Oil Updates — crude ticks up as markets assess falling inventories, potential Chinese stimulus

Oil Updates — crude ticks up as markets assess falling inventories, potential Chinese stimulus
Brent futures rose 68 cents to $80.32 a barrel by 9:00 a.m. Saudi time (Shutterstock)
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Updated 21 July 2023
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Oil Updates — crude ticks up as markets assess falling inventories, potential Chinese stimulus

Oil Updates — crude ticks up as markets assess falling inventories, potential Chinese stimulus

HOUSTON/BEIJING: Brent oil prices rose in Asian trading on Friday, as markets assessed the prospect of economic stimulus in China after weak economic data, falling inventories in the US and supply cuts from key producers, according to Reuters.

Brent futures were up $1.02 at $80.66 a barrel by 14:34 Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate  crude climbed $1 to $76.65 a barrel. Prices closed marginally higher on Thursday.

China’s weak economic figures had kept a lid on prices through the week. The world’s second-biggest oil consumer this week posted disappointing growth in second-quarter gross domestic product, increasing the likelihood of the economy missing the government’s 5 percent annual growth target.

However, sentiment across commodity markets has picked up on hopes the central government would roll out more stimulus measures to support the economy.

Higher crude prices have come “on positive commentary on China stimulus and looked through impacts from the stronger US dollar index,” National Australia Bank analysts said in a note.

On Wednesday, Beijing announced that it would formulate plans to stabilize growth in 10 sectors, as well as to increase support for private firms.

Supporting prices, recent data, including lower-than-expected inflation and moderating job growth, have convinced many investors and analysts the Federal Reserve’s expected July rate hike will be the last of its current tightening cycle.

Supply fundamentals have also provided support to market sentiment.

“Evidence of supply cuts from Saudi Arabia and Russia have been the trigger for the rebound in prices this month,” analysts from ANZ Bank said in a client note.

In early July, Riyadh said it would extend a voluntary output cut of 1 million barrels per day into August, while Moscow said it would cut exports by 500,000 bpd in August.

“That tightness in supply is already showing up in inventories,” ANZ noted.

US crude inventories fell last week, supported by a jump in crude exports as well as higher refinery utilization, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.


Saudi Arabia makes $38m contribution to global education fund

Saudi Arabia makes $38m contribution to global education fund
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia makes $38m contribution to global education fund

Saudi Arabia makes $38m contribution to global education fund

RIYADH: Investments in the education sector of lower-income countries will receive a boost as Saudi Arabia officially joins the Global Partnership for Education with a $38 million contribution.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh, Laura Frigenti, the fund’s CEO, outlined that the contribution will be utilized for the body’s mission of transforming the education sector in underdeveloped countries and preparing young generations for the modern job market. 

The Global Partnership for Education is the largest fund exclusively dedicated to improving the education sector’s performance in low-income and middle-income countries.

It was created “about 22 years ago,” the CEO outlined, adding that “between our own funds and the funds that we have leveraged,” the body has invested about $11 billion in education globally. 

She said: “We are operating in about 90 countries, all the low-income and most of the middle-income countries, including countries that are in a very fragile condition. And we provide both technical assistance as well as financing, to help the government really bring back on track the performance of the education sector.”

She added: “I can tell you, that GPE is very, very active in countries that are of strategic interest to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I’m thinking about Yemen and thinking about the countries in the Middle East, Jordan, Lebanon, I’m thinking about Egypt, Sudan, etc.”

Fringeti commended the Saudi government’s emphasis on the sector and its understanding of the integral role that education plays in diversifying the economy. 

She highlighted that the Kingdom is paving the way for its “very young” population that will require the right skills in order to adapt to a fast-changing labor market.

Around the world, including in the Middle East and North Africa region, countries are confronting a mismatch between youth skills and labor market needs that risks leaving millions of youths—particularly young women—underprepared for tomorrow’s jobs, a release by the body said. 

Youth unemployment across Arab states is around 25 percent, while unemployment for young women has reached 40 percent.

With this new partnership, GPE and Saudi Arabia have committed to working hand in hand to increase investment in education as a powerful force to spur growth in the region and beyond, giving children the skills they need to grow and flourish, a release by the body noted.

The CEO further outlined enthusiasm toward the Kingdom “finally” joining the partnership due to the fact that Saudi Arabia serves as an example that can be utilized as a model for nations globally, saying: “This is one of the reasons why I am so excited about Saudi finally, officially joining the partnership, because there is a lot of the experiences that have been made here that can actually be relevant for other countries, and I’m very excited about the fact that the Saudi being part of the partnership will actually be able to tell their story to the world.”

She concluded: “Saudi is a little bit of a unique case in a sense that it is a country that doesn’t lack resources. So this massive investment may not be replicated at the same scale in other parts of the world. But I think the focus, the understanding of the connection and the trajectory that the government has put in place here is definitely something that will be very relevant to many.” 


Saudi defense minister appointed new SAMI chairman after board reshuffle

Saudi defense minister appointed new SAMI chairman after board reshuffle
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi defense minister appointed new SAMI chairman after board reshuffle

Saudi defense minister appointed new SAMI chairman after board reshuffle

RIYADH: Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman is the new chairman of Saudi Arabian Military Industries after a reshuffle of its board of directors, according to a statement.

The minister has replaced Ahmed Al-Khateeb in the key position in the defense and security company, which is entirely owned by the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.

SAMI focuses on advancing and reinforcing Saudi Arabia's defense sector, and plays a crucial role in driving the localization of 50 percent of the Kingdom’s expenditures in this economic sphere – a pivotal objective of Saudi Vision 2030. ‎

Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar bin Ibrahim Alkhorayef is also on the board, as is Chairman of the General Authority for Civil Aviation Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Duailej, and Assistant Minister of Defense Talal bin Abdullah Al-Otaibi.

Membership also includes Khaled bin Hussain Al-Biyari, Yasser bin Abdullah Al-Salman, and Omar bin Hamad Al-Madi, as well as Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Suqair.

Representing SAMI, CEO Walid bin Abdulmajeed Abu Khalid extended gratitude to the prior board of directors for their tenure, which played a pivotal role in positioning the company among the elite ranks of the top 100 specialized defense firms worldwide.

Established in 2017, the company operates across aviation, aerospace, land systems, maritime, and defense systems, in addition to advanced electronics. 

The company is ranked 79th among the top 100 specialized defense firms globally, and is aiming to reach the top 25 by 2030.

Early this month, SAMI signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korean automobile manufacturer Kia Corp. at the World Defense Show 2024 in Riyadh with the aim to boost cooperation in the local production of military vehicles, thereby strengthening Saudi Arabia’s defense and security sector.


Riyadh in race with top global cities to hire new talent, says mayor

Riyadh in race with top global cities to hire new talent, says mayor
Updated 28 February 2024
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Riyadh in race with top global cities to hire new talent, says mayor

Riyadh in race with top global cities to hire new talent, says mayor

RIYADH: The Saudi capital finds itself in global competition with cities like New York and Tokyo for a skilled workforce, according to its mayor.

With a population exceeding 7 million, the city is experiencing an ongoing transformation as it becomes a hub for attracting talent and boosting entrepreneurship.

In an interview with Arab News at the Human Capability Initiative taking place from Feb. 28 -29, Riyadh Mayor Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz bin Ayyaf said: “Competition for talent is no longer regional or local. It’s global. We’re competing with New York, with Tokyo, with Paris, with Chicago. So it’s a global competition.”

He added: “Riyadh is going through massive changes. It’s historic in its scale, in its scope, and its impact. We realize in Riyadh that the trigger behind all of this is having the right workforce, having the right talent, having the right engine behind what we are doing.”

The mayor delved into the city’s strategic framework, saying: “We have designated a lot of efforts in the city to attract and to retain and to develop the right workforce, which is aligned with the theme of what happens today.”

Speaking of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, he said it is not an endpoint but a milestone in the longer trajectory.

Prince Faisal revealed that designated programs look at attracting, retaining, and developing the workforce with specific projects and key performance indicators.

“For us, this is the key enabler that will unleash everything else that’s happening in the city,” he commented.

Reflecting on the global landscape, Prince Faisal highlighted the importance of job opportunities as a catalyst for attracting a skilled workforce.

“If you look at attracting the right workforce and attracting talent, there are multiple layers to that. The main trigger is job opportunities. Usually, talent moves for job opportunities and for this the current changes and the transformation, the current vision is taking care of it. We have an abundance of the right jobs for the right caliber,” he remarked.

Furthermore, the mayor outlined the fundamental factors that individuals consider when deciding on a location for relocation or settling down, saying: “You think about safety, housing, education, and health. And in all four aspects, there are concrete efforts to build on the good foundation that we have in the city today and to take it to the next level.”

He added: “The second layer is the quality of life where people would like to go for the necessities, but they will stay because of the quality of life.”

Discussing doubling the capital’s inhabitants number, Prince Faisal said: “It’s not a goal in itself. It’s an assumption that’s based on our sort of plans and details,” adding: “I think reaching 15 million (inhabitants) is not a goal in itself, but it’s an assumption based on historical trends.”

He explained that in the past 40 to 50 years, the number of inhabitants in Riyadh has been doubling almost every 10 years, which occurred without anticipation.

“What we’ve done this time is saying, OK, we’ve doubled for the past decades, let’s assume we’re going to double again in the next decade and work for that to provide infrastructure, provide and boost the economy, work on projects to accommodate for that,” he said.

In a panel titled “Shaping places, shaping our future to attract talent and foster innovation” at the forum, the mayor shared perspectives on the city’s trajectory and strategies for nurturing talent and innovation.

Prince Faisal also provided insights into the recruitment process, emphasizing the significance of competency as a baseline requirement, saying: “Every candidate and person and CV that you look at passes the filter of competency, or else you wouldn’t even see the CV.”

He added: “Once you see and you meet that person, they’re competent, there is no question about that, so you look for added layers.”

The top official explained further: “What I personally look for are two things. One, I look very clearly at culture. I think culture is very important in organizations. I think it is what makes or breaks successful organizations.”

He added: “Number two, that I really look for are soft skills. We agreed that every person that you meet is competent, but what distinguishes an executive from a leader are soft skills.”

The mayor underscored the importance of passion and purpose in one’s career trajectory, highlighting that it is “very important to love what you do,” because it’s “very critical to operate in a space where you enjoy.”

Discussing global tendencies affecting the workforce, Prince Faisal highlighted that “there are multiple trends that are impacting the workforce in general, one of them is AI, but others, such as transportation, such as globalization, those and many more. Those are all trends that are changing the narratives and trends of workforces. What’s happening is that talent has a much wider pool to choose from.”

Prince Faisal highlighted Riyadh’s unique blend of tradition and modernity, offering a compelling proposition for prospective talents.

He said: “We are a global city, but with roots, with cultural heritage, with traditions. And I think that combination and that juxtaposition together is what creates a competitive advantage for Riyadh.”

The Human Capability Initiative seeks to enhance and elevate capabilities universally while delving into opportunities across diverse domains such as skill development and the future of work, as well as education, talent, and technology.

The event will also bring together policymakers, thought leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs to catalyze international collaboration and maximize resilience while exploring opportunities and promoting innovative policy design and solutions.

The forum is hosting 7,000 participants from more than 70 countries, according to the mayor.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index gains 9.87 points with trading volume at $2.23bn

Closing Bell: Saudi main index gains 9.87 points with trading volume at $2.23bn
Updated 28 February 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index gains 9.87 points with trading volume at $2.23bn

Closing Bell: Saudi main index gains 9.87 points with trading volume at $2.23bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index continued its upward trend for the second consecutive day, gaining 9.87 points to close at 12,611.42.  

The benchmark index posted a trading value of SR8.38 billion ($2.23 billion), with 163 stocks advancing and 54 declining. 

Nomu, Saudi Arabia’s parallel market, gained 37.75 points, closing at 26,292.03, while the MSCI Tadawul Index shed 4.96 points, closing at 1,622.75. 

The top-performing stock of the day was Middle East Pharmaceutical Industries Co., or Avalon Pharma, which made its main market debut on Tuesday. The company’s share price surged by 29.83 percent to SR138.40. 

Other notable performers included Saudi Fisheries Co. and Halwani Bros. Co., whose share prices surged by 9.86 percent and 8.26 percent, respectively.  

Conversely, Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co. experienced a decline, with its share price falling by 3.18 percent to SR28.90. 

On the announcements front, Saudi Aramco Base Oil Co., also known as Luberef, reported a net profit decline of 23.68 percent to SR1.50 billion in 2023 compared to the previous year.  

In a Tadawul statement, the company attributed this decrease to lower prices for base oils and secondary products.  

Astra Industrial Group also released its financial performance report for 2023, revealing a marginal 0.21 percent increase in net profit compared to 2022. The growth was attributed to higher sales and gross profit in the pharmaceutical and steel industries segments. 

Retal Urban Development Co. reported an 18 percent year-on-year decline in net profit to SR202.4 million in 2023.  

Meanwhile, Alinma Bank initiated the offer of dollar-denominated Additional Tier 1 capital certificates, each with a nominal value of $200,000, to be listed on the London Stock Exchange’s International Securities Market. 


French, Lebanese, and Saudi business ties explored at special forum

French, Lebanese, and Saudi business ties explored at special forum
Updated 28 February 2024
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French, Lebanese, and Saudi business ties explored at special forum

French, Lebanese, and Saudi business ties explored at special forum

RIYADH: Business ties between Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and France were the central focus of a special meeting held in the Kingdom attended by company executives and government figures.

Organized by the Saudi-French Business Council and CCI France Liban – which promotes Franco-Lebanese enterprise – the Riyadh-based event incorporated a delegation of various companies from several sectors, including IT, telecommunications, and healthcare.

In a speech, Lebanon’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Fawzi Kabbara, said the presence of such firms, including Beirut-based companies Kawas Consulting, Man Enterprise, and Medischool, underlined the deep-rooted economic and commercial ties that exist between his country, the Kingdom, and France. 

He added: “This event serves as a platform to showcase the innovative products, services, and expertise that these companies offer. 

“Our objective is to introduce French-Lebanese companies to the main actors of the Saudi business community and to facilitate the establishment of significant links and collaborations between the two parties.”

Speaking to Arab News, President of CCI France Liban Maxence Duault, told Arab News of the importance of understanding the rapidly evolving Saudi ecosystem before establishing long-term partnerships. 

He stressed the need for instilling sustainable business practices and suggested that fostering positive developments in the Lebanese market would help support the formal economy.

 “The objective of the Chamber of Commerce in Lebanon is simply that of building, building economic relations, creating business for the benefit of Franco-Lebanese companies that are currently suffering and finding themselves in a crisis situation,” Duault added. 

One firm to be represented at the meeting was consulting and financial advisory company Symphony Business and Finance Consulting Sarl. 

Elisabeth Prigent Olaussen, director of strategy and business development at the Beirut-based firm, told Arab News her firm had specialist expertise in the insurance sector, which she was keen to bring to Saudi Arabia.

“There are huge real estate development projects (in the Kingdom), magnificent infrastructure projects. For us who have this activity in fact to intervene in the event of disasters, an expansion such as this fully justifies our arrival on the market to assist in case of disaster,” she said.

According to Marie Harfouche, founder and managing director of Travel Story, the Kingdom is very much the place to be when it comes to expansion in her sector.

She told Arab News: “As a member and a major player in the travel and tourism industry, I started in Beirut, then in the UAE. I think everything that’s happening today is in Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is also making changes. I am open to any type of partnership, whether at the individual level or as part of a larger group with an investor, a Saudi partner.”

The meeting was not purely focused on non-Saudi companies looking for opportunities in the Kingdom. There were also executives present seeking to bring French and Lebanese firms into their projects.

Ronald Michel Gharib, chief financial officer of transportation company RATP Dev, said: “We are present at this event to make contacts with French institutions and Lebanese companies that can be useful to our projects. 

“We are metro and bus operators and we anticipate very great opportunities along AlUla and Riyadh and all the investments that are coming into the Kingdom. All the business opportunities that interest us mainly concern transport services.”

Gharib also highlighted that the company is actively involved in mobility solutions and engaged in technology integration for innovative transport systems. 

He added: “We meet with universities and training centers to develop our resources and determine our training needs. We are here at this event because we are planning more partnerships with contractors, subcontractors, wherever they can help us improve our supply chain.”