RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s financial and digital sectors are flourishing as the Kingdom pushes ahead with its Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy, according to the Minister of Finance.
Speaking at the Financial Sector Conference in Riyadh, Mohammed Al-Jadaan said Saudi Arabia has already achieved remarkable results as it seeks to establish a sustainable future away from its dependency on oil.
He said the Kingdom has already become one of the fastest-growing financial markets in the world, adding: “Assets of the Saudi banking sector increased by 37 percent since 2019, reaching SR3.6 trillion($960 billion) by the end of 2022, while the number of financial technology companies increased during that period from 20 to 147 companies in 2022.
Al-Jadaan indicated that Saudi Arabia continues its path as a reliable partner for investors, highlighting that five international financial institutions joined the local first dealer program.
“The Public Investment Fund completed its first-ever international green bond issuance for $3 billion in October and another $5.5 billion, last month, as a source of success for Saudi Arabia,” the minister said, adding: “The National Development Fund last year injected nearly $4 billion to support local and international investors for projects in industry, energy, mining, and logistics.”
Al-Jadaan also stated that the Kingdom is in the transitional phase to the new financial reality, as the percentage of electronic payments in the retail sector reached 57 percent of total transactions, and about 40,000 workers have been trained in the financial sector.
The minister expressed his pride in the private sector’s statistics, where female participation in the labor market has reached 37 percent, the home ownership rate has risen to 62 percent and the real estate sector has quadrupled since 2018.
“Saudi Arabia’s transformation is well on the way and we’re ready to work together and establish more productive and continuous partnerships,” he continued.
The privatization initiative is now working on more than 200 projects in 17 selected areas, providing investors with numerous opportunities, adding that the stock market is rapidly growing.
Al-Jadaan also gave his thoughts on the collapse of the US-based Silicon Valley Bank, which was shut down by regulators on Friday in what was the biggest failure of a bank in the country since the 2008 financial crisis.
“It is a clear warning to everyone,” the minister stated, adding: “Generally, I think it is multiple failures, possibly a supervisory issue, it is an institution issue, a concentration issue, and we could see this coming with the hikes and interest rate, people should have seen this coming.
Al-Jadaan said: “Our experience and effective implementation of macro potential measures contribute to the resilience of the financial system against shocks. We see this clearly in the Saudi market.”
Rockwell Automation opens first Digital Center of Excellence in Saudi Arabia
Updated 29 September 2023
KHOBAR: At the top of the Al-Fardan Tower, overlooking the glistening corniche water with the manicured buildings below, stands Hussain Al-Khater, managing director for Rockwell Automation in Saudi Arabia.
As part of Rockwell Automation, Inc. which boasts as being one of the world’s largest companies dedicated to industrial automation, he is witnessing the transformation of his company, and country, in real time.
Al-Khater was on hand to inaugurate the Center of Excellence which aims to help fulfill one of the main priorities of Vision 2030, which is digital reforms. This will enable the Kingdom to transform the country into a place of excellence.
“Rockwell Automation has been working in Saudi Arabia for several decades supporting local companies with automation and control technology,” Al-Khater told Arab News, adding: “With the opening of the Center of Excellence, we will enhance the support for Saudi Arabia’s vision to have more technology companies located in the Kingdom.
“We will be physically on the ground to support our customers’ technology transition; they can come and visit the center to learn how Rockwell automation can guide them in their digital transformation.
“It’s a very special day for me – it’s in my hometown and my country."
The serene background to the innovative space is strategic; it marks Rockwell Automation’s first such dedicated Center of Excellence in the Middle East and only their third worldwide, following its original flagship in Milwaukee, US and Bologna in Europe.
It also is a statement on highlighting the importance of having Saudi Arabia be a leader in the digital future.
Headquartered in the US, Rockwell Automation has become a global leader in industrial automation and digital transformation and employs approximately 28,000 “problem solvers” in more than 100 countries.
This newly established Center of Excellence in Khobar aims to support local companies and their employees, as well as students in the region, by letting them experience the power and scope of digital transformation.
The first of two interactive zones takes the visitor on a digital journey explaining how technology can enhance maintenance operations by providing a 3D pump to help visualize the entire process.
Using Microsoft HoloLens and a smartphone, clients are guided through a seamless experience of repairing and maintaining a pump without ever leaving the room.
This cutting-edge process utilizes Vuforia, an augmented reality solution, ThingWorx, an Internet of Things platform, Kepware, a sensor connection solution, and Fiix, a computerized maintenance management system – which all link back to the ERP system.
The first demo highlights electric submersible pump diagnostics, testing and forecasting.
Users would be able to glance at an iPad and witness vital data populate from five wells. The data would then be analyzed instantaneously and potential pain points could be addressed before they even happen.
The second zone, dedicated to the oil and gas sector, brings oilfields to your fingertips, with multiple interactive demos using Sensia, a collaboration between Rockwell Automation and Schlumberger; Avalon for data set visualization and monitoring, and Avocet to analyze that data and execute workflows.
The Center of Excellence will not only show but also tell the journey.
The digital transformation which Rockwell Automation is spearheading aims to support sustainability in two main areas: reducing energy and water use.
“There is vast potential for growth in the Saudi Arabian market beyond just the oil, gas and petrochemical industries. Central to this expansion is the implementation of digital solutions and technologies to fuel localization,” Al-Khater said.
He insists that this would not only benefit society through digital advancement, but would also direct capital towards local infrastructure, facilities and manufacturing capabilities, all the while simultaneously fostering a groundswell of talent development for Saudi workers.
“The driving force is an innovation mindset. This positions Saudi Arabia attractively to manufacturing companies looking to invest in the region, aiming to create a global innovation hub based on local talent,” he said, adding: “Digitalizing the region and embracing automation will generate huge, positive change for both manufacturers and the broader society in Saudi Arabia.”
In his view, in order for this vision to fully come to fruition and materialize, companies must collaborate with technology and digital solutions leaders who understand the specific needs of the region, ensuring “not just initial success but sustained growth.”
In conjunction with the launch of the Center, Rockwell Automation also hosted their first ever Decarbonization Conference in the Kingdom on Sept. 26 at the Mövenpick Hotel’s Al-Maha ballroom, not far from its Center, which highlighted the automation and digital solutions available to decarbonize Saudi Arabia’s industrial sector.
The seminar brought together experts in the field to share experiences on decarbonization, including carbon capture and storage, electrification, emission monitoring and management through measurement and control technologies, and digitalization methodologies.
“Digital transformation and automation technology offer solutions that will enable the oil and gas value chain to drive efficiency and reduce costs while carefully navigating the transition terrain,” Ediz Eren, regional vice president for the Middle East, Turkiye and Africa region at Rockwell Automation told Arab News.
“This Digital Center of Excellence highlights how solutions from Rockwell Automation and its partners can improve performance all along the oil and gas value chain within the region. By working with government, industry, and academia, the Center of Excellence will enable local companies and workers to increase their understanding of what digital technologies can achieve,” he added.
One of the speakers was Michael Sweet, director of New Energy at Rockwell Automation who participated in a panel discussion titled: “Realizing sustainable industries with automation technology.”
He told Arab News: “Automation and digitalization have a pivotal role in enhancing energy efficiency within manufacturing entities. However, these benefits can only be realized by first understanding an organization’s current operational baseline. Identifying where a company is starting from on their automation journey is instrumental in determining its future trajectory.”
Sweet added: “Without this foundational knowledge, there is no one area to target automation efforts, leading to solutions that are general and unfocused.
“Among the primary concerns for manufacturers is minimizing energy consumption and automation can offer creative ways to achieve this goal.”
He explained that he has seen artificial intelligence used to analyze inspection images and to detect patterns as well as to mitigate waste.
“A key benefit of automation – in relation to energy usage – is that tasks are completed much more rapidly than when relying solely on human capabilities,” said Sweet, adding: “AI has been used to optimize operations for energy trading and modeling energy prices based on prevailing conditions. This helps manufacturers understand how much they are consuming, how much they will likely need moving forward, and where energy can be optimized or saved.”
He went on to explain that since technology is ever evolving, demand for energy still remains high despite global concerns over the environmental impact of such use.
External factors can affect its availability and optimizing energy efficiency will be something that all manufacturers should be considering as they look to the future.
According to Faissal El-Osman, Rockwell’s Enterprise Software Solution Consultant, the future is already here.
The vivacious, multilingual El-Osman injects a much needed youthful energy to the ongoing efforts. As a millennial, he aims to use the wisdom of the past to help find innovative ways to use the technology at his fingertips to propel the Kingdom, and the region, into the future.
He is hoping to help entice the emerging generation to join the efforts by showcasing the powerful and effective ways Rockwell Automation is bringing to the digital table.
“I’m excited about the technologies. Why am I excited about it? Because I am young and I know it’s something that interests the youth. We all know that there is a lack of men and women power currently, many are not interested in manufacturing because they know there is no technology, but thanks to AR they changed their minds,” he told Arab News.
“Managers can put the Microsoft HoloLens and wander in the factory and see, in real-time, the metrics and the productivity of each asset. It requires some training, but it’s efficient, and, most importantly – it’s really fun,” concluded El-Osman.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has reached an agreement with Kuwait-based Sakhr Software Company to acquire the Sakhr Contemporary Arabic Lexicon (Al-Mu’jam Al-Mu’asir).
The agreement includes transfer of intellectual property rights related to the dictionary, which offers source identification, material selection, arrangement, interpretation, explanation, and user-friendly presentation.
Fahad Al-Sharekh, son of the founder of the Sakhr Software Company, told Arab News that the deal is the result of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect the Arabic language as part of Vision 2030.
“We are very happy and excited,” he added. “We are honored that the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language has acquired the lexicon.”
Al-Sharekh said that the lexicon contains words spanning more than 100 years of cultural content, with entries from as far afield as Syria or Lebanon.
“We input 100,000 words with new definitions,” he said.
Abdullah Al-Washmi, secretary-general of the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language, said the acquisition highlights the academy’s efforts to promote the Arabic language in contemporary applications.
He commended the efforts of Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for KSAA, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, in elevating the cultural system through a range of channels and applications to serve both national and Arab cultures.
Al-Washmi said that this commitment reaffirms the Kingdom’s pioneering global role in this field.
Founder of Sakhr Software Company, Mohammed Al-Sharekh, said the acquisition will benefit Arabic language users and propel the language toward new horizons.
The Sakhr Software Company is known for the creation of the world’s first “Arabized computer” created in collaboration with Japanese giants Hitachi and Yamaha.
Global Markets – world stocks nudge up, bonds rally in bright end to grim quarter
Updated 29 September 2023
LONDON: World shares nudged higher on Friday, while better-than-expected euro zone inflation data boosted government bonds, with both asset classes still set for their worst quarter in a year in response to central banks’ pledge to keep interest rates high, according to Reuters.
MSCI’s broad index of global stocks gained 0.4 percent on Friday, while European and US government bonds rallied strongly to reflect markets resetting interest rate bets.
In a surprise bout of good news for hawkish central banks, data showed headline inflation in the euro area rose 4.3 percent in September year-on-year, below economists’ forecasts for a 4.5 percent rise and its lowest in two years.
The yield on Germany’s two-year bond, which tracks rate expectations and falls as the price of the debt rises, dropped 7 basis points to 3.23 percent.
Germany’s 10-year government bond yield fell 12 bps to 2.848 percent, with the euro area debt benchmark heading for its best trading day in more than a month.
And with strong sentiment flowing across the Atlantic, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell 6 bps to 4.6 percent.
That provided a bright end to a torrid quarter for government bonds. Germany’s 10-year yield has shot up 45 bps this quarter, reflecting the worst three-month sell-off since the third quarter of 2022.
The yield on the 10-year US Treasury is up 72 bps since July, also its worst quarterly performance since the same quarter last year.
The debt market relief came as some analysts argued bonds had become too beaten up in recent months.
The European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve have signaled that the best investors could hope for, following their sharpest monetary tightening cycle in decades, was a long period of interest rates staying where they are.
“Yields are way too high and will move lower but we’re in that gap between now and when that happens,” said James Rossiter, head of global macro strategy at TD Securities in London.
Strategists at Barclays pointed out in a note to clients, however, that because stock valuations fall when the income yields on lower-risk bonds rise, “if the bond market were to turn more disorderly, equities are unlikely to be immune.”
Elsewhere in markets, Europe’s Stoxx 600 share index jumped 1 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.8 percent.
Futures contracts that track the performance of Wall Street’s S&P 500 share index indicated the blue-chip equity benchmark would open 0.5 percent higher later on.
In currencies, the euro added 0.5 percent against the dollar.
Sterling rose 0.4 percent after a revision of official data on Friday showed Britain’s economic performance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was stronger than previously thought.
Later on Friday, the latest release of the US personal consumption expenditures price index will provide a fuller picture of inflationary trends in the world’s largest economy.
Investors will also turn their attention to Washington, where the Democratic-led US Senate forged ahead on Thursday with a bipartisan stopgap funding bill aimed at averting a fourth partial government shutdown in a decade.
“People are getting used to partial shutdowns but if it is prolonged and the stakes are raised then the economic consequences start to mount,” said Nordea chief markets strategist Jan von Gerich, adding that the dollar could be hurt if no agreement is reached.
The dollar index eased 0.5 percent to 105.69 but hovered near 10-month highs of 106.84 touched earlier this week.
In Asia, the Japanese yen was at 149.08 per dollar, a slight respite from recent falls that have put markets on alert for potential currency intervention.
MSCI’s index of Asian stocks outside Japan rose 1.2 percent on Friday, with Chinese markets closed for a holiday.
Oil prices regained ground after a brief pause in a rally as traders weighed expectations of supply increases by Russia and Saudi Arabia versus forecasts of positive demand from China during its Golden Week holiday.
US crude rose 0.5 percent to $92.16 per barrel and Brent was at $95.75, up 0.4 percent on the day.
Saudi businesses expect low levels of security threats in 2024: report
Updated 29 September 2023
RIYADH: Driven by the increased use of advanced technologies, most large companies in Saudi Arabia expect low levels of security threats in 2024, a threat assessment investigation has revealed.
According to the World Security Report released by London-based global security firm G4S, the Kingdom is consolidating its position as one of the best countries in the region to do business, thanks to its widespread adoption of advanced technology.
“The government’s measures to stamp down on cybercrime, along with its substantial investments in advanced technologies and digital upskilling in the context of Saudi Vision 2030, make the country an attractive hub for businesses,” said Mahmoud Mudhaffar, managing director of G4S in Saudi Arabia, in a statement.
The study found that the Kingdom had the lowest intrusion and competitor sabotage rates at 11 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Last year, Saudi Arabia experienced lower levels of external threats related to vandalism, trespass and distributed denial of service attacks compared with the global average, the report added.
A DDoS attack is a cybercrime that involves multiple machines working together to overwhelm a target with internet traffic.
The report surveyed 1,775 chief security officers of large organizations across 30 countries, including 235 CSOs in the Middle East from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
The research revealed that companies in the Middle East faced the least security threats involving violent criminals at 19 percent.
CSOs who participated in the survey opined that Saudi Arabia plans to increase its use of technologies like artificial intelligence, facial recognition and machine learning.
“In particular, it appears to be embracing the use of AI. Saudi Arabia is the second highest country in the region behind Jordan to say it will adopt AI-powered surveillance and monitoring systems at 46 percent,” said G4S in the report.
The Kingdom is also the second-highest country in the region to expect to use biometrics and facial recognition technology behind the UAE at 49 percent over the next five years.
Similarly, at 44 percent, more companies in the Kingdom plan to use internet-connected technologies and connected devices compared to any other country in the region.
Oil Updates – crude up $1 on tight US supply, China demand
Updated 29 September 2023
LONDON: Oil prices rose on Friday and were headed for a gain of about 3 percent for the week, driven by tight US supply and expectations of strong fuel demand in China during the Golden Week holiday, according to Reuters.
US West Texas Intermediate crude was up $1.31, or 1.43 percent, to $93.02 per barrel at 3:08 p.m. Saudi time.
Front-month Brent November futures were up 88 cents, or 0.92 percent, at $96.26 per barrel ahead of the contract’s expiry later in the day. The more-liquid Brent December contract was up 97 cents, or 1.04 percent, at $94.07 per barrel.
A backdrop of tight supplies in the US provided further price support, with storage at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for crude futures, already at its lowest since July 2022.
“Any additional decline would threaten to bring them down to a critical level, which could make further withdrawals difficult,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.
China’s fuel demand was set to firm as the week-long Golden Week holiday began on Friday.
“(An) increase in international travel during the Golden Week holiday is boosting Chinese oil demand,” ANZ analysts said in a client note.
Domestic travel is also expected to boost demand, with data from flight app Umetrip showing the average number of daily flights booked is a fifth higher than for Golden Week in 2019, before COVID.
Meanwhile, inflation in the euro zone fell to a two-year low of 4.3 percent in September, the latest Eurostat flash reading showed, suggesting the European Central Bank’s policy of steady interest rate hikes was taking effect.
Russia is considering introducing fuel export quotas if the current export ban is not effective in bringing down domestic prices.
Russian gasoline and diesel exchange prices on the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange fell slightly on Friday.
Brent is forecast to average $89.85 a barrel in the fourth quarter, and $86.45 in 2024, according to a survey of 42 economists compiled by Reuters on Friday.