CEOs, investors and policymakers debate how to ‘invest in humanity’ at FII conference in Riyadh

CEOs, investors and policymakers debate how to ‘invest in humanity’ at FII conference in Riyadh
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Updated 26 October 2021

CEOs, investors and policymakers debate how to ‘invest in humanity’ at FII conference in Riyadh

CEOs, investors and policymakers debate how to ‘invest in humanity’ at FII conference in Riyadh
  • Future Investment Initiative summit to identify avenues for contributing in a way that creates both value and impact
  • Annual event provides platform for global leaders, investors and innovators to explore solutions to society’s challenges

RIYADH: At the first Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum in Riyadh in 2017, one of the attending billionaire entrepreneurs urged Saudi Arabia, then just embarking on the Vision 2030 strategy of transformation, to follow the example of Nike and “just do it.”

On Tuesday, at the start of the fifth FII, the Kingdom, and the FII itself, has certainly gone for “it” in a big way.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic and other global issues, in the past five years there has been a big change in the Saudi economic scene, with the pace of the Vision transformation accelerating as social, cultural and economic measures take effect in the Kingdom.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the FII conference in a virtual session in the capital Riyadh, on Jan. 28, 2021. (File/AFP)

The FII itself has also undergone a transformation, becoming a permanent institute and a fixture on the international forum scene, though still under the auspices of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion-dollar sovereign wealth fund.

At the first FII, as billionaires, entrepreneurs and senior policymakers from around the world made their way to the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, and the adjoining King Abdulaziz Conference Center, some smart commentator with an eye for a catch-phrase came up with “Davos in the Desert” to describe the scene.

Despite the annoyance of the World Economic Forum, which organizes the extravaganza in the Swiss mountains, the phrase stuck, and FII has increasingly taken on the trappings of the annual Alpine gathering.

Among the nearly 4,000 attendees were such luminaries as then-IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Larry Fink, chief executive of giant investment group BlackRock, who remains a regular at FII — all inquisitive to learn details of the Vision 2030 strategy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had unveiled the previous year.


The crown prince set the tone for the event, and for subsequent years, with a keynote speech that unveiled the central message of what life would be like in the Saudi Arabia of the Vision 2030 era.

He promised a “return to moderate Islam that is open to all religions,” and to eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts, adding: “We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.”

The show-stealer of that first forum was Masayoshi Son, the chairman and CEO of Japan’s SoftBank. Earlier in the year, Son had unveiled the Vision Fund, the biggest start-up investment enterprise in the world, with a budget of $100 billion — including $45 billion from the PIF — to invest in cutting-edge technology that would transform the world.

Sharing a stage with Sophia the Android, the first robot to be “awarded” Saudi citizenship in a light-hearted ceremony, Son told the audience: “Every industry will be redefined. These computers, they will learn, they will read, they will see by themselves. That’s a scary future but anyway that’s coming,” he said.




‘Sophia the Robot’ of Hanson Robotics reacts during a discussion about Sophia’s multiple intelligences and artificial intelligence (AI) at the RISE Technology Conference in Hong Kong on July 10, 2018. (File/AFP)

The first FII was also notable for two other landmark announcements which have left an enduring mark on the Saudi economy and the global investment scene.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the master concept of NEOM, the $500 billion city-of-the-future to be built in the northwest of the Kingdom, which has since become the flagship project of the Vision 2030 strategy.

Carbon neutral and sustainable, the new metropolis would be served by an army of robots and driven by state-of-the-art digital technologies and artificial intelligence.

It would also create a new urban hub for innovation and enterprise in an under-populated part of Saudi Arabia. Other mega-projects followed, like the Red Sea development, the Qiddiya resort complex, the AlUla desert oasis with its historic cultural roots, and the Diriyah Gate development on the outskirts of Riyadh.

The second big announcement of that first FII was the unveiling of a financial road map for the PIF, aiming to make it the biggest sovereign wealth fund, with a target of $2 trillion assets under management by 2030.




Saudi CEO of NEOM Nadhmi Al-Nasr speaks during the last day of the FII conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Oct. 25, 2018. (File/AFP)

The PIF was to be the main vehicle for the implementation of the Vision 2030 transformation, and also raise significantly the Kingdom’s profile in the international financial community.

The second FII forum, in October 2018, was overshadowed to some degree by the tragic murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul earlier in the month, which led some top-level executives and media organizations to stay away, but for which regrets and condemnation were expressed by the crown prince from the stage at the opening keynote.

It was difficult for a visitor to see much difference. The attendance figures were as good as the inaugural launch; while some familiar faces were missing from the big set-piece plenary sessions, an army of more junior executives from many of the big banks, financial institutions and other global investors were happily doing deals at the event.

Some $60 billion in deals and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed in 2018, across a range of sectors including energy, housing, health and technology.

The 2018 event attracted eight heads of state, 20 international ministers and was watched by 2.8 million viewers worldwide.




Delegates attend a debate during the fourth edition of the FII conference at the capital Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on Jan. 27, 2021. (File/AFP)

By 2019, when Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor, declared the FII to be “one of the top three gatherings in the world,” it was business as usual, with an even bigger turnout of around 6,000 at the event and millions more tuning in worldwide from more than 110 countries.

Like most international events of last year, FII 2020 was impacted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented it from being held in its customary October slot.

Instead, the fourth FII was held virtually in January this year, organized from Riyadh with the help of satellite hubs in New York, Paris, Beijing and Mumbai.

The theme was “The Neo Renaissance,” referring to the rebirth of global economic life after the shock of the pandemic the previous year. The event also developed what was to be an enduring theme, and a prominent element of the fifth event starting today in Riyadh: The importance of ESG — environmental, social and governance — standards in global finance.

In the five years since the first “Davos in the Desert,” much has changed. The FII itself is now a non-profit organization run by the PIF under Chief Executive Richard Attias, who is a prominent figure at the annual events.




Mask-clad participants stand next to a sign annoucning the next panel during the fourth edition of the FII conference at the capital Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on Jan. 27, 2021. (File/AFP)

Its one-item agenda consists of “Impact on humanity.” Meanwhile, the Saudi economy has developed and progressed with the FII.

It has emerged from the shock of the pandemic last year, and, in particular, Saudi Arabia has helped steer global energy markets through their most severe crisis for many years through its leadership, along with Russia, of the OPEC+ organization.

All the economic indicators in the Kingdom are heading in the right direction, with GDP this year forecast to show a strong recovery from the doldrums of the pandemic recession.

Higher oil prices will make a big contribution to stronger government revenues, which can also be used to finance the ongoing Vision 2030. Non-oil growth is also expected to rise sharply.

Despite the challenges of the past two years, the FII has become an integral part of the global investment scene and the international forums circuit.

The FII has “just done it,” and will do it again in Riyadh starting on Tuesday.


Sajwani buys 15.6% of DAMAC shares through Dubai Financial Market

Sajwani buys 15.6% of DAMAC shares through Dubai Financial Market
Updated 5 sec ago

Sajwani buys 15.6% of DAMAC shares through Dubai Financial Market

Sajwani buys 15.6% of DAMAC shares through Dubai Financial Market

RIYADH: Maple Invest, owned by businessman Hussein Sajwani has bought a 15.6 percent stake in Damac Properties through the Dubai Financial Market.

It is part of a plan by which the Emirati businessman aims to acquire up to 100 percent shares of the company he established in 2002 and de-listing it  from the Dubai market, Asharq reported on Sunday.

According to Damac Properties’ disclosure to the Dubai market on Sunday, Maple executed approximately 944 million shares, representing 15.6 percent of the property firm's issued capital, at a price of 1.4 dirhams per share.

Maple made a conditional offer to buy the rest of the shares of the firm — which is not owned by Maple or its subsidiaries — on June 9. The offer included a price of 1.3 dirhams per share. Damac shareholders rejected the offer and called on its board of directors to appoint advisers to assess the fairness of the offer's value.

In late October, Maple announced that it intends to purchase 800 million shares of Damac Properties through the Dubai Financial Market, provided that the purchase process is outside the offer made by Maple to acquire all of Damac’s shares.

The data issued today is the implementation of a quantity higher than the target, bringing Sajwani’s direct and indirect share in the company to approximately 88 percent.


Crypto exchange Coinstore enters India despite restrictions on trade: Crypto wrap

Crypto exchange Coinstore enters India despite restrictions on trade: Crypto wrap
Updated 5 min 36 sec ago

Crypto exchange Coinstore enters India despite restrictions on trade: Crypto wrap

Crypto exchange Coinstore enters India despite restrictions on trade: Crypto wrap

RIYADH: Singapore-based virtual currency exchange Coinstore has begun operations in India at a time when the Indian government is preparing legislation to effectively bar most private cryptocurrencies.

Coinstore is the second global exchange to enter India in recent months, following in the footsteps of CrossTower which launched its local unit in September.

Coinstore has launched its web and app platform and plans branches in Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai which will act as its base in India for future expansion, its management said.

"With nearly a quarter of our total active users coming from India, it made sense for us to expand into the market," Charles Tan, head of marketing at Coinstore told Reuters.

Asked why Coinstore was launching India despite the pending clampdown on cryptocurrencies, Tan said: "There have been policy flip-flops but we hope things are going to be positive and we are optimistic that the Indian government will come out with a healthy framework for cryptocurrencies."

Tan said Coinstore plans to recruit about 100 employees in India and spend $20 million for marketing, hiring and development of crypto-related products and services for the Indian market.

The price of the world's biggest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has more than doubled since the start of this year, attracting hordes of Indian investors.

Industry estimates suggest there are 15 million to 20 million crypto investors in India, with total crypto holdings of around 400 billion rupees ($5.33 billion).

Coinstore also plans to expand into Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam, according to Tan.

Crypto payments

Newegg, one of the major technology-focused e-commerce platforms, has announced that SHIB is coming soon to its platform.

Newegg currently accepts cryptocurrency via Bitpay and the crypto payment service provider is expected to add shiba inu to its list of supported cryptocurrencies, which includes the rival meme cryptocurrency dogecoin.

Meanwhile, AMC theaters are also preparing to accept SHIB payments in the first quarter of next year, according to the CEO Adam Aron.

Daily trading

Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency in trading internationally, traded lower on Sunday, falling by 1.17  percent to $54,322. at 5:46 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, traded at $4,077, down by 1.52 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.


Commercial banks’ lending to private sector up $6.42 bn in October

Commercial banks’ lending to private sector up $6.42 bn in October
Updated 8 min 6 sec ago

Commercial banks’ lending to private sector up $6.42 bn in October

Commercial banks’ lending to private sector up $6.42 bn in October

MOSCOW: Commercial banks’ October lending to the private sector grew by SR24.1 billion ($6.42 billion) from a month ago to SR2 trillion, data published by Saudi Arabia’s central bank on Sunday revealed.

This corresponded to a monthly growth rate of 1.2 percent from the previous month’s SR1.99 trillion in September. 

On the other hand, commercial banks’ lending to the government and quasi-government entities sector fell by a monthly SR13.1 billion to reach SR546.9 billion, reflecting a decline rate of 2.3 percent. 

Looking at the banks’ total assets, official data showed that they grew by SR42.1 billion compared to the previous month to hit SR3.19 trillion. The monthly growth rate stood at 1.3 percent.


TASI falls 4.5% to near 5 month-low: Market wrap

TASI falls 4.5% to near 5 month-low: Market wrap
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 28 min 16 sec ago

TASI falls 4.5% to near 5 month-low: Market wrap

TASI falls 4.5% to near 5 month-low: Market wrap

RIYADH: The Saudi stock market ended the session on Sunday, down 4.5 percent or 512 points, to close at 10,788 points.

Some 233.1 million shares changed hands in 407,000 deals, with heavy trading in Al Rajhi bank, Alinma Bank, SABIC.

Today’s decline is the largest in percentage terms and points since May 2020, when the market fell by 7.4 percent and 527 points.

On Friday, global markets suffered sharp losses after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant with numerous mutations, is likely to resist the current vaccines.

In addition, Brent crude dropped 11.6 percent to $72.72 a barrel, while WTI sank 13 percent to $ 68.15 a barrel.

The parallel Nomu index was down 790 points, or 3.41 percent, It closed at 22,374.24 points, after 313,000 trades.

Most of the shares declined today, led by Al Rajhi Bank and SABIC closing at SR133.80 ($35.6) down 5 percent and SR112 down 6 percent.

Saudi Aramco finished at SR34.90 down 2 percent amid trading of about seven million shares.

Saudi National Bank, Alinma Bank, Riyad Bank, Banque Saudi Fransi, Bank Albilad, Sipchem, Maaden, SABB and SABIC Agri-Nutrients declined between 3 and 6 percent.

Petro Rabigh, Saudi Kayan, JAZADCO and Tasnee were among the top decliners.

Meanwhile, Amana Insurance and Saudi Enaya were top gainers, rising to SR37.30 and SR33.35, respectively.


Saudi Energy Ministry to help SABIC develop renewable energy projects

Saudi Energy Ministry to help SABIC develop renewable energy projects
Updated 31 min 17 sec ago

Saudi Energy Ministry to help SABIC develop renewable energy projects

Saudi Energy Ministry to help SABIC develop renewable energy projects

RIYADH: Saudi Energy Ministry on Sunday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. to help develop the company’s renewable energy projects. 

SABIC CEO Yousef Al-Benyan said the support from the Energy Ministry would enable the company achieve its net-zero emissions goal.

Al-Benyan said the chemical manufacturing company plans to increase its use of renewable energy to further reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

All these measures are part of the Saudi Green Initiative. The Kingdom aims to reach net zero in carbon emissions by 2060.  

The main vehicle for the Saudi green initiative is the Circular Carbon Economy, a framework that mitigates carbon emissions but allows different countries to pursue their own economic strategies.