Saudi ports record 17% growth in container handling in February

The Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, disclosed that docks in the Kingdom received 226,672 standard containers in February 2024, marking an increase from 193,937 in the corresponding month of 2023. 
The Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, disclosed that docks in the Kingdom received 226,672 standard containers in February 2024, marking an increase from 193,937 in the corresponding month of 2023. 
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Updated 13 March 2024
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Saudi ports record 17% growth in container handling in February

Saudi ports record 17% growth in container handling in February

RIYADH: Seaports in Saudi Arabia recorded a 16.88 percent increase in the number of containers handled in February compared to the same period last year, official data showed. 

The Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, disclosed that docks in the Kingdom received 226,672 standard containers in February 2024, marking an increase from 193,937 in the corresponding month of 2023. 

Furthermore, the maritime facilities experienced a 1.44 percent uptick in the volume of handled tonnage, reaching 23.38 million tonnes, in contrast to 23.04 million tonnes recorded in February 2023.  

“This reflects the scale of efforts made to develop port infrastructure and provide the highest levels of logistics services,” Mawani stated in a statement.  

The Kingdom’s general cargo volumes reached 830,641 tonnes, solid bulk cargo reached 3.62 million tonnes, and liquid bulk cargo reached 12.58 million tonnes.   

Furthermore, the harbors recorded a discharge rate of 899,293 head of livestock, indicating a 166.67 percent increase compared to the 337,231 recorded during the corresponding period in 2023.  

Meanwhile, maritime traffic witnessed a 1.57 percent increase, totaling 907 ships compared to 893 in 2023.   

However, the number of passengers decreased by 32.86 percent to 67,754, compared to the 100,907 recorded last year.  

Similarly, the number of vehicles decreased by 11.12 percent to 72,448 compared to 81,510 in 2023.  

The count of transshipment containers handled by the ports in the Kingdom stood at 152,868 in February 2024, marking a decline of 34.88 percent compared to February 2023. 

Additionally, the number of outgoing containers decreased by 6.29 percent to 181,944 compared to 194,158 last year.  

King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam achieved a record-breaking monthly handling figure, with 235,820 containers in February 2024.   

This aligns with the targets of the national strategy for transportation and logistics services, solidifying the Kingdom’s position as a global logistics hub and a meeting point of the three continents, according to the Authority.  

According to a report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Mawani climbed from 76.16 points in the second quarter to 77.66 points in the third quarter of last year, affirming the Kingdom’s progress in the maritime sector.  

In 2023, Saudi Arabia climbed 17 global ranks in the Logistics Performance Index issued by the World Bank to reach the 38th spot globally. 


Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports hit 2-year high at $7.70bn in May: GASTAT 

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports hit 2-year high at $7.70bn in May: GASTAT 
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Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports hit 2-year high at $7.70bn in May: GASTAT 

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports hit 2-year high at $7.70bn in May: GASTAT 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports hit a two-year high in May, reaching SR28.89 billion ($7.70 billion), an 8.2 percent increase compared to the same month in 2023. 

According to the General Authority for Statistics, the Kingdom’s non-oil exports surged by 26.93 percent in May compared to April. 

Strengthening the non-oil private sector remains a pivotal goal for Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom continues its efforts to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil revenues. 

Merchandise exports also saw growth, with a 5.8 percent increase in May compared to the same period last year, driven by a 4.9 percent rise in oil shipments.  

Month-over-month, merchandise exports increased by 3.3 percent from April to May. 

The share of oil exports in total exports decreased slightly, dropping to 72.4 percent in May from 73 percent in the same month the previous year. 

“Ratio of non-oil exports (including re-exports) to imports increased to 41.1 percent in May 2024 from 39 percent in May 2023. This was due to an 8.2 percent increase in non-oil exports and a 2.6 percent increase in imports over that period,” stated GASTAT.  

The report revealed that chemical and allied products dominated the non-oil exports, accounting for 23.8 percent of total shipments in May. 

Additionally, the Kingdom’s imports rose by 2.6 percent year-on-year in May, reaching SR70.24 billion.


GCC banks eye Turkiye, Egypt and India for growth prospects

GCC banks eye Turkiye, Egypt and India for growth prospects
Updated 24 July 2024
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GCC banks eye Turkiye, Egypt and India for growth prospects

GCC banks eye Turkiye, Egypt and India for growth prospects
  • Favorable economic conditions and opportunities draw interest

RIYADH: Gulf Cooperation Council banks aim to diversify their business models and enhance profitability by entering high-growth markets such as Turkiye, Egypt and India, a new report has revealed. 

Fitch Ratings noted that this growing interest was due to favorable economic conditions and attractive growth opportunities in these countries. 

Notably, the appetite for expansion in Turkiye has increased following macroeconomic policy shifts, while interest in Egypt is fueled by enhanced stability and privatization opportunities.

Despite higher acquisition costs in these regions, the report said that GCC banks remain focused on leveraging the potential of these markets to offset slower growth at home. 

The GCC banking sector has consistently delivered high returns on equity and impressive valuation multiples compared to global standards, according to a McKinsey June report.

The strategic diversification of GCC economies beyond oil, coupled with prudent regulatory frameworks, has bolstered banking stability and profitability.

Elevated interest rates have further enhanced bank profits, contributing to their returns. Over the past decade, the region’s banks have outperformed the global average in return on equity, or ROE, maintaining an advantage of three to four percentage points during 2022 to 2023.

Although global banking valuations are historically low, GCC banks continue to generate value with ROE surpassing their cost of equity. 

Despite record profits driven by elevated interest rates for banks globally and in the GCC, McKinsey cautions executives to balance short-term gains with long-term strategic objectives.

Investing in transformative change and efficiency is essential for sustaining a competitive edge when interest rates eventually decline. 

GCC banks’ primary exposure outside their home region was concentrated in Turkiye and Egypt, where they collectively held about $150 billion in assets by the end of the first quarter of 2024, according to Fitch Rating. 

This significant presence underscores the strategic importance of these markets for GCC banks’ growth ambitions.

Additionally, there is growing interest in India, particularly from UAE-based banks, driven by the strong and expanding financial and trade links between the two countries.

Turkiye, Egypt and India each boast significantly larger populations compared to GCC countries, presenting greater potential for banking sector growth due to their robust real gross domestic product growth prospects and comparatively smaller banking systems. 

For instance, the banking system assets to GDP ratios in these countries are below 100 percent, whereas in the largest GCC markets, this ratio exceeds 200 percent, according to the report. 

Furthermore, the private credit to GDP ratios were notably lower in 2023, standing at 27 percent in Egypt, 43 percent in Turkiye, and 60 percent in India, highlighting substantial room for expansion in these banking sectors. 

GCC banks are increasingly looking to expand in Turkiye due to a favorable shift in the country’s macroeconomic policies following the presidential election last year, according to Fitch. 

These changes have reduced external financing pressures and improved macroeconomic and financial stability, prompting Fitch to upgrade its outlook for the Turkish banking sector to “improving.” 

Fitch projects Turkish inflation to drop from 65 percent in 2023 to an average of 23 percent in 2025, with expectations that GCC banks will cease using hyperinflation reporting for their Turkish subsidiaries by 2027.

The enhanced stability of the Turkish lira is likely to bolster returns on GCC banks’ Turkish operations. 

Simultaneously, GCC banks are showing growing interest in Egypt, driven by a better macroeconomic environment, opportunities from the authorities’ privatization program, and the expansion of GCC corporations in the country. 

Fitch has recently upgraded its outlook on the operating environment score for Egyptian banks to positive, anticipating greater macroeconomic stability.

This improvement is attributed to Egypt’s substantial foreign direct investment deal with the UAE, a strengthened International Monetary Fund deal, increased foreign exchange rate flexibility, and a stronger commitment to structural reforms. 

Fitch expects the Egyptian banking sector’s net foreign assets position to improve significantly this year, supported by robust portfolio inflows, remittances, and tourism receipts.

Egyptian inflation is forecasted to decrease from 27.5 percent in June 2024 to 12.3 percent in June 2025, potentially leading to policy interest rate cuts starting from the fourth quarter of 2024. 

Fitch noted that while the Egyptian banking market presents high entry barriers, GCC banks might find opportunities to acquire stakes in three banks through the authorities’ privatization program.

The expansion of GCC companies, especially those from the UAE, could also drive increased GCC bank presence in Egypt. 

However, the rising cost of acquiring banks in Turkiye, Egypt and India might pose challenges for GCC banks’ acquisition plans.

Price-to-book ratios have risen, particularly in Turkiye and India, reflecting better macroeconomic prospects and reduced operational risks. Acquisitions in these lower-rated markets could potentially weaken GCC banks’ viability ratings, depending on the size of the acquired entity and the resulting financial profile.

Nevertheless, nearly all GCC banks’ long-term issuer default ratings are supported by government backing and are unlikely to be affected by these acquisitions. In this context, economic forecasts play a crucial role in shaping these expansion strategies.

The World Bank has updated its growth projections in April for various countries, reflecting significant opportunities and risks. 

For instance, Saudi Arabia’s economic growth forecast for 2025 has been raised to 5.9 percent, up from the previous estimate of 4.2 percent, signaling robust long-term prospects. 

For the UAE it is now 3.9 percent for 2024, up from 3.7 percent, with a further rise to 4.1 percent in 2025.

Kuwait and Bahrain are also expected to see modest growth increases, while Qatar’s 2024 forecast has been reduced to 2.1 percent but adjusted upward to 3.2 percent for 2025.


Saudi finance minister heads Kingdom’s delegation to G20 ministerial meeting in Brazil

Saudi finance minister heads Kingdom’s delegation to G20 ministerial meeting in Brazil
Updated 24 July 2024
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Saudi finance minister heads Kingdom’s delegation to G20 ministerial meeting in Brazil

Saudi finance minister heads Kingdom’s delegation to G20 ministerial meeting in Brazil
  • Delegation includes Governor of the Saudi Central Bank Ayman Al-Sayari

RIYADH: Ongoing global challenges, financial sector issues, and the international economic outlook will be key topics as Saudi Arabia participates in a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central banks in Brazil this week.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom’s delegation at the third Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Rio de Janeiro from July 25 to 26 under the Brazilian G20 Presidency, according to a ministry statement.

Other topics on the agenda include financial inclusion, international taxation cooperation, climate change, and financing sustainable development as well as capital flows, global debt, and reform of Multilateral Development Banks.

This falls in line with the Ministry of Finance’s goal of doubling the size of the financial sector and boosting gross domestic product growth.

It also cements the ministry’s aim to align the financial market’s size with that of the banking sector, while establishing an inclusive system benefitting most Saudi citizens.

According to the 2023 Financial Sector Development Program document, the Saudi Capital Market Authority plans to boost assets under management to 29.4 percent of the gross domestic product this year by increasing the investment environment and attracting more investors.

The Saudi delegation includes the Governor of the Saudi Central Bank Ayman Al-Sayari, along with other senior officials from the Saudi Ministry of Finance and SAMA.

The meeting convenes G20 ministers and central bank governors, several representatives of invited countries, and heads of global and regional financial organizations.

In June, the Riyadh-based Financial Academy unveiled its new strategy for 2024-2026, focusing on enhancing human capabilities in the sector through training programs and professional certifications.  

The academy aims to increase the number of trainees and improve the quality of its services to meet the evolving needs of the industry.


Historic Jeddah to support securing local workforce with new agreement

Historic Jeddah to support securing local workforce with new agreement
Updated 24 July 2024
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Historic Jeddah to support securing local workforce with new agreement

Historic Jeddah to support securing local workforce with new agreement
  • Deal aims to boost collaboration by leveraging resources to enhance knowledge exchange and empower local talent
  • Saudi Arabia aims to unlock its tourism potential and position the region as a premier global destination

RIYADH: Saudis will receive training and support to help secure hospitality jobs in Historic Jeddah thanks to a new agreement between the Ministry of Tourism and Al-Balad Development Co. 

The memorandum of understanding aims to boost collaboration by leveraging resources to enhance knowledge exchange and empower local talent across the hotel, heritage tourism, and tour guiding industries.

The Public Investment Fund’s wholly-owned company serves as the heritage-focused master developer and asset manager for Jeddah’s Al-Balad area. Spanning 2.5 sq. km along the Red Sea coast, the site recently marked its 10th anniversary on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

Saudi Arabia aims to unlock its tourism potential and position the region as a premier global destination by facilitating investment, promoting cultural heritage, and encouraging innovation in the hospitality sector. 

The Kingdom targets attracting over 150 million visitors by 2030, creating 1.6 million tourism jobs, and increasing the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product to over 10 percent.  

The MoU was signed by Jamil Hasan Ghaznawi, CEO of Al-Balad Development Co., and Hind Al-Zahid, acting deputy for human capital development at the Ministry of Tourism, with the signing witnessed by Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, according to the Saudi News Agency. 

Through its Al-Balad Hospitality arm, the firm plans to deliver over 1,800 hotel units in the area in the coming years. 

The company aims to offer visitors unique hotel experiences that blend authenticity and history with modern comforts in the heart of Historic Jeddah. 

Launched in early 2024, Al-Balad Hospitality provides a range of accommodations, from heritage hotels in Jeddah to redefined authentic stays.

The Jeddah Historic District, once a Red Sea fishing village and key Silk Road trading hub, now boasts over 600 historic buildings with distinctive architecture and a rich cultural heritage. 

The Ministry of Culture oversees the Jeddah Historic District program, which aims to revitalize the area and establish it as a cultural and heritage destination.


Kuwait turns to deficit of 1.6bn dinars in FY 2023/24, finance ministry says

Kuwait turns to deficit of 1.6bn dinars in FY 2023/24, finance ministry says
Updated 29 min 54 sec ago
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Kuwait turns to deficit of 1.6bn dinars in FY 2023/24, finance ministry says

Kuwait turns to deficit of 1.6bn dinars in FY 2023/24, finance ministry says
  • Kuwait’s oil revenues fell to 21.528 billion dinars in FY 2023/24

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait registered a deficit of 1.6 billion dinars ($5.23 billion) in fiscal year 2023/24 from a surplus of 6.4 billion dinars in the previous year, its finance ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Kuwait’s oil revenues fell to 21.528 billion dinars in FY 2023/24, based on an oil price of $86.36 a barrel. This was a fall in revenue from 26.713 billion dinars in the previous year.
The Gulf state has had to comply with production cuts by the OPEC+ producer group amid lower oil prices this year while making slow progress on diversifying revenue sources compared with its Gulf neighbors.
Expenditures reached 25.206 billion dinars compared to 22.370 billion dinars in the previous year. Kuwait’s fiscal year ends on March 31.
Kuwait holds some of the world’s largest oil reserves and has strong fiscal and external balance sheets, but political and institutional gridlock has hampered investment and reforms aimed at reducing its heavy reliance on oil.