PIF signs MoU with investment firm BlackRock to boost infrastructure project finances

PIF signs MoU with investment firm BlackRock to boost infrastructure project finances
BlackRock will work to develop a framework to help explore infrastructure projects in the Middle East (Shutterstock)
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Updated 14 November 2022

PIF signs MoU with investment firm BlackRock to boost infrastructure project finances

PIF signs MoU with investment firm BlackRock to boost infrastructure project finances

RIYADH: US investment management giant BlackRock will create a dedicated team in Riyadh as part of a deal reached with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to attract more investment into the Kingdom. 

The PIF has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the firm to help attract regional and international investors to projects, including those in the energy, power, utilities, water, environment, transportation, telecommunication, and social infrastructure sectors.

The MoU is the latest move by the PIF to explore new investment opportunities in the Middle East while boosting the participation of the Saudi private sector, and also matches the fund’s objective to further expand its domestic and regional investment portfolio. 

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced PIF will establish five more regional investment companies, in Jordan, Bahrain, Sudan, Iraq, and Oman. 

This comes after the launch of the Saudi Egyptian Investment Co. in August, and across all six companies the value of the targeted investments will reach SR90 billion ($24 billion).

Companies will invest in infrastructure, real estate development, mining, healthcare, financial services, food and agriculture, manufacturing, telecommunications and technology, and other strategic sectors.

The PIF plays a key role in accelerating the Kingdom’s economic transformation and diversification as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy.


Saudi traffic drives Dubai Airports' recovery post pandemic, says CEO   

Saudi traffic drives Dubai Airports' recovery post pandemic, says CEO   
Updated 38 sec ago

Saudi traffic drives Dubai Airports' recovery post pandemic, says CEO   

Saudi traffic drives Dubai Airports' recovery post pandemic, says CEO   

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia played an important role in the Dubai Airports' recovery post the pandemic as the Kingdom drove significant traffic growth between the two countries, according to the airport’s top official.  

Saudi Arabia accounts for 18 percent of Dubai Airports' total traffic, CEO of the airport Paul Griffiths revealed in an exclusive interview with Arab News, adding that most of the growth since the pandemic has been between the two countries.  

He added: “With more and more airports opening direct services between Dubai and Saudi Arabia, I think the prospects for further growth are still considerable.”   

Dubai Airports has gone through several transitional stages during the management of the pandemic, according to Griffiths.  

Highlighting some of the challenges that the airport faced, he pointed out that the key was to get people to recover and actually travel again while assuring them of their health and safety. Also, it was important to assure them that the rules for travel are going to be consistent. The CEO explained that this applies to complying with all their health regulations including being tested and vaccinated.    

But now, he said, they have a new challenge which is the “resource challenge.” “The challenge is to get everyone re-engaged to make the whole commerce of the world function professionally again. So that has been very difficult over the past few months in particular,” Griffiths added.  

Despite this, Dubai in particular has recorded a strong recovery in the post-pandemic period.   

He explained this comes as the emirate was able to swiftly get people back into jobs and train them in an attempt to function quickly while, at the same time, other parts of the world were still challenged in providing the appropriate level of resources needed for the operational requirements that they have.  

Dubai Airports, in specific, is 100 percent back to the number of people in the right jobs required, according to Griffiths. Moreover, he added that point-to-point traffic numbers to the city were 119 percent over and above pre-pandemic levels in December 2021, reflecting very strong traffic recovery.  

“We have virtually doubled the amount of traffic.  We are going to end the year with about 68.2 million. We have revised our forecast several times in the opposite direction and the prospects are actually now very good,” he revealed.  

As of today, an estimated 6 million travelers are currently coming through Dubai Airports on a monthly basis. The CEO said this figure is expected to further rise and potentially reach the 7.8 million recorded before COVID-19.  

Dubai’s added value is mainly attributed to the high investment in the emirate as well as its geographic location, according to Griffiths.  

As a result of high investment in the emirate, he said the number of people that now want to come and visit Dubai increases year on year, usually, in double digits.  

Highlighting the emirate’s unique geographic location, he pointed out that Dubai is within four hours flying time of a third of the world’s population and within eight hours flying time of two-thirds of the world’s population.  

Speaking on technology and its continuous development, the CEO stressed that airport experiences will be much quicker and more seamless in the future.  

“I think we’ll remove a lot of the processes we go through, like immigration and security. That’s not to say they won’t be there, but we just won’t see them because they’ll be done behind the scenes,” he explained.  

Dubai Airports has become a primary international airport in the world, with it being ranked the largest airport by international passenger traffic for the past six to seven years, he concluded.  


GCC stocks finished November lowest in a year as TASI continues to be under 11K level

GCC stocks finished November lowest in a year as TASI continues to be under 11K level
Updated 04 December 2022

GCC stocks finished November lowest in a year as TASI continues to be under 11K level

GCC stocks finished November lowest in a year as TASI continues to be under 11K level

RIYADH: The equity markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council region were dragged to the lowest in one year in November 2022, as Saudi Arabia’s main index slipped 6.6 percent below the 11,000 mark, according to a report by Kamco Invest.

TASI slipped below 11,000 on Nov. 21 and has been hovering under that mark since then.

In November, Arabian Drilling Co. topped the TASI chart with a gain of 18.0 percent followed by Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair Tourism and National Co. for Learning and Education with gains of 17.4 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively.

On the decliners’ side, Middle East Paper Co. topped with a fall of 26.8 percent followed by Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Co. and Fitaihi Holding Group with declines of 24.9 percent and 24.3 percent, respectively.

In the report, Kamco Invest noted that Oman was the best-performing market in November with a gain of 5.7 percent, followed by Kuwait and Abu Dhabi where stocks rose 3.6 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

According to the report, the steep decline in November also affected the GCC markets' year-to-date performance, with the index closing the month in red for the fourth time this year.

“Saudi Arabia was the only market in the GCC that closed November 2022 with a year-to-date decline of 3.4 percent,” said Kamco Invest in the report.

The report added: “Abu Dhabi continued to lead in the region with a year-to-date gain of 24.3 percent followed by Oman and Kuwait with healthy gains of 11.7 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.”

According to the Kamco Invest report, almost all the sectoral indices closed in the red during the month of November.

The report further pointed out that capital goods, hotels, restaurants and leisure, and real estate indices showed marginal positive performance during the month while the rest of the benchmarks receded.

The pharma and biotech index was the worst-performing index during November as it registered a decline of 10.6 percent followed by the consumer durable and apparel and materials index with declines of 10.4 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, the report added.

The report went on to point out that the utility index in the GCC region also witnessed a decline of 9.6 percent during November. 


Oil Updates — Crude dips ahead of OPEC+ meeting; Russia says price cap will not curb oil demand 

Oil Updates — Crude dips ahead of OPEC+ meeting; Russia says price cap will not curb oil demand 
Updated 04 December 2022

Oil Updates — Crude dips ahead of OPEC+ meeting; Russia says price cap will not curb oil demand 

Oil Updates — Crude dips ahead of OPEC+ meeting; Russia says price cap will not curb oil demand 

RIYADH: Oil futures slipped 1.5 percent in choppy trading on Friday ahead of a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, on Sunday and an EU ban on Russian crude on Monday. 

Brent crude futures settled down $1.31, a 1.5 percent drop, at $85.57 per barrel. US West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 futures fell $1.24, or 1.5 percent, to $79.98 per barrel. 

Both contracts dipped in and out of the negative territory, but notched their first weekly gains at around 2.5 percent and 5 percent, respectively, after three consecutive weeks of drops. 

Russia says price cap is dangerous 

Russia said on Saturday it would continue to find buyers for its oil, despite what it said was a “dangerous” attempt by Western governments to introduce a price cap on its oil exports. 

A coalition of Western countries led by the Group of Seven nations agreed on Friday to cap the price of Russian seaborne oil at $60 a barrel, as they aim to limit Moscow’s revenues and curb its ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and high-ranking Kremlin officials have repeatedly said that they will not supply oil to countries that implement the price cap. 

In comments published on Telegram, Russia’s embassy in the US criticized what it said was the “reshaping” of free market principles and reiterated that its oil would continue to be in demand despite the measures. 

“Steps like these will inevitably result in increasing uncertainty and imposing higher costs for raw materials’ consumers,” it said. 

“Regardless of the current flirtations with the dangerous and illegitimate instrument, we are confident that Russian oil will continue to be in demand.” 

Zelensky says level of price cap on Russian oil isn’t serious 

The $60 price cap on seaborne Russian oil agreed by G7 nations and Australia is not serious and will do little to deter Russia from waging war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday. 

The EU is now set to approve the cap after the G7 and Australia struck a deal on Friday. The measure aims to reduce Russia’s income from selling oil, while preventing a spike in global prices. 

“You wouldn’t call it a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of a terrorist state,” Zelensky said in a video address. 

“It’s only a matter of time before stronger tools will have to be used anyway. It is a pity that this time will be lost.” 

Andriy Yermak, head of Zelensky’s administration, said earlier that the cap should be set at $30 “to destroy the enemy’s economy quicker.” 

Zelensky complained the world had shown weakness by setting the cap at $60, which he said would swell Russia’s budget by $100 billion a year.

“This money will ... go toward further destabilization of precisely those countries that are now trying to avoid serious decisions,” he said. 

(With input from Reuters) 


NEOM faces no obstacles to making The Line a reality as KSA has the vision: Top official     

NEOM faces no obstacles to making The Line a reality as KSA has the vision: Top official      
Updated 04 December 2022

NEOM faces no obstacles to making The Line a reality as KSA has the vision: Top official     

NEOM faces no obstacles to making The Line a reality as KSA has the vision: Top official      

RIYADH: NEOM is facing no difficulties or obstacles in materializing The Line, the 170-kilometer smart city, as Saudi Arabia is determined to make it a reality, according to a top official.   

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh last week, Peter Fitzhardinge, head of Tourism Marketing at NEOM said that the developmental works in NEOM are progressing steadily, and the $500 billion project is becoming a reality.   

“The development is being done. NEOM is becoming a reality. I live in NEOM, and I see developments every minute of every day. You have to come to NEOM to see the future of livability in the world,” said Fitzhardinge.

Peter Fitzhardinge, head of Tourism Marketing at NEOM. (Supplied)

He added: “I have traveled over The Line. I do not think there are any obstacles for the Line, as we have the vision, will and determination. The Line will take the center stage in the vast beautiful 26,000 square kilometers.”  

According to Fitzhardinge, the 2029 Asian winter games at Trojena will showcase how NEOM will use innovation to carry out the event in a meticulous manner.   

“NEOM is all about innovation. I think now, not only we have to launch Trojena to show the vision, but we have to also showcase how we can bring Asian winter games into reality for people to come and participate in winter sports in NEOM,” he added.   

It should be noted that Trojena, which is due to be completed in 2026, is an area where winter temperatures drop below zero and year-round temperatures are generally 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the region.  

He added: “We are not talking about a shopping mall here. We are talking about beautiful high mountains, outdoors at 26,000 meters high. Trojena will be a great adventure playground for the world to come.”   

He further pointed out that NEOM will not be just about tourists, but Saudis will also play a crucial role in running and managing the tourism sector in the megacity.   

“NEOM is a place where everybody will be included. It is very much about inclusivity,” said Fitzhardinge.   

Earlier, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, during his speech at the Summit said that the hanging stadiums within NEOM will make tourists reimagine and visualize the future.   

“In The Line, we want people to come and see how sports stadiums are built, and where they are built. The sports stadiums in NEOM are 300 meters high, loose and hanging in the air,” said Al-Nasr. 

 


Full reliance on SAF beyond reach of current aviation technology

Full reliance on SAF beyond reach of current aviation technology
Updated 9 min 28 sec ago

Full reliance on SAF beyond reach of current aviation technology

Full reliance on SAF beyond reach of current aviation technology
  • The high cost of SAF will affect its utility when compared with conventional jet fuel, according to KAPSARC

RIYADH: Although aircraft manufacturers and airlines have all aimed to increase energy efficiency over recent decades, the move to find alternatives to fossil-based fuels has been a struggle.

While the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization are pushing the industry to adopt sustainable aviation fuel, the goal might be beyond the reach of current technologies, noted Riyadh-based King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center.

SAF is a term the aviation industry uses to describe nonconventional fossil-derived aviation fuel. It uses various sustainable resources, including carbon captured from the air and green hydrogen mixed with traditional jet fuel “with no changes needed to the aircraft or infrastructure,” according to Amsterdam-based SAF producer SkyNRG.

It adds that these green fuels cut emissions by 70 to 80 percent per flight.

Brian Moran, the vice president of global sustainability policy and partnerships for Boeing, explained that SAF is made from different feedstock such as biomass residue, cooking oils, or waste gases.

Brian Moran, the vice president of global sustainability policy and partnerships for Boeing. (Supplied)

Different pathways have been created to convert recycled carbon by combining it with hydrogen to produce a new fuel, Moran told Arab News in an earlier interview.

He added: “It’s not one silver bullet, but sustainable aviation fuel and low carbon fuels on the road to sustainable aviation fuels play a really vital role. And that’s why we’re so invested there.

“In the next 20 years, the world needs 43,000 new airplanes. So it’s on us to make sure that we continue this descend of emissions reduction that we have been on.”

High demand

IATA says the main challenge of SAF producers is meeting the airline demand for alternate fuel.

In 2021, airlines had ordered 14 billion liters of SAF, which “addresses the issue of whether airlines will buy the product,” added Willie Walsh, the director general of IATA, in an interview with CNBC.

The aviation sector has the second-highest energy demand in the transportation industry after the roads sector.

Willie Walsh, the director general of IATA.

Reports show that airlines are slowly moving to adopt SAF, with Qatar Airways and Emirates among them.

Qatar Airways has said 10 percent of its flights will use the fuel by 2030, while Emirates signed a memorandum of understanding with America’s GE Aviation in November 2021 to conduct an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER test flight using 100 percent SAF by the end of the year.

Pan-European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced that all its aircraft are certified to fly with a mix of up to 50 percent SAF blended with kerosene. The aim is that all of its planes will be able to fly solely using SAF by 2030.

HIGHLIGHT

While the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization are pushing the industry to adopt sustainable aviation fuel, the goal might be beyond the reach of current technologies, noted Riyadh-based King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center.

“I think quantity is the main issue at the moment. Governments should intensify the production of SAF. The reality is that airlines used every single drop of sustainable fuel that was available to us in 2021,” Walsh said in an interview issued by the association.

Even though about 100 million liters of SAF were used last year, according to Walsh, “that’s a very small amount compared to the total fuel required for the industry.”

Boosting supplies

Before 2021, only two companies globally produced SAF commercially: Finland-based Neste and Boston-based World Energy, according to the US Global Investors, a Texas-based investment adviser.

Other companies entering the field in 2021 and 2022 include Spain’s Repsol, France’s TotalEnergies, the UK’s BP, Phillips 66 and California-based Fulcrum BioEnergy.

IATA expects to see SAF production hit 7.9 billion liters by 2025, which would meet only around 2 percent of the industry’s fuel requirements. (Shutterstock)

Neste has a small annual capacity for 100,000 metric tons of SAF, but it claims to be on track to increase this to 1.5 million tons by the end of 2023 at its facilities in Europe and Singapore.

On the other hand, World Energy is planning to convert a refinery in Houston to a SAF plant, while Boeing is establishing a facility in Japan to begin researching and developing SAF.

In March, Riyadh-based Alfanar announced it had invested £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in a UK project which produces SAF from waste.

The Lighthouse Green Fuel project generates more than 180,000 metric tons annually in the UK, the firm said in a statement.

The cost factor

The high cost of SAF will affect its utility when compared with conventional jet fuel, according to KAPSARC. IATA estimates SAF generally costs twice or four times as much as any aviation fuel.

According to the Air Transport Action Group, this is happening in an industry that saw 1,478 airlines account for 2.1 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and 12 percent of the transportation sector discharge in 2019.

“We are committed to supporting Saudi Arabia to succeed in open banking. And that is why we’re working the entire ecosystem, be it the fintech, banks or the regulator,” said Abdulla Al-Moayed, CEO and founder of Tarabut Gateway. (Supplied)

That year, the industry spent $186 billion on 95 billion gallons of fuel to fly its passengers worldwide.

Fossil fuel spending will remain a deciding factor for this sector for some time. Commercial aircraft, like trains and heavy-goods vehicles, cannot rely on electric engines, as they do not provide the thrust these power-hungry vehicles demand.

IATA expects to see SAF production hit 7.9 billion liters by 2025, which would meet only around 2 percent of the industry’s fuel requirements. However, by 2050, the association says production would jump to 449 billion liters or 65 percent of the sector’s needs.