Saudi firm harnesses power from the sun

Saudi firm harnesses power from the sun
Private solar firms such as Desert Technologies are helping to establish renewable energy in countries worldwide. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 March 2021

Saudi firm harnesses power from the sun

Saudi firm harnesses power from the sun
  • KSA targets 9.5 GW of renewable energy by 2023
  • Kingdom aims to reduce hydrocarbons reliance

DUBAI: In the past decade, the world has witnessed a pressing need for a major transformation from conventional energy sources to renewables starting with planned efforts in limiting the global temperature from rising to 2.0ºC (3.6˚F) for the present century.

A number of producer economies have recognized the need to diversify their energy production while simultaneously seeking to diversify their economies by putting energy transitions at the heart of their development strategies. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has, in turn, experienced an emergence of a solar sector as part of its economic diversification plans under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Saudi businessman Khaled Ahmad Sharbatly, the managing partner of Desert Technologies, which specializes in solar energy, offers insight into how the launch of the solar industry in the Kingdom prompted business development and outlines both the opportunities and barriers for the country’s expansion into “yellow gold.”

In addition to his position in Desert Technologies, Sharbatly, 26, has undertaken courses at the UN, Harvard Business School, Harvard Law, and completed a fellowship from the International Monetary Fund that was only given to 20 people around the world. He holds two posts, one in the Chinese-Saudi Business Council and another in the industrial council of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, where he is leading the team for the general overview of sustainable manufacturing that is focused on supporting industries that have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and how they can have a sustainable recovery.

Having spoken at over 15 international conferences, including the Business Twenty (B20) the official business community engagement forum for the Group of Twenty (G20), the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), Intersolar, and others within the span of two years, Sharbatly describes himself as an active sustainability and renewable energy influencer that promotes sustainable development initiatives within personal and professional environments.

While the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 provides for the transformation of Saudi Aramco into a multi-sectoral industrial powerhouse, private solar firms, such as Desert Technologies, have already sprung with growing expectations about the market, carving their position within the industry with projects in 26 countries worth more than $200 million.

Sharbatly said that his decision to dive into the renewable energy industry was prompted by the Vision 2030 goals of revolutionizing environmental sustainability, which ultimately leads to the capitalization of the growing demand for sustainable investments.

“In 2016, when the initial draft of the Saudi Vision 2030 was released, I took a look at that draft and I saw where our country was heading in the next 15 years,” Sharbatly said.

“I saw that sustainability was a huge component of it. Getting out of fossil fuels and into renewable energy is an area of huge strength for the Kingdom because we are the energy suppliers of the world.

“So if we change from fossil fuels to gas, from gas to hydrogen, from hydrogen to solar or from solar to wind, it would be indifferent as we can build the industry, given that we have the supply chain, the logistics and the full infrastructure for that. It is much more attainable than many other industries, and in terms of logistics, we have two of the largest ports in the red sea, almost 70 percent of the world’s trade goes through us.”

Saudi Arabia’s socio-economic development in recent decades has been driven by oil-and-gas revenues. The vast wealth it pumped out was a major contributor to the government’s budget revenues, paying not only for the glistening skyscrapers but also for a government sector that employs a high percentage of Saudis.

With its vast deserts, the Kingdom is now linking its future to another natural resource it has in even greater abundance: sunlight.

The Saudi government has set a target of generating 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2023, which will generate enough electricity to power around 40,000 homes.

“Even though we have an impressive natural potential for solar and wind power, and our local energy consumption will increase threefold by 2030, we still lack a competitive renewable energy sector at present. To build up the sector, we have set ourselves an initial target of generating 9.5 gigawatts of renewable energy,” a Saudi cabinet statement said on the Saudi Vision 2030.

Forming part of the GCC, Saudi Arabia lies within the so-called “global sunbelt” and has some of the highest solar irradiances in the world with over 3,000 hours of sunlight annually. Around 60 percent of the region’s surface area has been found to have a particularly high level of suitability for solar PV deployment, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

“Currently we work through the company’s factory in Jeddah to collect and market solar panels produced in Saudi Arabia for use in multiple facilities such as schools, exhibitions, mosques, factories, warehouses and soon homes all over the Kingdom to reduce the kilowatt price for companies and individuals,” Sharbatly said.

Representing a firm that is taking advantage of its country's most abundant clean-energy source, Sharbatly said Desert Technologies builds the smart infrastructure of the future, powered by the sun.

“Smart infrastructure is a wide array of products and services to be developed, constructed, or manufactured and that is what we do — we manufacture, we develop and we construct,” Sharbatly said. “We manufacture solar panels, we manufacture power plants, invest in power plants by selling electricity and we construct plants.

“Today, we will invest in smart infrastructures such as utility-scale projects or the regular solar panel projects that can be seen on roofs or grounds. Solar plus battery, solar plus diesel, hybrid systems, and also powering vehicles using renewable energy, because we think there is a huge field where we are trying to be sustainable and buy electric vehicles. But we are powering them using conventional electricity, or we buy energy-efficient refrigerators that save money, which defeats the objective,” Sharbatly said.

Smart infrastructure essentially leverages data and digital connectivity to improve certain functions, including sustainable energy management. That aims to help in achieving a lower carbon footprint through the production of more efficient infrastructure and planning.

“We are trying to power all these products that have already taken a step towards sustainability with real sustainable sources of energy. It is solar today, but in the future, it could be something else as we are flexible and technology agnostic,” Sharbatly said.

“Sustainability is Vision 2030 — how can we build a country that is not dependent on one major source of income but have sustainable development across all sectors such as social, governmental, environmental, commercial, for the future,” Sharbatly said.

“The country’s location and climate mean it has plenty of promising sites for solar and even wind farms.”

The abundance of solar resource potential primarily indicated by its strategic location, accompanied by the recent fall in global oil prices and the falling cost of associated technologies, such as photovoltaic (PV) modules are major factors influencing the appeal of solar energy in the country. The costs of installing and operating such technologies have fallen drastically around the world in recent years, which means that even in a country where oil is copious, renewables still beckon as a cheap and clean alternative to traditional fossil fuels.

“Today solar is around 90 percent cheaper than oil and gas,” Sharbatly said.

“The first step onwards to this transition is hybrid solutions. Hybrid solutions are the first gateway to complete renewable energy or a 100-percent clean energy future. Today we have oil, we have power plants, we have diesel generators and we are not going to replace them as the energy demand is increasing, even if it is at a small rate. It is still increasing and we cannot convince people to throw away investments that they have made and bring something else when they have not made the return yet. This is the world view, not just my view. We have to transition into sustainability and into a sustainable grid powered by sustainable energy sources.”

The initial driver behind the Saudi government’s interest in the use of solar power was its intention to diversify its energy mix towards alternative sources, including renewables in order to preserve domestic energy production for export amid rising domestic consumption of oil for power generation.

“Oil, coal, gas, or any other source of energy will never, at least for the next 100 years, be out of the energy mix,” Sharbatly said. “We will use these fossil fuels to create all sorts of products. That's the true value of fossil fuels — to create value and products, instead of burning them to create electricity. We can make electricity in cheaper, cleaner ways.”

The global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, which is a 1.9 billion increase from 2020, according to the UN. Concurrently, as urbanization continues, the proportion of the population living in urban areas will increase to around 66 percent by 2050, up from 30 percent in 1950.

Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh will at least double in size from its current population of around 7.5 million people by 2030. The country’s population will reach 45 million by 2050, implying a population increase of about 13.5 million from 2015. Meanwhile, the proportion of the urban population will increase at a dramatically higher rate than other countries, to under 90 percent by 2050, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

This high rate of population growth and urbanization has driven a rise in domestic energy and electricity demand. Peak electricity load in Saudi Arabia, for instance, has been rising by 7 percent every year. Electricity consumption has grown from 186.5 Terawatt hour (TWh) in 2008 to 345.05TWh in 2018, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) data. Further increase in such trends inevitably poses significant questions for sustainability and is anticipated to place unparalleled pressures on energy demand and supply.

In line with these trends, Desert Technologies has started working on the expansion of its factory from 100 MW to 200 MW yearly production, which is indicative of the heightened demand for renewables in the region. In 2021, the company plans to increase its presence within the Middle East and signed four projects by February. Two of the projects are in Saudi Arabia, one is in Bahrain and the one in Egypt is set to be completed by 2022.

The firm’s goals for the next five years echo such expansions, with intentions of accumulating projects in the Middle East and Africa. In Asia, Desert Technologies will be doing up to $3.5 billion of work, with a specific focus on the small to medium scale on-grid and off-grid solutions, according to Sharbatly. It also plans on releasing two other companies, one of which is a development company that will be released as a joint venture.

Furthermore, the firm seeks to grow in Southeast Asia and Latin America to further build its track record. Sharbatly mentioned Japan as a particular country of interest.

“They are very advanced in technology and there is an incredible relationship between Saudi Arabia and Japan,” Sharbatly said. “There is a big presence of Japanese companies, bands and investors in Saudi and vice versa. We are amazed by how advanced they are. Also, we like their work ethic, we like their honesty and culture, all of which we think fits with ours.”

Sharbatly then discussed why renewable energy is not being utilized fully in Saudi Arabia, despite the availability of necessary resources and the challenges associated with such an energy transition.

“To localize an industry is not an easy job and Saudi is trying to start where everyone else has finished,” he said.

“It requires a huge investment in infrastructure, training, building facilities because it is pointless to invest in building power plants or to allow companies to come and bid for building power plants when the jobs they are going to be making as a developer or contractor are short-term jobs. The strategic value in localizing an industry is creating manufacturing industries where there are long-term jobs that require highly skilled people and require universities and highly skilled programs to really support the training of these people. Just like we have excelled in oil and gas, we can excel in this.”

Sharbatly said COVID-19 has delayed the process.

“It needs time — time to build state-of-the-art facilities, to sign with suppliers from around the world and localize the industry,” he said. “The government right now is really focused on health and saving the lives of its people, but hopefully in the upcoming year and in 2022 there will be a lot of very good news on new manufacturing facilities, including ours.”

Another reason such a transition requires time is those energy transition pathways that imply an imminent peak and then a steep drop in oil demand would result in sharply reduced revenues for many countries.

This year’s coronavirus-induced decrease in oil demand and the subsequent impact on prices put this challenge in stark relief. It demonstrates not only the effect a rapid transition would have on the world economy, but also provides an admonitory observation of the future if success is not achieved in the diversification efforts of key producer economies.

Pointing out that once electricity is generated, it cannot be stored, except in limited amounts using batteries, but can be sent long distances across the grid, Sharbatly said: “Storage today is quite competitive, especially from unsubsidized energy. In countries like Saudi or the GCC, storage is very difficult because it is more expensive than the energy you get from the government, while in Africa it is much cheaper.”

The storage of excess energy produced still presents a problem due to limited storage capacities and overproduction that can result in losses. Consequently, one of the main objectives of building sustainable smart infrastructure is to enable the adaptation of energy production to actual demand. This entails the achievement of demand-oriented production that can, with proper infrastructure and planning, allow immediate consumption of produced energy.

The development of different sectors of smart infrastructures, such as smart energy and smart transportation would enable the accumulation of real-world data that can be interconnected for use among different services.

Desert Technologies also plays a role in assisting Saudi Arabia in becoming a renewable-energy exporter and supplier through their major operations in developing and emerging markets that use solar PV panels manufacturing in the country.

For example, Desert Technologies was a co-developer for several solar photovoltaic projects in Benban, Egypt, which is one of the world’s largest solar farms. This includes the ARC Project, which has the capacity to generate 65.7 megawatt (MW) of energy, the Winnergy Project, with a 24.9MW generation capacity and the Arinna Project, with a 24.9MW generation capacity. The electricity generated from these plants is sold to the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Cumulatively, Benban’s fields consist of 6 million panels that produce 1.5 gigawatts (gw) of energy, which is enough to power more than one million homes.

While many countries are now exploring ways to stimulate social and economic growth through the development of the renewable energy sector within their own parameters, Desert Technologies has chosen to target less economically developed countries to promote sustainable economic development.

In 2019, there were 771 million people without electricity access, which was a record low. This was enabled through the use of grid electrification as the primary source of energy access gained since 2000, according to data from World Energy Outlook 2018. Despite such progress, the world remains far from achieving SDG targets to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030. The population without access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa remains at 579 million, amounting to 56 percent of the population.

The manufacturing division at Desert Technologies called “DT Labs” invests in research and development to create new and better solutions. The current areas of infrastructure innovation include the development of solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations and solar street lamps that can provide Wi-Fi and phone charging services. The company is also developing mini-grid systems that reuse lithium-ion batteries, from cars or computers, to build economic and efficient mini-grid and off-grid solar systems in Africa.

The challenges associated with electricity provision in developing countries extend beyond the sphere of private investment and involve difficulties associated with infrastructure. The innovative approaches to solving the problem by Desert Technologies demonstrate how international investments in renewable energy can provide key resources and help in the creation of enabling environments through the provision of sustainable, efficient, and equitable electricity in regions critical to the global climate future.

The oil and gas producers in the Middle East and North Africa region are conscious of the potential adverse impacts of climate change and the impact it will have on their economies, given their current dependence on oil and gas revenues. This makes the way in which the increasing energy demand across the region is met highly significant, and the argument for renewables, particularly solar PV, in obtaining a larger role in the energy mix, even more compelling.

Desert Technologies, with its ambitious projects that are already yielding results throughout the region, serves as one example of how the Kingdom can leverage its abundant resources, domestic expertise and competitive advantage in energy production. Linking energy and industrial transformations to optimize new opportunities will simultaneously position Saudi Arabia in the new energy market.


Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report

Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report

Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report
  • Capital Economics' forecast a further evidence that the Saudi economic recovery has taken off in 2021

RIYADHH Saudi Arabia’s economy is poised to grow from 2.2 percent to 4.8 percent in 2021 and from 4.1 percent to 6.3 percent in 2022, said a Capital Economics report.

The new forecasts are further evidence that the Saudi economic recovery has taken off in 2021.

At the start of the year, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Finance said that it expected 3.2 percent growth this year — reversing the pandemic-driven downturn of 2020. The International Monetary Fund forecast just 2.1 percent growth two months ago.

The Saudi economy is expected to maintain growth in the second half of the year. The expansion is also backed by higher oil output amid an OPEC+ agreement.

The Kingdom’s finance, insurance, real estate, and business sectors are likely to expand by 9 percent annually and their relative share to overall economic activity will grow by 12.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the services sector is also likely to grow about 10 percent annually on average, implying that its relative gross domestic product (GDP) share will climb to almost 40 percent in 2030.

 


Saudi shoppers helping high-end sector rebound to new peaks

Saudi shoppers helping high-end sector rebound to new peaks
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi shoppers helping high-end sector rebound to new peaks

Saudi shoppers helping high-end sector rebound to new peaks
  • GCC retail giant aiming to double revenues in the Kingdom, become dominant player by 2022

DUBAI: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) luxury retail sector has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with high-end brands performing particularly well, as shoppers splash the cash they saved by not spending on entertainment or travel during the last year, according to one of the region’s biggest retailers.

Consultancy firm Bains & Company in April reported that the GCC luxury goods market declined 16.6 percent year on year to $7.4 billion in 2020, with Saudi Arabia down 8 percent and the tourist-dependent UAE declining 25 percent.

However, Michael Chalhoub, president of strategy, growth, innovation and investment and vice-president joint ventures at the Chalhoub Group, which has 559 stores across the GCC and manages brands such as Diro, Swarovski, Fendi and Louis Vuitton, told Arab News that the market has bounced back.

“I think the luxury market, and fashion in particular, has recovered in 2021, at levels even higher than in 2019,” he said.

“Local consumers are traveling less. And so, consumption has been repatriated. And we estimate that, in normal time, between one-third to 50 percent of the luxury consumption of GCC nationals happens abroad in London, Paris and Geneva. But now, because of the pandemic, they’ve had to stay, in particular in Saudi Arabia, where the borders were blocked for most of the first half of the year,” he added.

With gyms, restaurants, entertainment venues and travel off limits for a long period, Chalhoub said that shoppers now had more disposable income and were feeling free to spend their savings.

“I would say that average income has gone higher because of a lack of entertainment expenses. What people aren’t spending in restaurants and travel, they are probably spending it on taking care of themselves,” he said.

Michael Chalhoub

However, Chalhoub said that the rebound differed across retail segments. Very high-end luxury brands are performing much better than premium or affordable brands. Jewelry, fragrances and beauty brands are seeing strong growth, but he observed that makeup was still down, mainly due to consumers wearing masks and not leaving the house as often.

“With fashion, I think that we’re up by 5 to 7 percent in the region versus 2019, mainly with luxury fashion and even more so with high-end luxury,” he said, looking at the industry as a whole.

Many retailers have seen triple-digit growth in their online sales during 2020, and the Chalhoub Group accelerated its digitalization strategy in line with the wider industry. “If we were to compare 2021 numbers to 2019, we’re probably talking about 100 percent growth for the industry. And this is incredible. I think the numbers I had were plus 96 percent in the GCC as a whole and even 138 percent just in the UAE,” he said.

However, while online sales might be popular for grocery or food outlets, high-end fashion consumers still like to feel, touch and try on clothing before buying.

For this reason, Chalhoub said that the company expects a higher percentage of returns when it comes to online high-end fashion. “We’re inviting our customer to say try it on and then send it back if you need to,” he said.

With Saudi Arabia less dependent on international tourists for retail sales, the Kingdom largely avoided the slump in sales last year. Chalhoub Group has operated in the Kingdom since 1975, where it has six offices, 215 stores and about 3,600 employees.

It now controls 38 percent of the Saudi market, 48 percent of fashion and 55 percent of beauty, but it is aiming to become the largest player in the sector by the end of next year.

“We’ve made Saudi Arabia a main focus for ourselves; we want to make sure that we cater for the new Saudi customers as much as possible. We have a population there that is young and really enthusiastic about some of the transformation that is happening there,” Chalhoub said.

“We’re investing a lot into Saudi Arabia. The objective that we had set ourselves about six months ago was to double our revenues there in eighteen months. And that means investing more and catering to those customers spending more locally rather than internationally,” he added.

One of the ways the group is aiming to capture more of the Saudi market is by tapping into the Kingdom’s local fashion talent. In early July, the company launched Fashion Lab, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the Kingdom, offering local entrepreneurs the chance to win $15,000 in funding to help establish their fashion brands.

Successful participants will get to take part in a two-week “boot camp,” which will help them navigate through the different elements of developing their brand, including marketing, supply chain management, content creation and media exposure.

Looking forward, the Bain & Company report said: “With about 40 percent of the population aged under 25, Saudi Arabia will likely remain the biggest engine of growth for the regional luxury industry in coming years.”


Saudi Arabia sets new rules for fruit, vegetable imports

Saudi Arabia sets new rules for fruit, vegetable imports
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi Arabia sets new rules for fruit, vegetable imports

Saudi Arabia sets new rules for fruit, vegetable imports
  • The ministry has launched a new system for vegetables and fruit imports to support local production

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture on Saturday called on fruit and vegetable suppliers to complete all formalities to obtain import licenses before the Aug. 9 deadline.

After Aug. 9, no unlicensed supplier will be allowed to import fruit and vegetables. Those interested can visit the following link to apply for a license: https://eservices.mewa.gov.sa/request/111111.

An import license will be valid for three to 10 years depending on the license category, the ministry said.

Saudi authorities have also issued health guidelines for imports like all shipments should be free of pesticide residues or within the limit allowed by the Kingdom’s laws. 

The ministry has launched a new system for vegetables and fruit imports to support local production, enforce quality control and ensure food security in the Kingdom.


Millions of Americans at risk of losing homes as virus cases spike

Millions of Americans at risk of losing homes as virus cases spike
Updated 31 July 2021

Millions of Americans at risk of losing homes as virus cases spike

Millions of Americans at risk of losing homes as virus cases spike
  • The wave of evictions would come as the fast-spreading delta variant has taken hold in the country and rental housing is in high demand in the hot real estate market

WASHINGTON: Millions of Americans could find themselves homeless starting Sunday when a nationwide ban on evictions expires, even as billions in government funds meant to help them go untapped.

The wave of evictions would come as the fast-spreading delta variant has taken hold in the country and rental housing is in high demand in the hot real estate market.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Congress to extend the 11-month-old eviction moratorium, after a recent Supreme Court ruling meant the White House could not extend the measure through September as intended.

Democratic leaders in Congress were pushing for an extension, but it was unclear if they had the votes, even among moderates in their own party, to prevent the ban from expiring.

Efforts stalled on Friday in the House after a move to pass the extension was unsuccessful, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying in a statement, that “not a single Republican would support this measure.”

The day before, she had called the extension “a moral imperative.”

She also called on governors and local officials “to take whatever steps are necessary to distribute the rental assistance that Congress already allocated.”

Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, such as stimulus checks, it was states, counties and cities that were responsible for building programs from the ground up to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.

The Treasury Department said that as of June, only $3 billion in aid had reached households out of the $25 billion sent to states and localities in early February, less than three weeks after Biden took office.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered the eviction moratorium in September 2020, as the world’s largest economy lost over 20 million jobs amid the pandemic shutdowns. The CDC feared increasing homelessness would boost coronavirus infections.

Although more than half of those lost jobs were recovered as businesses were able to reopen, many families still have not caught up on missed rent payments.

The Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse survey through the first week of July showed that of 51 million renters surveyed, 7.4 million were behind on their rent and nearly half of those said they were at risk of being evicted in the next two months.


Gulf stocks buoyed by oil prices as emerging markets hammered on China

Gulf stocks buoyed by oil prices as emerging markets hammered on China
Updated 31 July 2021

Gulf stocks buoyed by oil prices as emerging markets hammered on China

Gulf stocks buoyed by oil prices as emerging markets hammered on China
  • Tadawul All Share Index rose 7.5 percent in July
  • MSCI Emerging Market Index dropped 7 percent in the month

RIYADH: Gulf stocks were a relative oasis for emerging market investors this week as the broader complex posted its worst month since March 2020 amid concern over the breadth of a Chinese regulatory crackdown.

The Tadawul All Share Index climbed 0.7 percent on July 29 to end the week 1.9 percent higher for a 7.5 percent monthly gain. The Abu Dhabi Securities Market General Index climbed 1 percent on Thursday, taking it to a record high on the back of a 2 percent advance for First Abu Dhabi Bank.

By contrast, the MSCI Emerging Market Index dropped 1.4 percent on Friday, for a 7 percent monthly loss, the most since the fallout from the pandemic hit global markets early last year. Stocks in mainland China and Hong Kong fell to their lowest this year, on investor worries over government regulations dented the education, property and tech sectors.

Brent crude climbed 2.5 percent in the week after a rollercoaster month that saw it swoon from a two-year high of $77.16 on July 5 to $68.62 on July 19 before recovering to end the month at $76.33.

Concerns over the effect a resurgence in coronavirus cases might have on demand for crude were allayed on Wednesday when a report showed a bigger-than-expected drawdown of crude stockpiles the previous week.

“The reduced stockpile has propped crude prices up which gave a boost to the region’s stock markets,” Daniel Takieddine, senior market analyst at FXPrimus, told Reuters.

The Tadawul’s IPO pipeline will advance this month after Saudi burger chain Burgerizzr said it will begin offering shares to the public on Aug. 15 with the intention to list on the parallel stock market Nomu in September.

The company plans to offer 725,000 shares, representing 29 percent of its SR25 million capital, it said in its prospectus on Thursday.

Further signs of the Kingdom’s ambitious investment program were revealed this week as
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology announced a $15 billion technology fund to advance digital infrastructure in the Kingdom during the Saudi 4th Industrial Revolution conference held in Riyadh this week.

The public-private partnership will develop advanced technology from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is expected to generate around $1 trillion for the Saudi economy in new revenue streams, a senior Saudi official said on Wednesday.

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