Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year

Special Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year
Children play with a quadruped robot at the 2022 World Robot Conference in Beijing. (All photos: AFP)
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Updated 08 December 2022

Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year

Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year
  • 2022 turned out to be the year when Sino-Saudi collaborative projects in various fields truly prospered
  • China seeking to bolster its energy ties with the Gulf countries to secure adequate oil supply

RIYADH: Saudi-Chinese ties have prospered in 2022 amid the high cooperation efforts between the countries across various fields, including aviation, energy, tourism, artificial intelligence, technology and more.

On Nov.27, Saudi Arabia’s deputy foreign minister met with the Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom in Riyadh, Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, Waleed Al-Khuraiji and Chen Weiqing reviewed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them to serve common interests. They also discussed issues of common interest.

Aviation

Earlier this year, in October, Saudi Arabia and China signed a memorandum of understanding to boost the number of flights and stations between the two countries. 

The MoU also aims to promote air traffic growth further and bolster cooperation in the air transport sector field between both countries, Zawya reported.

Energy

In September, the regional organization Arab League announced the first of its kind Arab-China summit to be hosted by Saudi Arabia in December, reflecting a milestone in the strategic collaboration between Arab countries and the Asian giant.

According to Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post, Beijing is seeking to bolster its energy ties with the Gulf countries to secure sufficient supply.

Tourism

In September, the Saudi Tourism Authority and Shanghai-based financial firm UnionPay signed an MoU to boost the number of Chinese visitors to Saudi Arabia.

Under the agreement, the Chinese state-owned financial services company will facilitate payment operations within the Kingdom for UnionPay card holders, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

Culture

As part of Saudi-Chinese cultural cooperation, King Abdulaziz Public Library signed an MoU and collaboration with the Bayt El-Hekma Chinese Group in April.

The agreement aims to enhance cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China in different cultural, knowledge, and language fields of interest to both sides.

It also includes exchanging publication services and cultural visits between the two countries, besides holding scientific meetings and specialized exhibitions and activating cultural commonalities through forums.  

Artificial Intelligence

In March, Riyadh-based aerospace company TAQNIA and solution provider TAQNIA ETS signed an MoU with Chinese aerospace firm Star Vision to elevate the space sector’s supply chain and work hand in hand on artificial intelligence applications and technologies.

Under the MoU, all parties will participate in collaborative research and work together to facilitate the development of top-notch space technologies, satellites, and geospatial products, trade publication Times Aerospace reported.

The MoU aims to introduce localized services and products that align with the Kingdom and the region’s strategic space and geospatial industry.

 Technology

In March, Saudi Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Co., ACES, partnered with China Electronics Technology Group to manufacture unmanned aerial vehicle payload systems in the Kingdom.

Under the partnership, China Electronics Technology Group, the state-owned defense conglomerate specializing in dual-use electronics, aims to aid ACES in establishing a research and development center and manufacturing team for various types of unmanned aerial vehicle payload systems.  

Oil

In March, a Saudi Arabian Oil Co. unit signed an initial agreement with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, for potential downstream collaboration in China.  

The subsidiary, Saudi Aramco Asia Company Ltd., and Sinopec aim to support Fujian Refining and Petrochemical Co. in conducting a feasibility study into the optimization and expansion of capacity, according to a statement.  

Building & Construction

In January, Saudi Aramco and the China Building Materials Academy announced plans to launch a new Nonmetallic Excellence and Innovation Center collaboratively.

Also referred to as NEXCEL, the new center will be based in Beijing and advance the use of nonmetallic materials in the building and construction sector.


UAE’s national digital economy to touch $140bn by 2031: report

UAE’s national digital economy to touch $140bn by 2031: report
Updated 10 sec ago

UAE’s national digital economy to touch $140bn by 2031: report

UAE’s national digital economy to touch $140bn by 2031: report

RIYADH: The UAE’s national digital economy is expected to surge from $38 billion today to $140 billion by 2031, as the Emirate successfully pursues its digital transformation journey, according to a new report. 

The forecast, released by the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy – one of three chambers operating under Dubai Chambers – noted that it plans to attract over 300 digital startups and 100 tech experts to Dubai by 2024. 

Dubai Chambers is also eyeing implementing new laws and policies, organizing a conference, promoting digital transformation, and enhancing the business environment to attract global digital firms to the Emirate, state news agency WAM reported. 

The UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications and Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, Omar Sultan Al Olama, said that Dubai aims to become a key technological hub in the region. 

He added that the goal is to double the contribution of the digital economy to the UAE’s gross domestic product from 9.7 percent now to over 20 percent by 2031. 

Al Olama also emphasized the vitality of developing world-class digital infrastructure and supporting the dynamic startup ecosystem to drive digital transformation and sustainable business growth in the UAE. 

He further stressed the importance of raising awareness about challenges and future trends in the technological space, and also highlighted the necessity of embracing digital technology for sustainable business growth.

In April 2022 the UAE Cabinet approved a new Digital Economy Strategy, which includes more than 30 initiatives and programs targeting six sectors and five new areas of growth. 


Saudi Real Estate Refinance looks to debut dollar sukuk in Q2

Saudi Real Estate Refinance looks to debut dollar sukuk in Q2
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi Real Estate Refinance looks to debut dollar sukuk in Q2

Saudi Real Estate Refinance looks to debut dollar sukuk in Q2

DUBA: The Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co., the kingdom's equivalent of US mortgage finance business Fannie Mae, plans to issue debut dollar-denominated sukuk between the end of the first and second quarters of this year, its chief executive said.

The company, a regular issuer of local currency Islamic bonds, initially aimed to issue its inaugural dollar sukuk last year.

SRC, owned by the sovereign Public Investment Fund, is working to help Saudi Arabia reach its goal of boosting Saudi home ownership to 70 percent as part of Vision 2030 reforms to reduce the economy's reliance on oil.

Some of the documentation for the dollar issuance "needed to be revamped, readjusted with some discussions with some of our stakeholders," SRC CEO Fabrice Susini told Reuters, without giving details.

SRC will raise at least $500 million, Susini said. JPMorgan, Societe Generale, GIB, HSBC and Islamic Development Bank, which set up the dollar issuance programme, will arrange the debt sale, he added.

"We were a bit lucky ... not having to issue internationally" last year, he said, as the US Federal Reserve hiked rates at a rapid clip to tame decades-high inflation, with the Saudi Central Bank closely mirroring the moves despite lower inflation, as the riyal is pegged to the dollar.

Issuance in local currency will remain "alive and active," Susini said, adding the firm could eventually issue euro-denominated bonds "if at one point the rates are attractive enough and interest is there," while hedging would also be a consideration.

The impact of rising rates on SRC has been "limited" as roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of its mortgages are fixed rate, Susini said.

New residential mortgages provided by banks fell 23.4 percent last year to 154,392, having already dropped 10.5 percent in 2021 from 2020, data from SAMA showed.

"There is the cost for mortgage borrowers that could put some of them off buying. And then there is also perhaps a slight slowdown with the banks which see these prices going up and not being sure of what conditions they will refinance themselves," Susini said.

SRC has no plans currently in place for an initial public offering but it "could make sense" in the coming years, Susini said, adding PIF would keep at least a 51 percent stake.


King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change

King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change
Updated 01 February 2023

King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change

King Abdullah Financial District signs agreement with Japanese Sumitomo Corp. to fight climate change

RIYADH: King Abdullah Financial District signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sumitomo Corp. Middle East FZE to utilize its innovative and eco-friendly technology to tackle climate change by reducing the heat island effect on surfaces within KAFD on Tuesday in Riyadh.

“For us, partnering with Sumitomo on this new technology is extremely important, because as a district, as KAFD, reducing greenhouse emissions and reducing the heat island effect are extremely important, and this technology with Sumitomo will help us,” Gautam Sashittal, CEO of KAFD, told Arab News.

According to Sashittal, from a KAFD point of view, being a sustainable district is very important. “We have several initiatives that have been implemented and are being implemented, and that is just part of our sustainable solutions to burnish our credentials,” he said.

Sumitomo, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 global trading and business investment company, Sumitomo Corporation Group, signed the agreement with KAFD and Management Company to support KAFD’s goals for smart city development and technological advancements to create energy-efficient, intelligent buildings.

The products manufactured by Sumitomo in Japan use state-of-the-art technology that will be applied in KAFD to reflect infrared radiation, which in return reduces surface temperature, heat flow, and maintenance costs caused by the heat island effect.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to collaborate on this project with KAFD, implementing our advanced solutions. Sustainability is a top priority for both companies. With this agreement, we look forward to working with KAFD DMC and sharing our experiences to enhance energy efficiency in its facilities,” Hajime Mori, managing director of Sumitomo Corporation Middle East FZE said.

Heat islands are created in cities that experience higher temperatures, when structures and pavements begin to absorb and re-emit heat from the sun to surrounding areas, intensifying the effects of climate change and potentially having a harmful effect on health.

Through the agreement, Sumitomo is already in line to begin pilot testing in several locations within KAFD for two products, one of which is called MIRACOOL. This product reduces surface temperatures of buildings and facilities that are exposed to solar radiation. The other product is PERFECT COOL, which is a solar heat-blocking pavement that reduces surface temperature by applying a cooling coat to the pavement surface.

Through this cooperation, KAFD will implement the PERFECT COOL coating that will reflect infrared radiation through a combination of special heat reflecting pigment that reduces the increase in road surface temperatures during the day and suppresses radiant heat at night.

“Combatting climate change is a priority for KAFD as a modern, sustainable metropolis. It’s estimated that by 2030, 1.9 billion people will be exposed to heat stress, and this collaboration with Sumitomo is an excellent opportunity for the district to develop heat resilience and sustainable cooling solutions.

By lowering the temperature, we will contribute to a better living and working environment for our tenants and residents and employees,” the CEO of KAFD DMC said.

Sashittal explained to Arab News that the use of the technology in the pavements not only reduces the heat island impacts but also increases the longevity of KAFD assets.

“We have looked at several initiatives in order to minimize our carbon footprint. We have an intelligent waste evacuation system for the entire district, we have water recycling opportunities, we have district cooling plants that supply chilled water across the districts,” he said.

“Last year we went through a major greenification drive, and today we have about 700 palm trees, 4,000 canopies, we have almost about half a million shrubberies and bushes that we have planted last year, and all of this actually compliments what we are doing with Sumotoma, which is about reducing the heat, making it more comfortable and sustainable.”


Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 
Updated 01 February 2023

Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

Oil Updates — Brent down, WTI up; Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

RIYADH: Oil prices were mixed on Wednesday as signs of slowing inflation in the US eased fears that the world’s largest oil user may face a recession because of further interest rate hikes and a weaker dollar-supported some buying interest. 

Brent crude futures lost 41 cents, or 0.48 percent, to $84.49 a barrel at 08.15 a.m. Saudi time. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 34 cents, or 0.43 percent, to $79.21 a barrel. 

Meanwhile, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, will meet on Wednesday, when they are expected to maintain the status quo on output.  

In October 2022, OPEC+ had agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels per day, which equals to about 2 percent of world demand, from November 2022 until the end of 2023. 

Oilfield services firm Atlas Energy files for US IPO 

Oilfield services firm Atlas Energy Solutions Inc. filed for a US initial public offering on Tuesday, at a time when drilling activities around the world are picking up from pandemic lows. 

According to a Reuters report, the Texas-based firm was preparing for a public listing that could value it between $2 billion and $3 billion including debt. 

Atlas joins a small minority of IPO-bound firms that have chosen to proceed with their proposed listings even amid a global market rout that has prompted many startups to shelve their stock market flotation. 

Energy companies were among the biggest winners of last year as the war in Ukraine piled pressure on the commodities supply chain. 

Western sanctions on top energy exporter Russia tightened global supplies, forcing Europe to look for other sources of oil and gas and driving business growth as companies ramped up production to meet soaring demand. 

Atlas Energy plans to float its shares on the New York Stock Exchange and expects to trade under the ticker symbol “AESI.” 

Goldman Sachs, BofA Securities and Piper Sandler are the lead underwriters of the offering. 

Mexico state-run oil firm Pemex places bond totaling $2 billion 

Mexico state-run oil company Pemex placed a bond Tuesday worth $2 billion, the company said in a statement. 

The new fundraise — which was five times oversubscribed — will be largely used to refinance some of the cash-strapped company’s mounting debt, it added. 

(With input from Reuters) 


Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions
Updated 01 February 2023

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions
  • Iraq has in recent months been making efforts to ensure its banking system is compliant with the international electronic transfer system known as SWIFT

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s premier said Tuesday that new banking regulations had revealed fraudulent dollar transactions made from his country, as the fresh controls coincide with a drop in the local currency’s value.
Iraq has in recent months been making efforts to ensure its banking system is compliant with the international electronic transfer system known as SWIFT.
Referring to the new controls, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani hailed “a real reform of the banking system,” but denounced “falsified invoices, money going out fraudulently,” in particular as foreign currency payments for imports.
“That is a reality,” he said in an interview on state television.
The adoption of the SWIFT system was supposed to allow for greater transparency, tackle money laundering and help to enforce international sanctions, such as those against Iran and Russia.
An adviser to Sudani had said that since mid-November, Iraqi banks wanting to access dollar reserves stored in the United States must make transfers using the electronic system.
The US Federal Reserve will then examine the requests and block them if it finds them suspicious.
According to the adviser, the Fed had so far rejected 80 percent of the transfer requests over concerns of the funds’ final recipients.
Before the introduction of the new regulations, “we were selling $200 million or $300 million a day,” Sudani said.
“Now, the central bank provides $30 million, $40 million, $50 million,” he said, questioning: “What were we importing in a single day for $300 million?“
“There are products that were entering (Iraq) for prices that make no sense. Clearly, the objective was to take foreign currency out of Iraq,” he said. “This must stop.”
Money may have been transported to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan province “and from there to neighboring countries,” Sudani said, without specifying whether he was referring to Turkiye, Iran or war-torn Syria.
He said the new controls had been planned for two years, in accordance with an agreement between Iraq’s central bank and US financial authorities, and deplored previous failures to put them in place.
Iraq, which is trying to move past four decades of war and unrest, is plagued by endemic corruption.
The official exchange rate is fixed by the government at 1,470 dinars to the dollar, but the currency was trading at around 1,680 on Tuesday on unofficial markets amid dollar scarcity.
The drop has sparked sporadic protests by Iraqis worried about their purchasing power.
Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and the new central bank chief will be among a delegation traveling to Washington on February 7 to discuss the new mechanism and the fluctuating exchange rate, Sudani said.