FII: Bank chiefs, CEOs pass mixed verdict on cryptocurrency investment

Special CNN's Richard Quest (L) moderates a session at the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 26, 2021. (AFP)
CNN's Richard Quest (L) moderates a session at the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 26, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 28 October 2021

FII: Bank chiefs, CEOs pass mixed verdict on cryptocurrency investment

CNN's Richard Quest (L) moderates a session at the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 26, 2021. (AFP)
  • Saudi central bank chief does not foresee destruction of banking system by digital currencies
  • Leading investors still view gold and dollar as a safer haven for investments than bitcoin

RIYADH: The verdict on cryptocurrency products and funds was mixed as CEOs, central bank chiefs, investors and policymakers exchanged views on the topic on the first day of the Future Investment Forum in the Saudi capital.

The three-day forum, which is themed “Invest in Humanity,” includes talks on artificial intelligence, robotics, education, healthcare and sustainability.

Taking part in a session on Tuesday, Fahad Al-Mubarak, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s central bank, said SAMA should have no involvement with crypto-assets as many of those who deal in them are criminals.

He did not foresee the destruction of the banking system by digital currencies but rather an expansion of centralized systems for regulating tender.

Bitcoin is the leading digital currency trading internationally, followed by Ether and Solana.




The three-day forum, which is themed “Invest in Humanity,” includes talks on artificial intelligence, robotics, education, healthcare and sustainability. (AFP)

Regulators are still playing catch-up when it comes to how cryptocurrencies should be governed, Al-Mubarak said.

Having made his point, he noted that there has been a sharp jump in online banking during the coronavirus disease pandemic. “Before the pandemic, only 35 percent of bank transactions were electronic,” he said. “Now it’s around 55 percent.”

Hussain Abdulla, co-CEO of Qatar-based investment bank QInvest, said cryptocurrency products were not yet Shariah-compliant, and more understanding was needed.

Nevertheless, he warned that the Middle East is lagging way behind the US and Europe when it comes to digitization of the banking industry.

“Winners in the banking industry will be those who take steps today toward digitization rather than later,” Abdulla said.

Several prominent business people who took part in FII sessions on Tuesday said leading investors still view gold and the dollar as a safer haven for investments than bitcoin.

Both Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and David Solomon, chairman and CEO of the Goldman Sachs Group, said they preferred investments in US dollar over bitcoin.

Ray Dalio, founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, opted for gold over bitcoin.

Khaldoon Khalifa Al-Mubarak, CEO and managing director of the UAE’s Mubadala Investment Co., said he would take bitcoin “hedged in gold.”

In the past week, the crypto industry has seen inflows to the tune of $1.5 billion, amid soaring optimism with the trading of bitcoin exchange traded funds.

Inflows so far this year hit $8 billion, far exceeding the record set for the whole of 2020 of $6.7 billion, according to data from a report released by digital asset manager CoinShares on Monday.

The bulk of inflows for the sixth straight week went to bitcoin, with $1.45 billion, data showed. Inflows year-to-date amounted to $6.1 billion.

With more than 250 expert speakers from the economic, business, education and corporate worlds, discussions at the FII, dubbed the “Davos in the Desert,” have centered on investments that aim to create the greatest benefits for humanity.

Solomon said there must be clarity regarding indicators of economic recovery and action plans, and this contributes to attracting investments and facilitating the movement of funds.




Guests attending the opening ceremony of the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)

More broadly, he underscored the importance of supporting and investing in small businesses to ultimately bring growth and innovation to economies.

“One of the key solutions to drive economic participation and growth is support for small businesses and finding ways that we all can contribution to growth and innovation,” Solomon said.

BlackRock’s Fink said: “It is important to improve human and environmental conditions and to think about long-term solutions, and governments have a great burden.”

In his remarks, Al-Mubarak highlighted the importance of coming together to combat the challenge of climate change.

“The climate challenge will require everybody to contribute in their own way. Nobody is going to solve it on their own. We have to solve it together, working together globally as institutions, as governments, as civil society.”


MENA Project Tracker: Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City starts work on net-zero tower; EGA becomes UAE’s first silicon metal manufacturer

MENA Project Tracker: Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City starts work on net-zero tower; EGA becomes UAE’s first silicon metal manufacturer
Updated 15 sec ago

MENA Project Tracker: Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City starts work on net-zero tower; EGA becomes UAE’s first silicon metal manufacturer

MENA Project Tracker: Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City starts work on net-zero tower; EGA becomes UAE’s first silicon metal manufacturer

RIYADH: Abu Dhabi’s technology and innovation hub Masdar City has started the works at its net-zero energy office tower, of Masdar City Square, as the UAE continues its journey to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Also known as MC2, the project is being developed in collaboration with project management firm Woods Bagot, and architectural firm Faithful+Gould, Trade Arabia reported. 

Woods Bagot will handle design and construction supervision, while Faithful+Gould has been awarded a project management consultancy services contract, the report added.

The MC2 development which has an area of 29,000 square meters with a gross floor area of 50,000 square meters includes seven single and multi-tenant office buildings, along with a large parking facility. 

The works of MC2 are expected to be completed by 2024. 

EGA to produce silicon in UAE

Emirates Global Aluminum, also known as EGA, has announced that the company is planning to develop a project to manufacture silicon in the UAE, Trade Arabia reported.

Currently, there are no silicon manufacturing units in the UAE, and EGA is the largest importer of this metal with an annual demand of 60,000 tons.

“Developing a silicon metal manufacturing facility would secure our supply of a strategic raw material. Once we have met our own demand we could expand further, creating a new growth opportunity for our company while supporting the development of new local industries in line with the goals of Operation 300bn and Make it in the Emirates, and the global energy transition,” said Abdulnasser Bin Kalban, CEO of EGL. 

He added that the construction work of this new project is expected to begin next year.

Silicon is a key raw material for premium aluminum.


TASI bounces back after heavy losses: Closing bell

TASI bounces back after heavy losses: Closing bell
Updated 40 min 1 sec ago

TASI bounces back after heavy losses: Closing bell

TASI bounces back after heavy losses: Closing bell

RIYADH: Saudi stocks gained in the first trading session of the week, rebounding slightly following steep declines, despite fears about upcoming rate hikes and a recession.

The main index, TASI, gained 1.79 percent to close at 11,513, while the parallel market, Nomu, shed 0.85 percent to 20,681.

Saudi Arabia Refineries Co. and National Gypsum Co. both surged 10 percent to lead the gainers, followed by Saudi Advanced Industries Co. with a 9.98 percent gain.

Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Co. led the decliners with a 6.20 percent decline, followed by Taleem REIT Fund with a 1.86 percent fall.

Saudi Aramco, the largest player on the Saudi oil market, ended today’s trading up 1.21 percent.

In the financial sector, the Kingdom’s largest valued bank Al Rajhi rose 1.93 percent, while Alinma Bank added 3.83 percent.

In the pharma sector, Aldawaa Medical Services Co. improved 2.60 percent, while Nahdi Medical Co. gained 1.04 percent.

Both telecom giants stc and Zain KSA climbed 2.06 percent and 6.08 percent, respectively.

Methanol Chemicals Co. increased 1.93 percent, after reporting that it would pay SR273 million ($73 million) as an early loan payment to SIDF and lenders.

Middle East Healthcare Co. rose 1.70 percent, after reporting that it has opened a Saudi German clinic complex in the Al Samer District of Abha city, accommodating 30 clinics.

Due to tight supply, oil prices on Friday rose to $113.12 a barrel for Brent crude and $107.62 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate crude.

 


China In-Focus — China approves ICBC-Goldman JV; New rules to regulate private pension investment via mutual funds

China In-Focus — China approves ICBC-Goldman JV; New rules to regulate private pension investment via mutual funds
Updated 26 June 2022

China In-Focus — China approves ICBC-Goldman JV; New rules to regulate private pension investment via mutual funds

China In-Focus — China approves ICBC-Goldman JV; New rules to regulate private pension investment via mutual funds

RIYADH: Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, also known as ICBC, said on Friday its wealth management joint venture with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. had received the country’s banking regulator’s approval to begin operations.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission’s nod comes as the world’s second-largest economy opens up its giant financial sector to investments from foreign players, allowing them to collaborate with domestic banks.

Goldman Sachs ICBC Wealth Management, set up in May last year with a 51 percent funding contribution from US banking giant Goldman and 49 percent by ICBC, will now offer a broad range of investment products to the Chinese market over time, including quantitative investment strategies.

ICBC will “push forward” the joint venture to execute all the relevant procedures “in strict compliance with laws, regulations and regulatory requirements,” China’s biggest bank said in a statement.

Regulate private pension investment via mutual funds

China’s securities regulator proposed rules to regulate private pension investment via mutual funds, setting the criteria for qualified products and sales agents under a scheme that will channel fresh savings into the country’s capital markets.

The draft rules, published by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) late on Friday, came after Beijing in April launched a milestone private pension scheme to tackle the challenges of the aging population.

Under the scheme, eligible Chinese citizens can buy mutual funds, savings deposits and insurance products via their own individual pension accounts, potentially boosting a pension market that has lured foreign asset managers including Fidelity International and BlackRock.

The proposed rules “have set a relatively high bar for products and institutions, and are designed to ensure safety of pension fund investment and protect investors’ interest,” the CSRC said in a statement on its website.

Initially, pension target funds with at least 50 million yuan ($7.48 million) of assets over the past four quarters are eligible under the pilot pension scheme, the CSRC said.

Senators seek update on US security review of TikTok

A group of six Republican senators on Friday asked US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about an ongoing Biden administration national security review of the social media platform TikTok.

The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, which reviews deals by foreign acquirers for potential national security risks, in 2020 ordered Chinese parent company ByteDance to divest TikTok because of fears that US user data could be passed on to China’s communist government.

Last week, TikTok said it has completed migrating information on its US users to servers at Oracle Corp., as it seeks to address US concerns over data integrity.

Senators Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse, Mike Braun, Marco Rubio, Todd Young and Roger Wicker asked Yellen numerous questions saying the administration “has seemingly done nothing to enforce” the August 2020 divestiture order.” They noted, “the results of the security reviews, likewise, have not been publicly released after one year.”

The senators want to know “will TikTok be locally managed in the United States?” and “Will the US government have the ability to routinely access and inspect the algorithm’s source code?” It also asks “what assurances does the US government have that TikTok will store US data and adopt privacy policies with adequate protections?” 

(With input from Reuters)


Saudi Venture Capital invests in first venture debt fund to support SMEs 

Saudi Venture Capital invests in first venture debt fund to support SMEs 
Updated 26 June 2022

Saudi Venture Capital invests in first venture debt fund to support SMEs 

Saudi Venture Capital invests in first venture debt fund to support SMEs 

RIYADH: Saudi Venture Investment Co. has invested in a global specialty lending fund that focuses on offering venture debt instruments to high-growth startups, small and medium enterprises in sectors, such as technology, fintech, healthcare and life sciences. 

The first venture debt fund that SVC is investing is managed by Partners for Growth, a California-based firm that provides venture and growth stage debt instruments to startups and SMEs, according to a statement. 

“The investment in the venture debt fund by PFG is part of SVC’s Investment in Funds Program, and is to implement SVC’s latest strategy related to the launch of the ‘Investment in Venture Debt Funds’ product in order to fill the financing gaps in the venture capital ecosystem,” CEO said. 

“Venture debt funds provide financing solutions to high-growth startups and SMEs to prevent equity dilution for founders and existing investors and allow startups and SMEs to achieve greater progress during their growth journey,” Nabeel Koshak added. 

Established in 2018 by Monshaat as part of the Financial Sector Development Program, SVC is a government venture capital that contributes to the development of the VC ecosystem. 


Air Arabia adds 14 new shuttle flights for World Cup fans

Air Arabia adds 14 new shuttle flights for World Cup fans
Updated 26 June 2022

Air Arabia adds 14 new shuttle flights for World Cup fans

Air Arabia adds 14 new shuttle flights for World Cup fans

RIYADH: Air Arabia, a low-cost airline based in the UAE, has announced 14 daily shuttle flights from Sharjah International Airport to Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar starting from Nov. 21 until Dec. 18 to cater to visitors to the FIFA World Cup.

These shuttle flights are meant only for world cup ticket holders and will operate in conjunction with Air Arabia’s three daily scheduled flights to Doha, Zawya reported. 

“We are pleased to announce Air Arabia’s shuttle flights between Sharjah and Doha during the FIFA World Cup 2022, which will provide fans with easy, reliable, and timely access in and out of Doha to enjoy the matches and return right after,” Adel Al-Ali, CEO of Air Arabia said. 

The airline stated that passengers will be allowed 10 kg of hand luggage.