PIF-owned Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. receives ‘A-’ classification with stable outlook

PIF-owned Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. receives ‘A-’ classification with stable outlook
Founded in 2017 by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, SRC’s primary role is to provide banks and real estate finance companies with liquidity, enabling growth in the home financing sector. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 15 May 2023
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PIF-owned Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. receives ‘A-’ classification with stable outlook

PIF-owned Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. receives ‘A-’ classification with stable outlook

RIYADH: The Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. has received an “A-” classification at the level of global credit and “ksaAAA” at the level of local credit with a stable outlook from the credit rating agency S&P Global. 

According to the rating company, an obligatory rated “A-” falls under an upper-medium category, which indicates strong creditworthiness and has good capacity to meet its financial commitments. 

On the other hand, a rating of “AAA” on the national scale means the debtor’s capacity to meet its financial commitments on the obligation relative to other national debtors is extremely strong. 

According to the SRC website, the real estate financing company is rated “A-” stable by Fitch Ratings and “A2-” stable by Moody’s Investors Service.

In March, SRC signed an agreement with Al Rajhi Bank to refinance more than SR5 billion ($1.33 billion) worth of real estate financing portfolio. 

“The deal is the largest of its kind in the Saudi banking industry,” said SRC in a statement.

SRC CEO Fabrice Susini described the deal as a milestone in the company’s “strategic approach to support the housing market in the Kingdom by providing flexible mortgage solutions to citizens.”

In the same month, SRC announced that it will be lowering the mortgage benchmark curve by 26 basis points for mortgage tenors from 20 to 30 years. 

By reducing the long end of the mortgage rates in a rising global interest rate environment, SRC said it continues to “support the development of a robust mortgage market and its liquidity, continuously providing affordable and accessible financing options to Saudi citizens.”

Founded in 2017 by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, SRC’s primary role is to provide banks and real estate finance companies with liquidity, enabling growth in the home financing sector to increase home ownership rates among Saudi citizens.

The company issued two sukuks in 2022, the first tranche totaling SR4 billion in April and the other tranche SR3 billion in September.

According to its annual report for 2022, SRC had access to eight short-term credit facilities worth SR7.65 billion as of Dec. 31, of which its total utilized limits was SR1.18 billion.


Egypt’s economic reforms yielding positive results: finance minister

Egypt’s economic reforms yielding positive results: finance minister
Updated 5 min 9 sec ago
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Egypt’s economic reforms yielding positive results: finance minister

Egypt’s economic reforms yielding positive results: finance minister

RIYADH: Egypt’s new economic path, focused on structural reforms empowering the private sector to lead growth and attracting investment, has begun to yield positive results, said the country’s finance minister.  

Mohamed Maait highlighted that despite the harsh impacts of global and regional economic crises, Egypt has seen financial indicators surpass budget estimates and targets over the past nine months of the fiscal year 2023-2024, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported. 

The minister noted that this success reflects the international recognition of the north African country’s economy for achieving better-than-expected performance metrics.  

Last month, Egypt secured an additional $5 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund following the central bank’s decision to raise interest rates and allow the pound to depreciate by nearly 40 percent in value. 

Earlier this month, the IMF announced that it would link payments to the country under an $8 billion financial program to Cairo’s decision to allow market conditions to determine the price of its currency and to make foreign exchange available to businesses and private individuals. 

Further emphasizing the economic strategies, Maait pointed out the significant improvements in non-tax revenues, which saw an increase of 122.9 percent, and tax revenues which surpassed 1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($20.6 billion), marking a growth of 41.2 percent annually.   

He proudly noted these gains were achieved without imposing new burdens on citizens or investors, thanks to expanded mechanization intended to broaden the tax base and integrate the informal economy into the formal sector.   

Maait pointed out that the country’s continues effort to boost its economy is evident in the Ministry of Finance’s ongoing dialogues with over 2,000 investment institutions a year.   

The ministry’s Investor Relations Unit plays a crucial role in these engagements, maintaining open dialogue throughout the year and issuing monthly performance reports. 

These reports provide foreign investors with precise, up-to-date economic data, including details about debt levels, deficits, and primary surpluses, the state-owned newspaper reported.  

They also offer a simplified guide on the various incentives, including tax advantages available to investors, aiming to alleviate any concerns and accurately address potential economic risks.  

Meanwhile, data released earlier this month by Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics showed a slowdown in the country’s urban consumer price inflation rate to 33.1 percent in March from 36 percent in February.  

Additionally, month-on-month prices rose by 10 percent in the third month of 2024, down from an 11.4 percent increase in the previous period. 

This development follows the central bank’s announcement in early March of a 600 basis points hike in interest rates at an unscheduled meeting, along with a shift to an inflation-targeting regime, allowing the exchange rate to be determined by market forces. 

Furthermore, Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has announced that construction of a solar power plant at the Assiut Oil Refining Co. has begun, in an effort to lower carbon emissions.   

The project, spearheaded by the consortium of ENPPI and Petrojet, involves the creation of a 10-megawatt solar facility, with an investment of 550 million Egyptian pounds.   

Scheduled for completion within 11 months, this initiative is a part of a broader strategy for energy transition and emissions reduction across the country’s petroleum sector.  

This solar power project is complemented by another initiative at the Egyptian General Petroleum Corp., aiming to produce 6.5 MW of electricity from solar energy, with a similar investment of 500 million pounds.   

Both projects are financed through a EU grant under the Energy Sector Policy Support program, aligning with the ministry’s goal to implement actionable projects that advance the sector’s sustainability objectives.  


Budget Saudi Arabia to buy 70% stake in UAE freight firm Overseas Development

Budget Saudi Arabia to buy 70% stake in UAE freight firm Overseas Development
Updated 15 April 2024
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Budget Saudi Arabia to buy 70% stake in UAE freight firm Overseas Development

Budget Saudi Arabia to buy 70% stake in UAE freight firm Overseas Development

RIYADH: Saudi car rental firm United International Transportation Co. is set to acquire a 70 percent stake in the UAE’s freight forwarder Overseas Development through a recent deal.  

The company, also known as Budget Saudi Arabia, said in a Tadawul statement that the purchase amount was based on the financial evaluation of the acquisition and came in at 13.34 million dirhams ($3.63 million).   

The new sale and purchase agreement comes following the company’s announcement in March that it will procure 70 percent of Overseas Development LLC’s shares in its subsidiaries in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait as part of a memorandum of understanding signed at the time.   

In February, the vehicle leasing company was given the go-ahead by the Kingdom’s competition watchdog to acquire Al-Jazira Equipment Co.     

In a Saudi Stock Exchange statement, it was revealed the General Authority for Competition had issued a no-objection notice regarding Budget Saudi Arabia’s complete purchase of the operational lease and car maintenance company, also known as Auto World.   

In 2023, the firm’s net profit after zakat and tax stood at SR277 million ($73.89 million), reflecting a 10 percent surge compared to 2022 figures. 

The increase in net profit in 2023 compared to the previous year was due to maximizing the utilization of the firm’s expanding fleet, both in short-term and long-term rentals. This, coupled with the increased sale of used car units compared to 2022, significantly propelled revenue growth. 

In August 2023, Budget Saudi Arabia signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to acquire all shares of Auto World by issuing stocks to its owner, the Saudi Economic and Development Co., known as SEDCO.

Budget Saudi is the holder of the largest Budget International franchise. The company has provided its services for over 45 years while building a diverse customer base and operating a fleet of more than 35,000 vehicles. 

The firm also offers various transportation services throughout the Kingdom, including long-term and short-term car rental and the sale of used cars.

 


NEOM’s workforce anticipated to exceed 200k by 2025: CEO 

NEOM’s workforce anticipated to exceed 200k by 2025: CEO 
Updated 15 April 2024
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NEOM’s workforce anticipated to exceed 200k by 2025: CEO 

NEOM’s workforce anticipated to exceed 200k by 2025: CEO 

RIYADH: Saudi giga-project NEOM’s workforce is poised to surpass 200,000 by 2025 as the Kingdom’s ambitious $500 billion-city enters its busiest development phase.  

This significant increase in labor – a 43 percent rise on the current level – marks a crucial milestone in the Vision 2030 initiative, underscoring the project’s pivotal role in reshaping the Saudi economy.  

NEOM, currently being built in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, has brought together over 100 of the world’s leading construction companies for a two-day industry forum, according to a statement.  

Addressing the event Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of the giga-project, said: “As we go into our busiest ever phase of development, the scale of opportunities across NEOM is monumental. With projects progressing fast across all parts of the region, we are committed to collaborating with globally renowned contractors to achieve the vision of NEOM.”   

Participants gained insights into the plans and scope of upcoming opportunities and toured project sites to witness the ongoing construction firsthand. 

The event also facilitated one-on-one meetings, enabling in-depth discussions on specific business prospects as contractors demonstrated their services and capabilities. 

The gathering, which featured a mix of firms from Saudi Arabia alongside international companies from Asia, Europe, North America, and North Africa, highlighted current construction progress on-site while emphasizing future developments, signifying NEOM’s transition into the next phase of its extensive project portfolio. 

The statement emphasized that as the city’s projects move into a new phase of execution, the need for top-tier construction expertise is crucial to deliver some of the most ambitious development projects the world has ever witnessed. 

It further stated that among these ambitious projects is The Line, a 170-km-long city currently being constructed in modular phases, with the first phase expected to welcome residents in 2030. 

The forum, furthermore, underscored the critical role of innovation within the industry, emphasizing that traditional construction methods are inadequate to meet the scale and scope of the projects in the city of the future. 

Moreover, progress made on-site was demonstrated across NEOM, encompassing advancements in the construction of key projects such as The Line, the Spine, Oxagon, Trojena, and an international airport. 


Saudi inflation eases to 1.6% thanks to food price changes: GASTAT   

Saudi inflation eases to 1.6% thanks to food price changes: GASTAT   
Updated 15 April 2024
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Saudi inflation eases to 1.6% thanks to food price changes: GASTAT   

Saudi inflation eases to 1.6% thanks to food price changes: GASTAT   

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s inflation eased to 1.6 percent in March, down from 1.8 percent the previous month, driven by changes in the food and beverage sector.

The latest report from the General Authority for Statistics indicates that the Kingdom’s Consumer Price Index experienced a marginal decrease of 0.1 percent in March compared to February.  

The monthly inflation index was impacted by a 0.7 percent decrease in the food and beverage sector, primarily due to a 0.6 percent decline in meat and poultry prices.  

Additionally, prices in transportation, furnishing, and home equipment sectors experienced declines of 0.7 percent each. Similarly, recreation and culture, communications, and tobacco also saw decreases, with falls of 0.9 percent, 0.3 percent, and 0.1 percent, respectively. 

Conversely, prices rose in the housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuel category by 0.7 percent, as well as in the personal goods and services category by 0.3 percent, and the clothing and footwear category by 0.1 percent.  

On the other hand, prices for services such as education, restaurants and hotels, and health remained largely unchanged in March.

Annual inflation rises 

However, on a yearly basis, the Kingdom’s CPI increased by 1.6 percent during March 2024 compared to the same period last year.  

This rise is primarily attributed to an 8.8 percent increase in the prices of housing, water, and electricity, as well as gas and other fuels, alongside a 0.9 percent rise in food and beverage prices.  

In contrast, prices of transportation decreased by 1.8 percent, and charges of personal goods and services decreased by 1.1 percent. 

According to GASTAT, rental prices were the main driver of inflation in March compared to the corresponding period in 2023. 

“Actual housing rents increased by 10.5 percent in March 2024, influenced by the increase in villa rents by 9.7 percent. This increase had a significant impact on the annual inflation rate for March 2024 due to the weight of this sector (21 percent),” stated the GASTAT report.   

Prices in restaurants and hotels also rose by 2.4 percent due to a 2.2 percent increase in food service prices. 

Similarly, the recreation and culture sector recorded a 0.7 percent increase, influenced by a 5.1 percent rise in holiday and tourism prices.  

Furthermore, the education category saw a 1.2 percent increase, driven by a 4.3 percent increase in secondary education fees. 

However, prices in the furnishing and home equipment sector decreased by 3.2 percent, driven by a 5.3 percent decline in furniture, carpet, and flooring prices.  

Also, prices in clothing and footwear decreased by 4 percent, due to a 6.6 percent decline in ready-made clothing prices.  

Healthcare expenses and tobacco prices decreased by 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, compared to March 2023. 

Wholesale Price Index 

In another report, GASTAT noted that Saudi Arabia’s wholesale price index rose by 3.8 percent in March compared to the same month in 2023.   

According to the authority, this rise in WPI was driven by a 25.2 percent increase in the prices of basic chemicals and a 12 percent jump in the prices of refined petroleum products.  

In the third month of the year, prices of raw materials and metals decreased by 2.2 percent, and prices of metal products, machinery, and equipment decreased by 0.6 percent. 

The category encompassing food, beverages, tobacco, and textiles saw a 2.4 percent rise, driven by a 10 percent increase in leather, leather products, and footwear prices, along with a 4.9 percent uptrend in grain mill products, starches, and other food items. 

In contrast, agricultural and fishing products experienced a marginal 0.2 percent upturn, propelled by a 2.1 percent climb in live animals and animal products. 

Conversely, raw materials and metals witnessed a 2.2 percent decline, primarily due to a corresponding decrease in stones and sand prices.  

Moreover, metal products, machinery, and equipment recorded a 0.6 percent drop, attributed to a 6.5 percent decrease in radio, television, and communication equipment prices, as well as a 2.8 percent reduction in office equipment, accounting, and computer prices. 

Average prices up  

In a separate analysis, GASTAT noted that in March, local melons and pumpkins saw the most significant upticks compared to the prior month, with increases of 10.8 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively. 

Additionally, Harri sheep and Naemi sheep also experienced notable increases, rising by 8.5 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively. 

Conversely, the goods and services showing the most substantial percentage drops in March, compared to February, were local and imported onions, experiencing decreases of 17.9 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively. 

Additionally, medium local potatoes and Turkish plums also saw notable declines, with decreases of 6.9 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.

Real estate price surges

GASTAT noted that in the initial quarter of 2024, the Real Estate Price Index rose by 0.6 percent compared to its counterpart in 2023.

It attributed the surge to a 1.2 percent uptick in residential land costs. 

Conversely, prices experienced a decline in commercial real estate by 0.5 percent and agricultural land sales by 0.1 percent.

The residential real estate division saw a notable 1.2 percent increase, primarily driven by a rise in housing prices of the same magnitude. 

This sector’s weight in the overall index contributed significantly to the index’s uptick, according to the authority.

Among different residential properties, apartments experienced an increase of 0.8 percent, while buildings decreased by 0.2 percent, villas by 2.3 percent, and houses by 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period last year.

Conversely, prices in the commercial real estate sector declined by 0.5 percent, influenced by decreases of 0.5 percent in commercial land prices and 1.1 percent in prices of commercial exhibitions. 

However, the cost of commercial buildings and centers remained stable in the first quarter of 2024, showing no significant changes.

In contrast, the agricultural sector experienced a marginal decline of 0.1 percent, primarily due to a 0.1 percent decrease in agricultural land prices.

In the first three months of 2024, the General Real Estate Price Index rose by 0.3 percent compared to the previous quarter, driven by a 0.4 percent increase in residential sector prices, particularly in land. 

Apartment prices increased by 0.7 percent, while residential buildings, villas, and houses saw slight declines. 

Commercial sector prices remained stable, with no significant changes, while agricultural sector prices also stabilized.


Oil Updates – prices fall after Iran attack as market draws down risk premium

Oil Updates – prices fall after Iran attack as market draws down risk premium
Updated 15 April 2024
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Oil Updates – prices fall after Iran attack as market draws down risk premium

Oil Updates – prices fall after Iran attack as market draws down risk premium

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell on Monday as market participants dialled back risk premiums following Iran’s weekend attack on Israel that the Israeli government said caused limited damage, according to Reuters.

Brent futures for June delivery fell 50 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $89.95 a barrel by 9:30 a.m. Saudi time, while West Texas Intermediate futures for May delivery were down 52 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $85.14 a barrel.

Iran’s attack involved more than 300 missiles and drones, and was the first on Israel from another country in more than three decades, raising concerns about a broader regional conflict affecting oil traffic through the Middle East.

But the attack, which Iran called retaliation for an air strike on its Damascus consulate, caused only modest damage, with missiles shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Israel, which is at war with Iran-backed Hamas militants in Gaza, has neither confirmed nor denied it struck the consulate.

“An attack was largely priced in the days leading up to it. Also the limited damage and the fact that there was no loss of life means that maybe Israel’s response will be more measured,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING, adding: “But clearly, there is still plenty of uncertainty and it all depends on how Israel now responds.”

As Iran currently produces over 3 million barrels per day of crude oil as a major producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, supply risks include more strictly enforced oil sanctions and that an Israeli response could involve targeting Iran’s energy infrastructure, ING also said in a separate client note on Monday.

If there was significant supply loss, however, the US could release further crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserves, while OPEC has more than 5 million bpd of spare production capacity, it said.

“If prices were to rally significantly on the back of supply losses, one would imagine that the group would look to bring some of this spare capacity back onto the market. OPEC will not want to see prices going too high given the risk of demand destruction,” ING said in the note.

Oil benchmarks had risen on Friday in anticipation of Iran’s retaliatory attack, touching their highest levels since October.

Analysts were widely expecting at least a short-lived rally in prices this morning, but said that more significant and longer-lasting price effects from the escalation would require a material disruption to supply, such as constraints on shipping in the Strait of Hormuz near Iran.

So far, the Israel-Hamas conflict has had little tangible impact on oil supply.

The “strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria and Iran’s retaliation have raised tension in the Middle East. However, we don’t expect an immediate reaction in crude oil prices given ample spare capacity and an already elevated geopolitical risk premium,” said ANZ Research analysts in a note.

“Israel’s response will determine whether the escalation ends or continues. The conflict could still be contained to Israel, Iran and its proxies, with possible involvement of the US Only in an extreme case do we see it realistically impacting oil markets.”

Analysts at Citi Research said prolonged tensions through the second quarter this year have largely priced oil at $85-$90 per barrel.

As the market has been broadly balanced in supply and demand throughout the first quarter, any de-escalation could see prices falling back quite sharply to the high $70s or low $80s per barrel range.

“What is not priced into the current market, in our view, is a potential continuation of a direct conflict between Iran and Israel, which we estimate could see oil prices trade up to over $100 per barrel depending on the nature of the events,” the Citi analysts said in a note.