WDS 2024: A global hub for defense innovation and collaboration

WDS 2024: A global hub for defense innovation and collaboration
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As the national strategic partner, SAMI, an affiliate of the Public Investment Fund, will be the largest exhibitor, with a pavilion spanning over 3,000 sq. meters, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency. (SPA)
WDS 2024: A global hub for defense innovation and collaboration
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As the Kingdom aims for a robust defense sector, a top priority remains localization, with Saudi Arabia aspiring to localize 50 percent of its defense spending by 2030. (SPA)
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Updated 04 February 2024
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WDS 2024: A global hub for defense innovation and collaboration

WDS 2024: A global hub for defense innovation and collaboration
  • World Defense Show returns to Riyadh this February, with over 750 exhibitors from 77 countries

RIYADH: Building on its successful debut, the World Defense Show returns to Riyadh this February, with over 750 exhibitors from 77 countries set to emphasize future readiness in the sector.

Founded by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries, WDS serves as a global forum for innovation and technological discourse in the defense industry, covering five key domains: air, land, sea, space, and security.  

The second edition is scheduled for Feb. 4-8 and promises to provide a comprehensive international perspective of the defense industry, while analyzing needs at local, regional, and global levels.

It will bring together military players, the Saudi leadership, and industry decision-makers with a key focus on the sector’s future. 

As the Kingdom aims for a robust defense sector, a top priority remains localization, with Saudi Arabia aspiring to localize 50 percent of its defense spending by 2030. 




As the Kingdom aims for a
robust defense sector, a top priority remains localization, with Saudi Arabia aspiring to localize 50 percent of its defense spending by 2030. (SPA)

To align with this objective, the event will feature the “Meet the KSA Government Program,” an initiative connecting international companies with opportunities in the Kingdom’s government and private sector, as emphasized by the WDS CEO, Andrew Pearcey. 

“This program, a highlight since our inaugural show in 2022, offers a direct pathway to understanding and engaging with the Saudi defense industry’s procurement, investment, and partnership processes,” he told Arab News.   

“Collaborating closely with our founder, the General Authority for Military Industries, and our National Strategic Partner, Saudi Arabian Military Industries, World Defense Show serves as a platform for showcasing their latest innovations and technologies. We proudly feature a multitude of Saudi companies, each ready to engage with visitors at their stands,” Pearcey added. 

Space domain 

Under the theme “Equipped for the Future,” this year’s event will put the space domain in the spotlight for the first time.  

Pearcey highlighted the increasing importance of space technology in every nation’s defense strategy and its significance for international collaboration. 

He emphasized that this development has become an integral aspect of every nation’s defense strategy, fostering international discussion and collaboration. 

This year’s WDS introduces a dedicated “Defense Space Arena,” serving as a hub for nations to collaborate and share expertise with leading global space technology companies. 

“At the WDS Defense Space Arena, the world witnesses the culmination of international collaboration as leading space entities converge, exchange knowledge, and foster partnerships. This unique platform showcases cutting-edge space capabilities and technologies, offering a glimpse into the forefront of space advancements,” Pearcey said. 

Collaborating closely with our founder, the General Authority for Military Industries, and our National Strategic Partner, Saudi Arabian Military Industries, World Defense Show serves as a platform for showcasing their latest innovations and technologies. We proudly feature a multitude of Saudi companies, each ready to engage with visitors at their stands.

Andrew Pearcey, WDS CEO

The Space Theatre, running during the visitor open days from Feb. 5-8, will host over 40 global leaders and influencers discussing challenges and potential across various domains. 

The discussions will focus on various aspects of space, including governance, technological development, and interoperability.

Inclusivity, future talent, and cross-disciplinary collaboration will also be highlighted. 

Additionally, this specific domain, sponsored by the Saudi Ministry of Defense, will be accessible throughout the show, providing an interactive introduction to space defense development. 

Both physical and digital space assets from industry and institutions will be exhibited, illustrating the evolution of technology. Additionally, visitors can explore a space station simulation, where digital screens offer information on the role and significance of the domain. 

The Defense Space area will exhibit the Kingdom’s future plans, fostering opportunities for collaborative efforts among nations to harness the potential of space for enhanced national security and success in the space domain. 

SAMI pavilion  

In pursuit of strategic partnerships aligning with Vision 2030 objectives, Saudi Arabian Military Industries is set to participate in WDS 2024.  

As the national strategic partner, SAMI, an affiliate of the Public Investment Fund, will be the largest exhibitor, with a pavilion spanning over 3,000 sq. meters, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency.  




SAMI, an affiliate of the Public Investment Fund, will be the largest exhibitor, with a pavilion spanning over 3,000 square meters. (SPA)

Known for its commitment to innovation, SAMI will showcase its capabilities across diverse domains, including aerospace, land systems, and naval solutions. 

SAMI’s pavilion will showcase its latest advanced products meeting the Kingdom’s needs and envisioning its future aspirations, including a glimpse into aviation and space.  

Senior executives, led by Chairman Ahmed Al-Khateeb and CEO Walid A. Abukhaled, will participate in high-level panels and discussions with government, military, and defense industry leaders.  

These engagements aim to provide insights into the defense sector and address industry challenges.  

The company plans to sign multiple memorandums of understanding and agreements during the event, strengthening its portfolio and making substantial contributions to the Saudi defense sector. 

The primary goal of the event, according to its CEO, is to establish itself as a comprehensive global platform for defense. To achieve this, it will bring together industry players worldwide throughout the supply chain, hosting daily panels and forums for discussion in its three content theaters.

New features 

Aligned with this year’s theme, “Equipped for Tomorrow,” which spotlights the future of defense, the forum will introduce several new features. One highlight is the immersive “Journey to the Future,” led by an animated interactive guide, offering visitors insights into groundbreaking innovations and debuts. 

Additionally, the guide will navigate visitors through the Future of Defense hub, emphasizing investments in new areas, startups, and inventions.  

Pearcey emphasized that this hub provides a platform for individuals with “disruptive ideas” to connect with those possessing the resources and global connections to develop them, underscoring the importance of continuous innovation in the defense industry.  

Furthermore, the hub serves as a showcase for young pioneers. Visitors can also anticipate daily dynamic live displays and a lineup of aircraft, featuring established mission aircraft, fighter jets, and helicopters.


Saudi Manpower Solutions Co. eyes expansion following its public listing

Saudi Manpower Solutions Co. eyes expansion following its public listing
Updated 30 May 2024
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Saudi Manpower Solutions Co. eyes expansion following its public listing

Saudi Manpower Solutions Co. eyes expansion following its public listing

RIYADH: Various sectors across different parts of Saudi Arabia will soon have greater and easy access to manpower as the country’s first service provider eyes expansion with its initial public offering.

Speaking to Arab News, Abdullah Al-Timyat, CEO of Saudi Manpower Solutions Co., known as SMASCO, said the IPO will help propel SMASCO within the Saudi market, drive growth initiatives, and fortify its presence and stakeholders’ trust.

Al-Timyat said the IPO proceeds will not be utilized for internal operations but will be earmarked for strategic growth initiatives to expand the company’s footprint across the Kingdom’s diverse market. 

He added the company’s capital-light model, fortified by no debt and robust cash management, positions it for agile expansion. “We have zero debt and funding. We have strong cash management, and we have enough internal funds for our operations. So, the IPO will enable SMASCO in its future steps and strategic direction in expanding within the Saudi market, reaching new geographic cities and regions within Saudi Arabia.”

With an eye on deepening market penetration, Al-Timyat outlined SMASCO’s strategic direction, leveraging the IPO’s support to enhance brand awareness and stakeholders’ trust.

“We will even go deeper … within specific sectors, in business industry and professional manpower, depending on a more trusted bond that we have available because of the IPO and the support that we will have.”

The executive outlined the company’s current focus on the Kingdom’s market, emphasizing its vast potential and opportunities for manpower companies, including SMASCO.

He also underscored the entity’s mature model and expertise in technologies, which position it to potentially expand into new markets in the future. While there are no immediate plans to venture beyond Saudi Arabia, SMASCO remains prepared to seize opportunities should they arise, he said.

Looking ahead, the CEO highlighted artificial intelligence’s transformative potential emphasizing its role in enhancing efficiency and service delivery. 

He said: “AI and advanced technology is an opportunity for manpower companies. This is how we see it in SMASCO, this will provide us more opportunities, a faster a road to (achieve) our objectives operationally, financially and even for our customers.”

Al-Timyat highlighted the pivotal role of Vision 2030 benchmarks in providing clarity and direction to SMASCO’s future endeavors.

“Since the government launched Vision 2030, we have a clarity where we are going and this makes it easier for any industry, for any investor. We see a persistence of execution by the government, which we have never witnessed before and this is actually aligned with what we are seeing.”

This synergy between technological innovation and national objectives supports industry advancement. The executive noted that it is set to drive economic growth and societal development in alignment with the Kingdom’s ambitious vision.

Al-Timyat also outlined the global demand for various industries, including medical, logistics, tourism, and entertainment, which are also prevalent in Saudi Arabia.

Each of these industries requires specific qualities for talents and specialized manpower services to address their unique needs, he noted.

The executive said SMASCO, specialized in manpower solutions, has created subsectors within its team to cater to diverse industries.

This focus on specialization enables SMASCO to provide high-quality services that align with the economy, market trends, and specific requirements of each industry.


Saudi banks’ risk profiles stronger than GCC counterparts: Fitch 

Saudi banks’ risk profiles stronger than GCC counterparts: Fitch 
Updated 30 May 2024
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Saudi banks’ risk profiles stronger than GCC counterparts: Fitch 

Saudi banks’ risk profiles stronger than GCC counterparts: Fitch 

RIYADH: Saudi banks exceed their Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts in terms of risk profiles underpinning their asset quality, according to Fitch Ratings.

The credit rating agency said in a statement that there is a strong correlation between asset quality and risk profile scores among regional banks, particularly in the GCC, due to their lending-focused business models. Saudi banks boast a weighted-average risk-profile score slightly below “bbb+” and a similar asset quality score.

Conversely, in the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait, both weighted-average scores stand two notches lower, at “bbb-.”

Despite experiencing credit growth around double the GCC average between 2022 and 2023, Saudi banks maintain stronger scores. This surge is attributed to heightened government spending and robust non-oil gross domestic product growth.

However, banking assets remained at 99 percent of GDP by the end of 2023, contrasting with figures of 206 percent in the UAE, 240 percent in Qatar, and 159 percent in Kuwait.

The stronger risk profiles of Saudi banks are evident in their asset quality metrics. From 2019 to 2023, the sector’s cost of risk averaged 60 basis points, lower than the averages observed in the UAE, Qatari, and Kuwaiti banking sectors.

Similarly, the combined Stage 2 and 3 loans ratio of 7.2 percent was the lowest among the four markets.

Fitch’s assessment of Saudi banks’ stronger risk profiles reflects their generally conservative underwriting standards and risk controls.

This evaluation also acknowledges the perception that the Saudi Central Bank,  also known as SAMA, is the region’s strictest and most prudent banking regulator.

“Saudi banks have less borrower concentration than the UAE and Qatari banks, but a similar level to Kuwaiti banks, due to a larger and more diversified economy and strong retail financing in 2021-2023,” the rating agency stated.

It added: “The 20 largest exposures at Saudi and Kuwaiti banks account for about 20 percent of the loan books on average, but significantly more — about 35 percent — at UAE and Qatari banks.”          

Moreover, Saudi banks extend lower levels of financing to companies owned or managed by high-net-worth individuals compared to certain UAE and Qatari banks.

Saudi banks’ exposure to real estate and construction companies rose to 15 percent of gross sector financing by the end of the first quarter of 2024, up from 12 percent at the end of 2021.

This trend is anticipated to persist as non-oil sectors continue to expand. While Saudi banks’ real estate financing proportion now resembles that of Qatari and the UAE banks, it remains below the average for Kuwaiti lenders, standing at 24 percent of gross loans as of end 2023.

“We typically view high exposure to real estate financing as a weakness for GCC banks’ risk profiles and asset quality, as the exposures are mostly long-term and often non-amortizing with final repayment contingent upon full completion of the building,” Fitch said in the statement.

It added: “Potential difficulty in realizing underlying collateral or repossessing prime residences can also weigh on how Fitch views the exposures.”

 

 


Riyadh residential market sales surge 77%: CBRE report

Riyadh residential market sales surge 77%: CBRE report
Updated 30 May 2024
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Riyadh residential market sales surge 77%: CBRE report

Riyadh residential market sales surge 77%: CBRE report

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s residential market experienced robust growth in demand, with Riyadh witnessing a 77 percent year-on-year increase in sales transactions in the first quarter, a new report showed. 

According to global consultancy firm CBRE, Jeddah residential transactions surged by 92.9 percent in the first three months of this year, while Dammam saw a 28.0 percent increase year-over-year. 

Taimur Khan, head of research MENA, said: “Whilst we have seen strong performance across commercial sectors within Saudi Arabia in the recent past, something which continues to date, we are now beginning to see the residential sector also register a significant surge in demand. This is, in turn, underpinning performance in the sector.” 

As new stock continues to be delivered, he said they expect this trend to continue, with demand outpacing supply for some time to come. 

“However, we also expect that there might be some bifurcation in performance within the residential sector, with new quality assets likely to register record rates,” added Khan.

Villa prices in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Khobar rose by 3.6 percent, 0.2 percent, and 3.1 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Dammam saw a slight decline of 0.5 percent. 

In the apartment segment, prices in Riyadh, Dammam, and Khobar increased by 8.4 percent, 0.9 percent, and 0.4 percent, respectively, compared to the previous year.  

However, Jeddah experienced a 1.1 percent decrease in average apartment prices over the same period.   

Throughout the first quarter of this year, the office sector witnessed a slowdown in rental growth across all market segments.  

Prime rents in Riyadh’s occupier market surged by 14.5 percent, while Grade A and Grade B rents increased by 11.8 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively.  

In Dammam, Grade A rents rose by 8.0 percent, Grade B by 6.2 percent, and Khobar’s Grade A rents saw a 4.6 percent increase.  

Occupancy rates stood at 93.8 percent, 99.7 percent, and 99.4 percent for Prime, Grade A, and Grade B segments in Riyadh, while Dammam and Khobar displayed respective Grade A occupancy rates of 86.3 percent and 85.2 percent as of the first quarter.  

In Jeddah, Grade A and Grade B rents increased by 13.6 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively, with occupancy rates reaching 92.5 percent and 86.6 percent. 

The hospitality sector’s performance remained strong throughout the first quarter due to high visitation levels.  

Year-on-year, from January to March 2024, the average occupancy rate saw a slight uptick of 0.1 percentage points.  

Additionally, the country experienced an 11.8 percent increase in average daily rate, leading to a 12.0 percent rise in revenue per available room.


Closing Bell: TASI dips to close at 11,503 points

Closing Bell: TASI dips to close at 11,503 points
Updated 30 May 2024
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Closing Bell: TASI dips to close at 11,503 points

Closing Bell: TASI dips to close at 11,503 points

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index dipped on Thursday, losing 193.02 points, or 1.65 percent to close at 11,503.49

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR13.13 billion ($3.50 billion) as 65 stocks advanced while 161 retreated.   

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index dipped by 24.77 points, or 1.70 percent, to close at 1,436.07.

However, the Kingdom’s parallel market, Nomu, increased by 307.64 points or 1.17 percent, to close at 26,610.57. This comes as 28 stocks advanced, while as many as 30 retreated. 

The best-performing stock was the Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co., as its share price surged by 7.66 percent to SR29.50.

Other top performers included Almasane Alkobra Mining Co. and Alkhorayef Water and Power Technologies Co., whose share prices soared by 5.37 percent and 4.55 percent, to stand at SR62.80 and SR161 respectively.

National Co. for Learning and Education and East Pipes Integrated Co. for Industry also performed well.

The worst performer was ACWA Power Co. whose share price dropped by 9.98 percent to SR402.40.

Share prices of Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co. as well as the Co. for Cooperative Insurance dropped by 7.89 percent and 6.41 percent to stand at SR8.40 and SR131.40, respectively.

The best-performing stock of the day on the parallel market was Mohammed Hadi Al-Rasheed and Partners Co., as its share price surged by 12.58 percent to SR34.90.

Other top performers included Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. and Abdulaziz and Mansour Ibrahim Albabtin Co., whose share prices soared by 12.38 percent and 6.86 percent, to stand at SR44.95 and SR45.95 respectively.


Aramco sets butane, propane prices for June

Aramco sets butane, propane prices for June
Updated 30 May 2024
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Aramco sets butane, propane prices for June

Aramco sets butane, propane prices for June

RIYADH: Saudi Aramco maintained propane contract prices for June month on month at $580 per tonne while price for butane was set at $565 a tonne.

Propane and butane are types of liquefied petroleum gas with different boiling points.

LPG is mainly used as a fuel for cars, heating and as a feedstock for other petrochemicals.

Aramco’s OSPs for LPG are used as a reference for contracts to supply the product from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region.

China is the world's largest consumer and importer of LPG, or combination of propane and butane.

China’s imports of LPG jumped about 46 percent to 3.08 million metric tons in March from February.