Saudi megaproject Qiddiya plans iconic buildings, metro link with Riyadh airport

Saudi megaproject Qiddiya plans iconic buildings, metro link with Riyadh airport
Roughly a third of the 366 square kilometers (sqkm) of the land area of Qiddiya will be planned and developed in the first phase. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 December 2020

Saudi megaproject Qiddiya plans iconic buildings, metro link with Riyadh airport

Saudi megaproject Qiddiya plans iconic buildings, metro link with Riyadh airport

Saudi Arabia’s megaproject Qiddiya will house iconic buildings as it works with companies to build a “disruptive destination”, offering a unique combination of innovative experiences in entertainment, sports and arts, Kareem Shamma, Chief Development Officer of Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC), told Argaam in an exclusive.

“There are plans to connect Riyadh’s airport by Metro to the heart of Qiddiya’s City Centre. Qiddiya will also be connected to other modes of Riyadh’s public transportation network,” he further added.

Roughly a third of the 366 square kilometers (sqkm) of the land area of Qiddiya will be planned and developed in the first phase. So far, the developer has awarded 10 construction contracts worth SAR 2 billion since the start of construction to Saudi companies.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic situation have not had any significant detrimental impact on Qiddiya’s future plans or strategy, Shamma stated. The first phase is all set to open in 2023.

“There are many contracts and tenders in the pipeline as we begin to deliver the built environment,” the executive said, emphasizing the importance of making Qiddiya as accessible as possible.

Here are excerpts from Argaam’s interview with QIC’s chief development officer.

Q: What new contracts and tenders are planned during 2021?

There are many contracts and tenders in the pipeline as we begin to deliver the built environment. We currently have tenders out for the construction of the Plant Holding Nursery as we seek bids for procuring the professional construction supervision services.

We have large scale on-going contracts with local companies for mass grading, roads and bridges, site security and other enabling works. These firms include Haif Bin Mohammed Bin Abboud Alqahtani & Partners For Trading Contracting Co., Freyssinet Saudi Arabia Co. Ltd, Alkhorayef Water & Power Technologies, Saudi Pan Kingdom For Trading And Contracting (Sapac), Shibh Al Jazira Contracting Company (Sajco), and Abdulali Alajmi Co.

Q: Are you all set to open the first phase in 2023?

This year has been extremely busy as the project moves forward. We have awarded major contracts, and construction has continued on site with roads and bridge works, as well as mass earthworks in preparation for follow-on building work.

For our overall timeline, we will be continuing with both heavy construction and developing strategic partnerships well into 2022, after which we move into the testing and commissioning phases ahead of our grand opening date in 2023.

Q: Has Qiddiya masterplan undergone any change since its launch?

All masterplans for projects like this undergo modifications as progress is made. The concept masterplan has already been approved as of last year. There might be some changes to some assets as the more detailed masterplan evolves, but the overall concept of the project will remain unchanged.

Q: Can you share the plans for the new phases?

Qiddiya’s masterplan has been developed with the first phase scheduled to open in 2023. It will include over 60 projects and more than 300 activities across the creative, hospitality, arts and culture, entertainment and sporting sectors.

The phase 2, and subsequent phases, is planned for expanding Qiddiya’s offerings and growing the project’s capacity to enable sustainable growth of the project and to ensure repeat visitation.

Q: Did COVID-19 impact your work schedules?

The Qiddiya project covers a land area of some 366 sqkm, of which roughly one third will be planned and developed in the first phase. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic situation have not had any significant detrimental impact on our future plans or strategy.

We were able to prepare for the pandemic by empowering our staff with the right equipment and technology so that they were able to work remotely and continue a ‘business as usual’ approach. Adhering to government protocols, we have now opened our offices, and our staff is working here on alternate days and from home for the rest of the time.

Q: Is there any plan to have transportation links with Riyadh airport?

It is important to make Qiddiya as accessible as possible. There are plans to connect Riyadh’s airport by Metro to the heart of Qiddiya’s City Centre. The project will also be connected to other modes of Riyadh’s public transportation network. We hope that the public road connections to the site will be upgraded in the near future.

Q: What kind of sustainable infrastructure or green technologies do you plan to use in the mega project?

Qiddiya embraces the sustainability goals outlined in the Saudi Vision 2030 and has devised a sustainability policy which not only incorporates these initiatives to ultimately respect, protect and enhance our natural landscape but also elevates in importance four of these main pillars of sustainability.

These include efficient waste management through reducing quantities of waste, in the first instance, and re-using and recycling waste thereafter; increasing biodiversity on Qiddiya’s land; promoting the optimal use of our water resources by reducing consumption and utilizing and re-using water efficiently; and creating pleasant outdoor microclimates to encourage pedestrianization.

Given the special nature and responsibility of Qiddiya as a giga project, we have elevated these four key components of the overall sustainability platform, such that they will be given special attention and extraordinary effort throughout the entire lifecycle of Qiddiya, from construction to operation and beyond.

Q: Are you planning iconic projects within Qiddiya?

Qiddiya’s vision is to create a disruptive destination recognized on the world stage as the unique combination of the most innovative experiences in entertainment, sports and arts. Therefore, we are working with companies to create iconic buildings to house these activities and bring this vision to life.

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Saudi forum to showcase key projects

Saudi forum to showcase key projects
Updated 10 min 41 sec ago

Saudi forum to showcase key projects

Saudi forum to showcase key projects
  • The Future Projects Forum aims to showcase future projects in the Middle East

Saudi Contractors Authority (SCA) will hold the Future Projects Forum (FPF) virtually during March 22-24.

The FPF will include the participation of more than 37 government and private  entities to present around 1,000 projects with an estimated total value exceeding SR600 billion ($16 billion).

The Future Projects Forum aims to showcase future projects in the Middle East. It also aims to create opportunities for contractors and investors via identifying details of future projects in the contracting sector and knowing the mechanism of qualification and competition.

The forum seeks to develop a wide network of relationships between contractors, investors and interested parties, in addition to creating partnerships between them.

 The number of delivered residential real estate projects increased from SR12.4 billion ($3.3 billion) in 2019 to SR13.9 billion in 2020.


Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth
Updated 03 March 2021

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth
  • Bahrain’s economy contracted by 5.4% last year, the IMF estimated, as the COVID-19 pandemic hurt vital sectors such as energy and tourism
  • The tiny Gulf state, which based the 2021-2022 budget on an oil price assumption of $50 a barrel, expects the economy to grow 5% this year

DUBAI: Bahrain expects to post a deficit of 1.2 billion dinars ($3.20 billion) in 2021, state news agency BNA said, citing the finance ministry.
The oil-producing Gulf state projected a budget of 3.6 billion dinars for 2021 with revenues expected to amount to 2.4 billion dinars, BNA said.
For next year, total expenditure is estimated at 3.57 billion dinars, against total revenues of 2.46 billion dinars, resulting in a slightly lower deficit of 1.1 billion dinars.
Bahrain’s economy contracted by 5.4% last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated, as the COVID-19 pandemic hurt vital sectors such as energy and tourism.
The tiny Gulf state, which based the 2021-2022 budget on an oil price assumption of $50 a barrel, expects the economy to grow 5% this year, BNA said late on Tuesday.
Sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat will double its contributions to government revenues, said the agency, as Bahrain seeks to boost non-oil revenues.
Bahrain has accumulated a large pile of debt since the 2014-2015 oil price shock. In 2018 it received a $10 billion financial aid program from Gulf allies that helped it avoid a credit crunch.
BNA cited Finance and Economy Minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa as saying that the country remains committed to achieving the objectives of the fiscal balance program — a set of fiscal reforms linked to the financial aid.
“This budget makes clear Bahrain’s continued commitment to the Fiscal Balance Program, despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, with core government expenditure remaining under tight control,” the minister was quoted as saying.
Public debt rose to 133% of GDP last year from 102% in 2019, the IMF has said, cautioning that the country needs to reduce government debt once economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis firms up.


Theeb Rent-a-Car to list 30% of shares in IPO this month

Theeb Rent-a-Car to list 30% of shares in IPO this month
Updated 03 March 2021

Theeb Rent-a-Car to list 30% of shares in IPO this month

Theeb Rent-a-Car to list 30% of shares in IPO this month

RIYADH: Theeb Rent-a-Car, a Riyadh-based car rental company, plans to float 30 percent of its share capital in an initial public offering (IPO) later this month.

The company issued an IPO prospectus last month to the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), in which it outlined the many factors that enable it to compete with its current and potential competitors and the factors it sees for its future growth.

The Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) last October approved Theeb’s request to offer a 30 percent stake as part of its IPO, representing 12.90 million shares on Tadawul.

The company’s strategy is to continue seeking growth in the car rental services sector by opening new branches, whether at airports, inside cities, or in new mega projects in which the need for car rental is likely to increase.

According to Argaam, Theeb Rent a Car reported a net profit of SR41.9 million ($3.97 million) for the first nine months of 2020, an increase of 8 percent on the same period in 2019.

Short-term leasing accounted for 44.8 percent of revenue, followed by long-term leasing (30.2 percent) and used car sales (25 percent).

Offering daily, weekly and monthly rental services, it operates through 48 outlets across the Kingdom. With 264,131 customers as of March 2020 – a 3 percent year-on-year increase – Theeb has an 8.8 percent share of the short-term car leasing market. It competes with the likes of Al WAFAQ, with a 6.9 percent market share, followed by Budget Saudi (6.9 percent), Arabian Hala (4.6 percent), Key Car Rental (3.5 percent) and SEERA (3.2 percent).
 


Own goal? Shaky finances ruin China’s dream to be a global football power

Jiangsu FC on Sunday said they had
Jiangsu FC on Sunday said they had "ceased operations" — just three months after winning the Chinese Super League. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 02 March 2021

Own goal? Shaky finances ruin China’s dream to be a global football power

Jiangsu FC on Sunday said they had "ceased operations" — just three months after winning the Chinese Super League. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Jiangsu FC on Sunday said they had "ceased operations" — just three months after winning the Chinese Super League

SHANGHAI: Five years ago, China under President Xi Jinping pledged to become a football power by 2050. But the financial collapse of the newly crowned Chinese champions raises fresh questions over that lofty goal.
Jiangsu FC on Sunday said they had "ceased operations" — just three months after winning the Chinese Super League — in a move described as "shocking" by state media.
After rushing in to curry favour with Xi and the Communist Party, burnt investors are retreating again and last year 16 teams pulled out of Chinese football. More are set to follow.
It is a far cry from when the Super League broke the Asian transfer record five times in less than a year, culminating in Chelsea midfielder Oscar joining Shanghai SIPG for 60 million euros in January 2017.
Argentine striker Carlos Tevez was lured by Shanghai Shenhua in the same transfer window on reported wages of 730,000 euros a week, the highest in the world.
But state-run Xinhua news agency said this week that soaring salaries and transfer fees, as clubs vied to outspend each other, had created "a bubble" that is now bursting.
Citing Chinese Football Association statistics, Xinhua said average expenditure in the 2018 season for the Super League's 16 clubs was about 1.1 billion yuan ($170 million), against average income of 686 million yuan.
"The CSL club expenditure is about 10 times higher than South Korea's K League and three times higher than Japan's J-League," CFA president Chen Xuyuan said in December, when salary caps were announced.

Journalist Ma Dexing said that in 30 years covering Chinese football he has seen more than 200 clubs close, indicating a wider problem beyond the current crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, which delayed the Super League for months last year and forced it behind closed doors.
Tianjin Tigers, a Super League mainstay since its founding in 2004, are expected to dissolve within days and Hebei FC's parent company is drowning in debt.
"The fundamental reason is that the foundation of Chinese professional football is too weak," Ma, who has 1.5 million followers on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform, wrote in a column.
Clubs are built and run by companies which have little connection to the communities where they are based, Ma explained.
"Therefore the survival of China's professional clubs directly depends on the economic situation of the enterprise or company," he wrote.
"Once the company or enterprise has problems, the club ceases to exist."
That's what happened to Jiangsu FC, who were until recently called Jiangsu Suning, named after their backers.
The Suning conglomerate, which also owns Serie A leaders Inter Milan, is in financial peril and has cut the team loose.
A recent CFA order for clubs to drop sponsors from their official names -- supposedly to help foster a deeper footballing culture -- was the "last straw" for some investors, the Beijing News said.

Speaking to AFP last year, CFA secretary-general Liu Yi said a healthy Super League was central to China's football ambitions, which include hosting and even winning a World Cup.
Concerned about clubs' high spending and the lack of opportunities for Chinese players, the CFA imposed a 100 percent transfer tax in 2017 on incoming foreigners, plus recent salary and investment caps.
The Shanghai Observer said clubs must abandon single-owner models in favour of multiple stakeholders including "government, enterprises, communities and even individuals".
"Super League clubs cannot only rely on blood transfusions from their parent company but must attract more sponsorship, match-day income (and improve) transfer market operations, etc.," it said in an opinion piece.
Liu told AFP that China remains committed to its ambitious long-term plans, pointing out that foreign stars including Oscar, Paulinho and Marouane Fellaini remain in the Super League.
But the short term is uncertain.
A more frugal Super League is expected to kick off in the spring but with coronavirus concerns persisting, the CFA is yet to announce a start date. Given Jiangsu and Tianjin's problems, it's also unclear which teams will be involved.
Meanwhile, the men's national side has moved up just five places in the FIFA rankings since China revealed its football dreams in 2016. They are now 75th, just above war-ravaged Syria.
China has reached only one World Cup, in 2002, when they failed to score a goal or win a point in their three group games.


Aramco CEO sees improvement in demand for oil in 2021 

Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Saudi Aramco. (CERAWeek)
Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Saudi Aramco. (CERAWeek)
Updated 02 March 2021

Aramco CEO sees improvement in demand for oil in 2021 

Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Saudi Aramco. (CERAWeek)
  • Amin Nasser also warns certain job types might not return after ‘biggest crisis in a century’
  • Current oil demand is at 94 million barrels, compared with pre-pandemic levels of 100 million

DUBAI: Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, sees an improvement in demand for oil this year, especially in the second half, but he is worried about the risk of a “jobless recovery” for the global economy.

Speaking virtually at CERAWeek, an annual energy conference organized by the information and insights company IHS Markit in Houston, Texas, Nasser said there has already been “quite an improvement” in oil demand compared to the drastic reductions during the pandemic lockdowns last year, especially in China and East Asia. 

“Indian demand is almost the same as pre-COVID,” he told oil market expert Daniel Yergin.

“There has been an impact that we see in the West and the US. But with the rapid deployment of vaccines, we are seeing good cause for optimism and recovery in demand.”

Current oil demand is at 94 million barrels, compared with pre-pandemic levels of 100 million, and Nasser expected this to rise to 99 million barrels by the end of the year. 

“I see demand and the market improving from here, especially in the second half of this year,” he said.

But Nasser said he expected “harsh realities” as a result of the economic damage from the pandemic, which he described as the “biggest crisis in a century” for the oil industry.

“There has been a huge impact on small- and medium-sized businesses, and more on employment,” Nasser said. “Rapid technology advances were already having an impact on jobs, especially low-skill repetitive-type jobs, reducing jobs and creating inequality in the market in different parts of the world.

“Today we are seeing a recovery taking place and usually this is linked to job creation and higher employment. My big worry over the long term is a jobless recovery where certain jobs are not going to return.”

Nasser said Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, used risk-management systems to help it respond quickly to the pandemic, which also significantly accelerated its use of digital and remote operating processes.

During the same CERAWeek forum, the CEO of US energy firm Chevron Corp., Mike Wirth, said the key lesson learned from the crisis was the “essential nature” of the oil business. 

Despite the unprecedented shock to oil markets, he said demand destruction only amounted to about 9 percent: “This demonstrates how important our industry is to the world economy.”