Saudi Arabia leads March PMI rankings among GCC nations

Saudi Arabia leads March PMI rankings among GCC nations
The economic index reached 57 in March, showing a slight decrease from 57.2 in February, according to a report by the Riyad Bank Saudi Arabia PMI by S&P Global. Shutterstock
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Updated 03 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia leads March PMI rankings among GCC nations

Saudi Arabia leads March PMI rankings among GCC nations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector saw steady growth in March, with output accelerating to a six-month high, as reflected by the Kingdom’s Purchasing Managers’ Index.  

The economic index reached 57 in March, showing a slight decrease from 57.2 in February, according to a report by the Riyad Bank Saudi Arabia PMI by S&P Global.  

Any PMI reading above 50 indicates growth in the non-oil sector, while readings below that signal contraction.  

Saudi Arabia’s PMI in March surpassed that of other Gulf Cooperation Council countries such as the UAE, Egypt, and Kuwait, indicating that the Kingdom’s non-oil sector growth is in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030. 

Strengthening the non-oil sector is crucial for Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom steadily diversifies its economy away from oil. 

The US-based firm reported that operating conditions in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector exhibited robust improvement at the end of the first quarter, with companies emphasizing significant increases in order books and new customers.  

Naif Al-Ghaith, chief economist at Riyad Bank, said: “The PMI for Saudi Arabia showcased a notable upswing as the non-oil economy exhibited significant expansion in the most recent period. This expansion was primarily fueled by a surge in demand across various sectors, indicating a robust economic performance.”   

He added: “Business activity experienced a substantial uptick, marking the most significant growth in six months. The positive momentum also prompted accelerated purchasing activities and additional hiring, underscoring a buoyant market outlook.”   

According to the report, the rise in output levels among non-oil private sector firms was driven by robust new orders and strong demand conditions. 

Similarly, new orders placed at non-oil firms rose sharply in March, with the expansion rate accelerating for the second month in a row. 

The survey also revealed that demand from foreign customers increased in March. 

The report indicated rising optimism among businesses in the non-oil sector for the coming 12 months, driven by anticipations of growth in demand. 

“The surge in orders and customer acquisition not only bolstered current operations but also laid the foundation for continued expansion and potential business growth in the foreseeable future,” noted Al-Ghaith.  

He added: “Moreover, the concurrent easing of cost pressures, particularly in terms of wages, provided companies with greater flexibility and resources to invest in their operations and workforce, fostering a conducive environment for sustained economic progress and development in Saudi Arabia.”  

The report further noted that private sector firms in the Kingdom witnessed a decrease in cost inflation for the second consecutive month. 

UAE maintains growth 

Business conditions in the UAE non-oil private sector strengthened sharply in March, with optimism reaching its highest point in six months, as indicated by a survey.  

According to the latest S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index, the UAE’s PMI reached 56.9 in March, slightly lower than February’s 57.1 but well above the 50 mark denoting expansion in activity.  

David Owen, a senior economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said: “The overall picture for the UAE non-oil private sector remained rosy at the end of the first quarter. The latest PMI reading of 56.9 in March signaled a robust upturn in business conditions, with order book inflows and activity levels still growing sharply.”     

The US-based firm revealed that businesses in the Emirates faced significant pressure on their workloads, with reports of administrative delays and increased supply constraints due to the Red Sea shipping crisis.   

As a result, the data signaled the joint-fastest accumulation of backlogs of work in the survey’s 15-year history.  

“While the surge in backlogs is concerning as an indicator of business health, the pent-up demand should support activity growth for even longer once these issues are resolved,” added Owen.   

According to the report, strong demand remained a key feature of growth in the non-oil economy, as surveyed firms witnessed another sharp uplift in new order volumes. 

Moreover, the rate of expansion picked up from February’s six-month low, though it remained slightly softer than those recorded around the turn of the year. 

Additionally, optimism toward future business activity among non-oil firms in the UAE rose to the second-strongest level in four years. 

“While the surge in backlogs is concerning as an indicator of business health, the pent-up demand should support activity growth for even longer once these issues are resolved,” the economist added.  

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of the UAE revised down its economic growth projection, citing the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+. 

CBUAE now expects the country’s economy to expand by 4.2 percent in 2024, down from an earlier estimate of 5.7 percent. 

Kuwait records spike in new orders  

Kuwait, on the other hand, saw its fastest rise in new orders since 2020 in March, driving the PMI to 53.2, up from 52.7 in February.  

According to the report, rates of expansion in output and new orders quickened, while business confidence improved, although job growth remained only fractional. 

Andrew Harker, economic director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, stated that non-oil firms in Kuwait are currently experiencing a strong growth phase, with competitive pricing proving successful in attracting increasing numbers of customers. 

Due to the marginal rise in job growth, backlogs of work continued to build, with outstanding business accumulating for 14 consecutive months. 

“If new orders continue to flow in as they have been doing, firms will likely need to take on additional staff to prevent delays in the completion of projects,” said Harker.  

Qatar economy

Qatar witnessed a marginal decline in its PMI to 50.6 in March from 51 in February, indicating a sustained improvement in business conditions in the non-energy private sector economy. 

“The PMI remained firmly in stable territory in March, reflecting further growth in output, new orders and employment in the Qatari non-energy economy,” said Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, CEO of Qatar Financial Center Authority. 

He added that in the first quarter of 2024, the headline index has trended in line with the average for the fourth quarter of 2023, indicating sustained economic growth. 

According to a press statement, in March, demand for goods and services in Qatar’s non-energy economy continued to expand, with local firms also extending their workforces, marking over a year of consecutive growth. 

Egypt sees fall in business activity  

Meanwhile, Egypt’s non-oil private sector continued to deteriorate in March, according to another report by S&P Global. The PMI reached 47.6, slightly higher than February’s 47.1, but remained below the expansion mark of 50. 

According to the report, non-oil private sector activities declined sharply in March as weak order books and elevated inflationary pressures continued to impact business output and confidence. 

“Businesses in Egypt’s non-oil private sector continued to come under pressure from the country’s recent currency crisis in March,” said Owen.  

He added that February’s PMI results had indicated a considerable downturn in business activity, and “March was little different, except for a modest reduction in the rate of decline.” 

Even though firms expressed positivity about the next 12 months, there were some concerns that economic headwinds might further reduce sales. 

“PMI survey data on prices suggests this may be the case, with rates of input cost and output price inflation slowing to three-month lows,” said Owen. 

On the other hand, he added that firms are still lacking confidence that activity will grow over the year ahead, suggesting that economic risks may take more time to disappear. 


Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official

Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official

Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is a “model” for sustainable practices in the aviation section, said president of the International Civil Aviation Organization Council.

In an interview with Arab News during the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Salvatore Sciacchitano emphasized the Kingdom’s position as an emerging leader in sustainable aviation. 

Speaking about the global agenda to reduce carbon emissions, Sciacchitano said: “Saudi Arabia is in this sense a model because their plan of development is in the perspective of sustainability. This is very positive.” 

“They have projects for low-carbon emission fuels. That means fossil fuels but to produce reduced emissions thanks to green energy that is used for the production. So this is a good direction,” he added.  

The ICAO official highlighted the importance of adhering to international standards and practices, saying that Saudi Arabia’s aviation growth aligns with global standards.  

He stated: “The regulations are there, we call SARPs, standards and recommended practices, these are applicable all over the world to all 193 (member) states of ICAO.” 

Highlighting the role of the Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, Sciacchitano praised the support of the authority to the Regional Safety Oversight Organization, which is a way to put resources together at the regional level. 

“Let me say that the GACA is well advanced in terms of programs, projects, training, and also providing support at (the) regional level,” he said. 

“In this sense, Saudi Arabia is well prepared, not just to support its own development, but also to support the development of the region,” he added. 

Sciacchitano said ICAO is there to support its member states. Although he believes that the Kingdom is fully capable of achieving its goals independently. “We absolutely support them with our expertise,” he added. 

Sciacchitano predicted a significant increase in global air traffic, with the number of passengers expected to reach 11.5 billion by 2050, up from the current 4.6 billion.  

He emphasized the need for technological advancements to accommodate this growth, stating that technologies will allow the world to accommodate more airplanes in the air and more space on the ground. 


Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum

Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum
Updated 21 May 2024
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Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum

Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum

KARACHI: The Competition Commission of Pakistan has granted a time-bound exemption on relevant clauses of a product supply agreement between Saudi oil giant Aramco and Gas & Oil Pakistan Ltd.,  known as GO Petroleum, for the import and sale of petrol and diesel products to Pakistan, the CCP said on Tuesday.

Aramco Trading Co. Fujairah FZE Ltd. is one of the world’s largest integrated energy and chemicals companies, while GO Petroleum is an oil-marketing company registered in Pakistan that operates a network of retail outlets across the country that sell petrol, diesel and lubricants.

Under the agreement, ATC Fujairah intends to meet GO Petroleum’s demand for essential petroleum products for its outlets, which primarily includes petrol and diesel.

“The parties submitted to the CCP that this arrangement is expected to achieve economies of scale in procurement for GO Petroleum, potentially resulting in better prices for Pakistani consumers,” the CCP said in a statement.

“The exemption sought was on exclusivity aspects of the commercial agreement to supply 100 percent demand of imported products for GO Petroleum’s retail outlets. The CCP has accordingly granted exemption on the product supply agreement with certain conditions included therein.”

The CCP grants exemptions pursuant to Section 9 of the Competition Act, 2010, ensuring that such exemptions have economic benefits that outweigh anti-competitive effects.

“The CCP’s conditions stipulate that both parties must refrain from engaging in anti-competitive activities. Importantly, the exemption does not include approval on any pricing terms and mechanisms related to the products,” the CCP statement read.

“Additionally, as the agreement has referred to certain off specification products, however approval of concerned sector regulator should be ensured for import and sales. The applicants have also been directed to ensure required approvals on their terminals and storage facilities by relevant authorities to be used in the execution of this agreement.”

Subject to the conditions, the CCP said, it had granted the exemption until June 2026 and both applicants could approach it for an extension with required details and also identifying the benefits that have accrued to the improved distribution network of petroleum products and enhanced competition in the market.

Last month, the CCP approved Saudi oil giant Aramco’s move to acquire a 40 percent stake in Go Petroleum, officially marking the Saudi company’s entry into Pakistan’s fuels retail market.

The CCP said it had authorized the merger after determining the acquisition would not result in the acquirers’ “dominance” in the relevant market post-transaction. The acquisition would help bring much-needed foreign direct investment in Pakistan’s energy sector, contributing to economic growth and development of the country, it added.

In February 2019, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia inked investment deals totaling $21 billion during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Islamabad. The agreements included about $10 billion for an Aramco oil refinery and $1 billion for a petrochemical complex at the strategic Gwadar Port in Balochistan.

Both countries have lately been working to increase bilateral trade and investment, and the Kingdom recently reaffirmed its commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion.


Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official

Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official

Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to unveil a new tourism strategy this year utilizing artificial intelligence and seamless technology, according to a top official.

Speaking to Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum 2024, Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special adviser at the Ministry of Tourism, noted that the plan seeks to maximize the Kingdom’s assets including culture, history, heritage and hospitality.

“Right now, the ministry, under the leadership of his excellency, is developing the new strategy, and that new strategy is going to include several new things, such as the use of AI, for instance, seamless and many other technologies that are important for growth,” Manzo said.

She added: “(The) strategy, hopefully is going to be released this year and is going to be shared with the world. The strategy that we have right now was developed in 2019. We accomplished the milestone of the 100 million tourists, domestic and international, seven years ahead (of schedule).”

Manzo also discussed the importance of sustainability so people are still “enjoying” the world today while ensuring resources are preserved for future use

This concept involves multiple facets, including economic, environmental, and social considerations.

“For 30 years, we have been measuring and that’s why we know that 10 percent of the global gross domestic product before the pandemic (came from travel and tourism), and we’re going to reach that number this year again,” Manzo said.

She added that before the COVID-19 outbreak there were 330 million jobs in the industry, adding: “This year, we’re hoping to break a record with 348 million. One out of 10 jobs depends on this sector, so the economic aspect is very clear. The social aspect also is quite interesting — 54 percent women, 30 percent youth.”

Manzo emphasized the positive social impacts of travel and tourism, such as poverty reduction and the prevention of illegal migration by providing local job opportunities.

Despite these benefits, there had been a lack of clear measurement regarding the sustainability of this industry.

However, a significant study sponsored by Saudi Arabia, particularly by Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb and the ministry, addressed this gap.

Released last year, this provided comprehensive insights into the environmental impact of travel and tourism, revealing that 8.1 percent of greenhouse emissions are attributable to this sector.

“Now that we know that, then we can go industry by industry to understand what is the impact, and from that 8 percent, 47 percent is due to transportation and it could be aviation, it can be road, it can be cruising all the different aspects,” she said.

Manzo added: “Now, the reality is that aviation counts between 1.5 and 2 percent of the global emissions. But as I said in the panel, we cannot see this in an isolated approach. We need to see this from a holistic point of view. We need to understand what are the quick wins.”

Therefore, she noted that this does not mean stopping flying is the solution, as it has “very severe consequences.”

She said: “Millions of people can lose their jobs. We saw that during the pandemic, travel provides food on the table to millions of people from around the world. That’s a factor that we have to consider.” 

Mazo stated that the right approach should be finding ways to travel in a more sustainable way, as she referred to a statement by Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman ,when he said that the Kingdom is leading this transition.

Furthermore, the adviser stressed the importance of the Future Aviation Forum as it reflects the significance of connectivity within and outside the Kingdom as emphasized by Al-Khateeb on the first day.

“We need to increase the connectivity within the Kingdom, to the Kingdom and of course outside in order to increase the trade and do business and have more exports, more imports, and all of the above,” she stated.

Manzo continued: “In that regard it is very important to continue with the partnerships, not only at the destination level, but also at the corporate level and with the different entities, with the government. Without transport, we don’t have tourism, and tourism is very important for transport also to grow.”

 

 

 


Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 

Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 

Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has completed its riyal-denominated sukuk issuance for May at SR3.23 billion ($860 million), according to the National Debt Management Center. 

In April, Saudi Arabia issued sukuk amounting to SR7.39 billion, while it was SR4.44 billion and SR7.87 billion in March and February respectively. 

NDMC revealed that the Shariah-compliant debt product for May was divided into two tranches.

The first tranche valued at SR71 million is set to mature in 2029, while the second one amounting to SR3.16 billion is due in 2036. 

In March 2024, NDMC concluded its second government sukuk savings round, with a total volume of requests reaching SR959 million, allocated to 37,000 applicants.

NDMC, at that time, said that the financial product, also known as Sah, offers a return of 5.64 percent, with a maturity date in March 2025. 

In April, a report released by S&P Global said that sukuk issuance globally is expected to hover between the $160 billion to $170 billion mark in 2024, representing a steady momentum from $168.4 billion in 2023 and $179.4 billion in 2022. 

According to the US-based firm, the issuance of this Shariah-compliant debt product began on a strong footing in 2024, with Saudi Arabia becoming a key contributor to the performance. 

The credit rating agency also noted that the sukuk market will continue to grow in the near term driven by financing needs in core Islamic finance countries, along with the ongoing economic transformation programs which are currently underway in nations like Saudi Arabia. 

“The market has started 2024 on a strong footing, with total issuance reaching $46.8 billion at March 31, 2024, compared with $38.2 billion at March 31, 2023. Saudi Arabia was a key contributor to this performance,” said S&P Global. 

It added: “The drop in issuance volumes in 2023, which mainly resulted from tighter liquidity conditions in Saudi Arabia’s banking system and Indonesia’s lower fiscal deficit, was somewhat compensated by an increase in foreign currency-denominated sukuk issuance.” 

In April, another report released by Fitch Ratings also echoed similar views and noted that global sukuk issuance is expected to continue growing in the coming months of this year. 

Fitch noted that economic diversification efforts and the rapid development of the debt capital market in the Gulf Cooperation Council region will propel the growth of the sukuk market in the coming months. 


SAFE unveils expansion plans to transform aviation security: CEO

SAFE unveils expansion plans to transform aviation security: CEO
Updated 21 May 2024
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SAFE unveils expansion plans to transform aviation security: CEO

SAFE unveils expansion plans to transform aviation security: CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector is set for substantial safety and security enhancements as the National Security Services Co. prepares to embark on an ambitious expansion plan, its CEO told Arab News.

Turki Matooq Al-Thonayan explained how the company, also known as SAFE, already has operations spanning multiple countries and a workforce exceeding 10,000 employees.

The comments came on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum, which saw over 5,000 industry experts and leaders from more than 120 countries gather in Riyadh to discuss issues facing the sector.

In his interview with Arab News, Al-Thonayan emphasized the strategic integration of SAFE’s plans with the aviation sector, aligning with broader transportation goals, saying: “The plan of expansion is totally integrated with aviation. Why we are here is because of transportation, talking about aviation, land, and maritime.”

Al-Thonayan went on explaining that the company is also targeting Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects like NEOM, the Red Sea and Qiddiya.

“We are targeting the mass event in VIP protection, industrial facilities. And moreover, we are trying to support the government and their initiative to privatize the security services,” he added.

SAFE was launched in 2021 and is totally owned by the Public Investment Fund.

According to the CEO, the company was initially focused on security services but has since added firefighting, safety, and critical facility management to its remit.

“We are working in more than 37 governments within the Kingdom, we are working in Bahrain and we launched our office in the UAE, and we are planning for more expansion in the future,” Al-Thonayan said.

The focus on customer experience is at the heart of SAFE’s operational ethos. “Because if we are providing the services like the firefighting, the facility management, the security, this affects the passengers and the customers and the airports,” he said.

“The engagement between the passengers and the services is going to be for security and verification. Our goal is how to make this experience excellent, how we address the goal of the passengers,” Al-Thonayan explained.

Understanding the needs of passengers and ensuring their swift and efficient movement through airports is a priority for SAFE. “Sometimes their goal is to move as fast as possible to their businesses, to their collaboration within the Kingdom. So we would like to enhance the process. We would like to improve the efficiency of the services within the airport,” the top official noted.

“Our goal is to be the ultimate security, safety, firefighting partner,” he emphasized.

Al-Thonayan outlined the firm’s key objectives, which revolve around enhancing service efficiency and generating revenue, and said: “Our success is to be a reliable enabler. So how we can enable the ecosystem of aviation to move faster toward their targets, how we can make them do more.”

He highlighted that SAFE aims to offer comprehensive solutions that streamline services and ensure reliability, saying: “We are planning to offer and make a commercial offering for a total solution. So instead of having scattered services among these suppliers, we will have one quality service provider that is reliable from the ecosystem, from the government, from the client, from the service provider.”

The concept of integration is central to the company’s approach, as Al-Thonayan noted.

“Being in Bahrain or being in the UAE, or being in Saudi Arabia, the added value here is to have an integrated service. Door to door, which enables the network to do the business and do smooth and efficient logistics where it contributes and operation excellence, and cost efficiency,” the CEO explained.

Al-Thonayan stressed the importance of global operations and the role SAFE plays in facilitating seamless travel experiences. “Our target is to make smooth, excellent, and efficient operations with our destination all over the globe. Today we are talking about the globe coming to Saudi Arabia. How can I enhance this process to make their life easy? How we can contribute and the quality of the lifestyle. This is our role,” he said.

Highlighting recent partnerships, Al-Thonayan mentioned significant agreements aimed at enhancing the aviation network within the Kingdom.

“The ecosystem in aviation consists of airlines, logistics, and airports. So we have signed (an MoU) today with Dammam Airport Co., DACO and Cluster 2, which is another 22 airports,” he added.

These collaborations are going to enhance the network within the Kingdom, according to the CEO. “Our role here is to provide security solutions for our safety solutions, and how can we succeed to transform the model and the business operation from scattered business to a total solution business,” he added.

Al-Thonayan underscored the significance of accredited training and technology integration to enhance services. By shifting security’s role from a cost center to a value generator, SAFE aims to cultivate data networks for expanded services. This vision was demonstrated through recent agreements that are viewed as a starting point for further success and collaboration.

 Al-Thonayan reiterated SAFE’s commitment to setting high standards in the aviation sector and ensuring an exceptional customer experience.

“We would like to say to our colleagues in the sector, we are the front or the national front. Passengers, travelers, airport companies, airline companies, will see first our employees, the security, the customer service, and they will make the impression,” he said,

“We are obligated and committed to deliver the best customer experience for the globe,” the CEO concluded.

With these comprehensive strategies and partnerships, SAFE is poised to play a pivotal role in the future of aviation security and customer experience, both within the Kingdom and beyond.