Saudi banks’ funding profile changing on rising mortgage demand: S&P Global 

Saudi banks’ funding profile changing on rising mortgage demand: S&P Global 
S&P Global has delivered a new report on the Saudi banking sector. Shutterstock
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Updated 12 May 2024

Saudi banks’ funding profile changing on rising mortgage demand: S&P Global 

Saudi banks’ funding profile changing on rising mortgage demand: S&P Global 

RIYADH: Saudi banks are expected to pursue alternative funding strategies to deal with the rapid expansion in lending, fueled by the demand for new mortgages, according to S&P Global. 

In its latest report, the credit-rating agency stated that the funding profiles of financial institutions in the Kingdom are set to undergo changes, primarily driven by a state-backed initiative to boost home ownership. 

According to the analysis, mortgage financing represented 23.5 percent of Saudi banks’ total credit allocation at the end of 2023, compared to 12.8 percent in 2019. 

“The ongoing financing needs of the Vision 2030 economic initiative and relatively sluggish deposits growth, is likely to incentivize banks to seek alternative sources of funding, including external funding,” said S&P Global.  

The report also predicted that this pursuit of external funding could potentially impact the credit quality of Saudi Arabia’s banking sector. 

According to the US-based rating agency, lending growth among Saudi banks has outpaced deposits, with the loan-to-deposit ratio exceeding 100 percent in 2022, up from 86 percent at the end of 2019. 

S&P Global expects this trend to persist, particularly with corporate lending playing a more significant role in growth over the next few years. “We consider Saudi banks are likely to turn to alternative funding strategies to fund that expansion,” the report said.  

It added: “We consider, however, that the risk created by the maturity mismatch is mitigated by the relative stability of Saudi deposits.”  

The agency also predicted that Saudi banks’ foreign liabilities will continue to increase, rising from about $19.2 billion at the end of 2023 to meet the funding requirements of strong lending growth, particularly amidst lower deposit expansion. 

The report highlighted that Saudi banks have already tapped international capital markets, and the credit rating agency expects this trend to continue for the next three to five years. 

According to S&P Global, the Saudi banking system could transition from a net external asset position of SR42.9 billion, or 1.6 percent of lending, at the end of 2023 to a net external debt position within a few years. 

In April, S&P Global, in another report, stated that banks in the Kingdom are anticipated to experience robust credit growth ranging between 8 to 9 percent in 2024. 

The agency noted that this credit expansion will be propelled by corporate lending, fueled by increased economic activities driven by the Vision 2030 program. 

Moreover, the report added that the Saudi government and its related entities are expected to inject deposits into the banking system, thereby supporting the credit growth of financial institutions in the Kingdom. 

Suez Canal revenue drops as some shippers shun Red Sea 

Suez Canal revenue drops as some shippers shun Red Sea 
Updated 12 sec ago

Suez Canal revenue drops as some shippers shun Red Sea 

Suez Canal revenue drops as some shippers shun Red Sea 

RIYADH: The Suez Canal’s annual revenue dropped by almost a quarter in its latest financial year as some shippers switched to alternative routes to avoid attacks by Iran-aligned Houthis in the Red Sea. 

Osama Rabie, the head of the Egyptian canal’s authority said on Thursday revenues fell to $7.2 billion in its 2023-24 financial year from $9.4 billion the year before. 

Since November, the Houthis have been attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to show support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas in its fight against Israel. 

Rabie said the number of ships using the canal fell to 20,148 in 2023-24 from 25,911 the year before. 

The Suez Canal is a key source of foreign currency for Egypt, and authorities have been trying to boost its revenues in recent years, including via an expansion in 2015. 

The canal is vital for global trade, handling a large portion of goods like oil and gas, with its tolls and services crucial to Egypt’s income, supporting infrastructure, jobs, and economic stability. 

About 15 percent of world shipping traffic transits via the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. 

A statement issued by the Egyptian Cabinet in May revealed that the Suez Canal Economic Zone had secured 144 projects worth $3.2 billion between July 2023 and April 2024, down from $4.9 billion recorded between July 2022 and May 2023. 

This happened as there was a 50 percent drop in Suez Canal trade and a 32 percent decrease in trade through the Panama Canal during the first two months of 2024 compared to the previous year, as reported by the International Monetary Fund in a March blog post. 

At that time, Walid Gamal El-Din, chairman of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, disclosed that out of the 144 projects in its industrial zones and ports, 67 had received final approvals, with 77 securing initial approvals. 

He added that more than 25,000 direct and indirect job opportunities would be created upon the completion and operation of these projects. 

Furthermore, the chairman disclosed that the implementation rates of investment projects within the industrial zones had reached 77 percent, while those in ports had reached 71 percent. 

(With inputs from Reuters)

Real Estate Brokerage Law spurs 17% surge in Saudi property transactions, watchdog CEO reveals

Real Estate Brokerage Law spurs 17% surge in Saudi property transactions, watchdog CEO reveals
Updated 8 min 57 sec ago

Real Estate Brokerage Law spurs 17% surge in Saudi property transactions, watchdog CEO reveals

Real Estate Brokerage Law spurs 17% surge in Saudi property transactions, watchdog CEO reveals

RIYADH: New regulations providing safeguards in Saudi Arabia’s real estate sector helped drive up residential and commercial property transactions by 17 percent within their first year, according to a senior official.

Speaking at the launch of the Real Estate Brokerage Forum, CEO of the Kingdom’s Real Estate General Authority Abdullah bin Saud Al-Hammad highlighted the positive outcomes in the sector since the law was enacted on June 29, 2022, which helped deliver SR605 billion ($161.2 billion) worth of deals within 12 months.

The new regulations mean the Real Estate General Authority is responsible for preparing mandatory contract forms, promoting brokerage and services, and defining marketing criteria as well as setting standards, and managing violations and complaints.

This law applies universally to individuals, partnerships, and corporate entities involved in estate brokerage activities.

The regulation is part of a drive to increase home ownership in Saudi Arabia, with the Kingdom aiming for a 70 percent rate by 2030.

Reflecting on the law's success, Al-Hammad added that residential transactions reached approximately 2.9 million, up 18 percent, while commercial transactions increased by 11 percent to 604,000, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

He went on to say that the real estate brokerage and services legislation provided extensive opportunities for innovation and development and played a pivotal role in the economic framework and real estate transactions. 

Furthermore, the Real Estate General Authority  registered around 219,000 real estate brokerage contracts and issued 35,255 individual brokerage licenses along with 19,735 licenses for corporate entities. 

It also licensed 52 real estate platforms, which contributed to removing over half a million unreliable property advertisements, according to the CEO.

The law ensures transparency and boosts the efficiency of real estate brokers through regulatory practices and defined responsibilities.

Al-Hammad said that the authority conducted 58 joint inspection campaigns with relevant entities, inspected over 34,000 public advertisements, and processed more than 67,000 electronic surveys and 9,100 reports, showcasing the rigorous oversight mechanisms in place.

He added that this forum edition is part of ongoing efforts to enhance real estate brokerage services and transactions, building a robust and advanced sector that contributes to economic growth and aligns with strategic aspirations. 

The event’s discussions focused on the impact, opportunities, and challenges posed by real estate platforms on the future of the market.

Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks
Updated 18 July 2024

Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks

SINGAPORE: Oil prices extended gains from the previous session on Thursday, buoyed by a bigger-than-expected decline last week in crude stocks in the US, the world’s largest oil consumer, according to Reuters.

Brent futures rose 58 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $85.66 a barrel by 8:30 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude gained 75 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $83.60.

Both contracts settled higher on Wednesday.

US crude inventories fell by 4.9 million barrels last week, the latest data from the US Energy Information Administration showed. That exceeds a decline of 30,000 barrels forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and a drop of 4.4 million barrels in a report from the American Petroleum Institute trade group.

“Healthy demand signals from the US outweighs concerns from modest Chinese growth last week,” said Priyanka Sachdeva, senior market analyst at Phillip Nova.

“Hopes of a Fed easing, which can boost economic growth, and current summer travel in the US are ensuring enough traction in oil demand from the world’s largest economy,” Sachdeva said.

The prospects of cuts in interest rates in coming months in the both the US and Europe helped to support the market.

Federal Reserve officials said on Wednesday the US central bank is “closer” to cutting interest rates given inflation’s improved trajectory and a labor market in better balance, possibly setting the stage for a reduction in borrowing costs in September.

Also, US economic activity expanded at a slight to modest pace from late May through early July with firms expecting slower growth ahead.

The European Central Bank, meanwhile, is all but certain to keep interest rates unchanged on Thursday, but signalled that its next move is likely to be a cut.

Investors are also awaiting policy news from a key leadership gathering in China that is to end on Thursday.

The dollar eased on Thursday for a third straight session. A weaker dollar can boost demand for oil by making greenback-denominated commodities like oil cheaper for holders of other currencies. 

Saudi Aramco completes issuance of international bonds worth $6bn 

Saudi Aramco completes issuance of international bonds worth $6bn 
Updated 50 min 56 sec ago

Saudi Aramco completes issuance of international bonds worth $6bn 

Saudi Aramco completes issuance of international bonds worth $6bn 
  • Oil firm taps market for the first time since 2021

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco has completed the issuance of a $6 billion US dollar-denominated international bond, marking the state oil firm’s return to the debt market after a hiatus of three years.  

In a Tadawul statement, the company revealed that the offerings, which began on July 9 under the firm’s Global Medium Term Note program, will be traded on the London Stock Exchange. 

The last time Aramco tapped the debt market was in 2021 when it raised $6 billion from a three-tranche sukuk, also known as an Islamic bond. 

Governments and companies operating in the Middle East region have been eager to leverage debt markets this year amidst declining global interest rates. As part of this trend, Saudi Arabia issued $12 billion in dollar-denominated bonds in January. 

Aramco Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Ziad T. Al-Murshed, said: “We are pleased with the strong interest and level of engagement from investors globally, both existing and new. Our order book exceeded $33 billion at its peak, reflecting Aramco’s exceptional financial resilience and fortress balance sheet.”  

He added: “Achieving a negative issue premium across all tranches is a testament to our unique credit proposition. We have consistently demonstrated our financial discipline, while delivering on shareholder value and business growth, and we aim to maintain a strong investment-grade credit rating across business cycles.” 

Aramco disclosed that the bonds will have a minimum subscription of $200,000. 

These financial instruments have three $2 billion senior notes, which are expected to provide a yield of 5.25 percent, 5.75 percent, and 5.87 percent for bonds maturing in 10, 30, and 40 years, respectively.  

This follows a comment made by Al-Murshed in February that the company could potentially issue longer-term bonds of up to 50 years and might offer these financial instruments in 2024 as market conditions improve. 

“We’re always prioritizing longer term over short term. The timeframe I don’t want to give you exactly but it’s not very far away. Likely in 2024,” said Al-Murshed at that time.  

The company revealed that the latest offering was more than six times oversubscribed, based on the initial targeted size of $5 billion. 

Aramco added that the transaction received strong demand from a diverse base of investment-grade-focused institutional investors, with all three tranches favorably priced with a negative new issue premium, reflecting the company’s strong credit profile. 

Aramco, in the latest statement, said that the bonds will be issued in accordance with Rule 144A/Reg S offering requirements under the US Securities Act of 1933, as amended.  

This security act aims to ensure that investors have financial and other important information about securities that are being sold publicly.  

The company further noted that the issuance also complies with the stabilization rules of the Financial Conduct Authority and the International Capital Market Association.  

The bonds offer various redemption options at maturity, upon an event of default, or for tax reasons, including the issuer’s call, maturity par call, and make-whole call. 

In June, Aramco also sold over $10 billion worth of shares in its second public offering. The 1.55 billion shares on offer represented 0.64 percent of the company’s issued shares. 

Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1, says minister

Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1, says minister
Updated 18 July 2024

Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1, says minister

Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1, says minister

RIYADH: Tourist spending in Saudi Arabia reached approximately SR150 billion ($40 billion) in the first half of 2024, reflecting a 10 percent increase in both traveler numbers and expenditure compared to the same period the previous year, as revealed by a top minister. 

At a conference convened to review the 2024 summer tourism program, the Kingdom’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb reiterated that his country will launch a tourist visa next month to attract more international visitors and bolster the sector’s growth.

This comes as Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious target to host 150 million tourists annually by 2030, underscoring its commitment to transforming the Kingdom into a premier global tourism destination. 

The country’s passenger air traffic surged by 17 percent in the first half of 2024, reaching 62 million compared to 53 million in the same period last year, according to statistics released by the General Authority of Civil Aviation.  

This growth was supported by a 12 percent increase in flights, with 446,000 recorded compared to 399,000 in the first half of 2023. 

Al-Khateeb shared statistics from the first half of the year, stating: “We achieved 60 million visits and approximately SR150 billion in tourist spending.” 

The minister added that this reflects a 10 percent rise in both visitor numbers and expenditure compared to the same period last year.

He described the country as a “continent,” highlighting its vast natural beauty and varied landscapes, including mountains, resorts, Red Sea beaches, and vibrant cities.  

This diversity, he noted, positions Saudi Arabia uniquely to offer a wide array of tourism products to global travelers. 

Outlining initiatives aimed at enhancing opportunities and training for Saudis, he said: “We’ve raised salaries and conducted over 100,000 training courses annually.” 

This underscores the ministry’s proactive stance in encouraging private-sector investment in Saudi human capital.

Al-Khateeb noted the crucial role of the private sector in shaping the tourism landscape. “The tourism and travel sector worldwide is primarily managed by the private sector, and we recognize its pivotal role in our sector’s development,” he affirmed. 

Al-Khateeb also pointed out the substantial impact of the Tourism Development Fund on building the country’s infrastructure.

Launched in June 2020, the fund has already financed over 100 projects totaling SR35 billion, encompassing a mix of small to medium-sized ventures and larger-scale initiatives. 

“In Asir (region) alone, the Tourism Development Fund has allocated SR1 billion to 10 projects, reflecting a significant focus on enhancing hospitality offerings in the region,” stated Al-Khateeb, showcasing the Kingdom’s commitment to regional development through strategic investment. 

To enhance transparency and support stakeholders, the minister announced the launch of comprehensive tourism statistics on the ministry’s website. “An annual report will provide valuable insights for the media and investors, detailing every statistic and figure relevant to Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector,” he added.

According to the latest data released by the ministry, the total number of tourists reached 109.3 million in 2023, with 81.9 million being local tourists and 27.4 million international visitors. 

In terms of economic impact, expenditure by international tourists totaled SR141.2 billion last year, while local tourists spent SR114.4 billion, bringing the total tourism expenditure to SR255.6 billion in 2023.

“We achieved 153 percent growth in tourism compared to 2019. Asir received 8 million tourists last year, who spent around $3 billion,” the minister said.