NCP inks deal with Al-Rajhi Bank to drive public-private partnership

NCP inks deal with Al-Rajhi Bank to drive public-private partnership
The deal focuses on improving opportunities around privatization and public-private partnerships for local and international investors. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 21 August 2023
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NCP inks deal with Al-Rajhi Bank to drive public-private partnership

NCP inks deal with Al-Rajhi Bank to drive public-private partnership

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is fostering synergies between the public and private sectors, with the National Center for Privatization signing an agreement with Al-Rajhi Bank on Sunday.    

The deal focuses on improving opportunities around privatization and public-private partnerships for local and international investors.   

The accord was signed by Hani Al-Saigh, vice president for strategic marketing and knowledge management at the NCP and Hossam Al-Basrawi, the general manager of corporate banking at Al-Rajhi Bank. 

FASTFACTS

• The deal focuses on improving opportunities around privatization and public-private partnerships for local and international investors.   

• In May, the NCP signed a collaboration deal with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank with $5 trillion in assets, 8 million corporate clients and 650 million retail users. 

This project involves driving market research, financial guidance, local and international marketing consultancy as well as events management, training programs and knowledge development. 

Al-Saigh stressed that this partnership is part of a series of collaborative relationships established by the NCP with local and international banks and financial organizations.   

In May, the NCP signed a collaboration deal with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank with $5 trillion in assets, 8 million corporate clients and 650 million retail users. 

NCP CEO Mohannad bin Basodan announced that the deal with ICBC was the sixth agreement reached with local and foreign banks. 

He further said at that time that the ICBC’s support would significantly bolster the NCP’s role in strengthening PPP as such institutions play a pivotal role in the success of privatization in the Kingdom. 

In April, NCP announced the launch of its privatization and PPP pipeline, comprising 200 approved projects across 17 sectors, which aligns with the goals of Vision 2030 to increase the private sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product from 40 percent to 65 percent by 2030.  

The current pipeline includes over $50 billion in investments, with an additional 300 projects under evaluation, indicating further growth potential.  

The approved projects also included the development of the airports of Abha, Taif, Hail and Qassim. 

Privatization is pivotal in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy, showcasing remarkable progress with the successful privatization of 30 projects over the past five years.  

This approach has also created significant opportunities for domestic and international investors to engage in the Kingdom’s flourishing economic sectors actively. 


Oil Updates – prices fall on demand fears over Fed’s rates path

Oil Updates – prices fall on demand fears over Fed’s rates path
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Oil Updates – prices fall on demand fears over Fed’s rates path

Oil Updates – prices fall on demand fears over Fed’s rates path

TOKYO: Oil prices extended losses in Asia trade on Tuesday, with investors anticipating lingering US inflation and higher interest rates to depress consumer and industrial demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures fell 57 cents, or 0.68 percent, to $83.14 a barrel by 9:13 a.m. Saudi time. US West Texas Intermediate crude slipped 58 cents, or 0.73 percent, to $79.22 a barrel.

Both benchmarks fell less than 1 percent on Monday as US Federal Reserve officials said they were awaiting more signs of slowing inflation before considering interest rate cuts.

“Fears of weaker demand led to selling as the prospect of Fed rate cut became more distant,” said analyst Toshitaka Tazawa at Fujitomi Securities.

Fed Vice Chair Philip Jefferson said on Monday it was too early to tell whether the inflation slowdown is “long lasting,” while Vice Chair Michael Barr said restrictive policy needs more time. Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said it will “take a while” for the central bank to be confident that a price growth slowdown is sustainable.

All in all, the Fed officials’ comments pointed to interest rates staying higher for longer than markets expect. That has implications for the oil market as higher borrowing costs tie up funds in a blow to economic growth and demand for crude.

On the other hand, the market appeared little affected by political uncertainty in two major oil-producing countries.

“While there has been an upmove over some uncertainty in Iran, prices have since pared back some gains, as investors price for the status-quo in terms of policies for now and that any wider regional conflict remains off the table,” IG market strategist Yeap Jun Rong said in an email to Reuters.

Investors are focusing on supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its affiliates, together known as OPEC+. They are scheduled to meet on June 1 to set output policy, including whether to extend some members’ 2.2 million barrels per day of voluntary cuts.

“Prices remain in wait for a catalyst to drive a breakout of the current range, with eyes still on any geopolitical developments, along with oil inventories data this week,” IG’s Yeap said.

OPEC+ could extend some voluntary output cuts if demand fails to pick up, people with knowledge of the matter previously told Reuters. 


Wizz Air aims to expand connections, attract more tourists into Saudi Arabia, says senior executive

Wizz Air aims to expand connections, attract more tourists into Saudi Arabia, says senior executive
Updated 20 May 2024
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Wizz Air aims to expand connections, attract more tourists into Saudi Arabia, says senior executive

Wizz Air aims to expand connections, attract more tourists into Saudi Arabia, says senior executive

RIYADH: Low-cost carrier Wizz Air plans to invest over half a billion dollars in flight operations in Saudi Arabia to enhance connectivity and attract more tourists, according to the airline’s president.

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum, Robert Carey emphasized the impact on tourism, noting that inbound visitors typically stay for three to seven days and spend money on various services like hotels, car rentals, and food.

“We’ve invested over half $1 billion into our flying in the Kingdom so far. we’re going to keep growing that. I think we’ve got a lot to do. Just keep connecting the destinations we’ve already got, connect more of those points together,” Carey said.

Wizz Air is the third-largest low-cost carrier in Europe and the fifth-largest airline e-commerce site globally. It aims to bring more tourists to Saudi Arabia and enhance its accessibility, with plans to continue connecting existing destinations and expand further. 

“We’re operating to seven different destinations from Saudi Arabia. We have four points here. You know, we’re seeing really great consumer response to this. Roughly two to one external like people coming into the Kingdom versus people leaving the Kingdom, on trips,” Carey said.

He added: “But that’s giving a great benefit. We’ve got tourists coming in. We’re giving access to Saudi customers who have travel.”

He also expresses the airline’s positive passenger experience, praising the airline’s clean, new planes, welcoming flight crew, and on-time scheduling.

Additionally, Carey stated that Wizz is working with the minister of tourism, the minister of transport, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and the Saudi Tourism Authority on their connectivity program.

“If you look at the airline planning season, we’re just coming up on the period where everybody starts announcing what they’re going to do for this winter, so all I’ll say for right now is stay tuned. There’s more to come,” he said.

Carey noted that Wizz Air celebrated its 20th birthday this week, and to mark this milestone, the airline will launch a special promotion on May 21.

He hints that the promotion will be closely related to the anniversary, suggesting significant discounts on every flight. They encourage people to visit the website to take advantage of the upcoming offers.


AI to help optimize Saudi aviation supply chain management: official

AI to help optimize Saudi aviation supply chain management: official
Updated 20 May 2024
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AI to help optimize Saudi aviation supply chain management: official

AI to help optimize Saudi aviation supply chain management: official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aviation industry’s supply chain management is set to receive a boost thanks to the use of artificial intelligence in logistics, a top official said.

Speaking on the first day of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh on Monday, Suliman Almazroua, CEO of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, said that AI implementation will also enhance productivity and customer experience.

“AI in logistics, for example, is shaping and optimizing the supply chain management, improving productivity, productivity maintenance, and enhancing customer experience,” he said.

The official said the rapid technological advancements are reshaping the future of industries.

The CEO highlighted the Saudi aviation sector’s achievements in terms of increased number of passengers, cargo handling, fleet expansion, rise in infrastructure investment, and global connectivity.

Addressing the forum, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general and CEO of Airports Council International shed light on how the aviation industry suffered from different crises.

“I remember from 9/11 to (the 2008) financial crisis to SARS to COVID-19, we always faced an issue, but we are a very resilient industry and we always come back,” Oliveira noted.

He said: “That’s why when you talk about macroeconomic stuff, we see that geopolitical risks are something that can affect us. That we have the inflation going up, of course, affects our business as well. We have the interest rates that affect our GDP.”

“But it is incredible that even considering all these headwinds, the unemployment rate is going down and people are eager to travel,” Oliveira justified.

He also talked about how jet fuel prices, which are the main cost for the industry, are very high nowadays.

“Of course, this affects our ability to fly and also affects the cost of the tickets,” Oliveira said.

Stefan Schulte, CEO of Fraport AG in Germany, clarified that the focus on innovation, sustainability, and connecting people and culture resembled the beginning of a new era.

“The expectations of our customers are constantly increasing. They want consistent, digitalized, resilient, and seamless processes, but they also want us to go green,” Schulte said.

Organized by the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the three-day event will see discussions on issues related to the global flight sector, air transport, and environmental sustainability in civil aviation, as well as talks on enabling advanced air transport and enhancing global connectivity. 

The event also aligns with the Kingdom’s ambition to become a leader in the sector within a decade, including securing $100 billion worth of investments by 2030.


Electric passenger drones set for a year-end launch in Saudi Arabia, says Front End CEO

Electric passenger drones set for a year-end launch in Saudi Arabia, says Front End CEO
Updated 52 min 33 sec ago
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Electric passenger drones set for a year-end launch in Saudi Arabia, says Front End CEO

Electric passenger drones set for a year-end launch in Saudi Arabia, says Front End CEO

RIYADH: Electric passenger drones are set to be launched in Saudi Arabia by the end of this year with Alkhobar-based firm Front End set to introduce the service to the Kingdom, revealed its CEO. 

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum, Majed Al-Ghaslan, who is also the chairman of the company, stated that Front End’s collaboration with the Chinese electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle developer EHang is facilitating the deployment of such electric flights in the Kingdom. 

Al-Ghaslan said: “We’re pushing the boundary of air traffic, also urban traffic management systems. So we’re discussing this with the Civil Aviation Authority (General Authority of Civil Aviation) here in the Kingdom. We’re very closely aligned with the Ministry of Transport.” 

He added: “We have electric buses and cars now; you’re going to have electric flights for passengers. And this is already running in many cities around the world. We want Riyadh and the major cities around the Kingdom to be the first as well. The idea is to launch the pilots this year and hopefully start launching this service as well this year.” 

The official also added that the deployment of these electric drones, capable of carrying passengers, in the Kingdom is very feasible, as such services are running effectively in countries like China, Indonesia, and Japan. 

During the talk, he revealed that these proposed electric flights, which take off vertically, can be used for both carrying passengers and for logistics purposes. 

According to Al-Ghaslan, these flights are capable of traveling up to 30 minutes with two passengers, and with more advanced batteries, the distance can be extended further. 

He explained, “You can do a 30-minute flight, but still, 30 minutes is a long flight. For example, in Riyadh, you can cover end to end because you are going direct path to anywhere, with two passengers. So you can take up to 250 kilograms. And then with more advanced batteries, the distance can be even higher.” 

The official added that the drones capable of carrying passengers, which will be introduced in Saudi Arabia, will be autonomous and will operate using advanced technologies like artificial intelligence. 

Discussing Front End’s eagerness to enter the air mobility sector, Al-Ghaslan noted that the Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030 program has facilitated the firm’s entry into the industry. 

“Typically, what we do is partner with and localize companies, bringing them into the Kingdom. I never thought I’d be in aviation, but because of the new frontiers that include electric vehicles that vertically take off and land, and advancements in passenger-level drones, that is our interest. We run drone services for our clients, but we are now getting into the air mobility sector,” said Al-Ghaslan. 

He added, “The Vision 2030 program actually enabled this transformation to take place, and there are now national-level strategies. We are at the forefront of making it happen from the private sector at least.” 

The official also noted that Front End is planning to introduce a ride-hailing service in Saudi Arabia using a fleet of electric vehicles, under a partnership with an Indian company named Blue Smart. 

“We’re also launching a ride-hailing service. So, this is something we’re also going to be announcing at the right time, again, electric. So, our theme is around sustainability as well. It’s a company from India called Blue Smart. And this is also going to be announced this year,” he concluded. 


Riyadh Air to unveil its crew uniform at Paris Fashion Week, says CEO

Riyadh Air to unveil its crew uniform at Paris Fashion Week, says CEO
Updated 20 May 2024
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Riyadh Air to unveil its crew uniform at Paris Fashion Week, says CEO

Riyadh Air to unveil its crew uniform at Paris Fashion Week, says CEO
  • New attire will ‘become instantly recognizable as the Riyadh color’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s new airline, Riyadh Air, is set to unveil its cabin crew special uniform at the upcoming Paris Fashion Week, according to its CEO.

On the sidelines of this year’s Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air, shared in an interview with Arab News a series of strategic developments that are set to propel the new airline into the global spotlight. 

With Riyadh Air scheduled to launch in the summer of next year, Douglas highlighted the airline’s upcoming milestone at Paris Fashion Week, which will take place from June 18-23.

“Our next milestone will be (in) June in Paris,” he said. “This is going to be about Paris Fashion Week. Now, what would we possibly do in Paris Fashion Week? For the first time ever as an airline, we will reveal our haute couture fashion collection. So our cabin crew won’t wear cabin crew uniforms. It’ll be cabin crew fashion,” he added. 

Drawing inspiration from the fashion depicted in the film “Catch Me If You Can,” Douglas emphasized the airline’s commitment to style and sophistication. 

“If you can ever remember the movie ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ where DiCaprio goes through the terminal building, and everybody stops to photograph them because they look glamorous. They look fashionable. They look refined. And we want to bring that back with a modernist twist. And that’s what we’ll be revealing at Paris Fashion Week at the end of June,” he explained.

The new uniforms will feature a unique color that Douglas believed would become “instantly recognizable as the Riyadh color.”

He added: “We want to get that kind of glamor into aviation to make sure that this brand, because of course, the brand is Riyadh wherever it’s identified around the world, that immediately speaks to quality, grace, refinement, and fashion.”

In addition to fashion, Riyadh Air is rapidly building its operational capabilities, according to the top official.

“We now have our first group of pilots who’ve joined us. So we’ve got over 30 instructor pilots, they’re the highest qualified pilots you can get from lots of different international airlines. They’re, of course, engaged with us at this stage to assist with our certification flying. And we’ll start our certification flying in September of this year. So literally months away now,” Douglas revealed.

He added: “Yesterday, our third batch of cabin crew started with us, so this feels like a real airline now.”

The interest in joining Riyadh Air has been extraordinary, according to Douglas. 

He noted the overwhelming response to their careers page, saying: “The statistic that I still almost struggle to comprehend in a very positive way is if you go onto RiyadhAir.com, our website, there’s a careers page, and it allows you to put in your personal details. In just over a year, we’ve had 1.1 million people send the details, their qualifications and their contacts to be considered to become part of the Riyadh Air family, 146 different nationalities, and we think that that’s just completely staggering.”

He added: “We ask ourselves why I would never have imagined so much interest and my only explanation is it’s because it’s under the leadership and the decree of His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

Looking ahead, Douglas confirmed that Riyadh Air’s headquarters will soon be visible near Riyadh International Airport. 

“Our brand new headquarters building will be available for us to start occupying in the summer of this year. And just out by Riyadh International Airport, people will see their biggest brand logo lit up in the skyline, probably in the next two months. And that’s when you will know where the home of the Riyadh Air family is,” Douglas announced.

The CEO acknowledged the challenges and opportunities ahead by reflecting on the industry’s current dynamics: “What a difference two or three years makes pre-pandemic. It was actually difficult to make any money in aviation. Ticket prices for a decade were almost at an all-time low.” 

Douglas added: “Here we are today, where demand is significantly ahead of supply in many markets and, in particular, our market. But also we all know ticket prices are actually expensive at the moment. I don’t think that will last because it is a cyclical industry and it’s one again where classic Keynesian economics supply and demand at the moment.” 

The Riyadh Air head confidently predicted ongoing market growth and outlined the carrier’s mission, saying: “Is the market going to continually grow? The answer is very simply, yes it is. Back to the proposition of Riyadh Air. We’ll bring a full-service carrier, the sort of carrier that the Kingdom needs and quite frankly, demands such that we’ll have global connectivity.” 

Douglas invited guests to witness Riyadh Air’s debut at Paris Fashion Week and teased future technological innovations. 

“Come and see us in Paris. Come and see the incredible fashion, which will stand out, but also later on in the year will start to reveal what our digital proposition is, and that will be another standout case for our industry,” he concluded.