New mortgages to boost home ownership in Saudi Arabia

A new mortgage initiative is expected to give home ownership a boost in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 August 2018
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New mortgages to boost home ownership in Saudi Arabia

  • Buyers can tap long-term fixed borrowing
  • Offers protection against rising interest rates

DUBAI: Saudi citizens will be able to apply for cheaper and more accessible mortgages at fixed rates under an initiative launched Wednesday by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC), the body set up and backed by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.
The SRC initiative will allow new or existing borrowers to access facilities to boost their mortgage potential, with at least seven big Saudi Arabian financial institutions taking part to provide new mortgages for home buyers.
Unveiling the scheme in Riyadh, Majed Bin Abdullah Al-Hogail, minister of housing and chairman of SRC, said that the launch of the new funding solution marks the official start of SRC’s strategic plan to help ‘unlock’ the Saudi housing finance market, by broadening and adapting the product offering and by increasing liquidity, thus enabling lenders to offer more accessible home buying options to citizens.
“The importance of this step is stressed when we realize that very few homes are owned through mortgage in Saudi Arabia. This step by SRC, as part of enabling the mortgage finance sector, will allow financial institutions to provide financing solutions of 15 to 20-year fixed rate mortgages to start with,” he added.
SRC has signed deals with Deutsche Gulf Finance, Bidaya Home Finance, Amlak International, Saudi Home Loans, National Commercial Bank, Dar Al Tamleek, and SABB to act as “customer touchpoints” for the new scheme, and other financial institutions are expected to join the network in due course.
The new mortgage facilities will be shariah-compliant, and will help reduce the risk to borrowers exposure to rising global interest rates. US rates are forecast to rise over the next year, with implications for borrowing in dollar-pegged currencies like the Saudi riyal.
“SRC will make a large amount of funding available to the financial institutions we partner with to provide more options of financing. We worked closely with the Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Finance and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency who planned this step and worked hard with us to make it happen,” Fabrice Susini, chef executive of SRC told Arab News.
He declined to say how much funding SRC would make available, explaining that it depended on the demand in the market
“Our objective is to enable these firms to improve the availability of mortgage financing for Saudis, while at the same time introducing long-term fixed rate mortgages into the market as a standard and widely available product for the first time,” Susini said.
Fixed rate long term mortgages have been available in the Kingdom for some time, since the first laws allowing mortgages were passed in 2012. But they are not as widely taken up as in other parts of the world.
“Our role is to make it possible for the ‘average’ Saudi to obtain financing so they can own a home and build equity. We know that many aspiring homeowners look for certainty with their mortgage payments over the longer term.
“The new long-term fixed-rate mortgages meet this need by providing a high degree of predictability and protection from potential interest rate increases. This will give customers the good feeling of having ‘future-proofed’ their mortgage payments, which gives them peace of mind when it comes to their monthly expenses,” Susini said.
Al-Hogail said: “This plan will have a high impact on our goal to increase homeownership to 60 percent by 2020 and 70 percent by 2030, as per the Housing Vision Realization Program.”
Earlier this year the government announced a SR120 billion housing program with the aim of increasing national levels of home ownership.
Real estate industry experts welcomed the move.
David O’Hara, head of property consultants Cluttons’ Saudi Arabia office, said: “Any change to make mortgages more accessible is a good thing for business in general. There is a the ripple effect from home ownership across the economy. Currently entry prices are high and are preventing people from setting up home where they would like to live.”


Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

Updated 18 December 2018
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Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

  • El Sharara — a 315,000 barrels a day field was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments
  • Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent

TRIPOLI: Libya’s state oil firm NOC has declared force majeure on operations at the country’s largest oilfield, El Sharara, a week after it announced a contractual waiver on exports from the field following its seizure by protesters.

The 315,000 barrels a day field, located in the south of the North African OPEC member country, was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments and development funds.

Officials have been unable to persuade the groups, who have been camping on the field, to leave the vast, partly unsecured site amid disagreements how best to proceed, workers on the field said.

Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent and encourage more blockades, workers at the oilfield say.

NOC has described the occupiers as militia trying to get on the payroll of field guards, a recurring theme in Libya where many see seizing NOC facilities as an easy way to get heard by the weak state authorities.

Production will only restart after “alternative security arrangements are put in place,” NOC said in a statement.

Operations at the smaller El Feel oilfield continued as normal, engineers said.

“Production at Sharara was forcibly shut down by an armed group — Battalion 30 and its civilian support company — that claimed to be providing security at the field, but which threatened violence against NOC employees,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanallah said in the statement.

His comments came after the chief of staff of the Tripoli-based government, Abdulrahman Attweel, criticized some of Sanalla’s previous comments about the protesters as “irresponsible.”

“These people (guards) were there to protect the field without salaries and without any attention to them and their daily needs, not in terms of accommodation, supply, transportation and communication,” Attweel told Al-Ahrar channel late on Monday.

Their demands were legitimate, he said, echoing comments by some southern lawmakers and mayors demanding more jobs and development for the neglected region.
The blockade has been complicated by the presence of tribesmen, who have argued against quick cash payments saying they want funds to improve hospitals and other services, which might take time to deliver.

The shutdown of the El Sharara has not affected the El Feel oilfield, also located in the south. It continued to pump around 70,000 barrels a day, field engineers said.
Its exports were being routed via the Melittah oil and gas port, which like El Feel belongs to a joint venture NOC has with Italian energy company Eni, another engineer said.

A spokesman for NOC did not respond to a request for comment.
El Sharara crude is normally transported to the Zawiya port, also home to a refinery. NOC runs the field with Spain’s Repsol , France’s Total, Austria’s OMV and Norway’s Equinor, formerly known as Statoil.