Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions grew 20% to reach $14.33bn in February  

Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions grew 20% to reach $14.33bn in February  
The rise in POS payments mirrors the Kingdom’s drive toward digital transformation and its investments in a technology-centric future. Shutterstock
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Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions grew 20% to reach $14.33bn in February  

Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions grew 20% to reach $14.33bn in February  

RIYADH: Payments made through point-of-sale terminals in Saudi Arabia experienced a notable 20 percent annual increase in February, totaling SR53.72 billion ($14.33 billion), the latest data showed.   

According to data released by the Saudi Central Bank, the largest portion of POS spending in February was allocated to beverages and food, comprising 15.7 percent of the total at SR8.43 billion. This was followed by spending on restaurants and cafes, accounting for 15 percent of the total and reaching SR8.02 billion. 

A POS is where purchases are made in a store, like when items are paid for at the cash register or when a card is swiped.  

The rise in POS payments mirrors the Kingdom’s drive toward digital transformation and its investments in a technology-centric future. The nation is actively seeking initiatives to nurture sustainable urban development and a thriving digital economy.  

More than 93 percent of those sales use near-field communication technology through mobile phones and cards. 

NFC methods have transformed contactless payments in Saudi Arabia, enabling transactions to be completed with a mere tap of a card or smartphone. Its popularity stems from its rapidity and hygienic benefits, minimizing the necessity for physical contact.  

As consumer acceptance grows, businesses are quickly incorporating NFC technology into their payment systems. This approach aligns with customer desires for efficiency and speed, and integrates sophisticated security features to safeguard against fraud.  

Data from the central bank revealed the closure of 349 ATMs since February 2023. Conversely, the issuance of 5.4 million cards during this period suggests a shift from physical cash toward digital methods.  

The data also showed a notable increase in spending on miscellaneous goods and services, including personal care items, supplies, maintenance, and cleaning, which made up the largest share at 20 percent of the total rise in POS sales during the mentioned period. This category constituted 12 percent of the total expenditure in February 2024, amounting to SR6.5 billion and experiencing a growth rate of 39 percent.  

The POS payments for miscellaneous goods showed the highest growth rate among all categories, with hotels following closely behind, increasing by 28 percent during this period to reach SR1.52 billion.  

Additionally, beverages, food, and jewelry each experienced a boost of 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively.   

Riyadh dominated the POS sales, accounting for 34 percent of the total, followed by Jeddah with 14 percent. 

The capital city’s population surged from half a million in 1972 to over 7.8 million in 2024. This growth, coupled with increased urbanization and the concentration of numerous international headquarters, has positioned the municipality as a bustling hub where most sales transactions occur. 


Saudi point-of-sale spending drops 6.9%: SAMA data

Saudi point-of-sale spending drops 6.9%: SAMA data
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Saudi point-of-sale spending drops 6.9%: SAMA data

Saudi point-of-sale spending drops 6.9%: SAMA data

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sales spending registered a 6.9 percent decline in the third week of May, compared to the previous seven days, reaching SR11.65 billion ($3.11 billion), official figures showed. 

The latest data from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed that spending on beverages and food, which accounts for the largest share at 15 percent, saw a 9.3 percent decline, reaching SR1.77 billion, during the week from May 12 to 18. 

Meanwhile, transactions at restaurants and cafes, holding a 14.8 percent share, recorded a slower decline of 5.4 percent, amounting to SR1.73 billion. 

Saudi spending on miscellaneous goods and services, which include personal care items, supplies, maintenance, and cleaning, constituted the third-highest share and witnessed a 7.1 percent decline in that week, reaching SR1.44 billion. 

Despite comprising only 1 percent of the week’s overall POS value, spending on education recorded the largest decline, dropping 23.2 percent to SR152.33 million. 

In recent years, this sector has received the highest proportion of government spending compared to other areas of the economy. The education system is being overhauled to better prepare the national workforce to compete in an increasingly technology- and information-driven global economy. 

The telecommunications sector experienced the second-largest decline in POS transaction value, dropping 10.1 percent to SR95 million. 

According to data from SAMA, approximately 35 percent of POS spending occurred in Riyadh, with the total transaction value reaching SR4.04 billion. However, this represents a 5.4 percent decrease from the previous week.  

Riyadh has experienced significant expansion, becoming a central hub for growth and development. Numerous new businesses are establishing operations in the city, attracted by its dynamic economic environment and strategic opportunities for investment and innovation. 

Spending in Jeddah followed closely, accounting for around 14 percent of the total and reaching SR1.65 billion; however, it marked a 6.2 percent weekly decline. 

The two cities that registered the highest declines in POS spending were Hail and Tabouk, with decreases of 10.5 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively. The value of transactions in Hail reached SR176 million, while in Tabouk it was SR221 million. 


Oil Updates – crude slips for third session on likely ‘higher for longer’ US rates

Oil Updates – crude slips for third session on likely ‘higher for longer’ US rates
Updated 50 min 33 sec ago
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Oil Updates – crude slips for third session on likely ‘higher for longer’ US rates

Oil Updates – crude slips for third session on likely ‘higher for longer’ US rates

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell for a third straight session on Wednesday on expectations the Federal Reserve might keep US interest rates higher for longer due to sustained inflation, potentially impacting fuel use in the world’s largest oil consumer, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were down 71 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $82.17 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures slipped 73 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $77.93 as of 9:50 a.m. Saudi time.

Oil prices settled about 1 percent lower on Tuesday.

Fed policymakers said on Tuesday the US central bank should wait several more months to ensure that inflation really is back on track toward its 2 percent target before cutting interest rates.

Higher borrowing costs can slow economic growth and pressure oil demand.

US crude oil and gasoline inventories rose last week, while distillates fell, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute (API) figures on Tuesday.

Ahead of this weekend’s Memorial Day holiday, which kicks off the US peak summer driving season, retail gasoline prices fell for the fourth consecutive week. US prices of diesel, a key refined product for both the industrial sector and transport, have also slipped.

Investors are awaiting minutes from the Fed’s last policy meeting and weekly US oil inventory data from the US Energy Information Administration due later on Wednesday.

“The Federal Open Market Committee minutes will be scrutinized for Fed’s assessment of bumpy Q1 inflation and clues on the timing and extent of potential interest rate cuts in 2024,” ANZ analysts said in a report.

“It’s more of a wait and see ‘what the data is telling us’ approach,” ANZ said.

The eurozone has all but promised a rate cut on June 6 amid more positive economic outlook. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said in an interview aired on Tuesday that she was “really confident” eurozone inflation was under control.


EU states give final endorsement to AI rules

EU states give final endorsement to AI rules
Updated 21 May 2024
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EU states give final endorsement to AI rules

EU states give final endorsement to AI rules
  • The EU says the law will protect citizens from AI’s dangers while harnessing the technology’s potential in Europe

RIYADH: EU states on Tuesday gave their final backing to landmark rules on artificial intelligence that will govern powerful systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

The European Parliament had already approved the law in March and it will now enter into force after being published in the official EU journal in the coming days.

The EU says the law will protect citizens from AI’s dangers while harnessing the technology’s potential in Europe.

First proposed in 2021, the rules took on greater urgency after ChatGPT arrived in 2022, showing generative AI’s human-like ability to produce eloquent text within seconds.

Other examples of generative AI include Dall-E and Midjourney, which can produce images in nearly any style with a simple input in everyday language. The law known as the “AI Act” takes a risk-based approach: if a system is high-risk, a company has a tougher set of obligations to fulfill to protect citizens’ rights.

There are strict bans on using AI for predictive policing and systems that use biometric information to infer an individual’s race, religion or sexual orientation. Companies will have to comply by 2026 but rules covering AI models like ChatGPT will apply 12 months after the law becomes official.

Pledge

The world’s leading companies pledged at the start of a mini summit on AI to develop the technology safely, including pulling the plug if they can’t rein in the most extreme risks.

World leaders are expected to hammer out further agreements on artificial intelligence as they gathered virtually to discuss AI’s potential risks but also ways to promote its benefits and innovation.

The AI Seoul Summit is a low-key follow-up to November’s high-profile AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in the UK, where participating countries agreed to work together to contain the potentially “catastrophic” risks posed by breakneck advances in AI.

The two-day meeting — co-hosted by South Korea and the UK — also comes as major tech companies like Meta, OpenAI and Google roll out the latest versions of their AI models.

They’re among 16 AI companies that made voluntary commitments to AI safety as the talks got underway, according to a British government announcement. 

The companies, which also include Amazon, Microsoft, France’s Mistral AI, China’s Zhipu.ai, and G42 of the UAE, vowed to ensure safety of their most cutting edge AI models with promises of accountable governance and public transparency.

The pledge includes publishing safety frameworks setting out how they will measure risks of these models.


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

Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official
Updated 22 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 22 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.