Saudi Arabia ranked among top 10 developing economies in e-commerce

Saudi Arabia ranked among top 10 developing economies in e-commerce
Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih emphasized the pivotal role of the National Investment Strategy in realizing the objectives of Vision 2030. SPA
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Updated 26 November 2023
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Saudi Arabia ranked among top 10 developing economies in e-commerce

Saudi Arabia ranked among top 10 developing economies in e-commerce

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is positioned among the top 10 developing economies in the field of e-commerce, predicting a surge in total revenues to reach SR260 billion ($69.33 billion) by 2025, explained the commerce minister. 

Highlighted during the Northern Border Investment Forum, titled “Northern Borders Region ... Promising Investment Opportunities,” on Nov. 25 in Arar, Majid Al-Kassabi revealed that the total orders in 2022 amounted to SR190 million, underscoring the growing momentum in the e-commerce sector.

To further support this trend, plans are underway to establish a logistics zone in Arar. Investors will be offered land plots and financing options of up to 20 years will be extended to exporters and beneficiaries in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Al-Kassabi stated: “The commercial registers in the Northern Borders region witnessed a growth of 32 percent during the period from 2018 to 2023, reaching a total of 15,442 commercial records.”

This surge indicates a booming business environment and increased interest in entrepreneurial ventures in the region.

In an effort to streamline investment processes, Al-Kassabi noted that “485 conditions and requirements were canceled across 18 sectors, introducing over 40 economic activities to develop investment opportunities in promising sectors. The container clearance time in ports has also been reduced to just two hours.”

Hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the event was launched by Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the governor of the Northern Borders region, in the presence of several ministers and government agencies.

In his address to the assembly, Prince Faisal emphasized the importance accorded to economic development by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He highlighted the forum’s focus on leveraging human potential in the Northern Border region, attracting talent, assets, and investments while providing opportunities for local citizens to the area.

Prince Faisal expressed his commitment to developing the private sector, collaborating with the Ministry of Trade, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Arar, and major companies to create an appealing investment environment aligned with the advantages of the region, particularly in mining, industry, entertainment, and tourism, in accordance with the overarching goals of Vision 2030

Emphasizing the importance of the city of Waad Al-Shamal, Prince Faisal urged companies in the region to contribute to economic, cultural, and social development by offering opportunities and attracting investors. He also stressed the role of social responsibility in enhancing the investment environment.

Announcing a monthly meeting for regional businessmen, Prince Faisal aims to address incentives, obstacles, and solutions with all relevant departments, fostering constructive cooperation for the region’s development. The initiative aims to boost productivity, create job opportunities, and elevate living standards.

The event included signing a cooperation agreement between the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Arar, focusing on exchanging information, data, studies, research, and reports related to entrepreneurship and SMEs. 

This collaboration aims to make the sector a vital engine for economic development in alignment with the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.

Prince Faisal concluded the event by honoring sponsors, supporters, and founders of the Chamber of Commerce in Arar, emphasizing the collaborative efforts to enhance the economic landscape of the Northern Border region.

Focus on National Investment Strategy 

Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih emphasized the pivotal role of the National Investment Strategy in realizing the objectives of Vision 2030. 

While speaking at the forum, Al-Falih outlined the comprehensive reforms implemented in the legislative and regulatory system since the launch of Vision 2030, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Participating in a session on “Future Investment Directions for the Northern Border Region,” Al-Falih elaborated on the National Investment Strategy’s general goal to enhance the quality and volume of investments in the Kingdom. This contributes to advancing economic development and diversification, aligning with the broader Vision 2030 goals.

Highlighting 40 executive initiatives, Al-Falih presented a roadmap that includes integrating the “Invest in Saudi Arabia” platform with local investment opportunities, establishing special economic zones with favorable regulations, and providing tailored services for major strategic investors, both domestic and international.

Al-Falih emphasized the numerous investment opportunities in competitive sectors, particularly in the Northern Border region. Ongoing projects in the area, exceeding SR80 billion, demonstrate the government’s commitment, efficient management, and cohesive coordination among ministries and agencies.

Drawing attention to a groundbreaking initiative, Al-Falih unveiled plans to double the Kingdom’s phosphate production capacity, positioning it as the world’s third-largest phosphate producer. This ambitious project, starting with Waad Al-Shamal, involves converting phosphate into advanced chemical products.

Underlining the Northern Border region’s potential for renewable energy production, Al-Falih highlighted the opportunity for electricity export to neighboring countries, such as Iraq, offering significantly lower costs.

Productive meetings on sidelines

In a series of meetings during the forum, Prince Faisal engaged with key figures, including Deputy Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid bin Saleh Al-Mudaifer and Chairman of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce Hassan Al-Huwaizi. 

Discussions covered collaborative strategies for economic growth, investment opportunities, and partnerships to serve investors and promote business development.

The approach outlined in these announcements reinforces Saudi Arabia’s commitment to fostering a thriving digital economy and attracting diverse investments. 

This year’s Northern Border Investment Forum in Arar aimed to enhance the economic system’s components and foster communication among government officials, businessmen and merchants as well as industrialists, investors, and the broader business community.

The objectives include encouraging investors to explore regional opportunities, achieving national investment strategic goals, showcasing economic potentials, improving investment quality, and enabling sustainable growth in the business sector.

The economic forum is set to create a secure and stimulating environment for private sector growth, providing opportunities, empowering investors, and offering financial and non-financial support and solutions.


Egypt-China trade drops to $13.9bn in 2023: official data

Egypt-China trade drops to $13.9bn in 2023: official data
Updated 13 sec ago
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Egypt-China trade drops to $13.9bn in 2023: official data

Egypt-China trade drops to $13.9bn in 2023: official data

RIYADH: Trade exchange between Egypt and China dropped to $13.9 billion in 2023, compared to $16.6 billion the year before, according to official data. 

Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics stated that value of the country’s exports to China reached $909 million during 2023, down from $1.9 billion in 2022, while Egyptian imports from China amounted to $12.9 billion in 2023, a decrease from $14.8 billion in 2022. 

Among the most significant commodity groups exported to China in 2023 were fuels, mineral oils, and their distillation products valued at $414 million, stone and cement products worth $116 million, fruits worth $78 million, machinery and electrical appliances worth $31 million, and copper and its products worth $27 million. 

On the import side, the leading commodities imported from China included machinery and electrical appliances worth $4.3 billion, iron and steel worth $1.2 billion, synthetic textile fibers worth $1.1 billion, organic chemical products worth $790 million, and plastics and their products worth $773 million. 

Chinese investments in Egypt reached $956.7 million during 2022-2023, a significant rise from $563.4 million during the fiscal year 2021-2022.  

Conversely, Egyptian investments in China rose to $208.4 million during the fiscal year 2022-2023, compared to $126.5 million the year before. 

Additionally, remittances from Egyptians working in China amounted to $19.5 million during the fiscal year 2022-2023, up from $13.2 million the previous year.  

In contrast, remittances from Chinese workers in Egypt totaled $3.5 million during the fiscal year 2022-2023, a slight decrease from $4.1 million a year earlier. 

Furthermore, CAPMAS released Egypt’s foreign trade data for March 2024, revealing a trade balance deficit of $2.37 billion, compared to $3.09 billion for the same month of the previous year, marking a decrease of 23.2 percent.  

Key indicators showed that the value of exports decreased by 10.9 percent, amounting to $3.57 billion during March 2024, compared to $4 billion for the same month of the previous year. 

This decline is attributed to the decrease in the value of exports of certain goods, most notably plastics in primary forms by 6.7 percent, fertilizers by 57.4 percent, iron bars, rods, angles, and wires by 1.1percent, and crude oil by 49.9 percent.  

Conversely, the value of some exported goods increased during March 2024 compared to the same month of the previous year, most notably petroleum products by 130.3 percent, fresh fruits by 7.2 percent, ready-made garments by 14.2 percent, and pasta and various food preparations by 26.8 percent. 

Additionally, the value of imports decreased by 16.2 percent, amounting to $5.94 billion during March 2024, compared to $7.09 billion for the same month of the previous year.  


Saudi Arabia’s real GDP to grow by 2.5% in 2024 driven by non-oil activities: World Bank 

Saudi Arabia’s real GDP to grow by 2.5% in 2024 driven by non-oil activities: World Bank 
Updated 9 min 15 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s real GDP to grow by 2.5% in 2024 driven by non-oil activities: World Bank 

Saudi Arabia’s real GDP to grow by 2.5% in 2024 driven by non-oil activities: World Bank 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real gross domestic product is expected to grow by 2.5 percent in 2024, driven primarily by robust non-oil private activities, which are predicted to grow by 4.8 percent.

Similarly, economic growth in the Gulf Cooperation Council region is projected to rebound to 2.8 percent and 4.7 percent in 2024 and 2025, respectively, according to the Spring 2024 Gulf Economic Update issued by the World Bank. 

With oil production quotas expected to be gradually lifted during the second half of 2024, oil GDP in the GCC is projected to grow by 1.7 percent this year before ramping up aggressively in 2025 to reach 6.9 percent.

Meanwhile, non-oil GDP in the GCC should remain robust and expand by 3.6 percent in 2024 and 3.5 percent in the medium term, supported by accommodative fiscal policy, lower interest rates, and strong private consumption and investment.

Talking to Arab News, Safaa El-Tayeb El-Kogali, World Bank’s country director for GCC, said the growth was further driven by region-wide efforts to steer economies away from oil.

“I have to point out here that really the efforts to reform the economy and diversify it in all the countries of the GCC are reflected in the robust growth of the non-oil economy, which is expected to be 3.5 percent in 2024 and 3.6 percent in 2025,” the top executive said.

However, she outlined that he GCC region experienced an economic slowdown in 2023, growing at an annual rate of 0.7 percent, after registering a stellar growth of 7.6 percent in 2022. 

While the growth in 2022 was supported by a boom in commodity prices, increased oil production, and strong non-hydrocarbon activities, the deceleration in 2023 was primarily due to cuts in oil production, which contracted by 5 percent, in line with tighter quotas introduced by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, to stabilize oil prices, she added.

Thus, the overall oil GDP in the region is expected to register a contraction of 0.8 percent in 2024, according to the World Bank report, however, these trends are expected to be reversed in 2025, with oil output anticipated to ramp up aggressively resulting in 5.9 percent overall GDP growth.

According to the official, this was further exacerbated by tightening global monetary conditions and geopolitical developments, the “conflict in the Middle East” and the ramifications of shipping disruptions in the Red Sea. 

Further escalation of the war on Gaza could have adverse economic implications and spillover effects on the region, thus increasing uncertainty and dampening investor confidence, reduce tourism, cause capital outflows and financial market instability, weigh on investment growth, and subsequently weaken prospects for output and productivity growth, the report stated.

The World Bank official said: “In the context of expected slower global growth in 2024 for the third consecutive year, oil prices will continue to play an integral part in defining the growth prospects for the GCC region. Despite ongoing OPEC+ production cuts, average oil prices for 2024 are expected to remain flat compared to 2023, with a further decline anticipated in 2025.”

She added: “Despite the cautious oil production levels implemented by OPEC+ members, oil prices are expected to remain nearly unchanged in 2024 (at $80 per barrel) and further decline to $76 per barrel in 2025. Several factors present large uncertainties to energy market outlook, notably the geopolitical tensions recently exacerbated by the military attacks between Iran and Israel and the ongoing disruptions of commercial shipping routes in the Red Sea. Any further escalation in regional conflicts could disrupt energy supplies, leading to a spike in energy prices.”

According to the official, other factors include the recent strikes on Russian energy infrastructure, the degree of compliance by OPEC+ countries to production quotas, and the prospects of global economic growth and the ensuing volatility in world oil consumption and demand.

Additionally, weaker-than-projected growth in China could cause a sharper than expected deceleration in global economic activity, she further explained. 


PIF crowned world’s most valuable wealth fund brand

PIF crowned world’s most valuable wealth fund brand
Updated 31 min 9 sec ago
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PIF crowned world’s most valuable wealth fund brand

PIF crowned world’s most valuable wealth fund brand
  • Public Investment Fund secured the top spot due to its diverse investment strategy: Brand Finance

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has been named the world’s most valuable sovereign wealth with a brand value of $1.1 billion, according to an analysis. 

In its latest report, UK-based strategic consultancy Brand Finance revealed that Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund secured the top spot in the list due to its diverse investment strategy, trust in its name, and brand awareness, along with being a catalyst for economic advancement in the Kingdom. 

“PIF’s value is largely driven by high scores for the brand’s awareness, purpose, and commitment to positive growth,” said Brand Finance. 

Moreover, PIF was also ranked the second strongest sovereign wealth fund brand after Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. 

According to the report, ADIA was ranked the strongest wealth fund as it scored 63.9 brand strength index points out of 100 with an A+ rating, while PIF received 62.1 points with an A+. 

The Qatar Investment Authority, another wealth fund in the region, secured the third spot with 61.02 brand strength index points with an A+ rating. 

“According to Brand Finance research, PIF, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, and Qatar Investment Authority demonstrate impressive brand awareness with A+ brand strength, underscoring the importance of brand perceptions in this sector,” said David Haigh, chairman and CEO of Brand Finance. 

He added: “With significant AUM (assets under management) and a long investment horizon, PIF and other sovereign wealth funds are leaning into strategies based on patience and partnership, which we expect to continue to drive the brand perception of these funds in the coming years.” 

PIF’s growth prospects

The PIF has been spearheading Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification efforts, as the Kingdom is steadily reducing its dependence on oil, aligned with the goals outlined in Vision 2030. 

A report released by Global SWF in April revealed that PIF’s assets under management surpassed $925 billion by the end of March 2024, up from $700 billion at the end of 2022, securing its position as the fifth-largest global sovereign wealth fund, after the government transferred an additional 8 percent stake in Aramco to its portfolio. 

“Looking ahead, PIF has ambitious growth prospects, aiming to reach $2 trillion in assets under management by 2030.This ambition has also turbocharged PIF’s brand value and brand strength as it has adopted bold investment strategies that contract other SWF brands,” said Brand Finance in its report. 

It added: “PIF has garnered significant media coverage and brand awareness through the purchase of Newcastle United in the UK and the formation of professional men’s golf tour LIV.” 

According to the report, the development of ambitious giga-projects in the Kingdom which includes “The Line,” a futuristic 110-mile smart city, has also captured the public imagination, which helped PIF garner the top spot as the most valuable sovereign wealth fund. 

“PIF’s position in the ranking is also a testament to its focus on future-proofing the Saudi economy through an initiative known as ‘Vision 2030,’ which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy. In a market historically dominated by oil, the initiative aims to create over 30 million private sector jobs,” added the UK-based firm. 

Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management came second in the list of the world’s most valuable sovereign wealth funds with a brand value of $900 million, followed by China Investment Corp. and Government of Singapore Investment Corp. in the third and fourth places, respectively, valued at $700 million each. 

With its brand worth $600 million, France’s wealth fund Caisse des depots et consignations secured the fifth spot. 

Most valuable asset management brand

According to the report, American investment firm BlackRock was named the world’s most valuable asset management company with a brand value of $7 billion. 

“This No.1 ranking reflects its status as the world’s largest money manager, with over $9 trillion of assets under management. This brand value is a testament to BlackRock’s robust revenue growth, innovation, and products focused on meeting customer demand,” said Brand Finance. 

US-based multinational finance company J.P.Morgan was named the second most valuable asset management brand, followed by Vanguard, Blackstone, and Fidelity in the third, fourth, and fifth spots, respectively. 

Goldman Sachs secured the sixth spot in the list, while State Street Global Advisers and Bank of America were ranked seventh and eighth. 

“With 28 of the 50 brands hailing from the US, American firms dominate the asset management ranking,” added Haigh. 

The report revealed that J.P.Morgan is the world’s strongest asset management and sovereign wealth fund brand with an index score of 87.4 out of 100 and a AAA rating. 

“J.P. Morgan noted exceptional scores across several brand strength metrics, including awareness, familiarity, and performance. The only other brand featured in the rankings to achieve a AAA rating is BlackRock, placed second in terms of brand strength globally,” said Brand Finance. 

It added: “JP Morgan Asset Management has broadened its focus beyond investment banking in recent years, with the steadier, less-cyclical income of asset management driving the bank’s expansion.” 

French-based BNP Paribas Asset Management became the most valuable non-US firm for brand value, securing 13th place in the overall ranking. 

On the other hand, HSBC Asset Management emerged as the strongest among non-US brands, clinching the sixth spot in the overall list. 

In April, BlackRock and PIF signed a memorandum of understanding which entitled the former to establish a Riyadh-based multi-asset investment platform.

The platform will be anchored by an initial investment mandate of up to $5 billion from the PIF. 

Moreover, both parties have expressed the intention to establish BlackRock Riyadh Investment Management, which will encompass investment strategies across a range of asset classes.

On May 27, the PIF launched a company named Neo Space Group to propel the space and satellite sector in Saudi Arabia. 

The company aspires to become a national champion in the sector by developing local capabilities and boosting its strategic position within the growing global space economy, the fund said in a statement. 


Saudi banks witness 11% surge in loans to $716bn, fueled by corporate activities

Saudi banks witness 11% surge in loans to $716bn, fueled by corporate activities
Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi banks witness 11% surge in loans to $716bn, fueled by corporate activities

Saudi banks witness 11% surge in loans to $716bn, fueled by corporate activities

RIYADH: Saudi banking sector’s loans increased to SR2.68 trillion ($715.56 billion) in April, marking an 11 percent increase compared to the same month in 2023, official data showed. 

Figures released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, indicated that personal loans constituted 47 percent of banks’ total lending, with corporate loans making up the remaining 53 percent. 

The expansion of real estate projects under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, coupled with high demand for housing credit by expatriates, as well as the digitalized and streamlined banking operations, are likely significant contributors to the growth in both personal and corporate lending. 

Personal loans, encompassing all types of credit extended to individuals, totaled SR1.27 trillion, marking a 7 percent growth during this period. 

The rise in this loan category can be attributed to various factors, notably the Kingdom’s commitment to homeownership plans. These initiatives have played a pivotal role in motivating individuals to pursue housing loans, bolstered by a range of government-backed programs and incentives designed to facilitate access to affordable housing options. 

Additionally, the increasing number of expatriates in Saudi Arabia has heightened the demand for residential properties, leading to increased borrowing for home purchases. 

Furthermore, the digitalization and streamlining of banking operations have made it more convenient for lenders to process applications and disburse funds efficiently. 

With the adoption of digital banking services, borrowers can quickly request and track their loan applications through online platforms, streamlining the entire borrowing process.  

These advancements in banking technology have simplified the lending process and enhanced transparency and accessibility, further fueling the growth in personal loans across the Kingdom.  

Among corporate loans, those granted for real estate activities comprised the majority, accounting for 20 percent of the total and amounting to SR278.86 billion. This category saw a 27 percent increase during this period.  

Closely following are loans extended for wholesale and retail trade, comprising 13 percent of corporate holdings and totaling SR190.06 billion. This category of claims saw a 9 percent annual rise. 

According to an April report by The Banker, the Kingdom’s financing growth is poised to continue its upward trajectory. This rise is anticipated to be driven by sustained demand for corporate and wholesale credit, compensating for a moderation in the country’s once-dominant retail mortgage market.  

Furthermore, the year 2024 holds promise as a potential turning point, as it may mark the realization of long-awaited opportunities for direct lending to the country’s giga-projects, the report added.  

These opportunities, coveted by banks for years, could finally come to fruition, signaling a significant development in the region’s financial landscape.  

In terms of growth rates, lending for professional, scientific, and technical activities recorded the highest annual increase among others at 52 percent, despite comprising a relatively low percentage share of total loans at SR6.3 billion.  

Real estate credit within corporate activities closely followed, growing by 27 percent. Meanwhile, lending for electricity, gas, and water supplies increased by 31 percent, reaching SR151.94 billion.  


Saudi IPOs attract record $176bn in investor orders: Bloomberg 

Saudi IPOs attract record $176bn in investor orders: Bloomberg 
Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi IPOs attract record $176bn in investor orders: Bloomberg 

Saudi IPOs attract record $176bn in investor orders: Bloomberg 

RIYADH: Saudi companies have garnered SR659 billion ($176 billion) in orders for their initial public offerings, with investors eager to capitalize on the returns processed over the past two years. 

According to Bloomberg, this surge in demand for IPOs has surpassed the record set by Saudi Aramco in 2019 and is affecting the broader market.  

The Tadawul All Share Index, which tracks the Kingdom’s stock market, has fallen nearly 8 percent from its peak in March, lagging behind other emerging markets. This dip is partly due to investors holding onto cash for these new offerings, Bloomberg reported. 

Marwan Haddad, lead portfolio manager for Middle East and North Africa equities at Azimut, noted: “There is a notable surge in demand and a rush to the market.” 

Saudi Arabia is poised to lead the IPOs in the Middle East and North Africa region in 2024, with 27 companies aiming to list on the Kingdom’s main market, according to an analysis by Dubai International Financial Center. 

A report by DIFC, in association with the London Stock Exchange Group, said that the IPO pipeline in the MENA region seems promising this year, as several companies postponed their listings from 2023 to early and mid-2024 in anticipation of more favorable market conditions.   

“Deals will be driven mainly by Saudi Arabia, where 27 companies have expressed intent to list on the Saudi Exchange (Tadawul), in addition to expected follow-on issuances from Aramco and Savola,” said DIFC.  

Bloomberg noted that among the recent IPOs, Dr. Soliman Abdul Kader Fakeeh Hospital Co. attracted SR341 billion in orders for its SR2.86 billion IPO. Saudi Manpower Solutions Co. saw orders worth SR115 billion, 128 times more than the shares available to fund managers.  

Moreover, Rasan Information Technology Co., a pioneering fintech firm in Riyadh, received SR108.6 billion for its SR841 million IPO. Meanwhile, water treatment company Miahona drew SR94.4 billion in orders, 170 times its offering size. 

“The high demand can be attributed to several factors: an influx of hedge fund managers, substantial appetite from retail investors facilitated by up to 10 times leverage from banks, and the ease of subscribing through digital channels,” Haddad said. 

He added that the demand appears inflated as investors adapt to smaller allocations. The oversubscription levels have caused frustration among international and local investors due to reduced allocations. The strong performance of these IPOs also fuels the requests. 

Data from Bloomberg shows that of the 61 companies that went public in the last two years, 17 hit the maximum allowed 30 percent increase on their first trading day.  

Over half of these companies ended their debuts above the offer price, with an average return of 32 percent. By contrast, European IPOs raising at least $100 million have averaged a 5.2 percent return over the same period. 

Faisal Hasan, chief investment officer at Al Mal Capital, said: “The good returns given by the IPOs in the recent past have attracted both retail and institutional investors, leading to the demand.” 

He explained that investors tend to place larger orders, knowing their final allocations will be smaller due to the high request level. 

The Kingdom’s initiative to diversify its stock exchange is another contributing factor.  

“Demand for new listings is strong in Saudi because every other IPO is adding a new sector to a market hitherto dominated by banks and chemical companies,” said Christian Ghandour, senior portfolio manager at Al Dhabi Capital.  

“Rasan, for example, adds the fintech and ‘insurtech’ flavors to the market,” he added. 

The Capital Markets Authority revised book-building regulations in late 2022 to ensure order books reflected genuine demand and were not inflated by leverage. While this initially reduced oversubscription levels, the effect is diminishing. 

Previously, IPOs such as ACWA Power Co. and solutions by stc received immense demand, with orders reaching $300 billion and $126 billion, respectively.  

This contrasts with Saudi Aramco’s record $29.4 billion IPO in 2019, which drew $106 billion in orders. The recent figures highlight the sustained and growing interest in Saudi IPOs.