A female could head Saudi state-owned military company, CEO predicts

Exclusive A female could head Saudi state-owned military company, CEO predicts
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Updated 18 September 2021

A female could head Saudi state-owned military company, CEO predicts

A female could head Saudi state-owned military company, CEO predicts
  • SAMI is hoping to attract back talented expats
  • The defense company is a key player in the Kingdom’s drive to reduce its reliance on foreign military products.

The head of Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) believes the state owned business could be run by a Saudi female engineer in the future as it seeks to attract top talent back to the Kingdom.

Speaking to Arab News at the DSEI trade fair in London, SAMI CEO Walid Abukhaled, argued that attracting the best and brightest to work in the industry was key to hitting the 50-percent goal, and that included tempting back female Saudis who are employed abroad.

Abukhaled was referring to the government’s goal to see 50 percent of all defense spending focused in the Kingdom by 2030.

Abukhaled said: “I’m convinced they will be the future leaders of the company.

“I absolutely believe we will have a female chief executive of SAMI in the future. Maybe not in the immediate future, but it will happen.

“There are Saudi female engineers working in Europe and the US who are gaining good experience and may want to come back to the Kingdom.

“You want to give top positions, like the CEO’s job, to the best, not because of gender, but because they are the best for the job and have the best experience. The Kingdom is very supportive of women.”

The defense company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, launched in 2017 and is a key player in the Kingdom’s drive to reduce its reliance on foreign military products.

Joint venture deals have already been struck with French company Thales and Belgium based firm CMI Defence, and memorandums of understanding have been signed with US’s Boeing, and France’s Naval Group.

Female participation in the Saudi labor market, according to official public data, has risen dramatically in recent years, shooting up from 19.7 percent in 2018 to 33 percent by the end of 2020 - an increase of 64 percent in just two years.

Abukhaled said that in the defence sector women now make up 22 percent of the workforce, yet the jobs are mainly centered around human resources, finance, and legal.

Overseas Acquisitions

Speaking more broadly, Abukhaled said SAMI was looking to expand through overseas acquisitions but declined to comment on specific targets.

He said: “We first need to identify gaps in our capability, and then see where it can be filled. We should be clearer by next year in terms of a business case for where the gaps are and what we need to acquire.”

He added: “We want SAMI to be one of the top 25 companies in the world by 2030. We cannot do that all internally and we will have to acquire ability from both inside and outside the Kingdom.”

Abukhaled added he was also confident in delivering the Kingdom’s 50 percent localisation target.

He said: “We’re already over 50 percent in terms of a number of the contracts we have won. Some will be less of course, but overall I think the target will be achieved.”

Abukhaled said it was likely there would be more information on acquisitions and partnerships to coincide with next year’s World Defence Show which is due to take place in Riyadh in March 2022.

SAMI is the strategic partner for the event which promises to be the world’s biggest defence trade fair.

While praising what he called the ”transformation” of the Kingdom in recent years, Abukhaled, an engineer by training, admitted more needed to be done to create the localised skill base for the sector desired by the 2030 Vision program.

Abukhaled insisted that while he was confident that SAMI will achieve its target of employing a skilled workforce of 20,000 local staff by 2030, that depended on the training of more domestic technicians and engineers.

That concern was also flagged up by Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Ohali, the governor of the Kingdom’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) in a separate interview with Arab News. 

Al-Ohali admitted the success of the 50 percent strategy depends heavily on creating a “healthy ecosystem” which includes research centers, universities, academic institutions, and public and private institutions.

GAMI has a vision to establish partnerships with academic institutions to close the local skills gap in areas like engineering and skilled craftsmanship, said Al-Ohali.


Saudi commercial banks’ June consumer loans rise 13% to $118.9bn

Saudi commercial banks’ June consumer loans rise 13% to $118.9bn
Updated 08 August 2022

Saudi commercial banks’ June consumer loans rise 13% to $118.9bn

Saudi commercial banks’ June consumer loans rise 13% to $118.9bn
  • Share of consumer loans in total bank credit falls to 19.9 percent, data shows

CAIRO: Consumer loans of Saudi commercial banks increased 13 percent to SR445.8 billion ($118.9 billion) on June 30, 2022, compared to SR394.2 billion on the same day last year, the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed.

This growth, however, pales in comparison to the 17.4 percent growth between June 30, 2021, and June 30, 2020, the data pointed out.

Moreover, the share of consumer loans in total bank credit has fallen to 19.9 percent on June 30, 2022, the lowest share percentage on record, data compiled by Arab News revealed. 

It is worth mentioning that consumer loans do not include real estate financing, finance leasing and margin lending, according to SAMA. 

From June 2017-2022, consumer loans have had a positive trend: The value grew 0.5, 0.6, 5.3, 17.4, and 13.1 percent year on year, respectively. The consumer loans stood at SR315.1 billion on June 30, 2017.

According to SAMA, 90 percent of consumer loans fall under the “other” products category.

The balance of consumer loans to finance “other” products increased 19 percent to SR402.3 billion on June 30 this year from SR338.2 billion the same day last year.

The remaining 10 percent is distributed among renovation and home improvement, vehicles and private transport, furniture and durable goods, education, healthcare, tourism and travel.

FASTFACTS

• Renovation and home improvement, which makes up 3.4 percent of the 10 percent, saw a 31.4 percent decline to SR15.2 billion on June 30, 2022, from SR22.2 billion a year ago.

• Car loans experienced a 20.6 percent year-on-year decrease from SR15.5 billion to SR12.3 billion during the period under study.

Renovation and home improvement, which makes up 3.4 percent of the 10 percent, saw a 31.4 percent decline to SR15.2 billion on June 30, 2022, from SR22.2 billion a year ago.

Moreover, car loans experienced a 20.6 percent year-on-year decrease from SR15.5 billion to SR12.3 billion during the period under study.

Furniture and durable goods underwent a 31.1 percent decrease from SR12.6 billion to SR8.7 billion over the same period. In contrast, education loans grew by 33 percent to SR5.9 billion.  

Looking at consumer spending during the first half of 2022, the total value of point of sale transactions grew 12.9 percent year on year, reaching SR271.2 billion in June year-to-date compared to SR240.3 billion over the same period in 2021, SAMA data stated.

The most significant change in POS value between the first half of 2021 and 2022 was in “miscellaneous goods and services,” which grew 42.6 percent from SR19.7 billion to SR28.2 billion during this period.

“Others,” which makes up 21.2 percent of the total value of POS transactions in the first half of 2022, the highest share for a category, surged 33.6 percent from SR42.7 billion in the first half of 2021 to SR57.1 billion in the first half of 2022.

Food and beverages, another component that exhibits a prominent share of 14.7 percent in POS sales, showed an increase of 14.8 percent from SR35.8 in June year-to-date last year to SR41.0 billion in June this year.

On the other hand, restaurants and cafes increased 31.4 percent from SR28.3 billion in the first half of 2021 to SR37.2 billion in the first half of 2022.


Dubai real estate market records $435.6m in real estate transactions

Dubai real estate market records $435.6m in real estate transactions
Updated 08 August 2022

Dubai real estate market records $435.6m in real estate transactions

Dubai real estate market records $435.6m in real estate transactions
  • Market saw 376 sales transactions worth 897.38m dirhams

DUBAI: According to data released by Dubai’s Land Department, the Dubai real estate market recorded transactions worth over 1.6 billion dirhams ($435.6 million), Emirates News Agency reported.

The market saw 376 sales transactions worth 897.38 million dirhams, 122 mortgage transactions worth 704.22 million dirhams, and 13 gift deals worth 23.3 million dirhams.

Villas and apartments worth 602.04 million dirhams and 78 land plots worth 295.34 million dirhams were sold.

On the other hand, mortgages were obtained for 92 villas and apartments worth 226.63 million dirhams and 30 land plots worth 477.59 million dirhams.

 


Saudi Arabia launches program to develop cybersecurity sector

Saudi Arabia launches program to develop cybersecurity sector
Updated 08 August 2022

Saudi Arabia launches program to develop cybersecurity sector

Saudi Arabia launches program to develop cybersecurity sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Cybersecurity Authority on Monday launched the “CyberIC” program to develop the Kingdom’s cybersecurity sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The program aims to develop national capabilities in the field of cybersecurity, localize cybersecurity technology through training.

According to the authority, the first phase of the  program includes several initiatives including training of employees of national authorities, accelerating cybersecurity activities to stimulate the sector, and encouraging the development of national cybersecurity products, services and solutions. 

The program will also see the launch of the second version of the cybersecurity challenge and programs for chief information security officers in cooperation with international universities. The courses will include a set of cyber exercises that take place in a virtual environment that simulates real cyberattacks and incidents.

HIGHLIGHTS

The program will also see the launch of the second version of the cybersecurity challenge and programs for chief information security officers in cooperation with international universities.

It will support more than 40 startups through the cybersecurity accelerator and establish more than 20 startups through the cybersecurity challenge.

Around 10,000 Saudis in the cybersecurity sector will receive support through CyberIC.

More than 5,000 Saudis will be trained through advanced cyber exercises.

The initiative is based on six main tracks: Innovation and entrepreneurship, cybersecurity officers, cybersecurity trainers, fresh graduates, cybersecurity specialists, and law enforcement agencies. 

The first phase of CyberIC seeks to raise the number of cybersecurity startups in the sector by assisting more than 60 national companies. The program will support more than 40 startups through the cybersecurity accelerator and establish more than 20 startups through the cybersecurity challenge. 

In addition, around 10,000 Saudis in the cybersecurity sector will receive support through CyberIC, including more than 1,500 beneficiaries in national authorities; 150 cybersecurity officials, who will be offered leadership skills training; and more than 5,000 Saudis will be trained through advanced cyber exercises.


Goldman sees strong case for higher oil prices despite negative shocks

Goldman sees strong case for higher oil prices despite negative shocks
Updated 08 August 2022

Goldman sees strong case for higher oil prices despite negative shocks

Goldman sees strong case for higher oil prices despite negative shocks
  • The investment bank kept its 2023 outlook of $125 unchanged

BENGALURU: Goldman Sachs said the case for higher oil prices was still strong with current supply shortfalls well above its expectations in recent months, despite a recent retreat led by factors including global recession concerns.

The market will remain in unsustainable deficits at current prices and balancing it will still require “demand destruction on top of the ongoing economic slowdown,” the investment bank said in a note dated Aug. 7.

Oil prices hovered near multi-month lows on Monday, pressured by lingering worries about an economic slowdown.

Goldman said a divergence between benchmark Brent prices, which averaged $110 a barrel in June and July, and the corresponding Brent-equivalent global retail fuel price of $160 per barrel was not enough to trigger enough demand destruction to end the supply deficit.

“The unprecedented discount of Brent prices, even wider than we expected, can be explained by the worsening Russian energy crisis, as it boosts the costs of transforming crude out of the ground (Brent) into retail pump prices around the world through surging EU gas prices, freight rates, USD and global refining utilization,” it said.

Goldman trimmed its Brent price forecasts for the third and fourth quarters to $110 and $125 a barrel, respectively, versus previous forecasts of $140 and $130. It kept its 2023 outlook of $125 unchanged.

The investment bank forecast US retail gasoline and diesel prices to rebound to $4.35 and $5.50 per gallon, respectively, by the fourth quarter and average $4.40 and $5.25 in 2023.

“We forecast that US retail fuel prices will rally into year-end then decline from 2Q23 onward as refining and marketing margins start to normalize,” Goldman said.

The US average retail gasoline price hit a peak of $5.02 a gallon in mid-June, data from the American Automobile Association motorist advocacy group showed. 


India may scrap wheat import duty to cool domestic prices, say sources

India may scrap wheat import duty to cool domestic prices, say sources
Updated 08 August 2022

India may scrap wheat import duty to cool domestic prices, say sources

India may scrap wheat import duty to cool domestic prices, say sources

MUMBAI: India could scrap a 40 percent duty on wheat imports and cap the amount of stocks traders can hold to try to dampen record high domestic prices in the world’s second-biggest producer, government and trade officials told Reuters on Monday.

Late in the day, the Trade Ministry said it would restrict the export of some wheat-derived products like finely milled “maida” and semolina from Aug. 14, with only an inter-ministerial committee allowed to clear their shipment. Exports of the items are generally small.

India barred wheat exports in May after the crop suffered a heatwave, but domestic prices still rose to a record high. Yet, international prices are still way above the domestic market, making it unviable for traders to buy from abroad.

If the government does remove the duty, and international prices also fall, then traders say they could start importing, especially during the upcoming festival season, when higher demand typically drives domestic prices higher.

“We are exploring all possible options to bring down the prices,” said a senior government official who held a discussion with industry officials last week.

New Delhi could scrap the 40 percent import duty and impose stock limits on wholesalers and traders to signal to the market that the government will do everything in its power to keep prices in check, said the official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject.

Domestic wheat prices ended last week at a record 24,000 rupees ($301.57) per ton, having risen 14 percent from lows struck after the government surprised markets on May 14 by banning exports, ending hopes that India could fill the market gap left by missing Ukraine grain.

Domestic prices are still nearly a third lower than global prices, said a Mumbai-based trader with a global trading firm, who described Indian wheat as the cheapest in the world.

India last imported wheat in the April 2017 to March 2018 financial year.

“If global prices fall by another 20 percent and Indian prices continue their rally, then maybe, sometime after a few months, imports might become feasible,” the trader said.

The government has limited options to intervene in the market this year since its procurement has fallen 57 percent to 18.8 million tons, said a New Delhi-based dealer with a global trading firm.