Jump in demand for second passports among KSA expats

Jump in demand for second passports among KSA expats
Libyan expats in Saudi Arabia are the biggest group looking for a second citizenship, followed by Syrians, Indians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Yemenis and Egyptians. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 May 2021

Jump in demand for second passports among KSA expats

Jump in demand for second passports among KSA expats
  • The desire to obtain a second passport is not a new phenomenon in the Middle East

RIYADH: Expatriates living in Saudi Arabia are more interested than ever in obtaining second passports, according to new data from Dubai-headquartered immigration firm Citizenship Invest (CI).

In an interview with Arab News, CEO Veronica Cotdemiey said that in the second half of 2020, interest among expats in the Kingdom in obtaining a second passport through various investment schemes increased 46 percent.

CI said Libyan expats in Saudi Arabia were the biggest group looking for a second citizenship, followed by Syrians, Indians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Yemenis and Egyptians. 

According to Cotdemiey, the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic gave many people the opportunity to reflect on “essential issues” and provided those with the financial means a way of moving themselves and their families to more secure countries, potentially with better healthcare systems.

“People have realized that they strongly need a plan B, regardless of whether or not they have solid jobs or businesses, as this goes beyond financial security,” she said. “The power of having a strong passport in times of crisis is the ultimate insurance policy.”

Cotdemiey said that many high-net-worth individuals found themselves trapped in their home countries during the pandemic, unable to take their families to more secure countries because of the required visas to do so. “This triggered a sense of urgency, and many are finally taking the plunge to acquire second citizenships and passports, to never face that situation again,” she said. In addition to gaining a second passport, citizenship by investment programs often requires investors to acquire a second home or other investment property in the country in which they are applying for citizenship.

The top three most popular programs selected by expats in Saudi Arabia were St. Kitts & Nevis with 46 percent of the applications, the Commonwealth of Dominica with 21 percent, and Vanuatu with 18 percent.

According to data provided by CI, the top three most popular programs selected by expats in Saudi Arabia were St. Kitts & Nevis with 46 percent of the applications, the Commonwealth of Dominica with 21 percent, and Vanuatu — a country formed by 83 islands similar to the Maldives and located close to Australia — with 18 percent.

Other countries include Grenada, which made up 6.28 percent of applications, Portugal (3.43 percent), St. Lucia (2.86 percent) and Antigua (1.14 percent).

Cotdemiey also said that the minimum investment required for a second passport starts at $100,000. For St. Kitts and Nevis, a limited-time offer is available for the next six months, decreasing the required financial contribution to the two-island nation’s Sustainable Growth Fund from $195,000 to $150,000.

Dominica, which has another popular citizenship program, has decreased the non-refundable contribution for a family of four from $200,000 to $175,000. It has also incorporated the inclusion of the main applicant’s siblings or spouse under one application.

The desire to obtain a second passport is not a new phenomenon in the Middle East. In 2019, Arabian Business Magazine reported that nearly one-third of respondents to a global online survey by Arton Capital, a Canadian firm that specializes in global residency and citizenship investor programs, said that they had acquired citizenship of a country other than their country of origin, or planned to do so.

In 2017, CI also reported that high-net-worth families and residents in the Kingdom contributed to an over 70 percent increase in demand for second European and Caribbean nationalities.


ArcelorMittal takes over TAQA’s JESCO

ArcelorMittal takes over TAQA’s JESCO
Updated 01 August 2021

ArcelorMittal takes over TAQA’s JESCO

ArcelorMittal takes over TAQA’s JESCO
  • With the deal, JESCO’s 100 percent ownership has been transferred to AMTPJ

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Industrialization and Energy Service Co. (TAQA) on Sunday sold all its shares in Jubail Energy Services Co. (JESCO) to ArcelorMittal Tubular Products Jubail (AMTPJ).
With the deal, JESCO’s 100 percent ownership has been transferred to AMTPJ, TAQA said in an emailed statement, without disclosing the value of the deal.
Commenting on the sale of stocks, TAQA Chairman Ahmed Al-Zahrani said: “The divestiture of JESCO is in line with TAQA’s 2021 strategy to become a major player in Vision 2030 realization by maximizing the value of local investment and creating a more diverse and sustainable economy. The transaction will result in a much stronger industry in the steel sector serving not only the Kingdom but also the rest of the world.”
The company’s mandate is to lead the way in localizing industries in the Kingdom, supplying specialized equipment, and development of oil and gas resources in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
TAQA CEO Khalid Nouh said: “The divestiture of non-core businesses such as JESCO allows TAQA to expand its portfolio through acquisitions of additional services and technologies.” 


Bitcoin tops $41,000 as cryptocurrencies rally after weeks-long downtrend

Bitcoin tops $41,000 as cryptocurrencies rally after weeks-long downtrend
Updated 01 August 2021

Bitcoin tops $41,000 as cryptocurrencies rally after weeks-long downtrend

Bitcoin tops $41,000 as cryptocurrencies rally after weeks-long downtrend
  • Bitcoin is currently trading above $41,000 and up more than 15 percent over the past week

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency in trading internationally, traded higher on Sunday, rising by 0.02 percent to $41,447.73 at 4:41 p.m Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, traded at $2,580.98.76, up 5.33 percent, according to data from Coindesk.

Here is a rundown of major crypto news:

Bitcoin is currently trading above $41,000 and up more than 15 percent over the past week. The uptrend continues after the massive sell-off in May and two months of consolidation above the $30K support level, according to CoinDesk.

Germany plans to allow some institutional funds to invest billions of dollars in crypto assets for the first time, Bloomberg has reported.

A law effective Monday will allow so-called Spezialfonds with fixed investment rules to put up to 20 percent of their holdings in Bitcoin and other crypto assets. The funds, which can only be accessed by institutional investors, currently manage about $2.1 trillion.

“Most funds will initially stay well below the 20%,” said Tim Kreutzmann, an expert on crypto assets at BVI, Germany’s fund industry body.

In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed the Law on Payment Services adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on June 30, the President's administration announced this week.

The new legislation aims to “modernize and further develop” the payment services market, and encourage innovation in the financial sector, according to a press statement.

The National Bank of Ukraine has also given the power to issue its own digital currency.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, Henri Arslanian, crypto leader at accounting and financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), explained that crypto firms have high valuations due to the entry of major investors.

He mentioned investment firms and family offices are backed by major venture capitalists, private equity funds, and even some pension funds, and noted smaller venture capital firms are not satisfied with the trend.

Over to the US, Lael Brainard, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, highlighted the urgent need to develop a digital dollar, speaking to the Aspen Institute’s Economic Strategies Group on Friday.

He cited several reasons for creating a digital version of the US dollar, while the central bank agreed that it will have both international and domestic applications.


Saudi Arabia’s real estate price index rises by 0.4% in Q2

Saudi Arabia’s real estate price index rises by 0.4% in Q2
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi Arabia’s real estate price index rises by 0.4% in Q2

Saudi Arabia’s real estate price index rises by 0.4% in Q2
  • The report said a 1 percent hike in the prices of residential plots jacked up the prices of residential properties

RIYADH: The real estate price index in Saudi Arabia rose by 0.4 percent in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same period of the previous year, official data showed on Sunday.
The statistics issued by the General Authority for Statistics showed a 0.8 percent increase in the residential real estate prices in the second quarter while prices of commercial and agriculture properties declined by 0.5 percent and 0.2 percent respectively.
The report said a 1 percent hike in the prices of residential plots jacked up the prices of residential properties.
Meanwhile, the Wafi program, which regulates off-plan property activity in the Kingdom, issued a report highlighting its performance during the first half of the year.
Wafi issued 55 licenses for off-plan sales projects providing 24,328 housing units during the first half of 2021.
Off-plan property sales represent a growing sector of the Saudi real estate market, but some consumers are still wary of developers’ abilities to deliver quality homes on time.
The sector has been steadily increasing its share of total residential sales and data from the Wafi program.
According to real estate consultancy company, Knight Frank, off-plan units represent around 9 percent of total existing housing stock, but a massive 60 percent of total future supply in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s real estate sector is a key and effective economic driver for the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is connected to at least 120 industries.
Mortgage lending in Saudi Arabia increased 27 percent this year through May, as interest rates decreased to between 1 percent and 4.9 percent, compared to about 6 percent early last year.
Residential real estate financing contracts offered to individuals by local banks reached 133,006 through May, with a value of SR69.5 billion ($18.5 billion), according to data from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).
Real estate financing grew by 50 percent compared with the same period in 2020 when SR46.6 billion was lent via 104,000 contracts.


Saudi net foreign assets jump in June, central bank data shows

Saudi net foreign assets jump in June, central bank data shows
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi net foreign assets jump in June, central bank data shows

Saudi net foreign assets jump in June, central bank data shows
  • Data from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) showed the assets rising by 34 billion riyals ($9.1 billion)

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s net foreign assets rose over 2 percent in June, as the global oil industry gradually recovers from the impact of COVID-19.

Data from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) showed the assets rising by 34 billion riyals ($9.1 billion) to 1.65 trillion riyals in June from the month before.

Total assets increased by 16.18 billion riyals to 1.842 trillion riyals, the central bank said.


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.