Saudi Telecom Co. agrees royalty fees

Shares in the Saudi Telecom Co. rose following news of an agreement on royalty fees paid to the government. (Reuters)
Updated 17 December 2018
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Saudi Telecom Co. agrees royalty fees

DUBAI: Telecommunications operators Saudi Telecom Co., Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that they had agreed with the government to a change in the calculation of their annual royalty fees.
The companies also said they had reached a deal with the government to settle disputed fees to be paid for previous years up to 2017. In return, the trio agreed to invest in upgrading their network infrastructure over the next three years.
The Kingdom has set specific goals to boost high-speed broadband Internet connectivity as part of its Vision 2030 plan to modernize the economy, including exceeding 90 percent of housing coverage in densely populated cities and 66 percent in other urban areas.
The operators said the agreement will involve an annual royalty of 10 percent of net revenue from telecommunications services starting from Jan. 1, 2018. Mobily said in addition it would also pay an annual license royalty equal to 1 percent of its annual net telecommunication revenues.
STC said the new calculation was compared to the previous fee of 15 percent of net revenues from mobile services, 10 percent of net revenues from fixed line services and 8 percent of net revenues from data services.
STC said the change would have a positive impact on its financial results during the fourth quarter of 2018, while Zain Saudi said it would mean a drop in its payment for the period Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 by SR220 million ($58.7 million).
Mobily said that starting from 2019 onwards, the impact represents an additional cost estimated to be in the range of SR450 to SR600 million per year over the next few years.
Zain Saudi Arabia said the expected financial impact from the settlement of its disputed annual royalty fees for the period 2009 to 2017 is expected to reach SR1.7 billion.
Mobily said its agreement to invest over the next three years would enable it to boost the quality of its fixed and mobile networks and to invest in the deployment of new technologies such as 5G.


Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

Hussain Sajwani
Updated 18 March 2019
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Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

  • Brexit a “concern” for UK property market says Sajwani
  • Developer mulls investing “up to £500 million” on London project

LONDON: The Dubai-listed developer Damac says it is scouting for additional plots of land in Saudi Arabia, both in established cities and the Kingdom’s emerging giga-projects such as Neom.
Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, also said the company would look to invest up to £500 million ($660 million) on a second development in the UK, and that it is on track to deliver a record 7,000 or more units this year.
Amid a slowing property market in Dubai, Damac’s base, the developer is eying Saudi Arabia as a potential ground for expansion for its high-spec residential projects.
Damac has one development in Jeddah, and a twin-tower project in Riyadh — and Sajwani said it is looking for additional plots in the Kingdom.
“It’s a big market. It is changing, it is opening up, so we see a potential there … We are looking,” he said.
“In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy … They have some very ambitious projects, like the Neom city and other large projects. We’re watching those and studying them very carefully.”
The $500 billion Neom project, which was announced in 2017, is set to be a huge economic zone with residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Red Sea coast.
Sajwani said doing business in Saudi Arabia was “a bit more difficult or complicated” that the UAE, but said the country is opening up, citing moves to allow women to drive and reopen cinemas.
He was speaking to Arab News in Damac’s London sales office, opposite the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The office, kitted out in plush Versace furnishings, is selling units at Damac’s first development in the UK, the Damac Tower Nine Elms London.
The 50-storey development is in a new urban district south of the River Thames, which is also home to the US Embassy and the famous Battersea Power Station, which is being redeveloped as a residential and commercial property.
Work on Damac's tower is underway and is due to complete in late 2020 or early 2021, Sajwani said.
“We have sold more than 60 percent of the project,” he said. “It’s very mixed, we have (buyers) from the UK, from Asia, the Middle East.”
Damac’s first London project was launched in 2015, the year before the referendum on the UK exiting the EU — the result of which has had a knock-on effect on the London property market.
“Definitely Brexit has cause a lot of concern, people are not clear where the situation will go. Overall, the market has suffered because of Brexit,” Sajwani said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the coming two years at least … unless (the UK decides) to stay in the EU.”
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, Sajwani said Damac was looking for additional plots of land in London, both in the “golden triangle” — the pricey areas of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which are popular with Gulf investors — and new residential districts like Nine Elms.
Sajwani is considering an investment of “up to £500 million” on a new project in the UK capital.
“We are looking aggressively, and spending a lot of time … finding other opportunities,” he said. “Our appetite for London is there.”
Damac is also considering other international property markets for expansion, including parts of Europe and North American cities like Toronto, Boston, New York and Miami, Sajwani said.
The international drive by Damac comes, however, amid a tough property market in the developer’s home market of Dubai.
Damac in February reported that its 2018 profits fell by nearly 60 percent, with its fourth-quarter profit tumbling by 87 percent, according to Reuters calculations.
Sajwani — whose company attracted headlines for its partnership with the Trump Organization for two golf courses in Dubai — does not see any immediate recovery in the emirate’s property market, or Damac’s financial results.
“(With) the market being soft, prices being under pressure, we are part of the market — we are not going to do better than last year,” he said. “This year and next year are going to be difficult years. But it’s a great opportunity for the buyers.”
But the developer said Dubai was “very strong fundamentally,” citing factors like its advanced infrastructure, safety and security, and low taxes.
In 2018, Damac delivered over 4,100 units — a record for the company — and this year, despite the difficult market, it plans to hand over even more.
“We’re expecting north of 7,000,” Sajwani said. “This year will be another record.”