NEOM’s tech unit rebrands amid plans to emerge as cognitive multinational conglomerate

NEOM’s tech unit rebrands amid plans to emerge as cognitive multinational conglomerate
Tonomus invested $1 billion in 2022 in artificial intelligence-driven products (NEOM)
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Updated 27 September 2022

NEOM’s tech unit rebrands amid plans to emerge as cognitive multinational conglomerate

NEOM’s tech unit rebrands amid plans to emerge as cognitive multinational conglomerate

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM Tech & Digital Co. has rebranded as Tonomus, signaling the next stage in its growth plans.

The rebranding focuses on Tonomus’s role as a cognitive multinational company in a bid to enable NEOM to fuel Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and diversification, according to a statement. 

Tonomous, headquartered at NEOM, is building the cognitive foundation and adopting hyper-disruptive solutions integral to the development of NEOM and its flagship initiatives, the statement added.

As it invested $1 billion in 2022 in artificial intelligence-driven products and hyperconnected, predictive and proactive solutions, Tonomous emerged as a global player in the smart-to-cognitive transition. 

“Tonomus will support our ambitions by contributing to the future of the tech and digital industry, stimulating innovation, and driving the development of the world’s first cognitive community,” CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said. 

“This will be realized by involving the most talented and brightest minds to develop the integrated system that will be utilized across all of NEOM’s businesses, sectors and projects,” he added. 

In this context, NEOM is cooperating with Low Earth Orbit satellite operator OneWe to establish a $200 million joint venture, aimed at providing rapid and reliable connectivity.


Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA

Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA
Updated 31 sec ago

Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA

Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s match against Mexico at the FIFA World Cup saw the highest volume of in-stadium payment transactions of the group stage games, according to data released by Visa.

The payment company has published research showing that consumer spending at the tournament is on course to surpass the total outlay in the previous World Cup.

According to the data, spending by value at Qatar 2022 during the group stages is already at 89 percent of the total seen in Russia 2018.

Compared to the tournament in Brazil in 2014, almost double had been spent by the time the World Cup reached the knock-out rounds in Qatar. 

Between kick-off on Nov. 20 to the final group stage match on December 2, 70% of all consumer spend by value at World Cup venues was on internationally issued Visa cards with the US leading on 18 percent, followed by Mexico on nine percent Saudi Arabia on eight percent.

“For Qatar 2022, Visa enabled more payment terminals in official venues than ever before and are trialing some innovative new ways to pay around Qatar, so paying for things can be less cumbersome and fans can stay in the moment and focus on the beautiful game,” said Saeeda Jaffar, senior vice president and group country manager, Gulf Cooperation Council at Visa.

The average in-stadium transaction amount for all matches during the group stage of the tournament play was $23. During all matches the top three spend categories were merchandise on 47 percent, food and beverages on 36 percent, and ticketing on 11 percent.

The increased spend comes despite lower than anticipated numbers of fans traveling to the event.

According to a report obtained by Reuters, Qatar received just over 765,000 visitors during the first two weeks of the World Cup, falling short of the country’s expectations for an influx of 1.2 million during the month-long event.

The Dec. 7 report was prepared by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy , which organizes the tournament, and said that the first 17 days of the World Cup saw 765,859 international visitors, more than half of whom have now departed.

The report registered 1.33 million match ticket holders and 3.09 million tickets sold across the eight stadiums in Qatar for the tournament that ends on Dec. 18.


Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate

Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate
Updated 37 min 21 sec ago

Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate

Oil set for 10 percent weekly drop as demand worries dominate

RIYADH : Oil prices were stable on Friday but both benchmarks were headed for a weekly loss on worries over weak economic outlooks in China, Europe and the US weighing on oil demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were at $76.16 a barrel, up 1 cent, at 0919 GMT. Brent hit a 2022 low this week.

US West Texas Intermediate crude inched up 7 cents to $71.53 a barrel.

The contracts are set for weekly losses of around 10 percent each, their worst weekly drops in percentage terms since August and April, respectively.

The market structure for Brent contracts has switched to contango, meaning contracts for near-term delivery are cheaper than for delivery in six months, indicating that traders see weaker demand .

News of a leak closing Canadian firm TC Energy’s Keystone pipeline in the US prompted a brief rally on Thursday. However, prices finally eased as the market took a view that the closure would be brief.

The market similarly shrugged off a queue of oil tankers being held up by Turkish authorities on their way to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea.

“Evidently, nothing can improve the mood in the oil market,” said PVM analyst Tamas Varga.

In China, surging infections will likely depress economic growth in the next few months despite some restrictions being eased, bringing a rebound only later in 2023, economists said.

Also on the downside, the US economy is heading into a short and shallow recession over the coming year, according to economists polled by Reuters who unanimously expected the US Federal Reserve to go for a smaller 50 basis point interest rate hike on Dec. 14.

The European Central Bank will also likely lift its deposit rate by 50 bps next week to 2.00 percent, another Reuters poll found, despite the euro zone economy almost certainly being in recession, as it battles inflation running at five times its target.


Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China

Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China
Updated 09 December 2022

Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China

Aramco and Shandong Energy to collaborate on downstream projects in China

RIYADH: Crude oil from Saudi Arabia could be supplied to the Chinese province of Shandong under a new agreement struck between Aramco and an energy firm in the region.

The Saudi oil giant has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shandong Energy Group, which includes a potential crude oil supply agreement and chemicals products offtake deal, supporting Aramco’s role in building a thriving downstream sector in Shandong Province.

The MoU also signals the firms are exploring collaboration on integrated refining and petrochemical opportunities in China.

The signing ceremony, which was conducted with the participation of Shandong Provincial People’s Government, underlined the importance of Aramco’s collaboration with Chinese companies. 

The scope of the MoU extends to cooperation across technologies related to hydrogen, renewables and carbon capture and storage.

Mohammed Al Qahtani, Aramco senior vice president of downstream, said: “Through collaborations such as this in China’s energy heartland, we are creating new pathways for growth in a country that is driving the increased integration of refining and petrochemical processes. 

“I am delighted that this spirit of cooperation is being extended across hydrogen, renewables and carbon capture and excited by the potential for further cooperation in these key areas which will shape our collective future.”

Li Wei, chairman of Shandong Energy Group, said: “Both Shandong Energy and Aramco are important players in the international energy arena. We share a lot of common interests, complementary strategies with expansive scope for cooperation, especially in oil and gas resources development and integrated refining and petrochemicals development along the whole industrial chain.”

The announcement strengthens Aramco’s efforts to support demand for energy, petrochemicals and non-metallics in China as the company seeks to expand its liquids to chemicals capacity to up to 4 million barrels per day by 2030.

The MoU comes amid a strengthening of ties between Saudi Arabia and China, spurred by the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom.

His attendance led to the signing of 35 investment agreements involving organizations from the two countries.

They cover a range of sectors, including green energy, technology and cloud services.

Transportation, logistics, medical industries, construction and manufacturing are also covered by the deals, as is a petrochemicals project, housing developments and the teaching of the Chinese language.

The agreements are worth about $30 billion, and come as China seeks to shore up its COVID-19-hit economy and the Kingdom continues to diversify its economic and political alliances in line with Vision 2030.


How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals

How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals
Updated 09 December 2022

How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals

How Saudi Arabia can capitalize on Chinese expertise to achieve its diversification goals
  • In the first half of 2022, the Kingdom was largest recipient of Chinese investments under the Belt and Road Initiative
  • Beyond energy, they are also exploring cooperation on the circular carbon economy and digital infrastructure

RIYADH: While strengthening trade ties and regional security will be priorities when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Saudi Arabia, Beijing could use this opportunity to further its Belt and Road Initiative as the Middle East, more specifically so the Kingdom, remains at the center of its ambitious project.

Saudi Arabia was the single largest recipient of Chinese investments under BRI, with about $5.5 billion in investments made in the Kingdom during the first half of 2022, according to a report by the Shanghai-based Green Finance and Development Center.

This comes as BRI countries in the Middle East received about 57 percent of BRI investments as the regional countries increased their share of overall BRI engagement from 8 percent in the first half of 2020 to 32 percent in the first half of 2022.

Energy was the main avenue for investment as Saudi Arabia received the most energy engagement in the first half of 2022. (AFP)

Among the sectors, energy was the main avenue for investment as Saudi Arabia received the most energy engagement in the first half of 2022, elevating the Kingdom to fourth place in the BRI for energy engagement between 2013 and 2022.

In the gas sector too, Saudi Arabia was the main recipient of investments from China at $4.6 billion in the first half. The Kingdom also saw its cooperation with China on solar projects improving with a $210-million project with Jinko Solar.

In October, Saudi Arabia and China in a virtual meeting agreed to jointly coordinate investments in the countries of BRI to ensure oil supply and demand security to BRI countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Co-chaired by Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the meeting discussed areas where both countries can strengthen their relationships such as oil and petrochemicals, decarbonization technologies, electricity and renewables, and hydrogen.

This was the fourth gathering of the Belt and Road Major Investment Projects and Energy Subcommittee of which Prince Abdulaziz is the Saudi chairman, SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia and China are exploring new frontiers of common interest that are set to drive the future economy. (AFP)

However, both countries look to go beyond the energy sector and are exploring new frontiers of common interest — such as the circular carbon economy and digital infrastructure — that are set to drive the future economy.

Saudi Arabia’s massive push toward sustainability and green economy received further boost when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month announced that the Kingdom would contribute $2.5 billion to a green initiative in the Middle East over the next 10 years.

China, being an early adopter of clean technology with thousands of patents under its name, can play an important role in helping Saudi Arabia achieve its sustainability goals.  Over the last 20 years, China has established its global position as an energy innovator, with significant success in the areas of solar power and, more recently, electric mobility, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

In the space of digital infrastructure, China’s growing technological expertise in areas like cloud computing, 5G, surveillance technology and virtual currency is expected to set benchmarks for the rest of the world.

This sector offers huge opportunities for both countries to engage as the world embraces the fourth industrial revolution.

Earlier this year, the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology approved a new Communications and Information Technology Law to overhaul the Kingdom’s digital infrastructure as it intends to bolster growth in the communications and information sectors.

As part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to grow its ICT sector by 50 percent, while increasing the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product by $13.3 billion. These initiatives will include 50 percent localization but, at the same time, attract more foreign investment.

Saudi Arabia can capitalize on China’s technological expertise to foster its ambition of becoming a regional leader in the information and communication technology sector.

While the Chinese president’s visit to Saudi Arabia is set to strengthen trade ties, both countries have the opportunity to expand their cooperation beyond energy, technology or green economy as they prepare for a new dawn.


How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 
Updated 09 December 2022

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 
  • Modern China exports textiles, electronics and machinery to Saudi Arabia and imports crude oil and primary plastics
  • Both nations well placed to expand cooperation in the circular carbon economy, renewables and high-tech industries

RIYADH: Decisions made over the past decade since Xi Jinping became president have placed China on a firm footing to become Asia’s — if not the world’s — pre-eminent economic power. The country’s many achievements are in the limelight as Xi pays a state visit to Saudi Arabia in response to an invitation from King Salman.

Thanks to sweeping reforms, diplomatic engagement, and massive infrastructure development, China has emerged today as the Arab region’s largest trade partner, reclaiming its historic mantle as an export powerhouse.

What makes China such a resilient exporter is the diversity of products it manufactures — having shifted away from agriculture, clothing and textiles into electronics, machinery and computers — making it less vulnerable to market volatility.

The rise of China did not happen overnight of course. In the early 1970s, the country’s share of global trade stood at less than 1 percent. Then, after a series of reforms designed to open up the economy, demand for exports boomed, growing from $2.31 billion in 1970 to $7.69 billion in 1975.

The country’s many achievements are in the limelight as Xi pays a state visit to Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

By 1985, Chinese exports had reached a value of $25.77 billion, growing throughout the decade until 1993 when exports almost doubled in value in just one year from $53.36 billion to $104.61 billion in 1994.

Further growth followed China’s induction into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, stimulating a surge in value worth $520.24 billion over a period of just five years.

In 1990, China was ranked 14th among the top world exporters, representing just 1.8 percent of global exports. By 2000, it had risen to seventh place, making up 3.9 percent, just behind the UK and Canada.

In 2004, China overtook Japan as the world’s third-largest exporter, accounting for 6.5 percent of global exports. Then, in 2007, the value of Chinese exports broke the $1 trillion threshold for the first time, reaching $1.26 trillion.

Although the 2008 global financial crisis briefly slowed Chinese export growth, it quickly rebounded. By 2009, China had overtaken Germany as the world’s largest exporting nation, making up 9.6 percent of global exports. 

Unbowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, resulting in lockdowns, travel bans and a global economic slowdown, China’s exports have continued to grow, reaching an estimated $3.55 trillion in 2021.

China and the Arab world have a trade relationship stretching back 1,500 years to the time of the Silk Road, when Chinese fabrics came overland to the Arabian Peninsula and Arab incense, frankincense and pearls were carried to East Asia.

The name “Silk Road” was first coined by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 to describe the ancient trade routes between East Asia and Europe. The concept of a great unifying belt continues to inspire trade relations to this day.

Today, China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. According to Reuters news agency, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $87.3 billion in 2021, with Chinese exports to the Kingdom reaching $30.3 billion and China’s imports from Saudi Arabia totaling $57 billion.

China’s main exports to Saudi Arabia are textiles, electronics and machinery, while China mainly imports crude oil and primary plastics from the Kingdom. In the first 10 months of 2022, China’s Saudi oil imports reached 1.77 million barrels per day, valued at $55.5 billion, according to Chinese customs data.

China’s global exports 

• 1970: $2.31bn

• 1985: $25.77bn

• 2000: $253.1bn

• 2005: $773.34bn

• 2010: $1.65 trillion

• 2020: $2.72 trillion

• 2021: $3.55 trillion 

Bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and China grew steadily after the signing of a memorandum of understanding in November 1988, growing to $5.1 billion in 2002, of which China’s exports were worth $1.67 billion and imports $3.43 billion.

In October 1999, China’s then-President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese leader to visit Saudi Arabia, where he signed a strategic oil deal with the Kingdom to help fuel China’s booming manufacturing sector.

In 2000, crude oil exports to China alone were valued at $1.5 billion. By 2010, they were worth well over $25 billion. In 2022, Saudi Aramco invested in a $10 billion refining and petrochemicals complex in China — the largest Saudi investment in China.

In September 2013, Xi announced the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative — formerly known as One Belt One Road, and often referred to as the new Silk Road — during an official visit to Kazakhstan.

The initiative sets out to connect the markets and manufactories of East Asia to those of Europe via a vast logistical and digital network running through Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa in a modern-day reimagining of the ancient Silk Road.

China’s exports have continued to grow, reaching an estimated $3.55 trillion in 2021. (AFP)

Considered the centerpiece of Xi’s foreign policy agenda, the Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development strategy, investing in 149 countries and international organizations, and which has been likened to the US Marshall Plan of the late 1940s.

The initiative, which was incorporated into the Chinese constitution in 2018, has a target completion date of 2049, intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative shares the same goal of boosting interconnectivity through cooperation in energy, trade, investment and technology as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, launched in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Beyond energy, technology and sustainable development, another emerging area of cooperation between the two nations is logistics. The Kingdom’s courier, express and parcel services market is forecast to grow over the next five years, offering the Belt and Road Initiative a valuable source of haulage infrastructure.

Saudi-based companies like AJEX and its international e-commerce express service are looking at ways to improve trade between China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and the wider Middle East to keep up with the demand for cross-border commerce.

By working together, diplomats and business leaders say Saudi Arabia and China are well-placed to expand their cooperation in the circular carbon economy, hydrogen power, renewable energy, and a host of other sustainable and high-tech industries.

In 2019, Chen Weiqing, China’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said his country’s Belt and Road Initiative is wholly consistent with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 agenda, highlighting both governments’ common interests and readiness to collaborate.

“China and the Kingdom are among the leading forces of dialogue among civilizations,” Chen said at the time in an opinion article for Arab News. “Cooperation between China and the Kingdom enjoys the characteristics of strategy, harmony, and mutual benefit.”

During the Chinese-Arab Friendship Association meeting in 2021, Mohammed Al-Ajlan, chairman of the Saudi-Chinese Business Council, said more than a dozen Chinese investors had expressed an interest in various Saudi infrastructure projects.

“The economic and financial cooperation between the Arab countries and China witnessed a clear development in the process of consolidating trade and investment relations,” Al-Ajlan said in a statement at the time.

“(We are) looking forward to more efforts to support trade exchange and joint investments by taking advantage of the opportunities available in all countries.”