Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals

Special Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals
John Pagano speaking to Arab News.
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Updated 01 March 2024
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Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals

Red Sea Global launches national academy to train and upskill Saudis, CEO reveals

RIYADH: Young Saudis will soon receive further qualifications in terms of technical specializations as the Red Sea National Academy launches, according to the group CEO. 

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh, John Pagano explained that as the entity advances tourism destinations in the Red Sea and Amaala, there will be a requirement for additional participants within the industry to meet the demands of the labor market. 

This aligns with the Saudi Vision 2030 goal of ensuring that the Kingdom’s citizens have the capabilities to compete globally by instilling values, developing basic and future skills, and enhancing knowledge. 

“The industry needs 1.2 million new participants to help deliver this new industry, this new, exciting and important industry from an economic point of view, from a diversification point of view,” Pagano said. 

“We’ve decided that we need to provide the opportunities to train and upskill these young Saudis in an environment that is relevant to where they’re going to ultimately work,” the CEO added. 

He went on to say that the initiative will work on training a couple of thousand students per year, all of whom will ultimately graduate and get jobs within the Red Sea and Amaala projects.

In terms of location, Pagano disclosed that the newly inaugurated academy will reside in Al-Wajh, which sits between the Red Sea and Amaala. 

“It’ll become a hub for not only our training but also as a community center, where we’re going to continue to provide English language courses for the local population to, again, give them opportunities to find new jobs within this new burgeoning industry,” the CEO said. 

He clarified that the group will often bring in specialist providers to conduct the training. In some cases, the group will be doing the training directly themselves. 

“Our preference and our priority would be to give local community residents, you know, a priority if they’re interested in are willing to take on, you know, that burden of going through the training. But ultimately, it’s open for all nationalities that will ultimately work within the destination,” Pagano noted. 

Speaking during a session titled “Developing Human Capabilities – The Power of Tourism,” the CEO explained how the entity plans to propel the local community further. 

“Our first class of vocational students, 430 of them, graduated last July. Almost 40 percent of them came from our local communities on the West Coast and that’s because we aim to benefit those communities where opportunities for advancement have historically been scarce,” he clarified. 

“Our program in airport services is the first of its kind in the nation. We’re also the first in the country to provide vocational training and tourism security. We already have 400 students enrolled and they’re on track to graduate next year, again in time for opening up our resorts,” he also underlined.

“In total, more than 1,300 talents are either studying in our programs or have already graduated from them. And these numbers will add up quickly. By 2030, we expect to have graduated 10,000 vocational students,” Pagano said in his speech.

With regards to the performance of the group in general, the CEO highlighted during the interview with Arab News that: “Last year and into the beginning of this year has been a pivotal, momentous period for us, a milestone.”

This comes as Red Sea has recently opened its first two resorts, including The Six Senses Southern Dunes and the Saint Regis Red Sea Resort. By the end of this year, the group intends to launch four additional resorts, he disclosed. 

“Meanwhile, we’re busy working on 19 other resorts, 11 at Red Sea and eight at Amaala, all of which are going to open next year,” Pagano revealed. 

In terms of operations, the CEO said: “We’re open for business today. The airport is running. So, we have eight flights a week in and out of the Red Sea direct.” 

That said, the destination is currently receiving guests regularly from the local and regional market, including Europeans as well, he added.

“So, we’re in that capacity-building mode where people are now starting to learn about the destination,” Pagano concluded. 

HCI is the first-ever global cooperative platform designed to unify international efforts and enrich the global dialogue on the challenges and opportunities for developing human capabilities. 

According to the HCI website, the two-day event will explore opportunities in various areas, including skill development, the future of work, education, talent, and technology.   

It will bring together policymakers, thought leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs to catalyze international collaboration. It also caters to participants who want to maximize resilience, explore opportunities, and promote innovative policy design and solutions.


UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations

UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations
Updated 23 April 2024
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UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations

UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations

RIYADH: In a move aimed at enhancing Saudi Arabia’s financial landscape, the Kingdom has granted permission for a branch of the Swiss bank UBS to operate within the nation. 

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the approval was granted during a session chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, held by the Cabinet in Jeddah on April 23.

The session commenced with King Salman briefing the Cabinet on the recent communications and discussions held between the Kingdom and several countries regarding shared relations, regional issues, and global developments, as reported by SPA.

In this context, the Cabinet reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s steadfast stance toward promoting security and stability in the region and the world. 

The Minister of Media, Salman bin Yousef Al-Dossary, stated in a press release following the session that the Cabinet praised the outcomes of the second ministerial meeting of the dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Central Asian countries. 

He emphasized the Kingdom’s commitment to continue strengthening communication channels with various countries worldwide and supporting areas of joint coordination, including multilateral efforts.

Additionally, the Cabinet expressed its appreciation for the participants of the forthcoming World Economic Forum special meeting, set to take place in Riyadh in the upcoming week, highlighting the Kingdom’s dedication to encouraging global collaboration and tackling shared challenges.

Moreover, the Cabinet announced that the World Bank had selected Saudi Arabia as a center for knowledge dissemination to promote worldwide awareness of economic reforms, underscoring its leadership in achieving significant progress in global competitiveness indicators.

Al-Dossary further highlighted that the Cabinet applauded the achievement of five Saudi cities in obtaining advanced positions in the 2024 Smart Cities Index.

Following today’s session, the Cabinet approved cooperation agreements with Qatar, the Dominican Republic and the UK as well as Turkey, Chad, Portugal, Hong Kong, and Yemen.

Additionally, the body authorized discussions regarding statistical collaboration with Australia and maritime cooperation with Egypt. It also endorsed anti-corruption agreements with South Korea, archival partnerships with Greece, and financial technology collaboration with Singapore.

Authorization was granted for negotiations on science and technology cooperation with the Bahamas. A unified law for international road transport within GCC countries was approved, and additional compensation was granted to Tabah village’s affected families in the Hail region. 

Furthermore, final accounts for various government entities were approved.


UAE and Oman establish $35bn investment partnerships across multiple sectors 

UAE and Oman establish $35bn investment partnerships across multiple sectors 
Updated 23 April 2024
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UAE and Oman establish $35bn investment partnerships across multiple sectors 

UAE and Oman establish $35bn investment partnerships across multiple sectors 

RIYADH: Trade and economic ties between the UAE and Oman are set to further strengthen thanks to the signing of investment deals worth 129 billion dirhams ($35.12 billion).  

According to a press statement, these agreements cover multiple sectors, including renewable energy, green metals, railway, digital infrastructure, and technology investments. 

Economic ties between the UAE and Oman have remained robust in recent years, with non-oil trade volumes reaching approximately 50 billion dirhams in 2023. 

“The UAE and Oman have strong historical relations that are founded on shared values, goals and principles. The agreements represent a major milestone in our bilateral ties, as they pave the way for us to leverage our collective strength to realize our shared vision of advancement and prosperity,” said Mohamed Hassan Al-Suwaidi, UAE’s minister of investment.  

One of the major agreements signed by both countries was an industrial and energy megaproject valued at 117 billion dirhams. This project encompasses renewable energy initiatives, including solar and wind projects, alongside green metals production facilities. 

The deal’s signatories included Abu Dhabi National Energy Co., Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., and Emirates Global Aluminium, as well as Emirates Steel Arkan, OQ Alternative Energy, and Oman Electricity Transmission Co. 

Another agreement, valued at 660 million dirhams, was signed between Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Co. and Oman Investment Authority to establish a technology-focused fund. 

A UAE-Oman rail connectivity project, valued at 11 billion dirhams, was also inked by both countries. 

Additionally, UAE’s Ministry of Investment and the Ministry of Commerce and Trade signed another deal with Oman’s Ministry of Investment Promotion to cooperate in multiple sectors, including digital infrastructure, food security, and energy. 

Etihad Rail, Mubadala, and Omani Asyad Group Co. signed a shareholding partnership valued at 3 billion dirhams. 

Both countries also announced the formation of a UAE-Oman alliance to enhance bilateral economic and trade relations. 

The UAE’s Ministry of Investment, in the press statement, further noted that the signing of these agreements will serve to bolster relations across key sectors and foster socio-economic benefits, contributing toward a stable and prosperous future for both countries. 


Influx of Chinese models to drive Mideast EV sales amid global surge

 Influx of Chinese models to drive Mideast EV sales amid global surge
Updated 23 April 2024
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Influx of Chinese models to drive Mideast EV sales amid global surge

 Influx of Chinese models to drive Mideast EV sales amid global surge
  • The IEA report disclosed that global EV sales grew by approximately 25 percent in Q1 of 2024

RIYADH: The entry of Chinese car models in the Middle East could drive regional electric vehicle sales, as global figures are projected to reach 17 million units by 2024. 

According to the latest International Energy Agency report, this marks a 21.42 percent increase from the previous year, with nearly 60 percent of new electric car registrations in 2023 occurring in China, followed by 10 percent in the US and 25 percent in Europe. 

“The continued momentum behind electric cars is clear in our data, although it is stronger in some markets than others. Rather than tapering off, the global EV revolution appears to be gearing up for a new phase of growth,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. 

The Global EV Outlook 2024 stated that the electric car market in Africa, Eurasia, and the Middle East is still in its nascent stage, with such vehicles representing just under 1 percent of total sales in these regions. 

However, the decision of Chinese carmakers to explore these regions, along with producing vehicles domestically, could change this trend, allowing the market to expand in the coming years. 

“In Uzbekistan, BYD (Chinese automaker) set up a joint venture with UzAuto Motors in 2023 to produce 50,000 electric cars annually, and Chery International established a partnership with ADM Jizzakh,” stated the IEA in the report.  

This partnership has already led to a steep increase in electric car sales in Uzbekistan, reaching around 10,000 in 2023. 

It added: “In the Middle East, Jordan boasts the highest electric car sales share, at more than 45 percent, supported by much lower import duties relative to ICE (internal combustion engine) cars, followed by the UAE, with 13 percent.” 

Moreover, in July last year, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment signed a $5.6 billion deal with Chinese electric car maker Human Horizons to collaborate on the development, manufacture, and sale of vehicles. 

Steady growth  

The IEA report disclosed that global sales of electric cars grew by approximately 25 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter in 2023. 

Highlighting the growth of the EV market, the report revealed that the number of electric cars sold globally in the first three months of this year is roughly equivalent to the total units sold in 2020. 

The steady growth in the first quarter of this year was driven by China, with 1.9 million EVs sold, marking a 35 percent rise compared to the same period in 2023. 

In Europe, the first quarter of 2024 witnessed year-on-year growth of over 5 percent, slightly surpassing the growth in overall car sales and thus maintaining the EV sales share at a similar level to that of last year. 

The US also experienced a 15 percent increase in sales in this segment during the first three months of this year, compared to the same period in 2023. 

According to Birol, the rise in investments in the electric battery sector is a strong indication of the rise of the EV appetite globally. 

“The wave of investment in battery manufacturing suggests the EV supply chain is advancing to meet automakers’ ambitious plans for expansion. As a result, the share of EVs on the roads is expected to continue to climb rapidly,” said the executive director of IEA. 

He added: “Based on today’s policy settings alone, almost one in three cars on the roads in China by 2030 is set to be electric, and almost one in five in both the US and the EU. This shift will have major ramifications for both the auto industry and the energy sector.” 

EV prices to fall  

The report highlighted that the pace of the transition to EVs may not be consistent and will hinge on affordability. 

IEA added that manufacturers have taken significant steps to deliver on the strengthening EV ambitions of governments by making significant financial commitments. 

“Thanks to high levels of investment over the past five years, the world’s capacity to produce batteries for EVs is well positioned to keep up with demand, even as it rises sharply over the next decade,” said the report. 

According to the intergovernmental organization, more than 60 percent of electric cars sold in 2023 were already less expensive to buy than their conventional equivalents in China. 

However, the purchase prices for cars with internal combustion engines remained cheaper on average compared to EVs in the US and the EU. 

The report suggested that intensifying market competition and improving battery technologies are expected to reduce the prices of electric cars in the coming years. 

“Even where upfront prices are high, the lower operating costs of EVs mean the initial investment pays back over time,” said IEA. 

Moreover, growing electric car exports from Chinese automakers, which accounted for more than half of all electric car sales in 2023, could add to downward pressure on purchase prices. 

IEA also underscored the vitality of ensuring the availability of public charging slots to maintain the steady growth of the electric car market globally. 

According to the report, the number of public charging points installed globally was up 40 percent in 2023 compared to 2022, and growth for fast chargers outpaced that of slower ones. 

However, IEA added that charging networks globally need to grow sixfold by 2035 to meet the level of electric vehicle deployment in line with the pledges made by governments. 

“At the same time, policy support and careful planning are essential to make sure greater demand for electricity from charging does not overstretch electricity grids,” concluded the report. 


Closing Bell: Tasi slips for the second consecutive day

Closing Bell: Tasi slips for the second consecutive day
Updated 23 April 2024
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Closing Bell: Tasi slips for the second consecutive day

Closing Bell: Tasi slips for the second consecutive day

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index continued its downward trend for the second consecutive day as it shed 24.52 points to close at 12,484.41. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.44 billion ($2.25 billion), with 71 of the listed stocks advancing and 157 declining. 

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s parallel market Nomu gained 95.74 points on Tuesday to close at 26,691.96. 

However, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped by 0.24 percent to 1,563.40. 

The best-performing stock of the day was United Cooperative Assurance Co. The firm’s share price rose by 6.67 percent to SR13.44.

Other top performers include Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. and Gulf Union Alahlia Cooperative Insurance Co., whose share prices surged by 4.84 percent and 4.54 percent, respectively. 

The worst performer in the main market was Fitaihi Holding Group, as its share price slipped by 4.77 percent to SR4.19. 

The parallel market’s positive performance was driven by Osool and Bakheet Investment Co., whose share price soared by 7.83 percent to SR36.50. 

On the announcements front, Middle East Paper Co. said it has started its cardboard factory project, which will have a production capacity of 450,000 tonnes. 

In a statement to Tadawul, MEPCO revealed that the feasibility study for the project has been completed with a final budget of SR1.78 billion. 

The company went on to say that the undertaking would be completed in 42 months. 

The initiative will be funded by the MEPCO’s internal resources, by long-term loans from local banks and the use of funds resulting from the issuance of the shares to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the statement added. 

Meanwhile, in another statement, MEPCO revealed that it signed another agreement with J.M. Voith SE & Co. KG, for manufacturing, supplying and supervising the installation of the main machine for the cardboard project.


Egypt increases funding needed in 2024-2025 budget by over $59bn 

Egypt increases funding needed in 2024-2025 budget by over $59bn 
Updated 23 April 2024
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Egypt increases funding needed in 2024-2025 budget by over $59bn 

Egypt increases funding needed in 2024-2025 budget by over $59bn 

RIYADH: Egypt has increased the amount of funding required in its 2024-2025 budget by over 2.8 trillion pounds ($59 billion) following successive shock waves.

In the financial statement of the new draft budget, Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait highlighted that the changes are reflective of the continuous struggles that the North African country has been facing following the COVID-19 epidemic. 

The added funding aims to alleviate the inflationary effects that have been burdening the Egyptian public, improve the standard of living, and meet the developmental needs of citizens, the report said. 

The allocation of spending in the budget will also seemingly reflect the needs of individuals by increasing spending on health and education and aiming to improve job opportunities. 

Egypt’s economy has witnessed blows over the last half year due to the ongoing crisis in Gaza, which has slowed tourism growth and cut into Suez Canal revenue, two of the country’s biggest sources of foreign currency.

Amid a staggering shortage of foreign currency and rapidly increasing inflation, the challenges prompted the International Monetary Fund to expand its financial support to Egypt to $8 billion in an attempt to shore up the country’s economy.

In a statement in March, the IMF board said its decision would enable Egypt to immediately receive about $820 million.

Similarly, the UAE, represented by a private consortium led by the Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Co., signed a landmark agreement with Egypt in February to invest $35 billion in Ras El-Hekma, a region on the Mediterranean coast 350 km northwest of Cairo. 

Since securing the deal, which marked the single largest foreign direct investment in the North African country, the nation launched some long-sought reforms with the central bank delivering a 600 basis-point interest rate hike and a pledge to unshackle its currency alongside a devaluation.

This led S&P Global Ratings to note that it has been encouraged by the rush of financial support to Egypt, therefore lifting its economic outlook for the country to positive from stable after the long-awaited currency devaluation, which is poised to ease foreign currency shortages.