Shared vision, commitment to integration underlie Gulf trade deals

Special Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is welcomed by the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, upon his arrival at the airport in the Omani capital Muscat on December 6, 2021. (AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is welcomed by the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, upon his arrival at the airport in the Omani capital Muscat on December 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 08 December 2021

Shared vision, commitment to integration underlie Gulf trade deals

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is welcomed by the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, upon his arrival at the airport in the Omani capital Muscat on December 6, 2021. (AFP)
  • Saudi firms have signed agreements with partners in the Sultanate worth $10 billion 
  • Like Saudi Arabia, Oman has a strategy to build a post-oil economy with a strong fiscal base

DUBAI: The signing of new investment deals reportedly worth $30 billion between Saudi Arabia and Oman is no doubt a positive development for solidifying cooperation between the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Yet the first questions that spring to mind are: Why Oman and why now?

From a geopolitical perspective, Saudi Arabia’s move is important as the Kingdom is now using its immense economic clout to support its smaller neighbors, starting with Iraq to the north and now Oman to the southeast.

It is broadly accepted that the region’s future social and political stability require economic stability. Many of Saudi Arabia’s neighbors are oil-producing nations whose journeys towards diversifying their economies to embrace other industries and markets are only just beginning.

Investment is seen as an effective way to help these countries move away from oil and generate more jobs in other sectors. But for Saudi investments to be of any long-term positive significance, they must align with the national and strategic goals of both countries.

Much like Saudi Arabia, Oman has its own reform agenda known as Oman Vision 2040, which aims to turn the Sultanate into an economic powerhouse with a sustainable fiscal and economic base. What Oman needs to make this bold vision a reality is access to the financial capital needed to expand its economy.

With its aging wells and reservoirs, Oman’s oil industry will require massive investment to maintain current capacity. The Sultanate is clearly aware that oil will not be its sole source of revenue in the future. In fact, its 2021 budget was drafted on the basis of oil costing a paltry $45 per barrel.

To help Oman realize its post-oil potential, Saudi Arabian companies have signed a raft of trade and infrastructure deals with their Omani counterparts that will not only increase foreign direct investments into the Sultanate, but also enhance its economic diversification.




As part of the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi and Omani companies signed 13 MoUs related to joint work in economic sectors. (SPA)

Looking at energy investments in particular, the first agreement entails replicating what Saudi Arabia is doing in NEOM — its new high-tech smart-city on the Kingdom’s western Red Sea coast.

Omani energy provider OQ Group signed three of the agreements, the first of which was with Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and Air Products in the fields of petrochemicals, renewable energy and green hydrogen.

With this deal, Saudi Arabia is expanding its green hydrogen plan beyond its own borders and into Oman, which will boost the overall supply of hydrogen coming from the GCC.

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Hydrogen has become a viable contender for energy transition away from environmentally harmful fossil fuels. Oman is ideally located to supply hydrogen to southeast and east Asian markets, while NEOM is better placed to ship it to European markets.

The second energy deal, relating to oil storage, was signed with Saudi Aramco, and the third, involving development of Oman’s Duqm Petrochemical Complex project, with SABIC.

Saudi Aramco’s strategy is to expand storage beyond the Strait of Hormuz. Bypassing the narrow waterway will help reduce the threat to shipping posed by blockades and even piracy, which risk wreaking havoc for global oil prices.

As for SABIC’s deal, Duqm is attracting more attention now that the joint Kuwait-Oman refinery is nearing completion. This will allow SABIC to have better access to feedstocks while utilizing Omani products. The impact of this will be reflected in job creation, a new petrochemical hub in Duqm and valuable knowledge transfer. 




Sultan of Oman presents Oman Civil Order of the First Class to HRH Crown Prince, in recognition of brotherly ties, excellent relations and constructive cooperation. (SPA)

It is not just the energy sector that has benefited from the deals. The tourism industry in Oman can also expect a flood of new investments. Omran Group has signed a memorandum with the Saudi Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company for the development of the Yetti Beach in Oman.

Omran is known for creating sustainable and authentic tourism assets and lifestyle communities and destinations designed to drive economic growth and contribute to the diversification of the economy.

Oman-based firm Asyad, a logistics group, has signed an agreement with Saudi Bahri, a transportation and logistics company, while Minerals Development Oman signed a deal with the Kingdom’s Maaden Phosphate Co. to boost cooperation in the mining sector.

As for the timing, both counties have the means and the will to invest for the future. Oil prices are high, giving both countries the resources they need to support their shared national visions.

If all goes according to plan, Oman could be on track to realize its national goals well in advance of 2040, allowing it to join the 2030 club.


Gasoline price surge fuels EV demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC

Gasoline price surge fuels EV  demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC
Updated 30 September 2022

Gasoline price surge fuels EV demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC

Gasoline price surge fuels EV  demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC
  • KSA has implemented energy price reforms to unlock economic and environmental benefits for the country

RIYADH: Growing gasoline prices will play a significant role in increasing the demand for electric vehicles in the Kingdom, according to Anwar Gasim, a King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center researcher.

“The higher the domestic gasoline price, the more a consumer may be incentivized to switch to an electric vehicle,” he told Arab News.

According to Gasim, gasoline prices in the Kingdom seven years ago were a quarter of today’s prices.

“If you look at the 91-octane gasoline, it was SR0.45 ($0.12) per liter. Today, it’s SR2.18,” Gasim said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Since 2016, the Kingdom has implemented energy price reforms to unlock economic and environmental benefits for the country.

“Since gasoline prices ended up getting linked with the international price, the government had to put a cap on them when international prices went up very high last year,” said Gasim.

It means there is a limit that domestic gasoline prices will not surpass, no matter how high energy prices may hike internationally.

“I think it was becoming too high for people here, and then the government decided to put a cap,” he said.

According to Gasim, raising domestic energy prices can contribute to the Kingdom’s climate goals.

Saudi Arabia aims to reduce emissions and increase the share of renewables to 50 percent by 2030.

“Higher energy prices can incentivize more efficient behavior, more energy conservation, and therefore it can help save energy and reduce emissions,” he added.

KAPSARC was a part of the regulatory team led by the Ministry of Energy, which on Aug. 22 issued the completion of all legislative and technical aspects to regulate the EV charging market.

These stations will more likely charge the vehicles using the national grid. Still, there are possibilities that off-grid stations will be a requirement.

Some neighborhood distribution networks can no longer accommodate any additional load. They have reached the peak of the transformer capacity.

The only option is using off-grid solutions; renewable sources like solar and hydrogen can supply these off-grids.

Electromin, a wholly owned e-mobility turnkey solutions provider under Petromin, in May announced the rollout of electric vehicle charging points across the Kingdom.

In an earlier interview with Arab News, Kalyana Sivagnanam, the group CEO of Petromin, said that the network includes 100 locations across the Kingdom powered by a customer-centric mobile application.

Sivagnanam said that the company would set up most of its charging stations in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam and eventually branch out across the country.

Electromin’s charging network will offer a complete spectrum of services from AC chargers to DC fast and ultrafast chargers, catering to all customer segments.

The imports of EV charging equipment were permitted in the Kingdom in 2020.

As part of the Kingdom’s sustainability strategy, the Royal Commission of Riyadh launched an initiative last year to ensure that 30 percent of all vehicles in the capital would be powered by electricity by 2030.


Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

RIYADH: Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, is aiming to integrate voice recognition technology and augmented reality to its services, the company announced during the second edition of the Global AI Summit held in Riyadh.

Saudia has signed an agreement, aimed at boosting artificial intelligence in the flight sector, with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority and the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence. Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the summit, Dr. Khaled Alhazmi, vice president of IT support and operations at Saudia, said that the agreement is the first step in introducing AI products to the airline’s services.

Alhazmi explained that the company is currently exploring voice recognition technology through one of SDAIA’s products, an app called SauTech.

“It is an amazing app; it currently gives accurate results for the recognition of the dialects of the Arabic language. And right now, we are trying to explore opportunities and use cases, to start implementing it in our services,” he said.

The company is also planning to adopt Internet of Things technology as well as augmented reality to ensure that they are first movers to implement AI into their services.

“Our strategic direction is to build an ecosystem of partners who would enable us to digitize our services to our customers. We are aiming to deliver a first-class experience to our customers,” he added.

Alhazmi believes that the digitalization factor currently in use at the airline such as downloading tickets to personal devices can be greatly expanded on, and that there are huge opportunities to integrate technology into the sector.

“We are digitizing everything under a program, which is adapting the digital first. Right now we believe that we need to put in use all the data science, all the technologies nowadays, and put them into the hands of the customer,” he said. The company wants to improve its self-service options by providing a personalized platform that will enable users to customize their journey according to their needs.

“That’s actually the main goal because we understand right now that we have a new generation of people who are more interested in technology, they are using technology every day,” he added.

Saudia has also recently partnered with agritech company Red Sea Farms to provide sustainable and high-quality meals for its customers.

“We can see that the adoption of technology in Saudi Arabia in general is getting more mature than other countries,” Alhazmi concluded.


Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price

Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price

Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price
  • Real GDP growth is forecasted to increase by nearly 8 percent year-on-year in 2022 and 3.1 percent year-on-year in 2023

RIYADH: Based on the government budget figures, Al-Rajhi Capital assessed the government's 2023 budgeted revenues to likely be based on Brent at $76 per barrel.

Real GDP growth is forecasted to increase by nearly eight percent year-on-year in 2022 and 3.1 percent year-on-year in 2023, according to Al-Rajhi Capital.

Inflation is expected to be 2.6 percent and 2.1 percent in 2022 and 2023 respectively, Al-Rajhi said.

Revised 2022 revenues are mostly in line with estimates, however, the expenditure budget is much higher than from an earlier announcement, it said.

The 2023 spending budget was raised by 18 percent, with a slight fiscal surplus of SR9 billion expected for 2023.


Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24b in 2022

Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24b in 2022
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24b in 2022

Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24b in 2022
  • Total revenues expected to reach about SR1.12 trillion in 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is expecting its budget surplus in 2022 to hit SR90 billion ($24 billion), and another SR9 billion next year, the Ministry of Finance announced on Friday.

Looking at the full year 2022 projections, real GDP is expected to grow by 8 percent, while the inflation in 2022 may record about 2.6 percent.

Looking at the next year’s projections, Saudi total revenues are expected to reach about SR1.12 trillion in 2023, while reaching about 1.21 trillion in 2025, according to the Ministry of Finance's preliminary statement of the state's general budget for the year 2023.

Total expenditures are expected to reach about SR1.11 trillion in the next fiscal year 2023, and that the expenditure ceiling will reach about SR1.13 trillion in 2025.

The objectives of the state's general budget for the fiscal year 2023 come as a continuation of the process of work to strengthen and develop the financial position of the Kingdom, the finance minister said.

“The government attaches great importance to enhancing the support and social protection system and accelerating the pace of strategic spending on Vision programs and major projects to support economic growth,” Mohammed Al-Jadaan said.

The Kingdom’s economy has demonstrated its strength and durability by achieving high growth rates, after taking many policies and measures with the aim of protecting the economy from the repercussions of inflation and supply chain challenges, he added.

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Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms

Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms
Updated 30 September 2022

Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms

Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms

RIYADH: Saudi companies are being encouraged to tap into investment deals and contracts worth more than SR100 billion ($26.62 billion) with two of the Kingdom’s biggest firms.

Representatives from the Saudi Electricity Co. and the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation — also known as SABIC — unveiled various opportunities for firms in the Kingdom to work with them during workshops organized by the Federation of Saudi Chambers, according to Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudi Electricity Co. set out its strategy for the localization of the electricity industries, known as ‘Bena’, which aims to encourage and support local manufacturing.

It also includes three initiatives: to raise the percentage of localization in the company's projects; increase the purchases of materials from national factories; and identify investment opportunities required to be localized.

The firm indicated the volume of future demand for or purchases and contracts is expected to reach SR100 billion.

SABIC explained that the investment opportunities under the umbrella of its Nusaned initiative to enhance local content, contributed to supporting economic development with more than $1 billion of gross domestic product.

The company approved 43 investment opportunities, with the total investment opportunities amounting to 351 opportunities.

The number of investors has reached 183, while the number of feasibility studies has hit 74.