High oil prices to power Gulf economies amid inflation risks: Reuters poll

High oil prices to power Gulf economies amid inflation risks: Reuters poll
The expected growth in Kuwait at 6.4 percent, and in the United Arab Emirates at 5.6 percent, would be the fastest in around a decade. Image: Shutterstock
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Updated 26 April 2022

High oil prices to power Gulf economies amid inflation risks: Reuters poll

High oil prices to power Gulf economies amid inflation risks: Reuters poll
  • Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy and world-leading exporter of crude oil accounts for about about 80 percent of total exports 

BENGALURU: The Gulf Cooperation Council’s economic growth will accelerate this year to a pace not seen in a decade, according to a Reuters poll of economists, who said high inflation and a slowing global economy were the biggest downside risks.

Crude prices, a major driver for Gulf economies, shot up after Russia invaded Ukraine in February and have remained elevated, giving a major boost to economies in the oil and gas-rich region.

An April 12-22 Reuters poll predicted growth overall in the six GCC economies would average 5.9 percent this year, which would be the fastest since 2012.

“GCC economies have seen a relatively strong start to 2022. The hydrocarbons sectors have benefited from increased oil production so far this year, with crude oil production up 12 percent for the UAE and 19 percent over the same period for Saudi Arabia,” said Khtija Haque, chief economist at Emirates NBD.

“Survey data for the first quarter of the year point to a solid expansion in non-oil sectors as well, with strong growth in business activity and new work in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.”

For Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy and world-leading exporter of crude oil, about 80 percent — or 17 of 22 contributors — upgraded their forecasts from the previous poll in January.

It was expected to grow 6.3 percent in 2022, up from the 5.7 percent forecast three months ago, before slowing to 3.2 percent growth next year.

If that happens, 2022 growth would be the fastest since 2011, when oil averaged around $111 per barrel.

The expected growth in Kuwait at 6.4 percent, and in the United Arab Emirates at 5.6 percent, would be the fastest in around a decade.

Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain are expected to grow around 4 percent, the fastest in several years.

However, when asked for the top two downside risks to GCC economies this year, 10 of 12 economists who answered an additional question said high inflation and a slowdown in the global economy.

Inflation in most of the GCC economies has risen in recent months against the backdrop of high food prices caused by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Although modest in comparison to many other countries, GCC inflation is expected to rise above 2 percent this year, with the highest median forecast for Qatar at 3.5 percent, and the lowest for Saudi Arabia at 2.5 percent .

“In the face of higher commodity and global food prices, we have revised our 2022 inflation forecast for the GCC region to be about 3.5 percent from around 2.5 percent,” noted Ilker Domac, regional head of economics at Citi.

“Since GCC countries import 85 percent of their food, a sustained upward pressure on international food prices could pose a challenge for policymakers in the region.”

Also, uncertainty caused by the conflict in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on a global economy just emerging from the ravages of the pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund last week slashed its 2022 global growth forecast, citing war impact and describing inflation as a “clear and present danger”.

The GCC, highly dependent on revenues from energy exports, would face weaker demand from an economic slowdown - especially in China, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas importers.

“From the regional perspective, global growth concerns become a worry if they hit oil prices. Price pressures are certainly being felt though on the assumption inflation eases into 2023, the present trends should not derail efforts to keep non-oil sector recoveries on track”, said Maya Senussi, senior economist at Oxford Economics.


Saudi energy minister announces discovery of two new natural gas fields

Saudi energy minister announces discovery of two new natural gas fields
Updated 10 sec ago

Saudi energy minister announces discovery of two new natural gas fields

Saudi energy minister announces discovery of two new natural gas fields

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Wednesday announced the discovery of two new natural gas fields in the Kingdom.


Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official
Updated 48 min 45 sec ago

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

Uber’s diversification strategy should be blueprint for travel and tourism industry: Leading IBM official

RIYADH: The travel and tourism sector should look to Uber to learn how to diversify, according to the Global Managing Director of IBM’s Travel and Transportation Industry Dee Waddell.

Speaking at a panel during the second day of the World Travel & Tourism Council Global 2022 summit taking place in Riyadh, Waddell said the industry has an opportunity to take a platform approach, in the same manner as the US-based ride-hailing app.

“Uber has started to launch out beyond just the traditional taxi, they've gone to scooters, they've gone to electric scooters, and vertical takeoff device equipment, so you're seeing that they're taking a platform approach into expanding out like Amazon did,” Waddell said.

When it comes to the cities of tomorrow in Saudi Arabia and worldwide, the primary driver revolving around the use of technology will tackle how to leverage the infrastructure and use these technologies to be able to further develop experiences within the cities, he added.

What makes a city great is its cultural identity and shared humanity, according to President and CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority Jerry Inzerillo, who was also speaking during the same panel.

“All the great cities of the world have one thing in common and that is the celebration that we may not share the same ideology, but we share the same biology,” Inzerillo said.

Moreover, designing with purpose is key to a fruitful city as it is not only about building buildings vertically and making sure that the box fits, said Global CEO of JLL Hotels and Hospitality Gilda Perez-Alvarado during the panel discussion.

Integrating nature within those cities is vital, since this allows for interaction, connectivity, and collaboration and allows for simple activities for residents such as going for a walk in the fresh air, she revealed.

“Let’s design with purpose. It’s not just about efficiency, as efficiency can be very wasteful in the long run,” Perez-Alvarado said.

In addition to designing with purpose, it’s important to keep an eye on transportation since it is a basic infrastructure that can make or break a city, she added, saying that some European cities provide free transportation making them more efficient and more environmentally-conscious.

When developing cities of tomorrow, it is vital for cities around the world to share a clear and concise narrative of why somebody should come to your city and that unlocks in terms of experiences and opportunities, the Managing Director of Tourism for Western Australia Carolyn Turnbull said during the panel discussion.

“The vision that exists here in Riyadh has been extraordinary. I came to this event with a clear vision for Western Australia but I’m going home to ensure that we are thinking as big as Riyadh is,” Turnbull added.


Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global
Updated 30 November 2022

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

Capital markets need to step in to secure Vision 2030 goals: S&P Global

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s banking sector will not be able to fund all of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 projects, according to a report which said more private investment is needed.

The analysis by S&P Global says Saudi Arabia’s investment needs are “significant”, and capital markets will play a “key role” in funding not just private sector investments but also giga-projects such as NEOM, the IPO for which is expected in 2024.

Quantifying the exact funding amount needed for Saudi Arabia’s ambitious growth plans is “not easy” according to the report, with the Kingdom aiming to raise the private sector’s contribution to gross domestic product from 40 percent to 65 percent, and increase non-oil exports share of GDP from 16 percent to 50 percent.

Taken alongside the boom in oil prices, S&P Global says Saudi Arabia is set to become one of the world's fastest-growing large economies in 2022, real GDP growth in excess of 7.0 percent this year, and a return to fiscal surpluses at 6.3 percent of GDP in 2022 and 3.5 percent in 2023.

The report said: “Saudi banks have contributed significantly to a key Vision 2030 objective — increasing home ownership to 70 percent by 2030 (60 percent in 2020). 

“Mortgage lending has been the main engine of growth for Saudi banks over the last few years, with total mortgages hitting SR503.2 billion ($133.85 billion) as of June 30, 2022, compared with SR140.3 billion at Dec. 31, 2018.

“ As the market matures and interest rates continue to rise, origination will likely lose momentum in the next 12-24 months. 

“However, as contracts for Vision 2030 projects are awarded, corporate credit lending should start to contribute more meaningfully to banks' lending growth.”

S&P Ratings said that even as Saudi firms set out ambitious capital spending goals in the next five years, the firm would not necessarily reassess its ratings of these businesses “given their healthy balance sheets and strong liquidity.”

“Over time, however, we will reassess our ratings as projects are executed because any rating upside would hinge on business trends improving, sustainable EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) growth, or stronger leverage metrics,” said the report.

The report went on to state that Saudi Arabia had fared better against the wave of inflation sweeping the globe than other countries, with the riyal being pegged to the dollar helping to play down unpredictability.

“We forecast inflation at 2.5 percent in 2022, before rising to 2.7 percent in 2023 and averaging 1.9 percent in 2024-2025,” said the report, adding: “We expect interest rate hikes to affect the private and general household sectors more than government-related activities given expected high but tapering oil prices.”


Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  

Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  
Updated 30 November 2022

Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  

Standard Chartered launches tech program for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia  

RIYADH: Women-led tech startups working in Saudi Arabia stand a chance to receive $50,000 in funding support if they take part in a tech program launched by Standard Chartered and Falak Investment Hub. 

The Kingdom's first cohort of the ‘SC Women in Tech’ program will provide women entrepreneurs opportunities for economic and social development, as well as funding.   

Applications for the eight-week program, part of Standard Charter’s global ‘Women in Tech’ initiative, currently available in six other countries, began on Nov. 28 and is set to remain open for around six weeks.   

During the program each start-up will be provided with opportunities to meet one-on-one with Falak teams, mentors and industry experts during workshops, events, or private discussions. The startups are expected to benefit from the guidance of entrepreneurs, technologists, as well as investors, aimed at supporting their growth.  

At the end of the program, all start-ups will be provided with the chance to pitch to over 40 angel investors, Venture Capital, and family office representatives through Falak Angels (the second established angel network in the Kingdom). The winners of this year’s cohort will receive up to $50,000 in total funding. 

Earlier this year, the Kingdom announced over $$6.4 billion in future technologies and entrepreneurship investments. It is a key pillar of Vision 2030, which focuses on strengthening entrepreneurship by boosting private-sector investment, supporting innovation, and attracting and training talent.   

Speaking about the initiative, Mazen Bunyan CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Saudi Arabia, said: “We are proud to collaborate with Falak Investment Hub and bring our ‘Women in Tech’ program to the Kingdom. 

The spirit of diversity and entrepreneurship are important values that we celebrate at Standard Chartered, and we hope that by providing early-stage support and mentorship we can help women succeed and become leading job creators.”  

Vision 2030 promotes Saudi women as an important part of the Kingdom’s strength. It aims to develop their talents, invest their energies, and provide them with the right opportunities to build their futures, contributing to the development of society.

Saudi women now comprise 33.6 percent of the Saudi workforce as of March 2022, according to the General Authority for Statistics. That figure is up from 17.4 percent just five years ago.  

The unemployment rate of women was the lowest in 20 years as of the first quarter of 2022, falling to 20.2 percent from 22.5 percent during the fourth quarter of 2021.  


RSG partners with The Ocean Race to promote next generation of sailors   

RSG partners with The Ocean Race to promote next generation of sailors   
Updated 44 min 10 sec ago

RSG partners with The Ocean Race to promote next generation of sailors   

RSG partners with The Ocean Race to promote next generation of sailors   

RIYADH: In line with its commitment to conserving marine ecosystems and desire to promote the next generation of sailors, Red Sea Global has announced a partnership with The Ocean Race for the next two editions of the race. RSG has also partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery which will amplify their stories around the world.  

The developer behind two of the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism projects — The Red Sea and AMAALA — RSG was recently rebranded from The Red Sea Development Co.  

Known as ‘sailing’s greatest round-the-world challenge’, TOR has been providing the ultimate test for sailing teams since 1973. 

Beyond the race itself, TOR acts as a global platform to raise awareness of the environmental challenges facing the world’s marine environment and drive positive change. 

“We are proud to become the Regenerative Project Partner of TOR. Sustainability sits at the very heart of our work at RSG, so TOR – and its impressive ambitions when it comes to ocean health – makes them a natural fit as a partner,” said John Pagano, group CEO of RSG.  

He added: “The sea has always been an important part of Saudi Arabia’s history and heritage. Through this partnership, we hope to support the efforts of TOR to raise awareness of the challenges facing our oceans globally today, and protect the outstanding beauty of the marine ecosystems in areas such as the Red Sea.”  

As partners, RSG will help promote the race and drive awareness of the importance of ocean health to an international audience. The partnership will see RSG hold events and educational initiatives, supported by content developed in collaboration with WBD.   

RSG intends to use its partnership with TOR to help inspire the next generation of Saudi sailors, promoting a new sport to a Kingdom that has enjoyed a crucial and historic relationship with the sea for over 4,000 years.  

“We have lots of wonderful partnerships but the one that I’m most excited about is the partnership and sponsorship of TOR,” Tracy Lanza, group head, global brand development and marketing, RSG, told Arab News in an exclusive interview. 

“What is really interesting about TOR is that they have committed themselves to the health of the ocean, which was so important for us because that’s also part of our commitment to making sure that people are aware of the importance of coral health, of mangroves and of the ocean itself,” she continued. 

Talking about RSG’s commitment to the environment, Amjaad Alangari, senior marketing manager, RSG, told Arab News: “We have a new mandate. We have an ambition that grew with us from the past and is still growing, which is to build for the people and the planet.  

We are visionaries, we are innovators… And we have more projects to come with an ambition to protect and to enhance the environment around us.”  

The 14th edition of TOR will start from Alicante, Spain, on Jan. 15, 2023, and will finish in Genova, Italy, early in the summer of 2023. The race will visit nine iconic cities around the globe over a six-month period and will feature a leg with the longest racing distance in the 50-year history of the event; a 12,750 nautical mile, one-month marathon from Cape Town, South Africa to Itajaí, Brazil.   

“The Red Sea is a new type of development, and has a vision to prioritize both people and planet based around commitments in support of regenerative tourism. Similarly, this is an innovative new type of partnership for us, where our collaboration with RSG and WBD results in a stronger outcome in pursuit of this goal,” said Johan Salén, the co-owner of TOR.  

Mike Rich, head of sports marketing solutions, WBD, added: “We are proud to be the worldwide broadcaster for TOR and welcome the opportunity to build on the stories we will tell about sailing’s toughest round-the-world race with those around the RSG project, particularly this combined effort to promote ocean health and its wider conservation.”