Citigroup returns to Saudi Arabia: ‘Right place, right market, right time’

Citigroup is returning to Saudi Arabia after leaving the Kingdom in 2004, It is just one of a number of multinationals making a return to the Kingdom. (Reuters)
Updated 17 April 2018
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Citigroup returns to Saudi Arabia: ‘Right place, right market, right time’

Dubai: Citigroup, the American financial giant that quit Saudi Arabia in 2004, yesterday put the seal on its return to the Kingdom with a formal opening ceremony in Riyadh.
The re-entry could be lucrative for the bank, which will be able to play a full role in the financial opportunities presented by the Vision 2030 plan to transform the economy, including a big program of sovereign bond debt issuance and privatizations.
Mike Corbat, Citi’s group CEO, attended the ceremony alongside Ibrahim Al-Omar, the governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority.
Al-Omar said: “You are at the heart of Arab markets and the biggest market in the region, where Saudi Arabia connects three continents. Vision 2030 is not possible without partners, and you are our very welcome partners. Citi will be able to take part in a privatization program that will see, between now and 2030, up to 100 opportunities. There are other opportunities, too, especially in the entertainment sector. You are in the right place in the right market at the right time.”
Corbat said: “We are delighted to establish an office in the Kingdom and be open for business on the ground. The expansion to Saudi is in line with our strategy to be present in the region’s biggest economy and contribute to its transformation.
“Citi continues to support the Kingdom’s national agenda for a diverse and sustainable economy and we aim to play a key role toward realizing this vision,” he added.
Some Citi executives admitted the 2004 withdrawal was “a mistake,” and for the past two years the bank has played a central role in the big sovereign bond issuance program.
Last year, the Saudi Arabian Capital Market Authority (CMA) granted Citi a license to provide a range of investment banking and capital market business.
Citi executives have said they could also look to get a license from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, which would enable it to also offer trade banking and treasury services.
At the Riyadh ribbon-cutting ceremony at the bank’s new offices in Kingdom Tower, Citi, through its Foundation arm, also handed over a $300,000 cheque to renew its partnership with Education for Employment Global, a Washington DC-based non-profit organization that helped train and find employment for 67,000 young people in the region.


Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

Updated 19 February 2019
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Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

  • ‘For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing’
  • ‘The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed’

BERLIN: The most difficult part in trade negotiations between Europe and the United States is starting now and talks should focus on reducing tariffs on industrial goods to increase the chances of a deal, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday.
A confidential US Commerce Department report sent to President Donald Trump over the weekend is widely expected to clear the way for him to threaten tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported autos and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.
“For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing,” Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio.
“The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed,” Altmaier said.
Asked about the risk of higher US car tariffs, Altmaier said he did not buy the argument that imported cars would threaten the national security of the United States.
Altmaier, a confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that reducing tariffs on cars and other manufactured goods should be the main focus of the ongoing trade talks.
“We are not yet where we want to be. We might have made one-third of the way and the most difficult part will be now,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier added that he was in favor of reducing import tariffs for cars to the same level in the US and Europe, “ideally to zero percent.”
The trade talks will also be high on the agenda during a meeting of Altmaier with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Berlin later on Tuesday.
Both ministers are expected to narrow differences on how far the negotiation mandate of the European Commission in the talks with the US should go and which areas should be excluded.
France is reluctant to open up its agriculture sector to US imports and Altmaier said he was fine with excluding the issue in the trade talks.
“Agriculture is a very sensitive topic, so we don’t want to talk about this in the current situation,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier and Le Maire are expected to hold a news conference after the talks.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper that Trump had promised him he would not impose additional import tariffs on European cars for the time being.
If Trump imposed tariffs on European cars, however, the EU would react immediately and not feel obliged to stick to its promise to buy more soybeans and liquefied gas from the United States, Juncker added.