Saudi Arabia in talks to build refinery, petrochemicals plant in South Africa

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 9, 2019. (File Photo/Reuters)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia in talks to build refinery, petrochemicals plant in South Africa

  • Saudi Arabia is in talks to build an oil refinery and a petrochemicals plant in South Africa as part of $10 billion of investments in the country
  • Saudi oil would be used in the planned refinery whose construction would be led by Saudi Aramco

PRETORIA: Saudi Arabia plans to build an oil refinery and petrochemicals plant in South Africa as part of $10 billion of investments in the country, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said on Friday after talks with his South African counterpart.
The announcement is a much-needed vote of confidence in Africa’s most industrialized economy, where President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to attract $100 billion of new investments to rekindle growth.
The new refinery would reduce the need for refined product imports and cement Saudi Arabia’s dominant position in South Africa’s oil sector. The Kingdom already supplies 40 percent of the crude oil consumed in South Africa.
“Saudi Aramco and South Africa’s Central Energy Fund are moving forward with the feasibility study and identifying the parameters of the project,” Falih told reporters in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital.
South African Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said a location for the refinery and petrochemicals plant would be finalized in the coming weeks. The capacity for the refinery is yet to be determined.
South Africa has talked about building an extra refinery for a decade, but it has struggled to agree commercial terms with investors.
It has six refineries, four using crude oil and two synthetic fuel as feedstock. Royal Dutch Shell, BP , Total and Sasol are among major refinery operators.
Al-Falih said Saudi Arabia had held discussions with Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Jacob Zuma, about building a refinery in South Africa but the proposed location was not attractive.
The two governments are now considering Richard’s Bay in KwaZulu-Natal province, home to South Africa’s major coal export terminal, among potential locations for the refinery.
State oil giant Saudi Aramco is also studying whether to use South African oil storage facilities in Saldanha Bay, while Saudi power firm Acwa Power is looking at investing in South Africa’s revamped renewable energy program.
Al-Falih confirmed there were discussions about the kingdom investing in South African state defense company Denel, as exclusively reported by Reuters in November.


Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

Updated 42 min 43 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

  • Financial Sector Conference is designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience
  • The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real estate finance sector — crucial to the ambition of a home-owning economy under the Vision 2030 strategy — is maturing rapidly, a high-profile event in Riyadh heard on Wednesday.
“We’re on the right track,” housing minister Majid Al-Hogail told attendees on the first day of the Financial Sector Conference, designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience.
His comments came as financial institutions in the Kingdom announced a raft of measures to encourage more home ownership.
The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC) — owned by the Public Investment Fund — to issue up to SR3.75 billion ($1 billion) worth of sukuk, or Islamic bonds, this year to finance home ownership plans.
Fabrice Susini, chief executive of the company, said SRC had spent SR1.2 billion buying mortgages from local mortgage finance companies and adding liquidity to these firms. SRC is often compared to US home finance group Fannie Mae.
Reform of the financial infrastructure of the property market is regarded as crucial to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plans, to ensure an ownership rate of 70 percent in the privately owned housing market by 2030.
In a panel entitled “Mortgages: Bolstering Industry Appetite,” Al-Hogail spoke of the unique position Saudi Arabia has in the housing market, highlighting the relevance of a database established by the Ministry of Housing to give a better and deeper understanding of the market. The diverse nature of the market presents its own challenges, he said.
“Every city has its own different set of challenges and we can’t generalize. With the establishment of the database, it provides the ministry with a better future outlook through more detailed information, obtained through various means — whether it were through the Electric Company, through the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, or through the General Authority for Statistics and their surveys.”
“Over 16 government agencies support the housing sector to achieve Saudi Vision objectives, to increase property ownership among Saudis to 70 percent by 2030,” he said.
An official report for the first quarter of 2019 revealed that the finance market reached SR5.6 billion last March. Some 12,800 citizens received loans, and 85 percent were subsidised.
Saudi Arabia last year announced plans to boost the size of the mortgage market to SR502 billion by 2020 as part of a comprehensive plan to provide housing finance to its citizens, facilitating a balanced and sustainable housing environment through the establishment and development programs.
In other deals, Bidaya Home Finance announced three initiatives to enhance the Saudi market. Its first initiative involved the sale of Bidaya’s mortgage portfolio to SRC, valued at SR500 million over a period of six months. SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview. “Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said.
“We are really looking at probably issuing something between SR2 to 4 billion that we may be issuing in two tranches.”
He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10- to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said. He added that the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the Saudi riyal.
In March, SRC completed a SR750 million sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to SR11 billion of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.