Apartment living, e-commerce centers the key trends as Saudi real estate rebounds from 2020

Skyscrapers stand in the King Abdullah financial district in Riyadh. (Getty Images/File Photo)
Skyscrapers stand in the King Abdullah financial district in Riyadh. (Getty Images/File Photo)
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Updated 21 June 2021

Apartment living, e-commerce centers the key trends as Saudi real estate rebounds from 2020

Skyscrapers stand in the King Abdullah financial district in Riyadh. (Getty Images/File Photo)
  • CBRE report believed physical offices are here to stay, will get boost from Riyadh Strategy 2030 HQ announcement

RIYADH: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Saudi property market in many ways, with a number of trends emerging, such as a focus on apartment living, the growth of e-commerce impacting the warehouse and retail sector and the reopening of international movement spurring a rebound in the hospitality sector.

In its new report, real estate consultancy firm CBRE observed that in the residential sector there has been “increased demand witnessed across major markets for smaller residential typologies, with increased focus on community living environment. Developers are responding by introducing a greater proportion of apartments and townhouses within their mega projects.”

As part of its Vision 2030 program, the government is aiming to increase homeownership in the Kingdom to 70 percent, up from about 47 percent in 2017. One of the ways it is doing this is through the launch of Roshn, which is owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). Roshn is planning to start off-plan sales at its flagship project in Riyadh later this year, with the handover of the first homes to tenants likely in early 2022.

“Our communities are entirely inclusive, with homes to suit all tastes and budgets. Our aim is to provide a modern, aspirational living experience while giving residents the freedom to interpret what this means to them in their own unique way. Our communities have been designed to inspire a strong sense of neighborly spirit and genuine connection between residents,” Roshn’s Group CEO David Grover told Arab News.

CBRE said that millennials were emerging as a key consumer class for residential units and demand is high for “digitally enabled homes.”

Within the office sector, the report believed that the recent announcement of the Riyadh Strategy 2030, which aims to attract hundreds of companies to set up their headquarters in the Saudi capital, will benefit developers building office space. While the pandemic saw workers staying at home, CBRE believed that “physical offices are here to stay” but developers may need to move away from traditional models and offer more flexible spaces to accommodate hybrid working plans.

Within the retail sector, the surge in e-commerce in 2020 has led to the development of more fulfilment sectors, warehouses and collection points. “Rapid growth of online shopping is likely to result in more omni-channel retail, however, preserving the ‘physical experience’ will be a critical component of these omnichannel strategies, particularly in the KSA,” the CBRE report observed.

This was echoed by Ahmad BinDawood, CEO of BinDawood Holding, one of the Kingdom’s biggest supermarket operators, who told Arab News in May that while the company had seen a spike in online sales, he believed consumers still prefer to come to the stores to buy their produce.

“The primary way that the customer prefers to shop is actually visiting the stores, not through online. Online shopping is still going to be good for the future but so far we see that the customer prefers to shop in stores to have that experiential element when they come,” he said.

However, other retailers are adopting a more hybrid model. Dubai’s Majid Al Futtaim operates 21 Carrefour stores across nine Saudi cities and is aiming to double its store network by 2025. It saw online sales in the Kingdom rise by 285 percent last year, therefore, alongside the store network expansion, it is also adding fulfilment centers and boosting door-to-door delivery.

Hani Weiss, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Retail, told Arab News: “This included opening a large online fulfilment center in Riyadh and activating nine of our customer stores to also fulfil online orders. The opening of our automated fulfilment center in Jeddah is the latest in Majid Al Futtaim’s digital transformation of its Carrefour operations.”

The 9,000 square meter center in Riyadh is Majid Al Futtaim’s largest for its online Carrefour business and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, handling up to 5,000 orders a day.

Within the hotel sector, CBRE believed the recovery may take more time as borders only reopened on May 17. While there was little impact on the guest experience, CBRE believed that hoteliers did have to reduce costs and salaries, but these were coming back. Jochem-Jan Sleiffer, president of Hilton Middle East, Africa and Turkey, told Arab News that while the company is aiming to increase its presence in the Kingdom from 15 properties to 56 by 2025, the last year was tough. The company postponed some investment deals to preserve cash and it did make some layoffs, but it is now back rehiring staff at an accelerated rate.


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

Skeptics fail to deter companies from entering crypto fray: Market wrap
Updated 9 sec ago

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.


Iraq launches project to reduce flaring at oilfields

Iraq launches project to reduce flaring at oilfields
Updated 19 September 2021

Iraq launches project to reduce flaring at oilfields

Iraq launches project to reduce flaring at oilfields
  • Iraq is the second-biggest user of flaring worldwide after Russia.

BAGHDAD: Iraq has launched a new project that aims to recover gas normally set alight during oil extraction at two oilfields in the country’s south.
Flaring, or burning off excess gas during oil extraction, is a highly polluting practice but far less costly than processing it for sale.
According to the World Bank, Iraq is the second-biggest user of flaring worldwide after Russia.
The new project, signed in 2017 with oil services company Baker Hughes, will eventually allow 200 million cubic feet (around 5.6 million cubic meters) of gas a day that is usually torched on the Nasiriyah and Gharraf oilfields to be captured, according to a statement from the Oil Ministry sent to the media on Sunday.
It seeks to “exploit the gas that escapes from all oilfields across all Iraq, consolidate national gas production” and help preserve the environment, Oil Minister Ihsan Ismail was quoted as saying in the statement.
A ministry official told AFP that the implementation of the project and exploitation of the gas would have to wait 30 months for the completion of infrastructure works.
The World Bank said the amount of gas torched in Iraq annually reached 17.37 million cubic meters last year.
Earlier this month, French giant TotalEnergies signed a contract to invest in oil, gas and solar production in Iraq.
The French major plans initially to invest $10 billion in infrastructure, the proceeds of which will then allow a second round of investments of $17 billion, the officials said.
One of the projects will see the construction of a complex to exploit production from the sector’s gas fields.
Rather than flaring or burning off the excess, the plan is to recover it for use in electricity generation.
The premier’s office has said this will “reduce gas imports.”


Saudi holdings of US treasury bills rose for 2nd month in a row

Saudi holdings of US treasury bills rose for 2nd month in a row
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi holdings of US treasury bills rose for 2nd month in a row

Saudi holdings of US treasury bills rose for 2nd month in a row
  • The Kingdom is the 16th largest holder of US debt

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s holding of US Treasury securities increased for the second consecutive month in July, reaching $128.1 billion, according to new data from the US government.

The holdings increased by 0.2 percent from June, and 2.8 percent from July last year. However, the Saudi holdings in July is down by 5.2 percent from the beginning of the year when it was $135.1 billion, the data showed.

This increase in June and July is in line with global trends, as countries around the world increased their holdings by 5.7 percent in the two months leading up to July.

However, analysis showed that Saudi holdings are still down from their peak of $184.4 billion in February 2020. As the global pandemic took hold in March last year, the Saudi government decreased its holding, as the Kingdom’s reserves were hit by the collapse in oil prices.

In July last year, Saudi Arabia began to boost its holdings once again, peaking in November and then continuing to decline by low single percentages till May 2021.

“The rise in US Treasury holding was expected “given the higher yields on US T-bills compared to bank deposit,” Dr. Mohamed Ramady, a London-based independent economist, told Arab News.

He said in the case of Saudi Arabia, higher oil prices have also provided it with more flexibility in its investment portfolio maturity profile. 

The Kingdom is the 16th largest holder of US debt. Japan remains No.1 with $1310.2 billion in US bonds, followed by China ($1068.3 billion), the UK ($539.5 billion), Ireland ($319.7 billion) and Switzerland ($298.3 billion).

The UAE holds $58 billion, an increase of nearly 100 percent year-on-year. Kuwait holds $46.4 billion, down by 3.1 percent year-on-year.


Saudi Arabia’s Algosaibi family plans recovery after $7.5bn debt deal

Saudi Arabia’s Algosaibi family plans recovery after $7.5bn debt deal
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Algosaibi family plans recovery after $7.5bn debt deal

Saudi Arabia’s Algosaibi family plans recovery after $7.5bn debt deal
  • It comes after successful negotiations over its $7.5 billion in debt since 2009 – a case many experts saw as a test for Saudi Arabia’s new bankruptcy law

DUBAI: The Algosaibi family is looking to restore some of its businesses after its landmark deal with creditors last week, Bloomberg has reported, citing the conglomerate’s chief restructuring officer, Simon Charlton.

In an interview, Charlton said the company was looking “where it would make the most sense and at what sort of level to return to the market.”

It comes after successful negotiations over its $7.5 billion in debt since 2009 – a case many experts saw as a test for Saudi Arabia’s new bankruptcy law.

Under the deal, Ahmah Hamad Algosabi & Brothers Co (AHAB) will repay its creditors 26 percent of their claim values through a mixture of cash, shares, and Saudi real estate.

“Our hope is that as the company emerges from this and gets access to credit and is back into the credit markets and will be able to raise working capital finance, we’ll be able to rebuild those businesses,” Charlton said.

AHAB will retain most of its operating manufacturing businesses, he added, including logistics, hospitality, and retail.