Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
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CEO of Fincantieri, Pieroberto Forgiero, during his speech at the event. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)
Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
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CEO of Fincantieri, Pierroberto Folgiero, during his speech. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)
Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
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Saudi decisionmakers from related sectors in Riyadh joined Italian officials in a range of sessions at the forum. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)
Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
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Her Excellency Maria Tripodi, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and His Excellency Khalil Ibrahim Bin Salamah, Deputy Minister for Industry Affairs. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 25 May 2024
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Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
  • Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, says CEO

RIYADH: One of the world’s biggest shipbuilders will work in partnership with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the Kingdom’s maritime sector, with a focus on sustainability and the development of “green shipping.”

Fincantieri, an Italian company and Europe’s largest shipbuilding group, highlighted its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda at a conference under the theme “Where Vision Meets Maritime Excellence” held in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Saudi decisionmakers from related sectors in Riyadh joined Italian officials in a range of sessions at the forum.

During the event, Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero outlined the shipbuilder’s plans to collaborate with Saudi companies in line with Vision 2030.

“Our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is steadfast,” he said.

Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, and has a leading role in the naval, cruise, and oil and gas sectors, Folgiero said.

The CEO highlighted the importance of developing green ships, designed to minimize the environmental impact of maritime operations, as part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.

Digitizing shipyard operations through innovations such as AI also aligns with the goals of Vision 2030, Folgiero said.

“Today, the shipping industry and the maritime industry, in general, is coping with environmental regulation. For us, it is not only a source of compliance, but also a source of distinctiveness. So, we believe that in the maritime sector, in the shipbuilding sector, mastering energy transition and new technologies will be a source of competitiveness and distinctiveness,” he said.

“That is why we are engaged in all the solutions (regarding) energy transition at sea. We are a new engine. We are in biofuels. We are in methanol. We are in LNG. We are in ammonia. We are in hydrogen. We are everywhere there is innovation at sea.”

Maria Tripodi, undersecretary of state for foreign affairs at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, discussed the significance of keeping operations and businesses sustainable.

Fincantieri’s ships are built to produce zero carbon emissions, which helps to protect the environment and marine ecosystem, she said.

Khalil Ibrahim bin Salamah, deputy minister for industry affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, said: “Localization for us is a key factor. Key components are crucial, but the whole supply chain is equally important.”


Riyadh among top 5 startup ecosystems, report states

Riyadh among top 5 startup ecosystems, report states
Updated 11 sec ago
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Riyadh among top 5 startup ecosystems, report states

Riyadh among top 5 startup ecosystems, report states

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh is among the top five startup ecosystems in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to new data. 

The international policy advisory and research organization Startup Genome, in collaboration with the Global Entrepreneurship Network, revealed that three of the Kingdom’s cities were among the top-ranked startup ecosystems in the region. 

Riyadh was ranked fourth, with Jeddah and Alkhobar also making the list, according to Startup Genome’s latest Global Startup Ecosystem report. 

The criteria for inclusion in the list required ecosystems to be ranked in the top 40 global leaders or top 200 emerging environments or to have a value greater than $200 million. 

Furthermore, Riyadh was also one of two MENA ecosystems making the global list of cities with four or more unicorns in the last 10 years, the other being Dubai. 

A company is termed a unicorn when it reaches a valuation of $1 billion without being listed on the stock market. 

The report highlighted that the capital was ranked between 51 and 60 internationally, with its funding performance ranking seven out of 10. 

The Kingdom was also praised for its proactive approach to embracing artificial intelligence, with the report highlighting the nation’s $40 billion commitment to boosting the technology. 

The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, was ranked as the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the region, with a global rank between 61 and 70. 

“In a nation emboldened by its strategic vision to become a dominant global technology hub, the UAE is establishing its capital city as one of the world’s most prominent destinations for high-growth technology companies,” the report stated. 

Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem was valued at $4.2 billion, with one unicorn between 2021 and 2023. The city also saw a median funding of $825,000 in seed rounds. Total venture capital funding amounted to $1.1 billion between 2019 and 2023, with 16 exits during the same period. 

The region has seen significant growth in venture capital and startup development in recent years, mostly driven by Saudi Arabia. 

In 2023, the Kingdom secured 52 percent of the total VC funding in the MENA region, a substantial increase from the 31 percent share it held in 2022. 

Saudi Arabia’s startup ecosystem ranked first in regional venture funding activities in 2023, amassing an unprecedented $1.38 billion in capital.  

This achievement positioned the Kingdom at the forefront of venture capital funding in the Middle East and North Africa, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time, as reported by MAGNiTT in their Saudi Arabia FY2023 report. 


Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors
Updated 5 min 20 sec ago
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Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

RIYADH: International exhibitors have already secured half of the space at the World Defense Show set to be held in Riyadh in 206, demonstrating strong early interest in the biennial event.

The defense and security exhibition, scheduled for Feb 8-12 and covering an area of 800,000 sq. m., follows the successful conclusion of its second edition in February. The event attracted a record number of 773 exhibitors, all aiming to capitalize on the Kingdom’s status as one of the largest defense spenders worldwide. 

In the state budget announced in December 2023, the Saudi Arabia allocated SR269 billion ($71.70 billion) for the military sector this year, reflecting an 8.5 percent increase from the 2023 estimates.  

Andrew Pearcey, CEO of the World Defense Show, said: “The demand has been phenomenal. Just four months after the second edition of the show closed, to global industry approbation, we have already sold 50 percent of the floorspace for the third edition.”  

He added: “Many of the industry’s leading multi-domain businesses booked their stands for 2026 during the 2024 event. I am in no doubt that World Defense Show 2026, will be an essential event for global companies across the defense supply chain.” 

The CEO highlighted that the third edition of the event further solidifies the entity’s position as the emerging global hub for the defense industry. 

The early bookings for the event are in line with the show’s vision to serve as a platform where the global defense industry can convene, connect, and gain valuable insights into the latest innovation-driven defense and security solutions. 

The event also aims to foster integration across air, land, sea, space, and security domains to accelerate advancements in defense technologies.  


‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF

‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF
Updated 54 min 19 sec ago
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‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF

‘Central Bank Digital Currencies’ can boost Middle East’s financial inclusion: IMF

RIYADH: Digital currencies are gaining traction in the Middle East and Central Asia, with countries increasingly considering central bank-issued options to enhance financial inclusion, an analysis said. 

In a blog, the International Monetary Fund noted that economies in these regions are also moving toward digital currencies to improve the efficiency of cross-border payments. 

CBDCs are a form of digital money issued by a central bank, distinct from cryptocurrencies. 

The analysis showed that 19 countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are currently in the research stage of developing nationally-issued digital currencies. 

“Bahrain, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have moved to the more advanced ‘proof-of-concept’ stage. Kazakhstan is the most advanced after two pilot programs for the digital tenge,” said IMF. 

Earlier in June, Saudi Arabia joined a China-dominated Central Bank Digital Currency cross-border trial, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

The trial will see the Saudi Central Bank becoming a “full participant” in Project mBridge, a collaboration launched in 2021 between the central banks of China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the UAE. 

Project mBridge, overseen by BIS, is a multi-CBDC platform developed to support real-time, cross-border payments and foreign exchange transactions. 

On June 2, the Qatar Central Bank announced the completion of the infrastructure development for its CBDC project.  

In a press statement, QCB said that the move aligns with global advancements in digital currency, aiming to enhance Qatar’s financial sector. 

The apex bank noted that it will start testing and developing selected applications of the CBDC for settling large payments with local and international banks. 

As of March, central banks in 134 countries, accounting for 98 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, were in various stages of evaluating the launch of a national digital currency, according to the Atlantic Council.  

The US think tank also revealed that the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Nigeria have already fully launched a CBDC. 

IMF said that adopting a CBDC, however, requires careful consideration. “Countries across these regions, spanning a diverse group of economies stretching from Morocco and Egypt to Pakistan and Kazakhstan, each must weigh their own unique set of circumstances.” 

Cross-border payments 

According to the IMF, CBDCs can potentially enhance the efficiency of cross-border payment services, which is crucial for oil-exporting countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, as well as Bahrain, and Kuwait. 

“That’s because cross-border payments tend to have frictions like varying data formats and operating rules across regions and complex compliance checks. CBDCs that address these inefficiencies could significantly cut transaction costs,” said the international financial institution.  

The report added that CBDCs can also promote financial inclusion by fostering competition in the payments market and enabling more direct transactions with less intermediation.  

Moreover, central banks can help keep costs lower as they are not profit-driven like commercial banks. 

“Increased competition in the payments market from a CBDC could also encourage upgrading technology platforms and the efficiency of payment services, helping financial services reach more people,” said IMF.  

Countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa oil importers, and low-income countries are particularly interested in this potential benefit. 

The IMF further pointed out that designing CBDCs to work offline could promote financial inclusion in areas with unreliable mobile services, such as low-income and conflict-affected regions.  

Additionally, using national digital currencies for cross-border transfers could reduce remittance costs and speed up transfer times. 

Impacts on commercial banks 

The analysis indicated that deposits constitute a significant portion of bank funding in the region, around 83 percent. A CBDC could compete with bank deposits, potentially impacting bank profits and lending, and posing implications for financial stability, the IMF noted. 

However, the report added that financial institutions in the region generally possess adequate capital levels, profit margins, and liquidity buffers, which could mitigate strains on deposits. 

CBDCs could enhance the pass-through into deposit rates by increasing competition among financial institutions, and they could also strengthen the bank lending channel of monetary policy. “However, the impact would likely be country-specific and is difficult to estimate due to limited CBDC uptake so far,” the IMF stated. 

The report emphasized that policymakers play a crucial role in addressing potential risks posed by national digital currencies. It added, “While there are no clear prerequisites for adopting CBDCs, a healthy banking system, a sound legal system, and strong supervisory and regulatory capacity are essential for reducing risks.” 

The IMF suggested that national digital currencies should be carefully calibrated to avoid competition with commercial bank deposits. “Design features are a crucial consideration. Our survey shows that selecting appropriate features for CBDC implementation is a key challenge for regional policymakers,” the report highlighted. 

Introducing national digital currencies will be a long and complex process, and central banks should approach it with care. 

The IMF also urged policymakers to determine if a CBDC serves their country’s objectives and whether the expected benefits outweigh the potential costs and risks to the financial system.  


Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris

Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris
Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris

Saudi Arabia advances preparations for Riyadh Expo as it gives progress report in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 will be “by the world, for the world,” the team behind the event have said during the first progress report since Riyadh was elected as host city.

Speaking at the 174th General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in Paris, Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, emphasized ongoing efforts for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event.

According to a post by Riyadh Expo on X, the delegation also included representatives from the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia was elected as host for the 2030 event on Nov. 28, 2023, during the 173rd General Assembly of the BIE, and the Expo is set to take place from Oct. 1, 2030, to March 31, 2031.

It aims to host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future, structured around three inclusive sub-themes.

Since the Kingdom was elected host, preparations have been underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development and drafting the registration dossier. 

This document will detail the Expo’s legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans. 

Once submitted and reviewed, the BIE General Assembly will formally register Expo 2030 Riyadh, allowing Saudi Arabia to invite international participants and advance preparations.

In early May, BIE Secretary-General Dimitri Kerkentzes completed a technical visit to Riyadh, marking the first such trip since Saudi Arabia’s election as host. 

The four-day visit included technical meetings and discussions on the Expo’s plans and the preparation of the registration dossier. 

Kerkentzes met with key Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and ministers involved in the project.

The BIE official praised Saudi Arabia’s commitment and expressed eagerness to see the project gain momentum as the registration dossier is completed.

The most recent event, Expo 2020 Dubai, saw over 24 million visits. The next World Expo, Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai, will run from April 13 to Oct. 13, 2025, under the theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.”


Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks
Updated 19 June 2024
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Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices slip amid war jitters, surprise build in US crude stocks

SINGAPORE: Oil prices eased slightly during trade on Wednesday but held near their highest levels in seven weeks, as the market weighed concerns over escalating conflicts against demand worries following an unexpected build in US crude inventories, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures eased 17 cents to $85.16 a barrel by 9:35 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude was down 22 cents to $81.35 per barrel.

Both benchmarks gained more than $1 in the previous session after a Ukrainian drone strike led to an oil terminal fire at a major Russian port, according to Russian officials and a Ukrainian intelligence source.

In the Middle East, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned of a nearing “all out war” with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, even as the US attempted to avoid a broader conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah.

An escalating war in the region raises the prospect crude supply from key producers could be disrupted.

Oil prices had recovered quite strongly in the last two weeks, amid potential disruption risks “in the event of a wider conflict, as geopolitical tensions are brought to a new front between Israel and Hezbollah,” said Yeap Jun Rong, a market strategist at IG in Singapore.

“Any cooling off between both parties seems difficult in the near term, which may keep oil prices well-supported as market participants shrug off pockets of weakness on the economic front, from weaker-than-expected US retail sales to mixed sets of data out of China this week.”

China data this week showed May industrial output lagged expectations, but retail sales, a gauge of consumption, marked their quickest growth since February.

Analysts in an ANZ Research report on Wednesday said a broader risk-on tone across global markets supported crude oil prices. Mixed US economic data for May has boosted bets the Federal Reserve will cut rates sooner rather than later, the analysts added, referring to strong industrial production and retail sales that barely rose.

Fed officials are looking for further confirmation that inflation is cooling and for any warning signs from a still-strong labor market as they steer cautiously toward what most expect to be an interest rate cut or two by the end of this year.

Interest rate cuts could reduce borrowing costs, spurring economic activity and lifting oil consumption.

Capping oil prices however, US crude stocks rose by 2.264 million barrels in the week ended June 14, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 2.2 million barrel draw in crude stocks.

Gasoline inventories, however, fell by 1.077 million barrels, while distillates rose by 538,000 barrels, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Official US stocks data from the Energy Information Administration are due at 6.00 p.m. Saudi time.