Deepening Saudi-US Business partnership through investment

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Updated 19 April 2016

Deepening Saudi-US Business partnership through investment

The 4th US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum held in Riyadh recently brought together government and business leaders from the United States and Saudi Arabia and demonstrated the commitment between our countries and companies to advance the US-Saudi commercial relationship. It is clear that we have a strong foundation to build upon and we are deeply vested in each other’s success.
At the forum, we shared observations, based on experiences around the world, on how investment is facilitated by trade, innovation, competitiveness and government policies.
We have observed that investment follows trade.
When conditions exist for trade to flourish, with low barriers and efficient processes, investments follow.
When companies successfully sell into a market, they want to stay close to their customers and naturally follow on to establish a presence by investing and innovating in the market.
In Saudi Arabia, I saw an excellent example, at the Dhahran Techno Valley Company (DTVC) in Dhahran, of the US and other international companies that have made investments to be close to their customers, in particular Saudi Aramco.
These companies have setup research and development (R&D) operations here to innovate and meet the needs of their customers, tailored to the conditions of Saudi Arabia.
By creating an innovation-friendly ecosystem, including university connections as well as access to research grants, DTVC promotes talent development and capacity building — and enhances the innovation and competitiveness of the companies that invest.
Through hiring local graduates, many of them women with STEM backgrounds, the talent base developed will be a key factor in attracting new investments.
In any market, the business environment, the ease of doing business, is key to attract investment. Companies have choices and gravitate to those countries where the business environment is the most conducive to obtaining returns and managing risk.
Delays and uncertainties in administrative processes are deterrents to investment.
Concrete policy changes that improve the business environment are therefore a significant element in attracting investment.
Toward this end, we find it valuable for policymakers to obtain early input from private sector stakeholders. Such consultation will help create greater understanding of issues that might hinder investment and a sense of greater predictability.
The global competition for attracting FDI is fierce. Saudi Arabia would benefit by using work force development programs to match Saudization labor policies so that the skill-set of the labor force will meet the needs of international firms.
Investment opportunities may be inhibited rather than helped by offset requirements that make foreign investment a requirement of eligibility for major public tenders. Such a requirement may result in keeping many companies away from this market.
We laud Saudi Arabia’s economic reforms and commitment toward ensuring the long-term health of its economy. The Kingdom has demonstrated real leadership in undertaking energy subsidy reforms.
We also recognize the challenges Saudi Arabia faces when rolling out the National Transformation Program (NTP). The US government and its private sector stand ready to support the Kingdom through lessons learned, solutions and technologies, and best practices to attract investment and innovation.
We are already working on coupling Saudi Arabia’s new needs and priorities with leading American solutions. For example, last October, we brought representatives from 15 US firms to Riyadh and Jeddah as part of an architecture and engineering trade mission focused on energy saving and green buildings.
Next month, we will bring 20 leading American health IT, hospital management and training to the Kingdom in a direct response to Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih’s call for a greater role by the private sector to modernize the operational side of Saudi Arabia’s health care system.
These trade missions often result in partnerships, joint ventures and investments as these companies understand the market.
The US is also keen to share its experiences in enabling entrepreneurship with the Kingdom as this country embarks on its NTP.
Supporting entrepreneurs across the Middle East, and indeed around the world, is a top priority for President Barack Obama. He recognizes that opportunity for business creators to thrive around the world is the foundation for a rising middle class, for security and stability, and for broad-based prosperity.
The Department of Commerce leads the administration’s effort to support and empower aspiring entrepreneurs, both in the United States and across the globe. As America’s innovation agency, my department helps connect the world’s next generation of entrepreneurs with the networks, mentors and investors they need to make their businesses successful.
Investment in both directions will enhance the international competitiveness of our respective economies. While we are undertaking efforts to expand our trade and investment relationship, US companies have already invested $11 billion in the Kingdom, and Saudi companies have similarly invested $13 billion in the United States.
We welcome additional Saudi investment in the US companies and find that by investing in the United States and working with its demanding markets and gaining access to the latest technologies, they become more competitive globally.
We will hold our annual SelectUSA Investment Summit from June 19-21 in Washington, with the participation of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and a number of cabinet members.
We welcome a strong Saudi presence at the conference.
We look forward to collaborating with our friends in this great Kingdom to advance our commercial relationships and the successes of our companies and countries.

— Arun M. Kumar is director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service and Assistant Secretary for Global Markets US Department of Commerce.

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 13 July 2020

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”