Experts laud Saudi private sector’s efforts in advancing sustainable development

A view of Dubai’s Expo City during the UN Climate Change Conference known as COP28 in Dubai. Reuters
A view of Dubai’s Expo City during the UN Climate Change Conference known as COP28 in Dubai. Reuters
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Experts laud Saudi private sector’s efforts in advancing sustainable development

Experts laud Saudi private sector’s efforts in advancing sustainable development

DUBAI: Experts on Sunday highlighted the positive role the private sector is playing in advancing sustainable development in Saudi Arabia.

The progressive picture emerged through a series of panel discussions held at the Saudi Pavilion on the fourth day of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP28, currently underway in Dubai.

The talks examined diverse subjects, including carbon removal, corporate sustainability, and domestic market mechanisms. Speakers from government organizations, companies, and international organizations, as well as think tanks and consultancies, provided insights into the current situation. The talks extended beyond carbon emission goals as agreed under the Paris Agreement, delving into conversations surrounding Vision 2030 as set out by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Private sector participation

As a core component of the Saudi Vision 2030 and a means by which to diversify the economy, Hajar Al-Gosair, sustainability head at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning, noted while speaking on a panel on corporate sustainability that environmental efforts within the Kingdom cannot be restricted to the public or governmental sector alone. 

Among the driving forces is a steering committee chaired by Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim, with the participation of over 20 entities from private and governmental bodies, she outlined. 

Al-Gosair cited key players such as the Capital Market Authority, the Ministry of Energy, and the Ministry of Investment, as well as private sector members, such as food company Al-Marai and renewable energy firm Desert Technologies, for their efforts in driving change. 

At the panel, officials from Al-Marai and Desert Technologies outlined the actions taken by their respective companies to cut carbon emissions. 

Saudi Aramco recently announced the launch of a $1.5 billion venture capital fund to invest in technology that will accelerate the net-zero initiative. “This is one of the things that one of the leading companies is doing,” Al-Gosair said. 

Experts emphasize that the shift toward achieving net zero is not exclusive to large corporations, especially as the Saudi government is keen to promote the growth of small and medium enterprises. Therefore, adopting sustainable practices and the accessibility of green finance must extend to SMEs, aligning with the broader goal of promoting environmental responsibility across diverse business sectors.

“It has to come down from the very big projects into the middle of the market and the SME sector. As you would know, Saudi has a very strong ambition to build the SME sector as part of its economy. So, complementing that will be SMEs that are building technologies or involved in the ecosystem around ESG-compliant lending. So yes, it’s very important. We have quadrupled our commitments to the SME sector in the last 12 months, and much of that will be in ESG-compliant lending or ESG-compliant products, asset management products, or deposit products.” Tony Cripps, CEO of the Saudi British Bank, told Arab News.

When discussing sectors of the economy where green finance has been or could be applied in the future, Cripps expressed optimism for its impact on emerging technology and green transportation. 

“Building green buildings is obviously important and our new head office is gold standard. But I think in the technology space is where it becomes very interesting. If you look at electric vehicles, if you look at battery storage, these are areas that will transform the environment … You’ve got technology providers from around the world looking to establish businesses in Saudi Arabia and build regional manufacturing infrastructure or even global manufacturing infrastructure around electric vehicles, around batteries. The data storage industry is exploding. So these are just some of the sectors that are very exciting,” Cripps said.

In her speech, Al-Gosair said that in early 2024, the Kingdom intends to launch sustainable development reporting standards for companies, making Saudi Arabia the first of the G20 countries to have a reporting standard aligned with international best practices.

A comprehensive approach

By framing the climate conversation as a silo, we cannot achieve anything, outlined Princess Nouf Al-Saud, CEO of the King Khalid Foundation, during her participation at the Saudi Green Initiative talks. 

It must instead be acknowledged as a comprehensive issue with socioeconomic, health, and developmental ramifications and thus addressed in a comprehensive manner that intersects business, philanthropy, and government, she said.

The CEO underscored that businesses must be the driving force for change within societies, adding that companies must consequently take responsibility for the communities they benefit from.

She said: “We need governments to be contributing, businesses to be contributing properly and taking responsibility for their communities or the communities that they benefit or extract from.”

The CEO added: “Especially in this year, we’re seeing business and philanthropy at COP, so bringing the two pillars of society that are very important, along with the third that is government. It’s very important because it is business that elevates people out of one economic strata.” 

Princess Nouf underscored that by 2030, there will be 38 million green jobs. Thus, the transition into the new economic model rooted in sustainability requires the integration of the youth in order to “re-skill” the workforce.

As it stands, green jobs are “very much tied with the megaprojects,” the CEO said, noting companies such as NEOM and Red Sea Global, which have been at the forefront of sustainability initiatives within the Kingdom.

Carbon capture & removal

In another session held at the Saudi Pavilion on Sunday, experts discussed the latest developments in the field of carbon capture, removal, and storage, which is being touted as one of the ways to get to net zero and mitigate the global temperature rise.

The executive director of the Oxford Net Zero Initiative and CO2RE Research Hub, Steve Smith, launched the discussions with a detailed status report on this sector, which has begun to attract interest from companies and governments. He said that though carbon capture has started to hit some traction, it is still minimal.

“The main problem we have that’s causing climate change at the moment is that we are emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We’re putting about 40 billion tons per year into the atmosphere and that’s causing the global warming that we’re experiencing. But we’re actually doing a little bit of carbon dioxide removal. That’s taking it back out through our activities. We’re taking about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year out of the atmosphere and that’s mainly through planting trees in certain parts of the world.” Smith told Arab News.

As the technologies are still being tested and tried, Smith says that of the various regions, the Middle East and, notably, the GCC nations may have an edge due to numerous factors.

“There’s a lot of work to be done actually to work out where the best places might be. But we can look at some general factors that give us an indication that if we take the Middle East region, for example, we know that there could be very plentiful resources of renewables, low carbon energy, and that is going to be really important for processes that require energy, for instance, direct capture machines or maybe even kind of processing rock, which we can mineralize through capturing CO2.

"And we know that the Middle East region has plentiful geological resources to store carbon. Indeed, that carbon has actually been stalled for a million years in the forms of oil and gas. And so we know these geological formations on the ground are pretty good at storing things for millions of years. And as they are depleted, depleted with oil and gas, maybe we can actually fill them up with our waste CO2,” said Smith.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,605

Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,605
Updated 25 February 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,605

Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,605

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Sunday, shedding 29.74 points, or 0.24 percent, to close at 12,604.59.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.63 billion ($1.77 billion) as 148 of the stocks advanced while 74 retreated.  

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market, Nomu, rose 194.49 points, or 0.76 percent, to close at 25,702.15. This comes as 44 of the stocks advanced while as many as 22 retreated.

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped 7.60 points, or 0.47 percent, to close at 1,620.57.

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co. The company’s share price surged 9.96 percent to SR29.25. 

Other top performers include Arabian Pipes Co. as well as Saudi Steel Pipe Co.

The worst performer was Al-Baha Investment and Development Co., whose share price dropped by 6.67 percent to SR0.14.

On the announcements front, Hail Cement Co. announced its annual financial results for the period ending Dec. 31. 

According to a Tadawul statement, the firm’s net profit reached SR24.61 million in 2023, reflecting a 49.95 percent rise compared to 2022.  

The increase in net profit was mainly attributed to a decrease in general and administrative costs as well as a drop in zakat expenses. 

It was also primarily linked to achieving profits from financial investments at fair value as well as high returns on Murabaha deposits during the aforementioned period.

Additionally, Saudi Steel Pipe Co. has also revealed its annual consolidated financial results for 2023. 

A bourse filing disclosed that the company’s net profit hit SR217 million in the year ending on Dec. 31, up 301.85 percent in comparison to the corresponding period a year earlier. 

The rise in net profit is mainly driven by a surge in gross profit, recognition of a bargain purchase gain, a rise in other income, and a drop in Zakat and tax expense.

Saudi Lime Industries Co. announced the signing of a conditional binding agreement with Astra Industrial Group and Tharawat Mining Co. to acquire a 100 percent stake in the share capital of Astra Mining Ltd. Co.

According to a Tadawul statement, the transaction value is up to a maximum of SR35 million for acquiring the company shares and settlement of company debt to local banks amounting to SR129.6 million. Accordingly, the maximum amount is SR164.6 million.

Moreover, the Capital Market Authority approved the public offering of King Khalid University Endowment Fund units.

Meanwhile, Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co. will list on Nomu today.


Saudi approach toward capital allocation, economic diversification lauded

Saudi approach toward capital allocation, economic diversification lauded
Updated 25 February 2024
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Saudi approach toward capital allocation, economic diversification lauded

Saudi approach toward capital allocation, economic diversification lauded

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s general disposition around capital allocation is diversified, as financial institutions in the Kingdom are “savvy and strong” with long-term strategies, according to a senior executive.

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Middle East Investment Conference held in Riyadh, President and CEO of CFA Institute Marg Franklin noted that Saudi Arabia aims to move away from its heavy reliance on oil by diversifying its investment portfolio.

This diversification plan involves investing in small and medium-sized enterprises within the Kingdom to broaden the economy’s scope.

She said: “If you look at Saudi Arabia’s general disposition around capital allocation, it really centers on diversification, and that is really where we’ve seen the savviest and strongest financial institutions who have a very long-term view and very long-term objectives really achieve those ambitions for the capital.”

Franklin highlighted the importance of asset owners in the Middle East, who prioritize serving their citizens over short-term gains, emphasizing long-term objectives and sustainability in capital allocation.

Additionally, amid Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 program, Franklin noted that the CFA Institute emerges as a key player in shaping the nation’s economic landscape.

With a three-pronged approach focused on education, advocacy, and policy, the institute is instrumental in fostering a robust and well-functioning capital market.

“When we look here in Saudi Arabia, it’s an ambitious program for 2030 and what’s exciting about it is how much it’s related to the population of Saudi, so it really lines up with those last six words of our mission for the ultimate benefit of society,” Franklin said.

She added: “The key things where CFA Institute, I think has a distinct role to play is first of all in developing and enhancing the capital markets, making sure they’re efficient and fair.”

Franklin continued: “Because at the end of the day, when you’re bringing in global capital or exporting global capital, there is a common language that goes with it. But there will be unique features here in the region, specifically Islamic finance.”

The second aspect Franklin highlighted is capacity building and talent development. This includes the renowned CFA program, known for its comprehensive curriculum and ethical foundation, providing a common platform for investment professionals globally.

“Then finally, just building those baseline skills, because we know one of Saudi Arabia’s key objectives is to build financial literacy, and that’s crucial if you’re going to increase the savings of citizens,” Franklin said.


Oman’s insurance sector expected have recorded 10% growth in 2023   

Oman’s insurance sector expected have recorded 10% growth in 2023   
Updated 25 February 2024
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Oman’s insurance sector expected have recorded 10% growth in 2023   

Oman’s insurance sector expected have recorded 10% growth in 2023   

RIYADH: Oman’s insurance sector is expected to have achieved a 10 percent growth in 2023, paving the way for attracting additional regional investors, according to a top official. 

This comes as Oman recorded a growth rate of about 13 percent in insurance premiums in 2022, according to Mustafa Ahmed Salman, member of the board of directors of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  

Salman, also serving as the chairman of the chamber’s Finance and Insurance Committee, emphasized that raising the capital of insurance companies will greatly enhance their ability to attract investors and facilitate business growth, as reported by the Oman News Agency. 

“The contribution of the insurance sector to the gross domestic product of the Sultanate of Oman currently amounts to 1.3 percent, which is a good percentage compared to Arab countries,” he said.  

This positive trend follows the insurance division emerging as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the Middle Eastern country. 

The chairman went on to explain that the volume of Arab insurance reached about $45 billion, constituting 1 percent of the volume of global insurance. 

Furthermore, Salman highlighted that the Finance and Insurance Committee of the chamber is actively engaged in studying and developing laws, decisions, and regulations related to the sector.  

He also emphasized that the board is actively addressing challenges, presenting proposals, and offering visions to overcome obstacles. 

All these endeavors demonstrate that increasing the contribution of insurance to the GDP is achieved by establishing large projects and capital for insurance companies, as well as strengthening their reserves, highlighted the chairman. 

Regarding the performance of insurance firms on the Muscat Securities Market, he emphasized that their prices have been traded at appropriate costs and delivered good dividends over the past years. 

Salman further disclosed that efforts are underway to enhance trading in the shares of these companies, aiming to attract more investors for buying and exchanging their assets.  

Oman’s insurance industry is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent, reaching $1.8 billion in 2028, up from around $1.4 billion in 2022, according to the UAE-based investment banking advisory firm Alpen Capital. 

In a recently released study titled “GCC Insurance Industry Report,” the advisory firm stated that several macroeconomic trends, particularly GDP and population growth between 2023 and 2028, are expected to drive this transition. 


Saudi Arabia further empowers tourism authority to help sector grow

Saudi Arabia further empowers tourism authority to help sector grow
Updated 26 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia further empowers tourism authority to help sector grow

Saudi Arabia further empowers tourism authority to help sector grow
  • New regulations approved for establishment of marketing offices to promote KSA globally

RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet recently approved regulations for the country’s tourism authority that will give a fresh impetus to the sector and contribute to its overall growth.

The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, approved 24 regulations concerning the Saudi Tourism Authority with a focus on global promotion, international and regional collaboration and tourists targets.

The regulations will help the authority achieve tourism targets in line with Vision 2030 and empower the body to play a pivotal role in promoting the Kingdom as a tourist destination locally, regionally, and globally.

One of the approved regulations enables the tourism authority to establish marketing offices both domestically and internationally. The objective is to boost visitor arrivals and realize the vision of positioning the Kingdom as a top-tier tourist destination, according to Umm Al-Qura, the country’s official gazette.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, who is also chairman of the STA, highlighted that the Cabinet’s approval of the authority’s regulations underscores the government’s commitment to supporting the tourism sector in achieving its objectives aligned with Vision 2030.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The regulations will help the authority achieve tourism target in line with Vision 2030 and empower the body to play a pivotal role in promoting the Kingdom as a tourist destination locally, regionally, and globally.

• One of the approved regulations enables the tourism authority to establish marketing offices both domestically and internationally.

• The objective is to boost visitor arrivals and realize the vision of positioning the Kingdom as a top-tier tourist destination.

Among the key objectives is the collaboration with government bodies in the tourism sector to establish marketing offices for traveler destinations and oversee the strategies of these offices. Additionally, the regulations include setting visitation targets and allocating funds in a manner that enhances the involvement of the private sector in this endeavor.

As per the new regulation, the tourism authority is now mandated to undertake all measures essential for realizing its objectives, including formulating comprehensive plans and policies for tourism marketing within the Kingdom, domestically and internationally. 

Additionally, the regulation emphasizes the promotion and enhancement of destinations in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the support and marketing of activities and events organized by governmental bodies and the private sector.

Moreover, the authority is required to establish and maintain an up-to-date database encompassing all sites, tourist destinations, resorts, and services in collaboration with pertinent authorities. 

Moreover, it is tasked with conducting activities associated with promoting Umrah packages, which includes overseeing the development and management of any designated platform in coordination with relevant agencies. 

Additionally, the authority is mandated to assess visitor experiences, devise essential standards, tools, and mechanisms, identify tourist priorities and challenges, and subsequently share the findings and performance reports with the ministry.

The Umm Al-Qura statement added that the body should propose the necessary designs, policies, and procedures to prepare the development of tourist sites and destinations that need rehabilitation or modernization and submit them to the Ministry of Tourism, in addition to working with distinguished local and international companies and institutions, to provide products and tools with professional content, and to benefit from its expertise in tourism marketing in the Kingdom.

The source further stated that the STA is required to conduct marketing campaigns domestically and internationally to promote travel sites and products. This includes developing trademarks, registering them, and securing any intellectual property rights associated with tourism marketing under the authority’s name. The source emphasized that the body should also undertake any necessary actions related to these tasks and leverage them in accordance with pertinent rules.

The new regulation assigns the authority to develop and execute media plans to promote tourism domestically and globally. This includes organizing forums, conferences, and local and global exhibitions. 

Additionally, the body will offer administrative and technical support to tourism product owners, facilitate small and medium enterprises, and implement training programs to enhance marketing efficiency.

Furthermore, with an independent annual budget, the STA is responsible for overseeing promotional campaigns, proposing investment opportunities, and coordinating with relevant entities to enhance the travel experience. It will also collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism, government bodies, and the private sector to formulate marketing policies and ensure alignment with the national tourism strategy.


Arab-Turkish economic ties flourish with $55bn intra-trade 

Arab-Turkish economic ties flourish with $55bn intra-trade 
Updated 25 February 2024
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Arab-Turkish economic ties flourish with $55bn intra-trade 

Arab-Turkish economic ties flourish with $55bn intra-trade 

RIYADH: Arab-Turkish economic relations are continuing to progress at all levels, with the volume of intra-trade standing at $55 billion, as stated by the secretary-general of the Union of Arab Chambers.  

Khaled Hanafi added that exports from the Turkish nation are increasing annually by about 10 percent, and the presence of direct and indirect Arab investments in Turkiye has grown significantly in recent years. 

The discussion took place during the fifth joint meeting of the Arab and Turkish Chambers, convened in Egypt. The event was attended by numerous heads of chambers of commerce and industry leaders from Arab nations and Turkiye. 

During the meeting, Sameer Abdulla Nass, president of the Union of Arab Chambers and president of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce, stressed the significance of increasing the openness of Arab economies at both regional and international levels. 

He further underscored the importance of achieving optimal benefits from trade agreements concluded by Arab countries to boost their exports and enhance their capacity. 

The president explained that this step would help remove all challenges and restrictions on the movement of trade between countries and attract foreign capital to contribute to creating opportunities for partnerships that achieve the common interest of all parties. 

He also highlighted the importance of such meetings and conferences as opportunities to build strong relations between the Arab world and Turkiye. Especially noteworthy is the Arab-Turkish chamber, which, since its establishment, has played a significant role in raising the level of trade, economic, and investment exchange. 

For his part, the Minister of Trade and Industry of Egypt, Ahmed Samir, stressed the importance of the business community in the Arab countries and Turkiye benefiting from the political relations between their nations. This collaboration aims to develop economic cooperation in areas such as joint manufacturing, the enhancement of intra-trade, support for transportation and logistics, and ensuring food security. 

He urged the Arab and Turkish chambers to capitalize on the opportunities presented in the Arab Republic of Egypt, including those associated with the Suez Canal axis, the golden license, and the state ownership policy.