World Bank’s arm IFC open to investing in Saudi FinTech sector

Exclusive World Bank’s arm IFC open to investing in Saudi FinTech sector
Talking about the association with Saudi Arabia, Hela Cheikhrouhou revealed that IFC has partnered with companies in the Kingdom whenever there was a market opportunity to grow. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2022

World Bank’s arm IFC open to investing in Saudi FinTech sector

World Bank’s arm IFC open to investing in Saudi FinTech sector
  • Kingdom’s new fintech strategy expected to diversify financial sector, providing more opportunities for investors while attracting new funds to the sector

RIYADH: The International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, is open to investing and supporting the fintech sector in Saudi Arabia, as it eyes to expand its existing portfolio worth $8 billion invested in the Kingdom, said a top official.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Hela Cheikhrouhou, IFC’s regional vice president for the Middle East, Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan revealed that IFC is looking to further work with Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom is steadily advancing on the path of an economic transition. 




Hela Cheikhrouhou

We are keen to support in the future, where we can bring value to enable this significant transition

IFC's VP Hela Cheikhrouhou

The comments from Cheikhrouhou came at a time when the Saudi Cabinet has approved the financial technology strategy in the Kingdom. The new fintech strategy is expected to diversify the financial sector, thus providing more opportunities for existing investors, and will also attract new funds to the sector.

“IFC has been supporting fintech for more than a decade all over the world. So we have that core of expertise, both centrally and distributed through experts in our different hubs. And definitely, we see a lot of promise here,” Cheikhrouhou told Arab News.


Read more: Fintech gains importance in Saudi Arabia as Cabinet approves sector's strategy


Looking beyond fintech

Talking about the association with Saudi Arabia, Cheikhrouhou revealed that IFC has partnered with companies in the Kingdom whenever there was a market opportunity to grow. She also added that IFC has been providing all the help to Saudi private sector companies that aim to diversify their businesses.

“We have been, over the last 15 years, a good partner for Saudi private sector companies looking to diversify and grow their activity through investing across the emerging world. We have been supporting them with co-investment with our knowledge of the various emerging markets,” said Cheikhrouhou.

She added: “We are keen to support in the future, where we can bring value to enable this significant transition.”

She also noted that IFC had enabled more than $8 billion of investments by Saudi Arabian companies in 46 different projects over the last 15 years and partnered whenever there was a market opportunity to grow.

The financial institution has collaborated with Saudi Home Loans, ACWA Power and Almarai for several years.

“We act wherever there is an identified market need for growth. IFC was one of the first partners to introduce mortgage finance through Saudi home loans,” she said.

In fact, IFC has collaborated with ACWA Power for over 17 years and continues to be a partner in its growth story.

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Speaking about IFC’s interest in Saudi Arabia’s energy industry, especially in developing hydrogen-based energy, she said the institution can intervene in three ways.

First, it can provide transaction advisory by bringing its technical expertise to advise and mobilize private investors to fund innovations or growth in new areas. Second, it could make demonstration investments. And finally, it could partner with Saudi investors in rolling out the energy opportunity in other developing countries.

She also revealed that IFC is currently revisiting its strategy for the Gulf Cooperation Council and plans to focus on growing the underdeveloped segments.

“We are right now updating our GCC strategy. Historically, we have been working with higher middle-income countries like Saudi, particularly in underserved segments of the economy. If there is a particular gap or market failure, we can come in and do a demonstration project or investment,” she added.


WTO slashes 2023 global trade forecast as fears of recession looms

WTO slashes 2023 global trade forecast as fears of recession looms
Updated 05 October 2022

WTO slashes 2023 global trade forecast as fears of recession looms

WTO slashes 2023 global trade forecast as fears of recession looms
  • WTO economists said they expected the volume of global merchandise trade to grow 3.5 percent this year

GENEVA: The World Trade Organization on Wednesday dramatically lowered its global trade forecast for 2023, as Russia’s war in Ukraine and other shocks take their toll on the world economy.

Presenting a revision of their annual trade forecast, WTO economists said they expected the volume of global merchandise trade to grow 3.5 percent this year, which is slightly higher than their expectations in April.

But they forecast it would grow by only one percent in 2023 — dramatically down from their expectations of 3.4 percent growth six months ago.

“The picture for 2023 has darkened considerably,” WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told reporters in Geneva.

“Today the global economy faces multi-prong crises. Monetary tightening is weighing on growth across much of the world.”

As for the global economy as a whole, WTO economists stuck with their April forecast of 2.8 percent gross domestic product growth this year, but said growth in 2023 was now expected to be just 2.3 percent — down a full percentage point from the previous forecast.

By way of comparison, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has maintained its 2022 forecast at 3 percent, and expects 2.2 percent growth next year.

The International Monetary Fund, meanwhile, forecasts growth at 3.2 percent this year and 2.9 percent in 2023.

The WTO pointed out that its April forecasts were presented only weeks into the start of Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine, making them very uncertain.

The estimates for 2023 “now appear overly optimistic, as energy prices have skyrocketed, inflation has become more broad-based, and the war shows no sign of letting up,” it said.

The WTO said surging energy prices in Europe, stemming from the war in Ukraine, were expected to squeeze household spending and raise manufacturing costs on the continent.

Meanwhile, monetary policy tightening in the US was hitting the housing, motor vehicle and fixed investment sectors, and China was still grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks and production disruptions.

Furthermore, the growing import bills for fuel, food and fertilizer risked leading to more food insecurity and debt distress in developing countries, the WTO said.


Saudi Arabia’s PIF raises $3 billion with debut green bonds

Saudi Arabia’s PIF raises $3 billion with debut green bonds
Updated 05 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s PIF raises $3 billion with debut green bonds

Saudi Arabia’s PIF raises $3 billion with debut green bonds

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was set to raise $3 billion on Wednesday in its first foray into the debt capital markets, taking advantage of a brief period of calm to become the first sovereign wealth fund to issue green bonds.

PIF joined a flurry of other issuers tapping the market after a run of heightened volatility that has lasted most of the year, selling the first-ever green bonds with a 100-year maturity alongside two other tranches of the issue.

The $500 million of 100-year notes will be sold at a yield of 6.7 percent, a bank document showed, $1.25 billion in five-year bonds were launched at 125 basis points over US Treasuries and $1.25 billion in 10-year paper at 165 bps over USTs.

Initial price guidance for the five- and 10-year paper was tightened by 25 bps, while the 100-year tranche had been indicated in the 7-7.25 percent area.

The inclusion of 100-year bonds was the result of investor enquiries, a source with knowledge of the deal said, with market watchers adding that the long maturity reflected the issuer’s confidence.

Overall demand topped $22 billion, with the five-year drawing more than $10.3 billion of interest, the 10-year attracting over $8.5 billion and the 100-year more than $3.2 billion, the bank document showed.

The fund, which manages more than $600 billion in assets and plans to grow that to over $1 trillion by 2025, is at the center of Saudi Arabia’s agenda to diversify the economy away from oil, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

PIF expects to invest more than $10 billion by 2026 in eligible green projects, including renewable energy, clean transport and sustainable water management, an investor presentation for the bonds showed.

By comparison, the fund has said it would invest about $40 billion domestically each year through 2025, although it reached little more than half that target last year.

Issuance of green bonds, proceeds from which are used to finance sustainable activity, has jumped from $2.3 billion in 2012 to $511.5 billion last year, based on Refinitiv data.

“Issuance of green bonds appears to be accelerating which is welcome news for a region that has an important role to play in the global (energy) transition,” said Dino Kronfol, Franklin Templeton’s chief investment officer of global sukuk and MENA fixed income.

Saudi Arabia is targeting net-zero carbon emissions by 2060.

BNP Paribas, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are joint global coordinators and active bookrunners on the deal. 


Russian firms eye stronger business ties with Saudi Arabia amid western sanctions 

Russian firms eye stronger business ties with Saudi Arabia amid western sanctions 
Updated 05 October 2022

Russian firms eye stronger business ties with Saudi Arabia amid western sanctions 

Russian firms eye stronger business ties with Saudi Arabia amid western sanctions 

RIYADH: A business delegation of 23 Russian companies held talks with Saudi firms in Riyadh on Oct. 4 amid a growing call from the US and EU to cut ties with Kremlin entities. 

The meeting comes as Saudi Arabia strives to attract foreign direct investments aligned with its Vision 2030 goals. 

The talks stressed on the vitality of elevating trade relationships between Saudi Arabia and Russia, while taking advantage of investment opportunities and establishing commercial partnership relations between the two parties to serve common interests. 

Stanislav Yankovitz, the commercial representative at the Russian Embassy, noted that the trade relationship between Saudi Arabia and Russia has leapfrogged in recent years, with commercial exchange volume in 2021 witnessing an increase to $1.7 billion, and is expected to reach $5 billion by the end of 2024.  

The event also witnessed bilateral meetings between businesspeople and representatives of Russian companies working in various sectors which include creative industries, education, electric power and design engineering.

Some of the other sectors include cosmetics, furniture, perfumery, food industry, industrial, information technology, smart technologies, medical equipment and oil and gas.

Counselor of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Saudi Arabia Alexander Istomin, said that Russian-Saudi relations are strong and that they have been witnessing continuous rapprochement.

The head of the Saudi-Russian Business Council Tariq Al-Qahtani said that it is playing a crucial role in strengthening trade relations between the two countries as it seeks and provides investment opportunities through the establishment of joint projects. 

Western firms exiting Russia

Meanwhile, owing to the conflict in Ukraine, several western companies have exited their operations in Russia, despite chances of revenue loss. 

Adidas, which has over 500 stores in Russia, suspended its operations in the country — the move is expected to cut 1 percent of its revenue this year. 

Cigarette maker Philip Morris also announced that it has suspended planned investments and will reduce manufacturing in Russia. 

In the energy sector, BP said it would sell its nearly 20 percent stake in Rosneft, the Russian state-controlled oil company. The firm also wrote off $25.5 billion on its nearly 20 percent holding in Rosneft. 

Another energy major Exxon Mobil had announced that it would end its involvement in a large oil and natural gas project. 

In a move that could cost billions, Shell also exited its joint ventures with Gazprom, the Russian natural gas giant.


Etihad Airways named MENA airline of the year

Etihad Airways named MENA airline of the year
Updated 05 October 2022

Etihad Airways named MENA airline of the year

Etihad Airways named MENA airline of the year
  • The transformation of Etihad has been recognized following a record-breaking core operating profit of $296m in the first half of 2022

ABU DHABI: Etihad Airways was named Middle East & Africa Airline of the Year at the Airline Economics Aviation 100 Awards.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer Adam Boukadida also received the Middle East & Africa CFO of the Year award for the second successive year on Tuesday.

The Airline Economics awards are held annually to recognize outstanding businesses, individuals and financial transactions in the commercial aviation industry. 

Boukadida said: “We’re incredibly proud to be named Airline of the Year by Airline Economics, which comes just before our 19th birthday.

“This award goes to our entire organization and stands as a testament to the success of our transformation, in which every member of the Etihad family played an important role.”

Etihad was recognized for its successful turnaround, which resulted in a record-breaking core operating profit of $296 million in the first half of 2022. 

For the Airline of the Year award, the judges also considered profit, debt, load figures, RPK (revenue passenger kilometers), orders and routes. 

 


Riyad Bank completes offering of $1bn sukuk 

Riyad Bank completes offering of $1bn sukuk 
Updated 05 October 2022

Riyad Bank completes offering of $1bn sukuk 

Riyad Bank completes offering of $1bn sukuk 

RIYADH: Riyad Bank has completed the offering of its Saudi riyal-denominated additional Tier 1 capital sukuk worth SR3.8 billion ($1 billion).

The bond is perpetual and has a rate of return of 5.25 percent to be paid quarterly from the issue date, according to a bourse filing.

Established in 1957, Riyad Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government owns 51 percent of the bank’s shares.