Investment in Saudi Arabia offers ‘game-changing’ opportunities: Arab-British business conference

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Ernst and Young’s Carlos Adams highlighted why international firms should invest in Saudi Arabia and how SAGIA was able to help facilitate foreign investment. (AN Photo)
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Ernst and Young’s Carlos Adams highlighted why international firms should invest in Saudi Arabia and how SAGIA was able to help facilitate foreign investment. (AN Photo)
Updated 29 November 2019

Investment in Saudi Arabia offers ‘game-changing’ opportunities: Arab-British business conference

  • Ernst and Young’s Carlos Adams: ‘The Kingdom wants to attract and expand high-value investments and they have real priority sectors such as chemical and energy’
  • Carlos Adams: ‘Not only are they introducing more and more entertainment and tourism facilities, but there is also a leading financial sector there’

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.


Startup of the Week: A Saudi Eco-friendly food waste startup brings value-added benefits

KAUST has been highly supportive of Carbon CPU, both technically and financially. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 21 January 2020

Startup of the Week: A Saudi Eco-friendly food waste startup brings value-added benefits

  • Aldrees: “Over 90 percent of food waste in Saudi Arabia is dumped into landfills”
  • Carbon CPU’s technology uses a specially developed, eco-friendly reactor to help convert food waste into fatty acids

Carbon CPU is a biotechnology startup specializing in turning food waste into fatty acids for use as livestock nutrients.

Launched through the post-graduate startup accelerator program (TAQADAM) of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the venture was co-founded by Bin Bian, Jiajie Xu, Yara Aldrees, Sara Al-Eid and Prof. Pascal Saikaly.

The idea behind the enterprise began to take shape in 2018. Al-Eid said: “Our aim was to recycle food waste into value-added products in a manner that matched the Saudi Vision 2030 strategy.”

Similar to most countries, Saudi Arabia has a food waste problem, but Carbon CPU thought of utilizing it in a way that caused less harm to the environment and also benefitted the animal feed industry.

“Over 90 percent of food waste in Saudi Arabia is dumped into landfills,” said Aldrees. “This produces a lot of gas, including methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and cycloaromatics, and contributes to global warming and air pollution.”

Water and soil were also being contaminated through leachate production, she added. “We’re trying to solve those issues, too.”

 

The team found that animal farms often struggled to provide enough feed nutrients for livestock such as cows and sheep. Al-Eid said there was a huge shortage of fatty acids, which are used as livestock nutrients and were in high demand from farmers.

“We’re trying to help animals live longer and be more nutritious,” she added.

Carbon CPU’s technology uses a specially developed, eco-friendly reactor to help convert food waste into fatty acids.

“We produce fatty acids from the food waste, extracting them through a liquid-liquid extraction system. The fatty acid oils are then used to help animal feed, as well as the feed and chemical industries,” said Xu.

KAUST has been highly supportive of Carbon CPU, both technically and financially, added Bian. “KAUST, especially the Environmental Biotechnology Lab led by Prof Pascal Saikaly, provided us with the facilities to set up our reactors. The KAUST Innovation and Economic Development department and the Entrepreneurship Center also gave us a lot of guidance on how to push our technology into the market.”

The startup initially faced many challenges that KAUST helped to resolve. As individuals coming from backgrounds mainly in engineering and science, the team lacked the know-how in business that its project needed.

“KAUST made up for our lack of business thinking through training on how to solve business issues and create business modules and find the right customers for our product,” said Bian.