Saudi competition authority investigates industrial companies

Saudi competition authority investigates industrial companies
GAC has issued fines against National Gas Co. and four pharmaceutical companies in 2021. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 11 June 2021

Saudi competition authority investigates industrial companies

Saudi competition authority investigates industrial companies
  • Unnamed companies are being investigated over dominant market position
  • GAC also investigating economic concentration among auto retailers

RIYADH: Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC) issued two decisions to investigate if a number of industrial sector companies have abused their dominant position in the market, Asharq reported citing sources.

GAC’s board of directors also decided at their last meeting, held on May 30, 2021, to investigate the economic concentration among auto manufacturers and sellers, Asharq said.

GAC is also investigating whether two contractors, four medical companies and six retailers colluded in bids for a government project, the sources said.

In January, GAC announced sanctions against National Gas Co. and fined it SR3 million ($800,000). In February, GAC fined four pharmaceutical companies SR20 million for engaging in behavior that obstructed the entry of a competitor into the market.


Saudi Arabia may build new airport in Riyadh amid tourism drive

Saudi Arabia may build new airport in Riyadh amid tourism drive
Updated 14 min 48 sec ago

Saudi Arabia may build new airport in Riyadh amid tourism drive

Saudi Arabia may build new airport in Riyadh amid tourism drive
  • Riyadh airport would be hub for new tourism-focused airline
  • The size and timeline of any new airport have not been decided

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is considering building an airport in Riyadh, to serve as a base for a new airline the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund is looking to launch as it targets a vast increase in tourist arrivals, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The $430 billion fund said earlier this year it plans to invest in aviation to help capture the tourist boom envisioned by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The new airline, reported locally earlier this year, would serve tourists and business travelers, while Saudi national carrier would focus on religious tourism from its base in Jeddah, said the people, asking not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is exploring the idea of investing billions in a new international airport in Riyadh, the people said. The size of the facility and timeline for its construction haven’t been set and the PIF could decide not to move ahead with those plans, they said.

Declining to comment on the plans for a new airport in Riyadh, a spokesman for the fund referred to earlier commitments to invest in the sector and to study establishing a new company to “support the aviation sector aspirations locally and regionally.”

The project would further Saudi Arabia’s goal to attract 100 million tourists a year by 2030, a sixfold increase from 2019. The project is still in early stages of development.

This project is in line with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s strategy to diversify the economy away from a reliance on oil sales, by opening up the country to visitors.


Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala buys En+ stake from billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s ex-wife

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala buys En+ stake from billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s ex-wife
Updated 39 min 41 sec ago

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala buys En+ stake from billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s ex-wife

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala buys En+ stake from billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s ex-wife
  • Mubadala said to have paid $200 million for En+ stake
  • Abu Dhabi fund now owns 2.86 percent of power and aluminum company

RIYADH: The Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s ex-wife sold a 2.6 percent stake in the power and aluminum company En+ Group International to Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co.

Mubadala is paying about $200 million for the stake in the company founded by Polina Yumasheva’s former husband, Bloomberg reported citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The acquisition increases Mubadala’s stake in En+ to 2.86 percent on a fully diluted basis, the fund said in a statement. Yumasheva’s stake in EN+ will decline to 2.58 percent after the sale, according to a separate statement on Wednesday.

“EN+ has made significant progress in recent years, and is well positioned to generate sustainable value for stakeholders,” said Faris Sohail Al Mazrui, head of Mubadala’s Russia & CIS investment program.

This deal is among the biggest in Russia for Mubadala, which has $243 billion of assets under management. It has about $2 billion in joint investments with the Kremlin-run Russian Direct Investment Fund.


Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance

Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance
Updated 24 June 2021

Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance

Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance
  • PIFSS saw annual return of 16.5 percent through March 31
  • Fund had $133.7 billion AUM at end of period

RIYADH: Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS) achieved its best annual performance ever with a 16.5 percent rate of return in the year to March 31.

The pension fund ended the fiscal year with $133.7 billion in assets, an increase of 20.9 percent on the year earlier period, it said in a statement on Wednesday. Cash now accounts for 4 percent of its investments, down from about 11.5 percent a year ago.

The performance reflects the fund’s “robust” investment policy and the record performance of capital markets, said Director General Meshal Al-Othman. “The management follows a conservative investment strategy well positioned to absorb and overcome expected fluctuations in international markets in the medium-term,” he said.

PIFSS owns 25 percent of Oak Hill Advisers and 10 percent of TowerBrook Capital Partners LP.


Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push
Updated 24 June 2021

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push
  • Up to four million trees were chopped during the construction of Istanbul’s third major bridge, activists say
  • Critics argue that Turkey is sacrificing the environment as it develops

IZIKDERE: Lush, thick woodland and green tea fields coat the slopes of an idyllic valley, a slice of pastoral heaven near the Turkish president’s familial home that will soon be gone.
A government-friendly company plans to extract 20 million tons of stone from a quarry in the northeastern town of Ikizdere for one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest development projects.
The locals are rising up in protest, challenging the government and its priorities in a region dear to the powerful Turkish leader’s heart.
Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002, Turkey has seen rapid modernization, with new airports, roads and bridges.
The AKP says robust infrastructure will help transform the nation of 84 million people — still considered an emerging market — from a regional player into a global force.
Critics argue that Turkey is sacrificing the environment as it develops, with forests among natural resources destroyed by companies close to Erdogan for profit.
Residents of Gurdere village in Rize province, the Black Sea home of Erdogan’s family, have protested against the planned quarry in Iskencedere valley since late April.
But in a country where dissent is poorly tolerated, the Rize governor issued two 15-day bans on protests in May and June, after standoffs between security forces and older women in headscarves.
Residents say their livelihoods and nature will be demolished by the quarry, which the company, Cengiz Holding, and Ankara say is needed for a new logistics port nearby.
The gushing sound of freshwater streams reverberate around the valley, a rarity in a country pushing ahead with urbanization at great speed.
Organic tea grows in abundance. Brown bears roam the forests, and villagers produce chestnut honey.
One of those picking tea was Pervin Bas, who was among several detained during the protests.
“We have honey, we have tea, we feed our animals with these forests,” Bas, 50, said after spending the morning picking tea leaves.
“I used to feed my animals there, and now they are stuck in the barn. They’ve even punished my animals,” she said.
Gungor Bas, a relative of Pervin, said he felt pained by the destruction wrought on the place where he spent his childhood.
“Dust coats our houses,” the 58-year-old said.
There are two legal cases against the quarry, lawyer Yakup Okumusoglu said.
Cengiz wants this quarry because it is conveniently close to the planned Iyidere logistics port, he said. But the company told AFP the site was chosen by the transport ministry.
“You say there’s stone below, but above there’s life, a life of so much more value. This belongs to everyone,” villager Asuman Fazlioglu, 60, said.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu last month said “marginal groups” and “outsiders” sought to exploit the protests and that villagers actually backed the quarry.
Erdogan inaugurates hospitals and dams with bombastic speeches appealing to his base craving a stronger Turkey.
The opposition says the tenders given to companies are a way to keep Erdogan’s friends in construction happy rather than serving a real infrastructure need.
Cengiz Holding was among the top 10 contractors worldwide with the most public-private partnership projects between 1990 and 2018, according to the World Bank.
“This government prioritizes money over the environment,” said Ali Oztunc, a main opposition party vice chair responsible for environmental issues.
“They love the green of the dollar more than the green of the trees,” Oztunc said.
Experts say a focus on growth alone can be misguided.
“We cannot call it development when there is no value given to nature, earth, air, water,” said Chamber of Environmental Engineers (CMO) chair Ahmet Dursun Kahraman.
“Development is a yarn. We keep saying we’re developing since the Ottoman Empire. It’s 2021 and we’re still apparently going to develop,” Okumusoglu quipped.
Erdogan proudly points out that Turkey now has 56 airports, up from 26 when he came to power.
One of the airports due to open later this year is in Rize, which was built with stone from another quarry hit by protests four years ago.
Its once-green valley is now covered in black and grey.
The gaping wound is a sore point for some villagers, who say there are daily dynamite explosions while trucks kick up dust as they come and go.
“This was a green area. We had different kinds of trees. Animals lived here, birds lived here. There were gazelles, deers. They’ve all gone,” Mahir Karaca said.
The 42-year-old villager said he was not against having an airport.
“As long as it provides a service, as long as it’s good for the country, no one is against this,” he said.
But in Ikizdere, they remained defiant.
“We haven’t lost,” said Zeynep Bas, 43, who is related to Gungor and Pervin.
For environmentalists, deforestation is a major worry.
Up to four million trees were chopped during the construction of Istanbul’s third major bridge, activists say, while others claim up to 13 million were cut for Istanbul’s newest airport, which opened in 2018.
“The future of forests is now at risk,” said Foresters’ Association vice president Husrev Ozkara. “It’s not just about cutting one tree, what is actually damaged is the forest’s ecosystem.”
Cengiz promised that once the stone was extracted, it would ensure vegetation and trees would be planted to “restore the natural life.”
The CMO’s Kahraman dismissed this as “baseless.”
“It’s deception. You’re going to take rock from there, how will you then plant a tree?” Kahraman asked, adding that the quarry’s impact would be felt across generations.
“This is how we should look at such actions and projects. What are you leaving behind?“


OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
Updated 24 June 2021

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
  • The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said the OPEC+ alliance will play a role in “taming and containing” inflationary pressures, just hours after Brent crude surged back above $75 a barrel, Bloomberg reported.
“We also have a role in taming and containing inflation, by making sure that this market doesn’t get out of hand,” he said Wednesday at a conference organized by Bank of America Corp., according to a recording of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News.
The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic,” he said.
He said the group should remain cautious because the oil market wasn’t out of the “doldrums” created by the coronavirus pandemic. He also warned traders against conflating caution with inaction, Bloomberg said.
“We have to be cautious. But caution doesn’t mean we don’t have to do something,” he told the conference. “It means we have to ensure that we don’t make