Saudi Arabia’s ‘unprecedented growth’ set to cement position as M&A leader in 2022

Analysis saudi arabia is witnessing M&a activity across all sectors including healthcare, education, logistics, tourism, entertainment and sports. (SPA)
saudi arabia is witnessing M&a activity across all sectors including healthcare, education, logistics, tourism, entertainment and sports. (SPA)
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Updated 08 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s ‘unprecedented growth’ set to cement position as M&A leader in 2022

Saudi Arabia’s ‘unprecedented growth’ set to cement position as M&A leader in 2022
  • “The Saudi market is probably one of the most active M&A markets in the region,” says financial expert
  • Vision 2030 is the “main driver” to the flurry of M&A activity in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has become one of the most attractive markets for international companies seeking new mergers and acquisitions, and it is set to maintain its position in 2022. 

The country’s growth stood at 6.8 percent for the third quarter. This is due to rising world demand for crude oil, ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 targets, cutting the Kingdom’s dependence on the sale of hydrocarbons through the development of non-oil sectors, as well as advances in fighting the COVID pandemic.

This has helped set Saudi Arabia for continued growth in merger and acquisitions in the coming year. 

“The Saudi market is probably one of the most active M&A markets in the region, together with the UAE and Egypt,” said Fikry Younis, the Riyadh-based partner of Lumina Capital Advisers.

Economist Robert Mogielnicki from the Arab Gulf State Institute in Washington underlines that the most obvious spaces to watch for M&A activity in Saudi Arabia are the energy and technology spaces. 

“Saudi Arabia possesses a comparative advantage in the energy sector and really wants to monetize its energy assets. Technology firms are thriving globally, and Saudi Arabia is pushing to become a global technology hub,” he added.

According to Younes, Saudi Arabia is witnessing M&A activity across all sectors, with a focus in social infrastructure — including healthcare, education and logistics — tourism, entertainment and sports, Environmental, Social, and Governance investing and green energy. 

There is also significant action in technology which acts as an enabler to other sectors, such as healthtech, edutech, and fintech.

FASTFACTS

The country’s growth stood at 6.8 percent for the third quarter. This is due to rising world demand for crude oil, ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 targets, cutting the Kingdom’s dependence on the sale of hydrocarbons through the development of non-oil sectors, as well as advances in fighting the COVID pandemic.

The largest announced transactions this year were the acquisition of 49 percent stake in Aramco’s Oil Pipeline Co. by a consortium led by EIG Global Energy; the acquisition of an Aramco portfolio of gas assets by US-based Air Products and ACWA Power, and the acquisition of a 50 percent stake in Saudi National Petrochemical Company by the Saudi Industrial Investment Group.

Tourism is expected to account for more than 10 percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030 through Neom — a $500bn futuristic city including a nature reserve and heritage sites on islands on the Red Sea alongside a major entertainment and sports project called Qiddiya. 

The Kingdom plans to invest more than $1tn in the tourism sector over the next 10 years. 

For Habib Aoun, partner at Broadgate Advisers, if one looks at ranking by deal value, energy and materials remain the most buoyant sectors by far, driven by strategic acquisitions often involving governmental entities such as ARAMCO. 

However, looking at deal count, rather than deal size, demand is big for assets in the consumers, healthcare, education and ICT sectors, both from strategic as well as financial investors. 

“Saudi Arabia has always been and remains one of the main M&A markets in the region, driven by its large population, numerous government initiatives and the recent recovery in oil prices,” says Aoun. 

The expert estimates that in 2021, there were $44 billion of announced deals in the Kingdom, compared to $75 billion for the whole of the Middel East and North Africa region including Saudi Arabia.

The largest announced transactions this year were the acquisition of 49 percent stake in Aramco’s Oil Pipeline Co by a consortium led by EIG Global Energy; the acquisition of an Aramco portfolio of gas assets by US-based Air Products and ACWA Power, and the acquisition of a 50 percent stake in Saudi National Petrochemical Company by the Saudi Industrial Investment Group, according to Aoun. 

The Saudi British Bank, the HSBC Holdings affiliate, also completed its merger with Alawwal Bank. The year also saw the merger of National Commercial Bank and Samba Financial Group under the name of Saudi National Bank. SNB will be accounting for a market share of 25 percent, with a combined equity of SR120 billion ($31.96 billion)

Other than those large deals in the energy and materials sectors, there have been notable mid-cap deal activity including the sales of Naturepack Beverage Packaging to Norway-based Elopak; HSBC’s asset management business to Alawwal Invest;  Saudi Enaya Cooperative to Amana cooperative, and; Fourth Milling Co. to a consortium of Saudi strategic Agri investors. 

In education, King’s College Riyadh — an offshoot of the Dorset King’s College — became the first British boarding school to set up in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund and London hospitality company Ennismore established a $400m fund to bring Ennismore’s lifestyle brands to the kingdom. 

“Mega deals like the merger between Samba-NCB as well as PIF acquisition of Newcastle United take all the publicity, however, there are many private deals of all sizes that are taking place below the radar,” says Younes. 

Without a doubt Vision 2030 is the main driver to the flurry of M&A activity in Saudi Arabia, says Younes. 

"One of the core pillars of Vision 2030 is localization of know-how. We have therefore seen many sub-industries across the wider manufacturing spectrum benefit from governmental initiatives — chemicals & materials, pharmaceuticals, etc. Other main sectors that are expected to benefit from Vision 2030 are infrastructure — including telecom, education, tourism — including F&B, and healthcare where investment is needed in order to support the anticipated economic growth. Covid did have an impact of course, mainly during H1 2020, but as is the case globally, most sectors have recovered well in 2021,” adds Aoun.

M&A activity in Saudi Arabia is both inbound and cross-border, agree specialists. 

One example is Saudi Arabian companies’ deals with their Omani counterparts worth $10 billion. 

“Within Saudi, investors and family offices are reviewing their portfolios and divesting from non-core assets to redirect funds to expanding core assets,” says Younes, adding: ”Cross-border is inbound and outbound where the key word is scaling in Saudi Arabia to capture the opportunities that are being presented as a result of Vision 2030. 

“International investors are investing inbound to Saudi in order to benefit from the unprecedented growth, especially with the challenges that many are facing in their home countries: COVID, supply chain challenges, inflation, etc. Local investors who are investing outbound are investing in order to bring expertise and capabilities from abroad to Saudi Arabia.” 

For Aoun, forecasts for M&A activity in the Kingdom are upbeat, driven by current oil price levels and the government’s continuous efforts to modernize the country and positioning Riyadh as the financial capital of the region.


Saudi hotelier Elaf Group expands its presence with newly launched brand Joudyan 

Saudi hotelier Elaf Group expands its presence with newly launched brand Joudyan 
Updated 59 min 12 sec ago

Saudi hotelier Elaf Group expands its presence with newly launched brand Joudyan 

Saudi hotelier Elaf Group expands its presence with newly launched brand Joudyan 

RIYADH: Elaf Group, one of the leading hospitality players in the region, is now set to focus on expanding its presence with the opening of its first property under the newly launched hotel brand Joudyan in Riyadh later this week. 

This will be Elaf Group’s first hotel in Riyadh and the opening of Joudyan in the capital will be followed up with other cities outside of Riyadh.  

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Azzouni, director of marketing and public relations, Elaf Group, said they intend to expand in the Eastern Province and the north and south as well.  

“Joudyan will be the focus of Elaf Group’s expansion plan in the Kingdom,” he said. 

Elaf Group which offers a mix of five- and four-star hotels, promises to offer a “unique experience” of the local feel of the Kingdom to the visitors. 

Al-Azzouni added: “The hotel in Jeddah will be in the Red Sea Mall. We’re currently renovating the property and it will be reopened as Joudyan brand.” 

He said they are confident that Joudyan will soon carve a niche for itself in the hospitality industry. 

"The new brand would have multiple locations across the Kingdom,” informed Al-Azzouni. “The official opening of the first Joudyan brand would be in Riyadh this week. It will soon be followed by the opening of the second hotel in Jeddah during the second half of 2023.” 

Talking about the new brand name, Al-Azzouni explained that when you dissect the word Joudyan, joud is from the Arabic word which means alkaram or generosity. “We made sure that we created a new name that reflects that (generosity),” Al-Azzouni explained. 

“Generosity is part of the Saudi culture. And that’s what we intend to make sure our guests feel about us when they come visit us. We will also make sure that that is our core brand essence and how we do business,” he continued. 

As for Elaf hotels, Al-Azzouni informed they will be concentrated in Makkah and Madinah due to the Elaf name having its roots in the holy cities. 

The company is also planning to expand across the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Middle East regions while setting its eyes on the European market. 

“We are open to any kind of ventures and investment opportunities that is mutually beneficial to all parties,” Al-Azzouni said talking about the company’s future plans.  

Going on to discuss the overall outlook of the hospitality industry, Al-Azzouni said things were catching up with 2019. “We have seen positive numbers and things are going back to where we were in 2019,” he informed. “We’re almost there and we can feel it in different sectors including hospitality and travel and tourism. We see a positive outlook for 2023 and beyond.”   

Not surprisingly then that the group is currently working on the completion of extensive renovation and upgrading efforts in all its hotels in order to keep pace with the rapid growth in the tourism and hospitality sectors.   


Oil Updates — Crude up; Iraq plans to raise oil exports by 250k bpd in 2023 

Oil Updates — Crude up; Iraq plans to raise oil exports by 250k bpd in 2023 
Updated 30 November 2022

Oil Updates — Crude up; Iraq plans to raise oil exports by 250k bpd in 2023 

Oil Updates — Crude up; Iraq plans to raise oil exports by 250k bpd in 2023 

RIYADH: Oil prices posted gains of more than 1 percent in Asian trade on Wednesday on falling US crude inventories and a lower greenback.  

Brent crude futures firmed 95 cents or 1.14 percent to $83.98 per barrel by 0411 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 80 cents or 1.02 percent to $79.00 per barrel. 

Venezuela to sign new contracts to boost oil output at joint ventures 

Venezuela will soon sign new contracts to boost oil joint ventures between state firm PDVSA and private energy companies, the country’s Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami said on Tuesday, a move that will benefit Chevron Corp.  

The US Treasury Department on Saturday authorized the No. 2 US oil producer to expand operations at its Venezuela joint ventures. That authorization is expected to help the country grow crude production and exports following almost four years of harsh US oil trading sanctions. 

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said sanctions on Venezuela could be eased further depending on the progress of key political talks that resumed this month in Mexico aimed at agreeing to a presidential election and other demands. 

El Aissami made the announcement on Twitter following a meeting with Chevron’s top executive in Venezuela, Javier La Rosa. Chevron was authorized earlier this year by Washington to meet Venezuelan officials, including those individually sanctioned like El Aissami. 

“It is a regular practice for Chevron Venezuela leadership to meet with authorized PDVSA and government representatives in relation to the activities that the company is authorized to undertake in the country,” Chevron said in a statement.  

Chevron is a minority partner in four oil joint ventures in Venezuela with PDVSA, which have produced this year between 60,000 and 100,000 barrels per day of crude. The new license authorizes the US company to export its projects’ oil to the US.  

Iraq plans to raise oil exports by 250,000 bpd in 2023 

Iraq has plans to raise oil exports by 250,000 barrels per day in the second half of next year to reach 3.6 million bpd from the current 3.35 million bpd, Iraq’s state news agency quoted Saadoun Mohsen, a senior official at the country’s state oil marketer SOMO, as saying on Tuesday. 

EU inches toward deal on Russian oil price cap this week 

EU countries are inching toward a deal this week on a price cap on Russian oil, a way to adjust the cap in future, and on linking it to a package of new sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, diplomats said on Tuesday. 

The deadline for a deal is Dec. 5 because that is when the EU’s own full embargo on purchases of Russian seaborne oil, agreed upon at the end of May, kicks in. 

The price cap, a softer measure proposed by the Group of Seven nations, is supposed to replace the tougher EU plan to protect global supply and prevent a price surge, but there is disagreement among the 27 EU countries on the level of the cap. 

“Consultations have been ongoing since last Wednesday and we are inching toward an agreement, we are closer and closer,” Reuters reported quoting one senior EU diplomat involved in the negotiations.  

The G7 proposal, presented to EU governments by the European Commission, was a price cap in the range of $65-70 per barrel — a level that diplomats said was fixed in September when Russian oil traded at $68-76 per barrel on the market. 

“The idea was that a cap of around 5 percent below the market price would work to make the Russians sell while reducing their revenues,” a second senior diplomat said. “But since then prices have kept falling and are now below the cap level, so that level achieves no objective,” he said. 

Poland, Lithuania and Estonia, therefore, rejected the G7 proposal saying the cap should be closer to Russian production costs, which are estimated at about $20-25 per barrel. The three countries, which all border Russia, back a $30 price cap. 

They also argued that, given changing global oil markets and Russia’s ability to finance the war, the price cap should not be set in stone, but be a dynamic tool that could be reviewed often under a mechanism yet to be agreed. 

(With input from Reuters)  


Saudi Tourism Development Fund signs partnership agreement with Hilton

Saudi Tourism Development Fund signs partnership agreement with Hilton
Updated 30 November 2022

Saudi Tourism Development Fund signs partnership agreement with Hilton

Saudi Tourism Development Fund signs partnership agreement with Hilton
  • The new accord will help them launch several projects in the hospitality sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund signed an agreement with Hilton on Tuesday to promote strategic partnerships between the two entities. 
The new accord will help them launch several projects in the hospitality sector, wrote state agency SPA.
Hilton will provide its global experience to help the Tourism Development Fund develop hospitality establishments and entertainment facilities for tourists. 
The changes are inspired by the needs of family-oriented attractions, such as water parks, restaurants and cafes, and adventure activities.


SEVEN invests over $13bn to build entertainment destinations in Saudi Arabia

SEVEN invests over $13bn to build entertainment destinations in Saudi Arabia
Updated 44 min 24 sec ago

SEVEN invests over $13bn to build entertainment destinations in Saudi Arabia

SEVEN invests over $13bn to build entertainment destinations in Saudi Arabia
  • The new destinations will include more than 150 entertainment areas in a bid to spur the industry’s growth

RIYADH: The Saudi Entertainment Ventures announced it will invest over $13 billion in establishing 21 entertainment destinations across 14 cities in the Kingdom.

The company, known as SEVEN and owned by the Public Investment Fund, said the new destinations will include more than 150 entertainment areas in a bid to spur the industry’s growth and attract tourists, reported the Saudi Press Agency.

“The announcement comes in conjunction with the efforts seeking to consolidate the sector’s position as a basic pillar for diversifying sources of national income, creating jobs, and contributing to raising the quality of life for citizens and residents, in addition to supporting the empowerment of Saudi cities to obtain a better position among global cities,” the statement read.

Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Daoud, chairman of SEVEN’s board of directors, said the new entertainment areas aim to enhance visitor experiences and establish partnerships with key global entertainment leaders.

“We believe the entertainment sector in the Kingdom is full of opportunities, and its role in the local economy is growing, and that it constitutes a solid basis for job creation, as it is a strong engine for many other economic sectors,” he said.

With the new venture, Al-Daoud said SEVEN would work to provide opportunities for local small and medium companies and develop Saudi talent through global partnerships.

The company had earlier started construction work on one of its entertainment destinations at “Al-Hamra” district in Riyadh, with an investment of over $800 million.

The project will include indoor viewing wheel, surfing area, air-flying zones and electric karting tracks. It is expected to attract 6 million visitors annually, according to the company’s statement.

SEVEN was formed in December 2017 as part of Riyadh’s push to localize Saudi spending on entertainment under the Vision 2030 mandate. 

The company plans to develop over 20 entertainment complexes, 50 cinemas and two theme parks in the Kingdom.

SEVEN’s pipeline includes projects in Dammam, Jeddah, Makkah, Obhur and Riyadh, as well as its planned entertainment complex in Abha, which will have a built-up area of over 70,000 square meters.


KAPSARC study concludes OPEC+ efforts to stabilize market cut price volatility by 50%

KAPSARC study concludes OPEC+ efforts to stabilize market cut price volatility by 50%
Updated 29 November 2022

KAPSARC study concludes OPEC+ efforts to stabilize market cut price volatility by 50%

KAPSARC study concludes OPEC+ efforts to stabilize market cut price volatility by 50%
  • OPEC+’s market-stabilization efforts appear to have lifted the average price from $18 to $54 during the pandemic demand shock

RIYADH: OPEC+’s management of spare capacity reduced crude oil price volatility by up to 50%, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study published by King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) in the Energy Journal.

The study “Oil Market Stabilization: The Performance of OPEC and Its Allies” further highlights that, OPEC+’s market-stabilization efforts appear to have lifted the average price from $18 to $54 during the pandemic demand shock, but to have decreased the average price before the pandemic by $2.50, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The reduction in oil price volatility lowered macroeconomic costs of adjustment to the pandemic and contributed to higher social welfare.

The study developed an economic mode to calculate the crude oil price that would have prevailed if OPEC+ had not attempted to stabilize the oil market using its spare capacity.

“OPEC’s role has been critical in reducing price volatility directly— by acting as a swing producer that offsets shocks to supply and demand. Its spare capacity policy is an effective tool to achieve this strategic objective,” KAPSARC President Fahad Alajlan said.

“The value to the world economy of stabilizing the oil market is substantial. In a previous peer-reviewed study, we calculated that OPEC’s management of its spare capacity annually increased world’s GDP by almost $200 billion,” Research Fellow and report co-author Hossa Almutairi said.

The economic importance of stabilizing the price of oil derives from the rigidity of global oil demand and non-OPEC oil supplies. Any shock to supply or demand requires a relatively large price adjustment to restore market equilibrium, SPA reported.

The negative impact on the global economy of the resulting price volatility was amplified by oil’s position as the leading commodity in international trade.

“The period covered by our study ends in August 2021, but I believe that OPEC+’s market stabilization efforts have consistently continued until today. We will quantify their impacts with our model once sufficient data is available,” Axel Pierru, Energy Macro & Microeconomics Program Director, said.