Virgin Mobile develops Saudi banking app

Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa. (Supplied)
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Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa. (Supplied)
Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa. (Supplied)
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Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa. (Supplied)
Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa. (Supplied)
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Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 January 2021

Virgin Mobile develops Saudi banking app

Virgin Mobile develops Saudi banking app
  • Telecoms provider partners with the Saudi Investment Bank to expand into international mobile financial services

RIYADH: Telecom provider Virgin Mobile has signed an agreement with the Saudi Investment Bank (SAIB) to become the first entity in the Kingdom to obtain a banking agent’s license.

The strategic partnership, endorsed by the Saudi Arabian Central Bank, will enable the telecom provider’s customers to use financial services on their phones.

Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa, told Arab News the announcement of the new milestone made him proud.

“We’re now in a position where we can enable Virgin Mobile customers to take electronic funds of any sort and fundamentally allow them to do international money transmittance or remittance,” he said.

Nielsen said that the services would be made available to everyone, regardless of which banks they had accounts in or which telecom providers they used.

“Users will not need to have an account with the Saudi Investment Bank. You’re completely bank independent. Any customer from any bank, or for that matter, any mobile operator, can use our app and perform mobile transfers. But existing customers of Virgin Mobile will get exclusive benefits for their transfers,” he said.

Phase one, which the company aims to kickstart in February, will allow customers to use the application to link their bank accounts and cards to their phone, allowing them to carry out international transfers.

“Effectively, if you have money on an ATM card or bank account, you can transfer it to the Virgin Mobile banking application, and then straight from your mobile phone you can do international money remittance,” he said.

Phase two will be to enable domestic usage, allowing users to pay for items in stores, restaurants and cafes using only their phones.

However, that option has been available to Saudis for a while, with options such as Apple Pay, which was made available to Saudis in early 2019, and mada Pay, launched in mid-2019. Saudis have been able to pay bills and transfer funds to sellers electronically using SAMA’s Sadad payment system since 2004.

However, Nielsen believes that Virgin’s reputation and loyal userbase will create a strong enough incentive for users to opt in for the new application, once all the services are made available.

“As part of the Virgin Mobile brand, and our company ethos, we are very customer-focused. That goes for everything we do; we always try to remove pinch points for customers. Over the past three years, quarter by quarter, we have been the company with the least complaints in Saudi Arabia as per CITC (The Communications and Information Technology Commission) regulations. In that sense we are the best-performing mobile operator in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Nielsen says that with that ethos behind them, coupled with very strong digital capabilities and an abundance of research analysis, Virgin can expect to see plenty of customers come onboard with the new services.

“We do have experience from other countries. For example, in Oman, customers can buy life insurance products on the back of their subscription. For us, what we’re doing in Saudi Arabia is a natural expansion step, and we expect to continue to develop and evolve and hopefully provide even more exciting products to the Saudi Arabian market.”

Since launching in 2014, Virgin Mobile has netted more than 2.5 million customers in Saudi Arabia, and has become one of the top ten Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in both the Kingdom and in Oman, out of more than a thousand in the world.

“We have a 6-7 percent market share both in Saudi and Oman, so we’re very proud of the performance that we have. It’s a testament to what it means to be an MVNO. We’re very focused on the segments we serve, and we provide offers and services built around their needs, and that’s how we succeed,” said Nielsen.

The Virgin Mobile announcement came after the news last week that digital payment transactions in the Kingdom jumped by 75 percent in 2020 as Saudi consumers embraced online shopping during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, while cash withdrawals from ATMs and other payment points fell 30 percent over the same period.

Speaking to Arab News, Talat Zaki Hafiz, economist and secretary-general of the media and banking awareness committee for Saudi banks, said non-cash transactions are expected to make up to 70 percent of all transactions by 2030.


Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions increase by 1.2% in October 

Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions increase by 1.2% in October 
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions increase by 1.2% in October 

Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions increase by 1.2% in October 

RIYADH: The value of point-of-sale transactions in Saudi Arabia reached SR40.5 billion ($10.8 billion) in October, up by 1.2 percent compared to the previous month, the Saudi Central Bank reported.

Some of the sectors that helped drive the increase were restaurants and cafes, hotels, food and beverages, clothing and footwear. 

For example, sales in restaurants and cafes reached their highest level since at least January 2016.

The number of transactions rose markedly to over 495 million in October from the previous month’s 469 million transactions.

Some of the point-of-sale transactions could be conducted using mobile phones and cards, otherwise referred to as near-field communication technology.

The number of mobile phone transactions continued its expansionary trend, recording a monthly increase of 1.9 percent to hit 179 million transactions in October. Meanwhile, the number of transactions using cards was up by 8 percent to stand at 293 million transactions.

The value of transactions using mobile phones witnessed a 2.5 percent drop to SR11.5 billion in October while those performed using cards recorded an increase of 3.2 percent with the value reaching SR25.7 billion.


Saudi Tadawul Group sets IPO offer price at SR105 per share

Saudi Tadawul Group sets IPO offer price at SR105 per share
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi Tadawul Group sets IPO offer price at SR105 per share

Saudi Tadawul Group sets IPO offer price at SR105 per share

RIYADH: Saudi Tadawul Group Holding Co. on Sunday set the final offer price for its initial public offering at the top of the range i.e. SR105 per share. 

The market capitalization of the exchange stands at SR 12.6 billion as on the listing date, a statement issued by Tadawul said. 

The IPO order book was 121 times oversubscribed with the book-building process generating an order book of SR458 billion. 

The individual investor subscription period is scheduled to commence on Nov. 30 and ends on Dec. 2. 


Jordan’s draft 2022 budget forecasts $15 billion in state spending

Jordan’s draft 2022 budget forecasts $15 billion in state spending
Updated 28 November 2021

Jordan’s draft 2022 budget forecasts $15 billion in state spending

Jordan’s draft 2022 budget forecasts $15 billion in state spending
  • The government foresaw total revenues next year at 8.9 billion dinars, with 848 million in foreign grants
  • It has raised capital spending to 1.5 billion dinars, a 43 percent rise from the previous year

AMMAN: Jordan’s Finance Minister Mohamad Al-Ississ said on Sunday that the draft 2022 budget forecasts 10.6 billion dinars ($15 billion) in state expenditure and paves the way for a rebound in growth to 2.7 percent after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Al-Ississ told a media briefing that Jordan had also last week successfully concluded the third review of a four-year program of International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed reforms to help it restore fiscal prudence for a sustained recovery.
Al-Ississ said that the government had increased its local revenues last year without raising taxes through a rare campaign to combat tax evasion and by a major restructuring of the tax and customs administration that ended exemptions.
It foresaw total revenues next year at 8.9 billion dinars, with 848 million in foreign grants.
Jordan’s economy was particularly hard hit last year by the shutdowns aimed at containing the virus, with unemployment at a record 24 percent amid the worst contraction in decades.
Inflation was, however, expected to rise to 2.5 percent next year from a projected 1.6 percent this year, Al-Ississ said.
Most state expenditure goes on salaries and pensions in a country which has among the highest government spending relative to the size of its $45 billion economy.
The government has raised capital spending to 1.5 billion dinars, a 43 percent rise from the previous year to help spur growth and improve infrastructure to help attract more investment, the finance minister said
Jordan’s commitment to IMF reforms and investor confidence in the country’s improved outlook helped it to maintain stable sovereign ratings at a time when other emerging markets were being downgraded, Al-Ississ said.
Al-Ississ said debt servicing on 29.4 billion dinars of public debt would drop next year with a push to expand preferential loans and grants away from more expensive commercial lending.


Saudi Arabia registers the new Bahri-owned oil tanker Rayah

Saudi Public Transport Authority raises the Kingdom’s flag on the new Rayah marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province. (SPA)
Saudi Public Transport Authority raises the Kingdom’s flag on the new Rayah marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi Arabia registers the new Bahri-owned oil tanker Rayah

Saudi Public Transport Authority raises the Kingdom’s flag on the new Rayah marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province. (SPA)
  • The Rayah raises the total number of oil tankers owned by Bahri to 57
  • The tanker is made by Hyundai with a tonnage of 110,706 metric tons

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s transport authority raised the Kingdom’s flag on a new marine tanker in Dammam in the Eastern Province.
The Rayah tanker, which has been registered under the Saudi flag, is one of the national carriers owned and operated by Bahri, the Saudi National Shipping Company.
It raises the total number of national ships carrying the Saudi flag to 408 ships to date, with a tonnage exceeding 100 tons, increasing the carrying capacity of the Saudi merchant marine fleet.
The Kingdom’s fleet is experiencing rapid growth, and the addition of the new tanker is an important step in supporting business growth through developing marine capabilities and expanding shipping lanes in energy supplies to global markets.

The Rayah, made by Hyundai with a tonnage of 110,706 metric tons, raises the total number of oil tankers owned by Bahri to 57, and was registered by the regulatory and legislative authority for the Kingdom’s maritime transport sector.
Saudi Arabia’s marine fleet was ranked first regionally and 21st globally in terms of tonnage, according to the annual report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development last year.
“The Public Transport Authority will continue its endeavors and exert more efforts to enhance the logistics sector and national transport, especially maritime, and contribute to consolidating the Kingdom’s leading position on the map of shipping and global marine supply chains,” the body said in a statement.


OPEC+ delays technical meetings to review market conditions

OPEC+ delays technical meetings to review market conditions
Updated 28 November 2021

OPEC+ delays technical meetings to review market conditions

OPEC+ delays technical meetings to review market conditions

RIYADH: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a grouping known as OPEC+, is moving two technical meetings to later this week after oil’s rout last Friday, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

The move seeks to allow its committees more time to evaluate the impact of a new strain of the coronavirus.

A joint technical committee meeting will now be held on Wednesday, instead of the planned date Monday, according to delegates from some member countries. 

The joint ministerial monitoring committee, which comprises representatives of the broader group, will meet on Thursday instead of on Tuesday.

The OPEC and broader OPEC+ meetings will go ahead as planned on Wednesday and Thursday with ministers set to decide on whether to go ahead with planned output increases.

The delay will allow time for the group to analyze the market after a more than 10 percent drop in prices on Friday after the emergence of new coronavirus variant spooked traders. 

OPEC will also weigh the potential impact of a planned release of strategic petroleum reserves by the US and other oil consuming nations.