LONDON: Saudi Arabia is offering “game-changing” investment opportunities for international investors, a top adviser to the Kingdom told business leaders on Thursday.
Carlos Adams of Ernst and Young, the firm working with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), was speaking at a forum hosted by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce in London.
During his presentation at the “4th Industrial Revolution” conference, Adams highlighted why international firms should invest in Saudi Arabia and how SAGIA was able to help facilitate foreign investment.
“The Kingdom wants to attract and expand high-value investments and they have real priority sectors such as chemical and energy, but also tourism and leisure.
“There are many reasons to invest in Saudi Arabia. It has a young and really educated population and this is one of the reasons this project is exciting to us (at EY). They have got an integrated infrastructure and there are loads of game-changing opportunities.
“They are actively trying to market the ‘Invest in Saudi’ brand as well, you will see it everywhere, at every major expo around the world you will see the ‘Invest in Saudi’ branding,” he added.
Adams also described the Kingdom’s plan to create industry-specific hubs throughout Saudi Arabia, which would better focus foreign investment, and explained how SAGIA could make the process easier for new investors into the Kingdom.
“SAGIA offers a lot of services to new and existing investors, from site visits through to helping to realize where to locate. For example, if you’re coming to the UK and in the creative industry, you might be inclined to move into London, but if you’re in animation, actually, the best place to be is Bristol.
“It’s the same thing in Saudi Arabia, SAGIA can help find the best places to grow these hubs or clusters of companies and investors within certain sectors.
“They also do set-up and assistance to make sure companies have the right licenses and permits, they have a really impressive task force, which works with investors day in and day out to ensure it’s a seamless integration into a great opportunity,” Adams added.
Investment into Saudi Arabia is growing month on month and Adams told delegates how investment from the UK in particular had increased in 2019. Fourteen licenses were issued to British companies in the first quarter of 2018, but that had jumped to 24 in the same period this year.
He described how the Vision 2030 reform plans for expanding investment opportunities in the Kingdom and the geographical location of Saudi Arabia made it a prime opportunity for investors.
“Not only are they expanding the quality of life there and introducing more and more entertainment and tourism facilities, but there is also a leading financial sector there, especially since they have created the King Abdullah Financial District,” he said.
“All of this comes out of the Vision 2030, which is based on three main pillars — which includes Saudi Arabia affirming its position as the heart of the Arab and Muslim world. Also, Saudi Arabia is known for being an investment powerhouse but also a hub connecting three continents, which means it is uniquely placed for investors.
“As part of that plan, there are three major themes within that, which include creating a thriving economy, to create a vibrant society and establish the Kingdom as an ambitious nation,” Adams added.
The EY consultant said SAGIA was achieving these goals through privatization programs, “localization” by getting more Saudis involved in projects and foreign companies using local talent, as well as giga and mega projects, which he said were “on an enormous scale.”
Adams admitted that one of the questions he was often asked surrounded how simple it was to invest in Saudi Arabia, which he said could be done through the Tayseer program for easy payment. It aims to secure and stimulate the investment environment for the private sector and to provide the necessary guarantees for the preservation of rights.
He said the program could issue commercial visas within 24 hours, which has had a huge impact on the number of investments regionally and internationally.
“What is exciting about this is we’re now turning a page where you can have 100 percent foreign ownership within the Kingdom and that is revolutionary, not just for the Middle East, but in general.
“Companies have a great opportunity to go and set up and take advantage of the incentives that the Kingdom has to offer but also to take advantage of the growing more educated and more connected population,” he said.