Saudization not to be forced on companies that move their HQs to the Kingdom: Investment Minister

Saudization not to be forced on companies that move their HQs to the Kingdom: Investment Minister
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Updated 08 March 2021

Saudization not to be forced on companies that move their HQs to the Kingdom: Investment Minister

Saudization not to be forced on companies that move their HQs to the Kingdom: Investment Minister
  • Hundreds of opportunities to be on Invest Saudi online portal for investors to evaluate, Khalid Al-Falih said during appearance on Frankly Speaking
  • Spelling out details of new regulations for investors, he said a superficial nameplate saying 'this is the regional headquarters’ will not fly

DUBAI: Companies that choose to set up or relocate their headquarters in Saudi Arabia will not have Saudization forced on them, the Kingdom’s investment minister has told Arab News in the latest episode of Frankly Speaking, referring to the policy that requires companies to hire Saudi nationals on a quota basis.

Investment “is the name of the game,” Khalid Al-Falih said, adding that hundreds of opportunities will be on the Invest Saudi online portal “ready for investors to evaluate and take it to the next level of execution.”

Hand in hand with the investment drive, he said, the Kingdom is creating the environment for high-quality international experts to choose Saudi Arabia to be their home where they can even retire, and not only to be their workplace.

Al-Falih’s comments follow last week’s decision by Saudi Arabia to set certain rules for companies seeking to take advantage of the $3 trillion investment opportunities identified for international investors under the Vision 2030 strategy. This is the first his ministry has spelled out details of the new regulations, which are still being fine-tuned.

Al-Falih, who played an eminent role in the vital energy sector in Saudi Arabia before moving to the investment ministry last year, was appearing on Frankly Speaking, a recorded show where prominent Middle East policymakers and business leaders are questioned on their views about the most important issues of the day.

There has been speculation some companies might try to satisfy the new regulations by setting up a “nameplate” operation in Riyadh, while maintaining the real business hub elsewhere in the Middle East. But-Al Falih made it clear that multinationals wishing to bid for government contracts would have to show a serious corporate commitment to the Kingdom.

 

He said they will have to have a “major headquarters,” preferably in Riyadh, if they want to do business with the government.

“We would want to see the companies having a major headquarters office with executive staff; their C-suite being here; operations in other countries reporting to it; and support functions, whether it's training, product development, consolidation of regional operations, all taking place within their regional headquarters. So, a superficial nameplate saying 'this is the regional headquarters’ will not fly,” Al-Falih said.

Riyadh, which is the subject of ambitious plans to double its population over the next decade to become one of the top 10 urban economies in the world, is Al-Falih’s preferred location as these companies’ headquarters.

“Riyadh will be the predominant. If you look at other countries where regional headquarters have evolved over decades, we saw a trend within every country that there will be one business capital for that country, where the companies coalesce together, and the networking and the support services takes place,” he explained.

“We think it's useful for the companies to do that here in Saudi Arabia, rather than have them spread and then try to pull them together. We're encouraging Riyadh to be that city, by creating a special economic zone that will offer incentives.

“The message is that for those contracts that the Kingdom chooses to give through its procurement policy, we want to do it with companies who have their entire integrated operations here in the Kingdom, from the decision-making to the strategic development, to managing the execution of those government procurement and government contracts. That’s our interest and that's our right.”

It was up to the companies to decide the definition of the region the headquarters would serve, Al-Falih said, but he outlined official Saudi thinking on the issue: “As a government leader now but previously a leader within a private-sector enterprise, I see the Middle East and Africa and part of Western Asia as an integrated global market, and we see Riyadh as the anchor capital for that broader region.”

In addition to the option of employing non-Saudi talent, other Saudi cities likes Jeddah or Dammam could qualify as regional headquarters bases if the big global companies made a strong business case, he said.

“If somebody chooses to be in a different region because that’s closer to their customers or that's where it makes business sense for them, we will work hard to give them all of the support they need,” Al-Falih said.

The plan for Riyadh, in conjunction with the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, will make the Saudi capital an attractive proposition for global executives, he believes.

 

“We're building it out and creating a competitive advantage in livability that will be unmatched. We are attracting four additional schools in the next 12 months that will be opening up in Riyadh. These are first-class international schools. Compounds are being built, arenas for recreation, and sport events are being planned and are quite advanced,” Al-Falih said.

“The airport will be expanded and Riyadh will have one of the largest regional airports with more destinations and more passengers than any competing airport. That will be difficult to replicate in three or four cities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

An influx of international executives and their families would add to the attractions of the city, and would incentivize Saudi citizens to seek employment in the private sector. “We are opening up the Kingdom, and creating the environment for expatriate staff not only to choose to work here but actually to enjoy living here, and to even retire after their employment obligations are fulfilled,” he said, adding that an existing premium residency program is being revised and upgraded just for this purpose.

“We think this mix of Saudis and expats, highly educated Saudis graduated from the best universities here in the Kingdom and around the world, will enrich these companies and make their operations more competitive to address the global markets,” Al-Falih said.

“We believe it will take place and we believe many Saudis will prosper and gain career opportunities, but (Saudization) is not going to be forced upon the companies who choose to move here.”

 

Companies that decide against a move to Riyadh would still be welcome to do business there. “Don't get me wrong — the companies who choose to have their headquarters elsewhere, I'm going to do as much marketing to them as I do to the ones who choose to be here,” Al-Falih said.

“We're still inviting those who for whatever reason choose not to have their headquarters here and the Kingdom will welcome them.”

In his view, the move to attract global companies, with the new rules due in 2024, was not too tough on multinationals. “On the contrary, I think we're extending our hand to our partners from the international community and making sure that the message is clear,” he said.

“The Kingdom has always been open for business. This is very much a market economy and a government that has always been open to the private sector.”

Al-Falih described the creation of the investment ministry by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “quite a signal.”

“Investment is the name of the game here in the Kingdom. We are preparing the opportunities,” he said. “We have hundreds of opportunities that will be on the Invest Saudi digital portal, ready for investors to evaluate and take it to the next level of execution.”

Al-Falih said that there was still some way to go to reach the target of 5.7 per cent of GDP coming from foreign investment, but that Saudi Arabia showed an increase in FDI in 2020 compared to a global reduction of 42 per cent. “The trend is in the right direction in terms of absolute levels. We realize that this is a journey,” he said.

He also recognized that there was a need for the Kingdom to market itself better to attract International investment, but that the fundamental ingredients for foreign investors were in place. “I think at the macro level, people are recognizing that the Kingdom is one of the most stable countries in the world — politically, security, safety, quality of government and quality of governance,” he said.

Al-Falih said that his experience as chairman of Saudi Aramco and as energy minister had given him international contacts and a breadth of sectoral experience that would be an advantage in the big investment drive.

“Of course, our energy sector will always be the Kingdom's leading sector. But I always say that even beyond oil, this Kingdom will be a Kingdom full of energy, exporting energy and creating a lot of energy of different sorts,” he said.

 

 

 

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Twitter: @frankkanedubai

 


Saudi delivery startup raises $2.4m to expand outside KSA

Saudi delivery startup raises $2.4m to expand outside KSA
Updated 7 min 17 sec ago

Saudi delivery startup raises $2.4m to expand outside KSA

Saudi delivery startup raises $2.4m to expand outside KSA
  • The startup uses artificial intelligence and a mobile application to partner companies

JEDDAH: WeDeliver, a parcel delivery startup headquartered in Riyadh, has secured SR9 million ($2.4 million) as part of its first pre-seed investment round, it was announced on Wednesday.

The startup uses artificial intelligence and a mobile application to partner companies that have parcels to be delivered with a network of freelance drivers close by.

The company launched its operations in the Kingdom in April last year, just weeks after the pandemic took hold. Starting first in Riyadh, it has since expanded to Jeddah and the Eastern Province.

Ahmad Ramahi, co-founder and CEO of WeDeliver, said in a press statement: “WeDeliver is a MENA startup with a global vision, driven by an experienced team. We have ambitious plans to enrich our growth in the Saudi market and look forward to expanding to new regional markets.

“We believe that our asset-light collaborative model will disrupt intra-city logistics, enabling faster, more efficient, low-cost delivery for businesses and online sellers,” he added. Nasser Al-Maawi, another cofounder of the startup, said that WeDeliver has seen “strong results” and reported “300 percent growth in the second quarter of this year.”

According to a recent industry report, Saudi startups raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars in venture capital (VC) funding during the first half of 2021.

A total of $1.228 billion was raised by startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the first six months of the year, a rise of 63 percent year on year and 12 percent more than was raised during the whole of 2020, according to figures from the MENA H1 2021 Venture Investment Report, published by Dubai-based research platform Magnitt.

According to the report, the top three countries in the MENA region for startup funding were the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, accounting for 71 percent of total investment. The UAE was the dominant market, making up 26 percent of total funding, followed by Egypt with 24 percent and Saudi Arabia with 21 percent, for a total of $257.88 million.

“It’s also important to note that within this top three ranking, Egypt was the only geography to observe a deal count increase year on year, while Saudi Arabia has almost closed the deal count gap with UAE from 44 deals in 2020 to just an 11-deal difference in H1 2021,” the report said. The food and beverage sector was the most popular among VCs in terms of dollars invested, while the fintech sector generated the most deals.

According to this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, total entrepreneurial activity in Saudi Arabia increased in 2020 by 24 percent compared to 2019. It also showed that more than 90 percent of adults saw entrepreneurship as a favorable career choice, while a third of Saudis surveyed said that they were keen on launching a business within the next three years.


MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups

MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups
Updated 29 July 2021

MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups

MasterCard launches support for cryptocurrency startups
  • XRP, a cryptocurrency that Ripple uses in its payments network, rose 15.48 percent on Wednesday

RIYADH: Bitcoin traded higher on Wednesday, rising by 3.95 percent to $39,808.10 at 4:21 p.m. Riyadh time. Ether, the world’s second most-traded cryptocurrency, was down 0.29 percent to $2,291.10, according to data from CoinDesk.

XRP, a cryptocurrency that Ripple uses in its payments network, rose 15.48 percent on Wednesday, trading at $0.74, its highest level since June 21. This represents a daily gain of 13 percent, after the company said it is targeting the $1.8 billion Filipino Remittance Corridor. Ripple announced that Japanese money transfer provider SBI Remit and Philippine mobile payment service Coins.ph have teamed up to move remittance payments from Japan to the Philippines, CoinDesk reported.

Earlier this week, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen outlining several concerns about the risks posed by cryptocurrencies. Warren asked Yellen to act urgently and adopt appropriate policies to address her concerns.

She claimed that the longer the US waits to introduce the appropriate regulatory regime for these assets, the more likely they will become so entangled in the financial system, potentially creating serious consequences if this market comes under pressure. 

The senator from Massachusetts said: “I have become increasingly concerned about the dangers cryptocurrencies pose to investors, consumers, and the environment in the absence of sufficient regulation in the US,” according to Bitcoin News.

MasterCard on Tuesday announced a new global program dedicated to supporting fast-growing digital assets, blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. Seven startups have signed up for the Start Path program. With Mastercard, the startups will expand and accelerate innovation around digital asset technology and make it safer and easier for people and organizations to buy, spend and hold cryptocurrency and digital assets, Bitcoin News reported.


ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021

ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021
Updated 28 July 2021

ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021

ExxonMobil, Sabic US petrochemical complex to operate end of 2021
  • The project, located near Corpus Christi, Texas, is expected to begin ahead of schedule, likely in the fourth quarter of 2021

RIYADH: A petrochemical complex on the US coast being built Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and ExxonMobil is expected to be operational by the end of 2021, the US energy company said.

The complex — which is being developed by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV), a joint-owned company by the Saudi and US companies — has reached mechanical completion of a monoethylene glycol unit and two polyethylene units, ExxonMobil said.

“Gulf Coast Growth Ventures is a key development of our plan to serve growing demand for our high value performance products,” said Karen McKee, ExxonMobil President. 

The project, located near Corpus Christi, Texas, is expected to begin ahead of schedule, likely in the fourth quarter of 2021.

“Not only are we ahead of schedule, but we have executed this project with the highest commitment and emphasis on safety with nearly 18 million safe person-hours worked, all while acting on the promises we made to the community when we started this journey four years ago,” said Abdulrahman Al-Fageeh, SABIC’s executive vice president of petrochemicals. 

GCGV will produce 1,100 kilotons of monoethylene glycol and 1,300 kilotons of polyethylene per year upon completion.

“The benefits of this strategic joint venture will not only accrue to SABIC but also to Saudi Aramco, which bought the company from the Public Investment Fund to create a Saudi synergy in local petrochemical production,” independent economist and former professor of finance and economics at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dr. Mohamed Ramady told Arab news.

Once in full production, the new venture will add a welcome stream of additional revenue to SABIC’s profitability and its market value. It is expected to reinforce the Kingdom’s diversification into high-value hydrocarbon products through high-performance plastics, adding to SABIC’s portfolio of agri-nutrients and metals, he said.

“This new strategic joint venture cements the ongoing relationship that SABIC has built over the years with international partners as part of its plans to service its key overseas markets with high quality petrochemical downstream products,” he added.

The project created more than 600 permanent jobs with average salaries of $90,000 per year and an additional 6,000 high-paying jobs were created during construction.

The project is expected to be delivered under budget and at approximately 25 percent less than the average cost of similar projects along the US Gulf Coast.


Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede

Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede
Updated 28 July 2021

Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede

Oil nears $75 on US inventory decline as pandemic concerns recede
  • ‘Supply is likely to remain tight even with the production hikes set by OPEC+,’ says broker

LONDON/RIYADH: Brent crude approached $75 a barrel on Wednesday as a report showed US inventories fell more than expected last week, moving the market’s focus away from concerns that rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections will hurt demand.

Crude in storage fell to the lowest since January 2020, while distillate supplies posted the biggest decline since April, according to a report from the US Energy Information Agency. Fuel inventories fell by more than 2 million barrels.

WTI, the US benchmark, added 0.5 percent to $72.03 a barrel as of 3:48 p.m. in London, while Brent climbed 0.3 percent to $74.72.

Oil is 45 percent higher this year, boosted by a return of demand, as economies have reopened following millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, while OPEC+ has kept supply tight.

However, OPEC+ agreed to increase supply by 400,000 barrels a day every month from August, leading to speculation as to whether demand will continue to return.

“Oil supply is likely to remain tight even with the production hikes set by OPEC+,” Naeem Aslam, from online broker Avatrade, told Reuters.

Russia’s flagship Urals crude oil has mostly been used in Europe so far this year due to relatively low output and high prices, while Asian markets have shunned the blend, data showed on Wednesday.

As a result, Russia has lagged behind Saudi Arabia in China’s energy market, one of the world’s largest.

According to Refinitiv Eikon data, the port of Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest oil hub, received 9.7 million tons of Urals in the first half of this year, up from 7.3 million tons in the same period last year.

At the same time, supplies of seaborne Urals cargoes to China plunged to 1.8 million tons from 7.86 million in the first half of 2020.

This year, the spread between Brent — to which Urals is linked — and the Middle Eastern Dubai blend has reached an all-time high of more than $4 per barrel, making Russian oil uncompetitive in Asia.

India has also cut purchases of Urals, while South Korea and Thailand have completely stopped intake of the blend.

Some European countries, notably Finland, have also reduced purchases of seaborne Urals amid the move to greener economies.


Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology

Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology
Updated 28 July 2021

Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology

Saudi Arabia anticipates 1 trillion riyal injection from 4IR technology
  • Artificial intelligence and smart cities will see Saudi Arabia rebrand as a global technology hub

RIYADH: Advanced technology from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is expected to generate around 1 trillion riyals for the Saudi economy in new revenue streams, a senior Saudi official told a conference in Riyadh today.

The Kingdom will enjoy economic boosts from robotics, artificial intelligence, and wireless production models as it pushes for more smarter cities and infrastructure.

In his opening remarks of the Saudi 4IR conference, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alsawaha announced the inauguration of the Saudi 4IR center in collaboration with WEF and said that the center will spur more innovation as Saudi cities must keep pace with technological developments.
He told an audience at the two-day conference, being held at King Abdullah City for Science and Technology, that the Kingdom is building the most technologically advanced infrastructure in the new NEOM giga-project, which will be a global technology center.

The impact of the 4IR is expected to be massive, with non-oil gross domestic product anticipated to increase by more than 4 percent from 2017 to 2030, generating 1 trillion riyals in new revenues, Abdullah Alghamdi, the president of Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) said in his opening remarks.

He added that SDAIA is working on developing customized platforms for each  city to accommodate their specific needs.

The concept of a Fourth Industrial Revolution was first suggested by Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum, and was the theme of the annual WEF meeting at Davos in 2016. WEF opened its first 4IR Center in San Francisco in 2016, and there are now centers in 13 countries, including Saudi Arabia.

"With this launch you have become part of our growing global network of centers, Schwab said in his remarks to the conference.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in digitizing its cities, with 60 percent of the Kingdom’s urban centers covered by 5G networks, said Haytham Alohali, vice minister of communications and information technology.

The government has developed one of the most advanced E-government systems in the world and has established data and AI to support its digital transformation, minister of industry Bandar Alkhorayaf said, adding that the Kingdom has a strong manufacturing base with over 10,000 factories 40 specialized integrated industrial cities that provide the required infrastructure and services needed for the manufacturing facilities and workforce.

The world's leading petrochemical producer, SABIC, strives to keep pace with technical developments and is focused on digital transformation in artificial intelligence, machines, and robotics, CEO Yousef Albenyan told the conference. It also seeks to provide smart solutions to its customers and enhance the competitive process, he added.