Minister affirms Riyadh as global solutions hub ahead of special meeting of World Economic Forum

Minister affirms Riyadh as global solutions hub ahead of special meeting of World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum summit is set to be held in Riyadh from April 28 to 29. Shutterstock
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Minister affirms Riyadh as global solutions hub ahead of special meeting of World Economic Forum

Minister affirms Riyadh as global solutions hub ahead of special meeting of World Economic Forum

RIYADH: The Saudi capital has emerged as a beacon of “thought leadership, action, and solutions,” stated one of Saudi Arabia’s top officials as Riyadh prepares to host the World Economic Forum.

Faisal Al-Ibrahim, the minister of economy and planning, made the comments ahead of the summit on global collaboration, growth, and energy for development, slated for April 28 to 29, which aims to empower leaders from both public and private sectors to tackle mutual global challenges.

According to the WEF website, the meeting will also advance key forum initiatives in the region and beyond as it aims to bridge the growing North-South global divide, which has further widened on issues such as emerging economic policies, the energy transition and geopolitical shocks.

“The crown prince’s patronage of the World Economic Forum Special Meeting in Riyadh is a testament to our leadership’s determination to convene the world to take action and expand global collaboration on the critical topics of our time,” said Al-Ibrahim in a post on X.

He welcomed global leaders to this pivotal moment for social, economic, and human development, urging them to “build bridges toward a secure, stable and sustainable future.”

 

Heads of state and senior executives from the public and private sectors are expected to be among the participants, who will discuss a range of global economic issues and developments under the theme “Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development.”

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that the Kingdom’s hosting of the World Economic Forum special meeting in Riyadh exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s dedication to addressing global challenges through international cooperation and pragmatic multilateralism.

“This event underscores the Kingdom’s ongoing, focused efforts to promote security, stability, and sustainable development globally, benefiting people and communities worldwide,” Al-Jadaan said on his X account.

The aim of the meeting is to find solutions to a host of global challenges relating to humanitarian issues, the climate and the economy. On the sidelines of the main event, the Kingdom will host exhibitions and other events to highlight the latest developments and trends in areas such as sustainability, innovation and culture.

The selection of Riyadh as host of the special meeting reflects the extensive partnership between Saudi Arabia and the WEF, officials said.

It builds upon the Kingdom’s active participation and contributions to the WEF’s Annual Meetings in Davos.

The agenda is designed to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and collaboration with various panel discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities. It represents a significant gathering of global leaders and experts dedicated to forging a path toward a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world.


Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 

Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 
Updated 10 sec ago
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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 4 min 10 sec ago
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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.


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

PIF-owned helicopter firm eyes global expansion and IPO, says CEO
Updated 12 min 34 sec ago
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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.