Majid Al-Futtaim chief kicks off “humungous” Mall of Saudi project

Exclusive Majid Al-Futtaim chief kicks off “humungous” Mall of Saudi project
The new mall, being developed at a cost of 16 billion riyals ($4.3 billion) over the next four years, will include six hotels and around 1,600 residential units. (Supplied/MAF)
Short Url
Updated 18 November 2021

Majid Al-Futtaim chief kicks off “humungous” Mall of Saudi project

Majid Al-Futtaim chief kicks off “humungous” Mall of Saudi project
  • Mall will have the largest indoor ski slope and snow dome in the world

RIYADH: Alain Bejjani, chief executive of the Majid Al-Futtaim retail and hospitality conglomerate, told Arab News about the “humungous project” now under way in the Kingdom after he formally began construction of the Mall of Saudi.

Straight after a ground-breaking ceremony for the new mall, Bejjani said at the FII form in Riyadh: “It will be one the largest malls in the world, and will have a cutting-edge customer experience and at the edge of the leading retail of tomorrow. It will be a big attraction for shopping, leisure and entertainment, but also a big tourist attraction internally and globally.”

The new mall, being developed at a cost of 16 billion riyals ($4.3 billion) over the next four years, will include six hotels and around 1,600 residential units in “an integrated community that offers a very new lifestyle in line with Vision 2030.”

It will also have the largest indoor ski slope and snow dome in the world, he confirmed.

Although progress on the project was slowed last year by the pandemic lockdowns, behind the scenes Bejjani was working to attract tenants to the new development. “I can tell you every global brand is already in Mall of Saudi or has signed up to be there. We started leasing a year ago, and we’re very happy about the level of uptake. It’s a testimony to the Saudi market and the comeback that we’ve seen post-pandemic. This is coming back, we are recovering,” he said.

MAF group, which operates cinemas, supermarkets and hotels, in addition to malls, was seriously affected by the pandemic last year, when many of its businesses were forced to close temporarily. He said that while there was a recovery underway in the Carrefour supermarkets, the retail grocery business in Saudi Arabia was going through a “recalibration.”

 

“Last year we were hoarding and buying more than we needed. This isn’t happening anymore because people are no longer in fear of meeting their grocery needs. So there was a recalibration in early 2021. But from September, we are seeing growth coming back and this is very important. Next year is definitely going to be a growth year,” he said.




Alain Bejjani, CEO of Majid Al-Futtaim, with Frank Kane in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Many households shifted purchase of essential goods online during the pandemic, and some of that has stuck. Saudi online grocery sales are about 10-12 per cent of total sales, he said, among the highest in the region.

Two other big markets for MAF — in the UAE and Egypt — were also showing strong recovery growth, he said. “The recovery in the world retail economy is stronger than in other parts of the economy,” he added.

In the Vox cinema business, he said fears that the movie business would lose out to the streaming services like Netflix had proved to be misplaced. “People want the experience, they are coming back to the movies,” he said.

But the cinema business was still in need of good quality content, after studios were forced to stop production last year.

MAF is considering ways to promote regional and local cinema content. “What our customers want is Arabic content, Khalijee content, Egyptian content, and one of our plans is to foster local content development and production. This is something we are doing with a number of partners,” Bejjani said.

He also spoke about the chronically low levels of cross-border trade in the GCC countries, in comparison with other trading blocs such as the EU and ASEAN.

“The wider Middle East region has half the labour productivity of other parts of the world,” he said, advocating an end to tariffs and freer movement of labour, potentially involving a special “business visa” to give multiple entry in the GCC countries.


Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut

Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut
Updated 30 September 2022

Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut

Oil settles lower after hitting $90/bbl as OPEC+ considers output cut
  • OPEC+ has begun talks on output cut at Oct. 5 meet and Russia seen suggesting OPEC+ cuts output by 1 mln bpd — source
  • US markets slide on Fed’s aggressive moves to tame inflation; US production to return after shutting for Hurricane Ian

NEW YORK: Oil prices settled lower on Thursday in choppy trading, rising above $90 per barrel and then retreating as traders weighed a worsening economic outlook against potential OPEC+ output cuts next week.

Brent crude futures settled down 83 cents at $88.49 per barrel, after rising as high as $90.12 during the session. US crude futures for November settled 92 cents lower at $81.23 a barrel.

Leading members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, have begun discussions about an oil output cut at their next meeting on Oct. 5, three sources told Reuters.

OPEC+, which combines OPEC countries and allies such as Russia, agreed a small oil output cut of 100,000 barrels a day at its September meeting to bolster prices.

Top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia flagged in August the possibility of output cuts to address market volatility. 

Also at the group’s last meeting, OPEC+ members agreed to stick to their forecasts for robust global oil demand growth in 2022 and 2023, citing signs that major economies were faring better than expected despite headwinds such as surging inflation.

Oil demand will increase by 3.1 million barrels per day in 2022 and by 2.7 million bpd in 2023, unchanged from last month, OPEC said in its monthly report.

One OPEC source told Reuters a cut was “likely,” while two other OPEC+ sources said key members had spoken about the topic.

Reuters reported this week that Russia is likely to propose that OPEC+ reduce oil output by about 1 million barrels per day(bpd).

“Right now, the oil market is teetering between the Fed-induced demand destruction and tight oil supplies,” said Ryan Dusek, a director in the Commodity Risk Advisory Group at Opportune LLP.

US stock markets tumbled on worries that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive fight against inflation could hobble the US economy, and as investors fretted about a rout in global currency and debt markets.

“Amid so much uncertainty, seesaw trade may be common over the next week, unless we get more clarity from OPEC+ sources on the likely size of any adjustment and what it means for previous missed quotas,” said Craig Erlam, senior markets analyst at OANDA.

The market also eased as the threat of Hurricane Ian receded with US oil production expected to return in coming days after about 158,000 bpd was shut in the Gulf of Mexico as of Wednesday, according to federal data.

In China, the world’s biggest crude oil importer, travel during the forthcoming week-long national holiday is set to hit its lowest level in years as Beijing’s zero-COVID rules keep people at home while economic woes curb spending.

Crude benchmarks remain on pace to notch weekly gains after a four-week losing streak. Early this week they rebounded from nine-month lows, buoyed by a dip in the US dollar index and a larger than expected US fuel inventory drawdown.

The dollar index dropped again on Thursday, easing off 20-year highs, indicating some more risk appetite from investors.

Further support for oil prices could come from the United States announcing new sanctions against companies that facilitated Iranian oil sales.

“I think traders have almost given up on a nuclear deal being agreed and this announcement from the US appears to be a make or break move,” said Erlam.


Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister
Updated 29 September 2022

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, in coordination with its regional partners, has launched a food security action plan with an initial funding of $10 billion to tackle the global food supply crisis, the Kingdom’s minister of environment, water and agriculture said.

Speaking at a meeting of G20 agriculture ministers in Indonesia, Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli said the Kingdom will continue its role in helping stabilize the global food production supply chain.

On the domestic front, he added, the Kingdom has also succeeded in reducing the use of water for agricultural purposes by more than 40 percent, the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying.

Al-Fadhli also highlighted the Kingdom’s achievement in the agricultural sector, which according to him, grew by more than 7.8 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year. 

He said the Kingdom is applying modern techniques to boost its agriculture sector and reduce wastage of water.


PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO
Updated 29 September 2022

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

RIYADH: With investments worth SR142 billion ($37.8 billion), Saudi Arabia’s PIF-owned Savvy Games Group seeks to transform the Kingdom into a global gaming hub with world-class gaming companies, said CEO Brian Ward.

Ward was addressing members of the media following the announcement of the company’s strategy by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday.

The investments will include SR70 billion to take several minority stakes in companies that support Savvy’s game development agenda and SR50 billion to acquire “a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner.”

Another SR20 billion will be invested in industry partners and SR2 billion will target industry disruptors “to grow early-stage games and esports companies.”

“Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and esports sector by 2030,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying.

Savvy's CEO Brian Ward

In the press briefing, Ward said: “Our mission will be to lead global investments in the sector.”

He said gaming and esports is the largest entertainment sector with a potential to “exceed $300 billion by 2020 and $400 billion by 2028.”

Ward said Savvy aims to accelerate the growth of the sector in the Kingdom and take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s “unique geopolitical position in the world.”

The PIF-owned company has five independent subsidiaries, including esports arm EFG, as well as Nine66, which "is building an ecosystem for game developers and studios,” and VOV company, which is building gaming and competition venues.

“We intend to make new investments in startups and (established) tech companies,” the top official said.

He also told the media that more details about the company’s acquisition deals and agreements strategy would be announced in the next six months.

Ward said the strategy unveiled on Wednesday seeks to help local gaming companies grow into global players producing world-class games.


UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023
Updated 29 September 2022

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

DUBAI: Damac Properties has seen significant growth in pure online sales as a result of its fully interactive virtual real estate and communities designed in the metaverse, according to a senior official.

On the sidelines of the Metaverse Assembly in Dubai, Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac Properties and CEO of D-Labs, said that online-only transactions are accounting for an increasing portion of the company’s real estate activity, approximately 367 million dirhams ($100 million) a quarter.

By mid-2023, the UAE-based developer aims to grow this figure to $150 million per month, according to a statement.

The realty major has invested up to $100 million to develop and monetize a metaverse that could allow potential customers to check into their luxury properties virtually, choose an apartment, explore furniture options and toy with the paraphernalia on offer.

The company's metaverse platform D-Labs will create digital replicas of its top projects, including Damac Hills, Damac Lagoons, Safa by De Grisogono, and Cavalli Tower in Dubai. It will also host other notable projects such as Damac Tower Nine Elms in London and the upcoming Cavalli Residences in Miami.

AD Ports Group welcomes its first international shipment 

AD Ports Group, one of the leading providers of international trade and logistics, announced Thursday the arrival of its first international shipment at Mugharraq Port, according to a statement.

The UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure has recognized Mugharraq Port as an international port facility under the provisions of the International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities.

The port gained international recognition after a series of major upgrades including extending the quay wall and adding additional berths, deepening the facility’s depth to eight meters, and constructing additional Ro-Ro ramps.

Combined with its strategic proximity to Ruwais, Hail, Ghasha, and other key upstream oil and gas projects in the region, Mugharraq Port is well-equipped to meet the demands of international operations and will further solidify its position as an ISPS port in the region, the statement said.

As a premier maritime facility, the port offers a wide range of offshore, oil and gas, general cargo, logistic support, bulk, and break-bulk handling services.

Al Dhafra’s long-term development plan will be supported by the ongoing port extensions and the new international certification.


Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 
Updated 29 September 2022

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s current account balance has witnessed a 17.6 percent increase in the second quarter of 2022 to SR170.1 billion ($45.26 billion) , fueled by a rise in oil and non-oil exports, according to the Saudi Central Bank’s monthly bulletin.

The Kingdom’s exports of goods increased to SR272. 2 billion, showing a 23.1 percent surge from SR221.1 billion over the same period.  

Services such as transport and construction all witnessed declines over the second quarter of 2022, resulting in a 53.9 percent reduction in the sector.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign assets increased 2.4 percent from the first quarter of 2022, hitting SR4.9 trillion in the second quarter of 2022.

Portfolio investments — which include equity and investment fund shares and debt securities — slightly declined by 1.1 percent for the second month in a row, equating to 1.4 trillion by the end of June.

Trade credit, loans, and currency and deposits — which fall under the category of ‘other investments’ grew 2.9 percent to 1.1 trillion in this quarter, slowing down from a 9.6 percent growth in the previous quarter.

Inside the Kingdom, residential new mortgage loans to individuals soared 76.6 percent month-to-month, from SR7.2 billion in July to SR12.7 billion in August.

Moreover, consumer loans and credit card loans both increased 2.1 percent and 4.8 percent respectively from last month.

Consumer loans grew from SR436.5 billion in July to SR445.8 billion in August, and credit card loans increased from SR19.6 billion to SR20.5 billion over the same period.

As for Saudi Arabia’s total bank credit, it rose 1.6 percent — recording SR2.3 trillion worth of brank credit in the transition between July and August.