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
Short Url
Updated 22 February 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.

------------------

Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Saudi crown prince launches Soudah Development Company with investment of SR 11 billion

Saudi crown prince launches Soudah Development Company with investment of SR 11 billion
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi crown prince launches Soudah Development Company with investment of SR 11 billion

Saudi crown prince launches Soudah Development Company with investment of SR 11 billion
  • The company aims to create 8,000 permanent jobs by 2030
  • The new company is fully owned by the PIF and will lead the development of a luxury mountain destination

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched on Wednesday the Soudah Development Company (SDC) in the Kingdom’s southwestern Asir region with an investment of $3 billion (11 billion riyals).
The multi billion investment in tourism infrastructure and attractions aims to create a world-class mountain destination in Asir and the SDC hopes to attract more than two million visitors a year, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The company aims to create 8,000 permanent jobs by 2030 and will collaborate with the private sector to enhance the Kingdom’s tourism infrastructure with 2,700 hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units, and 30 unique commercial and entertainment attractions by 2030.
The new company is fully owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and will lead the development of a luxury mountain destination with immersive cultural experiences that celebrate the natural assets of the region.
The company will pump funds into infrastructure and tourism projects that aim to enhance the visitor experience in Al-Soudah and parts of the Rijal Alma governorate. 
SDC aims to develop Al-Soudah and Rijal Alma into a year round sustainable destination for residents and visitors that will contribute an estimated of $ 8 billion to the Kingdom’s cumulative GDP by 2030. 
“Our investment in the Asir region reflects our confidence in the character of the location, which is a rich amalgamation of identity, heritage and experience,” the PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan said.
“Through careful and considerate development, SDC will provide yet another remarkable destination in the diverse and growing portfolio of Saudi Arabian experiences capturing the imagination of a broad range of investors and travelers,” he added.
The new tourist destination adds to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious tourism goals and complements other destinations being created on the Red Sea coast and around the capital city of Riyadh.


PIF makes billions on its investment in Lucid Motors

PIF put $1 billion into Lucid in 2018, giving it a majority stake in the California-based company when it was at the early stages of designing advanced luxury electric cars. (Supplied)
PIF put $1 billion into Lucid in 2018, giving it a majority stake in the California-based company when it was at the early stages of designing advanced luxury electric cars. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2021

PIF makes billions on its investment in Lucid Motors

PIF put $1 billion into Lucid in 2018, giving it a majority stake in the California-based company when it was at the early stages of designing advanced luxury electric cars. (Supplied)
  • Saudi stake in Californian electric vehicle maker is proving a profitable step

DUBAI: The Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s premier investing institution, has seen a multi-billion dollar increase in the value of its investment in Lucid Motors, the fast-growing Californian electric vehicle manufacturer, as a result of recent transactions.

PIF put $1 billion into Lucid in 2018, giving it a majority stake in the California-based company when it was at the early stages of designing advanced luxury electric cars. With the first model, the Air, unveiled and set for first delivery this year, that stake is now worth a lot more.

In a complex financial transaction recently unveiled in the US, Lucid will merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC — a company specifically designed to get an initial public offering (IPO) and a valuation on a stock market.

The SPAC involved with Lucid is Churchill Capital Corp IV, a creation of investment banker Michael Klein, who is well known for his investment advisory work in the Kingdom, including the record-breaking IPO of Saudi Aramco in 2019.

The SPAC deal gives Lucid a formal valuation of $24bn, and the PIF remains the majority investor in the new set-up.

The Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s premier investing institution, has seen a multi-billion dollar increase in the value of its investment in Lucid Motors. (Supplied)

The PIF declined to give a detailed breakdown of the value of its investment, but the documents published in the SPAC transaction show it at around $15bn - and will possibly be worth a lot more once vehicles start being sold.

Shares in Churchill gyrated wildly in the days before the deal with Lucid was formally announced but settled well above the value at which PIF and other big investors bought into the company.

The influential Lex column of the Financial Times said: “The biggest winner is Lucid’s largest current shareholder, Saudi Arabia’s PIF.”

Peter Rawlinson, the chief executive of Lucid who formerly worked at rival electric car company Tesla, told journalists: “I think that the valuation is a reflection of our technology.”

Electric vehicles have been one of the big investment themes of the past year, with Tesla — the market leader — soaring to a market capitalization of $670bn, bigger than all the traditional car manufacturers combined and making its founder, Elon Musk, one of the richest men in the world.

Peter Rawlinson, the chief executive of Lucid Motors. (Supplied)

Rawlinson is unfazed by Tesla’s size or reputation. Last year, in the run up to the launch of the Air, he told Arab News: “We’ve got the best car in the world, but I’m more excited to know that we have technology that can cascade down to more affordable models for the man in the street. That’s what is going to change the world.”

For the PIF, the investment in Lucid is a demonstration of the value of its approach of taking strategic stakes in foreign companies. Last year, it spent $10bn buying US and European equities when they slumped in value after the pandemic crash, which it later sold when markets recovered.

There could also be an industrial benefit from the PIF-Lucid relationship. There has been increasing speculation that Rawlinson will choose Saudi Arabia as the first location for a manufacturing facility, with a site near Jeddah mentioned as a possible production plant.

Rawlinson said of PIF: “They put their faith in us, that’s why we’re here today thriving.”

The deal with Churchill will give Lucid the capital it needs to go into full-scale production of the Air from a new production facility in Arizona, and to move plans forward for an electric SUV.


IMF chief warns pandemic leaving some countries behind

IMF chief warns pandemic leaving some countries behind
Updated 24 February 2021

IMF chief warns pandemic leaving some countries behind

IMF chief warns pandemic leaving some countries behind

WASHINGTON: The crisis caused by the pandemic is leaving many economies lagging behind, increasing the plight of the poor, a problem made worse by “uneven” access to vaccines, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said Wednesday.
In a message to the Group of 20 meeting on Friday Georgieva urged governments to increase vaccine distribution, ensuring Covid-19 is brought under control.
“The economic arguments for coordinated action are overwhelming,” she said in a blog post.
“Faster progress in ending the health crisis could raise global income cumulatively by $9 trillion over 2020-25. That would benefit all countries.”
She said that should include financing for vaccinations, reallocation of excess supply to countries with a shortage, and scaling up of production.
The global pandemic death toll is approaching 2.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the shutdowns forced to control infections have devastated economies.
And while vaccine rollouts are raising hopes for a recovery this year, the IMF forecasts job losses in the G20 alone to total more than 25 million this year.
By the end of 2022, emerging market and developing nations — excluding China — will see per capital incomes 22 percent below pre-crisis levels, compared to just 13 percent lower for advanced economies, which will throw millions more into extreme poverty, Georgieva warned.
“That is why we need much stronger international collaboration to accelerate the vaccine rollout in poorer countries,” she said.
G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs led by Rome will meet by videoconference to discuss the state of the recovery and how best to attack the problem.
The Washington-based crisis lender estimated more than half of the world’s 110 emerging and developing countries will see their incomes fall further behind advanced economies through the end of next year.
And the virus-driven economic crisis also will widen income gaps within developing nations, especially as millions of children are still facing disruptions to education.
“Allowing them to become a lost generation would be an unforgiveable mistake. It would also deepen the long-term economic scars of the crisis,” she warned.


Pfizer eyes investment, recruitment, R&D in Kingdom

Pfizer eyes investment, recruitment, R&D in Kingdom
Updated 24 February 2021

Pfizer eyes investment, recruitment, R&D in Kingdom

Pfizer eyes investment, recruitment, R&D in Kingdom
  • Pharma giant transforming its Saudi operations amid COVID-19 vaccine rollout

RIYADH: Pfizer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and has been operating in Saudi Arabia for six decades, but many people in the Kingdom will have come to know the brand only as a result of its work developing a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

Patrick van der Loo, regional president for Africa and the Middle East, has worked at the company for 20 years and, in December, was appointed to lead the distribution of the vaccine across a challenging and wide-ranging group of countries.

“Saudi Arabia and the GCC kicked off their COVID-19 vaccination drive with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in December as some of the first countries globally to do so. The allocation of doses and implementation plan within a country is a decision for local governments based on relevant health authority guidance,” he told Arab News.

“Pfizer and BioNTech are working relentlessly to supply the world with 2 billion BNT162b2 vaccine doses by the end of 2021. Our Belgium facility’s upscaling work included process improvements to our manufacturing lines, expanding our manufacturing facility with a new production unit, and increasing batch sizes to optimize efficiency,” he added.

Operating in the region for 60 years and with a workforce of 460 employees, Pfizer has a long partnership with the Kingdom. In October 2011, it signed an agreement with the-then Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) — now called Ministry of Investment — to set up its first-ever manufacturing plant in the GCC in King Abdullah Economic City.

In 2016, SAGIA issued a “trading license” to Pfizer, the first multinational pharmaceutical company awarded such a permit. The license gave Pfizer “100 percent foreign ownership” of its legal entity in Saudi Arabia, with the ability to import, export and trade in wholesale and retail products, equipment and instruments, he said.

Construction of the new manufacturing and packaging facility was completed in 2017 and Pfizer is planning to expand further in coming years, as the Kingdom moves closer to realizing its Vision 2030 goals to diversify away from hydrocarbons and increase local production.

“Pfizer is an active player in Saudi Arabia, and is in a continuous dialogue with multiple authorities to explore new opportunities, including investments, to support its vision and objectives,” van der Loo said.

Arriving in the region at a critical time, van der Loo said he is relishing the challenge ahead.

“While this region is new to me, I will gladly welcome new challenges and devote my energy to finding solutions focused on patient outcomes. Working in the region is also offering me the opportunity to get involved in the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine distribution across a wide range of countries, and it is gratifying to be part of something of this scale,” he said.

Patrick van der Loo, regional president for Africa and the Middle East, has worked at the company for 20 years. (Supplied)

According to Reuters, Pfizer is aiming to produce 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines this year, earnings it around $15 billion, or about a quarter of its sales.

While COVID-19 may be his immediate priority, van der Loo is also leading the transformation of Pfizer’s wider portfolio of products across Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region.

“Pfizer is shifting from a diversified company with a consumer health portfolio and comprehensive portfolio of legacy brands to a more science-focused biopharmaceutical powerhouse. In KSA and the Gulf, we aim to ensure the early introduction of breakthroughs — sometimes some of the earliest in the world, which truly demonstrates the innovative eagerness of specific markets in the Middle East,” he said.

There are currently multiple clinical trial protocols — phase two and three — under review, and some have reached the final stages of development and approval in oncology, vaccine, public health and gene therapy.

“We are also very proud of our collaboration with multiple Saudi research centers to access clinical trials and innovative treatments in the medical field. The trial of gene therapy in Duchenne’s disease at King Faisal Specialty Hospital and Research Center is a milestone,” he said.

Pfizer is also providing training and development opportunities for multiple Saudi entities operating in the healthcare, training and education sectors, as part of the National Transformation Program.

Looking ahead to 2021, van der Loo said Pfizer will have “several product launches in oncology, among other areas, to reach new patients with critical breakthrough treatments and prevention tools.”


Saudi Arabia sees 227% surge in wealthy individuals in last 5 years

Saudi Arabia sees 227% surge in wealthy individuals in last 5 years
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi Arabia sees 227% surge in wealthy individuals in last 5 years

Saudi Arabia sees 227% surge in wealthy individuals in last 5 years
  • Saudi Arabia bucked Mideast trend, with number of people with over $30m growing in 2020

RIYADH: The number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) — those with $30 million or more — in Saudi Arabia surged 227 percent over the last five years, the fastest growth rate in the world.

According to The Wealth Report by real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank, the number of UHNWIs worldwide will increase by 27 percent in the next five years to 663,483, with the number of millionaires growing by 41 percent.

The report predicts that the number of UHNWIs in the Middle East will rise by 24.6 percent by 2025, with the region expected to remain the fourth-largest wealth hub in the world.

“The pandemic has impacted the fortunes of many in the Middle East, and the Middle Eastern HNWIs and UHNWIs were not spared, with the total number of each decreasing by 11.3 percent and 10.1 percent in 2020 respectively,” said Taimur Khan, head of research at Knight Frank Middle East.

“However, this decline was not uniform across all countries. In Saudi Arabia over this period, the number of UHNWIs increased by 9.6 percent, the 10th fastest growth rate globally. In fact, its UHNW population has grown by 227 percent over the last five years, the fastest growth rate globally over this period,” he added.

“As the region continues its various economic diversification programs, we expect that there will continue to be significant growth in the number of UHNWIs and billionaires residing in the region.”

According to a survey conducted by Knight Frank of private bankers and wealth advisers, half said their clients’ wealth had increased in 2020.

In the Middle East, 67 percent of respondents said their clients’ wealth either remained the same or increased. Sixty-nine percent said they expect their clients’ total wealth to increase in 2021.

The reports found that Asia is likely to see the largest rise in the number of UHNWIs, with growth of 39 percent, led by Indonesia (67 percent) and India (63 percent).

“The US is, and will remain, the world’s dominant wealth hub over our forecast period, but Asia will see the fastest growth in UHNWIs over the next five years. By 2025, Asia will host 24 percent of all UHNWIs, up from 17 percent a decade earlier,” said Liam Bailey, global head of research at Knight Frank.

“The region is already home to more billionaires than any other. China is the key to this phenomenon, with 246 percent forecast growth in very wealthy residents in the decade to 2025.”