Share of digital payments in Saudi Arabia hits 62%, says SAMA official

The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing.
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The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. Supplied
The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
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The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
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The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
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Updated 04 September 2023
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Share of digital payments in Saudi Arabia hits 62%, says SAMA official

Share of digital payments in Saudi Arabia hits 62%, says SAMA official

RIYADH: The fintech sector is thriving in the Kingdom, which could be gauged through the fact that the share of digital payments reached 62 percent close enough to Saudi Arabia’s target of 70 percent by the end of 2025, said a top official of the central bank.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day Seamless Saudi Arabia 2023 in Riyadh, Khalid Walid Al-Dhaher, vice governor for supervision and technology at the Saudi Central Bank, highlighted the growth of the Saudi financial sector since the launch of Vision 2030.

“We have witnessed a significant increase in the number of financial technology companies, reaching 183 companies by the end of the second quarter of 2023. This achievement represents 80 percent of the target set for the year 2025, which is 230 companies,” he said.

SAMA’s aim is to enable financial institutions to promote the expansion of the private sector, create possibilities for new categories of stakeholders, and accelerate the digitization of payments.

Al-Dhaher said the growth of fintech will support “institutions and enable small and emerging businesses to introduce innovative and modern financial products such as e-wallets and digital financing platforms.”

The official said the Regulatory Sandbox Strategy is open to both international and domestic firms interested in testing fintech solutions in a real environment.

There are now 45 fintech companies operating in the regulatory sandbox, he said. “It also aims to achieve a cumulative value of bold financial investment reaching SR12.2 billion ($3.2 billion). The goal is for the fintech sector to contribute SR13.3 billion to the gross domestic product by 2030,” Al-Dhaher said.

Saudi Arabia’s digital economy is witnessing significant expansion, as the Kingdom recorded more than 8 billion transactions with a value of SR1.6 trillion in 2022, up from around SR6 billion transactions in 2021, according to a statement by the managing director of Saudi Payments, also known as Mada.

Speaking during a panel discussion, Abdulaziz Al-Afaleg highlighted how the financial ecosystem has grown in the Kingdom.

He said Mada will launch a new digital platform soon, which will be combined with data services and provide valuable inputs to the markets regarding the data flowing through the payment systems.

In another panel discussion, Nezar Alhaidar, managing director of Fintech Saudi underlined how Vision 2030 is serving as a catalyst for the growth and evolution of various industries including fintech.

“Back then in 2018, we had almost $300 million invested in the ecosystem. Today, we have over 180 fintech (firms) operating in Saudi Arabia and the invested amount is close to SR1.5 billion,” Alhaidar said.

The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing, hosting over 500 exhibitors to showcase innovative solutions and startups from across the region.

On the payment front, Saudi Arabia is seamlessly leading in terms of NFC payments, as the Kingdom has experienced a remarkable surge in mobile payment usage accounting for about 45 percent of transactions, Nassir Ghrous, vice president of Thales, Banking and Payment Services, told Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the event.

“The fintech segment is key to drive and steer innovation in the payment industry. I think this is something that is fully aligned with Vision 2030, and that has been promoted by the Kingdom very successfully. So, what we do with the fintech is to allow them to get the space and to help modernization,” he said.

According to Checkout.com, e-commerce in the Kingdom has entered a steady phase of high growth, presenting expanded opportunities for both emerging entrepreneurs and well-established financial institutions.

“Ninety-one percent of consumers in the Kingdom now prefer to shop online and 14 percent of them shop every day,” Checkout.com’s Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, general manager for Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News.

“When the trend started to boom in the region, specifically in Saudi Arabia we saw homegrown companies such as Tamara growing and taking the lead. That is why we wanted to support these payment methods,” Abbondandolo said.

As a knowledge partner at the conference, the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, also known as Monsha’at, is actively participating in Seamless.


Pakistan pushes to forge strategic, economic partnership as Saudi FM visits Islamabad

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Pakistan pushes to forge strategic, economic partnership as Saudi FM visits Islamabad

Pakistan pushes to forge strategic, economic partnership as Saudi FM visits Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani top leaders, including the prime minister, president and foreign minister, said on Tuesday the ongoing visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Islamabad would help transform a longstanding friendship between the two nations into a strategic and commercial partnership.

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip comes a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

“We aim to transform our traditionally fraternal ties into a strategic and economic partnership,” Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar said as he addressed a Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Investment Conference in Islamabad, held under the umbrella of Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council, set up last year to oversee all foreign investments. 

“Your investments are not just financial commitments but are crucial in nurturing a deeply valued partnership,” Dar told the visiting dignitary. 

“It is through the SIFC platform that we intend to streamline investment processes while ensuring rapid decision making and efficient handling of investments … The SIFC has a central role in augmenting our infrastructure and streamlining our regulatory frameworks to set the stage for a flourishing investment friendly economic environment.”

Saudi and Pakistani officials pose for a group picture after the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Investment Conference in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 16, 2024. (@KSAMOFA/X)

Dar said SIFC would ensure that investments were “swift and mutually beneficial, embodying our commitment to facilitating foreign direct investment in Pakistan.”

Pakistan was blessed with fertile agricultural lands, minerals and a large and dynamic population, complemented by a flourishing IT sector and abundant prospects for renewable energy creation, the foreign minister added. 

He said Pakistan’s fertile lands and a vast network of water resources presented numerous investment opportunities in agri-tech and food processing, with the South Asian nation having the potential to become the region’s food basket.

“Our mining sector is marked by untapped potential especially in the expansive Tethyan belt known for its abundant deposits of copper, gold and other valuable minerals,” Dar said. “The strategic advancements in these areas are highlighted by projects such as Riko Diq copper [and gold] project which exemplifies our commitment to leveraging our natural resources for mutual benefit.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (center) meets Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan who is leading a high-level delegation in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 16, 2024. (PM Office)

On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, one of the world’s largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.

The foreign minister said Pakistan’s goal was to transform the country into a hub of economic activity, and innovation and create an attractive environment for global investors like Saudi Arabia. 

“Investing in Pakistan is not merely a placement of capital. It would actually be instrumental toward forging a partnership that promises mutual prosperity and progress,” he concluded. 

“Your engagement and investment in Pakistan will be handled with utmost respect and institutionalized commitment from our side, ensuring that together we achieve remarkable success.”

MEETINGS WITH PM AND PRESIDENT

Prince Faisal also met Pakistani PM Sharif on Tuesday who said the Saudi official’s visit would herald a new era of strategic and commercial partnerships between the two long-time allies.

“The visit is the beginning of a new era of strategic and commercial partnership between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement from his office after he met Prince Faisal. “Pakistan wants to further promote cooperation in the fields of trade and investment between the two countries.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (right) meets Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 16, 2024. (PM Office)

The PM said Pakistan was taking steps to promote foreign investment and make partnerships “mutually beneficial” for allies, adding that Islamabad was grateful to the Saudi leadership for increasing investment.

Informing the Saudi delegation about the wide potential of investment in Pakistan, Sharif briefed them about the Special Investment Facilitation Council and measures the body was taking to promote investment. 

Sharif also invited the Saudi crown prince to Islamabad.

“The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of His Highness the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan,” the PM’s office said.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prince Faisal also met on Tuesday and reiterated the two nations’ resolve to build a strong partnership and promote mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

Zardari said Pakistan was working to transform its long-standing and decades-old relationship with Riyadh into a “long-term strategic and economic partnership.”

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari meets Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 16, 2024. (President's Office)

The two sides also discussed regional dynamics and recent developments in the Middle East and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli air and ground offensives there.

INVESTMENT PUSH

In a statement shared with media on Monday, the Pakistan information ministry said the Saudi delegation would consult with Pakistani officials “on the next stages of investment and implementation issues.”

Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would be discussed during the visit, the ministry said, adding that Riyadh was also interested in investing in agriculture, trade, energy, minerals, IT, transport and other sectors in Pakistan:

“As a result of this visit, Pakistan’s export capacity will increase, joint ventures will be launched and new opportunities will be paved.”

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. The last loan deal expires this month.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.

Last year, however, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister said the Kingdom was changing the way it provides assistance to allies, shifting from previously giving direct grants and deposits unconditionally and moving toward mutually beneficial investment deals backed by internal economic reforms.

The PM said Pakistan was taking steps to promote foreign investment and make partnerships “mutually beneficial” for allies, adding that Islamabad was grateful to the Saudi leadership for increasing investment.

Informing the Saudi delegation about the wide potential of investment in Pakistan, Sharif briefed them about the Special Investment Facilitation Council and measures the body was taking to promote investment. The body was set up last year to oversee all foreign funding.

Sharif also invited the Saudi crown prince to Islamabad.

“The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of His Highness the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan,” the PM’s office said. 


Diriyah Co. CEO appointed UN Tourism ambassador 

Diriyah Co. CEO appointed UN Tourism ambassador 
Updated 56 min 21 sec ago
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Diriyah Co. CEO appointed UN Tourism ambassador 

Diriyah Co. CEO appointed UN Tourism ambassador 

RIYADH: Saudi historical destination developer Diriyah Co.’s CEO, Jerry Inzerillo, has been appointed as a UN Tourism ambassador, joining an elite group including Lionel Messi, Georgio Armani, and Placido Domingo. 

The appointment was made during the global body’s first-ever sustainability week, being held in New York from April 15 to 19, according to a press statement. 

Inzerillo has been honored for his “lifelong commitment” to employing “innovative design and development strategies” that bolster local communities and cultivate new and undiscovered tourism destinations, it added. 

“The UN Tourism is enormously proud to welcome Inzerillo as our newest tourism ambassador. In this new role, he will help to amplify the UN Tourism’s key messages of the ability of tourism to drive change and achieve sustainable growth,” said Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.  

Diriyah is located on the outskirts of the Kingdom’s capital city, Riyadh. At its core is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif, the historic capital of the First Saudi State. 

Upon completion, the Diriyah project will host 100,000 residents, workers, students, and visitors, offering a diverse range of cultural, entertainment, retail, hospitality, educational, and residential spaces. 

Developing tourist destinations like Diriyah is crucial for Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom pursues economic diversification, in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030. 

“In the area of tourism, we have the privilege to work in one of the world’s fastest growing sectors that employ 320 million people today and will add a further 100 million within the next decade. But with that privilege comes enormous responsibility to ensure that our developments are innovative, actionable and have real and enduring impact,” said Inzerillo.   

Spearheaded by Inzerillo, Diriyah Co.’s development strategies adhere to the highest international sustainability, preservation, and conservation standards. They aim to support the mobility, health, and well-being of the local community. 

“A key part of our master planning strategy is that our commitment to sustainable practices must also extend beyond the day-to-day operations of Diriyah Co.,” he added.  

In January, Inzerillo told Arab News that Riyadh will be undergoing consistent transformative change “every year” that will allow visitors and residents to feel a palpable difference.  

He added that visitors to the Kingdom’s capital do not need to look forward to 2030 to begin to witness the changes that the tourism sector is undergoing. 

Formerly known as the World Tourism Organization, UN Tourism is a global agency responsible for promoting responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism.

As a leading international organization, it advocates for tourism as a catalyst for economic growth, inclusive development, and environmental sustainability.


Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down 1.64% to 12,500

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down 1.64% to 12,500
Updated 16 April 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down 1.64% to 12,500

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down 1.64% to 12,500

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index shed 207.91 points or 1.64 percent on Tuesday to close at 12,500.43.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR10.22 billion ($2.72 billion), with 42 stocks advancing and 186 declining. 

Nomu, Saudi Arabia’s parallel market, also lost 239.21 points to close at 26,309.38. The MSCI Tadawul Index shed 31.821 points to 1,578.42. 

The best-performing stock was Red Sea International Co. The firm’s share price soared by 10 percent to SR33. 

Other top performers were Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. and Saudi Steel Pipe Co., whose share prices surged by 6.57 percent and 4.59 percent respectively. 

Meanwhile, ACWA Power’s share price hit SR427 on Tuesday, an all-time high since the company’s listing on the main market. However, the company closed its trading at SR417. 

The worst performer of the day was Advanced Petrochemical Co., as its share price dipped by 5.30 percent to SR42.90. 

On the announcements front, United Electronics Co. revealed that its net profit for the first quarter of this year climbed 11 percent to SR93.9 million. 

In a Tadawul statement, the company, also known as eXtra said that the rise in net profit was driven by a 10 percent year on year rise in total revenues. 

Meanwhile, Al-Moammar Information Systems announced that its board of directors has recommended the payment of a cash dividend at 8 percent of capital, or SR0.8 a share for the first quarter of 2024. 

Moreover, the company’s board also recommended a three-year dividend policy until 2026. 

“The policy will be submitted for approval at the upcoming general assembly meeting, the date of which will be announced later. The policy aims to maintain a minimum dividend per share of 50 percent of net profits annually,” said Al-Moammar Information Systems in a statement. 


Saudi companies to attend energy conference in Dubai

Saudi companies to attend energy conference in Dubai
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi companies to attend energy conference in Dubai

Saudi companies to attend energy conference in Dubai

RIYADH: Comprehensive knowledge sharing is set to unravel at Dubai’s Middle East Energy conference, with over 17 Saudi companies participating in the event.  

The gathering, hosted at the Dubai World Trade Centre starting April 17, highlights the Middle East and Africa’s most extensive energy event, now in its 49th edition.  

A rescheduling to include an additional day on April 19 follows unexpected adverse weather conditions that led to pushing the event’s opening day from April 16 to April 17. 

This year, the Middle East Energy conference will expand across 14 halls, covering 28,500 sq. meters and will welcome more than 1,500 exhibitors and feature 14 national pavilions, showcasing the breadth of the global energy sector.  

Saudi Arabia is well-represented, with companies like Bahra Advanced Cable Manufacture Co. Ltd., Jeddah Cables Co., and Riyadh Cables Group Co. leading the contingent.  

Other participants include MEMF Electrical Industries Co., Electrical Industries Co., and International Tube & Conduit Co. Ltd. 

The conference will also feature Middle East Specialized Cables Co., Red Sea Cable Co., and United Transformers Electric Co., alongside Al-Haitam for Industries & Economic Development and Asharqiyah Cables Co. for Industry.  

With more than 250 speakers and three high-level strategic conferences, including the leadership summit, technical seminars, and the Intersolar and Electrical Energy Storage Middle East conference, the event promises crucial insights into energy transition, real-world solutions, and emerging challenges in sustainability and cybersecurity.  

These dialogues are key as the sector seeks to transform rapidly to meet global energy demands responsibly. 

Industry experts believe the region plays a significant role in the road to net-zero.  


stc Group top workplace in Saudi Arabia, LinkedIn study finds

stc Group top workplace in Saudi Arabia, LinkedIn study finds
Updated 16 April 2024
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stc Group top workplace in Saudi Arabia, LinkedIn study finds

stc Group top workplace in Saudi Arabia, LinkedIn study finds

RIYADH: Telecommunications major stc Group has been named the best workplace in Saudi Arabia by the professional networking platform LinkedIn. 

According to a press statement, the firm was followed in second place by hospitality giga-project Red Sea Global, with energy giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co., also known as Aramco, ranked third.

Motor vehicle manufacturing company Ceer took fourth place on the list, while ROSHN, backed by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, and Riyad Bank, secured fifth and sixth spots, respectively. 

“LinkedIn top companies is an annual list created by data on its platform, which will help professionals identify the top workplaces to grow their careers. The list uncovers the organizations leading the way in growth and learning opportunities for their employees, equity in the workplace, and strong company culture,” according to the report. 

Business consulting firm Bain & Co. was named the top organization in the UAE, followed by Mastercard and Procter & Gamble. 

“This year’s lists show how companies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are continuing to grow and expand, which further cements the region’s reputation as a leading business hub,” said Salma Altantawy, senior news editor at LinkedIn. 

She added: “Our research has previously indicated professionals’ appetite for new career moves in 2024, and this list recognizes those employers that can be a top choice for professionals looking to make those moves.” 

Saudi Entertainment Ventures, also known as SEVEN, was named the tenth-top company in Saudi Arabia, an indication of the sector’s growth in the Kingdom. 

“Entertainment companies Miral and Saudi Entertainment Ventures have joined the top 15 companies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2024. Both companies took 10th place in their respective countries, which shows the rise of the entertainment industry across the region,” said LinkedIn in the report. 

According to the survey, a majority of regional professionals are considering switching jobs this year and the UAE has seen a growth in hiring over the last 12 months. 

In February, stc Group revealed that its net profit in 2023 rose 9 percent to SR13.3 billion ($3.55 billion) compared to the previous year. 

In a Tadawul statement, the company revealed that the rise in profit was driven by an SR4.90 billion year-on-year rise in revenues.