MENA economic outlook ‘positive,’ but challenges remain, says Saudi finance minister

Update MENA economic outlook ‘positive,’ but challenges remain, says Saudi finance minister
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Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos. (WEF)
Update MENA economic outlook ‘positive,’ but challenges remain, says Saudi finance minister
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Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos. (WEF)
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Updated 24 May 2022

MENA economic outlook ‘positive,’ but challenges remain, says Saudi finance minister

MENA economic outlook ‘positive,’ but challenges remain, says Saudi finance minister

DAVOS: The economic outlook for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is generally positive, despite facing challenges such as rising food prices, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan told a panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Monday.

Speaking at a session examining the outlook for the MENA region, Al-Jadaan said that in the medium term, the growth outlook was “very positive,” but warned against assessing the MENA region as one bloc.

“What might fit in one country, or challenges faced by one country, might not be the same in another,” he said. “Be careful not to take MENA as one bloc.”

He added: “That said, there are actually a lot of common advantages and common challenges.

“The challenges are also faced across the world, but in certain areas it’s actually more serious in MENA.

“Energy security, fueled by post-pandemic recovery, supply chain challenges — food security is also another serious problem, again fueled by the geopolitical situation,” he said.

Touching upon an expected rise in food prices, Al-Jadaan added: “In this particular area, let us remember that the MENA region is a significant importer of wheat.

“If you look at just some basic figures, we represent about 6 percent of the world’s population, and the World Bank is saying 20 percent of the world’s potential starvation will be in MENA.”

However, within the Kingdom itself, Al-Jadaan said that the outlook was “very healthy,” adding that oil revenue gross domestic product growth would reach 19 percent this year, with non-oil GDP growth reaching 6 percent.

The minister added that changes in the price of oil would not impact how the Kingdom managed its finances. He added there were opportunities in the future to transfer funds to its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

“I think there are no immediate plans to transfer funds to PIF, it actually has ample liquidity, he said.

“The question will come at the first quarter of next year, when we actually have the surplus from this year and where are we going to allocate it.

“We have opportunities to invest with PIF, because they are actually making very good deals in their investments, and doing very well both inside Saudi Arabia and outside,” he added.

He told the panel that Saudi inflation at the end of the first quarter this year was 1.6 percent and is expected to reach between 2.1 percent and 2.3 percent by year-end.

“We started dealing with inflation early on, toward the end of last year we froze the price escalation of gasoline for the internal economy and households at $70,” he said.

“So anything above $70 dollars, the economy will not feel that heat, and that is helping.

“If we had let the energy (price) go up to current levels, you would have seen the inflation a lot higher, so that is one reason why the inflation is low, because we capped the energy part of the inflation” he added.

Al-Jadaan said economic growth in Saudi Arabia was not purely down to an increase in oil prices, but as much down to the Kingdom's reform program.

“People, again, just look at the oil price and believe what is happening is just as a result of the oil price,” Al-Jadaan said.

“We had oil prices in Saudi above this level. It’s about how we are going to use this — how the system is prepared to deal with this.”

During the panel, the finance minister also announced that Tadawul subsidiary, Securities Depository Center, was signing a link with Euroclear on Monday.


NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant


NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant

Updated 13 sec ago

NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant


NRG Matters: Egypt, UAE agree to establish 10 GW wind power project; Shell to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant


RIYADH: On a macro level, Egypt and the UAE agreed to establish a 10GW wind power project. Zooming in, British oil firm Shell has decided to build Europe’s largest hydrogen plant from renewable power. 

Looking at the bigger picture

• Egypt and the UAE have agreed to establish a 10 GW wind farm, Ahram newspaper reported citing Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker. 

Without providing further details, Shaker added that the deal is set to be signed after the Eid Al-Adha holidays. 

• The EU plans to become the top investor in the world’s tallest dam in Tajikistan, Reuters reported citing EU officials.

It is part of the strategy aimed at helping the Central Asia cut its reliance on Russian energy. 

Through a micro lens:

• South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction will implement Saudi Aramco’s estimated $500 million Jafurah cogeneration independent steam and power plant project, according to MEED.

• British oil firm Shell has decided to build Europe’s largest plant producing hydrogen from renewable power, according to Bloomberg. 

The Holland Hydrogen I will include 200 MW of electrolyzers, powered by a wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands, which is 10 times the size of the largest existing green hydrogen facility in Europe. 


Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 

Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 
Updated 06 July 2022

Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 

Techies in Dubai boast top-dollar salaries 
  • Software engineers in Dubai earn nearly 30% more than workers in London, Amsterdam and Berlin

LONDON: Software engineers in Dubai with at least three years of experience earn the third highest salaries in the world compared to other global technology hubs, according to global consulting firm Mercer.

When compared to other global tech hubs such as London, Amsterdam, and Berlin, software engineers in Dubai earn nearly 30 percent more.

This reaffirms the UAE’s ambition to attract top digital talent and become a global tech talent magnet that fuels the digital economy’s growth.

Mercer’s Cost of Living 2022 survey also revealed that while Dubai ranked as the 31st most expensive city to live and work in for expatriates this year, its cost of living remains significantly lower than most tech hubs, including London (seventh), Singapore (eighth), New York (11th), San Francisco (19th), and Amsterdam (25th).

Almost 60 percent of UAE employers provide flexible working, reducing employees’ transportation costs. Dubai is also less expensive in terms of housing and rental costs, which accounts for a significant portion of the cost of living in a city.

“Dubai’s status as a global business hub, coupled with its income tax-free environment, world-class infrastructure, safety, and high quality of life make the emirate a very attractive market for talent,” said Vladimir Vrzhovski, workforce mobility leader at Mercer Middle East.

He added: “The demand for tech talent, in particular, will continue to grow in the UAE given the nation’s drive to be a global capital of the digital economy. Above all, a key incentive for tech talent is the opportunity for a significant uplift in salary when compared to other tech hubs, where the cost of living is higher in terms of transportation and housing.

“While inflation and rising fuel costs are a pressure on the cost of living around the globe, Dubai is building a nurturing and highly competitive tech ecosystem that pays highly competitive salaries — creating an environment that promises to attract and retain the best talent globally.

“Over the years, the UAE has also implemented several initiatives that make it easier for talent to live, work and stay in the country. The launch of the Golden Visa program in addition to Dubai’s recently announced Talent Pass aims to attract global professionals in the fields of technology amongst other key areas.

“National initiatives, such as the National Program for Coders launched last year, is designed to attract 100,000 coders from around the globe and set up 1,000 digital companies by 2026.”


Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business

Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business
Updated 06 July 2022

Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business

Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business

NEW YORK: Ben & Jerry’s on Tuesday sued its parent Unilever Plc to block the sale of its Israeli business to a local licensee, saying it was inconsistent with its values to sell its ice cream in the occupied West Bank, according to Reuters.

The complaint filed in the US District Court in Manhattan said the sale announced on June 29 threatened to undermine the integrity of the Ben & Jerry’s brand, which Ben & Jerry’s board retained independence to protect when Unilever acquired the company in 2000.

An injunction against transferring the business and related trademarks to Avi Zinger, who runs American Quality Products Ltd, was essential to “protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent decades building,” the complaint said.

Ben & Jerry’s said its board voted 5-2 to sue, with the two Unilever appointees dissenting.

Unilever, in a statement, said it does not discuss pending litigation, but that it had the right to sell the disputed business and the transaction had already closed.

“It’s a done deal,” Zinger’s lawyer Alyza Lewin said in a separate statement. The sale resolved Zinger’s own lawsuit in March against Ben & Jerry’s for refusing to renew his license.

The dispute highlights challenges facing consumer brands taking a stand on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Most countries consider the settlements illegal. In April 2019, Airbnb Inc. reversed a five-month-old decision to stop listing properties in the settlements.

Last July, Ben & Jerry’s said it would end sales in the occupied West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem, and sever its three-decade relationship with Zinger.

Israel condemned the move, and some Jewish groups accused Ben & Jerry’s of anti-Semitism. Some investors, including at least seven US states, divested their Unilever holdings.

Unilever has more than 400 brands including Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Knorr soup and Vaseline skin lotion.

Ben & Jerry’s was founded in a renovated gas station in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

No longer involved in Ben & Jerry’s operations, they wrote in the New York Times last July that they supported Israel but opposed its “illegal occupation” of the West Bank. 

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Kuwait Lender KFH to acquire Bahrain's Ahli United for $12bn

Kuwait Lender KFH to acquire Bahrain's Ahli United for $12bn
Updated 06 July 2022

Kuwait Lender KFH to acquire Bahrain's Ahli United for $12bn

Kuwait Lender KFH to acquire Bahrain's Ahli United for $12bn

RIYADH: Kuwait Finance House has agreed to fully acquire Ahli United Bank for $11.6 billion.

KFH plans to offer one share per 2.695 shares of Ahli United, implying a $1.04 offer price, according to Bloomberg.

Through the merger, the Gulf will have its seventh-largest lender worth $115 billion, a rare cross-border acquisition.


Saudi developer Jabal Omar plans $1.4bn capital hike through debt conversion

Saudi developer Jabal Omar plans $1.4bn capital hike through debt conversion
Updated 06 July 2022

Saudi developer Jabal Omar plans $1.4bn capital hike through debt conversion

Saudi developer Jabal Omar plans $1.4bn capital hike through debt conversion

RIYADH: Saudi developer Jabal Omar Development Co. has received approval from the Capital Market Authority to increase its capital by SR5.3 billion ($1.4 billion).

The listed company will finance the capital plan by converting debt, according to a statement by CMA.

The move is subject to approval from the company’s shareholders as well as completing the required regulatory procedures.

The Makkah-based developer’s losses narrowed by 47 percent and revenues surged 408 percent in the first quarter of 2022, due to improved post-pandemic business operations.