Saudi Aramco in talks to acquire 10% stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical

Aramco and Hengli Petrochemical Co. signed a memorandum of understanding for the proposed deal. The agreement supports the former’s strategy to increase its presence in key downstream markets, enhance its liquids-to-chemicals initiative, and ensure long-term crude oil supply agreements.
Aramco and Hengli Petrochemical Co. signed a memorandum of understanding for the proposed deal. The agreement supports the former’s strategy to increase its presence in key downstream markets, enhance its liquids-to-chemicals initiative, and ensure long-term crude oil supply agreements.
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Updated 22 April 2024

Saudi Aramco in talks to acquire 10% stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical

Saudi Aramco in talks to acquire 10% stake in China’s Hengli Petrochemical

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco held talks with Chinese Hengli Group Co. to acquire a 10 percent stake in its subsidiary, subject to due diligence and required regulatory clearances.

Aramco and Hengli Petrochemical Co. signed a memorandum of understanding for the proposed deal. The agreement supports the former’s strategy to increase its presence in key downstream markets, enhance its liquids-to-chemicals initiative, and ensure long-term crude oil supply agreements.

Last year, Aramco signed two multibillion-dollar agreements for liquids to chemicals investments in China.

In March 2023, a deal was signed between China’s Norinco Group and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group to establish a joint venture to build a refinery and petrochemical complex in China’s Liaoning province. The initiative cost stands at approximately $12 billion.

The second agreement, signed in July, is an acquisition of a 10 percent stake in China-based firm Rongsheng Petrochemical Co. for $3.4 billion.

“This MoU supports our efforts to grow our global downstream footprint. We continue to explore new opportunities in important markets as we seek to progress in our liquids-to-chemicals strategy,” Mohammed Al-Qahtani, Aramco’s downstream president, said in a press release.

He continued: “We look forward to forging new partnerships and are excited by the prospect of expanding our presence in the important Chinese market.”

Hengli Petrochemical, a controlled subsidiary of Hengli Group, owns and operates a 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery and integrated chemicals complex in Liaoning province, and several plants and production facilities in Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces.

Speaking at a development forum held in March 2023 in Beijing, Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Aramco, highlighted substantial opportunities for cooperation between Saudi Aramco and Chinese partners in sectors aimed at reducing emissions.

“China has distinct strengths in renewables and critical materials, while Aramco and Saudi Arabia have a clear interest in solar, wind, hydrogen, and electrofuels. These areas have great long-term potential, and combining our strengths could match our ambitions,” he noted.

Saudi Arabia and China are working together to strengthen their already well-established strategic ties.

In September, the Kingdom’s minister of industry and mineral resources held meetings with key Chinese officials in Beijing. Bandar Alkhorayef also toured various companies and factories in different Chinese cities as part of his trip.

He held talks with China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen, during which they discussed ways to boost economic collaboration and trade ties, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The top officials also discussed investment opportunities in several economic sectors, including mining. At the time, the Saudi minister highlighted the Kingdom’s progress in the field of industries and mining.

Sky’s the limit: Saudi Arabia’s Future Aviation Forum 2024 will help fuel Kingdom’s Vision 2030 

Sky’s the limit: Saudi Arabia’s Future Aviation Forum 2024 will help fuel Kingdom’s Vision 2030 
Updated 5 sec ago

Sky’s the limit: Saudi Arabia’s Future Aviation Forum 2024 will help fuel Kingdom’s Vision 2030 

Sky’s the limit: Saudi Arabia’s Future Aviation Forum 2024 will help fuel Kingdom’s Vision 2030 

RIYADH: Aviation leaders and key figures from across the globe will convene in Riyadh for the Future Aviation Forum 2024, a three-day event highlighting the strides in global air travel innovation, coinciding with Saudi Arabia’s ambition to generate $100 billion from the sector by 2030. 

The event, centered on the theme “Elevating Global Connectivity,” will unite more than 5,000 experts and leaders in aviation from over 100 countries, including ministers, regulators, and manufacturers, as well as representatives from airlines and airports. 

Led by the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the event is set to take place from May 20 to 22 and will highlight various projects and incentives aimed at attracting investments into Saudi Arabia’s rapidly growing aerospace sector. 

This includes investment projects across areas such as airports, airlines, and ground services, as well as cargo, and logistics, which will be highlighted on the sidelines of the forum’s Investment Showcase. 

The $100 billion in opportunities includes more than $50 billion earmarked for airports, around $40 billion for new aircraft orders, and $10 billion allocated to other projects. 

Building on the success of the 2022 edition, which witnessed the signing of over 50 agreements and deals totaling $2.7 billion, this year’s forum will showcase commercial announcements alongside roadmap presentations and specialized panel sessions focusing on general aviation. 

Minister for Transport and Logistics Services Saleh Al-Jasser will inaugurate FAF24 and said: “Saudi Arabia is offering unparalleled aviation investment opportunities globally. The Saudi Aviation Strategy aims to triple passenger numbers, connect to over 250 destinations, and manage 330 million passengers and 4.5 million tonnes of cargo by 2030.” 

The Investment Showcase at the forum will be inaugurated by the Minister of Investment Khaled Al-Falih. 

“Saudi Arabia is the world’s new investment hub, targeting $3.3 trillion in investment by 2030. Aviation is a key investment sector and enabler of the Kingdom’s broader economic transformation,” Al-Falih said, according to a press release. 

He added: “The aviation investment showcase will provide investors with unparalleled access to participate in the Kingdom’s transformation.” 

The showcase will include investor briefings, meetings, and panels on major projects including the massive six-runway King Salman International Airport in Riyadh and public-private partnerships for the Abha, Taif, Hail and Qassim international airports. 

It will also feature opportunities in cargo and logistics, advanced air mobility, and business aviation. Aviation suppliers will be briefed on expansion plans for the new airline Riyadh Air, as well as leading regional airlines including Saudia, Flynas, and Flyadeal. 

The main sponsors of the forum include Saudia Group, Matarat, King Salman International Airport, and Saudi Air Navigation Services. 

Global aviation executives from companies including Boeing, Airbus, Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, and Embraer will also attend the event. 

Additionally, GACA is set to unveil a General Aviation roadmap setting how to increase the sector’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product tenfold to $2 billion by 2030. 

The plan covers the business jet segment, including charter, private, and corporate aircraft, and will support Saudi Arabia’s development as a global high-value business and tourist destination. 

The new roadmap comes after Saudi Arabia revised its 2030 tourism target upwards from 100 to 150 million visitors in October 2023. 

“The General Aviation roadmap will turbocharge the sector within the Kingdom, transforming infrastructure and regulations, simultaneously developing, promoting, and enhancing general aviation services in the market,” said Abdulaziz-Al Duailej, president of GACA. 

He added: “GACA looks forward to hosting general aviation investors, operators, and service providers at the Future Aviation Forum in May, where we will launch this ambitious plan to global audiences.” 

The roadmap is designed to bolster private aviation by facilitating infrastructure investments and streamlining regulations for aircraft owners, lessors, investors, operators, and service providers. 

This initiative comes after GACA’s decision to eliminate ‘empty-leg restrictions’ and simplify economic license requirements for operators and investors in October 2023, aimed at enhancing the general aviation sector.  

The event will also cover industry themes including business, talent and the future, collaborations, and ecosystems, as well as sustainability, innovation, and technology. 

High-level speakers such as Fadi Al-Buhairan, CEO of Special Integrated Logistics Zone, Gaith Al-Gaith, CEO of FlyDubai, and Mohammed Al-Maghlouth, CEO of Matarat Holding, are set to participate in the forum. 

Suliman Al-Mazroua, CEO of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, Bander Al-Mohanna, managing director and CEO of Flynas, and Fahd Cynndy, CEO of Saudia Technic are also due to take part. 

Following the opening remarks on the first day, the panel titled “Ministerial Speech: Sky High Tourism – Unlocking Destinations and Cultural Exchange Now and in the Future” will take place, followed by a special conversation with Boeing and a spotlight session on the New Future of Aviation.  

The event will then highlight the future of airports and logistics with the plenary sessions “Airports Council International Special Address: Airports of the Future” and “Insight Piece: Navigating Tomorrow – Customer Focus, Digitalization, and AI as Enablers for the Future.” 

The first day will also address securing the future of human capital in aviation with the sessions “Cargo and Logistics Town Hall: An Era of Growth, Evolution, and Opportunity” and “Aviation Human Capital Now and for the Future – Meeting Our Industry’s Most Critical Challenge.” 

On the second following the key address, a conversation session with Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China will take place followed by a panel exploring what is the “Future of Sustainability in Aviation and Tourism.” 

It will then highlight a panel discussion on “Privatization, Investment and Funding – The Evolving Financial and Infrastructure Landscape,” which will then be followed by a conversation with Embraer. 

The second day will spotlight the future of civil aviation with the sessions “Global Civil Aviation Spotlight: Tonga and Nepal,” “Civil Aviation Authority Director General Panel: Aviation – Accelerating from Economic Enabler to Sustainability Champion,” and an insight piece on “How Safe Are Our Skies.” 

The third day will feature interactive workshops on assistance for aircraft accident victims and their families. 

Saudi venture capital sector expanding exponentially

Saudi venture capital sector expanding exponentially
Updated 19 May 2024

Saudi venture capital sector expanding exponentially

Saudi venture capital sector expanding exponentially
  • Global venture capital firms capitalize on Kingdom’s expansive strategy

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s venture capital landscape continues to grow with its reverberations reaching far continents. 

Global venture capital firms are capitalizing on the Kingdom’s expansive strategy, as evidenced by the state-owned Saudi Venture Capital Co.’s $30 million investment in a US-based investment firm. 

SVC has pledged this significant investment in a private equity fund managed by the renowned US-based investment firm General Atlantic.  

“The investment in the private equity fund by General Atlantic is part of SVC’s Investment in Funds Programme and an implementation of its strategy related to attracting top global fund managers to invest in Saudi-based companies as well as stimulating investment for later stages,” Nabeel Koshak, CEO and Board Member at SVC, commented. 

Established in 1980, General Atlantic boasts a formidable reputation as a global growth equity investor, overseeing a vast portfolio of $84 billion in assets under management.  

Nabeel Koshak, CEO and board member at SVC. (Supplied)

The focus of this venture will be on investing in high-growth, tech-enabled companies within Saudi Arabia.  

The initiative aims to bolster innovation and entrepreneurship in the region, particularly in key sectors such as consumer goods, financial services, healthcare, life sciences, and technology. 

“We are very proud to partner with SVC and broaden our commitment to Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030 sets the stage for a period of dynamic growth and innovation in Saudi Arabia, which will create attractive investment opportunities for our global investors. SVC is a highly strategic investor who will deepen our expertise in this important region,” Bill Ford, Chairman and CEO of General Atlantic, said. 

Saudi Arabia’s WheeKeep secures $8m series A funding 

Saudi Arabian logistics startup WheeKeep raised $8 million in a series A round led by Fintech Collective, with participation from local and international investors.  

Founded in 2020 by Sultan Al-Olayan, Amr Al-Marzouki, and Youssuf Fayez, WheeKeep provides mobile self-storage units for individuals and businesses.  

The new capital will aim to fuel WheeKeep’s expansion plans in Saudi Arabia and beyond. 

Saudi Qsalary partners with Itqan Capital to launch $80m fund  

Saudi HRtech company Qsalary has partnered with Itqan Capital to launch an $80 million investment fund.  

Founded in 2022 by Mohammed Badwi and Amr Abu Shady, Qsalary offers a digital platform for accelerated salary payments.  

The fund aims to provide investment opportunities for investors seeking financial growth. 

Qatari investors commit $20m to MENA Fund I 

Qatari investors are boosting the regional startup landscape with a $20 million commitment to the newly announced MENA Fund I. 

Golden Gate Ventures, a venture capital fund founded by Silicon Valley natives, announced its first $100 million MENA fund, with $20 million in commitments from some of Qatar’s most prominent families.  

The anchor investor is the multi-faceted Al Khor Holding, a company with 60 years of heritage. Other notable investors include the Al Attiya Group, widely recognized for its support in developing local businesses, and Sheikh Jassim Bin Jabor Al Thani. 

The announcement of the first close of its $100 million MENA Fund I, backed by the pillars of Qatar’s private business community, represents a major step forward in Golden Gate Ventures’ ambitions to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the MENA region.  

The fund combines the aggregate regional influence of its investors with Golden Gate Ventures’ extensive experience in startup ecosystem development across Silicon Valley and Asia.  

MENA Fund I is the first international venture capital fund to be established and managed within Qatar. Michael Lints, Partner at Golden Gate Ventures, has moved to Qatar to deepen the firm’s commitment to the MENA region.   

The fund will focus on powering startups in key sectors such as alternative energy, green technology, B2B artificial intelligence, and energy-related deep tech.  

Other strategic sectors that MENA Fund I will cover include fintech, healthtech, and edtech, furthering Qatar’s economic diversification agenda. 

Glint completes first close of its second venture fund at $3 million  

Egypt-based investment firm Glint completed the first close of its second venture fund at $3 million, supported by Wadi Degla Group. 

Glint Fund II, led by Tarek Aboualam and Youssef Helmy Habib, aims to support Egyptian entrepreneurs with early-stage investments ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. 

“Glint’s second fund represents an important step to further develop our ecosystem designed to support Egyptian tech-based startups looking to penetrate the regional and international markets,” said Aboualam. 

UAE’s Property Finder raises $90m debt round to buyout lead investor  

Dubai-based Property Finder secured $90 million in debt from Francisco Partners to finance the buyout of its first institutional investor, BECO Capital.  

The online real estate platform bought back BECO Capital’s stake, which had also invested in ride-hailing app Careem and logistics startup Fetchr.  

Property Finder said the deal allows BECO to exit “with a strong return on its investment,” without providing further details. 

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the real estate market across the entire UAE, not just Dubai,” said Michael Lahyani, CEO and founder of Property Finder. Valued at about $1 billion, the company joins the growing list of Middle Eastern unicorns. 

UAE’s Lune raises $1.5m in seed round  

UAE-based data analysis company Lune has raised $1.5 million in a seed round from Dubai Future District Fund, Plus Venture Capital, Reach International, and Judah Ventures, alongside other family offices and angel investors.  

Founded in 2020 by Helal Tariq and Alexandre Soued, Lune enables financial institutions to turn customer transaction data into valuable insights.  

The funding will support Lune’s regional expansion and product development. 

Egypt’s MNZL raises $3.5m in seed funding  

Egyptian fintech MNZL raised $3.5 million in a Seed round led by P1 Ventures, Localglobe, and Ingressive Capital, with additional support from 500 Startups, Flat6Labs, First Circle Capital, ENZA Capital, Beenok, and other angel investors.  

Founded in 2023 by Sameh Saleh, Ahmed El-Dessouky, and Bassem El-Shaer, MNZL allows users to convert assets like homes and cars into liquidity.  

“By enabling Egyptians to safely harness their own assets—homes or cars—for financial needs, We at MNZL are going beyond a mere adjustment; it’s a complete revolution in credit access. This shift not only empowers families by providing financial leverage but also contributes to broader economic prosperity in the region,” Saleh said. 

The company aims to utilize the new capital to enhance MNZL’s technology and scale operations in Egypt. 

Alvarez & Marsal outlines action-oriented approach as it launches regional HQ in Saudi Arabia

Alvarez & Marsal outlines action-oriented approach as it launches regional HQ in Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 May 2024

Alvarez & Marsal outlines action-oriented approach as it launches regional HQ in Saudi Arabia

Alvarez & Marsal outlines action-oriented approach as it launches regional HQ in Saudi Arabia
  • Decision reflects company’s dedication to long-term growth and transformation in the Saudi market

RIYADH: Global consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal is set to introduce its distinct, unbiased, and action-oriented approach to Saudi Arabia’s market following the launch of its regional headquarters, according to a top official.

This decision, aimed at solidifying A&M’s presence in the region, reflects the company’s dedication to long-term growth and transformation in the Saudi market, James Dervin, managing director of the firm in the Middle East and co-head in the region, told Arab News.

He described the firm’s strategic vision in the Saudi market as “relatively simple,” adding that the aim is “to bring A&M’s differentiated, and non-conflicted, execution-focused proposition to a market which is at an inflection point in terms of demand for translation of strategy into action and results.”

Speaking of the inauguration of the firm’s regional headquarters, Dervin explained that “the decision was actually made some time ago, and we had been working on the establishment of the RHQ (regional headquarters) for approximately 12 months and simply wanted to be sure that we were able to meet all of the requirements, which, alhamdulillah, we were able to do.”

He further emphasized the significant growth witnessed across A&M’s team and service areas in the country, making the establishment of a regional headquarters a natural progression.

James Dervin, managing director of A&M in the Middle East and co-head in the region. (Supplied)

Starting from January 1, 2024, Saudi Arabia declared it would only award deals to foreign companies with Middle East bases within Saudi Arabia. As a result, numerous international firms across sectors such as energy, technology, healthcare, and hospitality have set up headquarters in Riyadh.

“We have witnessed strong growth across our team and service areas in the country in recent years, so as the company continues to deepen our roots in the Kingdom, this seemed a natural next step to take. It also reflects A&M’s commitment to the Saudi market for the long term,” Dervin added.

In a market witnessing increasing competition, A&M aims to stand out by its action-oriented approach, Dervin highlighted.

He added: “Our proposition is differentiated, elsewhere in the world, in the region, and in the Kingdom. We’re not ‘blue-sky’ thinkers, and we’re not auditors. A&M’s proposition is about taking action and achieving results in line with our ‘get-stuff-done’ brand.”

A&M’s suite of services spans restructuring, turnaround, performance improvement, and more, catering to a diverse range of business needs in Saudi Arabia.

Dervin elaborated on the company’s offerings, stating: “We work across the spectrum of under-performance, ranging from mild underperformance or 'turnaround' territory, through to stressed and distressed situations.”

He further emphasized the company’s ability to provide advisory or executive support, including taking on management roles like chief revenue office and chief financial officer, a service not commonly offered by competitors.

“The market, in general, is developing at an extraordinary rate, and the Kingdom’s visionary leadership deserves immense credit for the great strides that already have, and are still being made, for example; the Kingdom’s 2018 bankruptcy law was generally regarded as the most progressive in the region upon implementation, and appears to have meaningfully informed the UAE’s equivalent legislation, which was revised in 2024,” Dervin noted.

He further mentioned that the implementation of the law, and subsequently the introduction of processes like financial restructuring, have provided tools to aid in the rescue of businesses and to minimize the occurrence of outright failure and subsequent liquidation.

The enactment of the new Companies Law, coupled with the growing sophistication of the capital markets, is rendering the Kingdom – and the broader region – an increasingly enticing hub for foreign investment, according to the top official.

This trend aligns seamlessly with the fundamental objectives of Vision 2030, he said.

Earlier this month, Bryan Marsal, A&M’s CEO and co-founder, commented on the close alignment of his firm’s global brand with the local market dynamic in Saudi Arabia, following the establishment of the regional HQ.

“The all-encompassing nature of the Saudi Arabian transformation is driving significant demand for A&M’s distinctive ‘get-stuff-done’ brand of services — for our ability to fix problems, our ‘skin in the game,’ and our freedom from audit conflicts,” he said in a statement.

Dervin highlighted A&M’s unique position in influencing the restructuring landscape, particularly its expertise in corporate rescue, turnaround, and performance improvement, which are virtually unparalleled in the region.

Aligned with Vision 2030, A&M is committed to supporting Saudi youth employment programs, exemplified by initiatives like the Bidayah Graduate Program.

Dervin expressed pride in the program, stating: “We are obviously extremely proud of the Bidayah program, which is a pioneering initiative for A&M from a youth development perspective.”

He added: “We have designed and implemented a bespoke graduate training program providing these exceptional individuals with rotating roles across the business, hopefully providing them with a breadth of experience and visibility of the options and opportunities within our firm and in the market more broadly.”

The managing director said that the company is hoping to play a meaningful part in the personal and career development of young Saudis, “who themselves have a vital role to play in the development of the economy and society in the Kingdom.”

Looking ahead, A&M aims to further empower Saudi graduates through partnerships with local universities and educational institutions.

“Our objective is to empower new graduates, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge for a successful career. More details of these partnerships, and its potential to contribute to the development of the next generation of Saudi business leaders, will be shared closer to the next intake,” affirmed Dervin.

As A&M continues to expand its footprint in Saudi Arabia, Dervin emphasized the crucial role of young Saudi professionals in driving the company’s growth and success.

“Much like the Kingdom itself, we cannot be truly successful without young Saudi professionals playing their part in our development, as we look forward to a bright future for our growing Saudi Arabian office,” he concluded.

More than 180 major global companies and organizations have already established regional headquarters in the Saudi capital. These include Apple, Microsoft, and Alibaba, as well as the IMF, IBM, and Google.

Saudi Arabia’s localization plan is reshaping consultancy sector - and more beyond

Saudi Arabia’s localization plan is reshaping consultancy sector - and more beyond
Updated 19 May 2024

Saudi Arabia’s localization plan is reshaping consultancy sector - and more beyond

Saudi Arabia’s localization plan is reshaping consultancy sector - and more beyond
  • Plan a huge opportunity for Saudi Arabia to boost local jobs and reduce its reliance on foreign workers

RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia embarks on a journey aimed at boosting job opportunities for citizens, the localization plan for consultancy professions and businesses plays a crucial role.

In October 2022, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development issued a decision mandating that from the end of March 2024, 40 percent of workers in firms in this sector must be Saudi nationals.

The decision targeted all professions in the sector, most notably financial advisory specialists, business advisers, and cybersecurity advisory specialists, as well as project management managers, engineers, and specialists.

This targeted localization, or Saudization, is part of the cooperation between the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and supervising bodies, represented by the Ministry of Finance, the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority, the Expenditure and Project Efficiency Authority, and the Human Resources Development Fund.   

The collaboration aims to elevate the presence of cadres in the sector and boost the percentage of Saudis, contributing to the development of local content in this strategic sector. It also seeks to organize the labor market.

The ministry is meant to support private sector establishments in several ways, including helping them in hiring Saudis by supporting the training and qualification of employees, as well as supporting employment procedures and other initiatives.  

On a similar note, the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority is required to follow up on the commitment to include Saudization requirements in consulting contracts.

It has also issued a guide that clarifies the details of localizing the consultancy sector and professions, and the mechanism of implementing it.  

Reshaping the consultancy sector     

Azeem Zainulbhai, co-founder and chief product officer at talent-on-demand platform Outsized, believes the Saudization rules in the sector will help keep more money in the Kingdom, even though training costs could increase.

“This move means less reliance on experts from abroad in key fields like finance, project management and cybersecurity. Essentially, it’s about creating more jobs for Saudis in important, well-paying sectors and making sure they're trained for these roles,” he told Arab News.

“The end objective is to get better at handling projects and business dealings that are specific to Saudi culture and regulations, stimulate private sector growth, and foster a knowledge-based economy ultimately making companies more efficient and competitive globally,” the co-founder emphasized.

Bashar El-Jawharim, consulting partner at PwC Middle East, also stated that the localization plan initiated by Saudi Arabia marks a significant milestone in reshaping the consulting sector within the Kingdom.  

Azeem Zainulbha, Co-founder and chief product officer at Outsized

“With the launch of the second phase, we anticipate several key transformations that will contribute to the development and empowerment of local talent,” El-Jawhari told Arab News.

“Firstly, as young Saudi professionals enter the workforce, we expect a notable increase in demand for consulting services related to project and transformation management, financial and legal advisory, as well as procurement and supply chain management,” he added.

By having more Saudis in consulting, businesses can better navigate local market dynamics and regulations.

Azeem Zainulbha, Co-founder and chief product officer at Outsized

The consulting partner went on to note that the influx of senior Saudi talent into the consulting industry presents an opportunity for firms to leverage their experience and insights to drive business growth.

Sectors to be affected  

The localization push of course expands beyond the consultancy sector, Zainulbhai noted.

“Tourism and hospitality can really use local insights to attract more visitors and celebrate Saudi culture. Major construction and engineering projects, like the NEOM and the Red Sea Project, will also benefit from having local experts who understand the specific requirements and standards needed,” he said.

The Outsized executive also shed light on the fact that the healthcare, IT, cybersecurity, and renewable energy sectors are all set to improve with more local consultants who bring a deep understanding of regional needs and regulations.

“Local financial experts will be key in adapting to Saudi Arabia’s unique market, especially as it continues to grow and change,” Zainulbhai commented.

Overall, sectors essential to the diversification from oil will see substantial growth and development from this localization.  

“When looking at various sectors, certain areas are poised to benefit more prominently than others. For example, the government and public sectors are likely the first to benefit in light of the transformation journey towards Vision 2030,” El-Jawhari affirmed.

The consulting partner explained that as Saudi Arabia continues its journey toward achieving the ambitious goals outlined in Vision 2030, there is a growing emphasis on enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations.

“Consulting services play a vital role in supporting this transformation by providing strategic guidance and expertise in areas such as organizational restructuring, process optimization, and performance management,” El-Jawhari commented.

He added: “Furthermore, nationals equipped with experience in operational excellence are well-positioned to contribute to these efforts by implementing measures aimed at optimizing operational processes, reducing costs, and enhancing productivity.”

Potential opportunities

The plan is a huge opportunity for Saudi Arabia to boost local jobs and reduce its reliance on foreign workers, which aligns perfectly with the broader Vision 2030 goals.

“By having more Saudis in consulting, businesses can better navigate local market dynamics and regulations,” added Zainulbhai.

He continued to underscore that local consultants can offer insights that make companies more competitive, especially in sectors where understanding local consumer behavior is crucial.

He also clarified that businesses that follow these new hiring rules may find it easier to onboard government clients.

“The focus on local talent is also great for fostering innovation and could help companies set up successful programs to nurture new ideas in fields like digital tech and sustainability,” Zainulbhai explained.

From El-Jawhari’s point of view, the localization plan presents opportunities for Saudi nationals to enter the consulting profession, contributing to the development of a vibrant knowledge-based economy.

Potential challenges  

While there are many benefits, the plan also brings several challenges. According to Zainulbhai, those include filling talent gaps, adjusting to cultural shifts, and meeting new regulatory standards.

“To tackle these, businesses could set up mentorship programs where seasoned international consultants train up-and-coming Saudi professionals. Setting up special training centers to quickly upskill workers could also help,” the co-founder described.

Bashar El-Jawhari, Consulting partner at PwC Middle East

“There might be some resistance to these changes within companies, so promoting a culture that values diverse perspectives will be important,” he added.

Zainulbhai also believes that consulting with local legal experts will be crucial to stay on top of new regulations.

We anticipate several key transformations that will contribute to the development and empowerment of local talent.

Bashar El-Jawhari, Consulting partner at PwC Middle East

“Although initial costs might be high, businesses can look into government subsidies or focus on tech solutions to reduce long-term expenses and increase efficiency,” he said.

From PwC’s perspective, El-Jawhari said that the availability of fresh, well-educated Saudi graduates provides consulting firms access to junior talent.

“The challenge lies in retaining them beyond the first 4 to 5 years. Government and semi-government entities begin to recruit these nationals, who have gained experience in international consulting firms, to join their workforce,” he stressed.

The consulting partner went on to explain that another challenge is attracting mid-career Saudi consultants who are in high demand and short supply.

“The third challenge is distinct specialties. For example, with the strong drive toward diversifying the economy, there is a need for consulting experience across sectors such as industrial, defense, tourism and culture, sports, and entertainment, supported by international experience,” El-Jawhari revealed.

He further disclosed: “Overall, finding Saudi talent in relatively new sectors of the economy is quite challenging.”

“To expand the pool of mid-career Saudis, a program between government entities and consulting firms could be established. The program could include seconding talented mid-career Saudis into consulting firms for 1 to 2 years,” El-Jawhari clarified.

He wrapped up with this regard saying that this gives consulting firms access to mid-career Saudi talent and in return, government entities gain a mid-career professional equipped with consulting experience.

Vision 2030 implications  

Undoubtedly, this plan provides a key piece of the bigger Vision 2030 puzzle, which aims to diversify the economy beyond oil and boost public services like health and education.

“By increasing Saudi involvement in consulting, the plan helps keep more money in the country and creates high-value jobs that are crucial for modernizing the economy,” Zainulbhai said.

The co-founder also mentioned that it also focuses on upgrading the skills of the Saudi workforce, which is essential for innovation and sustained economic growth.

“More local consultants mean the private sector can grow stronger and more independent, making Saudi Arabia a more appealing place for investors and helping develop key sectors,” he concluded.

On the other side, El-Jawhari shed light on how two key outcomes of Vision 2030 are a thriving economy and a vibrant society.

“Pushing for a higher level of consulting localization will create higher-paid jobs for Saudi nationals, resulting in a more vibrant society that enjoys a higher quality of life,” the consulting partner reiterated.

“Additionally, local talent can provide the necessary expertise in specific consulting services to catalyze economic diversification,” he concluded.


Aramco seals deals with three US firms focused on low-carbon energy solutions

Aramco seals deals with three US firms focused on low-carbon energy solutions
Updated 17 May 2024

Aramco seals deals with three US firms focused on low-carbon energy solutions

Aramco seals deals with three US firms focused on low-carbon energy solutions

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco has signed Memorandums of Understanding with three US firms to advance the development of potential lower-carbon solutions.

The deals with Aeroseal, Spiritus and Rondo were inked in the presence of the Kingdom’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, and his White House counterpart Jennifer Granholm. 

The agreements camed after the two officials agreed a roadmap for cooperation between the countries in the sector, amid discussions around carbon management, clean hydrogen, and nuclear energy, as well as electricity and renewables, innovation, and energy-sector supply chain resilience.

Ali Al-Meshari, senior vice president of technology, oversight and coordination at Aramco, said: “Aramco has stated its ambition to achieve net zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions across its wholly-owned operated assets by 2050, and sees opportunities to potentially build a lower-carbon new energy business. Innovative technologies deployed at scale can help reduce the costs of reducing carbon emissions, and we are investing in developing these through our R&D, venture capital, and technology deployment programs. We see the technologies of Aeroseal, Spiritus’, and Rondo to have the potential to scale globally, and specifically in the Middle East.”

Following a successful trial of Aeroseal’s technology in Saudi Arabia, Aramco and the company agreed to explore opportunities to accelerate the deployment of Aeroseal’s technology in the company’s building fleet and elsewhere; pursue joint testing of building ductwork and envelopes nationwide to uncover the most prominent opportunities; and commercialize the technology in novel applications such as gas pipelines.

The deal with Spiritus saw Aramco agree to explore opportunities in the field of direct air capture, with the US firm’s approach in this area potentially addressing major cost challenges.

Aramco and Rondo agreed to explore deployment of heat batteries in the Saudi firm’s global facilities to reduce operating costs and support emissions reduction initiatives.

The companies have started engineering studies for a first industrial scale deployment of Rondo Heat Batteries that could contribute to reduction of emissions from Aramco facilities, with subsequent scale up to 1 gigawatt per hour.