PwC to create over 6,000 jobs with new regional consulting HQ in Riyadh

PwC to create over 6,000 jobs with new regional consulting HQ in Riyadh
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Updated 23 September 2021

PwC to create over 6,000 jobs with new regional consulting HQ in Riyadh

PwC to create over 6,000 jobs with new regional consulting HQ in Riyadh
  • PwC predicts its Riyadh HQ will attract other global firms to the Kingdom
  • The firm will also open a Digital Centre in the Saudi capital

RIYADH: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Middle East will build a new regional consulting headquarters in Riyadh, hiring more than 6,000 staff in the region over the next five years.

“We will be establishing the regional consulting headquarters in Riyadh, where it will be based in KAFD [King Abdullah Financial District],” Riyadh Al Najjar, KSA country senior leader, told Arab News. 

Al Najjar said the new base would dovetail with the Vision 2030 growth plans across the Kingdom, allowing the professional services group to help clients take advantage of opportunities that arise.

“We wanted to ramp up our presence in Saudi Arabia and show our continued commitment given the massive transformation happening across the government and support the execution of Vision 2030 as it happens,” he said, adding: “I think our presence in Saudi, from an HQ perspective, can attract other global firms to be in Saudi and enhance the business environment."

He also said the firm was encouraged by new Saudi regulations that welcome international firms to the Kingdom.

PwC Middle East strategy & markets leader Stephen Anderson also told Arab News that the strength of the Saudi economy as it emerged from the pandemic was encouraging.

He said: “Coming out of the pandemic, the transformation we have seen in Saudi Arabia so far, which has been remarkable, is only going to accelerate.”

The Kingdom’s second-quarter economic data showed growth of 1.1 percent quarter-on-quarter. The oil sector grew by 2.5 percent quarter-on-quarter on the back of the unwinding of the 1 million barrels per day voluntary output cut that lasted from February to April. 

PwC’s Al Najjar said the firm was focused on government Giga projects that are key to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 growth plans.

Major projects in this scheme include the $8 billion Qiddiya Entertainment city, launched in 2018. The 8,400-acre site will include a theme park, water parks, motorsport tracks, cultural events, and holiday homes. 

The government has earmarked tourism as a priority, and PwC is working closely with clients on initiatives around this industry, according to Al Najjar.

Consulting Market

The consulting market size will continue to grow in Saudi Arabia, given the fact much of the Vision 2030 investment will require global expertise and people on the ground to help the government achieve its goals, Al Najjar said. 

“The consulting market in the GCC shrank by 12.4 percent to $2.68 billion in 2020 due to the global pandemic, however, it is expected to grow by around 17 percent in 2021,” he said citing The GCC Consulting Market 2021 report in March by Source Global Research.

“The Saudi market in particular fared best in the GCC during the pandemic only contracting by 11 percent in 2020, and is expected to grow by 19 percent by the end of 2021,” according to the report. 

Al Najjar added: “There is no doubt that Saudi from a regional perspective, with all of the Giga projects and all of the transformation that is happening across the sectors, is a huge market for us in PwC and is a significant one for the Middle East.”

Anderson emphasized the resilience of clients in the Middle East region during the pandemic who quickly adjusted to the health crisis. 

“During the pandemic, many of our projects continued and the quality of our work and delivery was as consistent remotely as was the case physically,” he said.

Anderson forecasts that growth will even continue beyond 2030 with “the ambition, the amount of change and transformation in place, which will only demand more service.”

“I think the pandemic introduced new strategies that reinforced and accelerated the Vision 2030 plans,” he said.

Anderson added that there are around 1,500 partners and staff based in Saudi Arabia, over 40 percent of whom are Saudi nationals, and the group has plans to significantly boost this ratio.

PwC has operated in Saudi since 1979, and has five offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Khobar and Dhahran, and will soon launch a new base in Al Ula.

PwC "The New Equation"

PwC Middle East welcomed over 120 new graduates to its Saudi Offices in September as part of its regional graduate intake of around 326, with the boost in its hiring a result of its new global strategy, "The New Equation", the company said in a June 15 filing.

The number of recruits hired in Saudi Arabia represents 37 percent of the total regional intake, with around 90 percent being Saudi nationals. 

New graduates took part in a virtual induction attended by regional PwC leaders, and will now join the firm’s Middle East units such as consulting, assurance, deals, and tax & legal services, the company said. 

Anderson said: "We have close to 1500 people on the ground in Saudi. Our presence on the ground is giving us the confidence to invest and grow and we will be placing more people in Saudi over the next 12 months and beyond."

PwC is committed to hiring over 500 new graduates each year, and provides them with training and qualifications.

Al Najjar has been in consulting in Saudi for almost 30 years and said PwC is committed to local talent development programmes, such as Hemam, which recruits and develops future Saudi leaders in the firm, he said.

Anderson added there is great demand for Saudi talent from the public and the private sector. 

He said the firm saw it as its job to retain the best, but also to equip talented leaders working in those areas.

As part of its New Equation plan, PwC Middle East will also focus on digital, emerging technologies and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) concerns.

This includes further investment in digital services through strategic acquisitions, emerging technologies, and establishing additional experience centres in the region, and an ESG centre of excellence.

ESG and Digital Centre

Al Najjar said: "From a Saudi perspective, this is absolutely the right time to look into ESG, as a key pillar of Vision 2030 is improving the quality of life.” 

PwC will establish a Digital Experience Centre in Riyadh, according to Anderson. 

Al Najjar said: "In these centres we combine our capabilities with the best of our technology from around the world to provide opportunities to our clients to collaborate, dream and co-create with us.” 

After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look

After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look
Updated 15 October 2021

After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look

After Alitalia’s demise, ITA airline launches with new look
  • ITA, or Italy Air Transport, officially launched after bankrupt flag carrier Alitalia landed its final flights Thursday night
  • Protests and strikes accompanied the runup to Alitalia's formal demise because the much smaller ITA Airways

ROME: Italy’s new national airline, ITA Airways, flew its inaugural flights Friday and unveiled its brand and logo, recycling the red, white and green of its Alitalia origins. It tries to chart a new future while competing with low-cost airlines.
ITA, or Italy Air Transport, officially launched after bankrupt flag carrier Alitalia landed its final flights Thursday night, ending a 74-year business history that a series of financial crises had marred in recent years.
Protests and strikes accompanied the run-up to Alitalia’s formal demise because the much smaller ITA Airways is only hiring around a quarter of Alitalia’s more than 10,000 employees. Negotiations with unions are ongoing.
ITA paid 90 million euros (over $104 million) for the rights to the Alitalia brand and website, but the new airline is called ITA Airways and it has its own website and a new frequent flier program, called “Volare” (“Fly”).
“Discontinuity doesn’t mean denying the past, but evolving to keep up with the times,” ITA President Alfredo Altavilla said in a statement.
During a conference launching the airline, Altavilla insisted that the greatly reduced size of ITA — its slimmer fleet, workforce and destinations — make it a viable carrier that can compete with low-cost airlines while offering better service, connections and value.
“ITA Airways is being born right-sized, in the optimal dimensions both in terms of the size of its fleet and its destinations,” he said. “We don’t carry with us the negative inheritance of being too big that conflict with the economic reality.”
He bristled when asked about reported predictions by low-cost carriers of ITA Airways’ failure.
“They might be very, absolutely right that this is gonna be difficult for us, but I am really curious to see one day their PnL (Profits and Loss) and their balance sheet without all the subsidies that they are getting from the local institutions and the small airports here in Italy,” Altavilla said.
“I want a level playing field,” he added.
The first ITA flight was the 6:20 a.m. from Milan’s Linate airport to the Italian city of Bari, on the Adriatic Sea. In all, ITA is flying to 44 destinations and aims to increase that number to 74 in four years.
Among its routes, the company plans to operate flights to New York from Milan and Rome, and to Tokyo, Boston and Miami from Rome. European destinations from Rome and Milan’s Linate airport will also include Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva and Frankfurt, Germany. Routes to South America and Los Angeles are planned.
ITA planes will be royal blue with Alitalia’s trademark “tricolore” on the tail, reflecting the red, white and green of the Italian flag. The Italian national sports team colors are blue, and company officials said Friday that the color scheme chosen for the new aircraft aims to make ITA “azzurri,” — the team nickname — too.
For now, the new blue Airbus aircraft exists only in advertisements, with Alitalia’s old white fleet actually in the skies.
Officials were coy about possible partnerships with other airlines. Previously, Alitalia was a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which included Delta, Air France and KLM, among other airlines.
ITA has 52 planes that it says will grow to 105 in the same period and is pointing to next-generation aircraft that use sustainable, alternative fuel sources.
The company launched with 2,800 employees — 70 percent of them from Alitalia — and said it expects to increase the size of its workforce to 5,750 by 2025.

Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan

Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan
Updated 15 October 2021

Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan

Brent tops $85 as Saudi oil minister vows to stick to output plan
  • Oil could reach $100 a barrel as demand rises, Russian President Vladimir Putin said

RIYADH: Brent crude passed $85 a barrel and WTI was headed for an eighth consecutive weekly advance as Saudi Oil Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud insisted OPEC+ will stick to its plan to increase output at a steady pace in the coming months.

Brent gained 1 percent to $84.82 a barrel at 3:33 p.m. Riyadh time, headed for a 3 percent weekly gain. They earlier touched $85.10, a three-year high. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) also gained 1 percent, to $82.12, 3.5 percent higher on the week.

OPEC+, the alliance of OPEC and non-OPEC producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, would be adding 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in November, and then again in the following months, the Kingdom’s energy minister told delegates at Russian Energy Week on Thursday.

While the market is tight today, it is set to be return to balance by the end of the year and be in surplus during 2022, according to OPEC forecasts.

The benefits of the approach OPEC+ has taken can be seen in the steady increase in the price of oil this year compared with the wild price swings in other markets, he said.

“What we see in the oil market today is an incremental (price) increase of 29 percent, vis-à-vis 500 percent increases in (natural) gas prices, 300 percent increases in coal prices, 200 percent increases in NGLs (natural gas liquids) ...,” he said. OPEC+ has done a “remarkable” job acting as “so-called regulator of the oil market.”

Such has been the success of OPEC+, other commodity markets should adopt similar arrangements, he said.

“Gas markets, coal markets, and other energy sources need to be regulated, people need to copy and paste what OPEC has done and what OPEC+ has achieved,” the Saudi minister added.

Saudi Arabia has proposed that Russia consider the possibility of cooperating in the natural gas market, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday, according to TASS news agency.

Oil prices were also supported by a bullish demand forecast from the International Energy Agency on Thursday, which predicted the energy crunch will boost crude demand by 500,000 barrels per day.

That would result in a supply gap of around 700,000 bpd through the end of this year, until the OPEC+ adds more supply as planned in January.

The structure of Brent crude oil futures is showing a “scarcity premium” that has widened to the most since 2013 this week, a sign of the tight market underpinning oil’s rally amid a wider energy crunch as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The premium of the immediate Brent crude contract to the December 2022 price stood at $8.13 a barrel on Friday after reaching $8.30 on Monday. The value on Monday was the highest since 2013, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Also at Russian Energy Week, Putin said it was “quite possible” oil prices could climb above $100 as energy demand rises.

He also used an interview at the forum to deny Russia is using gas as a geopolitical weapon and instead is ready to help Europe with additional energy supplies.

Saudi non-oil exports surge to record $33.4bn in H1 2021

Saudi non-oil exports surge to record $33.4bn in H1 2021
Updated 15 October 2021

Saudi non-oil exports surge to record $33.4bn in H1 2021

Saudi non-oil exports surge to record $33.4bn in H1 2021
  • Non-oil exports jumped 37 percent to a record SR125.3 billion
  • Saudi Arabia exported to 170 countries in the first half

RIYADH: Saudi non-oil exports jumped 37 percent to a record SR125.3 billion ($33.4 billion) in the first half of 2021, SPA reported.

Non-oil exports were SR91.7 billion in the first half of 2020.

They increase by 8 percent in quantity, equivalent to 34.7 million tons, suggesting a rebound in prices as volumes returned to normal.

Global trade collapsed last year as the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the world into lockdown. However, trade has rebounded strongly this year and last week the WTO upgraded its forecast for global merchandise trade volume growth to 10.8 percent in 2021 and 4.7 percent in 2022.

Saudi Arabia exported to 170 countries in the first half, led by SR17.0 billion of goods to the UAE, followed by SR16.8 billion to China, and SR7.1 billion to India.

The petrochemical sector was the biggest source of exports with a value of SR73.6 billion in the period, up from SR51.2 billion during the same period last year, representing growth of 44 percent.

The H1 report follows data from the General Authority for Statistics that showed July’s non-oil exports increased 17.9 percent year on year to SR20.8 billion.

The total value of exports amounted to SR91.8 billion in July 2021, up from 51.1 billion riyals in July 2020, led by a 112.1 percent increase in oil exports.

However, oil exports continued to dominate Saudi trade with crude’s share increasing from 65.5 percent in July 2020 to 77.4 percent in July 2021.

Saudi Arabia is pushing to increase non-oil exports as it seeks to ween its economy off dependency on oil sales with a goal of raising the percentage of non-oil exports to 50 percent by 2030 and foreign direct investment from 3.8 percent to an international average of 5.7 percent.

The Kingdom is in negotiations with 11 countries on possible free-trade agreement, including China, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the US.

The Kingdom aims to export services including transport, distribution, professional and financial services, communication services, postal services as well as express mail, media, hotel, construction and contracting, education and training, travel and tourism, environmental, and entertainment.

In August, the Saudi Export Development Authority said more than 900 Saudi companies with over 2,000 locally manufactured products had registered with the Kingdom’s “Made in Saudi” program, an initiative to boost the competitiveness of Saudi products at home and abroad.

The program gives top priority to 16 different economic sectors including chemicals and polymers, building materials, electronics, and packaging.

Additionally, the Saudi Exports Development Authority said in August it will identify over 120 international tendering opportunities in a number of target countries, mainly covering construction and industrial supplies and infrastructure projects.

In the same month, The Saudi Export-Import Bank signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of Saudi Chambers to provide importers and exporters loans and other financial services.

Saudi Energy Ministry launches tender for dry gas network in Dammam

Saudi Energy Ministry launches tender for dry gas network in Dammam
Updated 15 October 2021

Saudi Energy Ministry launches tender for dry gas network in Dammam

Saudi Energy Ministry launches tender for dry gas network in Dammam
  • Tender is for a pipeline network from the connection point with Aramco, which provides the gas, to all factories that need fuel in the city

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Energy announced a public tender for a license to establish, own and operate a dry gas network in the Third Industrial City in Dammam in the Eastern Province.

The project includes a pipeline network from the connection point with Aramco, which provides dry gas, to all factories that need fuel within the region, the ministry said in a statement.

The license requires the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the dry gas local network in Dammam 3 at the expense of the license applicant for a period of 35 years in return for a service tariff approved by the ministry.

The license holder must meet 75 percent of requests in the industrial city within nine months from the date of granting the license, the ministry said.

Through the installation of the gas networks, the ministry is aiming to make Saudi Arabia’s industrial cities a more attractive environment for investors, to raise the efficiency and competitiveness of factories, and to reduce carbon emissions and the number of trucks that transport liquid fuels, it said.

Saudi Arabia is increasing its use of natural gas and renewables in power generation with a goal of a achieving a 50/50 split between the two by 2030.

Saudi Aramco is preparing to restart development of the giant Jafurah gas field in the eastern region of the country with plans to invest about $110 billion in the project, CNBC Arabiya reported in September.

The largest natural gas field in the Kingdom, stretching 170 km by 100 km, is estimated at 200 trillion cubic feet of rich raw gas.

Aramco has resubmitted several tenders for field development, including for the construction of the field’s dedicated power plant early next December, unnamed sources in the oil and gas industry told CNBC.

The Jafurah field will place Saudi Arabia third in the world in natural gas production by 2030, the Ministry of Energy has said.

Aramco expects the production from the Jafurah field to commence in early 2024 and reach about 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas per day by 2036. The field will also be able to produce about 425 million cubic feet of ethane per day, and about 550 thousand barrels per day of gas liquids and condensates.

Crypto has value but not for oil trading, says Russia’s Putin

Crypto has value but not for oil trading, says Russia’s Putin
Updated 15 October 2021

Crypto has value but not for oil trading, says Russia’s Putin

Crypto has value but not for oil trading, says Russia’s Putin
  • Russia has sought alternatives to trading in dollars since being slapped with sanctions in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea

RIYADH: Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled tolerance of cryptocurrencies, but is still not convinced they can replace the US dollar in settling oil trades.

“I believe that it has value,” he told CNBC in an interview at the Russian Energy Week event in Moscow Wednesday, the transcript of which was posted on the Kremlin’s website.

“It is legitimate and can be used in settlements, no doubt about that, but it is too early to use it for trading in oil or other raw materials and energy sources,” he said.

This comes after repeated warnings from the Bank of Russia that the crypto market is extremely volatile, and digital currencies are not allowed to be used for domestic payments.

Putin made it clear that contracts dominated in crypto would be a premature step as they are not stable.

In order to mine crypto, you need a lot of energy, and for that people have to use traditional sources of energy, primarily hydrocarbons, he said.

Russia has sought alternatives to trading in dollars since being slapped with sanctions in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea.

Crypto backers argue decentralized money will eventually replace fiat currencies issued by central banks.

“I believe the US is making a big mistake using the dollar as a sanction tool,” he said. “We are forced. We have no other choice but to move to transactions in other currencies.”

Putin also pointed out that the country is reducing the share of the US dollar in its reserves, as well as in settlements. “This is not always possible, but we try to switch to national currencies,” he said.

Some months ago, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Alexander Novak, suggested the country could move away from greenback-denominated crude contracts if the US continues to impose targeted economic sanctions.

In June, Russia announced it would drop US dollar assets from its sovereign wealth fund.