Consumer loans: Spending on tourism, education up, healthcare down in Saudi Arabia

Increased spending on domestic tourism contributed to the upward trend. (AFP)
Increased spending on domestic tourism contributed to the upward trend. (AFP)
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Updated 04 February 2021

Consumer loans: Spending on tourism, education up, healthcare down in Saudi Arabia

Consumer loans: Spending on tourism, education up, healthcare down in Saudi Arabia
  • The number of consumer and credit card loans was up 9 percent overall
  • loans and credit spending related to healthcare were down 2 percent, despite the pandemic.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian residents used consumer loans and credit to spend more on travel and education, but less on healthcare, transport and home improvements, according to the latest data from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

Statistics released at the end of January show a 26 percent rise in loans for travel and tourism, despite restrictions due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Talat Zaki Hafiz, an economist and Saudi Financial Association board member, told Arab News that increased spending on domestic tourism contributed to the upward trend.

Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Riyadh-based financial services company Al Rajhi Capital, agreed, saying that the 2020 surge was due to a refocus on domestic travel.

“Higher spending on travel was mainly due to domestic tourism, which was strong, especially during last quarter of 2020. When people travel internationally, most likely they will use a multi-currency card (prepaid card) or cash to convert into international currency, and that’s the reason international tourism might not have a direct correlation with credit card spending,” he said.

Loans used for spending on education were also up 29 percent year-on-year, which Hafiz said was also due to the pandemic.

“Spending on education has shown an increase in 2020 due to the consumer focus on buying educational-related materials and hardware equipment, such as laptops, to fulfil distance learning needs and online class requirements due to COVID-19,” he said.

Surprisingly, loans and credit spending related to healthcare were down 2 percent, despite the pandemic.

Hafiz said the slight reduction in spending was “because individuals were busy focusing on COVID-19 and complying with health precaution measures, and also maybe some were deferring unnecessary medical treatment until the pandemic is brought under control.”

Al-Sudairi said the low spend on healthcare was also due to the cost being borne mainly by the government, not the individual.

Spending on home improvements and transport was also down 7 percent year-on-year following restrictions on movement during lockdown and a lack of opportunities to spend, experts believed.

The number of consumer and credit card loans was up 9 percent overall.

Al-Sudairi said the increase in value added tax (VAT) from 5 percent to 15 percent may have also had an impact, forcing consumers to use credit facilities to cover expenses.

“The trebling of VAT, which reduced consumer purchasing power, could have also induced people to take more consumer and product-related loans or spend through their credit cards. We have seen this trend in some of the consumer finance companies we cover,” he said.
 


Many global stocks lower after Wall St. decline

Many global stocks lower after Wall St. decline
Updated 21 April 2021

Many global stocks lower after Wall St. decline

Many global stocks lower after Wall St. decline
  • London and Frankfurt opened lower, while Shanghai and Tokyo also declined

BEIJING: Major global stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday after Wall Street retreated from record highs.

London and Frankfurt opened lower, while Shanghai and Tokyo also declined. Hong Kong and Seoul advanced.

Wall Street futures gained a day after the benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.5 percent on declines for tech, bank and energy stocks.

Investor optimism has been boosted by higher corporate profits, US hiring and consumer confidence. Still, traders are uneasy about a rise in inflation and interest rates and renewed coronavirus infections that prompted some governments to reimpose anti-disease controls.

“Wall Street could be in for a few choppy trading weeks as more of the same strong earnings beats becomes the theme,” said Edward Moya of Oanda in a report.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London declined 0.3 percent to 6,982.77 and the DAX in Frankfurt lost 0.2 percent to 15,335.68. The CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.6 percent to 6,256.90. On Wall Street, futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up less than 0.1 percent.

On Monday, the Dow lost 0.4 percent. Both the S&P 500 and the Dow hit highs on Friday.

Capital One lost 0.9 percent and Valero Energy slid 2.3 percent.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite slid 1 percent. Chipmaker Intel fell 1.7 percent.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1 percent to 3,472.94 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo tumbled 2 percent to 29,100.38. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.1 percent to 29,135.73.

The Kospi in Seoul rose 0.7 percent to 3,220.70 while the S&P-ASX 200 in Sydney sank 0.7 percent to 7,017.80.

India’s Sensex was up less than 0.1 percent at 47,978.05. New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta declined while Bangkok advanced.

This week, 81 of the 500 members of the S&P 500 index are due to report earnings, as are 10 of the 30 members of the Dow, including Johnson & Johnson, Verizon Communications and Intel. On average, analysts expect quarterly profits across the S&P 500 to be up 24 percent from a year earlier, according to FactSet. In energy markets, benchmark US crude rose 82 cents to $64.25 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 90 cents to $67.95 per barrel in London.

The dollar advanced to 108.40 yen from Monday’s 108.11 yen. The euro gained to $1.2070 from $1.2039.


Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA

Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA
Updated 21 April 2021

Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA

Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA
  • Consultants have seen a 50 percent rise in activity in the first quarter of 2021

RIYADH: Sovereign AEI, a firm which specializes in helping companies set up operations in the Kingdom, has seen a spike in business activity.

“The beginning of this year has been very encouraging as we have seen a 40 to 50 percent increase in Saudi Arabia market-entry activity, when compared to pre-pandemic levels,” Stuart D’Souza, co-founder and CEO of Arabian Enterprise Incubators (AEI), one of the partner firms that makes up Sovereign AEI, told Arab News.

As part of the ambitious Riyadh Strategy 2030 announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year, the government wants to attract up to 500 international companies to set up their regional bases in the city, create around 35,000 new jobs for Saudi locals, and double the capital’s population.

The strategy aims to invest up to SR70 billion ($18.67 billion) into the national economy by the end of the decade. The strategy is already paying dividends.

“Sovereign AEI is helping to facilitate this new strategy. Our products and services are conducive with Riyadh Strategy 2030 by helping new and existing businesses capitalize on the expected significant growth forecast for the Kingdom,” Paul Arnold, managing director of Sovereign Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

BACKGROUND

• The government wants to attract up to 500 international companies to set up their regional bases in the city, create around 35,000 new jobs for Saudi locals, and double the capital’s population.

• The strategy aims to invest up to SR70 billion ($18.67 billion) into the national economy by the end of the decade. The strategy is already paying dividends.

“We are also encouraging businesses to look ahead and establish a physical presence in the Kingdom, while taking into consideration new criteria set to come into force by 2024, the specifics of which are yet to be formally announced,” he added.

Sovereign has been operating in Saudi Arabia for about 20 years and AEI since 2012. They formed their joint partnership in 2019.

In 2019, the company helped 600 businesses visit Saudi Arabia to investigate potential opportunities. Half were first-time visitors and over 70 percent went on to establish new business links in the Kingdom. AEI alone has helped over 1,500 foreign businesses to enter, establish or expand in Saudi Arabia since 2012.

Last year, despite the restrictions as a result of the pandemic, Sovereign AEI reported a 300 percent increase in corporate services in Saudi Arabia. The team is expecting this positive growth to continue in 2021.

“The Saudi market presents tremendous opportunities. Most companies are now aware of the potential of the market, the main pillars of Vision 2030 and the significant number of economic reforms carried out over the past 18 months. However, plotting a road map to success can be a challenge,” Arnold said.

“Our principles are to educate, de-risk and enable the client’s ability to enter, establish or expand in the Kingdom. Our robust performance in the first quarter is a testament to the attractive nature of the Saudi market and we continue to see a growing interest and increasing shift of client focus toward the Kingdom, as the country continues to unveil new strategic initiatives,” he added.


New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’

New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’
Updated 21 April 2021

New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’

New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’
  • Anniversary of US crude plunging to minus-$40 at start of pandemic recession

DUBAI: Oil prices resumed their surge on global markets on Tuesday as traders shrugged off the memory of “Black Monday” 2020, when some crude prices went into negative territory at the start of the pandemic recession.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, went above $68 a barrel for the first time in over a year, while West Texas Intermediate, which approached minus-$40 at the depth of the oil crisis exactly a year ago, leapt above $64.
The resurgence in the oil price — which has seen some experts suggesting the possibility of a “supercycle” in which crude goes back above $100 a barrel — is partly down to improved prospects as the global economy moves outs of pandemic lockdowns.
The global rollout of coronavirus vaccines has led economic experts to predict a sharp recovery in growth in 2021, with the International Monetary Fund recently forecasting a sharp rise in economic activity for the rest of the year. China last week said its economy had grown by 18.3 percent in the first quarter of the year.
But oil analysts believe the actions of OPEC+ — the producers’ alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia —had been the biggest factor in helping reduce the huge glut of oil that threatened to swamp the world market last spring.
Since last April, OPEC+ has taken more than 3 billion barrels of oil off the global market, through a combination of strong internal discipline and voluntary cuts by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter.
Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, the Saudi Energy Minister and co-chairman of OPEC+, has repeatedly urged caution on the 23-member organization as COVID-19 cases re-emerge in some parts of the world. Europe and India are the latest causes of concern.
“The reality remains that the global picture is far from even, and the recovery is far from complete,” he told the last OPEC+ meeting.
The oil price bulls are encouraged by increasing demand from China, the biggest oil consumer in the world.
Figures from the country’s customs regulator, released on Tuesday, showed that crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia — its biggest supplier — had risen by nearly 9 percent in March, with strong domestic demand bolstered by a freeing up of supplies after port congestions.
Some analysts still believe Brent crude could hit $75 this year, and reckon $100 a barrel next year is a possibility.
But nobody appears to believe the volatile market conditions of last spring, and negative oil prices, will happen again.
Robin Mills, chief executive officer of consultancy Qamar Energy, told Arab News: “That was a pretty unusual set of circumstances.”
He added: “Never say never, and traders have short memories, but I think the fixes in place would make it unlikely to go negative again.”


Egypt targets investments of $80 billion

Egypt targets investments of $80 billion
Updated 21 April 2021

Egypt targets investments of $80 billion

Egypt targets investments of $80 billion
  • Plan forecasts 125 percent increase in funding for production sector

CAIRO: Egypt is aiming to raise EGP 1.25 trillion ($80 billion) as part of its investment plan for the fiscal year 2021/2022, according to the Egyptian Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Saeed.

The investment plan forecasts a 125 percent increase in funding for the production sector, the minister said, along with a 30 percent increase for the country’s service sector.

Al-Saeed said the plan helps address the public spending commitments related to health and education and scientific research, as well funding for the continued efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said priority would be given to high-productivity sectors that drive sustainable economic growth in Egypt such as the manufacturing, communications, information technology and agriculture sectors.

According to the minister, the most important goals of the 2021/2022 sustainable development plan include addressing important social issues such as gender equality and public investments into green projects.


Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
Updated 20 April 2021

Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
  • The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations

RIYADH: South Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook has invited Saudi Arabia to attend the Global Infrastructure Cooperation Conference (GICC2021).

The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations.

The ambassador met Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr, undersecretary at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing for housing subsidies, and general supervisor of the International Cooperation Department at the ministry in Riyadh.

GICC2021 is scheduled for “later this year,” the ambassador told Arab News, adding that the meeting “reviewed the close, friendly and cooperative relations” between the two countries, and “agreed to continue to expand bilateral cooperation in the housing sector.”

He said: “I commended the Saudi government’s efforts to help Saudi families own their house through the Sakani program, taking note of the signing of four agreements during the Sakani Forum held last Thursday in Riyadh.”

The Sakani program helped 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing its target of serving 51,000 families.

It was formed in 2017 by the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund, with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom by creating new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70 percent home ownership by 2030.

The program aims to serve 220,000 Saudi families this year by creating 50,000 housing units, facilitating the reservation of 30,000 residential land plots, and arranging 140,000 real estate loans. To date, Sakani has enabled more than 350,000 families to own homes.