UK a ‘natural partner’ in Saudi reforms, investment forum told

Donald Brydon said London would provide ‘a gateway and a bridge’ for international capital as Saudi Arabia looks to privatize up to $300 billion worth of state-owned assets. (Getty Images))
Updated 12 July 2018
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UK a ‘natural partner’ in Saudi reforms, investment forum told

  • Donald Brydon, chairman of the London Stock Exchange Group, said London would provide “a gateway and a bridge” for international capital as Saudi Arabia looks to privatize up to $300 billion worth of state-owned assets.
  • The BMG Economic Forum addressed wider investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s vision for the future.

LONDON: The UK is a “natural partner” as Saudi Arabia pursues its ambitious Vision 2030 reforms, a high-profile forum heard on Wednesday. 

Donald Brydon, chairman of the London Stock Exchange Group, said London would provide “a gateway and a bridge” for international capital as Saudi Arabia looks to privatize up to $300 billion worth of state-owned assets.

“The Kingdom’s time for privatizations is now, and the UK is the natural partner to ensure the successful delivery of these,” Brydon told the annual BMG Economic Forum, held in London in conjunction with Arab News.

The BMG Economic Forum addressed wider investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s vision for the future.

“This is a new era for Saudi Arabia. An era of great opportunities coupled with great challenges,” said the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group, Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini.

The need for greater transparency and clarity when it comes to the rule of law was a key challenge highlighted during one panel discussion.

Moderator Faisal J. Abbas, Editor in Chief of Arab News, the official media partner of the event, questioned panelists about investors’ common misconceptions and stereotypes about the Kingdom.

Dr. Afnan Al-Shuaibi, former secretary general of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, said the issue is a combination of many factors.

“The problems with any investor or anyone wishing to do business in Saudi Arabia (is) they don’t know where to start. Do they start with the commercial office or the embassy?” she said.

“It is not really clear where to get the accurate information from … I think there has to be a one-stop shop that offers that.”


Apple Watch, FitBit could feel cost of US tariffs

Updated 20 July 2018
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Apple Watch, FitBit could feel cost of US tariffs

SAN FRANCISCO: The latest round of US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods could hit the Apple Watch, health trackers, streaming music speakers and other accessories assembled in China, government rulings on tariffs show.
The rulings name Apple Inc’s watch, several Fitbit Inc. activity trackers and connected speakers from Sonos Inc. While consumer technology’s biggest sellers such as mobile phones and laptops so far have faced little danger of import duties, the rulings show that gadget makers are unlikely to be spared altogether and may have to consider price hikes on products that millions of consumers use every day.
The devices have all been determined by US Customs and Border Patrol officials to fall under an obscure subheading of data transmission machines in the sprawling list of US tariff codes. And that particular subheading is included in the more than 6,000 such codes in President Donald Trump’s most recent round of proposed tariffs released earlier this month.
That $200 billion list of tariffs is in a public comment period. But if the list goes into effect this fall, the products from Apple, Fitbit and Sonos could face a 10 percent tariff.
The specific products listed in customs rulings are the original Apple Watch; Fitbit’s Charge, Charge HR and Surge models; and Sonos’s Play:3, Play:5 and SUB speakers.
All three companies declined to comment on the proposed tariff list. But in its filing earlier this month to become a publicly traded company, Sonos said that “the imposition of tariffs and other trade barriers, as well as retaliatory trade measures, could require us to raise the prices of our products and harm our sales.”
The New York Times has reported that Trump told Apple CEO Tim Cook during a meeting in May that the US government would not levy tariffs on iPhones assembled in China, citing a person familiar with the meeting.
“The way the president has been using his trade authority, you have direct examples of him using his authority to target specific products and companies,” said Sage Chandler, vice president for international trade policy at the Consumer Technology Association.
The toll from tariffs on the gadget world’s smaller product lines could be significant. Sonos and Fitbit do not break out individual product sales, but collectively they had $2.6 billion in revenue last year. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi estimates that the Apple Watch alone will bring in $9.9 billion in sales this year, though that estimate includes sales outside the United States that the tariff would not touch.
It is possible that the products from Apple, Fitbit and Sonos no longer fall under tariff codes in the $200 billion list, trade experts said. The codes applied to specific products are only public knowledge because their makers asked regulators to rule on their proper classification. And some of the products have been replaced by newer models that could be classified differently.
But if companies have products whose tariff codes are on the list, they have three options, experts said: Advocate to get the code dropped from the list during the public comment period, apply for an exclusion once tariffs go into effect, or try to have their products classified under a different code not on the list.
The last option could prove difficult due to the thousands of codes covered, said one former US trade official.