Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya to build region’s largest water theme park

Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya to build region’s largest water theme park
Saudi Arabia Qiddiya Investment Co. will construct the region’s largest water theme park as a cornerstone of its Six Flags Qiddiya City venture. (SPA)
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Updated 06 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya to build region’s largest water theme park

Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya to build region’s largest water theme park
  • Aquarabia will also feature the first underwater adventure trip with diving vehicles

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia Qiddiya Investment Co. will construct the region’s largest water theme park as a cornerstone of its Six Flags Qiddiya City venture it was announced on Monday.
To be named Aquarabia, Qiddiya hopes to draw visitors from around the globe with 22 attractions and water experiences suitable for all family members, as well as some “world-first” attractions, Saudi Press Agency reported.
These attractions include the world’s first double water loop, the tallest water coaster with the highest jump, the longest and highest water racing track, and the tallest water slide.

Aquarabia will also feature the first underwater adventure trip with diving vehicles, catering to adventure enthusiasts with water sports areas designated for rafting, kayaking, canoeing, free solo climbing, and cliff jumping.
Additionally, the park will introduce the first surfing pool in the Kingdom, incorporating immersive design elements themed around ancient desert water springs and Qiddiya’s wildlife.
With sustainability in mind, Aquarabia will implement advanced systems capable of reducing water waste by up to 90 percent and decreasing energy consumption. As part of the Six Flags Qiddiya project, the venture, the first Six Flags of its kind outside North America, aims to recycle operational waste, diverting over 80 percent from landfill.

Scheduled to open in 2025, both Aquarabia and Six Flags Qiddiya City are situated within Qiddiya City, forming a fully walkable neighborhood offering a diverse array of activities, accommodations, dining options, and relaxation spots.
Abdullah Al-Dawood, managing director of Qiddiya Investment Co., hailed the announcement as a significant milestone for Qiddiya and the entertainment, tourism, and sports sectors in the Kingdom.
He emphasized that the projects will cater to diverse entertainment needs while contributing to economic diversification and job creation in the tourism sector.
The project also aims to meet the growing local demand for immersive entertainment experiences, particularly in water activities, aligning with the goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to enhance local tourism and employment opportunities.
The unveiling of Aquarabia follows the announcement of several other entertainment, sports, and cultural attractions in Qiddiya, including the world’s first multi-use gaming and electronic sports area, the multi-sport Prince Mohammed bin Salman Stadium and the Dragon Ball amusement park.
 


Middle East has 1,400 GW of offshore wind potential: GWEC

Middle East has 1,400 GW of offshore wind potential: GWEC
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Middle East has 1,400 GW of offshore wind potential: GWEC

Middle East has 1,400 GW of offshore wind potential: GWEC

RIYADH: Significant investment is needed to unlock the potential 1,400 gigawatts of offshore wind energy in the Middle East and North Africa, an analysis has found.

In its latest report, the Global Wind Energy Council said Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, and Oman could lead the way in developing this sector, which is still at a nascent stage as offshore activities in the region are mostly connected with oil and gas. 

This mode of power generation is considered crucial in the energy transition journey, as offshore wind is good for the environment because it generates electricity without burning any fuel or emitting any carbon dioxide.

Moreover, wind at sea is stronger, more consistent and less turbulent than on land, which helps generate energy in a reliable manner. 

“The significant potential of offshore wind indicates that there may (and should) be development in the Middle East. However, this depends greatly on the investment environment, national regulations, and permitting procedures, as well as the availability of a skilled workforce with experience in this industry,” said the GWEC report.

The document added that the Middle East is yet to see any major developments in the production of offshore wind energy due to the massive investments involved and readily available onshore locations. 

“However, trends are shifting in the Middle East. Efforts to diversify energy sources, potential development of subsea interconnectors to Europe, and the potential of green energy/green product exports may encourage MENA countries to reconsider their original stance on offshore wind,” said GWEC. 

Saudi Arabia to become a key player

In its report, GWEC projected that Saudi Arabia has an overall offshore capacity of 106 GW along its eastern and western coasts. 

The analysis further noted that Saudi Arabia’s increasing attention to renewable energy sources will catalyze the growth of wind power generation in the future. 

“The oil-rich Kingdom currently has only one onshore wind farm in operation (Dumat al Jandal) but has ambitious further renewable energy plans. By 2030, the country aims to generate half of its energy supply from renewable energy sources and to reach net zero by 2060,” said GWEC. 

According to the report, Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy targets combined with the launch of massive green hydrogen projects and the vision to export clean products are expected to propel the development of both onshore and offshore wind projects. 

Morocco considering offshore wind projects

GWEC noted that the government of Morocco is seriously considering developing offshore wind projects as the nation is heavily reliant on energy imports, with over 91 percent of its power coming from external sources. 

Moreover, the Moroccan government has made significant progress in the field of renewable energy, and currently has a target of reaching 51 percent of power coming from green sources by the end of this decade. 

“Although there are no set targets for the development of offshore wind, the government is taking serious steps in considering the possibility of this technology in the region,” said GWEC. 

Additionally, the European Investment Bank recently awarded the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy a $2 billion grant to conduct a feasibility study for offshore wind in Morocco. 

A previous study conducted by GWEC had projected Morocco’s offshore wind potential at 200 GW. 

Global outlook

According to the report, the industry connected 10.8 GW of offshore wind to the grid in 2023 representing a 24 percent year-on-year rise, bringing the total capacity to 75.2 GW globally. 

China led the world in annual offshore wind developments for the sixth year in a row with 6.3 GW added last year. 

On the other hand, Europe added 3.8 GW of new offshore wind capacity from 11 wind farms commissioned across seven markets accounting for most of the new capacity. 

However, In North America, offshore wind turbines were installed at two utility-scale offshore wind projects in the US before the end of last year, but no offshore turbines were commissioned in 2023. 

The report further noted that the offshore wind energy sector will witness a compound average annual growth rate of 25 percent until 2028 and 15 percent up to the early 2030s. 

GWEC Market Intelligence added that at least 410 GW of new offshore wind capacity will be added between 2024 and 2033, of which more than two-thirds is likely to be added in the second half of this forecast period. 

“The growth of offshore wind is now so much more than a European, Chinese, or American story. This global industry must now ‘chart a course’ for the tremendous growth that lies ahead,” said Rebecca Williams, chief strategy officer, offshore wind, at GWEC. 

She added: “It’s important to note the offshore wind industry and its partners in government, institutions, and civil society are now coalescing and driving momentum in anticipation of the industry’s impending growth and importance as a clean energy technology.” 

The report highlighted that the Membership of the Global Offshore Wind Alliance, a diplomatic, multi-stakeholder initiative founded by GWEC, the International Renewable Energy Agency, and Denmark has swelled to over 20 governments. 

GWEC noted these 20 nations have pledged to collaborate toward installing 380 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 2000 GW by 2050.

“GWEC is seeing widespread recognition across industry and governments that the key drivers for offshore wind are now in place — from government commitments and sustainable economic growth, to increased consumer demand and industrial decarbonization,” added Williams. 

The report also outlined the progress made by various nations in the offshore wind energy sector. 

In Brazil, offshore wind is seen as the clean power source of the future for its heavy industry, while in the Philippines, the government is embracing offshore wind to meet its fast-growing domestic demand and sustainable economic development agenda. 

“Poland sees offshore wind as a route to stimulate industrial growth, whilst Ireland has set out an ambitious future framework for offshore wind growth,” said Williams. 


Oil Updates – prices set for second week of gains on signs demand improving

Oil Updates – prices set for second week of gains on signs demand improving
Updated 21 June 2024
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Oil Updates – prices set for second week of gains on signs demand improving

Oil Updates – prices set for second week of gains on signs demand improving

NEW YORK/SINGAPORE: Crude oil futures were little changed on Friday but were set to rise for a second week amid signs of improving demand and falling oil and fuel inventories in the US, the world’s biggest oil consumer, according to Reuters.

Brent futures for August settlement dipped 15 cents to $85.56 a barrel by 6:56 a.m. Saudi time after rising 0.8 percent in the previous session.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures for August delivery was down 14 cents to $81.15 per barrel.

The July contract expired on Thursday at $82.17 a barrel, up 0.7 percent.

Prices have risen about 5 percent since the beginning of the month to the highest level in over seven weeks.

“The seasonal demand increase, as shown by the latest EIA (US Energy Information Administration) data, renewed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah, and the hurricane season could sustain price strength into the summer,” Citi analysts said in a note.

US government data released on Thursday showed total product supplied, a proxy for the country’s demand, rose by 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) on the week to 21.1 million bpd.

The data from the EIA showed drawdown in US crude stockpiles by 2.5 million barrels in the week ending June 14 to 457.1 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a 2.2 million-barrel draw.

Gasoline inventories fell by 2.3 million barrels to 231.2 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with forecasts for a 600,000-barrel build.​

Demand prospects elsewhere also helped push prices higher.

“Signs of stronger demand in Asia also boosted sentiment. Oil refineries across the region are bringing back some idled capacity after maintenance,” analysts at ANZ Research said.

Data released on Friday showed Japan’s core consumer prices last month gained 2.5 percent from a year earlier, growing from the previous month and keeping the country’s central bank on track to raise interest rates in the coming months.

Weighing on prices were US data released on Thursday that showed a decline in new unemployment claims, which may lead the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates unchanged. Higher interest rates typically limit economic growth and, in turn, oil demand.


Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich

Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich
Updated 20 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich

Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Switzerland are poised to deepen cooperation in finance and economics as top officials convened for the 4th Saudi-Swiss Financial Dialogue in Zurich.    

The event, inaugurated by Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, focused on enhancing macroeconomic outlooks, fostering international multilateral cooperation, and advancing specific bilateral economic initiatives.    

It comes against the backdrop of a robust trade relationship between the countries. In 2023, Saudi Arabia exported $810.67 million worth of goods to Switzerland, while Swiss exports to the Kingdom totaled $6.77 billion, according to the UN’s international trade database.   

“The Saudi-Swiss relations have been growing for more than six decades, and our meeting ... for the 4th Saud-Swiss Financial Dialogue in Zurich embodies the two nations’ keenness to deepen cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Switzerland in various fields, most notably in finance and economics,” Al-Jadaan said in a post on X a day before the event.   

“Today, I was pleased to inaugurate the 4th Saudi-Swiss Financial Dialogue with the participation of the Head of the Federal Department of Finance & Vice President of the Swiss Federal Council, Ms. Karin Keller-Sutter. I emphasized on the Kingdom’s aspiration to explore new areas and markets that would deepen the existing cooperation between the two nations,” the minister added in another post.

In February, a high-profile delegation of Swiss business leaders visited Saudi Arabia to explore burgeoning trade and investment prospects in the Kingdom.   

Guy Parmelin, a Swiss Federal Councillor and head of the Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, led the delegation at the time.  

In an interview with Arab News during his visit, Parmelin highlighted the robust growth in trade between Switzerland and Saudi Arabia in recent years. “Swiss companies are very interested in investing in the Kingdom,” he added.   

He emphasized the eagerness of the accompanying business delegation to capitalize on Saudi Arabia’s rapidly transforming economic landscape.   

In November 2022, during an official visit to Riyadh, Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer met with his Saudi counterpart, Al-Jadaan, and they signed a cooperation agreement to inaugurate the third Saudi-Swiss Financial Dialogue.   

Lauding the strength of the Saudi economy, Maurer stressed the importance of bilateral dialogues in developing economic activities in both countries and strengthening Switzerland’s role as a strategic partner for the Kingdom in achieving the goals of Vision 2030. 


Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism

Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism
Updated 20 June 2024
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Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism

Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism
  • Pakistan released tax-heavy budget last week which investors believe will strengthen case for new IMF bailout
  • Market breached 78,000 level for first time during intraday trade as it reopened after five-day break on Thursday

KARACHI: Pakistan’s benchmark share index rose 2.8 percent to a new record high on Thursday, driven by expectations last week’s budget will strengthen the case for a new bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

The government’s budget was welcomed by investors as it avoided an anticipated increase in capital gains tax, despite an ambitious tax revenue target.

The market extended its post-budget rally on Thursday when it reopened after a five-day break, which included a public holiday, and breached the key 78,000 level for the first time during intraday trade.

Foreign portfolio investment in the market is at the highest in almost ten years, with inflows of $83 million as of June 14, data compiled by Topline Securities and JS Global Capital showed.

Sohail Mohammed, CEO of Topline Securities, said that a statement from credit rating agency Fitch that the budget would strengthen the prospects for an IMF deal would help to bring more foreign inflows.

The benchmark share index is up 26.2 percent year to date and has almost doubled since Pakistan signed a nine-month standby arrangement with the IMF last summer.

“Pakistani equity investors are driving the PSX higher, continuing to unlock valuations on better sentiment, which is a trend that began when Pakistan signed its last IMF deal last summer,” said Amreen Soorani, head of research at JS Global Capital.

“The trend paused briefly on anticipation of stricter capital gains taxes, which did not materialize,” she said, adding that the index is trading at a four times price to earnings ratio despite the recent rally and offers attractive dividend yields.

The financial sector was up 4.4 percent, with banks like UBL, HBL, MCB, Bank Alfalah, Habib Metropolitan Bank, Allied Bank, up more than 4 percent.

Adnaan Sheikh, assistant vice president of research at Pak Kuwait Investment Company, said that foreign investor interest and the central bank’s decision to cut its key rate by 150 basis points last week — its first rate cut in nearly four years — had pushed the market up.

Apart from the capital gains tax, analysts said the budget and other revenue measures were in line with expectations and key to sealing a new IMF program. This will include a challenging tax target of a near-40 percent jump from the current year and a sharp drop in the fiscal deficit to 5.9 percent of GDP from 7.4 percent for the current year.

Sheikh said the strict budgetary measures to secure new IMF funding will be likely to attract more foreign investors to the market, in addition to the current inflows.

Pakistan’s lower house of parliament is set to meet later on Thursday to debate the budget that the government presented last week. 


Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says

Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says
Updated 20 June 2024
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Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says

Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s state-backed initiatives, including NEOM and Vision 2030, are driving growth in the construction sector, attracting substantial domestic and international investments, an analysis showed.    

In its latest report, global consultancy firm Turner & Townsend highlighted that the construction activities are also driven by the Kingdom’s preparations for EXPO 2030 and the 2034 FIFA World Cup.   

This comes as Saudi Arabia emerged as the leader in global construction activity for the first quarter, with the Kingdom having $1.5 trillion of projects in the pipeline, according to a report released earlier this month by real estate services firm JLL. 

The JLL analysis further highlighted that the Kingdom accounted for a 39 percent share of the total construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa region, valued at $3.9 trillion. 

“The stand-out story is the accelerated development of Saudi Arabia, where vast ambitions are being realized via projects like The Line, King Salman Park and Diriyah Gate,” said Mark Hamill, director and head of Middle East real estate and major programs, at Turner & Townsend.   

The Line is a linear smart city currently under construction in Saudi Arabia’s $500-billion megacity NEOM, while King Salman Park is a 4102-acre large-scale public park and urban district which is being developed in Riyadh.   

The report highlighted that despite political uncertainties, substantial investments are driving growth in the Gulf region as countries seek to diversify beyond traditional energy sources.  

This occurs against the backdrop of Turner & Townsend ranking the Kingdom as the 19th most expensive country for construction globally, contrasting sharply with the US, which dominated the top 10 list. 

The report further noted that construction cost inflation in Riyadh is easing from the highs of 7.0 percent seen in 2023, but is forecasted to remain high at 5.0 percent through 2024.   

The analysis also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to attract global corporate occupiers through its Regional Headquarters Program.  

It added: “This scheme encourages companies to launch offices in Saudi Arabia and there are cost advantages to office investment with an average high-rise central business district office in Riyadh costing a relatively low $2,266 per sq. m.”   

The UK-based company also pointed out that Saudi Arabia is also facing a shortage of skilled labor which is crucial to materialize and fulfill construction activities as planned.   

“Skilled labor shortages are also keeping costs elevated as Saudi Arabia suffers from a distinct shortage of skilled labor that is vital to deliver its most ambitious programs. The talent and resources needed for giga-projects in the country are also stretching overall supply chain capacity across the Middle East,” said the report.     

Regional insight  

According to the report, Qatar’s capital city Doha is the second most expensive market in the region at $2,096 per sq. m.   

However, following the high output in the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, construction cost inflation is projected to fall from 3.5 percent in 2023 to 2.5 percent in 2024, the study said.   

On the other hand, Dubai has an average cost to build of $1,874 per sq. m., supported by high tourism activity and residential sector development.  

“The UAE has been a hotspot for tourism in the region in recent years and its relatively low cost of construction, when compared with Western markets, still makes it an attractive place to build the hubs and amenities for international visitors,” said the report.     

It added: “In Dubai, residential development is buoying the local market as the city aims to support its growing population. Its attractiveness as a market is bolstered by its comparably low cost of construction.”   

On the other hand, Abu Dhabi is the fourth most expensive market in the Middle East at $1,844.2 per sq. m.   

Hamill noted that there are considerable real estate opportunities in the UAE and Qatar as inflation cools.   

He added: “Nevertheless, with labor capacity being stretched across the region, clients will need to review their procurement and contracting models to help mitigate supply chain disruption and maximize the potential opportunities on offer.”   

Global outlook  

The report revealed that construction pipelines globally are set to grow this year, but skill shortage could remain a major concern.   

“The global real estate market is emerging from a challenging period of inflationary pressures, volatility and disruption. Our sector has proved resilient, and a focus on building new approaches to procurement and supply chain development to drive efficiency and productivity is opening new opportunities across many markets,” said Neil Bullen, managing director, global real estate at Turner & Townsend.   

He added: “Clients need to understand where labor bottlenecks may constrain their capital investment programs and work collaboratively with the supply chain to understand how best to mitigate the risk to delivery.”   

The US dominated the rankings of the most expensive places to build, with six cities from the country grabbing their spots in the top 10 list.   

New York retained its position as the most expensive market to build in for the second year running at an average cost of $5,723 per sq. m., closely followed by San Francisco at $5,489.   

Zurich came in the third spot as it surpassed Geneva in the ranking with an average cost of $5,035 per sq. m. Geneva, which came in the fourth spot, averaged $5,022 per sq. m.   

US cities Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and Chicago came in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth spots respectively in the list.   

From Asia, Hong Kong came in the ninth spot with an average cost of $4,500, followed by London at $4,473.   

The report also highlighted that implementing technology in the construction sector could help overcome various challenges faced by the industry.   

“Accelerating digitalization also presents a huge opportunity, but this requires us to keep up with the demand for skilled labor, and persistent shortages risk constraining potential growth,” said Bullen.   

He added: “As interest rate cuts become an increasing possibility for many markets, and pent-up investor appetite can be unlocked, capacity could be tested still further.”