Saudi Aramco investing ‘significant amounts’ in blockchain platforms to increase efficiency

Saudi Aramco investing ‘significant amounts’ in blockchain platforms to increase efficiency
Saudi Aramco is moving ahead with plans to become the world’s leading digitalized energy company by leveraging innovative technologies to improve efficiency, safety and sustainability. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 14 March 2021

Saudi Aramco investing ‘significant amounts’ in blockchain platforms to increase efficiency

Saudi Aramco investing ‘significant amounts’ in blockchain platforms to increase efficiency
  • Aramco has also used its partnership with the World Economic Forum to become one of the first entities in the region to scale

RIYADH: Saudi oil giant Aramco is moving ahead with plans to become the world’s leading digitalized energy company by leveraging innovative technologies to improve efficiency, safety and sustainability, a company representative told Arab News.

The company is using blockchain technology to standardize business processes to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Blockchain benefits include cybersecurity, data resilience, privacy, improved data quality and fraud reduction.

“Aramco is investing significant amounts in blockchain technology and is working closely with its business partners to encourage and prepare them for adopting the technology. Aramco deployed its corporate blockchain platform in partnership with IBM, which enables Aramco to scale up its blockchain solutions,” a spokesperson told Arab News in a statement.

To that end, Aramco has invested in two blockchain platforms: Data Gumbo and VAKT. These aid in the management and automation of new contracts and invoices, helping to eliminate the need for paper-based processes.

The energy giant has also used blockchain technology to conduct background checks and to verify the diplomas and certificates of new employees and contractors. “This is a very time-consuming process . . . Since its deployment in June 2020, the Blockchain Certificate Verifier has introduced an efficient and secure verification environment and cut verification time by more than 90 percent for heavy equipment operator certificates,” the spokesperson said.

Aramco has also used its partnership with the World Economic Forum to become one of the first entities in the region to scale and pilot the World Economic Forum’s Blockchain deployment toolkit, which gives company’s the skillsets needed to adapt the technology into its processes.

As a result of these strides, Aramco was included in Forbes Magazine’s 2021 blockchain top-50, a global ranking of companies that are the most advanced in blockchain, and it is the only company from the Middle East on the list.

Additionally, Aramco has maintained its position as the Middle East’s most valuable brand, with the Brand Finance Global 500 2021 report valuing the Kingdom’s oil giant at $37.5 billion, despite a 20 percent drop in brand value.


Saudi MoF electronically linked to SAMA

Saudi MoF electronically linked to SAMA
Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi MoF electronically linked to SAMA

Saudi MoF electronically linked to SAMA

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced the completion of an electronic link with the Ministry of Finance to process requests relating to the bank accounts of government agencies held at Saudi commercial banks through the online portal Hesaab.

SAMA is seeking to improve and accelerate the procedures related to requests of government agencies’ bank accounts received from the Ministry of Finance, by implementing technical solutions with minimal human intervention, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The Hesaab portal is one of the National Transformation Program 2020 initiatives that improves the level of financial services, in line with Vision 2030.


Oil falls amid dollar strength; demand picture still bullish

Oil falls amid dollar strength; demand picture still bullish
Updated 18 June 2021

Oil falls amid dollar strength; demand picture still bullish

Oil falls amid dollar strength; demand picture still bullish
  • Prices remain close to multi-year highs
  • Dollar jumped since Fed moved rate-hike forecast forward

LONDON: Oil prices fell for a second straight session on Friday as the US dollar soared on the prospect of interest rate hikes in the United States, but they were on track to finish the week little changed and only slightly off multi-year highs.
Brent crude futures were down 64 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $72.44 a barrel as of 9:00 a.m. GMT, extending a 1.8 percent decline on Thursday. The contract is set to be largely steady for the week.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 53 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $70.51 a barrel, after retreating 1.5 percent on Thursday and is also set to be flat on the week.
On Wednesday, Brent settled at its highest price since April 2019 while WTI settled at its highest since October 2018.
“Oil markets retreated sharply overnight as a stronger US dollar and falling commodity prices elsewhere saw the overbought technical correction continue,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
The dollar has rocketed in the two sessions since the US Federal Reserve projected possible rate hikes in 2023, earlier than market watchers previously expected. A rising dollar makes oil more expensive in other currencies, curbing demand.
The prospect of rate hikes also weighed on the longer-term growth outlook, which would eventually hurt oil demand, in contrast to the near-term outlook for growth in demand as COVID-19 related curbs on movement and business activity ease and road and air travel pick up, said Westpac senior economist Justin Smirk.
“The near term’s all very positive. The question is how much further can it rise, how much scope is there if you’re looking at an environment where interest rates are going to rise,” Smirk said.
Oil prices also fell after Britain on Thursday reported its biggest daily rise in new cases of COVID-19 since Feb. 19, with government figures showing 11,007 new infections versus 9,055 a day earlier.
Adding to negative sentiment were remarks from Iran’s top negotiator on Thursday saying talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have come closer than ever to an agreement.


Saudi listed company debt jumped by half in 2020

Saudi listed company debt jumped by half in 2020
Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi listed company debt jumped by half in 2020

Saudi listed company debt jumped by half in 2020
  • Debt-to-asset ratio of Saudi companies ended 2020 at 20.1 percent

RIYADH: The debts of companies listed on Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul stock exchange, excluding real estate funds, increased by 45 percent last year as they borrowed to face down the pandemic and took advantage of low interest rates.

Debt reached SR1.3 trillion ($346 billion) at the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, up from SR899.2 billion a year earlier, Al Eqtisadiah reported, citing data from the Tadawul and Saudi Capital Market Authority. On a quarterly basis, debt rose 8.1 percent.

The debt-to-assets ratio of the companies climbed to a record 21.4 percent from 15.8 at the end of 2019, the data showed.

Saudi companies have stepped up bond sales in recent months as the Federal Reserve kept interest rates near record lows.

Saudi Aramco yesterday said it completed a $6 billion dollar sukuk offering, which takes its bond issuance since 2019 to $26 billion.


Egypt central bank holds interest rates for fifth straight month

Egypt central bank holds interest rates for fifth straight month
Updated 18 June 2021

Egypt central bank holds interest rates for fifth straight month

Egypt central bank holds interest rates for fifth straight month
  • Lending rate kept at 9.25 percent, deposit rate at 8.25 percent
  • GDP grew at 2.9 percent in Q1, up from 2 percent in Q4, 2020

CAIRO: The Monetary Policy Committee of Egypt’s Central Bank (CBE) kept its deposit rate at 8.25 percent on Thursday and its lending rate at 9.25 percent, the fifth consecutive month it left them unchanged.

Global economic activity is recovering, albeit unevenly across sectors and countries, and supportive financial conditions are likely to continue globally in the medium term, the central bank said in a statement.

Policy makers noted the rise in global prices of oil, food and other primary commodities as supply struggled to keep up with surging demand.

Egypt’s annual general urban inflation rate rose to 4.8 percent in May 2021 from 4.1 percent in April.

The central bank, which has a target inflation rate of 7 percent, plus or minus 2 percent, through the fourth quarter of 2022, expects inflation to continue to reflect base effects from last year when the pandemic suppressed prices.

Preliminary data indicate annual real GDP growth of 2.9 percent during the first quarter of 2021, up from 2 percent in the prior quarter.


Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture
Updated 18 June 2021

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture
  • Minimo VFX will open a headquarters in Riyadh in early 2022
  • Minimo helped produce The Dark Knight, Avatar and Harry Potter

RIYADH: Spanish film studio Minimo VFX plans to invest $250 million in the Saudi market through a joint venture with a local company, said CEO Felix Balbas.

“Our partnership with the Saudi Next Level Co. consists of opening a regional headquarters in Riyadh and localizing the film content industry, as well as training Saudis and empowering them globally,” Felix told Asharq on Thursday.

Minimo was involved in the production of films including The Dark Knight, Avatar, The Mission, Doom, and Harry Potter.

It will begin operations in Riyadh in early 2022 with a team of about 45 employees, offering production, logistical and advisory services for visual effects, long and short films, television shows and advertisements, he said.

Filmmaking and the screening of films is a recent phenomenon in the Kingdom after Saudi Arabia allowed the opening of cinemas in 2018.