RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian capital has long been seen by international bankers and executives as a place to visit for work, before weekending elsewhere in the region. However, that is about to change as the Saudi capital is not only fast transforming into a global and regional hub of business activities, it is also becoming a center of entertainment facilities and fun-filled festivals.
According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia’s domestic stock market’s $2.6 trillion market capitalization is over four times those of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar combined.
There is also loads of work. In the next four years, the Kingdom wants to raise $55 billion via privatizations, and that does not include further asset or equity sales by $1.9 trillion oil giant Saudi Aramco. Nor does it encompass disposals by the $450 billion Public Investment Fund, which recently sold down a big chunk of its 70 percent stake in $61 billion Saudi Telecom Co.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman envisages $3.2 trillion in public and private investment over the next decade to shift the domestic economy away from oil.
The number of foreign investors registered at the Tadawul has more than doubled from 6 percent in 2019, and Saudi Arabia’s foreign direct investment inflows rose during the pandemic. The Regional Headquarters Program was put into action at the beginning of the year, and its ultimate aim is to tempt 480 global companies to make Riyadh its home in the region. Some 24 companies signed up initially, and that figure has now ballooned to 44.
Riyadh may also become less of a social desert. Gigs by Miami rapper Pitbull, World Wrestling Entertainment matches, and Saudi ownership of the Newcastle United football club reduce the cultural distance with the West.
Riyadh is now home to the regional headquarters of 44 multinational companies — an increase of 20 since a drive was launched in January to attract more firms to Saudi Arabia’s capital city.
In a recent briefing given to the Bureau International des Expositions while launching Riyadh’s bid to host the World Expo 2030, Fahd Al-Rasheed, the CEO of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, said expanding from a small town of 150,000 inhabitants in 1950, Riyadh has become one of the world’s fastest-growing cities with a gross domestic product of more than $200 billion.
Al-Rasheed then briefed the BIE governing body about the several development projects underway in the Saudi capital, such as a sports boulevard, the massive King Salman Park, which is four times the size of New York’s Central Park and ten times the size of London’s Hyde Park.
He said the city is building one of the world’s largest public transport networks. Al-Rasheed also highlighted the efforts being made to make Riyadh a sustainable and healthy city by increasing greenery in and around the city as part of the Riyadh Green Project.