Artificial intelligence offers vast opportunities, poses its share of risks: M3 Capital executive

Artificial intelligence offers vast opportunities, poses its share of risks: M3 Capital executive
Patrick Zhong, founding general partner at M31 Capital. (AN Photo)
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Updated 12 June 2023
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Artificial intelligence offers vast opportunities, poses its share of risks: M3 Capital executive

Artificial intelligence offers vast opportunities, poses its share of risks: M3 Capital executive

RIYADH: Acknowledging the crucial role of artificial intelligence in all spheres of life, an industry expert has urged for the assessment of the risks associated with the technology and its impact on the overall economy. 

Speaking at a panel titled “Digital Economy and AI — Unlocking Productivity and Growth” on the second day of the 10th Arab-China Business Conference, Patrick Zhong, founding general partner at M31 Capital, highlighted the pros and cons of AI.  

He said: “We’re incredibly excited about the opportunities that come with AI, and certainly, there are a lot of risks associated with it.” 

Zhong added that the technology has its share of risks and rewards, but the risks must be closely examined and evaluated as industries board the innovation cycle. 

M31 Capital is a Shanghai-based private equity firm focusing on crypto-assets, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. 

At the same panel, Aramco Digital board member Margarete Schramböck highlighted that infrastructure, digital services, governments, and trade are all prerequisites to an evolving digital economy. 

“Digital economy is not just e-commerce or things we might think of, but several layers. We need a good infrastructure in all the countries around the world for people to participate in a digital economy,” Schramböck said. 

She continued that digital services are another crucial factor that can further propel the evolution of the digital economy. 

“Third is the government, which plays an important role, and they should be at the forefront. Saudi Arabia is a really good example of this,” the official stressed. 

Tonny Bao, president of government affairs at Huawei and also on the panel, emphasized the role of a sound information technology infrastructure in spurring digital technology. 

“Digital infrastructure is a foundation; otherwise, how would you generate the data, analyze the data, and transmit the data without good infrastructure,” Bao explained. 

Investment opportunities, economic growth, and closer trade relations were on the agenda of the 10th Arab-China Business Conference, which concluded on June 12.    

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the two-day event explored synergies in technology, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, agriculture, real estate and strategic minerals.    

Organized by the Saudi Ministry of Investment in partnership with the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade and a host of other regional associations, the conference welcomed more than 2,000 private sector leaders and government officials.  


NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan

NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan
Updated 21 February 2024
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NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan

NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Gulf of Aqaba coastline is poised for enhancement with the introduction of a new guest retreat, Elanan. 

The latest addition to NEOM features 80 bespoke rooms and suites and is designed with a well-being theme, offering a nature resort.

Elanan adopts a contemporary approach to wellness, incorporating new technologies that promote relaxation.

Moreover, Elanan’s innovative architecture seamlessly integrates with the surrounding environment. By incorporating these unique design methods, Elanan also showcases detailed sculptures that merge with the outdoor areas. 

Although the overall design is modern, the development is committed to preserving the natural landscape.

Elanan follows the recent announcements of Leyja, Epicon, Siranna, and Utamo, all of which are sustainable tourism destinations in the Gulf of Aqaba.

On Feb. 18, the Kingdom’s $500 billion giga-project introduced a luxury resort in Trojena. It is set to unveil a 105-key hotel with Raffles Hotels and Resorts in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

Scheduled to open in 2027, Raffles Trojena aims to provide guests with opportunities to engage with the region’s natural beauty through its ring-shaped architecture.

Omer Acar, CEO of Raffles Hotels & Resorts, said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with NEOM on the creation of Raffles Trojena, an architecturally significant resort that will showcase the very best in modern luxury hospitality and underscores Raffles’ commitment to growing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

He added: “Trojena is set to be a destination unlike any other, and this mountainside retreat continues the Raffles legacy of growing in the world’s most compelling locales, providing our guests with an opportunity to ignite their passions through highly personalized service and experiences.”  

The company said the property will embody the brand’s distinctive characteristics, encompassing its renowned butler service, diverse dining experiences, and a dedicated focus on local arts and culture.

It joins as the latest hospitality collaborator within NEOM’s Hotel Division, located in the Discover cluster — a segment of Trojena dedicated to natural exploration.


Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 

Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 
Updated 21 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 

Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 

RIYADH: An increase in non-cash transactions has helped Saudi Arabia rise nine places to third in the Global Retail Development Index.  

The GRDI leverages a comprehensive set of criteria, including economic health, consumer wealth, and regulatory framework, to gauge the retail potential of 35 to 40 emerging economies, according to a statement. 

The 2023 edition of the bi-yearly survey findings, launched by the US consulting firm, mirrors the upward trajectory of global retail development in the Middle East and North Africa region.

They also cement the country’s strategic pivot away from oil dependency, which currently accounts for approximately 40 percent of its gross domestic product, and the establishment of a favorable business climate.

“The MENA region, and notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are at the forefront of retail’s next wave of growth,” said Debashish Mukherjee, partner at Kearney Middle East and Africa and Consumer and Retail Practice Lead.

“The 2023 GRDI illustrates how these markets are redefining the retail ecosystem with strategic digital adoption and consumer-centric approaches,” Mukherjee added. 

Mukherjee also stressed that the rise in this year’s GRDI is a clear indicator of its dynamic retail environment as well as its strategic initiatives to foster a competitive and diverse economic landscape. 

Moreover, the report attributed the Kingdom’s climb in the index to non-cash retail transactions surging from 16 percent in 2016 to 62 percent in 2022, aiming for 70 percent by 2030.

An additional reason for the jump was the country’s growth in the employment of Saudi nationals in high-skilled jobs and doubling female workforce participation, exceeding Vision 2030 targets.

On top of that, the growing popularity and adoption of buy now pay later services and the significant increases in investment deals and licenses in 2022 aided the Kingdom’s jump in the index. 

Other reasons entailed digital and artificial intelligence integration within the Saudi consumer market, the entry of international brands, and the expansion of entertainment and lifestyle sectors. 

The GRDI acts as a guide for retailers looking to navigate the complexities and capitalize on the prospects within these emerging markets.


Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn

Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn
Updated 21 February 2024
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Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn

Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index concluded Wednesday’s trading session at 12,634.33, marking an increase of 27.83 points or 0.22 percent. 

MSCI Tadawul 30 Index also increased slightly by 1.84 to close at 1,628.17 points. On the other hand, the parallel market, Nomu, closed the day at 25,507.66 points, reflecting a decrease of 80.45 or 0.31 percent.

TASI reported a trading volume of SR8.60 billion ($2.294 billion), with 90 stocks gaining and 130 losing steam. 

The best-performing stock was Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co., whose share price surged 9.83 percent to SR26.6.  

Today’s second top performer was Al-Baha Investment and Development Co., whose share price soared 7.14 percent to SR0.15.   

Other gainers included Salama Cooperative Insurance Co. and Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co., as their share prices increased by 4.89 and 4.41 percent to SR26.80 and SR101.8.

The worst performer was Al Gassim Investment Holding Co., whose share price dropped by 3.96 percent to SR19.40. It was followed by Maharah Human Resources Co., whose share price decreased by 3.26 percent to reach SR6.83.

On the parallel market, Nomu, WSM for Information Technology Co., emerged as the top gainer, with its initial share price surging by 26.53 percent to SR62, as it was the company’s first day of listing and commencement of trading.

International Human Resources Co. was the major loser on Nomu, as its share price slipped by 3.76 percent to SR4.10.  

On the announcement front, the Saudi National Bank announced the completion of its US dollar-denominated sukuk offer under its international sukuk program.

The bank raised $850 million from the sale of five-year dollar bonds. 

The financial institution received applications amounting to $3.6 billion, bringing the issuance coverage to more than four times or 4,250 total bonds.

According to a statement on Tadawul, these bonds’ final yield came in at 5.129 percent per annum with five years of maturity.

“The sukuk may be redeemed prior to the scheduled maturity date in certain cases and the sukuk will be listed on the London Stock Exchange’s International Securities Market,” the bank stated.


Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital

Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital
Updated 21 February 2024
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Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital

Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital

RIYADH: The retail sector in Saudi Arabia is projected to have experienced robust net profit growth in the fourth quarter of 2023, driven by strong sales, according to Al Rajhi Capital.  

In its latest report covering earnings previews for leading firms in Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh-based investment advisory service provider anticipates there was a 44.3 percent year-on-year increase in the fourth-quarter net profit of supermarket chain BinDawood Holding, reaching SR85 million ($22.66 million). 

The financial services firm added that this substantial increase in the net profit of BinDawood Holding is attributed to a surge in sales from its Harmain stores. 

It forecasts that Leejam Sports Co., another key player in the Kingdom’s retail sector, is expected to have achieved a net profit of SR124 million in the last three months of 2023, indicating a 15.3 percent increase compared to the preceding year. 

The report projects that the net profit of Abdullah Al-Othaim Markets, another prominent entity in the Kingdom’s retail sector, is expected to have experienced a marginal 0.8 percent year-on-year decline in the fourth quarter, reaching SR170 million. 

The investment advisory firm also noted that the revenue of energy firms in the Kingdom was likely to have fallen in the last quarter of 2023, with Saudi Aramco expected to report a net profit of SR113 billion in the period, reflecting a 9.8 percent year-on-year drop. 

The projection attributes the decline to the crude production cuts implemented by Saudi Arabia, in alignment with the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Production Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+.  

In an effort to maintain market stability, Saudi Arabia reduced oil output by 500,000 barrels per day from April 2023, a measure that has been extended until the end of December 2024. 

The Kingdom also committed to an additional oil output cut of 1 million bpd in July, which continued until the end of December 2023.  

On the other hand, ADES Holding, which went public in 2023, is expected to report a net profit of SR1.29 billion in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period of the previous year. 

However, Al Rajhi Capital pointed out that the net profit of Saudi Basic Industries Corp. is anticipated to have declined by 24.6 percent year-on-year over the final three months of 2023, reaching SR704 million.  

On a positive note, the projections suggest that SABIC’s net profit will have experienced a 31.3 percent increase in the fourth quarter compared to the previous three months. 

Saudi International Petrochemical Co., also known as Sipchem, is expected to register a significant decrease in net profit, with a decline of 52.1 percent to SR229 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in the previous year.  

Additionally, several prominent names in the Saudi cement sector are anticipated to have seen a decline in net profit during the same period. 

Al Rajhi Capital predicts there was a significant drop in the net profit of Arabian Cement Co. by 49.9 percent to SR18 million. Similarly, Yamama Cement Co.’s net profit is expected to have declined by 40.4 percent to SR80 million by end of 2023. 

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Saudi Telecom Co.’s net profit is anticipated to have stood at SR2.69 billion, reflecting a 2.4 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2022 and a 36.9 percent decline from the previous quarter. 

Meanwhile, Mobily’s net profit report is expected to show an increase of 0.4 percent to SR608 million during the last three months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. 

In the food and agriculture sector, National Agricultural Development Co.’s net profit is projected to have risen by 201.8 percent year-on-year to SR76 million, and Savola Group’s net profit is anticipated to have surged 88.2 percent, reaching SR88.2 million. 


GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets

GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets
Updated 21 February 2024
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GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets

GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council has reiterated its resolve to collaborate with oil-producing nations to stabilize global energy markets and ensure secure and stable supplies.

The confirmation was made during a gathering hosted by GCC Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi in Riyadh for the secretary-general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Haitham Al-Ghais.

The reception took place on Feb. 20 at the General Secretariat headquarters in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, ways to enhance cooperation between the GCC and OPEC in several areas were discussed, specifically the continuous coordination of oil policies between the GCC and the organization.

This coordination aims to ensure secure and stable energy supplies, especially in light of the rapid regional and international developments, as well as circumstances that have impacted global energy markets.

Al-Budaiwi praised OPEC for its significant contributions and indispensable role in ensuring stability and equilibrium in the oil markets and for its proactive approach to addressing future challenges in collaboration with member nations.

On Feb. 20, the price of OPEC basket of 12 crudes stood at $82.82 a barrel, compared with $82.89 the previous day, according to calculations by the organization’s secretariat, published on its website on Feb. 21.

The Brent crude oil benchmark has risen about 6 percent since the start of the year as attacks on shipping in the Red Sea have raised supply fears, with January outages in major non-OPEC oil-producing countries such as the US adding to concerns.