Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global looks to lead in sustainable, regenerative tourism at COP28

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global looks to lead in sustainable, regenerative tourism at COP28
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Updated 01 December 2023
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Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global looks to lead in sustainable, regenerative tourism at COP28

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global looks to lead in sustainable, regenerative tourism at COP28
  • John Pagano: COP28 provides a global platform for discussions and decision-making between nations on the topic of climate change

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global is looking forward to showcasing the role of tourism development in the environment at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) this week.

John Pagano, the chief executive officer of RSG, told Arab News: “Our aim is to help lead by example and demonstrate how tourism development can play a more positive role in mitigating some of the world’s greatest challenges and support our industry peers in this transition.

“For us, communicating some of the ways in which we’ve been able to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk, is key as all eyes turn to the event and its participants, looking for action not just conversation.”

The conference is being held in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 – the second consecutive Arab country to host the annual gathering after Egypt last year.

READ MORE: Click here for our coverage of COP28

“COP28 provides a global platform for discussions and decision-making between nations on the topic of climate change,” Pagano said, adding that RSG and several of its experts would be attending, exhibiting, and speaking at various elements of the forum.

RSG, which is wholly owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund and was established in 2018, recently concluded its participation at the World Travel Market in London, and Pagano noted that the main difference with their participation this year was that they had been able to talk about being open.

Last month The Red Sea welcomed its first guests and two of its hotels are open for bookings, and the Red Sea International Airport has been receiving a regular schedule of flights since September.




A delegation of Saudi ministers and leaders were the first guests of The Red Sea destination, landing at Red Sea International Airport aboard a special-edition liveried Saudia flight from Riyadh. (www.redseaglobal.com)

Pagano said: “The Red Sea, our luxurious destination situated on the western coastline of Saudi Arabia, has welcomed its first visitors, while Red Sea International Airport, which is on track to be the Middle East’s first carbon-neutral airport, has a regular schedule of flights.

“We’re excited that people can now book a vacation to come and see for themselves what we’ve achieved — awe-inspiring resorts and experiences in scenes of unrivalled beauty, underpinned by a profound respect for the area’s natural treasures,” he added.

Upon full completion in 2030, the destination will comprise 50 resorts, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. The destination will also include luxury marinas, golf courses, entertainment, food and beverage, and leisure facilities.

The CEO said: “(People have been) intrigued by the opening of The Red Sea and energized by our vision of regenerative tourism, which involves improving, and not just protecting, natural environments.

“Since we started on our journey six years ago, we’ve always relished the moment we would be able to talk to industry peers about hotels and resorts being open, so our experience at this year’s WTM will always be special for us.”

He pointed out that The Red Sea opening was not the only reason it had been a year of evolution for the organization, highlighting its launch of a series of subsidiary brands designed to elevate the guest experience, including WAMA and Galaxea to provide watersports and diving experiences, and Akun to operate and manage adventure sports.

“So, it’s been great to talk to industry peers about how we envisage these entities boosting tourism to the Kingdom while upholding our commitment to sustainability,” he added.

RSG has won several awards over recent years in recognition of its efforts and initiatives to promote sustainable and eco-friendly tourism, the latest of which was achieving the highest score recorded to date in the prestigious Platinum LEED v4.1 accreditation from the US Green Building Council, which served as a testament to RSG’s dedication to sustainability and marked a major milestone in the development of regenerative tourism destinations.

On the year ahead, Pagano said: “With people visiting The Red Sea for the first time, we want to ensure that they leave with unforgettable memories and a desire to return again, so the smooth operation of the destination will be a major focus for us throughout the year.”

Developing world-class destinations will also be a priority.

“For example, Amaala – designed to offer transformative personal journeys inspired by arts, wellness, and the purity of the Red Sea – is set to welcome its first guests in 2025, so we look forward to providing further updates at next year’s conference,” he added.

Collectively RSG’s portfolio, which includes the two world-leading destinations — The Red Sea and Amaala — part of Vision 2030, are responsible and regenerative tourism destinations that will aim to enhance the Kingdom’s luxury tourism and sustainability offering, protect the natural environment, and enhance it for future generations.

Pagano said: “We are also committed to our sustainability goals and making our vision of regenerative tourism a reality.

“This year saw us complete the installation of five solar farms, laying 760,000 photovoltaic panels to power the first phase of The Red Sea destination.

“We are also delivering on our strategy for destination-wide clean mobility using electric and hybrid vehicles, boats, and aircraft.

“By 2040, we are committed to delivering a 30 percent net conservation benefit across our destinations through the enhancement of biologically diverse habitats including mangroves, seagrass, corals, and land vegetation.”

He noted that The Red Sea marine biology team monitored around 300 coral reef sites in the Red Sea, and that a pilot phase of coral gardening was now underway to establish what structures and methods worked best for propagating corals. So far, he added, the results had been extremely promising.

“Our mangrove nursery, launched in partnership with the National Center for Vegetation Cover, is on track to meet the goal of planting 50 million mangrove trees by 2030, with the first 1 million seedlings already planted. We are also exploring hands-on opportunities for guests to support coral farming and planting of mangrove seedlings.”

It is one of the programs under the Saudi Green Initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021, to plant 10 billion trees throughout the Kingdom to increase vegetation cover and help combat desertification.

The 10 billion trees are part of a total of 50 billion trees that are to be planted in the region under the Middle East Green Initiative, also launched by the crown prince the same year.

 

 

“We hope that we will have inspired others across the tourism sector to follow our lead,” Pagano said.

He added that The Red Sea and Amaala’s key features — including 24/7 renewable energy, zero single-use plastics, and zero waste to landfill — “might have sounded ambitious when we first announced them, but by 2040, we believe that they will be the norm across our industry.”


WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions

WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions
Updated 27 February 2024
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WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions

WTO conference spotlights global trade challenges and collaborative solutions
  • Established in 1995, the World Trade Organization serves as global authority governing international trade regulations
  • The four-day conference, which kicked off on Monday, will feature trade ministers, senior officials from around the world

RIYADH: Global trading system accessibility, intellectual property, and dispute settlement take center stage as the 13th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference commenced in Abu Dhabi.   

The four-day event, starting on Feb. 26, will address these issues within the WTO, featuring the participation of trade ministers and senior officials from around the world, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The event will bring together 175 member states, private sector leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society representatives.  

The goal is to collaborate on advancing a more efficient, sustainable, and inclusive trading system while enhancing the effectiveness of trade policies and programs. 

Participants in this conference edition aim to build upon the achievements of the previous ministerial conference held in Geneva in June 2022. The event witnessed accomplishments in supporting fisheries, food security, and e-commerce, the SPA report added. 

Speaking on behalf of the Saudi government, Commerce Minister Majid Al-Qasabi began his video address by pointing out that the event provides a pivotal opportunity to mark the WTO’s 30th anniversary.  

“We all look forward to working with you to achieve successful outcomes of the MC 13. Such outcomes would support restoring trust in the multilateral trading system, that is facing significant challenges and headwinds, confirming the essential role of the WTO, and reiterating the global trade agenda,” he said.  

Al-Qasabi warmly welcomed Comoros and Timor-Leste as new members of the WTO, reaffirming the commitment to accelerating the remaining accession.  

He also announced the Kingdom’s approval of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, noting the WTO’s contribution to the economic growth and development of its members.  

The minister emphasized the importance for the Kingdom to achieve constructive and meaningful outcomes in Abu Dhabi and beyond. 

He concluded by reaffirming Saudi Arabia’s commitment to working constructively with all members to ensure the success of the 13th ministerial conference and beyond. 

Established in 1995, the WTO serves as the global authority governing international trade regulations. Its biennial ministerial conference acts as the paramount decision-making platform, bringing together ministers and senior officials from all member nations to assess, revise, and enhance the treaties shaping the global trade framework.  

Ahead of the event, WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala unveiled a $50 million initiative aimed at empowering female entrepreneurs in developing countries. 

The new fund looks to unlock the power of the digital economy, helping women exporters overcome financing hurdles and capture untapped opportunities. 

“This initiative embodies our collective commitment to empowering women,” Okonjo-Iweala said, adding that it is a crucial step toward addressing the financing gap faced by women entrepreneurs, who are “key drivers of economic growth and development.” 

Meanwhile, Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade and chair of the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference 2024, announced that the country allocated $5 million to the $50 million fund.  

Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of foreign affairs, earlier announced that the Gulf country will provide a $10 million grant to support several key initiatives of the WTO.  

He added that the grant would be allocated to the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the Enhanced Integrated Framework, and the WEIDE fund that will be launched during the event.

 


Moody’s affirms credit ratings of key Saudi companies

Moody’s affirms credit ratings of key Saudi companies
Updated 26 February 2024
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Moody’s affirms credit ratings of key Saudi companies

Moody’s affirms credit ratings of key Saudi companies

RIYADH: Several prominent Saudi companies received affirmation on their credit ratings from Moody’s Investor Services, a leading global provider of financial assessments, research, and risk analysis.

Following the agency’s recent update to its Government-Related Issuers Methodology, several firms, including Saudi Basic Industries Corp., Saudi Telecom Co., and Saudi Electricity Co., have maintained their A1 ratings, while Saudi Arabian Mining Co., also known as Ma’aden, continues to hold a Baa1 rating.  

For SABIC, the A1 rating acknowledges its strong global presence in the petrochemicals market, competitive cost structure, and robust financial health.  

Moody’s also highlights the cyclical nature of SABIC’s operations and its concentration in Saudi Arabia as considerations. 

stc’s A1 rating reflects its dominant position in the Saudi telecommunications sector, strong financial metrics, and substantial government support. Challenges include market competition and the capital intensity of the telecom industry, Moody’s stated. 

SEC’s rating considers its integrated electricity operations, market dominance, and regulatory support balanced against the company’s growing debt burden due to significant infrastructure investments. 

Ma’aden’s Baa1 rating is supported by its diversified production, low-cost operations, and strategic importance to Saudi Arabia’s economy. 

The company’s exposure to commodity price volatility and its expansion plans are areas of focus. 

The positive outlooks for SABIC, stc, and SEC align with Moody’s view on the government of Saudi Arabia, indicating a high likelihood of state support.  

Furthermore, Ma’aden’s stable outlook reflects its solid financial policies and liquidity management. 

The ratings of the Saudi companies could potentially be upgraded or downgraded based on several factors outlined by Moody’s.  

For SABIC, an upgrade could be on the horizon if the ratings of the Saudi government or Saudi Aramco are elevated or if the company itself demonstrates improved revenue and profitability and maintains strong credit metrics and liquidity.  

Conversely, SABIC’s ratings might face a downgrade if the company experiences a significant downturn in operating performance or engages in heavy debt-financed investments, pushing its deficit to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization ratio toward a multiple of 1.5. 

Similarly, stc could see its scores positively impacted if the ratings of the government or the Public Investment Fund are upgraded, given its status as one of the highest-rated telecom operators globally.  

However, an escalation in competition, debt-financed acquisitions, or sustained negative free cash flow could apply downward pressure on stc’s ratings. Any decrease in the government’s or PIF’s ratings would also likely result in a downgrade for stc. 

SEC’s situation mirrors that of the aforementioned entities, with the potential for an upgrade if the sovereign rating of Saudi Arabia or the PIF improves, contingent upon the company maintaining strong operational and financial performance.  

A downgrade could occur if there is a notable decline in the company’s liquidity profile or its financial metrics weaken significantly. 

Ma’aden’s ratings could be elevated if the company successfully reduces its debt relative to EBITDA and boosts its retained cash flow to net debt ratio while maintaining strong liquidity. 

Conversely, an increase in debt and EBITDA ratio beyond certain thresholds or a significant weakening of liquidity could trigger a downgrade.  

Adjustments in the perceived likelihood of support from PIF or the government in times of financial stress could also influence Ma’aden’s ratings.


Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  

Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  
Updated 26 February 2024
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Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  

Closing Bell: TASI drops to 12,532, records $2.4bn trade volume  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index closed at 12,531.76 points on Monday, marking a decrease of 72.83 points or 0.58 percent.   

The parallel market Nomu concluded at 25,592.61, registering a fall of 109.54 points, or 0.43 percent. Alongside, the MSCI Index also descended by 3.81 points to settle at 1,616.76, a drop of 0.24 percent.   

By the day’s end, the main index posted a trading value of SR9.15 billion ($2.4 billion) with 42 stocks advancing and 186 declining. On the other hand, Nomu reported a trade volume of SR47.1 million.   

TASI’s top performer was Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co., which saw a 7.69 percent jump to SR31.50.

Maharah Human Resources Co. and Wataniya Insurance Co. also recorded notable gains, with their shares closing at SR7.21 and SR22.56, marking an increase of 6.19 percent and 5.82 percent, respectively. The Co. for Cooperative Insurance and Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. also fared well.   

On the announcement front, Saudi German Health successfully concluded the offering of its Saudi Riyal-denominated sukuk, reaching a total value of SR1 billion.  

The offering comprised 1 million sukuk, each with a nominal value of SR1,000, and a fixed annual yield of 7.20 percent, paid out quarterly over a maturity period of five years.  

The company has specified that under certain conditions detailed in the base prospectus and the final terms, the sukuk may be redeemed before their maturity date.

Investors can review these final terms, which will be available on Al Rajhi Capital’s website starting Mar. 6, 2024, the entity overseeing the subscription management for this issuance.  

The allocation of sukuk to investors will be finalized by the end of Feb. 29, with the settlement process concluding on Mar. 6, 2024.   

Furthermore, Saudi German Health plans to list the sukuk on Saudi Stock Exchange once all regulatory procedures necessary for the listing are completed, with an announcement to be made at the appropriate time.  

Moreover, Alinma Bank is set to bolster its Tier 1 capital through a strategic move to issue additional sukuk denominated in US dollars.   

This initiative, aimed at enhancing the bank’s capital base and supporting its general banking operations, follows a board resolution authorizing the CEO to manage the issuance process.  

The planned issuance will be executed by a special-purpose vehicle, targeting qualified investors both within Saudi Arabia and internationally.   

Participating as joint lead managers, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Alinma Investment Co., and Emirates NBD, have been appointed to oversee the issuance, as well as J.P. Morgan Securities, MUFG Securities EMEA, and Standard Chartered Bank.


Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories

Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories
Updated 26 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories

Saudi Arabia records 10% surge in number of factories

RIYADH: The number of industrial units in Saudi Arabia recorded a 10 percent surge year on year in 2023 to reach 11, 549, according to the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.

A spokesman for the minister, Jarrah bin Mohammed Al-Jarrah, revealed that the new industrial establishments were set up with an investment of SR1.54 trillion ($48.4 billion).

The rise in the number of factories falls in line with the Kingdom’s plan of boosting industrialization and achieving a target of 36,000 plants by 2035.

Moreover, the number of new industrial licenses issued in 2023 reached 1,379, with investments amounting to more than SR81 billion.

On the other hand, production began in a total of 1,058 factories during the same year with investments amounting to SR45 billion.

In addition, Al-Jarrah noted that the new licenses were distributed among 25 industrial activities, led by food products manufacturing with 244 permits, followed by the manufacturing of non-metallic mineral products (176) and the manufacturing of formed metal products with 165. A total of 123 licenses were issued to factories engaged in the manufacturing of rubber and plastic products.

With a vision to increase the number of factories to 36,000 by 2035, including 4,000 which will be fully automated, Saudi Arabia is poised to create a dynamic and innovative production landscape.

The adoption of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and robotics, positions Saudi industries as global leaders of this revolution.

The Kingdom’s industrial sector is experiencing sustained growth, with investments in manufacturing reaching $132 billion since the launch of the economic diversification strategy Vision 2030 in 2016.


Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research

Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research
Updated 26 February 2024
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Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research

Houthi Red Sea strikes affecting half of UK retailers: Research
  • British Chambers of Commerce: Commercial container prices up as much as 300%
  • Moody’s: Retailers could face ‘material impact on profitability by end of 2024’

LONDON: Disruptions to global trade caused by the Houthi campaign against shipping in the Red Sea is affecting more than half of all retailers in the UK.

Research conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce across more than 1,000 companies in the UK found that container shipping prices have jumped as much as 300 percent, while goods have been delayed for up to a month, prompting supply shortages and cash flow problems.

The Houthis launched their campaign against commercial vessels in November in a bid to end Israeli military strikes on Gaza, which began in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Air and sea strikes against the Houthis in Yemen by US and UK forces have so far failed to curtail the attacks. Eighteen Houthi targets were hit in airstrikes over the weekend.

The average cost of shipping goods from China to Europe has more than doubled, with most ships preferring to travel around Africa rather than risk attack by approaching the Suez Canal.

In 2023, around 22 percent of all commercial shipping containers passed through the canal, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. That total has since fallen by 82 percent, with 586 ships rerouting around Africa.

The BCC’s head of trade policy, William Bain, urged the UK government to provide more support to British retailers ahead of its budget next week.

“There has been spare capacity in the shipping freight industry to respond to the difficulties, which has bought us some time. And recent (government) data also indicates the impact has yet to filter through to the UK economy, with inflation holding steady in January,” he said.

“But our research suggests that the longer the current situation persists, the more likely it is that the cost pressures will start to build.”

Bain said new post-Brexit laws “adding to costs and delays” had made it “a difficult time for firms.”

Credit ratings agency Moody’s warned this month that retailers would experience a “material impact on profitability by the end of 2024” if the situation in the Red Sea did not significantly improve.

Bain said: “The UK economy saw a drop in its total goods exports for 2023 and, with global demand weak, there is a need for the government to look at providing support in the March budget.”

The crisis has also led to an increase in pressure on air freight companies, with delivery aggregator ParcelHero noting an uptick of 8 percent on spot rates between Europe and China, and 14 percent between China and the US.

Supply issues are expected to worsen in March as Chinese exports increase following the country’s New Year holidays, which concluded over the weekend.

David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero, said: “Initially, there was a scramble for aviation services as businesses rushed to get products out before the festivities began.

“Now the continuing demand for air freight on this route is because many ships are berthed for the duration and containers are stuck firmly in Chinese ports until manufacturing ramps up enough to restore full services.

“Air freight enables those companies manufacturing and operating in Asia to leapfrog the Chinese bottleneck.”