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)
1 / 2
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)
2 / 2
Operating in the region for 60 years and with a workforce of 460 employees, Pfizer has a long partnership with the Kingdom. (Supplied)
Short Url
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.”


Stocks fall as tech shares weigh, gold climbs

Stocks fall as tech shares weigh, gold climbs
Updated 40 min 22 sec ago

Stocks fall as tech shares weigh, gold climbs

Stocks fall as tech shares weigh, gold climbs
  • Amid a flight to safety, the precious metal is seen as a hedge against rising inflation

NEW YORK: Stock indexes were lower globally on Monday with technology shares on Wall Street falling, while US Treasury yields traded little changed even after a report showing the highest prices ever paid in a May manufacturing survey for New York state.

Concerns over inflationary pressure helped to lift gold prices to their highest in more than three months, however.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey, produced by the New York Fed, showed the prices paid index rose to a record 83.5, the highest since the data series began in 2001, said Tom Simons, money market economist at Jefferies & Co.

Wall Street’s declines follow the S&P 500’s biggest one-day jump in more than a month on Friday.

While the week is expected to be relatively quiet for economic data, investors will be anxious to see minutes on Wednesday from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting last month which could shed more light on the policymakers’ outlook of an economic rebound.

“The volatility has picked up because a lot of the good news has been priced in, and last week we finally saw fears of inflation,” said Greg Marcus, managing director, UBS Private Wealth Management.

The spread of the coronavirus was also a drag in some markets, with Singapore reporting the highest number of local infections in months and Taiwan seeing a spike in cases.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 120.02 points, or 0.35 percent, to 34,262.11, the S&P 500 lost 20.43 points, or 0.49 percent, to 4,153.42 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 121.39 points, or 0.9 percent, to 13,308.58.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.05 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.26 percent.

In the Treasury market, the yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasury notes was up 1 basis point at 1.645 percent, below a spike to 1.77 percent in late March.

The dollar was steady near recent lows as new restrictions in Asia to contain COVID-19 supported safe-haven currencies, while bitcoin extended its slide.

The dollar index fell 0.116 percent, with the euro up 0.12 percent at $1.2154.

Bitcoin dropped to a three-month low after Tesla Inc. boss Elon Musk suggested over the weekend that the electric automaker may have already sold some of its holdings in the digital currency.

Oil prices edged higher. Brent crude rose 56 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $69.27 a barrel, and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up 63 cents, or 1 percent, at $66.

In China, meanwhile, retail sales rose 17.7 percent in April from a year earlier, although they fell short of forecasts for a jump of 24.9 percent, while industrial output matched expectations with a rise of 9.8 percent.

Gold prices climbed to their highest in more than three months on Monday. Spot gold jumped 1.3 percent to $1,866.45 per ounce, after hitting its highest since Feb. 1 at $1,867.15. US gold futures gained 1.5 percent to $1,866.40.

“There’s a flight to safety out of the equity markets ... and anticipation that we’re going to continue to see inflation numbers trend much stronger going forward,” said Jeffrey Sica, founder of Circle Squared Alternative Investments.

“The Fed is going to continue to hold on to the notion that the increase in inflation has to do more with the reopening of the economies than to do with any real inflation,” Sica said.

Gold is seen as a hedge against rising inflation. On a technical note, the gold market has breached the 200-day moving average and that’s supporting prices further, said Eli Tesfaye, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

Elsewhere, platinum rose 0.7 percent to $1,234 per ounce.


World Economic Forum cancels 2021 annual meeting in Singapore

WEF had already pushed back its special meeting in Singapore, initially scheduled for mid-May, following the announcement last year it was moving from its usual home in the Swiss Alps due to the pandemic situation in Europe. (AFP)
WEF had already pushed back its special meeting in Singapore, initially scheduled for mid-May, following the announcement last year it was moving from its usual home in the Swiss Alps due to the pandemic situation in Europe. (AFP)
Updated 59 min 13 sec ago

World Economic Forum cancels 2021 annual meeting in Singapore

WEF had already pushed back its special meeting in Singapore, initially scheduled for mid-May, following the announcement last year it was moving from its usual home in the Swiss Alps due to the pandemic situation in Europe. (AFP)
  • The WEF's next annual meeting will instead take place in the first half of 2022

ZURICH: The World Economic Forum cancelled its 2021 annual meeting scheduled for Singapore in three months' time on Monday, saying it was not possible to hold such a large, global event due to the COVID-19 situation.

“Regretfully, the tragic circumstances unfolding across geographies, an uncertain travel outlook, differing speeds of vaccination rollout and the uncertainty around new variants combine to make it impossible to realise a global meeting with business, government and civil society leaders from all over the world at the scale which was planned,” it said in a statement.

WEF had already pushed back its special meeting in Singapore, initially scheduled for mid-May, following the announcement last year it was moving from its usual home in the Swiss Alps due to the pandemic situation in Europe.

The city-state has in recent days imposed some of the tightest restrictions since it exited a lockdown last year to combat a spike in local COVID-19 infections.

Acknowledging WEF's decision to cancel the event, the Singapore trade ministry said on Monday that it “fully appreciates the challenges caused by the ongoing global pandemic, particularly for a large meeting with a broad span of international participants.”

The WEF's next annual meeting will instead take place in the first half of 2022. Its location and date will be determined based on an assessment of the situation later this summer, it added in a statement.


Egypt finalizes plans to launch African Economic Integration Initiative

Egypt finalizes plans to launch African Economic Integration Initiative
Updated 18 May 2021

Egypt finalizes plans to launch African Economic Integration Initiative

Egypt finalizes plans to launch African Economic Integration Initiative
  • Al-Arabi explained that the volume of global African imports amounted to $564 billion from 231 countries

CAIRO: Ibrahim Al-Arabi, president of the General Federation of Chambers of Commerce and president of the Federation of African Chambers of Commerce and Industry, announced the completion of the executive framework for launching the African Economic Integration Initiative.

In an official statement, Al-Arabi said that the first phase of implementing the initiative will begin by launching a new website for the union, which will display investment opportunities.

Al-Arabi explained that the volume of global African imports amounted to $564 billion from 231 countries, while the volume of African exports to 223 countries is estimated at $452 billion. He said the value of intra-continental trade is about $70 billion annually.

He stressed that the optimal utilization of African resources will give the continent sovereignty over international markets, as reports indicate that it possesses 30 percent of the world’s mineral wealth, 12 percent of oil reserves, 43 percent of gold sources, 50 percent of diamond resources and 67 percent of untapped agricultural land.

“We have developed a realistic strategy for multilateral regional cooperation in light of the needs of African countries, their resources and opportunities to create integrated activities for joint industrialization and to replace African imports from outside the continent with alternatives available in Africa,” Al-Arabi said, adding that he was also looking at opportunities with Arab partners.


Kuwait Mezzan to increase prices, says CFO

The Mezzan Group will develop its manufacturing capabilities to keep pace with international standards. (Mezzan Group)
The Mezzan Group will develop its manufacturing capabilities to keep pace with international standards. (Mezzan Group)
Updated 17 May 2021

Kuwait Mezzan to increase prices, says CFO

The Mezzan Group will develop its manufacturing capabilities to keep pace with international standards. (Mezzan Group)
  • The company's strategy is to maintain purchasing power inside and outside Kuwait

RIYADH: Kuwait Mezzan Holding KSC may increase prices of its products in the coming period due to disruptions related to production chains, which led to an increase in the prices of production inputs, said CFO Nabil Bin Ayed.

The company's strategy is to maintain purchasing power inside and outside Kuwait, and to control the cost of production by finding internal solutions, he added.

Mezzan's Kuwait Saudi Pharmaceuticals Industries Co. KSPICO signed a joint manufacturing agreement with Abbott Laboratories, which specializes in medical and healthcare devices, to localize the industry of 26 pharmaceutical products in Kuwait.

Bin Ayed said that this agreement will help the company transfer technology to the local market and contribute to the development and production of medicines in Kuwait, Al Arabiya reported.

The priority will be for the local market, he said.

The Group will develop its manufacturing capabilities to keep pace with international standards, he explained.

Mezzan Holding is one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of food, beverage, FMCG and healthcare products in the Gulf.


Preservation is as important as development, say chiefs of top Saudi megaprojects

Preservation is as important as development, say chiefs of top Saudi megaprojects
Updated 17 May 2021

Preservation is as important as development, say chiefs of top Saudi megaprojects

Preservation is as important as development, say chiefs of top Saudi megaprojects
  • The Red Sea Development Co. is expecting its first influx of tourists in 2023

DUBAI: Top officials from Saudi Arabia’s various megaprojects highlighted the importance of preserving the environment while achieving ambitious development goals in the Kingdom’s previously untouched sites.

John Pagano, chief executive of the Red Sea Development Co., said the biggest challenge they have is not “messing up the place” and avoiding “over tourism” that has traditionally compromised nature-based tourist sites.

“At the end of the day, our environment is our most valuable asset. It’s making sure that we balance the desire to build, and build it in a timely fashion, but never to the extent where we put at risk the very thing that will make this place so special,” he said.

The Red Sea Development Co. is expecting its first influx of tourists in 2023, Pagano mentioned, saying they will put a cap on the number of visitors in the area.

AlUla’s Melanie de Souza echoed Pagano’s sentiments on preserving the “pristine” characteristics of Saudi heritage sites, saying it is an important element in their plan.

“I think there is a job to be done to continue to educate our communities, and to indulge in best practices in developing infrastructure,” de Souza, the executive director of tourism and destination marketing at the Royal Commission of AlUla, said.

The same goes with the NEOM project in the Tabuk province of Saudi Arabia, where the major concern lies in regenerating “these places for future generations.”

In March the Kingdom solidified its dedication to sustainability with the launch of the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives, which call for regional cooperation to tackle the environmental challenges facing Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

Unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the initiatives include a number of ambitious projects designed to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent. This will be achieved mainly through the use of clean hydrocarbon technologies and the planting of 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in the Kingdom. 

In addition, the initiatives aim to preserve marine and coastal environments, increase the proportion of natural reserves and protected land, improve the regulation of oil production, accelerate the transition to clean energy and boost the amount of energy generated by renewables.

The panelists, who were speaking at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, predicted a strong recovery in the tourism sector, especially as the Kingdom sets its goal to attract 100 million tourists by 2030.

Pagano was particularly hopeful because of developments in vaccine rollouts across the world, specifically in their source markets.

“By the time that we open up our resorts at the end of next year, most of these places will be beyond herd immunity,” he predicted.

“I think the traveling public is going to come and (is) predominantly going to be vaccinated. In fact, I suspect maybe that’s going to be one of the key criteria to allow people to come in,” Pagano added.