Open for business: $15bn in deals signed at Saudi investment forum

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the FII forum in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 30 October 2019

Open for business: $15bn in deals signed at Saudi investment forum

  • Foreign firms setting up in Saudi Arabia increase by 30%
  • Aramco IPO announcement ‘expected in days’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia signed $15 billion in deals on Tuesday on the first day of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum in Riyadh.

The number of business licenses granted to foreign investors from July to September was the highest since 2010, said Invest Saudi, the government organization that facilitates and monitors foreign investment; 809 new foreign companies set up in the Kingdom, a 30 percent increase on the same period last year.

The record levels of deal making continued the positive momentum in inward investment, said Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of SAGIA, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority. “As Saudi Arabia welcomes investors and decisionmakers from across the globe to this annual global investment platform, the agreements exchanged here today reflect the strength and diversity of the economy,” he said. “Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is undergoing am ambitious program of economic reform, and the world is taking notice.”

The Kingdom this month rose 30 places to 62nd in the World Bank’s annual league table for ease of doing business, and was the world’s most improved and reforming economy. “The indicators are clear,” Al-Omar said. “Saudi Arabia is not only open for business, it’s the economy of the future.”

Among more than 20 deals signed at the forum were a $700 million investment agreement between SAGIA and Modular Middle East, a prefabricated building company, and a $200 million agreement between SAGIA and Shiloh Minerals through which the British company will develop its production capacity and invest in upstream mining in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Aramco was high on the list of deals by value. Transactions with partners from around the world included a $1 billion deal with Spanish pipeline company Tubacex. There were also deals between Saudi entities and American, Brazilian and Norwegian companies.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Authority and chairman of Aramco, launched the third annual forum in front of 6,000 delegates and about 300 global investment chiefs and policymakers.

“This is more than double the first FII,” he told them. “The growth has been incredible. Until now it has been an annual conference, today it is an institution, and it will be a global hub to build relationships.

“Here we don’t see politicians just talking politics, asset managers just talking about assets, philanthropists just talking about society. Here we bring it all together — diversity, cooperation and friendship.”

The forum’s opening day was attended by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and White House special adviser Jared Kushner.

Informal discussions were dominated by speculation about the initial public offering of Saudi Aramco. Sources expect an announcement within days, with share trading on the Saudi exchange, the Tadawul, at the beginning of December.

At Davos, innovative products point to a sustainable future

Updated 24 January 2020

At Davos, innovative products point to a sustainable future

  • A single tree that to bear 40 different types of apple

DAVOS: The World Economic Forum is not all about the fourth industrial revolution or the rise of AI.

You can also find all manner of strange and intriguing products on display from biodegradable plastic made from algae to wallpaper made from recycled corn husks.

One stand titled “How do you design a tree?” is part of a conservation effort where a single tree is designed to bear 40 different types of apple.

Another stand displays colored seaweed on a rack, showing how clothes can be dyed in a sustainable, non-chemically corrosive manner.

Propped along a large wall is Fernando Laposse’s wallpaper made of variations of purple corn husks that are reinforced with recycled cardboard and cork to create wallpaper and furniture. The husks come from corn that needs very little water and can be grown in the desert, which makes it all the more sustainable.

“This initiative helps the local economy as it brings in jobs and a resurgence of crafts and food traditions while also ensuring sustainability,” Laposse said.

Another display shows a machine that extracts pellets from a mixture of algae and starch and is used to create a thread that is the base of 3D printing. These sustainable, biodegradable plastics made from algae are being experimented with in different regions.

With the rise of deep fakes — a branch of synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness — another stand delivers a warning on the looming dangers of unregulated software.

The Davos forum prides itself on its sustainability, and key topics have included climate, mobility, energy and the circular economy. Everything is recyclable, and participants must download an application in order to keep up with the program and any changes — a move to cut down on paper waste.