Saudi delegation concludes Latin America tour in Panama

Update Saudi delegation concludes Latin America tour in Panama
Saudi investment minister Khalid Al-Falih led a delegation of top government officials, national companies and private sector players in a tour of Latin America. (SPA)
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Updated 11 August 2023
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Saudi delegation concludes Latin America tour in Panama

Saudi delegation concludes Latin America tour in Panama
  • Discussions held on cooperation in energy production, logistics, connectivity, real estate
  • Panama ‘a major entrance for a market of more than 600m Latin Americans,’ expert tells Arab News

SAO PAULO: A Saudi delegation headed by Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih concluded a 10-day tour of Latin America on Wednesday with a visit to Panama, considered by analysts to be a major communications and logistics hub in the region.

Accompanied by a number of Saudi officials, Al-Falih met in Panama City with Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney Mencomo and Commerce and Industry Minister Federico Alfaro Boyd.

They discussed cooperation opportunities regarding energy production, logistics, connectivity and real estate, as well as the potential establishment of Saudi companies in the Central American nation.

Saudi Arabia and Panama formalized diplomatic relations in 2015. In February 2022, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir visited Panama and talked with then-counterpart Erika Mouynes about decarbonization and energy transition. Panama offered to function as a distribution hub for the Kingdom’s green hydrogen.

In April 2023, the two countries held the Panama-Saudi Arabia Investment Meeting. Panamanian authorities presented to a delegation of businesspeople led by Saudi Deputy Investment Minister Badr Al-Badr all the benefits the Central American country could offer if they decided to establish their companies there.

Company owners of sectors such as logistics, agribusiness, petrochemicals and energy were present.

In May 2023, Al-Jubeir visited Panama again and discussed with Tewaney and other officials potential cooperation in different fields.

FASTFACT

$13bn More diplomatic exchanges and free trade agreements between the Gulf states and Latin America and the Caribbean could increase annual foreign commerce by $13 billion.

Carlos Guevara-Mann, professor of political science and international affairs at Florida State University in Panama, said the country is almost a mandatory destination for those who want to increase their presence in Latin America.

“Panama has been a major point of communications and redistribution of goods in the Americas since the times of Spanish colonization. It keeps being attractive for any company that needs to get into Latin American markets,” he added.

Historian, journalist and Middle East expert Alberto Jabiles said Panama consolidated its logistical role in recent decades with several ports and one of the most important airports in Latin America.

“The airport of Tocumen has flights to every major Latin American city, besides destinations all over the world, including the Middle East,” he told Arab News. In the first half of this year alone, the airport handled 8.5 million travelers.

A few years ago, Panama modernized its canal, which has connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans since 1914. The canal is now capable of receiving larger ships.

“For all these reasons, Panama can’t be seen merely as a market of 4.3 million people. It’s a major entrance for a market of more than 600 million Latin Americans,” Jabiles said.

A report by the Inter-American Development Bank showed that more diplomatic exchanges and free trade agreements between the Gulf states and Latin America and the Caribbean could increase annual foreign commerce by $13 billion.

The report said Latin American and Gulf nations should “sign agreements for trade, investment and double taxation; increase the number of diplomatic missions; raise the number of direct flights; and strengthen communications between companies in order to tighten commercial ties.”

Al-Falih’s Latin America tour included heavyweight trade partners of Saudi Arabia such as Brazil and Argentina, as well as smaller nations such as Uruguay, Costa Rica and Panama — a sign that the Kingdom seeks to establish closer ties to the region and cooperate at different levels. In Costa Rica, it was announced that Saudi Arabia will establish an embassy there.

For Latin American countries, which need to develop their infrastructure and invest in energy transition, Saudi financial support may be vital.

“For Panama, it’s important to diversify its economy and sources of investment, so creating ties with other nations, like Saudi Arabia, is important,” Guevara-Mann said.

The Central American nation may present a few advantages over some of its neighbors, said Jabiles, adding: “Panama has a consolidated service-based economy and is a major finance center.”


S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable

S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable
Updated 26 May 2024
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S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable

S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable

RIYADH: Bahrain’s commitment to fiscal consolidation has witnessed S&P Global Ratings reaffirm its “B+/B” credit standing with a stable outlook despite challenges in 2023. 

However, the agency added that the transfer and convertibility assessment on the Gulf state remains “BB-.” It also anticipated structural reforms aimed at strengthening the non-oil revenue base, albeit at a slower pace. 

In its report, S&P said that the stable outlook reflects the expectation that Bahrain will persist in implementing measures to reduce its budget deficit, possibly benefiting from additional support from other Gulf Cooperation Council sovereigns if necessary. 

Conversely, the ratings could improve if Bahrain’s fiscal situation exceeds expectations, leading to a reduction in net debt relative to gross domestic product, or if current account surpluses widen, bolstering the country’s external position, according to the study. 

However, potential downside risks include a significant increase in government debt or a sharp decline in foreign currency reserves, which could hinder debt servicing and monetary policy effectiveness. 

“We could lower the ratings if the government’s net debt and debt-servicing burden increased significantly beyond our assumptions, presenting funding challenges. We could also take a negative rating action if foreign currency reserves declined sharply, limiting the government’s ability to service its external debt and weighing on monetary policy effectiveness,” the report said. 

On the other hand, the rating agency outlined an optimistic scenario for Bahrain, stating that it might upgrade the country’s standing if the government surpasses expectations by substantially reducing net debt relative to GDP through improved budgetary performance. 

Additionally, the ratings could increase if the current account surpluses are expanded significantly and consistently enhance the island state’s external position. 

The agency noted that its assessment is based on the anticipation that the Bahraini government will fortify its financial stance up to 2027, notwithstanding the considerable deficit expansion in 2023. 

It added that the shortfall experienced last year was primarily influenced by elevated interest rates, a one-off lump sum social support program, and an upward adjustment in pensioners’ inflationary allowance that will continue into 2024. 

Considering this initial setback, S&P foresees broader fiscal deficits averaging 4.4 percent of GDP from 2024 to 2027, compared to 3.8 percent in its prior evaluation. 

“A decline in oil production due to ongoing maintenance at the Abu Safa oil field also affects our revenue assumptions. However, we believe the government will continue pursuing fiscal and structural reforms to strengthen its non-oil revenue base, allowing for continued, albeit slower, fiscal consolidation over our forecast horizon to 2027,” the agency said in its report. 

Moreover, S&P assumed that Bahrain would receive the remaining $2.8 billion of the $10.2 billion GCC support package pledged by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait in 2018, and there remains potential for additional financial support beyond the program’s expiration at year-end 2024 if needed. 

“These interest-free loans have historically covered about 50 percent of the government’s gross external financing needs, although we note disbursements are not tied to, and do not necessarily align with, Bahrain’s external debt repayments,” the agency said. 

It further highlighted that Bahrain encounters annual external debt redemptions ranging from $2.0 billion to $2.5 billion, equivalent to 5 percent of GDP, stemming from a mix of Eurobond and sukuk issuances. 

In February, S&P explained that Bahrain successfully raised $2 billion by issuing a seven-year, $1 billion sukuk at 6.0 percent and a 12-year, $1 billion conventional bond at 7.5 percent. 

“We understand the issuance was met by strong investor demand, supporting more favorable pricing dynamics. In our base-case, we assume Bahrain will maintain strong access to international capital market funding,” it added. 

It explained that the country’s relatively diverse economy, proximity to Saudi Arabia’s market, robust financial sector oversight, and educated workforce provide a foundation for resilience. However, stagnant GDP per capita levels, adjusted for population growth, suggest underlying challenges in achieving broad-based economic prosperity. 

“However, when GDP performance from 2017-2027 is adjusted for population levels, GDP per capita levels are largely flat, suggesting that labor supply, rather than productivity, remains the key growth spur. We view Bahrain as having a relatively wealthy economy and estimate GDP per capita at $27,58 in 2024,” it said. 


 


Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 

Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 
Updated 42 min 38 sec ago
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Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 

Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 

RIYADH: Saudi exploration service provider ADES Holding Co. has secured a SR2.42 billion ($645.3 million) deal for six onshore drilling contracts with Kuwait Oil Co., marking an expansion of its operations. 

ADES specified that the award includes new agreements for four existing operating rigs in Kuwait and two newly constructed units, according to a release to Tadawul. 

The contracts are slated to commence in the second and third quarters of 2025, with a firm five-year duration and an optional one-year extension. 

Mohamed Farouk, CEO of ADES Holding, said: “Securing such long-term contracts not only adds to the sustainability of our backlog and visibility of our business but is also a testament to ADES’ exceptional safety and operational performance, which will see us triple the size of our contracted fleet in Kuwait from four to 12 rigs upon deployment in 2025.”  

He added: “With these new awards, ADES has further solidified its position in the niche Kuwaiti onshore market, characterized by high barriers to entry and deep drilling deployments where ADES has consistently proven its abilities.” 

All six contracts are designated for deep drilling rigs in the 3,000-horsepower category, a niche market segment experiencing notable growth in Kuwait. 

The estimated backlog for these contracts stands at SR2.42 billion, encompassing both the firm and optional periods. 

In just 24 months, the company has seen a three-fold increase in its contracted fleet with Kuwait Oil Co. 

This growth trajectory is particularly striking, rising from four rigs in early 2023 to an anticipated 12 rigs by 2025. 

ADES operates 10 onshore rigs with KOC in Kuwait, emphasizing the company’s strengthened presence and strategic alignment with Kuwait’s energy sector objectives. 

In May, ADES expanded its regional footprint by sealing two contracts worth SR511 million, highlighting its growing influence in the oil and gas sector. 

The company signed a deal with TotalEnergies to operate an offshore drilling platform in Qatar valued at up to SR350 million. The agreement includes a mandatory one-year period with an option to extend it for up to an additional 18 months, according to a bourse filing.  

Operations are slated to begin in the second half of 2024. The company emphasized that no related parties were involved in this agreement. 

Moreover, ADES announced in a separate release that it was awarded a 21-month contract to employ an elevated platform in the Gulf of Suez. The company received a direct award letter from the Suez Oil Co, also known as SUCO, in Egypt, with operations expected to commence in the coming weeks. In a statement on Tadawul, the company disclosed that the deal is valued at SR161 million. 

This new engagement in Egypt is part of ADES’s broader regional strategy to reactivate its operations. It follows recent contracts in Thailand and Qatar, bringing the total number of reactivated platforms to three of the five recently suspended in Saudi Arabia. 


Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister

Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister
Updated 14 min 25 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister

Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on track to help propel sustainable development globally through its pivotal role in artificial intelligence, according to the Kingdom’s finance minister. 

In a session titled “AI and Development: Challenges and Opportunities” at the third meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors under the Italian presidency, held last week in Stresa, Italy, Mohammed Al-Jadaan explained that the Kingdom is committed to advancing technology, particularly AI, to foster inclusive growth, according to a statement.  

This aligns with Saudi Arabia’s National Strategy for Data and AI, which aims to establish the Kingdom as a global tech leader by 2030. 

Additionally, the minister participated in a session titled “Addressing Financing Needs of Vulnerable Countries,” where he stressed the potential of a proposed multidimensional approach to dealing with debt vulnerabilities.  

He underscored that this strategy aims to create fiscal space, improve resilience, and progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.  

In addition, Al-Jadaan also participated in a session titled “Initiatives for Development with a Focus on Africa.” 

In this meeting, the minister shed light on how Africa has great potential, represented by its ambitious people, young population, and rich natural resources.  

Furthermore, the finance minister joined a session titled “Cross-Border Payments,” where he highlighted the G20’s agreement under the Saudi Presidency in 2020 on a clear roadmap to support cross-border payments. 

Al-Jadaan elaborated that this roadmap led to the establishment of the Cross-Border Payments Coordination Group, which collaborates with international organizations to enhance global payments. He stressed the importance of building on current efforts in this area. 

On the sidelines of the meeting, Al-Jadaan met with several ministers and leaders of global organizations to discuss key economic and financial developments and topics of mutual interest. 

Throughout the three-day meeting, the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors exchanged views on the global implications of AI, ongoing development initiatives, and cross-border payments. They agreed to continue close cooperation in relevant multilateral fora, such as the G20. 

During the sessions, the ministers and governors reaffirmed their commitment to multilateral cooperation to promote sustainable development, recognizing the multiple challenges requiring a coordinated response from the international community. 


Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support

Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support
Updated 26 May 2024
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Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support

Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support

RIYADH: Saudi Electricity Co. received an upgrade from Fitch Ratings, raising its long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating to “A+” from “A,” citing government support. 

In its latest report, the agency also upgraded the company’s national long-term rating to “AAA” from “AA,” with a stable outlook. 

According to Fitch, SEC’s standalone credit profile remains at “bbb” due to its dominant position in Saudi Arabia’s electricity market. 

“The upgrade follows our reassessment of SEC’s links with the Saudi Arabian government under Fitch’s recently updated Government-Related Entities Rating Criteria. SEC’s ratings are now equalized with those of Saudi Arabia (A+/Stable),” stated Fitch in the report. 

According to the US-based agency, an “A+” rating denotes expectations of low default risk and a strong capacity to meet financial commitments. 

On the other hand, a “bbb” rating indicates that while default risk expectations are currently low and the capacity to meet financial commitments is adequate, adverse business or economic conditions could impair this capacity. 

Commenting on the upgrade, Khaled bin Hamad Al-Gnoon, CEO of SEC, said the rating action is a testament to the company’s efforts and investments to bolster the reliability and efficiency of Saudi Arabia’s electrical grid. 

“This improved rating is reflective of our best-in-class governance, our close alignment with the Ministry of Energy and Saudi Arabia’s decarbonization strategy, and our solid financial profile,” said Al-Gnoon.  

He added: “We are committed to maintaining our service excellence and fulfilling our pivotal role in powering Saudi Arabia’s future.”  

In a statement, the company said the upgrade was driven by several key factors, including recognition of SEC’s robust decision-making and strong government support. 

Additionally, the upgrade acknowledges SEC’s stable financial profile, bolstered by the conversion of SR168 billion ($44.80 billion) of liabilities into equity-like instruments, the company’s leverage headroom, and strong cash flow visibility. 

Earlier this month, SEC reported a net profit of SR897 million for the first quarter of 2024, marking an 87 percent increase compared to the same period the previous year. 

 


Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies

Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies
Updated 26 May 2024
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Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies

Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies

Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power signed memorandums of understanding with several Japanese companies on the sidelines of the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum that took place on May 21. 

ACWA Power signed agreements with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Mizuho Bank, SBI Holdings and Toray Membrane Middle East to encourage collaboration on sustainable energy and water solutions. 

 

 

According to ACWA Power, the objectives of the MoUs are to promote sustainable energy transition and attracting foreign investment. 

The MoUs are important to the Kingdom in terms of water desalination supplies, reducing carbon emissions and economic development. 

The Saudi Arabia-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum took place in Tokyo last week with over 300 industry officials and leaders discussing ways to boost trade, investment and cultural ties. 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry SAITO Ken attended the forum, each giving a speech commemorating the relationship between the two nations. 

Saito said the Japanese government will extend its maximum support to expand business with Saudi Arabia, while Prince Abdulaziz said the Kingdom “will bring collaborations to the forefront and will make sure that in all of the forums, we advocate the same aspirations in the national transition process attending to energy requirements.” 

Al-Falih said in his closing remarks that the Kingdom’s non-oil income has “doubled and is looking for an accumulated investment of over $3 trillion that offers big chances to Japanese.” 

He added that Saudi Arabia has a “bubble of projects as it will host Expo 2030 in Riyadh.” 

Saudi Arabia will also host the Winter Olympics in NEOM, and the World Cup 2034, that offers investment chances for the Japanese companies to participate, he explained. 

Sessions at the forum included “Forging stronger manufacturing collaboration between KSA and Japan,” “Collaboration in the new era of sustainability and circular economy,” “Reinventing entertainment and gaming industries across borders,” and “Expanding the area of cooperation in healthcare.” 

Additionally, the forum hosted a “Digital Entertainment Roundtable,” to discuss Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build a local gaming industry, which includes localizing Japanese games for the Saudi market, collaborating with esports tournament organizers, and investing in the digital entertainment sector.