Pfizer eyes investment, recruitment, R&D in Kingdom

Pfizer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and has been operating in Saudi Arabia for six decades. (iStockPhoto)
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Pfizer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and has been operating in Saudi Arabia for six decades. (iStockPhoto)
Operating in the region for 60 years and with a workforce of 460 employees, Pfizer has a long partnership with the Kingdom. (Supplied)
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Operating in the region for 60 years and with a workforce of 460 employees, Pfizer has a long partnership with the Kingdom. (Supplied)
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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 unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020

Saudi unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020
Updated 4 min 8 sec ago

Saudi unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020

Saudi unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020
  • Unemployment among young people decreased from 34.2 percent in Q3 2020 to 28 percent in Q4

JEDDAH: The unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia decreased to 12.6 percent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020, down from 14.9 percent the previous quarter, according to the latest data from the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat).

According to a report by Riyadh-based investment management advisory Jadwa Investment, the decrease in joblessness was due to more women and young people joining the Saudi labor force at the end of 2020.

“The recovery in the labor market has proceeded quicker than we anticipated (with Saudi unemployment at 12.6 percent at the end of 2020, versus our forecast of 14 percent). At the same time, however, the swift recovery reinforces our view that Saudi unemployment will decline to 12.1 percent by the end of 2021,” the Jadwa report said.

Unemployment among young people decreased from 34.2 percent in Q3 2020 to 28 percent in Q4. Among men it declined from 7.9 percent to 7.1, while for women it was down from 30.1 percent to 24.4 percent, across the same period. 

According to GaStat’s numbers, 200,000 new private sector expatriate work visas were issued in Q4, compared to 46,000 in Q3. The sharp increase was largely due to a big increase in female expat visas, which increased by 181,000 in Q4 compared to just 4,000 in Q3.

Across the various sectors, public administration and accommodation and food services recorded the largest increase in employment among Saudi nationals and expat workers.

“That said, with the ongoing roll-out of vaccines in the Kingdom, we are expecting a more vigorous economic recovery in the second half of 2021, which, along with ongoing localization efforts (such as the recent
Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development decision to raise the level of Saudization in shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants and coffee shops), will help create more employment opportunities for citizens,” Jadwa said in its report.


PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families

PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families
Updated 7 min 55 sec ago

PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families

PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families
  • The project runs until May 12

RIYADH: Noon, an online platform backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Dubai businessman Mohamed Alabbar, have teamed up with a charity to let online shoppers donate food to needy families during Ramadan.

Noon Daily, which is Noon.com’s grocery website, will partner with Bunyan Women’s Charitable Association for the initiative. 

The project runs until May 12.

Kaushik Mukherjee, senior vice president of customer experience and seller operations at Noon, said: “We’re proud to work with Bunyan to help our customers and team more easily contribute to people in need. Noon Daily will pack and ship Ramadan donation bundles purchased by customers and our own employees to Bunyan throughout the holy month. Thousands of families and frontline workers across the country will benefit from the food parcels distributed by the charity, and we couldn’t be happier to provide a service that helps bridge the donation process between customers and the community.”

Bunyan Women’s Charitable Association was established in 2011 with the aim of improving the physical and social conditions of poor families by assisting them through significant charity initiatives.

Noon was launched in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Dec. 2017, and in Egypt in Feb. 2019. 

With an initial investment of $1 billion and working from headquarters in Riyadh, Noon said in 2016 that it aimed to expand online sales in the region from 2 percent of the total retail market ($3 billion) to 15 percent ($70 billion) within a decade.


Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives

Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives
Updated 12 min ago

Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives

Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives
  • Employees from the group will also be able to participate in the “mychalhoub” Eid initiative for orphans

JEDDAH: Luxury retailer the Chalhoub Group has launched a number of initiatives for Ramadan.

The company launched the Chalhoub Impact program before Ramadan, in which about 200 food packages were distributed to the poor through the office of the mayor in Old Jeddah District.

Employees from the group will also be able to participate in the “mychalhoub” Eid initiative for orphans. 

Level Shoes, the group’s designer footwear and accessories operation, will run a social media campaign to donate Ramadan meals. MUSE, the group’s loyalty program, in collaboration with the Al-Ahyaa Centers Association, will donate 1,000 iftar meals to those in need.

“The holy month of Ramadan is the season for giving and an important opportunity to make a difference to the community,” Bachar Sabbagh, managing director, KSA, at Chalhoub Group, said in a press statement.


Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021

Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021
Updated 19 min 4 sec ago

Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021

Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021
  • Trade deficit also decreased by 1 percent to $9.5 billion in the same period

CAIRO: Egypt’s non-oil exports rose 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year, reaching $7.4 billion, said Trade and Industry Minister Nevin Jameh.

“This tangible increase came despite the current circumstances related to the coronavirus crisis that the whole world is suffering from, thanks to the efforts made by the government to support the production and export sectors during the crisis,” she added.

Egyptian imports saw a slight increase in the first quarter of 2021 to $16.9 billion, compared to $16.67 billion in the same period last year.

Jameh said these positive indicators contributed to achieving a 1 percent decrease in the trade balance deficit to $9.5 billion, compared to $9.6 billion in the same period last year.

Ismail Jaber, head of the General Organization for Export and Import Control, said the chemical products and fertilizer sectors dominated Egypt’s export list in the first quarter of 2021.

Exports of chemical products and fertilizers amounted to $1.5 billion, building materials $1.3 billion, food industries $965 million, and engineering and electronic goods $739 million.

FASTFACTS

• Chemical products and fertilizer sectors dominated Egypt’s export list in the first quarter of 2021.

• Egypt’s top export destinations were China ($3.1 billion), the US ($1.49 billion), Germany ($970 million), Russia ($855 million) and Italy ($689 million).

• These five countries accounted for 42.1 percent of Egyptian imports.

Jaber said Egypt’s top export destinations were China ($3.1 billion), the US ($1.49 billion), Germany ($970 million), Russia ($855 million) and Italy ($689 million). These five countries, he added, accounted for 42.1 percent of Egyptian imports.

Egypt is expecting economic growth of 5.4 percent in the next fiscal year 2021/2022, up from 3.3 percent expected in 2020/2021.

The country recently approved its budget, which aims to reduce the country’s deficit and focuses on pushing social protection efforts, improving citizens’ standard of living, increasing wage allocations and rewards for workers, and financing grant incentives and transportation allowances for workers transferred to the New Administrative Capital.

The proceeds of budget revenues are likely to reach about EGP1.3 trillion  ($80 billion), according to estimates for the next fiscal year 2020/2021, compared to expected revenues of EGP1.117 trillion during the current fiscal year.

The estimates reflect an annual growth in revenues of 16.4 percent, achieved by expanding the tax base, activating electronic payments, expanding the use of modern methods of risk management, collecting government revenues and working to increase linking the proceeds to economic activity.


From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant
Updated 27 min 15 sec ago

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant
  • The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages

BERLIN: In the green forest outside Berlin, a battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned “gigafactory.”

“When I saw on TV that the Tesla factory was going to be built here, I could not believe it,” said Steffen Schorch.

The 60-year-old from Erkner village in the Berlin commuter belt has become one of the faces of the fight against the US auto giant’s first European factory, due to open in the Brandenburg region near Berlin in July. “Tesla needs far too much water, and the region does not have this water,” said the environmental activist, a local representative of the Nabu ecologist campaign group.

Announced in November 2019, Tesla’s gigafactory project was warmly welcomed as an endorsement of the “Made in Germany” quality mark — but was immediately met with opposition from local residents.

Demonstrations, legal action, open letters — residents have done everything in their power to delay the project, supported by powerful environmental campaign groups Nabu and Gruene Liga.

Tesla was forced to temporarily suspend forest clearing last year after campaigners won an injunction over threats to the habitats of resident lizards and snakes during their winter slumber.

And now they have focused their attention on water consumption — which could reach up to 3.6 million cubic meters a year, or around 30 percent of the region’s available supply, according to the ZDF public broadcaster.

The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages and hit by summer droughts for the past three years.

Local residents and environmentalists are also concerned about the impact on the wetlands, an important source of biodiversity in the region. “The water situation is bad, and will get worse,” Heiko Baschin, a spokesman for the neighborhood association IG Freienbrink, told AFP.

Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel sought to play down the issue, saying in March that “capacity has not been exceeded for now.”

But the authorities admit that “the impact of droughts is significant” and have set up a working group to examine the issue in the long term.

The gigafactory is set to sprawl over 300 hectares — equivalent to approximately 560 football fields — southwest of the German capital.

Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant, which will also be home to “the largest battery factory in the world,” according to group boss Elon Musk.