Iraq signs 12 MoUs with Saudi Arabia in investment push 

Iraq signs 12 MoUs with Saudi Arabia in investment push 
These MoUs were signed in the presence of Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning Muhammad Ali Tamim and Mohammed Al-Najjar, chairman of the Iraq Development Fund. Supplied
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Updated 07 April 2024
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Iraq signs 12 MoUs with Saudi Arabia in investment push 

Iraq signs 12 MoUs with Saudi Arabia in investment push 

RIYADH: Economic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq are poised to strengthen further with the signing of 12 memorandums of understanding for quality investment projects. 

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment announced on ‘X’ that this agreement with the Iraq Development Fund and Saudi companies will enhance cooperation in various investment projects with Baghdad. 

These MoUs were signed in the presence of Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning Muhammad Ali Tamim and Mohammed Al-Najjar, chairman of the Iraq Development Fund. 

“The memorandums of understanding signed between Saudi companies and the Iraq Development Fund came with the aim of enhancing cooperation in a number of qualitative investment projects in Iraq,” said Iraq’s Ministry of Planning in a statement.  

In December 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iraq signed a partnership agreement to encourage industrial investments in the private sector. 

In the same month, Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani, the prime minister of Iraq, confirmed the contract between the Iraqi company Al-Diyar and Saudi Arabia’s Northern Region Cement Co. 

This partnership in the cement industry also marked the first collaboration between the private sectors of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. 

Al-Sudani added that such alliances will foster future cooperation between Iraqi businesses, companies, and their Saudi counterparts.  

He highlighted that these initiatives will also strengthen the private sectors of both countries, create more job opportunities, and promote sustainable development. 

In May 2023, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund created a unit with a capital of $3 billion to invest in industries across Iraq. 

The investment unit seeks to explore funding opportunities in infrastructure, mining, and agriculture, as well as real estate development and financial services, among other areas. 

In June 2023, Saudi Arabia signed a contract with Iraq to establish a commercial project worth $1 billion in Baghdad.  

Dubbed Baghdad Avenue and located near the city’s international airport, the undertaking is expected to become the largest shopping mall in Iraq, encompassing coffee shops, restaurants and commercial offices.  

Additionally, it will also house 4,000 apartments and 2,500 villas. 


PIF-owned helicopter firm eyes global expansion and IPO, says CEO

PIF-owned helicopter firm eyes global expansion and IPO, says CEO
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PIF-owned helicopter firm eyes global expansion and IPO, says CEO

PIF-owned helicopter firm eyes global expansion and IPO, says CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund-owned commercial chopper operator, The Helicopter Co., is eyeing a global footprint and an initial public offering, revealed its CEO. 

Speaking to Arab News on the second day of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Arnaud Martinez explained that once the company solidifies its position in the Saudi market, it will seek avenues to expand and grow its business. 

This aligns with the Saudi sovereign fund-owned firm’s goal to generate long-term commercial returns and activate new sectors in the Kingdom that support the realization of Vision 2030. 

Martinez said: “Now, the market, the aim is not only KSA, right? There is something else than just KSA. We couldn’t go over and beyond the borders until we are securing our own market.” 

He added: “But once you secure the market, it’s a healthy, again, move to go and see what’s going on in other countries, other continents, and other bids. That’s what PIF does; we invest, we create something that the Kingdom needs, we grow the business, then you go on, you grow, you go over the borders, and then you go on an IPO journey.” 

During the interview, Martinez also shed light on how the Kingdom’s aviation market needs to be flexible and responsive to meet ongoing demand. 

“The agility, the reactivity is needed in the Saudi market. I cannot wait and wait to have a contract, wait to have a request from the client and say: wait for two years, wait for three years, I will bring you the assets, I will bring you the helicopter; we cannot do that,” the CEO stressed. 

“I need to plan and be agile. We have done that in the past five years. We only bring the aircraft that the Kingdom needs. I don’t buy aircraft because I love buying aircraft; we buy aircraft because we need aircraft,” he further emphasized. 

Moving on to the role of THC, Martinez underlined that the firm’s role is very different from five years ago. 

“The role five years ago was mainly to serve as an air mobility solution. The giga-projects, the famous giga-projects that we are talking about — rightly so, because they are fantastic projects: Red Sea Global, Amaala, NEOM, Qiddiya — all these projects were the core of the THC setup five years ago,” the CEO affirmed. 

“Now the scope is way different five years later. One of our key segments, really close to my heart, is how we impact the lives of the people by saving lives. So, we have a massive segment, with our partner, Saudi Red Crescent, and we are working really hard to provide emergency services to the Saudi population,” he underscored. 

Martinez also added, “The next five years will be as exciting as the past five years, maybe more.” 

The CEO continued to stress that in the upcoming years, THC needs to continue growing its medical services support, as well as its contribution to hospitality and tourism. 

He also added in that regard, “It’s time to see in the following few years what is abroad the border, right, overseas. You cannot be only a national champion; you want to be a regional leader in the worldwide plane. That’s the next wave, next step.” 

To support the firm in its plans, THC also seeks to invest in new technology, Martinez disclosed during the interview. 

With regards to having fully electric helicopters, the CEO said: “The platform is ready. The helicopter platform is not the issue. It’s the readiness of the ecosystem, the regulation, the infrastructure, the airspace, so many key elements around that. The platform, the helicopter is the easy piece.” 

Speaking on the Future Aviation Forum, Martinez noted: “The airshows are always a good opportunity for me to sit with people who have 50, 60, 70 years legacy, which I don’t have.” 

“We are 100 percent owned by PIF and part of that portfolio of aviation. So, this forum is always a good opportunity for us to meet with the ecosystem. We are not alone and growing alone. We are growing with many support services,” Martinez added. 

More than 5,000 global aviation industry experts, international airline leaders, and airport executives are expected to convene at the Future Aviation Forum. 

Organized by the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the three-day event will feature discussions on issues related to the global flight sector, air transport, and environmental sustainability in civil aviation, as well as talks on enabling advanced air transport and enhancing global connectivity. 

The event also aligns with the Kingdom’s ambition to become a leader in the sector within a decade, including securing $100 billion worth of investments by 2030. 


Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says

Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says

Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says

RIYADH: Increasing passenger numbers and expanding flight routes are among the key objectives of Saudi Arabia’s aviation strategy, according to a senior official.

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum held in Riyadh, Vice President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation for Quality and Traveler Experience, Abdulaziz Al-Dahmash, said the Kingdom has set “very ambitious targets” in this sector.

These include tripling the number of passengers compared to 2019, handling 4.5 million tonnes of cargo, and establishing more than 250 direct destinations from the Kingdom’s airports to global locations.

“Those key targets need enablers, and one of the key pillars is our passenger experience, and we always say that the passenger comes first, so from that perspective, we started different programs from a regulator perspective,” Al-Dahmash told Arab News.

He added: “We said, total quality evaluation or air total quality evaluation program. This program focuses on the passenger experience across all the touchpoints at the airport, from entrance to boarding.”

Al-Dahmash noted that Saudi Arabia’s aviation strategy includes four sub-programs aimed at enhancing passenger experience to meet 2030 targets.

The first focuses on reducing waiting times through operational standards, while the second emphasizes traveler feedback and satisfaction. 

The third ensures infrastructure readiness by inspecting over 1,300 items annually per terminal.

The fourth addresses passengers’ complaints and improves responsiveness and resolution. These initiatives have already shown significant progress since 2019.

“We are still moving forward to achieve our targets in 2030,” Al-Dahmash stressed.

Additionally, the investment showcases in the Kingdom align closely with the national aviation strategy’s ambitious goals.

The initiative presents a substantial economic opportunity amounting to $100 billion, with half of this investment targeted toward developing the airport infrastructure.

Mohammed Al-Khuraisi, the executive vice president of strategy and business intelligence at GACA, told Arab News: “We have King Salman Airport (undergoing a) massive expansion from 40 million to 120 million capacity, similarly, Jeddah Airport. Then we have around $40 billion worth of investments in terms of airlines, that entails commercial airlines.” 

He added: “We have heard Saudia major announcements yesterday of around 105 aircrafts. Prior to that, there were Riyadh Air major announcements as well, and we expect more waves of aircraft acquisitions in terms of passenger, airlines or also cargo airlines.”

Apart from airline investments, around $10 billion is allocated to various aviation-related services such as special economic zones, cargo logistics and general aviation as well as ground handling, maintenance, repair, and catering, illustrating a comprehensive approach to supporting the industry’s expansion and development.

 

Ali Rajab, executive vice president at GACA, air transport and international cooperation. AN

On the air connectivity front, Ali Rajab, executive vice president of air transport and international cooperation at GACA, highlighted Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans for air connectivity, aiming to increase the number of destinations served by the country’s airports.

“We will have by 2030, 250 destinations that would reach to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, we were only 99, And today we have reached to 149 destinations,” Rajab said.

He added: “This conference focuses on connectivity, and we have around 73 airline representatives here. We have most of the industry, including airports and, logistics services and ground handlers, catering, etc., all of these companies help to have more connectivity, helping the world, connecting each other.”

Rajab also expressed confidence that by 2030, Saudi Arabia will emerge as the leading country within its region in terms of aviation and will rank fifth globally in the industry.


Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  

Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  

Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Mining Co. Ma’aden has successfully extracted lithium from seawater, although not at levels that are commercially viable, and its project remains at the pilot stage, the company's CEO told Reuters on Tuesday.  

“We are actually producing lithium from seawater now,” Robert Wilt said.  

Wilt, who is also the vice chairman of Manara Minerals, also said that company was not looking at acquiring diamond business De Beers. “We are not looking at De Beers at all,” he said.  


Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom

Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom
Updated 21 May 2024
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Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom

Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom

RIYADH: King Khalid International Airport secured first place at Saudi Arabia’s annual Aviation Security Audit Awards, with the Kingdom’s terminals achieving an 80 percent overall average in service quality assessments for 2023.

Announced during the Future Aviation Forum held in the Saudi capital, the Riyadh-located facility secured the top ranking based on factors such as operational performance standards, evaluation of airport facilities and services, passenger satisfaction questionnaire, and passenger complaints. 

King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Abha International Airport collected the second and third awards, respectively. 

The General Authority of Civil Aviation highlighted a 6 percent increase in Saudi airport performance in 2023 compared to the previous 12 months in its Comprehensive Airport Service Quality Assessment Program results. 

The program, one of GACA’s initiatives, aims to evaluate and enhance the quality of services provided to passengers at Saudi airports, improving the travel experience. 

The event was attended by Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Duailej, president of GACA, along with CEOs of airport companies and directors general of Saudi airports.  

In his speech, Al-Duailej emphasized that passenger services and satisfaction are fundamental principles guiding the Kingdom’s airports. He also highlighted the annual event’s role in showcasing its commitment to enhancing service quality, creating competitive airport environments, and promoting continual improvement and development. 

“As part of its regulatory and supervisory role, GACA has taken numerous steps to develop the Kingdom’s aviation system for effective performance,” he said.  

Al-Duailej added that improving the passenger experience and providing services that meet international standards are among GACA’s top priorities, aligning with the objectives of the National Aviation Strategy. 

The president also noted that GACA is continuously working to improve the passenger experience at airports by implementing strict monitoring and supervision standards and indicators. 

He further stated that over 1 million samples of operational performance data have been collected, and feedback from service users and stakeholders has been incorporated into the service development process. 

Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Dahmash, executive vice president for quality and passenger experience at GACA, noted that in 2023, the authority issued around 500 reports under the program.  

These included monthly and quarterly operational performance reports, passenger satisfaction surveys, semi-annual program results reports, and annual program review reports. 

During the event, Al-Duailej launched the ‘Bridges’ program, which aims to empower and connect the Saudi airport sector with local content, starting with 23 investment opportunities valued at SR7 billion ($1.87 billion) by 2030. The program is designed on several strategic pillars to develop national human capabilities. 


STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector

STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector
Updated 21 May 2024
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STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector

STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector

RIYADH: The Saudi Tourism Authority has launched its summer program for 2024 with a lineup of events taking place across seven destinations in the Kingdom. 

According to a press statement, the program launched under the title “Saudi Summer is Next Door” will run for a duration of four months until the end of September. 

The seven destinations included in the summer campaign are Riyadh, Jeddah, AlUla, and the Red Sea, as well as Aseer, Al Baha, and Taif. 

Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s minister of tourism, said that the Kingdom is witnessing rapid growth in the hospitality sector, as it received record-breaking numbers of incoming visitors in 2023. 

“Saudi Arabia is witnessing a transformative period in tourism, driven by our vision to position the Kingdom as a premier global destination. The Saudi Summer Program 2024 is our commitment to showcasing the rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and unparalleled hospitality that Saudi Arabia offers,” said Al-Khateeb. 

According to the UN’s World Tourism Barometer, Saudi Arabia’s number of visitors arriving in 2023 reached 106 million, a 156 percent increase on 2019.

This year’s summer program will also see the return of the Jeddah Season and the launch of the Aseer Season, featuring numerous family activities and events.

“We invite local and international tourists to experience the diversity of our seven unique destinations and take advantage of the exceptional offers and packages designed to create unforgettable memories,” added Al-Khateeb. 

Developing the tourism sector is crucial for Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom is steadily diversifying its economy by reducing its dependency on oil. 

Saudi Arabia’s National Tourism Strategy aims to attract 150 million visitors by 2030 and increase the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product to 10 percent from the current 6 percent. 

Commenting on the summer program, Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general of the World Tourism Organization, said: “Saudi tourism is witnessing unparalleled development at all levels, achieving great leaps in recent years. Saudi Arabia has global indicators related to the number of tourists, which has qualified it to top the UN World Tourism list of significant tourist destinations.” 

For his part, Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and board member of STA, noted that this year’s summer program includes more than 550 tourism products and 150 special offers, including discounts on hotel bookings. 

Moreover, the launch of the summer program comes at a time when visiting Saudi Arabia has become more accessible. To accelerate the number of incoming tourists, Saudi Arabia launched the eVisa and made it available to citizens of 66 countries, which made the Kingdom’s visa 20 percent less expensive.