Saudi Insurance Authority set to foster local and international sector growth

Saudi Insurance Authority set to foster local and international sector growth
The Saudi Insurance Authority will safeguard the Kingdom’s insurance industry by ensuring it meets global standards and is best placed to respond to the changes and challenges of a rapidly evolving global market. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 09 September 2023
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Saudi Insurance Authority set to foster local and international sector growth

Saudi Insurance Authority set to foster local and international sector growth
  • Unified and independent regulator pivotal and necessary for development of the Saudi financial sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s insurance sector is preparing itself for a game-changing new regulatory body that is set to grow the market and encourage new players in line with the rapid pace of change taking place in the Kingdom.

In August, the Saudi Cabinet, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, approved the establishment of a new unified and independent regulator for the insurance sector, the Insurance Authority.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan described the new measure as a pivotal and necessary one in the development of the Saudi financial sector — a major component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 agenda. The IA is designed to boost the role of the insurance sector in the Kingdom which in turn will grow and enhance the market for Saudi, regional and global businesses operating in the Kingdom.

“The Cabinet’s decision to establish the Saudi Insurance Authority underlines the Kingdom’s commitment to building and developing a world class insurance sector — one set apart by established best practices and international standards,” Adel Al-Eisa, media spokesperson for Insurance Companies in Saudi Arabia told Arab News. “The launch of the Authority marks the latest step taken by the Kingdom to regulate, supervise, control, support and enhance the Saudi insurance sector, and enhancing its effectiveness.”

The new entity will commence operations 90 days after the Cabinet resolution, which, while it has not yet been announced or published, authorities anticipate will be soon. 

Before the IA was set up, the responsibilities in regulating and supervising the insurance sector rested with the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia, also known as SAMA, and the Council of Health Insurance. Both entities will continue to function as regulators until the insurance-related competencies are fully transferred to IA by the end of the 90-day transition period.

IA will then have the existing insurance mandate vested in SAMA and CHI according to the transition plan. Several changes are anticipated. These include the unification of regulatory procedures for the insurance sector within IA, and the transfer of communication channels related to regulation and compliance in the insurance sector to IA.

According to SAMA, for the establishment of the IA, the current laws, regulations, rules and instructions issued by SAMA or CHI in the insurance sector will continue to be enforced and stay unchanged, until other overriding instructions are issued. This includes the current complaint handling processes of the Committee for Resolution of Insurance Disputes and Violations. The rights and responsibilities between the insurers, policyholders and beneficiaries will also remain unchanged.

The new IA serves to further provide impetus for the growth of the Saudi market, both domestically and internationally. 

The Saudi Insurance Authority aims to build and implement a comprehensive national strategy that will bolster the Kingdom’s insurance sector.

Adel Al-Eisa, Media spokesperson for Insurance Companies in Saudi Arabia

“The establishment of the Saudi Insurance Authority will serve the greater purpose of enhancing the Kingdom’s insurance sector, bolstering local infrastructure and creating an advanced, thriving ecosystem that empowers both Saudi-based, regional and global businesses — and, of course, the people, communities and businesses they serve,” Al-Eisa told Arab News.

The Authority, he continued, will safeguard the industry by ensuring it meets global standards and is best placed to respond to the changes and challenges of a rapidly evolving global market.

“In doing so, the Authority will place an even greater onus on technical and digital development, aiding the industry’s transformation,” he emphasized.

Mustafa Melhem, group business development manager for insurance at Eastnets, says that the new authority will serve to enhance the development of the Saudi market for both local and global players.

“The importance of the IA for me or for insurance experts in the region is the same: it is one of the most important entities in the development of the insurance sector,” Melhem told Arab News. “There are a lot of gray areas in the insurance policies (benefits, terms, conditions, exclusion etc.), so an independent authority aids to raise better awareness about credible insurance products and most importantly is protecting the rights of the policyholders and beneficiaries.” 

BACKGROUND

Before the IA was set up, the responsibilities in regulating and supervising the insurance sector rested with the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia, also known as SAMA, and the Council of Health Insurance. Both entities will continue to function as regulators until the insurance-related competencies are fully transferred to IA by the end of the 90-day transition period.

Eastnets is a global leader in providing services to financial institutions, including insurance companies, aiding them to combat financial fraud and crime, and ensuring that they are compliant with new regulations.

This initiative represents an important step in building a strong and stable insurance market in the Kingdom. The Cabinet’s decision reflects the Kingdom’s commitment under Vision 2030 to support the developments of the insurance sector, a key pillar that supports all other economic activities and transformation programs in theKingdom.

“Crucially, the Authority aims to build and implement a comprehensive national strategy that will bolster the Kingdom’s insurance sector, modernizing its systems and regulations, accelerating digital transformation, attracting more national talent and investment,” said Al-Eisa.

Melhem also stressed that the aim of the Authority is to empower the Saudi insurance market in such a way that will lead to growth.

“Revenue will increase from the insurance sector by having a special entity focused on it,” he said. “Crucially, though, it is important to create local insurance talents and experts rather than just attract them from outside.” 

 This way, emphasizes Melhem, the Saudi insurance market can grow at home. Also, the IA will encourage mergers among small companies to strengthen the solvency of these companies. 

Revenue will increase from the insurance sector by having a special entity focused on it.

Mustafa Melhem, Group business development manager for insurance at Eastnets

“A strong and stable insurance authority in the Kingdom will empower the local insurance market,” says Melhem. “And building partnerships and attracting the global reinsurance companies and re-insurance brokers to have their physical presence in the Saudi market, is one of the biggest benefits that can be achieved. “Also, in addition of protecting the policy holders and beneficiary rights, the IA will protect any third parties’ rights such as healthcare providers and other insurance providers.”

As Al-Eisa underlines: “We recognize that there is an urgent need for the Saudi insurance sector’s rules, regulations and policies to be outlined, implemented and overseen by one entity. This is paramount to growing and developing the Saudi insurance space.”

The Arab world has only a handful of reinsurance companies, which provide insurance to insurance companies. One is Saudi Re, a Saudi joint stock company founded in Riyadh in 2008 as the first reinsurance company established in the Kingdom.

Ultimately, he adds, the AI improves the Saudi Arabian insurance industry’s profile and standing on a global stage.

“It will provide a consistent, singular presence at global engagements and gatherings, such as the G20 and World Economic Forum,” added Al-Eisa.

The new authority is a chance to change the game, grow the Saudi insurance market and encourage new players all in line with the rapid pace of change taking place in the Kingdom.


Oil Updates – prices fall more than 1% as Iran-Israel tensions ease

Oil Updates – prices fall more than 1% as Iran-Israel tensions ease
Updated 15 min 40 sec ago
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Oil Updates – prices fall more than 1% as Iran-Israel tensions ease

Oil Updates – prices fall more than 1% as Iran-Israel tensions ease

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell by more than 1 percent on Monday, as the market focus switched to fundamentals after Israel and Iran played down the risk of an escalation of hostilities following Israel’s apparently small strike on Iran, according to Reuters.

Brent futures fell $1.21, or 1.4 percent, to $86.08 a barrel by 9:55 a.m. Saudi time. The front-month US West Texas Intermediate crude contract for May, which expires on Monday, fell 97 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $82.17 a barrel, while the more active June contract dropped $1.23 to $80.99 a barrel.

“Brent crude prices failed to retain their initial surge, with broad expectations that geopolitical tensions between Israel and Iran may fizzle off given Iran’s tamed response,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG.

“With that, markets continue to unwind the geopolitical risk premium tied to potential supply disruptions, which seems more unlikely at current point in time,” he added.

Both benchmarks spiked more than $3 a barrel early on Friday, after explosions were heard in the Iranian city of Isfahan in what sources described as an Israeli attack. Gains were capped after Tehran played down the incident and said it did not plan to retaliate.

Yeap said rising US crude stocks had added to the pressure to sell.

US crude inventories rose by 2.7 million barrels, Energy Information Administration data showed last week, nearly double analysts’ expectations of a 1.4 million barrel rise.

“Economic concerns again become a bearish factor of the crude market,” with prices “under pressure due to a large build in the US stockpile and a hawkish Fed that led to a strong dollar,” said independent market analyst Tina Teng. A strong dollar makes oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Chicago Federal Reserve President Austan Goolsbee on Friday became the latest central banker to signal a longer timeline for interest rate cuts because progress on curbing inflation had stalled.

On Saturday, the US House of Representatives passed an aid package for Ukraine and Israel containing measures that would let the federal government expand sanctions against Iran and its oil production.

But markets shrugged off the news as the impact of the measures, if passed, would depend on how they are interpreted and implemented. Senate consideration of the bill is set to begin on Tuesday.

For now, ANZ analysts said in a note that volatility in the Middle East will keep oil markets “jittery.”

On Saturday, a blast at an Iraqi military base killed a member of a security force that includes Iran-backed groups. The force commander said it was an attack while the army said it was investigating.

Separately, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah on Sunday said it downed an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission in southern Lebanon.

Israeli forces and Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, fueling concerns about further escalation. 


PIF and stc Group strike deal to create region’s premier telecom tower company

PIF and stc Group strike deal to create region’s premier telecom tower company
Updated 54 min 1 sec ago
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PIF and stc Group strike deal to create region’s premier telecom tower company

PIF and stc Group strike deal to create region’s premier telecom tower company

RIYADH: A new telecommunications infrastructure firm is set to be created after Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund acquired a 51 percent stake in one of stc Group’s companies.

PIF will merge Telecommunication Towers Co., also known as TAWAL, with Golden Lattice Investment Company – in which the soveriegn wealth fund holds a majority shareholding – into a new entity.

With an estimated 30,000 mobile tower sites and projected annual revenues nearing $1.3 billion, the new body is expected to emerge as a global telecommunication powerhouse.

The combined new firm will be owned 54 percent by PIF and 43.1 percent by stc Group, with GLIC minority shareholders owning the remaining issued share capital.

Raid Ismail, head of MENA Direct Investments at PIF, hailed the accord as a monumental stride in Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications narrative. 

He said: “By bringing together the assets of GLIC and Tawal, we will establish a consolidated platform on which the telecommunications sector can flourish and give people a better experience to best connect communities and businesses.”

Ismail emphasized the pivotal role of robust connectivity in propelling societal and economic growth.

The Group Chief Investment Officer of stc Group, Motaz Alangari, explained that the deals mirror the firm’s commitment to sustainable growth. 

Alangari said: “These agreements are part of stc Group’s continuous endeavor to grow and maximize value in the most sustainable manner by recycling capital while retaining ownership in strategic value-added assets to benefit from the return on these assets and enable expansion into new domains.”

The consolidation of Tawal and GLIC, Alangari highlighted, is a “stepping-stone to consolidating the Saudi tower market and driving further efficiencies and operational excellence to deliver superior experiences and value for customers.”

According to the statement, the unified entity is set to revolutionize consumer experience and network coverage, amplifying connectivity and mobile internet speeds across Saudi Arabia. 

Operational efficiencies will be underpinned by a drive for innovation, fostering a dynamic telecommunication sector internationally. 

Additionally, the partnership between these entities is expected to generate synergistic effects, fostering an even more favorable business environment and propelling economic growth.

The agreements underscore PIF and stc Group’s resolve to fortify Saudi Arabia’s telecommunication infrastructure sector, unlocking its latent potential. 

This endeavor builds on Tawal’s recent acquisitions in Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovenia, cementing its status as the region’s preeminent independent tower company.

Further showcasing its leadership position, stc Group was awarded the title of the top workplace in Saudi Arabia by the professional networking platform LinkedIn earlier in April.


Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year

Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year

Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year
  • Workers’ remittances bring billions of dollars annually to Pakistan and are crucial for country’s fragile economy
  • Finance Minister Aurangzeb says IMF “very receptive” in agreeing to a larger and longer financial assistance program 

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb expects Pakistan’s remittances from overseas citizens will increase to $29 billion this fiscal year, English-language newspaper The National reported on Monday. 

Workers’ remittances bring billions of dollars annually from overseas Pakistanis to the South Asian country and are vital for its fragile economy. These inflows bolster foreign exchange reserves, stabilize balance of payments and support the Pakistani currency.

Aurangzeb has been in Washington since Apr. 13 to participate in spring meetings organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. His tour is an important one for the South Asian country as Pakistan’s ongoing nine-month, $3 billion loan program with the global lender expires this month.

When asked about the World Bank estimating that remittances would globally drop this year, Aurangzeb said the “reality is it’s the other way round.”

“So, I think we closed the year at about $28 billion last fiscal year and we expect to close at $29 billion this year,” Aurangzeb said. “So, the remittances have not only been holding up, actually during this fiscal year they will actually go up.”

The Pakistani minister had confirmed last week that Islamabad was seeking a “larger and longer” multi-billion-dollar loan program from the IMF and discussions were underway with the Fund’s officials. 

“We have had very constructive discussions with the managing director and her very senior team,” Aurangzeb said. “And given that we are successfully completing this program, the Fund has been very receptive in terms of agreeing to consider a larger, longer program.”

On China, which has invested heavily in Pakistan through a multi-billion-dollar road and infrastructure project known as the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Aurangzeb said Pakistan “missed a trick” by taking too long to monetize projects. 

Since its initiation in 2013, CPEC has seen tens of billions of dollars funneled into massive transport, energy and infrastructure projects. But the undertaking has also been hit by Pakistan struggling to keep up its financial obligations as well as attacks on Chinese targets by militants.

“We have been slow over the last few years,” he said. “We are going to move forward with Phase Two so that we can get going with the revenue generating part of the of CPEC.”


NEOM wraps up China tour by confirming Sindalah island attraction to open in 2024

NEOM wraps up China tour by confirming Sindalah island attraction to open in 2024
Updated 22 min 31 sec ago
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NEOM wraps up China tour by confirming Sindalah island attraction to open in 2024

NEOM wraps up China tour by confirming Sindalah island attraction to open in 2024

RIYADH: Saudi megacity NEOM on Sunday wrapped up a tour courting Chinese investors with an event at its last destination, Hong Kong.

The event was organized in partnership with the Belt and Road Office under the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The roadshow for NEOM traveled from Beijing to Shanghai to Hong Kong, where potential investors flocked to a chic museum to peruse eye-popping renderings in various stages of development.

A series of presentations by the NEOM leadership team led the event agenda, showcasing the progress and milestones of NEOM to date, as well as the partnership and investment opportunities available to the audience, according to an official press release.

A private showcase “Discover NEOM: A New Future by Design,” was one of the many highlights of the event, providing guests with an immersive experience that explored The Line, the 170-km-long city that will be the future of urban living; Oxagon, which is redefining the traditional industrial model; Trojena, the mountain resort of NEOM, and finally, Sindalah, a luxury island destination in the Red Sea that will be open to the public later this year.

NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said: “We would like to thank the finance and business sector for their support and contribution to the success of our tours ‘Discover NEOM.’ We enjoyed showcasing NEOM’s tangible on-the-ground progress and discussing the range of investment opportunities available to Hong Kong companies. We are looking forward to continuing to engage with our Hong Kong partners to meet our shared goals for a better future.”

NEOM’s Executive Director Tarek Qaddumi walked journalists through the exhibition at the M+ museum on Friday, talking up NEOM’s goal of balancing “nature conservation, human livability and economic prosperity.”

“NEOM is a very vast vision … It is an initiative that is probably the most exciting and the most forward-looking in the 21st century,” he said.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau said: “As an open economy and one of the world’s top financial, investment, and innovation hubs, Hong Kong stands ready to support Saudi Arabia in achieving its vision while bringing growth opportunities for Hong Kong. Saudi Arabia is a key player in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“With our internationally-benchmarked professional services and talent pool, Hong Kong can provide support for projects, such as NEOM, along the Belt and Road countries.”

Discover NEOM Hong Kong is the latest stop for the global roadshow and follows events in key markets including Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, Berlin and London.

The megacity is progressing alongside other major development projects launched as part of Vision 2030.


Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays

Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays
Updated 21 April 2024
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Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays

Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s airports recorded an 18 percent surge in the number of flights and passengers during the month of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr holidays compared to the corresponding period last year.   

According to a statement released by the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Kingdom’s airports registered more than 12.5 million passengers during this timeframe.   

Furthermore, the report indicated that airports in the Gulf nation handled more than 86,000 flights during the corresponding period.  

It also revealed that during the same period, Saudi airports handled 100 cargo flights.

In terms of passengers per airport, King Abdulaziz International Airport was in the lead as it carried around 5.38 million travelers during the period mentioned above.

King Khalid International Airport came next with 3.23 million passengers, then Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport with 1.04 million travelers.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Kingdom’s airports combined carried as many as 2.85 million passengers in total.

In February, Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector continues to expand as GACA reiterates its commitment to boost air connectivity to over 250 destinations.    

During the authority’s participation in a session at the third symposium organized by the Riyadh Economic Forum, Mohammed Al-Khuraisi, the executive vice president of strategy and business intelligence at the authority, reviewed the main objectives of the National Aviation Strategy, the Saudi Press Agency reported at the time.  

This aligns with the Kingdom’s efforts to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, which aims for the Saudi aviation sector to become the top rated in the Middle East region. 

As part of his speech at the time, Al-Khuraisi highlighted additional goals of the strategy, including developing the infrastructure and operational procedures of airports, increasing the local market share of low-cost airlines, and enhancing the competitiveness of national carriers.