iran despite US sanctions.
“It’s put on hold,” said Nicolas Dufourcq, Bpifrance’s chief executive. “Conditions are not met (...) Sanctions are punitive for companies.”
Bpifrance was working on establishing euro-denominated export guarantees to Iranian buyers of French goods and services. By structuring the financing through vehicles without any US link, Bpifrance thought it was possible to avoid the extraterritorial reach of US legislation.
Dufourcq’s latest comments show how the scope of the sanctions is making trade with Iran increasingly difficult for European companies.
The United States is renewing sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from a nuclear deal forged in 2015 between Tehran and world powers. Washington reimposed some of the financial sanctions from Aug. 6, while those affecting Iran’s petroleum sector will come into force from Nov. 4.
Even though several European countries have said they are seeking to protect their companies from the sanctions, several major companies including oil company Total, Air France-KLM and British Airways have announced they would suspend activities in Iran.
German officials have in recent weeks advocated for the creation of an independent system for cross-border payments to make trade with Iran possible even with the US sanctions.
European Union diplomats have said US President Donald Trump’s positions on trade and on Iran were fueling a rethink about the EU’s dependency on the US financial system.
However, European countries appear to be struggling to find or agree on effective options to tackle the issue.