American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties
U.S. flags fly with the U.S. Capitol in the distance on January 10, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 January 2021

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties
  • New US leader may adopt more pragmatic approach, but trade relations will remain strong

JEDDAH: While some analysts are predicting a change in Saudi-US relations following Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, the new chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said he believes the change in the White House will not have any significant impact on relations between the two allies.

“The US has been a partner of Saudi Arabia since the 1940s and I think that goes very deep. We think that the Biden administration and presidential election victory will usher in new foreign policy changes. That’s a given when there’s any change in administration and especially in party,” Tarik Solomon, chairman of AmChamKSA, told Arab News.

AmCham recently launched its first chamber in Saudi Arabia. It is part of the United States Chamber of Commerce umbrella that has hundreds of branches around the world. In the region, there are already branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as in Egypt and Lebanon.

The US and Saudi Arabia enjoy a robust economic relationship. According to the US Department of State, the US is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner, while Saudi Arabia is one of the US’ largest trading partners in the Middle East and its third-leading source of imported oil.

Solomon said he expects a different communication style when it comes to the US-Saudi relationship going forward. “We will likely see a return to standard official communication procedures under Biden, rather than the decree by tweet policy of Trump,” he said.

However, the US-Saudi relationship is longstanding and is characterized by its pragmatism, Solomon said.

“Biden may request some concessions and will probably put stronger conditions on support. However, when you look at trade and investment, we’re committed to working tirelessly to elevate this relationship,” he added.

According to Solomon, AmCham’s aim is to strive for increased cooperation between the two countries in terms of trade and investment, to diversify the Saudi economy away from a dependence on hydrocarbons and to help raise the Kingdom’s profile in the US.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia was the US’ 27th-largest goods and service market, with a total value of $39 billion, focusing on military, energy, aluminum, fertilizers and petrochemicals.

“Those are extremely high figures when you look at, for example, military vehicles — that’s $2 billion on its own,” said Solomon. “There’s a lot of trade going on between the KSA and US and there’s a lot of room for growth.”

However, the chairman hopes to push more US companies into new sectors that have high potential and are pillars of the Saudi government’s Visions 2030 goals. Of the promising investment sectors in the Kingdom, Solomon highlighted manufacturing, tourism, entertainment, sports and technology.

“What we are looking at right now is the manufacturing sector. This is where work towards localizing renewable energy and industrial equipment is growing. We’re looking at sports, tourism and leisure,” said Solomon.

In addition to manufacturing, the technology sector is another promising industry with high potential, but Solomon said that there is a slight lag in US investment in technology and the digital economy, which he wants to push forward while it remains a greenfield space in the country, especially as the government increases investment in the sector.

Solomon highlighted the significance of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US under the Trump Administration. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed a significant amount of memorandums of understanding between the Saudi Arabian government and US entities, and some of those included Aramco and SABIC. We see this as an opening to new opportunities for US investment in a market that was traditionally heavily protected.”

Solomon believes that strategic dialogue in the trade and investment field will be the key to success and enhancing investment opportunities between the two countries.

“We need to remember what kind of a friend Saudi Arabia is and that they’ve always been there for us. We’ve always had a strong relationship,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has choices. Our goal is to be its first choice as a trusted partner.”

Saudi Arabia dominates MENA IPO market in 2020

Saudi Arabia dominates MENA IPO market in 2020
Updated 18 min 54 sec ago

Saudi Arabia dominates MENA IPO market in 2020

Saudi Arabia dominates MENA IPO market in 2020
  • Kingdom had four listings totaling $1.45 billion, accounting for 78% of IPO issuances last year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia continued to lead the initial public offering (IPO) market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), representing 78 percent of MENA IPO issuances last year, according to the latest industry figures.

According to consultancy firm EY’s MENA IPO Eye Q4 2020 report, “Saudi Arabia continued to have the most active IPO market in the MENA region in terms of both issuances and proceeds. Tadawul was MENA’s top listing venue for the year with four listings totaling $1.45 billion, which represented 78 percent of the total amount raised by MENA IPO candidates in 2020.”

The fourth quarter of 2020 was the strongest for IPOs based on proceeds, primarily due to the listing of BinDawood Holding ($584 million), which was the second-largest listing of the year after Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Services Group Company ($701 million), which listed in the first quarter of 2020. Both listings were on Tadawul’s main market.

Saudi Arabia also saw several new initiatives that have an important bearing on future IPO activity in the country, including the introduction of direct listings on the Nomu parallel market, as well as the launch of their derivatives market.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, additional updates related to disclosures becoming mandatory in both English and Arabic, as well as increases in daily price fluctuation limits for new listings on the main market were announced.

Commenting on the findings, Abdulrahman Moulay Al-Bizioui, KSA country leader at EY, said: “The capital markets in Saudi Arabia have shown their resilience during 2020, both in terms of liquidity and regulations. The outlook for the Kingdom’s markets remains positive for 2021 and as Tadawul continues its growth and status in the international capital markets, it proves to be an important avenue for investors looking to deploy domestic capital and foreign direct investments.”

The Kingdom is expected to see more than ten listings in 2021. In addition, Tadawul, which is the region’s largest exchange, is preparing for its own IPO, which is expected to be finalized in 2022. This would make it the third publicly listed stock exchange in the region after the Dubai Financial Market and Boursa Kuwait.

Gregory Hughes, EY MENA IPO and transaction diligence leader, commented: “Although MENA IPO activity remained relatively quiet in 2020, several regulators across the region announced positive regulatory changes during the year that bode well for future and existing public companies. As we start 2021, there are reasons for renewed optimism, and we see a strong IPO pipeline in key MENA markets. We have also seen some interest in mergers with US-listed special-purpose acquisition companies in recent months following some limited activity in this area in the last two years from the region.”

According to the EY report, the MENA region saw nine IPOs raise proceeds of $1.86 billion, a fall of 40 percent in total issuances and 94 percent in total proceeds when compared with 2019. Out of the nine issuances, six were in the real estate sector, of which two were real estate investment trusts, with the remaining in the health care, consumer staples and insurance sectors.

Despite a subdued annual picture, in the fourth quarter of 2020, four MENA IPOs raised $925 million in total, compared to one in the first quarter and none in the second. There were four IPOs in the first quarter of 2020, raising $814 million.

Looking to the future, Matthew Benson, EY MENA strategy and transactions leader, said: “As 2021 begins, we believe that continued fiscal stimulus measures, an abundance of liquidity and growing confidence in COVID-19 vaccination programs will sustain positive IPO momentum.”

Globally, IPO numbers continued to pick up with 1,363 listings in 2020, a 19 percent rise compared with 2019. Additionally, proceeds increased 29 percent year-on-year to $268 billion, the highest proceeds since 2010’s record of $290.2 billion raised by 1,361 IPOs.

Abu Dhabi fund, CVC said to be among suitors for $1bn NMC hospital business

Abu Dhabi fund, CVC said to be among suitors for $1bn NMC hospital business
Updated 14 min 59 sec ago

Abu Dhabi fund, CVC said to be among suitors for $1bn NMC hospital business

Abu Dhabi fund, CVC said to be among suitors for $1bn NMC hospital business
  • NMC hires advisers for possible sale
  • Pandemic boost to private hospital revenues

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi state-owned holding company ADQ and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners are among the suitors that have shown interest in NMC Health’s core hospital business, sources told Reuters.
Hospital operators in the region have reported higher profits for last year as the COVID-19 pandemic led to higher in-patient occupancy.
NMC has hired advisers for the sale of NMC’s health care business in the UAE and Oman, which sources said could generate around $1 billion.
ADQ is serious about the transaction, which would make sense for the nascent wealth fund, whose portfolio includes Abu Dhabi Health Services Co. (Seha), two sources said. They declined to be named as the matter is not public.
Saudi Arabian health care operator Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Group (HMG) has been invited to the process, said one of the two sources and a third source.
Hospital chain operator Mediclinic is also in the running, one of the sources said.
An NMC spokesman said: “A process to explore the possibilities of a sale was launched last month and, while it is understandably attracting considerable interest, it is at an early stage.”
ADQ and HMG were unavailable to comment when contacted by Reuters. CVC declined to comment. Mediclinic said it cannot comment on market speculation.
The deal is active and investor talks with management have started, but the candidates have yet to submit non-binding bids and there is no guarantee it will lead to a sale, the sources said.
NMC, founded in the 1970s, became the largest private health care provider in the UAE, but ran into trouble.
Last year, the disclosure of more than $4 billion in hidden debt left some UAE and overseas lenders with heavy losses that prompted legal battles to try to recover money owed.
But NMC said in February that gross revenues from its UAE and Oman business was $1.12 billion, 11 percent ahead of the business plan, while EBITDA of $87.6 million was also significantly ahead of its plan.
Banking sources said the transaction was a price discovery exercise to determine whether NMC’s business can get the value its creditors seek, or whether the business should keep the assets, complete the restructuring, and sell when they can achieve the value they want.

Anghami to be first Arabic tech firm to list on Nasdaq New York

Anghami to be first Arabic tech firm to list on Nasdaq New York
Updated 51 min 8 sec ago

Anghami to be first Arabic tech firm to list on Nasdaq New York

Anghami to be first Arabic tech firm to list on Nasdaq New York
  • UAE-headquartered music streaming service plans to rival Spotify, Deezer with US IPO

DUBAI: Arabic music streaming service Anghami is set to become the first technology company from the region to list on New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange as part of a merger deal valuing the platform at up to $230 million.

Anghami – my tunes, in Arabic – is set to merge with Vistas Media Acquisition Co. Inc., a publicly traded special-purpose acquisition company. Often referred to as “blank check companies” in the industry, the merger is seen as a quicker and cheaper route to a Nasdaq listing.

The listing is expected to close at the end of May, early June and Vistas Media Acquisition Co. Inc. has already gathered $40 million in advance commitments, with $10 million from parent company, Singapore’s Vista Media Capital, and $30 million from the UAE asset management firm SHUAA Capital.

Eddy Maroun, co-founder and CEO of Anghami, told Arab News the transaction was likely to value the company at between $220 million and $230 million.

Founded in 2012 by Maroun and fellow Lebanese entrepreneur Elie Habib, Anghami is the first music-streaming platform in the Middle East and rivals global brands such as Spotify and Deezer.

With more than 57 million Arabic and international songs and around 70 million registered users, it generates approximately 10 billion streams a year.

Maroun said: “Elie and I co-founded the company in 2012 with a vision for Anghami to be a first of its kind, digital media entertainment technology platform in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

“Today, we have taken a significant step forward in our growth plans in seeking to become the region’s first Arab technology company to list on Nasdaq. Being a US-listed public company gives us access to growth capital and a global platform that is the best in the world.”

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi since early 2021, following a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, it also has offices in Beirut, Dubai, Cairo, and Riyadh. The duo of founders currently own 32 percent of the company, with the remaining 68 percent backed by regional venture capital funds and major media and telecommunications companies.

According to Anghami, its revenue has grown 80 percent over the last three years and is forecast to increase five-fold over the next three years.

Rabih Khoury, managing partner of Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), said: “As the largest institutional investor in Anghami, we at MEVP are delighted that one more of our top portfolio companies will list on Nasdaq, the leading global market for technology.

“We have partnered with Eddy and Elie from the outset in 2012 and continuously supported Anghami starting with its seed round and all its subsequent funding rounds.”

Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC, said his company was “honored” to be a part of Anghami’s success and how it was “revolutionizing the Arabic music industry through innovation.”

Maroun revealed that he planned to use the new funding to tap into more of the 450 million Arabic-speaking population and to expand into new markets outside the Middle East.

“In our region we believe that there is a lot of untapped potential still in the Middle East and North Africa, meeting Gulf and Levant or in North Africa. And we also have a direction to go bigger with the Arab diaspora, which is a huge addressable market.

“We never spent any marketing dollars on diaspora, although there’s big potential there. And we believe that we have the capabilities to grow into other emerging markets given the learnings we had in our region,” he added.

UAE’s ADNOC to remove all destination restrictions for all its crudes

UAE’s ADNOC to remove all destination restrictions for all its crudes
Updated 47 min 55 sec ago

UAE’s ADNOC to remove all destination restrictions for all its crudes

UAE’s ADNOC to remove all destination restrictions for all its crudes
  • Intercontinental Exchange Inc will launch ICE Futures Abu Dhabi (IFAD) and trade in Murban futures contracts this month

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) will remove all destination restrictions for all its crudes, and has signed deals to explore use of Murban futures with Chinese end users, a senior ADNOC executive said on Wednesday.
Intercontinental Exchange Inc will launch ICE Futures Abu Dhabi (IFAD) and trade in Murban futures contracts this month.

The oil company said that it expects Murban crude to contribute about half of its 5 million barrels per day  (bpd) production capacity by 2030.

Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries may bring forward IPO as it pours $1.4bn into fab expansion

Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries may bring forward IPO as it pours $1.4bn into fab expansion
Updated 03 March 2021

Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries may bring forward IPO as it pours $1.4bn into fab expansion

Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries may bring forward IPO as it pours $1.4bn into fab expansion
  • Global semiconductor shortage boosts demand for chips
  • Shortage has hit automaker output worldwide
WASHINGTON: Abu Dhabi’s GlobalFoundries will invest $1.4 billion this year to raise output at three factories in the United States, Singapore and Germany, as a global shortage of semiconductors has boosted demand for chips, its chief executive said.
The US-based company, a unit of Abu Dhabi’s state-owned fund Mubadala, may also bring forward its initial public offering to late 2021 or the first half of next year, from a previous target of late 2022 or early 2023.
It is aiming for revenue growth of 9 percent to 10 percent from just over $5.7 billion last year.
Automakers and electronics producers are facing a global shortage of chips which has fueled manufacturing delays.
“The adoption of technology that would normally have taken a decade happened in one year in 2020 because of COVID-19,” GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield told Reuters.
Before the pandemic, the chip industry was projected to grow 5 percent over a five-year horizon and now it has accelerated to grow at twice that rate, he said.
While the supply crunch has resulted in car makers such as Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors cutting output, an increase in supply would create further demand.
GlobalFoundries said the $1.4 billion, which will be divided evenly among its fabs in Dresden, Germany, Malta, New York and Singapore, will begin to ramp up output through 2022 to produce chips from 12 to 90 nanometers.
About a third of the investment will come from clients seeking to lock in supply over several years, Caulfield said, forecasting a 20% rise in production next year following an expected 13 percent increase in 2021.
If demand continues to rise GlobalFoundries could build a new plant adjacent to its Malta, New York, plant after securing a purchase option agreement for about 66 acres of undeveloped land last year.
But a decision to break ground there would hinge on the US Congress funding a set of measures to incentivise chip manufacturing in the US known as the Chips Act, which was approved last year.
“It’s not a question of ‘if,’ it’s just a question of ‘when,’... And a key element of going forward will be the funding of the Chips Act,” Caulfield said.
US President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has pledged to support the effort, and senators are looking at providing emergency funding for the law as part of a bigger package to counter China’s rise, as chipmaking has shifted to Asia.
GlobalFoundries is the world’s third-largest foundry by revenue behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and Samsung Electronics but ranks second when factoring out the part of Samsung’s foundry business that makes chips for other elements of the South Korean firm.