HSBC, Morgan Stanley said to work on SABIC’s specialty unit IPO

HSBC, Morgan Stanley said to work on SABIC’s specialty unit IPO
The unit produces speciality engineering thermoplastic resins and compounds, composites, thermosets and additives. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 06 April 2021

HSBC, Morgan Stanley said to work on SABIC’s specialty unit IPO

HSBC, Morgan Stanley said to work on SABIC’s specialty unit IPO
  • The specialty chemicals business brings in about $2 billion in sales each year for SABIC

Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) has selected HSBC and Morgan Stanley to work on the planned initial public offering (IPO) of its specialty chemicals business, two sources familiar with the matter said.

SABIC, the world’s fourth-biggest petrochemicals firm, hired Saudi investment bank NCB Capital earlier this year to work on the public share sale, which sources said could raise several hundred million dollars.

The specialty chemicals business brings in about $2 billion in sales each year for SABIC, which is controlled by state oil company Aramco, one of the sources, and a third source, said.

The unit produces speciality engineering thermoplastic resins and compounds, composites, thermosets and additives, according to its website.

SABIC, HSBC and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

The country had a flurry of public offerings last year as companies tap into Saudi demand for shares since oil giant Aramco’s record IPO in 2019.

Saudi Arabia is encouraging more companies to list in a bid to deepen its capital markets under reforms aimed at reducing its reliance on oil.

With a market capitalisation of $2.5 trillion, Saudi Arabia’s bourse, Tadawul, is the Arab world’s largest stock exchange.

Theeb Rent-a-Car Co, part owned by private equity firm Investcorp, earlier this month raised 516 million riyals ($137.59 million) by offering 30% of its shares.


O2, Virgin Media win provisional UK approval for $43bn merger

O2, Virgin Media win provisional UK approval for $43bn merger
Updated 16 min 17 sec ago

O2, Virgin Media win provisional UK approval for $43bn merger

O2, Virgin Media win provisional UK approval for $43bn merger
  • The two telecommunications groups agreed last May to merge their British businesses to create a broadband and mobile powerhouse in a challenge to market leader BT Group

LONDON: Britain’s competition watchdog said on Wednesday it had provisionally cleared the £31.4 billion ($43.3 billion) merger between broadband company Virgin Media and Telefonica’s UK mobile network O2.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), addressing one of its primary concerns, said that its investigation had concluded the deal was unlikely to result in a substantial reduction of competition in the supply of wholesale mobile services.

“A thorough analysis of the evidence gathered ... has shown that the deal is unlikely to lead to higher prices or a reduced quality of mobile services — meaning customers should continue to benefit from strong competition,” said Martin Coleman, CMA Panel Inquiry Chair.

The regulator said it believed there was sufficient competition within the market to prevent either player raising wholesale broadband or mobile prices to the detriment of rivals who use its infrastructure.

The decision was welcomed by Virgin Media owner Liberty Global Plc. and Spain-based Telefonica, which took note of the CMA’s provisional conclusions.

“We continue to work constructively with the CMA to achieve a positive outcome and continue to expect closing around the middle of this year,” a spokesman for Telefonica told Reuters on Wednesday.

The two telecommunications groups agreed last May to merge their British businesses to create a broadband and mobile powerhouse in a challenge to market leader BT Group.

The two sides said earlier this month that Virgin Media boss Lutz Schuler would become chief executive of the new company.


PIF-backed fund to help UAE HR firm expand into KSA with $20m investment

PIF-backed fund to help UAE HR firm expand into KSA with $20m investment
Updated 14 April 2021

PIF-backed fund to help UAE HR firm expand into KSA with $20m investment

PIF-backed fund to help UAE HR firm expand into KSA with $20m investment
  • Dubai-based Reach Group first recipient from NBK Capital Partners’ $300m Shariah credit fund

JEDDAH: A Dubai-based human resources consultancy firm has become the first company to receive financing from a new $300 million Shariah credit fund anchored by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, it was announced this week.

Reach Group focuses on supplying skilled and semi-skilled employees to government, private-sector companies and quasi-public entities on long-term contracts.

The company has 6,000 outsourced full-time employees in the UAE, making it among the largest temporary staffing providers in the country.

It is planning to use its new $20 million investment to expand into the Saudi market through the acquisition of a local outsourcing company in the Kingdom.

“This transaction provides additional capital for us to expand into Saudi Arabia, which we’ve viewed as a natural growth area for our business,” said Reach Group’s founder and CEO Malik Melhem.

The $300 million Shariah Credit Opportunities Fund was launched in February by the Dubai-headquartered National Bank of Kuwait Capital Partners (NBKCP), a subsidiary of Kuwait’s biggest bank.

The fund’s anchor investor is the Saudi Public Investment Fund, and is expected to make 10-12 investments of $15-$50 million over the next eight years. Reach Group is the first such investment to be announced.

“Reach is a highly reputable leader in outsourced staffing solutions in the region. We were pleased to work with its founder and management team to structure a financing solution that allowed Reach to enter the Saudi market,” said NBKCP CEO Yaser Moustafa.


Sustainable investment leaders to gather for Riyadh summit

The Future Investment Initiative Institute will examine sustainable investment in the post-pandemic recovery, and the role of emerging markets like Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
The Future Investment Initiative Institute will examine sustainable investment in the post-pandemic recovery, and the role of emerging markets like Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 14 April 2021

Sustainable investment leaders to gather for Riyadh summit

The Future Investment Initiative Institute will examine sustainable investment in the post-pandemic recovery, and the role of emerging markets like Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • ESG funds attract billions of dollars
  • Most assets currently held in Europe

DUBAI: Thought leaders in sustainable investment will gather virtually in Riyadh on Thursday to explore one of the hottest topics in the world of finance — the move to environmental, social and governance (ESG) benchmarks by big global investors.

The event, under the auspices of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, will focus attention on sustainable investment in the post-pandemic recovery, and the role of emerging markets like Saudi Arabia within the new investment philosophy.

ESG investing has recently taken off, attracting hundreds of billions of dollars into funds that pledge to weigh broader considerations when deciding where to put their money, rather than mere cash returns.

Richard Attias, chief executive of the FII Institute, said: “Although ESG has proven its worth, much remains to be done to ensure we use it to its full potential. The low level of inclusion and participation of emerging markets in the development of ESG frameworks is counterproductive to global sustainability.

“Perhaps the most challenging task, and one that we will address during this event, is how we push ourselves to think beyond ESG as a risk management tool and deploy it to create a truly sustainable future,” he added.

Although sustainable investment has been advocated as a concept for many years, it has taken off recently against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, which persuaded many traditional big investors to look again at their basic criteria.

The most significant recent convert to the new thinking has been Larry Fink of giant investment manager BlackRock, who promised to divert funds into ESG sectors and away from traditional investment areas, particularly in the area of climate change.

“The risks that climate change poses to the world of finance can no longer be ignored,” Fink wrote in his annual letter to global chief executives.

Many investment managers seem to have agreed with the BlackRock boss. Figures from Refinitiv, the data provider, show that flows into ESG funds totaled around SR562.6 billion ($150 billion) in the final quarter of 2020 alone, twice as much as the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.

But global investment flows are not even, recent research has shown. By far the biggest assets in ESG funds are held in Europe, with a total of $1.34 trillion, according to financial industry analysts. This compares with only $236 billion in the US, and a meager $65 billion in the rest of the world, including the Middle East.

“The event will offer insights into how to boost participation of emerging markets in ESG and also deep dive into the role of ESG across corporations, retail investing, and monetary policy in pursuit of a sustainable world,” the FII Institute said.

The delegates will be addressed by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which has incorporated ESG principles into its $400 billion worth of global investments.

It will also hear from Bandar Hajjar, president of the Islamic Development Bank, and Noel Quinn, chief executive of HSBC, which recently decided to cease investment in coal assets, as well as senior executives from leading financial institutions in Asia and Africa.

Despite the fast-rising investment trend in some parts of the world, there are still areas of disagreement worldwide on what constitutes fair ESG standards.

Khalid Abdullah Al-Hussan, the CEO of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), said recently: “There are several standards applied worldwide, and a method applied in one country is not necessarily suitable for another. The agencies must consider local criteria while evaluating ESG in emerging markets.”

That issue is particularly relevant in the Arabian Gulf, where the bulk of investments are in oil and gas-related assets, which have come under attack from ESG activists with calls to divest from so-called “fossil fuel” investments.

But there are signs the new investment principles are beginning to catch on among regional investors, especially from the younger generation.

A recent survey by Barclays Private Bank found that nearly 60 percent of investors from Arab family offices were heading into more sustainable investment directions, in many cases prompted by concerns of younger family members.

“The report findings reflect that 76 percent of all respondents in the Middle East state that responsible investing is important to their family,” said Rahim Daya, head of private banking at Barclays in the Middle East.


French Louvre Hotels to open 31 new properties in Saudi Arabia

French Louvre Hotels to open 31 new properties in Saudi Arabia
Updated 14 April 2021

French Louvre Hotels to open 31 new properties in Saudi Arabia

French Louvre Hotels to open 31 new properties in Saudi Arabia
  • The new additions will bring the group’s total properties in the Kingdom to 16

DUBAI: French group Louvre Hotels has announced plans to open 31 new properties across the Kingdom by 2025, as the global hospitality sector slowly emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new hotels will open by the end of 2025, the group announced, adding 6,552 rooms to its current inventory in the Kingdom.

Five of the new properties will be launched this year, with investment from private sector partners, in key destinations across Saudi Arabia:

Golden Tulip Riyadh (Phase 1: 94 rooms) and Golden Tulip Unaizah (84 rooms) were scheduled to open during Q1, and will be joined by the Tulip Inn Dammam Corniche (70 rooms), the Tulip Inn Al Balaad Madinah (150 rooms) in Q3, whil the Golden Tulip Umm Al Qurah (454 rooms) will open in Makkah during Q4.

“Saudi Arabia is a key market for our international expansion, particularly as the country places more importance on travel and tourism with such a vast array of spectacular destinations within the Kingdom,” Pierre-Frédéric Roulot, CEO of Louvre Hotels Group, said in a statement.

The new additions will bring the group’s total properties in the Kingdom to 16.


Bahrain’s Gulf Air makes progress in delaying jet deliveries

Bahrain’s Gulf Air makes progress in delaying jet deliveries
Updated 14 April 2021

Bahrain’s Gulf Air makes progress in delaying jet deliveries

Bahrain’s Gulf Air makes progress in delaying jet deliveries
  • Operating at 50-60% of pre-pandemic levels
  • Seeks delays in some Boeing and Airbus planes

DUBAI: Bahrain’s Gulf Air has made good progress in its efforts to delay some Airbus and Boeing aircraft deliveries, its acting chief executive said on Wednesday.
The state-owned carrier has been seeking to push back the delivery schedule of some new jets amid a slump in global travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had to go renegotiate the delivery dates. We haven’t canceled anything,” Acting CEO Waleed Abdulhameed Al-Alawi told an online event organized by aviation consultancy CAPA.
“We have actually negotiated with the main suppliers Boeing and Airbus and we’ve got good progress with these two scenarios.”
Al-Alawi told Reuters in January the airline would receive some aircraft this year but was seeking delays in Airbus A320neo and Boeing 787 Dreamliner deliveries.
“At the moment no airline would be keen on receiving aircraft or accepting delivery flights to park these airplanes because of costs,” he told the CAPA event.
The state-owned carrier was currently operating at about 50 percent or 60 percent of its pre-pandemic levels, he said.