Entrepreneurship forum highlights growing business landscape in Saudi Arabia 

Special Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi speaks at the event. Supplied
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Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi speaks at the event. Supplied
Special Convened at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center, the Social Development Bank Forum for Entrepreneurship and Modern Business Practices brought together 85 local and international speakers, 30 global organizations and over 100 consultants. 
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Convened at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center, the Social Development Bank Forum for Entrepreneurship and Modern Business Practices brought together 85 local and international speakers, 30 global organizations and over 100 consultants. 
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Updated 23 January 2024
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Entrepreneurship forum highlights growing business landscape in Saudi Arabia 

Entrepreneurship forum highlights growing business landscape in Saudi Arabia 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s entrepreneurial landscape is rapidly expanding thanks to close collaboration between the public and private sectors, business leaders highlighted during a two-day event in Riyadh. 

Convened at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center, the Social Development Bank Forum for Entrepreneurship and Modern Business Practices brought together 85 local and international speakers, 30 global organizations and over 100 consultants. 

Speaking at the event, which commenced on Jan. 22, Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, who also serves as the chairman of the board of SDB, stated that the 53-year-old bank injected more than SR11 billion ($2.9 billion) into the national economy in 2023 to support startups, benefiting over 150,000 citizens.  

Additionally, he highlighted that the number of small and medium enterprises doubled from 429,000 entities in 2016 to more than 1.2 million.  

“This proves the wise leadership’s support and empowerment of entrepreneurs, reenforcing the role of SMEs in supporting economic resources and contributing to increasing the gross domestic product to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030,” he said.  

Al-Rajhi added that the labor market strategy his ministry is working on is tailored to enhance the business atmosphere and support startup incubators.  

“This forum comes to support this strategy and contribute to its targets. The forum also introduces SDB as the biggest national financial provider and a key financing player in the Middle East,” he said.  

The bank has helped more than 9 million citizens and succeeded in financing over 50,000 emerging enterprises and startups.   

The event facilitated the exchange of insightful experiences, cultivating a dynamic environment for shared knowledge and collaboration within the entrepreneurial community.    

The forum, featuring several panel discussions under the theme “DeveGo — Into a Thriving Future,” aimed to stimulate innovation in practical solutions to enhance financial services and support for emerging and micro-enterprises, ultimately contributing to the Saudi GDP.   

In an interview with Arab News, Sayeeda Warsi, the former UK minister of the Foreign Office and Faith and Communities, explained how Saudi Arabia can collaborate globally, particularly with the UK, to promote entrepreneurship and modern business practices. She emphasized that the UK and Saudi Arabia share a history of relationships on various levels. 

“It is long-established diplomatic relations. And I think one of the things that I am incredibly proud of in the UK is the fact that we have an established set of laws and regulations and business practices. We are also one of the biggest financial centers in the world,” she said on the sidelines of the event.  

Warsi pointed out the evolution of the insurance sector and highlighted the central role entrepreneurship has played in the initiatives of successive governments. She expressed her belief that there is indeed ample room for collaboration between Saudi Arabia and the UK. 

Commenting on the role of diplomatic efforts in enhancing economic and business relations between the two countries, from her perspective as a former minister of the Foreign Office, Warsi said she comes from a family of businesspeople.  

Over the course of her life, during which she initiated, built, and sold businesses, Warsi noted that the one thing she learned from her father is that people enjoy doing business with people they like. 

“With strong diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and the UK, I absolutely think that we will build upon that relationship as we have done in the past. If the relationship is strong, then absolutely the business relationship will be built upon that,” she said.  

Explaining how Saudi entrepreneurship can contribute to preserving and promoting cultural heritage while fostering economic growth, she mentioned that attendees at the conference are discussing the green economy. 

“If you look at the way in which, historically, Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of fuel (sector). If you look at its commitments now in relation to developing a much more green-powered economy.”  

Warsi emphasized the importance of two things when the transition occurs: firstly, supporting those individuals traditionally employed in areas benefiting from the oil and gas-based sector, and in those geographical locations, ensuring that they feel supported and anticipate gaining from the impending change. 

“Those areas where these new developments are taking place around green technologies, we have to make sure that we take into account their history, their heritage, their geography, their cultural practices so that it doesn't feel like this growth is done to them, but it is being done with them,” she clarified.   

Moreover, she explained how Saudi entrepreneurs can establish productive global partnerships to drive innovation and foster growth in their startups, emphasizing that startups often gain significant benefits from strategic alliances. 

“It is important that when we look at the issue of climate change, particularly, our obligations are not just national but international.”  

Warsi added that, when examining the sustainable development goals set by the UN, the targets agreed upon by countries worldwide are global issues. Consequently, she emphasized that the solutions must also be global in nature. 

“We have a set of strategic partnerships between different parts of the world to make sure that when we move towards those targets, they are done in a collaborative way.” 

She emphasized the significance of richer countries establishing funds to assist less developed nations in their transition to a greener economy. 

“It is important that those countries that are the oil and gas providers are supported in making that transition to a greener economy. It is so important that we see this as a collective whole world challenge that we deal with by working strategically together, and the latest meeting in Dubai was a clear example of that.” the former minister concluded.  

In his speech, Jeff Hoffman, chairman of Global Entrepreneurship Network, shared some tips on becoming a successful entrepreneur.  

He stressed that, for a company to grow, an entrepreneur should recognize the necessity of developing leaders all around them and enabling these leaders to further expand. 

“When you ask a startup what the key to success is, everybody always says funding, but what the most valuable resource on this planet is not financial capital; it is human capital. It is not a money game; it's a talent game,” he said, adding that an entrepreneur’s key to success is to surround themselves with people smarter than them.  

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s economic transformations and his perspective on its entrepreneurial ecosystem, Hoffman mentioned that he has been visiting the Kingdom for many years. He expressed being particularly impressed in recent years with the rapid growth of the Saudi entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

However, he added that the most impressive aspect is that the entire ecosystem is working together seamlessly. 

“So many parts of the ecosystem and organizations within government and private sectors in Saudi Arabia are all getting together to improve entrepreneurship opportunities in the Kingdom, and it has been amazing,” Hoffman told Arab News.  

Shedding light on how his company can collaborate with Saudi Arabia to align global best practices with the goals outlined in Vision 2030, especially with the Kingdom placing a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship, he expressed his strong belief that global collaboration is crucial for entrepreneurs to succeed universally. 

“In 2022, we had our global meeting right here in this very building where we are standing, in order to foster more collaboration between our organization and the organizations. So, we are big believers in collaboration, and as they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.” Hoffman concluded. 


Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188

Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188
Updated 18 July 2024
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Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188

Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index ended the week in green, gaining 30.71 points, or 0.25 percent, to close at 12,188.32.         

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.7 billion ($2.3 billion) as 108 of the listed stocks advanced, while 113 retreated.   

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index also gained 6.61 points, or 0.43 percent, to close at 1,527.   

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu dropped 185.57 points, or 0.72 percent, to close at 25,702.34. This comes as 32 of the listed stocks advanced, while as many as 33 retreated.   

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Manpower Solutions Co., with the company’s share price surging 6.33 percent to SR9.41.    

Other top performers include Saudi Public Transport Co. as well as Tourism Enterprise Co., whose share prices soared by 5.83 percent and 5.06 percent, to stand at SR18.88 and SR0.83 respectively.    

In addition to this, other top performers included Saudi Industrial Development Co. and National Gypsum Co.  

The worst performer was Al-Baha Investment and Development Co., whose share price dropped by 7.69 percent to SR0.12.     

Others to see falls were Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Leejam Sports Co., whose share prices dropped by 6.19 percent and 3.12 percent to stand at SR23.34 and SR230, respectively.    

AYYAN Investment Co. and B MBC Group Co. also recorded falls.

On the announcement front, Advanced Petrochemical Co. announced a net loss of SR17 million for the first half of 2024, a significant decline from the SR103 million net profit recorded during the same period in the previous year. 

The company attributed this downturn to several factors, including a 20 percent year-on-year decrease in sales revenue due to scheduled maintenance activities in 2024. 

Advanced Petrochemical posted a SR67 million loss share in its investment in SK Advanced for the current six-month period, compared to a SR43 million loss in the first half of 2023. 

In the second quarter of 2024, the company’s net profit decreased by 30 percent to SR42 million, down from SR60 million in the same period of 2023. This reduction was primarily driven by a 12 percent year-on-year increase in propane prices, despite an overall rise in quarterly revenues. 


UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars

UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars
Updated 18 July 2024
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UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars

UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars
  • Emirate’s debt capital markets outstanding are expected to reach $300 billion in the second half of 2025

RIYADH: The UAE’s debt capital market outstanding surged by 11.8 percent annually to $281 billion in the first half of this year, with 71.5 percent of US-denominated dollars, a new report has revealed.
According to data released by the credit agency Fitch Ratings, the country’s debt capital markets outstanding are expected to reach $300 billion in the second half of 2025.
“The DCM structural reforms, the implementation of the Dirham Monetary Framework, and generally resilient investor appetite have led to notable growth over the past five years,” said the Global Head of Islamic Finance at Fitch Ratings, Bashar Al-Natoor.
“However, there are still gaps to address,” he added. “The dirham market remains nascent, the investor base is highly concentrated in banks and most corporates still prefer bank financing over bonds or sukuk.”
Following the UN climate change conference COP28 in the UAE in late 2023, environmental, social, and governance debt issuance in the first half of this year fell 35 percent to $3.3 billion, with sukuk accounting for the vast majority of 67.5 percent.
The Emirates was the third-largest US dollar debt issuer among emerging markets, excluding China, with an 8.9 percent share of the total in the first half of 2024.
Al-Natoor said that despite the growth in Islamic finance, many corporates still prefer traditional bank financing over issuing bonds or sukuk due to perceived complexities in adhering to Shariah standards set by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions.
The only countries with a larger percentage than the UAE were Saudi Arabia, with a 17.4 percent share, and Brazil, with 9.4 percent, according to Fitch Ratings.

Sukuk issuance in all currencies increased by 9.8 percent annually, totaling $8.4 billion, outperforming bond issuance, which decreased by 44.3 percent to $39 billion.

Dollar-denominated DCM issuances included a notable share of sukuk at 27.7 percent in the first half, down from 35.3 percent in the same period last year. 

Fitch has assigned ratings to $26.5 billion worth of UAE sukuk, with 94.3 percent maintaining investment-grade status.

Certain UAE banks, both Islamic and conventional, have been restricted from investing in specific sukuk unless they hold them until maturity due to guidelines from the Higher Shariah Authority of the Central Bank.

“We forecast consolidated UAE government debt at 24 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) at end-2024, well below the 49 percent ‘AA’ category median,” the credit rating agency said, adding: “Individual emirates have varied debt profiles; Sharjah stands out with a higher debt burden.”

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are expected to post surpluses, whereas deficits are projected for Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah, where Fitch upgraded RAK’s rating to “A+” from “A” in May 2024.


Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy
Updated 18 July 2024
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Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

RIYADH: A SR60 million ($15.9 million) deal has been signed between food company Almarai and marketing logistics firm 30Export to boost the former’s foreign trade prospects.

The agreement, overseen by Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef and Abdulrahman Al-Thukair, the CEO of Saudi Export Development Authority, was signed by Abdullah Al-Bader, CEO of Almarai Co. and Ali Al-Malki, 30Export.

According to a statement by Thamer Al-Mishrafi, the spokesman of SEDA, this memorandum of understanding will empower the brand in international markets.

This comes as SEDA aims activate all its efforts and capabilities to explore available means of support in order to enhance the penetration of national products and services into targeted global markets.

The project also increases Saudi Arabia’s import-export capacity by improving its connectivity with international trade routes, aliginng with Vision 2030 goal.

The effort aims to diversify national income sources and increase the share of non-oil Saudi exports to at least 50 percent of total gross domestic product by 2030

It also comes as part of the Export Housing initiative launched by SEDA last year, which enables licensed export houses to facilitate the export of high-quality national products to international markets.

These export houses, licensed and qualified by SEDA, play a crucial role as commercial intermediaries, offering a range of services across the export value chain.

“This effort aims to assist local factories in accessing global markets, thereby facilitating the export movement and enhancing the reach of national goods and services to targeted international markets,” Al-Mishrafi said in a statement on X.

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports saw an annual rise of 3.3 percent in the first quarter of 2024, fueled by an increase in the value of re-exports.

According to the General Authority for Statistics, while national non-oil exports experienced a slight dip of 5.2 percent, the value of re-expored goods surged by 31.5 percent during the same period.

In October last year, SEDA and Saudi Post, also known as SPL, signed an agreement to promote the “Made in Saudi” brand across various channels locally and internationally.

The collaboration agreement was rolled out within the framework of the National Strategy for Transport and Logistics and the National Strategy for Industry.

Both parties also introduced joint services to support the national economy’s transformational goals in light of the Saudi Vision 2030.


Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower

Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower
Updated 18 July 2024
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Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower

Trump Organization announces deal to build Dubai tower

DUBAI: The Trump Organization on Thursday announced a deal to partner with a Saudi developer to build a high-rise tower in the UAE business hub of Dubai, its latest project in the Gulf.
Trump Tower Dubai will target “the Dubai luxury market,” real estate developer Dar Global said in a press release, adding that the location and design would be unveiled by the end of the year.
The development will include a Trump hotel and branded residential units, said Dar Global, the international subsidiary of Saudi developer Dar Al-Arkan.
The announcement came a little over two weeks after Dar Global announced a separate deal with the Trump Organization to build a high-rise tower in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.
It is also developing a Trump hotel and luxury villas in the capital of neighboring Oman, with completion expected in 2028, according to the firm’s website.
Former President Donald Trump entrusted the management of his real estate empire to his sons after taking office in 2017, although he held onto his shares in the Trump Organization.
His foreign business dealings prompted critics to sound the alarm about possible conflicts of interest, including in a 2022 Congressional report that found the foreign governments of six countries — the UAE among them — spent more than $750,000 at a Trump-owned hotel in Washington while trying to influence his administration in 2017 and 2018.
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s presidential election, cultivated close ties with Arab Gulf states during his term, choosing Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip.
“We are proud to expand our presence in the region further through the launch of our iconic Trump Tower Dubai,” Eric Trump, the former president’s son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said in a statement.


UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data

UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data
Updated 18 July 2024
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UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data

UAE energy startups secure $30m in H1: IEA data

RIYADH: Investor confidence in UAE’s energy startups surged as they secured $30 million in the first half of 2024, surpassing the $24 million raised throughout 2023, an analysis showed.

In its latest report, the International Energy Agency revealed that companies in energy storage and batteries received the largest share of total financing, accounting for approximately 33.3 percent, followed by solar energy firms at 25 percent.

This increase in funding for startups in the renewable energy sector highlights the UAE’s efforts to accelerate its energy transition journey, aligning with its goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The IEA report revealed that UAE wind energy firms accounted for 8.3 percent of the overall financing received in the first half of this year, while companies operating in other renewable and clean energy technologies collectively made up the remaining 33.3 percent.

The report also noted that the total number of startup companies operating in the UAE’s energy sector reached about 54 by the end of 2023.

Of these, 21 companies are in the renewable sector, followed by 12 firms in energy storage and batteries.

The IEA added that nine startups in the UAE are working in the energy efficiency industry, while another 12 are operating in other energy-related sectors.

Beyond energy initiatives, UAE startups are also focusing on developing technologies to tackle critical challenges such as water security.

In May, Airwater Co., an air-to-water technology firm, announced a strategic investment from Abu Dhabi-based venture capital firm Tau Capital, for an undisclosed amount, indicating sustained investor interest in innovative solutions from the region.

The investment will enable Airwater Co. to expand its manufacturing, infrastructure, and distribution capabilities, with a particular focus on scaling large-scale commercial and industrial atmospheric water generation facilities, as stated in a press release.

Bill Murray, managing director of Tau Capital, stated: “Airwater Co.’s tech-focused approach to water security exemplifies the type of transformative innovation which we at Tau Capital believe is essential for sustainable global development.”

This followed another investment in December 2023, when UAE-based Zeroe secured seed funding from the VOYAGERS ClimateTech Fund, bringing the total raised to $2.3 million.

The funding was aimed at enabling Zeroe to expedite the development of its AI-integrated SaaS platform, which optimizes carbon emission calculations, aiding companies in their transition to net-zero in a more efficient and cost-effective manner, according to a press release.

“We’re excited to be VOYAGERS’ second investment in the region, and we believe this investment confirms our push to be a leading solution in supporting organizations to measure emissions and access sustainable finance,” said Farouk Jivani, co-founder and CEO of Zeroe, in a statement release at that time.

Overall, the UAE was the top-funded ecosystem in the region in the first half of 2024, with 91 startups raising $455.5 million across different sectors, according to a report by Wamda released in July.

In terms of the energy sector, the IEA report noted that US startups received a total funding of $2.29 billion in the first half of this year, closely followed by China at $1.98 billion during the same period.

France received $633 million in funding for startups in the first six months of this year, while companies in India were financed with $248 million.

The IEA revealed that its analysis is based on data from Crunchbase, which references about 3.5 million startups worldwide, including 72,000 energy-related companies.