British services firm Serco eyeing growth in Saudi Arabia

British services firm Serco eyeing growth in Saudi Arabia
Phil Malem, CEO of Serco Middle East.
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Updated 06 April 2021

British services firm Serco eyeing growth in Saudi Arabia

British services firm Serco eyeing growth in Saudi Arabia
  • CEO says company committed to Vision 2030, Saudization and giga projects

RIYADH: British public services firm Serco expects revenue and profit in the Middle East to rise in 2021 and is hoping to grow its business in Saudi Arabia this year, Phil Malem, the company’s CEO for the region, told Arab News.

“Our aspirations are to grow, certainly in terms of the government services sector. Our aim is to grow in the transportation sector, particularly in aviation, government and citizen services. We are quite confident of a positive year,” he said.

Operating in the Kingdom for a decade, the British company, which is headquartered in England, manages more than 500 global government contracts and employs more than 50,000 people.

Serco operates in a range of public service sectors, including health, transport, justice, immigration, defence and citizen services.

“We are hugely enthusiastic about the potential of the Kingdom and we have tried to grow in line with Saudi Vision 2030. We are passionate about the Saudization program. It’s a key part of our strategy. We have continued to recruit, train and develop skills in Saudi nationals who can make a difference in the organization,” Malem said.

The company made two prominent regional appointments late last year, including the recruitment of a Saudi woman to direct business in the Kingdom. Mona Althagafi was appointed as Serco Middle East Country Director for Saudi Arabia, becoming the first woman to be appointed as head of a Saudi public services company.

According to Malem, Serco has employed about 40 to 50 Saudi nationals in its team for the Kingdom and is looking forward to hiring and training more Saudi nationals across all levels of management.

In Saudi Arabia, Serco operates across a number of sectors, including fire and rescue services, airport services, the transportation sector and the railway system. “We help operate about 11 hospitals in the Kingdom,” Malem said.

He added that the potential pipeline of work is promising, and that Serco is hoping for more business once the aviation sector returns to normal.

International flights are suspended in the Kingdom due to coronavirus travel restrictions, but will resume on May 17, as announced by the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia.

Serco is also closely following the development of Saudi giga projects, such as NEOM and the Red Sea Development. “We are actively in discussion around the potential of helping in the project,” Malem said.

“We are also trying to see some progress in terms of the Public Investment Fund and the giga projects, which are really huge opportunities. We are hoping to get involved,” he added.

The last year has been challenging for all companies, but the pandemic also opened up opportunities for Serco to win potential contracts. “About 95 percent of our businesses are from frontline services, so that continued. We kept hospitals running, kept the transport system operating and available to use, and we are quite proud that we operated our client hospitals in the region within all aspects of PCR testing and quarantine,” Malem said.

Despite this success, Serco recently lost a high-profile contract in the UAE for the Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram.

Malem said: “Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in winning the RTA Dubai Metro contract when this came for renewal and so our tenure will come to an end at the end of September this year.

“We are disappointed not to have won this bid, but we remain proud of our service to the RTA over the past decade. We will work with the new concessionaire to ensure a smooth transition and handover as we demobilize our operations at Dubai Metro.”

However, Serco was successful in signing a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company G42.

The partnership aims to combine resources, capabilities and core competencies in a non-equity agreement to deliver fully integrated transformations of multi-faceted public services to both existing and new clients.

Malem said: “G42 is a brilliant organization with smart people in the sector who are looking to have support from businesses to be able to deliver solutions and provide innovative services to governments and clients across the region.”


Saudi trade name requests jump amid signs of FDI rebound

Saudi trade name requests jump amid signs of FDI rebound
Updated 13 min 20 sec ago

Saudi trade name requests jump amid signs of FDI rebound

Saudi trade name requests jump amid signs of FDI rebound
  • Requests for trade names increased by 19 percent in the first quarter of 2021

RIYADH: Saudi commercial chiefs have reported a rise in trade name requests, the latest indicator of a rebound in business activity in the Kingdom.
Requests for trade names increased by 19 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a year earlier, SPA reported.
The Ministry of Commerce received 78,056 requests for trade names in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 65,716 requests a year earlier.
Most of the applications were for restaurants, cafés, contracting and foodstuffs activities — an encouraging sign from sectors that have been especially hit hard by the pandemic.
The rollout of vaccines across the Gulf states is helping businesses in some sectors get back to normal, however continued travel restrictions and the resurgence of the COVID-19 coronavirus in countries such as India has tempered earlier expectations of a strong and swift global recovery.
Still, there are also sign of rebounding foreign direct investment activity.
Sovereign AEI, a company that assists foreign investors establish a presence in the country, has also reported an increase in activity and expects to record a 50 percent rise in registrations at the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia this year.
“The Saudi market presents tremendous opportunities,” said Paul Arnold, managing director of Sovereign Saudi Arabia. “We continue to see a growing interest and increasing shift of client focus toward KSA, as the country continues to unveil new strategic initiatives.”
The Kingdom has accelerated efforts to attract foreign investment this year as the pandemic created new challenges for regional economies seeking to diversify, modernize and create jobs for citizens.
In February the government announced it would stop signing contracts with foreign companies from 2024 unless their regional headquarters were based in the Kingdom.


UAE overtakes China in $17bn US treasuries purchase

UAE overtakes China in $17bn US treasuries purchase
Updated 22 min 26 sec ago

UAE overtakes China in $17bn US treasuries purchase

UAE overtakes China in $17bn US treasuries purchase
  • China bought $9 billion of treasuries in February
  • Monthly haul was biggest ever for UAE

RIYADH: The UAE bought more US treasuries than China in February, breaking with other top oil exporters in the Arabian Gulf that cut back on their exposure to one of the world’s safest assets, Bloomberg reported.
OPEC’s third-biggest producer raised its stockpile by almost 50 percent to $50.6 billion at the end of February, an increase of nearly $17 billion that made it the second-biggest buyer of the securities that month after the UK, according to the latest figures from the US Treasury Department.
The monthly haul was the biggest ever for the UAE, with no clear reasons.
The UAE may have built up enough of a buffer to commit the spare petrodollars toward the $21 trillion treasuries market, Bloomberg said.
The move took UAE holdings to levels last seen in 2019 before the global pandemic and the crash in oil prices put pressure on its finances. China bought $9 billion of treasuries in February to bring its total to $1.1 trillion, the highest since mid-2019.
Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were net sellers of treasuries in February.


Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries
Updated 21 April 2021

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries
  • In a presidential decree Ruhsar Pekcan was replaced as trade minister by Mus, who has been a lawmaker for Erdogan’s AK Party since 2011

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a prominent member of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Mehmet Mus, as trade minister on Wednesday and split the Family, Labour and Social Policies Ministry into two ministries.
In a presidential decree Ruhsar Pekcan was replaced as trade minister by Mus, who has been a lawmaker for Erdogan’s AK Party since 2011 and served as the party’s deputy chairman in charge of the economy.
The decree, published in the Official Gazette, gave no reason for the change, but it comes after opposition politicians accused Pekcan’s ministry of buying supplies from her family-owned company and called on her to resign.
The Trade Ministry confirmed that the purchase of sanitisers had been made, but said in a statement on Tuesday the choice was based on price alone and not due to “the name of the company making the sale.”
It said that the sale, worth some 500,000 lira ($62,000), had been carried out in line with relevant regulations.
Erdogan’s overnight changes come amid speculation over a wider cabinet reshuffle, after he changed the country’s top economic management in November, including the central bank governor.
The president established two new ministries by splitting the Family, Labour and Social Policies Ministry into two separate ministries, according to the decree.
He appointed Derya Yanik as Family and Social Policies Minister and Vedat Bilgin as the Labour and Social Security Minister, replacing Zehra Zumrut Selcuk.


Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills
Updated 11 min 10 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills
  • The National Center for Privatization & PPP (NCP) said it completed the sale of the two mills (MC2 and MC4) to private sector investors

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is set to generate about SR3 billion ($800 million) in proceeds from the privatization of two flour mills.
The National Center for Privatization & PPP (NCP) said it completed the sale of the two mills (MC2 and MC4) to private sector investors.
A consortium that includes Abdulaziz Alajlan & Sons Company for Commercial and Real Estate Investment, Al Rajhi International for Investment, National Agricultural Development and OLAM International acquires the second milling company (MC2) for about SR2.14 billion, according to a stock exchange filing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile a consortium that includes Abdullah Al-Othaim Markets Company, Allana International Company and United Feed Manufacturing Company secured the fourth milling company for SR859 million.
Saudi Arabia is accelerating plans to privatize key infrastructure in an effort to modernize the economy, speed major infrastructure works and develop its financial services sector.


AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?
Updated 21 April 2021

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?
  • Good news for Apple fans in the Gulf – all the new products will be available in the region as early as the end of April

DUBAI: Apple just held its first keynote event of the year – announcing new products such as a button-like accessory to help people keep track of their belongings, as well as updates for existing models including a purple iPhone 12.
Good news for Apple fans in the Gulf – all the new products will be available in the region as early as the end of April.
Here are the new products launched during the Apple event in its Cupertino headquarters, and their prices and availability status in the UAE:

AirTag
Price: Starting 129 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 23; product is available on April 30


24-inch iMac (available in seven different colors)
Price: Starting 5,499 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

Apple TV 4K
Price: Starting 729 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

iPad Pro with M1 chip
Price: Starting 3,199 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

Other announcements:
The new purple iPhone 12 has no other updates other than the color – it will be the same price as the other iPhone 12 models.
The new iOS 14.5 will be launched next week. It comes with the biggest privacy changes Apple will introduce so far, according to a statement.