Gulf-based businesses need to be more transparent, open to change and allow staff to grow, forum told

Gulf-based businesses need to be more transparent, open to change and allow staff to grow, forum told
Panelists at the Top CEO 2018 conference said Gulf businesses needed to learn to adapt (Ghazi Mehdi)
Updated 12 April 2018

Gulf-based businesses need to be more transparent, open to change and allow staff to grow, forum told

Gulf-based businesses need to be more transparent, open to change and allow staff to grow, forum told
  • Businesses in the region need to learn to be more transparent, trusting of staff and open to change, forum told
  • Research found that the need of people to be able to be honest with their bosses outweighed their need to be technically capable

JEDDAH: There is a plentiful supply of big businesses and mega projects in the region, but they are often hindered by a lack of accountability and transparency, poor communication and an unwillingness to adapt to change, delegates were told at the Top CEO Conference.

But the problems that often impede business in the region are not just with the management, the conference at the Bay La Sun Hotel in King Abdullah Economic City heard.

There is also a reluctance among individuals lower down the ranks to ask questions, or come forward and say “I don’t know,” or admit to having made a mistake.

Miguel Sousa Lobo, a professor in decision sciences, currently based in Abu Dhabi, said that a recent Google study found that influences over an individual’s performance were not just about their ability.

“They (Google) were surprised to find that psychological safety was more important factor for their performance than the technical skills,” Lobo explained.

Staff need to feel confident, he said, to be able to come forward when they needed support without fearing repercussions.

Having the right people is key

In 2009 Iyad Malas was brought in as the CEO of the Majid Al-Futaim group, which has a number of shopping malls in the Gulf and also holds the franchise for Carrefour, after the financial crisis.

He remained with the company until April 2015. He is now a partner at the equity firm Gateway Partners.

For him the key to success was to think strategically, assess the priorities and admit there are problems.

“A big problem that big companies have,” Malas said, “is that they are in self-denial.”

He said managers needed to look at the grass roots of the company, reassess the team and exploit the opportunities that came with the crisis.

“Execution is about having the right people.” Malas added. 

The key to good management, he said, was enabling staff to own tasks.

“(Managers need to) delegate the responsibilities to the people at a lower level of the company who can make the decision,” Malas explained. “Because if you want to grow, you can’t have everything going up.” 

But when the company that is being expected to make these changes is family owned, then convincing the managers/owners to adapt to change becomes the challenge, Malas explained.

Where the owner is involved, Malas said, there was often a reluctance to accept people from different backgrounds into the organization. They own the business and risk making the job of running the business personal.

“You need to professionalize the business.” He said 

One-size doesn't fit all - local knowledge matters

And with bigger companies, that have multiple branches, there is also a need for the top end management to allow each branch’s managers to take control.

“The larger the organization, the larger is the responsibility and accountability on employees in senior and junior positions,” Malas said, adding: “Each store manager operates as the owner of that store.”

He said the locally-based managers would have a greater understanding of the needs of their customers – adding that “the consumers are different in each city.”

And it was this local knowledge, he said, that placed more responsibility on the people on the ground.

Of course, the success of a business is not based on the people alone. Companies need to be flexible in their approach.

This means that the initial vision for a project, however big or small, is not necessarily what comes into being when the project is complete.

At the Top CEO 2018 conference Fahd Al-Rasheed, CEO and managing director of the King Abdullah Economic City project, admitted that the initial plan for the city had changed dramatically.

Mega projects can only succeed if they adapt

He told delegates during his opening remarks of the day-long conference, that there were critics who had opposed the decision to allocate vast plots of the site to arts, leisure and entertainment.

“Mega projects are based on a master plan,” Al-Rasheed said. “Master plans must be flexible, we changed it (the King Abdullah Economic City project) four times during the last 12 years to adapt to the changes we have seen socially and economically.”

And he added: “For example, since we are in an age of entertainment, we took 10 million square meters out of the masterplan and designed an integrated a theme park-based development.”

The Gulf region has an abundance of mega-projects. But Al-Rasheed said several problems often hindered managing such projects.

He said the costs were often underestimated, while the perceived benefits were oversold and there was often a shortfall in the efforts at the design phase, as well as a lack of organization.

“20 percent of the cost can be saved buy spending more time in the design phase,” he said. 

The discussion concluded that business in the region could be improved if they gave more focus on accountability, managed expectations, were more transparent and learned to listen more.


Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA
Updated 26 min 21 sec ago

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA
  • The new lenders will rank 12th and 13th in the Kingdom in terms of capital

RIYADH: Digital banks licensed in Saudi Arabia will help improve the quality and user experience for customers in the Kingdom, supporting innovation and reducing costs, said Yazeed Alsheikh, director for general of banking control at Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

This will directly contribute to stimulating competition with local banks and financial technology companies, he told Al Eqtisadiah paper.

The Saudi Cabinet gave its nod to the Kingdom’s finance minister to issue licenses for the country’s first digital banks, STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Tuesday.

STC Pay will be converted into a local digital bank, STC Bank, with capital of SR2.5 billion. A second lender, Saudi Digital Bank, will be formed by investors led by Abdul Rahman bin Saad Al-Rashed and Sons Company with capital of SR1.5 billion.

There is a difference between financial technology companies and digital banks, Alsheikh said.

“The financial technology companies are based mainly on innovation in the use of technology for a specific activity, and providing a specific financial product or service to the target segment of beneficiaries, through digital platforms or smart applications,” Al Sheikh said.

“Digital banks’ concept is broader and more comprehensive in providing Integrated banking products and services, such as accepting deposits, financing and other banking services through digital channels exclusively, and have different regulatory and supervisory requirements,” he said.

The two new digital banks in Saudi Arabia will rank 12th and 13th among the national banks operating in the Kingdom in terms of capital, once they obtain the final license to operate.


Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021
Updated 53 min 58 sec ago

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021
  • Cases investigated rises to 86 in 2021 from 55 in 2020
  • Value of cases more than SR1 billion

RIYADH: Cases of suspected collusion in tenders being investigated by the Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC) rose to 86 in 2021, up from 55 last year and 15 in 2019, Al Arabiya reported.

The value of projects being investigated in the Kingdom amounted to more than SR1 billion ($267 million), Abdulaziz Alzoom, governor of GAC, said in a statement.

In a previous statement, GAC said it had started investigations, research and gathering of evidence with a number of establishments, based on communications it had received from other authorities, and complaints from individuals and companies.


Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+
Updated 25 June 2021

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+
  • U.S. infrastructure bill brightens demand outlook - analysts
  • OPEC+ meeting on July 1, seen cautious with easing output cuts

SINGAPORE: Oil prices climbed for a third straight session on Friday, on track for a fifth consecutive weekly gain, as demand growth is expected to outstrip supply on bets that OPEC+ producers will be cautious in returning more output to the market from August.
Brent crude futures rose 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $75.62 a barrel at 6:46 a.m. GMT, heading for a 2.9 percent jump for the week.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 5 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $73.35 a barrel, headed for a 2.4 percent weekly gain.
Both benchmark contracts settled at their highest levels since October 2018 on Thursday.
“Expectations of tightness in global market is the major factor supporting crude oil as demand is recovering while OPEC+ has constrained supply and US stocks are falling,” said Ravindra Rao, vice president for commodities at Kotak Securities.
Oil also got some support on Friday as the approval of US infrastructure bill boosted optimism for energy demand outlook, analysts said.
All eyes are on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies — together called OPEC+ — who are due to meet on July 1 to discuss further easing of their output cuts from August.
“(The market) certainly has momentum behind it...It’s really in the hands of OPEC+,” said Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar.
On the demand side, the key factors OPEC+ will have to consider are strong growth in the United States, Europe and China, bolstered by vaccine rollouts and economies reopening, offset by rising COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in other locations, analysts said.
“I think OPEC+ will carefully calibrate production hikes from August onwards to meet rising demand without causing significant price fluctuations,” said Margaret Yang, a strategist at Singapore-based DailyFX.
“The market has likely priced-in an August hike in advance,” she added.
ANZ analysts have predicted OPEC+ would step up supply with a small increase of 500,000 barrels per day in August, adding to the 2.1 million bpd they agreed to return to the market from May through July.
The prospect of sanctions being lifted on Iran and more of its oil hitting the market anytime soon has dimmed, with a US official saying “serious differences” remain over a range of issues over Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.


Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement
Updated 25 June 2021

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement
  • 2,000 MW of solar to be built according to agreement
  • Cost of deal undisclosed by Iraqi Oil Ministry

DUBAI: The Iraqi electricity ministry signed with Masdar, a United Arab Emirates-based renewable power developer, an agreement to build solar power projects in central and southern Iraq, with a total capacity of 2,000 Megawatts, the Iraqi oil ministry said on Thursday in a statement.
The project is the biggest investment in Iraq’s renewable energy industry, the statement said, without indicating its total cost.
Iraq is planning to build a number of power plants in the coming years in partnership with international and Arab companies. Some will use solar energy, while others will run on fossil fuels, including gas that is produced during the extraction of oil, by introducing it into the electricity production system, Iraq Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar told Asharq recently.


Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate
Updated 25 June 2021

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate
  • Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history
  • Lebanon’s central bank asked the government on Thursday to provide it with a legal basis to lend it foreign currency from its mandatory reserves to fund the subsidised fuel imports

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Friday approved a proposal to finance fuel imports at the rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, instead of the previous 1,500 pound rate, amidst worsening gasoline shortages.
The weaker exchange rate, which will effectively decrease the subsidy on fuel, is expected to raise the price of gasoline for consumers but enable the government to supply fuel for a longer period of time.
Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history. Fuel shortages in past weeks have forced motorists to queue for hours for dribbles of gasoline.
Lebanon’s subsidy program, introduced last year as the country’s economic meltdown translated to harsher living conditions, covers basic goods such as wheat, medicine and fuel and costs around $6 billion a year.
Half of that amount is spent on fuel.
Lebanon’s central bank asked the government on Thursday to provide it with a legal basis to lend it foreign currency from its mandatory reserves to fund the subsidised fuel imports, an indication that the bank has all but run out of reserves.
Mandatory reserves — hard currency deposits parked by local lenders at the central bank — represent a percentage of customer deposits and are usually not drawn upon except in exceptional circumstances, with the correct legal permission.
Lebanon’s foreign currency reserves stood at slightly more than $15 billion in March. The Central Bank has not given an updated figure since then.