Largest French business team visits Saudi Arabia

Frederic Sanchez, president of MEDEF international and chairman of Fives Group’s executive board, right, with Francios Touazi, vice president of MEDEF. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Largest French business team visits Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The largest French business delegation to tour a country is visiting Riyadh in a two-day trip to meet Saudi ministers.

The delegation is composed of 100 representatives from 80 French companies.

“We are here to tell them (the Saudi government), look, French business wants to be more present in Saudi Arabia and … to be part of Vision 2030. Tell us, (in order for us) to know precisely where you are expecting us to invest,” Frederic Sanchez, president of MEDEF International and chairman of Fives Group’s executive board told Arab News.

“I have to say, the delegation I am leading is the biggest I have ever led, which means French companies think they might benefit. It’s a win-win approach, by benefitting from transformations in your country, and the big ‘giga-projects’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is launching,” he added. 

Sanchez emphasized the delegation was listening to the needs of the Saudi people and government in helping develop the country’s business sector “because we understand that these transformations need us to evolve.

“We understand that you want more local content, you want us to invest locally, create jobs for young people, and to train them to be future leaders of the economy and business,” he added.

The vice president of MEDEF International, Francois Touazi, said: “We’d like to express our very strong commitment to supporting Saudi Arabia in this transition. We are fully committed to supporting the country and we strongly believe there is a win-win partnership between French and Saudi companies.”

He noted that French companies had solid expertise in many sectors, including tourism, health care and entertainment. 

“We’d like to illustrate and demonstrate to Saudis our full commitment. France and Saudi Arabia are strategic partners, we’d like to consolidate and strengthen the economic dimensions of our statistic partnership,” he added.

Training young people might be a challenge, but one they were willing to take, he said.

“We are sure we can support Saudi Arabia in the training of the youth,” said Touazi.

“In that area, we have expertise,” added Sanchez, alluding to work in Bahrain in the aluminum industry. The French government has put in place a department which helps companies to set training programs overseas, he explained. 

“We know how to do it, and we willing to do it here, because this is way to differentiate ourselves in front of the competition. We know that Saudi Arabia is a competitive country and we need to be competitive,” Sanchez added.

Companies from France, research centers and universities with their expertise will work with the Kingdom “because there is much to do for our partnership. By teaming up, France and Saudi Arabia can do a lot of things, not only in the Kingdom but also in the region, the Middle East and Africa, to develop this win-win partnership,” said Touazi.

The last official French business delegation to Saudi Arabia was led by then-Prime Minister Manual Valls in 2015; since then plenty has changed. “What makes me amazed is the spectacular change in the country in the recent years. You can see it visually. It’s impressive,” Sanchez said.


Oil slumps more than 4% on coronavirus fears

Updated 28 February 2020

Oil slumps more than 4% on coronavirus fears

  • Traders fret about impact of spreading virus on crude demand, particularly from China

LONDON: World oil prices tumbled by more than 4 percent on Thursday, as traders fretted about the impact of spreading coronavirus on crude demand, particularly from key consumer China.

Brent oil for April delivery tanked almost 4.2 percent to $51.20 per barrel, while New York’s WTI crude for the same month dived nearly 5 percent to $46.31.

“Concerns that the virus will prompt a global slowdown, weaker consumer confidence and reduced travel has raised concerns about lower demand, weighing on prices,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

Investors are growing increasingly fearful about the economic impact of the new coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak. 

The virus continues to spread meanwhile, with Brazil reporting Latin America’s first case, and Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Georgia, Norway and Pakistan following suit.

Around 2,800 people have died in China and more than 80,000 have been infected. There have been more than 50 deaths and 3,600 cases in dozens of other countries, raising fears of a pandemic.

The spread of the virus to large economies including South Korea, Japan and Italy has raised concerns that growth in fuel demand will be limited. 

Consultants Facts Global Energy forecast oil demand would grow by 60,000 barrels per day in 2020, a level it called “practically zero,” due to the outbreak.

US President Donald Trump sought to assure Americans on Wednesday evening that the risk from coronavirus remained “very low,” but global equities resumed their plunge, wiping out more than $3 trillion in value this week alone.

“The negative price impact would intensify if the coronavirus were declared pandemic by the World Health Organization, something that looks imminent,” said PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga.

“The mood is gloomy and the end of the tunnel is not in sight – there is no light ahead just darkness. Not even a refreshingly positive weekly US oil report was able to lend price support.”

Gasoline stockpiles dropped by 2.7 million barrels in the week to Feb. 21 to 256.4 million, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday, amid a decline in refinery throughput. Distillate inventories fell by 2.1 million barrels to 138.5 million.

US crude oil stockpiles increased by 452,000 barrels to 443.3 million barrels, the EIA said, which was less than the 2-million-barrel rise analysts had expected.

The crude market is watching for possible deeper output cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+.

“Oil is in freefall as the magnitude of global quarantine efforts will provide severe demand destruction for the next couple of quarters,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA. 

“Expectations are growing for OPEC+ to deliver deeper production cuts next week.”

OPEC+ plans to meet in Vienna on March 5-6.