Universal energy access and biodiversity key part of global power transition: WEF official

Universal energy access and biodiversity key part of global power transition: WEF official
Technology is one of the enablers as the world sails toward a green and sustainable future, according to WEF official Roberto Bocca. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 May 2023

Universal energy access and biodiversity key part of global power transition: WEF official

Universal energy access and biodiversity key part of global power transition: WEF official
  • World will need investments running into trillions of dollars to ensure a smooth energy transition: Roberto Bocca

RIYADH: As the world steadily progresses on its energy transition journey, sustainability must not be the only item on the agenda, a top official at the World Economic Forum has insisted.

During an interview with Arab News, Roberto Bocca, head of energy and materials and a member of the executive committee at the organization, said ensuring energy security is also essential as the world switches from traditional fuels to renewables. 

“On top of sustainability, you have to think also about biodiversity, you have to think of the other dimension of sustainability. That is one thing that needs to be achieved. The other is universal energy access. And the third one is the energy security. That is much more difficult to quantify, but it is clearly one element that is important,” said Bocca. 

The official noted that the world will need investments running into the trillions of dollars in the future to ensure a smooth energy transition.

He also added that the governments will face challenges in the supply of not just oil and gas but also renewables as demand will be sky-high in the coming years. 

“The amount of investment that is needed is really huge. And, we are talking about trillions of investments in years and years to come. And, part of the challenge to achieve (energy transition) is that the demand keeps increasing. We are talking about having an economy that is about double what it is today in terms of GDP (gross domestic product),” Bocca said.

He added: “Let’s say in 2050, we have about double the economy. So, it is really challenging, if we think that we have to have an energy system that is double the one of today, in a world that is much more contained when it comes to resources. And when we talk about resources, we are not talking all about oil and gas or coal. I am talking also about renewables because there is a challenge in getting all materials that are needed.” 

According to Bocca, a complete switch from fossil fuels to renewables is totally unrealistic, and he added that the real problem is not with traditional energy sources, but carbon emissions from those commodities. 

“So, we are fighting carbon emission. We are not fighting any type of energy. I would argue saying all types of energy will be needed. The energy mix of the future is very diversified because anyway, there will be more demand. So, there would be probably nuclear, there would be probably oil, probably gas, maybe still some coal, and definitely renewable. But all of these are important, (and) that we remove as much as possible the emissions because that is the problem for climate,” he noted. 

The official further added that technology is one of the enablers as the world sails toward a green and sustainable future. 

According to Bocca, wise use of advanced technologies like carbon capture and storage could help reduce emissions as a whole. 

When asked about whether nations have set realistic targets for stopping carbon emissions, Bocca said that the materialization of net-zero targets set by various countries will be directly dependent on concrete actions, and he lauded companies like Saudi Arabian Oil Co. for working hard to achieve their goals on time. 

“The feasibility depends on the action. So, definitely, there are some countries that are putting in place plans, and all the companies are putting in place plans. To move from a commitment to a result, you need those plans. You need concrete action to happen,” said Bocca. 

He added: “Some of the executives talking to me from Saudi Aramco, they have a clear plan for 2050 to be net-zero. And as an oil company itself, the biggest company in the world, more than 10 percent of oil production in the world, that is a great commitment. And knowing Saudi Aramco, it will happen, and if anything, maybe even earlier, knowing the capacity and the capability they have of implementing and executing the plans.” 

During a press conference in March, Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told Arab News the energy transition will happen only if the world ensures affordability, security of supplies and sustainability. 

Bocca went on to say that Saudi Arabia’s actions toward sustainability could be a role model for other nations in the world. 

“What I heard, what I have seen, and what I have discussed, I think definitely, the ambition level in Saudi is really very high, and the institutional capacity is very high too. So, hopefully, it will be an example for the rest of the world,” he noted. 

Bocca noted that some countries are lagging behind in the energy transition journey, and they need more plans to be executed and acted upon efficiently. 

He added that the World Economic Forum is coming up with an index on June 26 which will showcase all the progress made by countries in the sustainability journey. 

Bocca also noted that public-private collaboration is very much needed to achieve net-zero targets, and if it is not happening, it will be difficult to achieve these transition goals. 

“What we have to do is really work together. If we do not work as a team, we will never achieve these net-zero (targets) by 2050, because you know, it requires a lot of collaboration; first step, public-private collaboration,” he concluded.

Oil Updates — crude prices gain after US leaders strike debt deal

Oil Updates — crude prices gain after US leaders strike debt deal
Updated 29 May 2023

Oil Updates — crude prices gain after US leaders strike debt deal

Oil Updates — crude prices gain after US leaders strike debt deal

RIYADH: Oil prices rose on Monday after US leaders reached a tentative debt-ceiling deal, possibly averting a default in the world’s largest economy and oil consumer, although concerns about further interest rate hikes capped gains. 

Brent crude futures climbed 45 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $77.40 a barrel by 3:30 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $73.2 a barrel, up 53 cents, or 0.7 percent. 

US President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the weekend forged an agreement to suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling and cap government spending for the next two years. Both leaders expressed confidence that members of the Democratic and Republican parties would vote to support the deal. 

Reaching the deal and coming closer to avoiding a default on US debt renewed investor appetite for riskier assets such as commodities. 

Analysts said the provisional deal had taken the pressure off the markets, offering a relief rally in risk assets, including crude oil. 

“We could see more gains as a relief rally gets underway in the broader financial markets when the US comes back from the long Memorial Day weekend,” said Vandana Hari, founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda Insights. 

Last week, Brent and WTI rose by more than 1 percent, gaining for a second week. 

Asia’s crude imports jump in May 

Asia’s crude oil imports are on track for a strong rebound in May as the region’s two biggest buyers, China and India, suck up Russian cargo ships. 

A total of 27.73 million barrels per day of crude is expected to be offloaded at ports in the top-consuming region in May, according to data compiled by Refinitiv Oil Research. 

This is up 8.6 percent from the 26.39 million bpd in April and will be the strongest outcome in 2023. 

The strength was concentrated in China, the world’s biggest crude importer, expected to land 11.96 million bpd in May, up from April’s relatively soft 10.96 million and just below the 34-month high of 12.37 million bpd in March. 

Russian crude has also become the major player in India, with imports rising to 1.97 million bpd in May, up from 1.68 million bpd in April. 

This gives Russia a 38.6 percent market share of India’s total of 5.10 million bpd in May, the second-highest monthly import volume on record after April 2022.

(With input from Reuters)  

Saudi banks’ profits surge 3.4% in April to $1.55bn

Saudi banks’ profits surge 3.4% in April to $1.55bn
Updated 29 May 2023

Saudi banks’ profits surge 3.4% in April to $1.55bn

Saudi banks’ profits surge 3.4% in April to $1.55bn

RIYADH: The aggregate profit of banks operating in Saudi Arabia increased by 3.4 percent year on year in April to reach SR5.78 billion ($1.55 billion), according to the latest figures released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA. 

The report, however, noted that the aggregate profits of Saudi banks fell by SR1.65 billion month on month in April. In March, banks in Saudi Arabia reported an aggregate profit of SR7.43 billion. 

According to the SAMA report, the aggregate assets of banks operating in Saudi Arabia also increased by 10.81 percent year on year in April to hit SR3.75 trillion. 

The report added that the combined deposits in Saudi banks witnessed a 10.38 percent year-on-year rise to SR2.40 trillion by the end of April. 

Highlighting the growth of the non-oil private sector in the Kingdom, the report noted that loans provided to private firms increased by 9.67 percent year on year in April to SR2.36 trillion. 

SAMA’s monthly statistical bulletin covers the results of banks listed in the Saudi exchange and some foreign banks operating in Saudi Arabia. 

“We see downside risks to our mortgage estimate; however, we maintain our corporate loan estimate unchanged and believe the corporate credit growth will accelerate in the second half of the year. Thus, we maintain our positive view on the corporate banks,” Al-Rajhi Capital commented on the SAMA report.  

Meanwhile, the newly released report suggested that assets held by SAMA declined by SR22.8 billion month on month to SR1.82 trillion in April, compared to SR1.85 trillion the cental bank had in March. On an annual basis, its assets shrunk by SR22.8 billion.  

The report added that the central bank’s investments in foreign securities, which account for roughly 56 percent of its total assets, dropped over 9 percent year on year to around SR1.01 trillion in April.  

On the other hand, SAMA’s deposits in banks abroad rose by 10.53 percent year on year in April to SR316.80 billion, compared to SR286.62 billion in the same month of 2022.

Its miscellaneous assets also witnessed a rise in April 2023, as it went up by 46.68 percent year on year to SR208.26 billion, compared to SR141.98 billion in the same month of the previous year. 

Russia eyes opportunities at trade show in Riyadh

Russia eyes opportunities at trade show in Riyadh
Updated 28 May 2023

Russia eyes opportunities at trade show in Riyadh

Russia eyes opportunities at trade show in Riyadh
  • Exhibition to showcase industrial technologies to help boost KSA’s development

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Russia’s bilateral economic ties are set to get a new boost as the Kingdom is hosting the Made in Russia +Innoprom business mission in Riyadh on May 29 and 30. 

In an interview with Arab News, Anton Atrashkin, program director of the Innoprom International Trade Show, said that more than 100 Russian companies would be a part of the event to be held in Riyadh. 

The delegation will be led by Russia’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Alexei Gruzdev. 

Innoprom is the largest Russian industrial exhibition that has been held for the last 14 years in Yekaterinburg. 

The event aims to showcase advanced technologies developed in Russia that are ready to be used in the industrial sector. 

“All of us are very excited to see the reaction and attitude of the Saudi business community toward what we have to offer. We are really making our very first steps in the blessed land of the KSA. For many Russian delegates, it will be their first trip to the country. I would say that our business mission is opening a new page of bilateral economic relations,” said Atrashkin. 

Russian Helicopters, Transmashholding, Rostselmash Agricultural machines, Power Machines, and Kaspersky are some of the key companies participating in the industry event. 

Atrashkin also said that Russian agricultural products are getting popular in the Saudi market, and the event seeks to introduce Russian industrial technologies in the Kingdom. 

Gruzdev said the Russian-Saudi ties are based on a strong foundation, which will contribute to the development goals of both countries. 

Our business mission to Riyadh aims to strengthen economic ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Alexei Gruzdev, Russia’s deputy minister of industry and trade

“Our business mission to Riyadh aims to strengthen economic ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia, discover new business opportunities, exchange ideas, and establish long-term partnerships,” said the deputy trade minister. 

He added: “We are particularly grateful to the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce for hosting us as well as to our Saudi partners from the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and Ministry of Investment.” 

Atrashkin said that the infrastructure development currently underway in Saudi Arabia, including the giga-project NEOM, presents an opportunity for Russian companies to showcase their potential to become part of the success story of the Kingdom. 

“The whole world sees this project (NEOM) as the highest point of mankind’s ambitions. Many companies from Europe, the US, and Asia want to get a stake in this No. 1 project of the 21st century. Russian companies definitely have many competitive technologies in unmanned systems, construction, engineering, and software products,” added Atrashkin. 

He said that some business leaders visiting Saudi Arabia as part of this event are “prepared to discuss deep localization, being aware of the opportunities (available in) 36 industrial cities managed by the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones.” 

The Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones, also known as MODON, has been undertaking the development and supervision of industrial lands and integrated infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, and it oversees 36 existing and under-development industrial cities across the Kingdom, in addition to private industrial facilities. 

According to Atrashkin, some areas where Saudi businesses can use Russian technologies include IT, engineering technologies for construction industries, unmanned systems for industrial and agricultural projects, and cybersecurity, to name a few. 

During the interview, Atrashkin also lauded the reformatory measures introduced by the Saudi government, which now allows foreign investors to operate in the Kingdom. He further noted that Russian-Arab relations have always been cordial and deep. 

I would say that our business mission is opening a new page of bilateral economic relations.

Anton Atrashkin, Program director, Innoprom International Trade Show

“When I witness the negotiations between the Russian and Arabic businessmen, I always note very warm attitudes toward each other. A genuine deep respect for your partner is a common feature of our business culture. It works well and helps to avoid many mistakes,” said Atrashkin. 

He further said: “I would also mention great support from the Saudi government to make the economy open — not only to the Russians but to all the partners of the KSA. The ambition of the Saudi government is to have the best infrastructure in the world. This means millions of opportunities for the manufacturers.” 

A recent press statement from Innoprom said that Saudi Arabia is currently witnessing a real industrial revolution, offering tremendous opportunities for foreign investors. 

“Many experts call the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia one of the most promising partners. Today, a real industrial revolution is taking place in Saudi Arabia; dozens of industrial cities are springing up with special regimes for foreign investors. The Russian industrial technology developers are looking for ways to get contracts worth multimillion dollars from the Kingdom,” it said in a press statement.

Qatar’s trade balance surplus hits $6bn in April

Qatar’s trade balance surplus hits $6bn in April
Updated 28 May 2023

Qatar’s trade balance surplus hits $6bn in April

Qatar’s trade balance surplus hits $6bn in April

RIYADH: Qatar recorded a trade surplus of 22 billion Qatari riyals ($6 billion) in April 2023, according to a report released by the country’s Planning and Statistics Authority.  

The data reflects a 3.5 percent increase over March while a 35.6 percent decline on an annual basis.  

The value of merchandise imports during April 2023 also fell 6.3 percent from the previous year and 9.3 percent from the last month to reach an estimated 8.7 billion riyals.  

Meanwhile, the value of Qatar’s exports of oil, gas, and condensate tumbled in April to 18.6 billion riyals, reflecting a decrease of 33.2 percent on an annual basis.  

The report showed that China and South Korea accounted for over a third of Qatar’s exports in April.

China topped the exports with 5.6 billion riyals, accounting for 18.3 percent of the total value.  

South Korea, on the other hand, came second with 5.1 billion riyals, representing 16.6 percent of the whole pie.  

Real estate market

Meanwhile, the Gulf nation reported 343 million riyals worth of transactions in the residential real estate sector from May 14-18.

Sales operations were concentrated in Doha, Al-Rayyan, Al-Daayen, Al-Wakra, Umm Salal, Al-Khor, Al-Thakhira, and Al-Shamal.

Qatar and other Gulf countries are seeing significant growth in non-oil activities as the region diversifies its economy away from oil.  

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani stated his country’s non-oil sector grew by 9.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, and oil activities also saw a 4.8 percent rise.

Speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, Al-Thani stated that the efforts of the gas-rich Gulf state have led to the development of robust financial institutions and the establishment of a work environment that stimulates business growth.  

These initiatives have resulted in a considerable increase in both domestic and foreign investments.  

Saudi HR development fund approves 18 professional certificates to boost labor market

Saudi HR development fund approves 18 professional certificates to boost labor market
Updated 28 May 2023

Saudi HR development fund approves 18 professional certificates to boost labor market

Saudi HR development fund approves 18 professional certificates to boost labor market

RIYADH: Aiming to create more job and career advancement opportunities for the national workforce, Saudi Arabia’s Human Resources Development Fund approved 18 professional certificates. 

With this move, the total number of approved professional certificates in the Kingdom has jumped to 146, according to a statement.

The fund disclosed that the newly approved certificates serve three professional fields: finance and banking, industrial engineering and information technology. 

It said that the new accreditation will help boost the competitiveness of the Kingdom’s national workforce. 

The accreditation will also motivate the Saudi workforce and help develop its skills and experience in various sectors. 

The fund is known to collaborate with other programs to empower national cadres and further develop their professional skills and capabilities.

It is seeking to build a productive and stable workforce in line with the strategic objectives of the Kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. 

In March, the fund launched a new strategy and identity to support the development of a sustainable workforce in the Kingdom through training, empowerment and counseling programs.    

The new strategy aims to help the development of human capabilities and allow them to enter and remain sustainable in the labor market. 

In January, the fund also signed a cooperation agreement with the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program to encourage the training and recruitment of Saudis.    

Furthermore, it claimed that in 2022, it facilitated the employment of 400,000 persons in the private sector.