Saudi Arabia’s PIF updates its asset size to $925.2bn

The significant rise in the Public Investment Fund’s standing follows its procurement of an additional 8 percent stake in Aramco, boosting its shareholding’s estimated value to $328 billion.
The significant rise in the Public Investment Fund’s standing follows its procurement of an additional 8 percent stake in Aramco, boosting its shareholding’s estimated value to $328 billion.
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Updated 13 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s PIF updates its asset size to $925.2bn

Saudi Arabia’s PIF updates its asset size to $925.2bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has revised its asset size on its website, reaching $925.2 billion, after it climbed to the fifth spot in a ranking of state-owned investment organizations.

The significant rise in the Public Investment Fund’s standing follows its procurement of an additional 8 percent stake in Aramco, boosting its shareholding’s estimated value to $328 billion.

This acquisition has significantly impacted PIF’s overall assets under management, exceeding $860 billion, a rise from $700 billion by the end of 2022.

As a result, the Aramco holding now accounts for around 37 percent of the body’s portfolio value, representing a key milestone in the fund’s growth trajectory and central role in the Kingdom’s broader economic diversification agenda.

According to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, PIF’s considerable position in Aramco is likely to yield billions of dollars in annual dividends, strengthening its investment capability.

Furthermore, the fund’s involvement in megaprojects and subsidiaries strives to accelerate Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals.

Notable projects include the development of Alat, a $100 billion industrial electronics company that aims to boost global semiconductor supply and contribute $9.3 billion to the national gross domestic product by 2030.

Furthermore, the fund’s automotive endeavors, such as partnerships with Hyundai and investments in Lucid and Ceer Motors, are consistent with its goal of positioning Saudi Arabia as a major player in global car production.

Earlier in March, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the completion of the transfer of an extra 8 percent of Saudi Aramco’s total issued shares to portfolio firms owned entirely by the fund, according to the state-run news agency.

As stated by SPA, the state now owns 82.186 percent of Aramco shares, with 16 percent going to the fund and its subsidiaries.

The SPA report quoted the crown prince as saying the transfer of ownership of part of the state’s shares in Saudi Aramco to PIF-owned firms is part of “the Kingdom’s initiatives aimed at strengthening the national economy in the long-term, diversifying its resources and creating more investment opportunities.”

The crown prince highlighted that the fund continues to build new economic partnerships, localize technologies, and contribute to the creation of more direct and indirect jobs in the labor market.


Saudi Aramco partners with NextDecade for 20-year LNG supply deal

Saudi Aramco partners with NextDecade for 20-year LNG supply deal
Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi Aramco partners with NextDecade for 20-year LNG supply deal

Saudi Aramco partners with NextDecade for 20-year LNG supply deal

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco has signed a non-binding agreement with US-based NextDecade to supply 1.2 million tonnes per annum of liquefied natural gas for 20 years.

According to a press statement, LNG will be supplied from the fourth liquefaction train at NextDecade’s Rio Grande Facility at the Port of Brownsville in Texas. 

“Aramco and NextDecade are currently in the process of negotiating a binding agreement, and once executed, the effectiveness of which will be subject to a positive final investment decision on Train 4,” said Aramco in the press statement. 

Aramco’s Upstream President Nasir K. Al-Naimi said the company is exploring opportunities to expand its presence in the global energy market. 

“We look forward to finalizing the terms of a long-term LNG offtake agreement with NextDecade as we explore opportunities to expand our presence in international energy markets,” said Al-Naimi in the release.  

“We expect LNG to play an important role in meeting the rising demand for secure and efficient energy,” he added. 

Matt Schatzman, chairman and CEO of NextDecade, said he is “pleased to have reached a heads of agreement with Aramco for LNG from Train 4, as Aramco seeks to expand its LNG portfolio.” 

Saudi Aramco, one of the biggest energy firms in the world, has been taking crucial steps in recent months to expand its global presence. 

In May, Aramco completed the acquisition of a 40 percent stake in Gas & Oil Pakistan, officially marking the Saudi company’s entry into Pakistan’s fuel retail market.

In April, Saudi Aramco disclosed that it is in talks to acquire a 10 percent stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical, aiming to strengthen Aramco’s growing downstream presence in the Asian country. 

In February, speaking at the India Energy Week in Goa, Faisal Faqeer, Saudi Aramco’s senior vice president of liquids to chemicals development downstream, revealed that the energy giant is engaged in investment discussions with several Indian companies. 

Earlier this month, Saudi Aramco also retained the leading spot in Forbes Middle East’s Top 100 listed companies for 2024, with $660.8 billion in assets and $1.9 trillion in market value.

Moreover, Saudi Aramco continued its strong fiscal performance in the first quarter of this year amid global economic uncertainties and geopolitical tensions. 

On May 12, Saudi Aramco revealed that its net profit for the first quarter of this year reached $27.27 billion, representing a rise of 2.04 percent compared to the last three months of 2023. 

According to a statement, the oil firm’s total revenue for the three months to the end of March stood at $107.21 billion, with total operating income for the period reaching $58.88 billion.  


NEOM welcomes Capella’s wellness-focused resort in Magna region

NEOM welcomes Capella’s wellness-focused resort in Magna region
Updated 13 June 2024
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NEOM welcomes Capella’s wellness-focused resort in Magna region

NEOM welcomes Capella’s wellness-focused resort in Magna region

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s future city, NEOM, is poised to welcome an 80-room wellness-focused resort after Capella Hotels and Resorts announced its first coastal destination at Elanan in the Magna region. 

This new offering from the Singapore-based hospitality group provides a fresh option for travelers to the area, supporting the Kingdom’s ambitions to establish itself as a tourism hub in the region. 

The resort is part of the sustainable development unfolding in northwest Saudi Arabia, the company said in a press release. 

Cristiano Rinaldi, president of Capella Hotel Group, said: “Combining Saudi Arabia’s breathtaking natural landscapes with NEOM’s innovative technology, we are poised to provide guests with an unparalleled wellness experience that promises delight and discovery.”  

He added: “This sanctuary will elevate Capella Hotels and Resorts’ esteemed wellness offering, featuring a curated series of exciting programs.” 

In February, NEOM announced Elanan, a new guest retreat focused on luxury and well-being experiences, nestled in a natural setting. 

This announcement adds to NEOM's recent sustainable tourism destinations in the Gulf of Aqaba, including Leyja, Epicon, and Siranna. It also includes Utamo and Norlana, along with Aquellum, Zardun, and Xaynor. 

Jeremy Lester, NEOM's executive director for Magna, expressed delight in collaborating with Capella Hotels and Resorts at Elenan. He described it as a “stunning haven that blends luxury with the spectacular landscape,” offering an exclusive sustainable retreat dedicated to holistic wellness. 

“It’s a fusion of aligned values and aspirations. Together, we’ll craft an environment to set a new standard in luxury guest experiences.” Lester said. 

The release emphasized that guests experience tranquility in a modern environment that blends contemporary design with natural beauty. 

It also noted that Capella enhances hospitality with a focus on wellness and innovative design through Capella Wellness, providing a relaxing sanctuary infused with modern aesthetics. 

On June 5, NEOM revealed its luxury lifestyle destination Magna. The development is part of NEOM’s sustainable portfolio in the region, focusing on integrating cutting-edge technology, world-class architecture, and modern amenities with the natural environment, according to a press release. 


GCC banks hold interest rates steady for 7th consecutive period following US Fed’s move

GCC banks hold interest rates steady for 7th consecutive period following US Fed’s move
Updated 14 min 18 sec ago
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GCC banks hold interest rates steady for 7th consecutive period following US Fed’s move

GCC banks hold interest rates steady for 7th consecutive period following US Fed’s move

RIYADH: Gulf Cooperation Council central banks have held interest rates steady for the seventh consecutive period, aligning with the US Federal Reserve’s benchmark rate of 5.25 to 5.50 percent.

Since most regional currencies are pegged to the US dollar, monetary policies in the Gulf follow decisions made in Washington, leading policymakers to keep the rate unchanged since July.  

The freeze comes as the US rate-setting panel outlined its view of an economy that is expected to remain virtually unchanged across its major dimensions for years.

This decision implies that the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, will maintain its repo rates at the current level of 6 percent. Moreover, the UAE central bank, along with Qatar, also mirrored the Fed’s move with their repo rates standing at 5.40 percent and 6 percent, respectively. The central banks of Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain also followed the move accordingly.

Repo rates, which represent a form of short-term borrowing primarily involving government securities, underscore the close economic ties and financial dynamics between the GCC countries and the global economic landscape, particularly the US.  

“With rates staying at high levels, Saudi Arabia mortgage rates and corporate loan borrowers are unlikely to see any relief soon. However, the strong KSA economy means bank’s asset quality will remain strong,” Chief Information Officer at Century Financial Vijay Valecha told Arab News.

“High interest rates are unlikely to hamper the economic growth due to strong performance of its non-oil economy and the funding for the mega projects by sovereign authority. Additionally, from the KSA’s perspective, the USD is likely to stay strong and this should keep the imports cheap since the Riyal is pegged to the greenback,” Valecha further added.

The CIO went on to note that with the current oil price of $80 a barrel and the anticipated interest rate cuts, Saudi Arabia, stands to benefit.

“This translates to increased government revenue for Saudi Arabia, bolsters overall economic activity, and ultimately that’s the biggest macro-economic variable from the government’s perspective,” he said.

US decision-makers noted that rates will remain unchanged until the economy signals a need for adjustment, either through a significant decline in price pressures or a rise in the unemployment rate.  

“These dynamics can continue as long as they continue. We’ve got a good strong labor market. We think we’ve been making progress toward the price stability goal. We’re asking ... is our policy stance about, right? And we think yes, it’s about right,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said, according to Reuters.   

The result is that the Fed has accepted a gradual decline in inflation toward its 2 percent target. The central bank’s preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index, is expected to remain largely unchanged from its current level by the end of this year, with rate cuts limited to a single quarter-percentage-point reduction.  

“We don’t make decisions about future meetings until we get there. Really, it’s going to be not just the inflation readings. It’s going to be the totality of the data, what’s happening in the labor market, what’s happening with the balance of risks, what’s happening with the forecasts, what’s happening with growth. You’re looking at all of that,” Powell stressed. 

The latest Fed projections indicate that the economy is expected to grow at a slightly above-trend rate of 2.1 percent this year, despite a slow start in the first quarter. The unemployment rate is also projected to remain steady at its current 4 percent level throughout the year. 


Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA
Updated 13 June 2024
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Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

RIYADH: The pace of deploying digital technologies in the energy sector will depend heavily on the ability to build a workforce with the right skills, according to an analysis. 

In its latest report, the International Energy Agency said that technologies are set to play a key role in the transition to more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

IEA noted that the deployment of advanced technologies could help ensure energy efficiency, reliability, and greater connectivity, along with reducing emissions. 

“New digital tools – such as those that can help match power supply with demand; predict and detect faults in networks; or give greater control to consumers – will enable the faster integration of renewables, improve grid stability and unlock greater energy savings,” said the energy agency. 

It added: “However, the pace of digitalization will depend heavily on the energy sector’s ability to build a workforce with the right skills.” 

Energy sector should concentrate more on digital roles

IEA said the number of digital roles across the energy sector has increased globally. However, there is growing evidence that it remains broadly insufficient, inhibiting greater investment in digitalization. 

The report cited an EY survey and noted that 89 percent of the participants from the energy sector identified skills gaps as the main challenge to accelerating the adoption of digital technologies. 

“With most jobs set to require digital skills in the coming years, energy utilities will increasingly be competing for a limited pool of qualified workers to bridge the sector’s skills gap. This will require stronger and more cohesive digital hiring strategies and training efforts,” said IEA. 

According to the report, countries can be divided into four groups based on interest in hiring workers with digital profiles. 

The first group includes nations such as Singapore, Portugal and the Slovak Republic, where employers are actively hiring workers with digital talents across all sectors, including for roles at power utilities. 

The second group features countries like Australia and New Zealand, where hiring for tech roles by power utilities is even stronger – outpacing digital hiring across all sectors. 

Nations like the US, the UK, and Canada fall into the third group. In these countries, the share of job vacancies that require digital skills posted by power utilities is higher than for the economy as a whole, but overall, digital recruitment remains low. 

In contrast, the fourth group sees low demand for digital roles overall and in the power sector. It includes the majority of EU member states, along with certain Latin American and North African nations. 

“Europe has consistently had a low share of digital jobs, especially between 2022 and 2023, indicating that countries in the region may not be fully leveraging their investments in digital equipment,” said IEA. 

According to the report, power utilities have been slower to create significant numbers of digital jobs than other sectors, such as finance, insurance, and public administration. 

“In recent years, digital job postings approached 16 percent of total listings by finance and insurance companies, whereas the share for power utilities stagnated around 11 percent, with a decline below 9 percent between 2017 and 2021,” the energy think tank noted.  

A shift in demand for skills

According to IEA, expertise in structured query language of SQL  – a programming language used for managing and manipulating data – was among the most sought-after digital skills in the energy sector in 2012.

At that time, the demand for a workforce with expertise in scripting languages or knowledge of cloud solutions was rarely required. 

However, since mid-2021, demand has grown rapidly for workers with skills in data analysis, scripting languages and cloud solutions, in addition to SQL database talents and cybersecurity expertise. 

The report added that demand for employees proficient in machine learning, artificial intelligence, or the Internet of Things is still at very low levels, even though these are extremely powerful tools for power system management. 

The vitality of bridging the skills gap

In its report, the energy agency cautioned that failing to bridge the current skills gaps could create bottlenecks in efforts to build more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

Underscoring the necessity of adopting a skills-focused digital strategy in the energy sector, IEA suggested some steps to improve and expand current initiatives. 

According to the think tank, energy utilities can develop mechanisms to track skills and systematize measurements of digital literacy to ensure they have the talent to manage changing power systems. 

“In parallel, having a clear understanding of the skills needed can improve the effectiveness of the policy actions for supporting the shift toward a more sustainable economy,” said IEA. 

The report also highlighted that the energy sector should increase the attractiveness of digital roles by creating an environment of innovation and growth, offering appealing career paths and opportunities for professionals seeking dynamic positions.

The energy agency further pointed out that workforces in the digital sector should be empowered through internal training programs. 

“Utilities can implement training and upskilling programs to equip current employees with essential digital skills, fostering a culture of continuous learning, a sense of ownership and allowing for adaptation to technological advancements,” said IEA. 

It added: “By designing training programs to be more inclusive – for example, making them targeted to increase gender parity – governments and industry can respond to labor demand while capitalizing on opportunities to build a more diverse workforce of the future.” 

IEA concluded by saying that energy utilities can engage with governments and other stakeholders to develop training initiatives and curricula tailored to address current and future market demand for digital skills, creating a solid pipeline of well-trained talent.


Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD

Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD
Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD

Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s economy witnessed growth of 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2024 – higher than that seen across the G20 as a whole, according to new data.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has released its latest gross domestic product report for the G20 countries, noting that the Kingdom bounced back from a contraction of 0.6 percent in the previous three-month period. 

GDP in the G20 area grew by 0.9 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of 2024, slightly up from 0.7 percent in the previous quarter. 

The economic performance of the G20 area was primarily driven by China and India, with Turkiye, Korea, and Indonesia also recording higher GDP growth than the G20 average. 

Turkiye led with an increase of 2.4 percent, followed by India at 1.9 percent, China at 1.6 percent, Korea at 1.3 percent, and Indonesia at 1.2 percent. 

The report highlighted that while Saudi Arabia experienced a significant recovery, other G20 countries faced varying economic conditions. 

The US saw a slowdown, with GDP growth dropping to 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year from 0.8 percent in the previous quarter. 

Japan’s economy contracted by 0.5 percent, and South Africa saw a contraction of 0.1 percent. 

Conversely, Brazil, the UK, and Germany showed signs of recovery in the first quarter of 2024 after contractions over the previous three month period, with growth reaching 0.8 percent, 0.6 percent, and 0.2 percent, respectively. 

Canada, Mexico, and the EU grew by 0.4 percent, 0.3 percent, and 0.3 percent, respectively, in the three months to the end of March, after zero growth in the final quarter of 2023. 

Year-on-year, GDP in the G20 area grew by 3.3 percent in the first three months of the year, maintaining the same growth rate as the previous quarter. 

Among G20 economies, India recorded the highest year-on-year growth rate at 8.4 percent in the first quarter of 2024, followed by Turkiye at 7.4 percent. 

However, Saudi Arabia recorded the most significant year-on-year decline at a drop of 1.5 percent. 

According to a separate report by the General Authority for Statistics released earlier in June, the Kingdom’s non-oil activities also rose by 0.9 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the previous quarter.  

Additionally, non-oil activities increased by 3.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024.  

GASTAT further noted that Saudi Arabia’s GDP amounted to SR1.01 trillion ($270 billion) in the first quarter.  

“Crude oil and natural gas activities achieved the highest contribution to GDP by 23.4 percent, followed by government activities at 15.8 percent, and then wholesale and retail trade, restaurants, and hotels activities with a contribution of 10.4 percent,” said GASTAT in the report.  

Strengthening the non-oil private sector is crucial for Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom is steadily diversifying its economy to reduce its decades-long dependence on oil.  

The report further noted that government activities in Saudi Arabia rose by 2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter while declining by 1.1 percent on a quarter-on-quarter basis.  

GASTAT added that the Kingdom’s oil activities increased by 1.7 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter.  

However, oil activities dipped by 11.2 percent year-on-year as Saudi Arabia reduced its crude production in line with the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+.  

To maintain market stability, Saudi Arabia reduced its oil output by 500,000 barrels per day in April 2023, and this cut has now been extended until December 2024.  

In April, the International Monetary Fund projected that Saudi Arabia’s economy would grow by 2.6 percent in 2024 and 6 percent in 2025.  

In the same month, the World Bank also raised the growth prospects of the Kingdom’s economy to 5.9 percent in 2025, up from an earlier projection of 4.2 percent. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s gross fixed capital formation surged to SR317.5 billion in the first quarter of 2024, marking a significant 7.9 percent increase compared to the same period last year. 

According to a separate report by the Saudi Ministry of Investment released earlier this month, gross fixed capital formation expansion was driven by growth in both the government and non-government sectors.  

GFCF, which represents the net increase in physical assets within an economy, plays a crucial role in gross domestic product as it reflects capital accumulation supporting future production capabilities and economic growth. 

Of the total GFCF, the government sector contributed 7 percent, experiencing a robust growth rate of 18 percent. Meanwhile, the non-government sector, constituting 93 percent, also saw a substantial rise of 7.2 percent. 

Saudi Arabia’s proactive efforts to attract foreign direct investment and bolster bilateral relations have significantly strengthened the Kingdom’s economic trajectory.  

FDI serves as a pivotal catalyst for GFCF development, facilitating funding for investment projects and resource and knowledge transfer across borders, thereby fostering economic expansion and maturation. 

Key initiatives such as the National Investment Strategy, the Regional Headquarters Program, and zero-income tax incentives for foreign entities play a vital role in advancing Vision 2030, which aims to diversify and expand the economy. 

During this quarter, the Ministry of Investment issued 3,157 investment licenses, marking a 93 percent surge compared to the same period last year, excluding licenses issued under the anti-concealment law. 

In its economic and investment monitor released in late May, the ministry revealed that the construction and manufacturing sector dominated with 47 percent of total permits, followed by vocational and educational activities, information and communication technology and accommodation and food services as well as wholesale and retail trade. 

The real estate sector witnessed the most significant year-on-year growth, with a staggering 253.3 percent increase in investment licenses. 

Furthermore, 127 international firms secured permits to relocate their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2024, reflecting a remarkable 477 percent year-on-year upsurge. 

Leading corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as Northern Trust, Bechtel, IHG Hotels & Resorts, and Deloitte have established operations in the Kingdom under this program. 

The report also highlights that Saudi Arabia processed 445 applications for investor visit visas during the first quarter of this year, enabling overseas businesspersons to explore opportunities in the country.