Sustainable investment leaders 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)
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Updated 15 April 2021

Sustainable investment leaders 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.


Egypt to sell minority stake in state payments firm e-finance

Egypt to sell minority stake in state payments firm e-finance
Updated 19 September 2021

Egypt to sell minority stake in state payments firm e-finance

Egypt to sell minority stake in state payments firm e-finance

CAIRO: Egyptian state-controlled payments firm e-finance for Digital and Financial Investments said on Sunday it would offer up to 14.5 percent of its capital in an initial public offering in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Founded in 2005, e-finance said in a statement it is the sole entity authorized to operate the government’s financial network, including processing and settling payment and collection transactions.

The sale is one of several planned for this year.

In May, Egypt sold a 51 percent stake in state-owned Arab Investment Bank to privately owned EFG Hermes, its first sale of a majority bank stake since 2006.

The government announced in 2018 it intended to sell minority stakes in nearly two dozen companies, but those sales have been delayed repeatedly by market downturns and more recently by the coronavirus pandemic.

e-finance said it would float 177.8 million new shares on the stock exchange and 80 million shares owned by current shareholders, to both institutional and retail investors.

Among its shareholders are three state-owned banks: National Investment Bank, with 63.64 percent, and the National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr, each with 9.09 percent, according to e-finance’s 2019 annual report.

Egyptian Banks Co., a payments operator led by the central bank, and a firm called Egyptian Company for Investment Projects each own another 9.09 percent.

e-finance's revenue rose to 1.23 billion Egyptian pounds ($78 million) in 2020 and 904 million pounds in the first half of 2021, a 2018-20 compound annual growth rate of 30 percent, it said.

The sale is subject to market conditions and regulatory approvals, the statement added.


Saudi ministry launches initiative to implement global financial practices in govt entities

Saudi ministry launches initiative to implement global financial practices in govt entities
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi ministry launches initiative to implement global financial practices in govt entities

Saudi ministry launches initiative to implement global financial practices in govt entities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry on Sunday launched an initiative to ensure implementation of the latest global financial practices in the government sector to increase its efficiency in line with the Vision 2030, said a ministry statement.
Prior to the launch of the Financial Control and Support and Development Initiative, the ministry launched a self-assessment pilot program on selected government entities, it said.
The pilot project conducted field studies on the feasibility of self-assessment tools in government entities. The project sought to assess the efficiency of the entities’ internal control systems, level of transparency, and overall control measures.
The program aims to strengthen financial control procedures, improve governance, and switching to automation.


KSA’s grains storage capacity rises by 37% with 2 new silos


KSA’s grains storage capacity rises by 37%  with 2 new silos

Updated 19 September 2021

KSA’s grains storage capacity rises by 37% with 2 new silos


KSA’s grains storage capacity rises by 37%  with 2 new silos


RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has added two new silos to its existing infrastructure increasing its strategic grain storage capacity by 37 percent, according to an Al-Eqtisadiyah report.

The Saudi Grains Organizations completed the Yanbu Silos Project with a storage capacity of 120,000 tons and it is working on adding a new one with the same capacity in Duba port, the reported said citing SAGO Gov. Ahmed Al-Faris.

Al-Faris said that Saudi strategic storage capacity of grains increased by 900,000 tons to 3.4 millions between 2015 and 2021.  

The SAGO chief said that the Kingdom has reached self-sufficiency in many products such as fresh milk, eggs, dates and white corn etc.

SAGO is one of the leading national institutions tasked with ensuring availability of key food commodities in Saudi Arabia.


Skeptics fail to deter companies from entering crypto fray: Market wrap

Skeptics fail to deter companies from entering crypto fray: Market wrap
Updated 19 September 2021

Skeptics fail to deter companies from entering crypto fray: Market wrap

Skeptics fail to deter companies from entering crypto fray: Market wrap
  • Paypal Crypto is now available to its UK customers

RIYADH: Paypal has completed the first international expansion of its cryptocurrency offering outside the US. 

Paypal Crypto is now available to its UK customers allowing them to buy, hold and sell four types of cryptocurrencies.

The official account of Paypal UK tweeted: “We are delighted to share that all eligible customers in the UK can now buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies such as: Bitcoin, ethereum, bitcoin cash and litecoin from their Paypal account.”

Meanwhile, Laos has allowed a series of cryptocurrency mining and trading projects in the country in contravention of the policies of its central bank which issued warnings against cryptocurrencies just a month ago. The move to allow bitcoin mining is part of the government’s efforts to compensate for the losses caused due to a decline in tourism due to the coronavirus disease pandemic. 

Six companies have been authorized to start cryptocurrency trading and mining operations in the country, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Laos could also try to attract some of the miners who were expelled from China.

Skepticism

Sergei Shvetsov, deputy chairman of the board of directors of the Bank of Russia, stated that the bank remains skeptical about the acquisition of cryptocurrencies and will not support increased access to crypto markets for Russian investors, most of whom are not certified, according to media reports.

Russia’s central bank is now working with commercial banks to delay payments made on digital asset exchanges.

The move aims to limit cryptocurrency purchases that Russian investors make based on emotion and are not qualified to do so. The move is likely to affect peer-to-peer and over-the-counter trading platforms.

Speaking at the International Banking Forum, the senior official explained: “When it comes to buying cryptocurrency for investment purposes, we are skeptical about this idea. We believe it’s different from traditional assets, it’s highly risky and has signs of a pyramid scheme.”

Trading

Bitcoin, the leading digital currency, traded lower on Sunday and slipped by 1.57 percent to $47,690.80 at 5:52 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most-traded cryptocurrency, was down by 3.46 percent at $3,357.70, according to data from CoinDesk.

 

 


UAE economy minister to visit Britain seeking trade deal

UAE economy minister to visit Britain seeking trade deal
Updated 19 September 2021

UAE economy minister to visit Britain seeking trade deal

UAE economy minister to visit Britain seeking trade deal
  • Trade between the two countries was worth almost $8.1 billion in 2020

DUBAI: The UAE’s economy minister will lead a high-level delegation to Britain this week, the ministry said on Sunday, as the Gulf state seeks to deepen trade ties.

Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri and the delegation will meet British ministers, officials and representatives from the private sector to discuss recently announced UAE economic policies.

One of those policies includes the UAE seeking to seal what it calls a comprehensive economic agreement covering trade and foreign investment with Britain and seven other countries.

The delegation would also discuss ways to develop economic ties and strengthen cooperation in trade, investment, healthcare and energy, among other sectors, the ministry said.

The UAE last week announced it had expanded an investment partnership with the British government, committing  £10 billion ($13.7 billion) to invest in the UK over five years.

The UAE delegation will also include local government, investment company and private sector representatives, the ministry said.

Britain is the UAE’s third largest non-oil trade partner in Europe, with trade between the two countries worth almost $8.1 billion in 2020, it said.