Multibillion-dollar deals expected as Saudi Arabia investment forum looks east

Multibillion-dollar deals expected as Saudi Arabia investment forum looks east
Participants watch a movie highlighting the Red Sea project at last year’s Future Investment Initiatives conference in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 25 October 2018

Multibillion-dollar deals expected as Saudi Arabia investment forum looks east

Multibillion-dollar deals expected as Saudi Arabia investment forum looks east
  • The Future Investment Initiative is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China
  • The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen

RIYADH: A major investment show in Saudi Arabia is expected to attract thousands of delegates and see deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars — despite several largely “symbolic” last-minute cancelations by speakers.

The Future Investment Initiative, which starts on Tuesday, is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China, despite several executives, mostly Western, pulling out after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Many of those Western firms have however sent lower-level representatives or regional heads — with big business likely to be done, Saudi officials said.

Speakers from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia-China Investment Fund and electronics giant Samsung are all billed to speak at the event. They join Saudi speakers including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and sports official Princess Reema bint Bandar. 

“Investing in transformation,” “technology as opportunity” and “advancing human potential” are among the FII’s themes. Held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the three-day event is billed as a “blueprint for the 22nd century.”

Ellen Wald, president of the Transversal Consulting think-tank and author of the recent book “Saudi Inc,” said many executives — notably those from Russia and further east — were still looking to do business at the event despite some having pulled out.

“I think the big pull-out of CEOs is not really reflective of the corporate interest in the Kingdom because we see them sending their next level of executives along. So to some degree it is symbolic,” she told Arab News. “In terms of attracting foreign investment, Saudi Arabia could have strategic leverage with Russia and China, and a unique opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies.”

John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center in Saudi Arabia, said he expected the event to be a success. 

“The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen,” he told Arab News. 


Indonesia campaign helps SMEs enter Saudi market

Indonesia campaign helps SMEs enter Saudi market
Updated 19 January 2021

Indonesia campaign helps SMEs enter Saudi market

Indonesia campaign helps SMEs enter Saudi market
  • They will be the main target of the export initiative, which is estimated by the Indonesian Ministry of Trade to be able to generate $60 million

JAKARTA: Indonesia has launched a campaign to help small firms in the country compete for millions of dollars-worth of food trade in Saudi Arabia.

The government aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) improve the quality and competitiveness of their products to meet the Kingdom’s required standards, Indonesian trade and commerce officials have said.

Under normal circumstances, before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, around 1.5 million Indonesians a year make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah and hundreds of thousands work in the Kingdom.

They will be the main target of the export initiative, which is estimated by the Indonesian Ministry of Trade to be able to generate $60 million.

To meet the Saudi food regulator’s standards, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin), the Ministry of Trade, and the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small-Medium Enterprises have teamed up to assist SMEs in improving products such as bottled chili sauce, soya sauce, coffee, tea, and sugar that are in highest demand among Indonesians in Saudi Arabia.

Kadin chairman, Rosan Roeslani, told Arab News: “We have facilitated five small-medium enterprises that produce soya sauce to obtain Saudi Food and Drug Authority approval for distribution, while nine tea and coffee producers are in the pipeline to also obtain a license. We have also submitted the application for four bottled chili sauce producers.”

While travel and pilgrimage restrictions remain in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he said that the time before things get back to normal will be used to prepare the SMEs — which contribute 60 percent to the country’s gross domestic product and employ up to 90 percent of its workforce — for expansion into the Saudi market as soon as the pilgrimage sector resumes.

“We still have time to groom them as there are many aspects such as hygiene, and consistency in their product quality and quantity that they need to improve,” Roeslani added.

In 2014, the Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a regulation obliging catering companies that provided food and drink to Indonesian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia to source their products from Indonesian producers whenever possible.

Indonesia’s vice religious affairs minister, Zainut Tauhid Sa’adi, said that as each Indonesian pilgrim received food from caterers an average 75 times during his or her pilgrimage, demand was high but supply in Saudi Arabia remained limited and similar products from India and Thailand had been used instead.

Kasan Muhri, director general for export development at the Ministry of Trade, told Arab News that the program to prepare the SMEs had been in the making since 2017 and officials eventually decided to launch it this year despite the COVID-19 restrictions.

“Just because there are few Umrah pilgrims now and this year’s Hajj remains uncertain, it does not mean that the market is gone.

“People from around the world would still go to Saudi Arabia to perform the pilgrimage, not just Indonesians, so we are doing this to anticipate the market when the economy revives, and things are recovered. We don’t want to be left behind,” Muhri said.

Besides food and beverage products, officials say they are also looking into the possibility of exporting items such as goodie bags, prayer beads, and other pilgrimage accessories made by Indonesian SMEs.