Global asset management firm Mercer receives advisory license from CMA, plans team expansion

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Updated 13 September 2022

Global asset management firm Mercer receives advisory license from CMA, plans team expansion

Global asset management firm Mercer receives advisory license from CMA, plans team expansion

RIYADH: Global asset management firm Mercer has received its advisory investment license from the Capital Market Authority to operate in Saudi Arabia.

During the Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference held in Riyadh, Mercer’s President for Asia, the Middle East, and Africa Renee McGowan told Arab News that the company intends to rapidly expand its team in the Kingdom during the next six weeks.

McGowan said that the company is already known in the region for their operations in the human resources space, and is now planning to expand its investment advice arm in Saudi Arabia.

She added that the company, which has been operating in Riyadh for a decade, has grown staff numbers tenfold, and is planning to invest more in local talent by implementing intern, graduate, and talent development programs.

“We’re the investment advisor on $13 trillion of assets globally, and we have our own investment, implemented solutions where we manage $400 billion of assets as well. Our plan now is to obviously be able to provide a lot more investment advice to clients in the Kingdom,” McGowan told Arab News.

She also added that Saudi Arabia’s economy is changing rapidly with the implementation of Vision 2030, and that the Kingdom is an almost unique market.

“Saudi Arabia has done a very good job of continuing to run a high-growth economy, and I think the gross domestic product will actually be the highest in the next 10 years,” she said.

McGowan also stated that the world is still not familiar with the activity currently happening in Saudi Arabia, and with Vision 2030 in place, she believes that the Kingdom is going through profound economic and societal transformation.

The company is planning to support Saudi Arabia’s growth with its advisory license to provide advice on investments without placing any assets.

“The investment opportunity here is obviously to not only make sure that growth continues, but also making sure that the asset pools here are well diversified, that the investors are looking at their asset allocation, their portfolio construction, and what governance is (there) for managing them,” she added.

With pension plans not prevalent in the region, Mercer was able to contribute to the implementation of the UAE’s Dubai Employee Workforce Savings Plans, DEWS, in addition to working with many sovereign wealth funds across the Middle East.

“With regards to our investment advisory services, we do work with clients all over the world. We want to make sure that any environment we’re working in has strong governance and regulatory environments in particular, so that investors are investing with confidence and security,” McGowan said.

Telecom operator Zain KSA posts record profit of $147m in 2022 

Telecom operator Zain KSA posts record profit of $147m in 2022 
Updated 15 sec ago

Telecom operator Zain KSA posts record profit of $147m in 2022 

Telecom operator Zain KSA posts record profit of $147m in 2022 

RIYADH: Profits of Zain KSA, formally known as Mobile Telecommunication Co. Saudi Arabia, reached a record high of SR550 million ($146.7 million) in 2022.  

The telecom operator’s profit surged 157 percent from SR214 million in the same period a year earlier on the back of higher revenue, according to a filing to the Saudi Exchange. 

Its revenue rose from SR7.9 billion in 2021 to SR9 billion in 2022, driven by growth in business-to-business, 5G and other revenue streams.  

In addition, revenue increased due to the post-pandemic return of international visitors and the growth in Tamam revenue. 

“Zain KSA’s 2022 financial results reflect the qualitative shift in its financial, operational, and developmental performance, as well as the ongoing impact of its strategy,” said Chairman Naif Al Kabeer. 

He added that this achievement was led by enhancing customer experience and expanding in future technologies.  

It was also backed by investing in parallel markets while continuing to strengthen governance to ensure sustainable growth and earnings, noted the chairman.  

The filing added that despite a 25 percent increase in the cost of revenues during that year, the gross profit rose by SR431 million or 9 percent. 

Furthermore, the company’s operating expenses rose by SR404 million, while amortization and depreciation dropped by SR364 million.  

This was “due to the reclassification of the tower's assets to assets held for sale concerning the announced disposal plan of the telecom towers,” noted the bourse statement.  

To develop the quality of services provided to its clients, the company invested a capital expenditure of SR915 million in 2022.  

Zain KSA’s financing cost increased by SR85 million last year, due to the increase in the reference price of the financing cost in Saudi riyals known as SIBOR, and the reference price of the financing cost in US dollars known as LIBOR.  

For the fiscal year 2022, the company’s board of directors recommended the distribution of a 5 percent cash dividend, or SR0.5 per share.  

The Saudi telecom company also suggested SR449.4 million of cash dividends distributed to shareholders, for 898.7 million shares.  

Zain KSA succeeded in achieving the targets it set five years ago, making 2022 a year of qualitative transformation in the telco's operations and profits, noted its CEO Sultan Al-Deghaither. 

Saudi Arabia welcomed 2.5m foreign visitors in February 

Saudi Arabia welcomed 2.5m foreign visitors in February 
Updated 18 min 1 sec ago

Saudi Arabia welcomed 2.5m foreign visitors in February 

Saudi Arabia welcomed 2.5m foreign visitors in February 

RIYADH: The number of foreign visitors who arrived in Saudi Arabia increased to 2.5 million in February from 2.4 million in January, according to the minister of tourism. 

Speaking at the fifth monthly virtual meeting with investors and citizens in the tourism sector, Ahmed Al-Khateeb stated that the Kingdom has recorded “historical figures,” in terms of occupancy rates and the number of visitors.  

He said that the ministry had trained over 100,000 young Saudi men and women with SR400 million ($106.48 million) spent to upskill them. He added that “their employment is the responsibility of the ministry and hence everyone should cooperate to achieve this goal.”  

Al-Khateeb highlighted the importance of industry players to adhere to new regulations set by the ministry, adding that “the ministry will play its role in terms of monitoring and imposing penalties on violators, especially violations of tourist guides.”  

“The ministry is keen to have qualified guides working in this field, who must have acquired correct, sufficient, accurate and flawless information,” he stated.  

Om Dec. 26, the Ministry of Tourism launched 10 new regulations to develop the tourism sector to keep pace with the growth that Saudi Arabia is witnessing in diverse fields.  

The new regulations encompass the tourism hospitality facility, travel and tourism services, tourist guides, tourism hospitality facilities management, tourism consultancy, private tourist hospitality facility, experimental activities, an inspection of tourism activities, and the committees to consider violations of the tourism law and tourist destinations.  

Al-Khateeb stressed that the regulations issued by the ministry are clear, and must be adhered to by all workers in the sector without exception.   

Saudi Arabia allocates over $80bn for water projects 

Saudi Arabia allocates over $80bn for water projects 
Updated 38 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia allocates over $80bn for water projects 

Saudi Arabia allocates over $80bn for water projects 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has allocated a budget of more than $80 billion to implement hundreds of water projects in the coming years, revealed a top minister.

The allocation is part of efforts to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, according to the Deputy Minister for Water at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. 

The Kingdom's water requirements, estimated at 24.8 billion cubic meters in 2015, are witnessing a steady annual increase of 7 percent. The agricultural sector represents the largest consumer of water in the Kingdom, accounting for 84 percent of the total water demand. 

Deputy Minister Abdulaziz Al-Shaibani affirmed that Saudi Arabia is on track to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 due to water sector reorganization and the formulation of the National Water Strategy. 

The national strategy aims to maintain water resources, protect the environment, and deliver high-quality, efficient services. Its objectives are consistent with SDG6 in terms of ensuring global access to clean and safe water. 

"The Kingdom aspires to provide sanitation services to all by increasing the percentage of the population covered by sanitation services to be more than 95 percent by 2030. Saudi Arabia also established the National Water Efficiency and Conservation Center,” Al-Shaibani said at the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York. 

The Deputy Minister also highlighted that sustainable and resilient water management was on the G20 agenda. He emphasized that the Kingdom is on track to enhance agricultural water demand management to meet SDG6. 

The strategy has 10 programs, including the involvement of the private sector in production and wastewater treatment, which focuses on pooling production and wastewater treatment assets to privatize them. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia allocated $40 billion for water projects within the five-year capital portfolio of the environment in July last year. The five-year capital portfolio includes 1,335 projects. 


China’s imports-exports volumes to stay on growth trajectory: Commerce Minister  

China’s imports-exports volumes to stay on growth trajectory: Commerce Minister  
Updated 56 min 46 sec ago

China’s imports-exports volumes to stay on growth trajectory: Commerce Minister  

China’s imports-exports volumes to stay on growth trajectory: Commerce Minister  

RIYADH: China's import and export volumes are expected to "continue on a growth trajectory," Commerce Minister Wang Wentao told delegates at a China Development Forum in Beijing on Sunday. 

Wang told the conference that "foreign companies are not guests, but family" and also said China would step up efforts in government procurement, intellectual property rights, and serving foreign investors. 

This comes after a fall in China’s exports for the January-February period pointed to continued weakness in demand for the country’s products, backing government concerns that a global slowdown will be felt at home, Reuters reported.  

Imports dropped, too, government data showed earlier this month, also partly reflecting weak foreign demand, since the country brings in parts and materials from abroad for many of its exports.  

Exports in the two months were 6.8 percent lower than a year before, after a 9.9 percent annual fall seen in December. The result was, however, better than the average expectation in a Reuters poll for a fall of 9.4 percent.  

Imports were down by 10.2 percent, greatly missing the poll estimate for a 5.5 percent drop. December imports had been 7.5 percent lower than a year earlier.  

“Given the high inflation in the US and Europe, demand from there should keep weakening, which also dampens the processing demand in China,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING. 

In addition to this, during the conference, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva stressed that China’s gross domestic product is expecting a 5.2 percent growth in 2023, accounting for around 33.3 percent of global growth in 2023. 

This foreshadows China’s strong economic rebound and also provides some light at the end of the tunnel for the world economy, the IMF chief emphasized. 

The China Development Forum is an annual high-level global conference held in China right after the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference each year. 

This year, the forum is taking place from March 25 up until March 27 under the theme “Economic Recovery: Opportunities and Cooperation”. 

The conference poses an opportunity for participants to connect with political, economic, and significant decision makers in the Asian country. 

Aramco CEO affirms support to ensure China’s energy security  

Aramco CEO affirms support to ensure China’s energy security  
Updated 26 March 2023

Aramco CEO affirms support to ensure China’s energy security  

Aramco CEO affirms support to ensure China’s energy security  

RIYADH: Global energy giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co. has affirmed its support for China’s long-term energy security and development, as the Riyadh-based company works closely with Chinese entities to meet sustainable targets, its CEO said.  

Speaking at the China Development Forum in Beijing on March 26, Amin Nasser said that Aramco has partnerships and emission-reducing technologies with China to make lower-carbon products.  

“We want to be an all-inclusive source of energy and chemicals for China’s long-term energy security and China’s high-quality development – to the horizon, and even beyond,” said Nasser.  

He added: “That’s why we are doubling down on China’s energy supply, including new lower carbon products, chemicals, and advanced materials, all supported by emissions reduction technologies.”  

Nasser further pointed out that Aramco’s plans to elevate its oil production to 13 million barrels per day by 2027 will strengthen China’s long-term energy security.  

“Aramco’s view of the energy future, and the most realistic path to get there, closely aligns with China’s. And, like China, we think in decades, not quarters,” he said.  

During the speech, Nasser revealed that Aramco is looking for global investment opportunities in liquified natural gas.  

“We are steadily adding lower carbon energy to our portfolio, especially blue hydrogen and blue ammonia, electro fuels, and renewables. And we are evaluating an entry into liquified natural gas as well. As the energy transition evolves, there is also the critical issue of materials transition,” he added.  

The forum also witnessed Aramco signing agreements with Chinese partners to build a refining complex in the northeast region of China. 

During the event, Nasser said that Aramco has agreed to ink a deal with North Huajin Chemical and Panjin Xincheng to start construction on the refinery and petrochemical complex in Liaoning Province.  

Interestingly, an initial framework agreement to construct the refinery in Liaoning refinery was first signed during Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visit to Beijing in March 2017.  

Later in 2019, Aramco agreed to set up a venture with Chinese partners, but the move was delayed due to the pandemic outbreak.  

“We see a major win-win opportunity to build a world-leading, integrated downstream sector in China, with special emphasis on the high conversion of liquids directly into chemicals as part of our broader liquid-to-chemicals business expansion plans,” said Nasser. 

Earlier in March, Saudi Aramco reported a record net profit growth of 46.46 percent in 2022 to SR604.01 billion ($161 billion), driven by higher oil prices, increased volumes sold and improved margins for refined products.  

During a press conference after announcing the financial results, Nasser told Arab News that the energy transition will happen only if affordability, supply security, and sustainability are ensured.  

He also added that material transition supported by technological advancements and innovation is pretty much necessary to achieve energy transition goals within the stipulated target time.  

“We are heavily investing in technology. We have 12 global centers, most of those work on sustainability. Material transition is critical for Aramco and others, because, without material transition, it will be difficult to achieve the aspirations of climate change,” he told Arab News.