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.


Saudi-backed SoftBank to ramp up tech investment

Updated 20 June 2018
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Saudi-backed SoftBank to ramp up tech investment

  • SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son to step up company's "unicorn hunting" investment strategy
  • Saudi Arabia's PIF has contributed $45 billion to SoftBank's Vision Fund

LONDON: Japanese conglomerate SoftBank will double down on its ambitious tech investment strategy, in a move that could create opportunities for further collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
SoftBank — which owns Japan’s third-largest telecoms operator — has emerged in recent years as one of the world’s largest tech investors, acquiring stakes in companies including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and UK chipmaker ARM Holdings.
It last year launched the $100 billion Vision Fund, boosted by a $45 billion investment from PIF. It attracted $93 billion in funds last year, aided by contributions from Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company, Apple, Foxconn and others, making it the world’s largest buyout fund.
The Vision Fund has invested in disruptive firms, especially those in the technology space, including Swiss pharmaceuticals startup Roivant, office space company WeWork, and enterprise messaging service Slack.
CEO Masayoshi Son signaled that such dealmaking will become even more of a focus for SoftBank.
“I have spent 97 percent of my time on managing the telecoms business and only 3 percent on investing,” he told investors at the group’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Reversing that balance will allow SoftBank to grow faster, he said.
Son’s comments fit with a transformation underway at SoftBank from a domestic telecoms firm to “unicorn hunter” — as Son termed it — focusing on late-stage startups around the world.
Last month, SoftBank invested $2.25 billion in GM Cruise, the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle unit, complementing its shareholdings in China’s Didi Chuxing, the world’s largest ride-sharing app, as well as rivals Uber, Grab and Ola.
The Vision Fund will initially invest $900 million in GM Cruise Holdings, investing the remaining $1.35 billion when GM’s Cruise AVs are ready for commercial deployment. The investment gives the Vision Fund a 19.6 percent stake in GM Cruise.
Saudi Arabia’s PIF has been key to SoftBank’s tech investment strategy with its contribution to the Vision Fund, with the Kingdom also benefiting directly from partnerships with SoftBank.
Son said in November that SoftBank planned to invest as much as $25 billion in the Kingdom in the next three to four years, and aimed to deploy up to $15 billion in Neom, a futuristic city to be built on the Red Sea coast.
PIF and the Vision Fund in March announced a partnership to build the world’s largest solar project in Saudi Arabia, with a capacity of up to 200 gigawatts, in line with the Kingdom’s solar ambitions as set out in Vision 2030.
The agreement will establish an electricity generation company in Saudi Arabia, and will commission two solar plants with a capacity of 3GW and 4.2GW by the end of next year. It envisages localizing a significant portion of the renewable energy value chain in the Saudi economy, including research and development and the manufacturing of solar panels.
SoftBank shareholders on Wednesday approved the appointment of three executive vice presidents — SoftBank unit Sprint Corp’s former chief executive, Marcelo Claure, and former bankers Katsunori Sago and Rajeev Misra.
Bolivian-born billionaire Claure was appointed SoftBank’s chief operating officer in May, tasked with driving cooperation between the group’s portfolio companies. Former Goldman Sachs executive Sago became chief strategy officer on Wednesday and will focus on group investment. Misra runs the Vision Fund.
Son yesterday bemoaned the so-called conglomerate discount weighing on SoftBank’s shares at its investor meeting.
He said when the market value of stakes the firm holds in companies such as Alibaba Group Holding and ARM Holdings are taken into account, SoftBank’s shares should be trading above 14,000 yen ($127), rather than about 8,000 yen currently.