UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations

UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations
UBS is a global firm providing financial services in over 50 countries. Shutterstock
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Updated 23 April 2024
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UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations

UBS gets green light to open Saudi branch for banking operations

RIYADH: In a move aimed at enhancing Saudi Arabia’s financial landscape, the Kingdom has granted permission for a branch of the Swiss bank UBS to operate within the nation. 

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the approval was granted during a session chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, held by the Cabinet in Jeddah on April 23.

The session commenced with King Salman briefing the Cabinet on the recent communications and discussions held between the Kingdom and several countries regarding shared relations, regional issues, and global developments, as reported by SPA.

In this context, the Cabinet reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s steadfast stance toward promoting security and stability in the region and the world. 

The Minister of Media, Salman bin Yousef Al-Dossary, stated in a press release following the session that the Cabinet praised the outcomes of the second ministerial meeting of the dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Central Asian countries. 

He emphasized the Kingdom’s commitment to continue strengthening communication channels with various countries worldwide and supporting areas of joint coordination, including multilateral efforts.

Additionally, the Cabinet expressed its appreciation for the participants of the forthcoming World Economic Forum special meeting, set to take place in Riyadh in the upcoming week, highlighting the Kingdom’s dedication to encouraging global collaboration and tackling shared challenges.

Moreover, the Cabinet announced that the World Bank had selected Saudi Arabia as a center for knowledge dissemination to promote worldwide awareness of economic reforms, underscoring its leadership in achieving significant progress in global competitiveness indicators.

Al-Dossary further highlighted that the Cabinet applauded the achievement of five Saudi cities in obtaining advanced positions in the 2024 Smart Cities Index.

Following today’s session, the Cabinet approved cooperation agreements with Qatar, the Dominican Republic and the UK as well as Turkey, Chad, Portugal, Hong Kong, and Yemen.

Additionally, the body authorized discussions regarding statistical collaboration with Australia and maritime cooperation with Egypt. It also endorsed anti-corruption agreements with South Korea, archival partnerships with Greece, and financial technology collaboration with Singapore.

Authorization was granted for negotiations on science and technology cooperation with the Bahamas. A unified law for international road transport within GCC countries was approved, and additional compensation was granted to Tabah village’s affected families in the Hail region. 

Furthermore, final accounts for various government entities were approved.


Italy’s Fincantieri launches Saudi shipbuilding unit to strengthen collaboration 

Italy’s Fincantieri launches Saudi shipbuilding unit to strengthen collaboration 
Updated 23 May 2024
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Italy’s Fincantieri launches Saudi shipbuilding unit to strengthen collaboration 

Italy’s Fincantieri launches Saudi shipbuilding unit to strengthen collaboration 

RIYADH: Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri plans to enhance collaboration with Saudi Arabia through a newly established unit, the company said. 

Fincantieri Arabia will bolster the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development agenda in the cruise, defense, and offshore sectors, the group disclosed in a press release, issued on the sidelines of an industrial conference in Riyadh. 

Fincantieri is the only shipbuilding group active in all high-tech marine industry sectors, the release added. 

The new unit aims to highlight the group’s wide-ranging capabilities in shipbuilding, maritime equipment and systems, and naval logistic support services, including training and simulation.  

It will also manage stakeholder relationships in the Kingdom and seek out local partners.  

Moreover, Fincantieri said it plans to share its technological expertise in shipbuilding across cruise, defense, and offshore sectors, thus opening up opportunities for Saudi nationals. 

The firm’s CEO Pierroberto Folgiero: “Our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is steadfast. Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its vertically integrated model and our leadership across naval, cruise, and oil and gas sectors. We are proud to offer these world-class capabilities built on decades of naval heritage and excellence to help the Kingdom achieve its Vision 2030 objectives.”  

He added: “Given the maritime industry’s pivotal role under Vision 2030, we eagerly anticipate establishing strategic partnerships. Through these collaborations, we aim to enhance local technological capabilities, create opportunities for Saudi talent, and foster knowledge exchange.” 

The state-controlled Fincantieri has expanded its presence in the Middle East in recent years. In March 2023, Folgiero stated that the group would venture into the Saudi market and was strategically positioned for growth in the region. 

The Italian group is also aiming to enhance its focus on defense, a sector that presently contributes to around a quarter of its revenues. 

On May 20, Fincantieri concluded a shipbuilding joint venture, named Maestral, with Abu Dhabi-based EDGE Group. The two entities announced the signing of a €400 million ($433 million) contract with the UAE’s Coast Guard Forces for the supply of 10 advanced 51-meter offshore patrol vessels. 


Lebanon’s reforms insufficient for recovery, IMF says 

Lebanon’s reforms insufficient for recovery, IMF says 
Updated 23 May 2024
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Lebanon’s reforms insufficient for recovery, IMF says 

Lebanon’s reforms insufficient for recovery, IMF says 

Lebanon’s economic reforms are insufficient to help lift the country out of its economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday. 

Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, the head of the IMF mission visiting Lebanon, said in a statement that Lebanon’s ongoing refugee crisis, fighting with Israel at its Southern border and the spillover from the war in Gaza are exacerbating an already dire economic situation. 

Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have traded fire across Lebanon’s southern border since the war in Gaza broke out in October last year. 

Israel launched its assault on Gaza following a Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7 in which fighters killed 1,200 people and captured more than 250 hostages. 

Since then, Israel’s assault has killed more than 35,000 people, with thousands more feared buried under the rubble, according to Gaza health authorities. 

The conflict “has internally displaced a significant number of people and caused damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and trade in southern Lebanon. Together with a decline in tourism, the high risks associated with the conflict create significant uncertainty to the economic outlook,” Rigo said. 

Fiscal and monetary reforms carried out by Lebanon’s finance ministry and the central bank, including steps to unify multiple exchange rates for the Lebanese pound and contain a currency slump, have helped reduce inflationary pressure, according to Rigo. 

However, he said more needs to be done if Lebanon is to alleviate its financial crisis. 

“These policy measures fall short of what is needed to enable a recovery from the crisis. Bank deposits remain frozen, and the banking sector is unable to provide credit to the economy, as the government and parliament have been unable to find a solution to the banking crisis,” he added. 

“Addressing the banks’ losses while protecting depositors to the maximum extent possible and limiting recourse to scarce public resources in a credible and financially viable manner is indispensable to lay the foundation for economic recovery.” 

Since Lebanon’s economy began to unravel in 2019, its currency has lost around 95 percent of its value, banks have locked most depositors out of their savings and more than 80 percent of the population has sunk below the poverty line. 

The crisis erupted after decades of profligate spending and corruption among the ruling elite, some of whom led banks that lent heavily to the state. 

The government estimates losses in the financial system total more than $70 billion, the majority of which were accrued at the central bank. 


 


Oil Updates – prices fall for fourth straight day as US rate hike prospects emerge

Oil Updates – prices fall for fourth straight day as US rate hike prospects emerge
Updated 23 May 2024
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Oil Updates – prices fall for fourth straight day as US rate hike prospects emerge

Oil Updates – prices fall for fourth straight day as US rate hike prospects emerge

LONDON: Oil prices eased for a fourth straight session on Thursday after the minutes of a US Federal Reserve meeting revealed discussions of a further tightening of interest rates if inflation remained sticky, a move that could hurt oil demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures fell 20 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $81.70 a barrel at 9:51 a.m. Saudi time. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 29 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $77.28. Both benchmarks fell more than 1 percent on Wednesday.

Minutes released on Wednesday from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting showed the US central bank’s response to sticky inflation would “involve maintaining” its policy rate for now but also reflected discussion of possible further hikes.

“Various participants mentioned a willingness to tighten policy further should risks to inflation materialize in a way that such an action became appropriate,” minutes of the Fed’s meeting said.

Higher interest rates boost borrowing costs, crunching funds that could boost economic growth and oil demand in the world’s largest oil consuming nation.

Also weighing on the market, US crude stocks rose by 1.8 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration, compared with an estimate for a 2.5 million-barrel draw.

Globally, physical crude markets have more recently been pressured by soft refinery demand and ample supply.

“Recent market softness has come on the back of weaker data, including rising oil inventories, tepid demand, and refinery margin weakness and the increasing risk of run cuts,” Citi analysts said in a note on Thursday.

Russia said it exceeded its OPEC+ production quota in April for “technical reasons” and will soon present to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Secretariat its plan to compensate for the error, the Russian Energy Ministry said late on Wednesday.

Citi said it still expects that OPEC+, which groups together OPEC and allies led by Russia, will hold its production cuts through the third quarter of this year when it meets on June 1.

Citi also said it continues to see Brent averaging $86 a barrel in the second quarter of 2024. 


Saudi EXIM Bank signs 2 agreements with Japan’s SMBC and MUFG banks

Saudi EXIM Bank signs 2 agreements with Japan’s SMBC and MUFG banks
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi EXIM Bank signs 2 agreements with Japan’s SMBC and MUFG banks

Saudi EXIM Bank signs 2 agreements with Japan’s SMBC and MUFG banks

TOKYO: On the sidelines of the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum in Tokyo, Saudi EXIM Bank signed two cooperation agreements with SMBC Business Banking and MUFG Bank.

The agreements aimed to foster cooperation and create co-financing opportunities to promote non-oil exports in target markets, according to the Saudi EXIM Bank.

The two agreements were signed separately by Saad bin Abdulaziz Al-Khalab, CEO of Saudi EXIM Bank, along with Akihiro Fukudom, CEO of SMBC Bank and Hironori Kamezawa, CEO of MUFG Bank, a statement confirmed.

Commenting on the partnerships, Al-Khalab stated: “This collaboration with Japanese entities is part of our joint efforts to strengthen economic relations between both countries and achieve the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030. The acceleration of commercial projects between our nations toward broader horizons comes as a result of the strength, advanced economic status, and promising investment opportunities.”

During the roundtable meeting, which brought together several ministers from both sides, Al-Khalab reviewed Saudi EXIM Bank’s activities with Japanese financial institutions and commercial companies to enhance economic and trade relations and identify projects of mutual interest.

During the financial sector’s roundtable meeting, Al-Khalab emphasized the critical importance of collaborative efforts between all financial institutions and business sectors. This is to ensure the provision of comprehensive, incentivizing credit solutions that can accelerate the pace of trade and mutual and global investment activities.

The Saudi EXIM Bank aims to empower the Kingdom’s non-oil national economy in accordance with Vision 2030. The bank is focused on enabling Saudi non-oil exports to expand and penetrate global markets by bridging financing gaps and reducing export risks.


Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports up 3.3%: GASTAT 

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports up 3.3%: GASTAT 
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports up 3.3%: GASTAT 

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports up 3.3%: GASTAT 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports, including re-exports, saw an annual increase of 3.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, official data showed.    

According to the latest report released by the General Authority for Statistics, the value of re-exported goods increased by 31.5 percent during the same period, while national non-oil exports, excluding re-exports, decreased by 5.2 percent.    

The value of merchandise exports in March increased by 4.9 percent compared to the previous month. 

However, it declined by 5.7 percent in the first three months of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023, primarily due to an 8.3 percent decrease in oil exports. 

Chemical products constituted 25.1 percent of the total non-oil exports, recording an 18.3 percent decrease compared to the first quarter of 2023. Plastics, rubber, and their products followed, making up 22.8 percent of total non-oil exports, with a 0.6 percent decrease compared to the same period. 

Machinery, electrical equipment, and parts, constituted 22.7 percent of total imports, falling by 5.4 percent compared to the first quarter of 2023. This was followed by transportation equipment and parts, which represented 13 percent of total imports, with a 21.7 percent decrease. 

In a separate bulletin, GASTAT highlighted that non-oil exports and re-exports in March rose by 2.9 percent compared to February, and slipped by 0.8 percent compared to March 2023. 

While national non-oil exports, excluding re-exports, saw an annual decrease of 6.3 percent in March, the value of re-exported goods increased by 17.6 percent during the same period. 

During the first quarter of 2024, the proportion of oil exports out of total value declined from 78.2 percent to 76.1 percent. Imports, on the other hand, increased by 6.4 percent. 

In the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2023, both merchandise exports and non-oil exports, including re-exports, decreased by 1.4 percent and 0.2 percent respectively. Meanwhile imports saw a 0.3 percent decline, resulting in a 3.8 percent decrease in the merchandise trade balance surplus. 

In March, merchandise exports declined by 5.9 percent, largely driven by a 7.3 percent decrease in oil exports, leading to a drop in the proportion of oil exports from 78.1 percent to 76.9 percent compared to March 2023.

Conversely, imports increased by 1 percent, while the surplus of the merchandise trade balance decreased by 17.2 percent compared to March 2023. 

This period also witnessed a slight decrease in the ratio of non-oil exports, including re-exports, to imports, which fell to 34.7 percent from 35.8 percent in the previous year, attributed to a significant increase in imports by 6.4 percent, compared to a 3.3 percent rise in non-oil exports. 

In the first three months of this year, China was the main destination for the Kingdom’s exports, accounting for 14.9 percent of the total. South Korea and India followed with 9.8 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. Exports to these and other top destinations made up 67.1 percent of the total. 

Similarly, China was the leading source of the Kingdom’s imports at 20.9 percent, followed by the US at 8.1 percent and the UAE at 6.8 percent. Imports from these and other top sources accounted for 63.4 percent of the total. 

King Abdulaziz Sea Port in Dammam was the major entry point for goods into the Kingdom, accounting for 27.4 percent of total imports. 

Other key ports included Jeddah Islamic Port with 18.8 percent, King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh with 14.2 percent, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah with 8.1 percent, and King Fahad International Airport in Dammam with 6.1 percent. 

Together, these five ports handled 74.6 percent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports. 

In March, key non-oil exports include chemical products, comprising 28.1 percent of total non-oil exports, marking a 12.9 percent decrease from March 2023. 

In contrast, primary imported goods include machinery, electrical equipment, and parts, constituting 24.1 percent of total imports, rising by 21.4 percent from March 2023. 

China also emerged as the Kingdom’s top destination for exports where they comprised 16.4 percent of Saudi Arabia’s total exports. 

Similarly, China ranked first for the Kingdom’s imports in March, constituting 21.2 percent of the total imports, followed by the US with 8.7 percent and the UAE with 6.9 percent. 

King Abdulaziz Sea Port in Dammam played a vital role as one of the primary ports for goods entering the Kingdom, comprising 28.9 percent of total imports. 

Other significant entry points included Jeddah Islamic Port, King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, King Abdulaziz International Airport, and King Fahad International Airport in Dammam. 

Together, these five ports accounted for 76.3 percent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports in March.