Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments

Exclusive Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments
The Kingdom boasts rich biodiversity, including 266 coral and 1,230 types of fish. Supplied.
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Updated 14 June 2024

Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments

Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has detailed its successful balancing of biodiversity conservation with its investment initiatives.

The Public Investment Fund highlighted its undertakings spanning diverse sectors, with a focus on sustainable, eco-friendly, and luxurious tourism, as well as responsible mining practices.

According to the UN, human activity, driven largely by unsustainable practices, is the primary driver behind an ongoing biodiversity crisis, with 44,000 species endangered, 70 percent of coral reefs at risk, and fertile land loss surging by 29 percent since 2000.

Saudi Arabia, home to a vast array of plant and animal species, is actively addressing these challenges. 

In a statement, PIF emphasized its role as a major contributor to the Kingdom’s goals for protecting the environment, climate, natural resources, and biodiversity.

The fund pointed out that “it is possible to align successful and realist investment with environmental priorities.”

This holistic approach also promotes responsible investment in protected areas, particularly in nations rich in biodiversity – a commitment echoed by PIF as it strives to achieve Saudi Arabia’s environmental and biodiversity conservation goals.

One of the Kingdom’s wealth fund’s initiatives is Red Sea Global, which was established to develop tourist destinations in harmony with sustainable practices. 

The giga-project has conducted extensive baseline studies of marine biodiversity in the Red Sea and Amala regions to inform strategic planning aimed at nurturing the region’s tourism sector while preserving its ecological balance.

Building on its environmental database, Red Sea Global aims to achieve a 30 percent positive biodiversity conservation return by 2040.

Its initiatives include species protection and habitat restoration efforts, supported by accolades such as the “Regional Sector Leader” award from the Global Real Estate Sustainability Index.

PIF is keen to preserve Saudi Arabia’s wide range of biodiversity. Supplied

PIF’s commitment extends beyond tourism to initiatives like Dan Co., which is dedicated to eco-friendly tourism projects across Saudi Arabia. 

Launched in December 2023, Dan Co. aims “to achieve leadership in the field of rural and environmental tourism” through partnerships with local communities, offering visitors experiences that showcase Saudi Arabia’s diverse cultural values.

Moreover, Soudah Development Co. focuses on creating luxury mountain tourism destinations in Asir, integrating environmental sustainability with cultural preservation and community empowerment. 

By partnering with local wildlife and vegetation conservation authorities, Soudah Development plays a crucial role in advancing Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Green Initiative to combat climate change and promote sustainable development.

In tandem with these efforts, mining company Ma’aden has embarked on environmental undertakings, including projects for vegetation improvement and mangrove preservation along coastal areas—crucial for community livelihoods and ecological stability. 

Ma’aden’s commitment to biodiversity management sets benchmarks for responsible mining practices across its operational spectrum.

According to PIF, these collaborative models illustrate that robust investment strategies can coexist with environmental conservation imperatives. 

The fund stated: “PIF is moving toward achieving sustainable economic and social development capable of ensuring continued economic growth while protecting natural diversity through an integrated system of vital initiatives and projects that shape the future for generations to come.”

The Kingdom boasts rich biodiversity, including 499 species of birds, 117 mammals, 107 reptiles, 266 coral, 1,230 types of fish, eight amphibians, and over 2,400 flowering plants, according to the National Center for Wildlife.

Recent events, such as Saudi Arabia’s participation at the High-Level Event on Ocean Action in San José, Costa Rica, on June 10, underscore the Kingdom commitment’s in this field. 

The event, attended by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Climate Affairs Envoy Adel Al-Jubeir, focused on sharing expertise in ocean governance and safety, addressing critical challenges marine environments face. 

At the accompanying exhibition, the Saudi delegation showcased national initiatives under the banner of “Blue Saudi,” highlighting efforts such as assessing and rehabilitating environmental habitats in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. 

Emphasizing the importance of preserving biodiversity, the delegation presented plans to designate protected areas and ambitious programs to plant mangrove trees and combat plastic pollution through legislative measures and waste management initiatives. 

Saudi Arabia reiterated its commitment to sustainable practices under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, underscoring its dedication to conserving marine biodiversity.

In May of this year, the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve in Saudi Arabia achieved accreditation as “the first major biodiversity site in the Kingdom,” confirmed by Key Biodiversity Areas. 

The reserve, spanning 130,700 sq. km, meets three global standards, including the presence of endangered species, qualifying it for this prestigious recognition, which coincides with the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22 each year.

Managed by the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve Development Authority, the Saudi reserve aims to safeguard endangered species, enhance natural habitats, promote environmental awareness, and mitigate threats from natural and human factors. 

This area is recognized as the largest nature reserve in the Middle East.

Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105

Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105
Updated 26 sec ago

Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105

Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Tuesday, losing 69.22 points, or 0.57 percent, to close at 12,105.54.        

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.8 billion ($1.8 billion) as 55 of the listed stocks advanced, while 173 retreated.    

The MSCI Tadawul Index also dropped 10.49 points, or 0.69 percent, to close at 1,512.94.    

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu gained 123.53 points, or 0.47 percent, to close at 26,164. This comes as 33 of the listed stocks advanced, while 32 retreated.  

Sumou Real Estate Co. was TASI’s best-performing stock as the company’s share price surged 9.98 percent to SR47.95.        

Other top performers included Kingdom Holding Co. as well as Perfect Presentation for Commercial Services Co., whose share prices soared by 9.93 percent and 4.04 percent, to stand at SR7.86 and SR15.96 respectively.        

Other top gainers included Nayifat Finance Co. and Gulf Union Alahlia Cooperative Insurance Co.      

Miahona Co. was the worst performer, wth its share price dropping by 6.82 percent to SR39.60.    

Nama Chemicals Co. and Jadwa REIT Saudi Fund saw their share prices drop by 3.39 percent and 3.22 percent to SR27.10 and SR12.02, respectively.

Other poor performers included Rasan Information Technology Co. and National Medical Care Co.

On the announcements front, First Mills Co. reported a net profit of SR45.5 million in the second quarter of the year, representing a rise of 30.3 percent compared to the same period in 2023.

Revenue also saw an annual increase of 13 percent in the second quarter of this year to reach SR242.3 million.

The company announced that it will distribute cash dividends of SR1.55 per share to shareholders for the first half of 2024.

The total dividend distribution amounts to SR86.03 million, to be allocated across 55 million shares.    

Saudi telecom Etihad Etisalat Co., also known as Mobily, reported a 33 percent increase in profits, reaching SR661 million in the second quarter of 2024, compared to SR497 million in the same period last year.  

The company attributed the rise in net profit to higher operating profits and a 26.2 percent reduction in financing expenses, which decreased to SR130 million due to a reduced debt portfolio.    

Lower zakat and income tax expenses also contributed to the improved financial performance, it added.  

Saudi Telecom Co. also reported a 9 percent increase in profits, reaching SR3.3 billion in the second quarter, compared to SR3.0 billion in the same period last year.  

The company attributed the rise in net profit to a revenue increase of SR828 million, which was partially offset by a SR272 million rise in the cost of revenues, resulting in a gross profit increase of SR556 million.    

Operating expenses decreased by SR48 million, and zakat and income tax expenses fell by SR23 million, it added.

Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 

Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 
Updated 23 July 2024

Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 

Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 

RIYADH: The unavailability of certain key data has led Fitch Ratings to withdraw from categorizing Lebanon, as the agency no longer has sufficient information to maintain its assessment of the nation. 

The global credit rating agency has affirmed Lebanon’s long-term foreign and local-currency issuer default ratings as restricted and has subsequently withdrawn the nation’s IDR and country ceiling. 

Restricted default indicates a country has neglected specific financial obligations while continuing to meet others. 

This means that the agency has confirmed Lebanon’s long-term debt ratings as restricted and ceased providing assessments and analysis for the country due to insufficient data. 

Lebanon has been in default on its foreign-currency obligations since March 2020, significantly influencing its rating assessment. 

The government’s failure to repay the Eurobond, which was due on March 9, 2020, led to its categorization as restricted default.

“The government has stopped servicing its outstanding stock of Eurobonds pending a debt restructuring,” the agency said.  

The local-currency IDRs remain in restricted default due to the government’s failure to resume interest payments on Banque du Liban’s holdings of local-currency securities despite continuing to serve local-currency debt to private creditors. 

Fitch also stated that the authorities have not initiated a local-currency debt restructuring. 

The agency’s decision to withdraw Lebanon’s ratings was driven by the issuer’s cessation of publishing national accounts and fiscal data, which are now only available up to 2021. 

This lack of up-to-date financial information has made it unfeasible for Fitch to maintain accurate ratings. 

The agency added that Lebanon’s environmental, social, and governance relevance score for political stability and rights and for the rule of law, institutional and regulatory quality, and control of corruption stands at five. 

This reflects the high impact of the World Bank Governance Indicators in Fitch’s Sovereign Rating Model. 

“Lebanon has a low WBGI ranking at 14.8, reflecting the absence of a recent track record of peaceful political transitions, relatively weak rights for participation in the political process, weak institutional capacity, uneven application of the rule of law and a high level of corruption,” the agency added. 

Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets

Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets
Updated 4 min 34 sec ago

Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets

Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets
  • The order was worth $8.8 billion at catalogue prices
  • Qatar Airways held out the prospect of a ‘sizeable’ order for wide-body jets around the turn of the year

FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom: Qatar Airways on Tuesday ordered 20 Boeing 777X long-haul aircraft worth $8.8 billion at list prices, boosting the US aviation giant at Britain’s Farnborough International Airshow.
“Qatar Airways is proud to announce an expansion to the existing Boeing 777X aircraft order with an additional 20, totalling 94 Boeing 777X aircraft,” said the airline’s chief executive Badr Mohammed Al-Meer.
“We... are an industry leader and operate one of the youngest fleets, offering unparalleled innovation and quality. Keeping an eye on the future, we continue to ensure that all Qatar Airways passengers are only met with the best products and services available in the industry.”
The order was worth $8.8 billion at catalogue prices although major aviation customers typically secure big discounts from aircraft manufacturers.
Boeing’s 777X began test flights earlier this month in preparation for certification to enter service. That is expected in 2025, which is five years behind schedule.

The blockbuster news came on the second day of the biennial Farnborough Airshow, which traditionally features a dogfight between Airbus and Boeing for multi-billion-dollar orders.
More plane orders flowed in at the Airshow on Tuesday despite supply chain pressures on jetmakers and the complaints from airlines about delivery delays.
Airbus announced deals with Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, while Boeing bagged an order from Macquarie Airfinance. 
Delegates have been expecting limited deal-making at this year’s showcase aviation industry event, with Airbus and Boeing sold out for several years of production and struggling to ramp up output amid supply chain problems.
Delays in plane deliveries have limited some airlines’ ability to take advantage of a post-pandemic travel boom which some say is starting to fade.
“I think all of us on the airline side are slightly surprised by the long impact of COVID on the supply chain,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss told Reuters, as his airline ordered seven Airbus A330-900s in a deal worth $807 million, according to estimated delivery prices from Cirium Ascend.
“We’re urging our ... engine suppliers, the manufacturers, to do everything they can to get back on track.”
Boeing in particular had to scale back production as it came under legal and regulatory scrutiny after a panel blew off mid-air on a near-new 737 MAX 9 in January.

Japan Airlines finalized an order for 20 Airbus A350-900 and 11 A321neo jets to be delivered from 2028, worth just over $3 billion in total, according to Cirium Ascend estimates.
The airline had said in March it would buy 21 wide-body A350s and 11 A321neo narrow-body jets, but it is only ordering 20 A350s now as it will receive one as a replacement for a jet destroyed in January in a collision with a Coast Guard aircraft.
Macquarie Airfinance, meanwhile, ordered 20 Boeing 737 MAX-8 planes to be delivered in 2029-2030, worth just over $1 billion, according Cirium Ascend estimates.

Also at the show, Al-Meer said Qatar Airways would decide on a “sizeable” new order of wide-body jets around the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2025.
He added the company had also decided to extend the service life of its Airbus A380 jets and would carry out upgrades including new wifi.
Airlines are increasingly looking to run existing planes for longer as jetmakers struggle to deliver on their order backlogs.
Consultancy Bain said in a report last week that airlines faced their longest-ever waits for engine maintenance amid the shortfall in new aircraft, adding to their costs.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said at the air show that his airline was being “very vigilant” on new plane deliveries, but that at the moment “our planes are broadly coming in the timelines that we need them to come.”
(With AFP and Reuters)

Saudi Arabia leads GCC bond market with $37bn issuance in H1 

Saudi Arabia leads GCC bond market with $37bn issuance in H1 
Updated 23 July 2024

Saudi Arabia leads GCC bond market with $37bn issuance in H1 

Saudi Arabia leads GCC bond market with $37bn issuance in H1 
  • Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes several megaprojects that require substantial funding.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia emerged as the top issuer in the Gulf Cooperation Council bond market during the first half of 2024, raising $37 billion through 44 issuances, according to recent data. 

The Markaz GCC Bonds and Sukuk Market Report indicated that this figure marks a 12.5 percent increase from the same period last year, representing 49 percent of the total new supply of GCC bonds and sukuk.

The overall value of GCC primary issuances reached $75.5 billion during this period, up 38 percent from $54.8 billion in the first half of 2023, with the number rising to 173 from 130. 

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes several megaprojects that require substantial funding. While the Kingdom’s banks have traditionally relied on deposit growth as their primary funding source, the scale of these projects exceeds their liquidity capabilities.  

Consequently, these banks are expected to seek additional deposits and access the international debt market to meet their financing needs. Additionally, these projects receive significant support from the central government and related entities. 

The Public Investment Fund has announced plans to deploy $70 billion annually after 2025 and is considering its own fundraising initiatives. 

Samer Jumean, partner and head of infrastructure at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, said in a Bloomberg interview an immense scale of financing is required, noting that while liquidity remains available, accessing capital markets is prudent. 

Despite these ambitious funding needs, Saudi banks’ balance sheets are still considered healthy, with S&P Global Ratings assigning investment-grade ratings and stable outlooks to most key lenders. They may not be able to shoulder the entire financial burden of Vision 2030 on their own, however.

Debt issuances by geography 

According to the Markaz report, the UAE followed Saudi Arabia in terms of value, raising $20.6 billion through 65 issuances during the first half of 2024, compared to $15.4 billion from 58 issuances during the same period last year. This represented 27 percent of the total value of primary GCC bonds and sukuk issuances. 

Qatari entities were the third-largest issuers within the GCC, with $10.5 billion, marking a 416 percent increase from the same period last year. 

Bahraini institutions raised $3 billion through 4 issuances, capturing 4 percent of the market while Omani entities secured $1.7 billion, representing 2 percent of the total. 

Kuwaiti issuers raised $2.6 billion through 15 offerings, a 791 percent increase from $300 million in the same period last year, also representing 4 percent of the market. 

According to the report, 75 percent of GCC conventional and sukuk bond offerings in the first half of 2024 were rated by major credit rating agencies, including S&P, Moody’s, Fitch, and Capital Intelligence. 

This is a decrease from 85 percent in the same period the previous year. Of these rated issuances, 71 percent were classified as investment grade, highlighting a strong focus on high-quality debt despite the overall decline in the proportion of rated bonds. 

This shift indicates evolving dynamics in the regional bond market, with a slightly reduced emphasis on credit ratings but a sustained preference for investment-grade securities. 

Sector allocation 

According to Markaz, the government sector led primary debt offerings by value in the first six months of this year, raising $41.5 billion, or 55 percent of the total GCC issuances.  

In July, Saudi Arabia expanded access to its local bond markets by appointing five new financial institutions — Albilad Investment Co., AlJazira Capital Co., Al Rajhi Capital Co., Derayah Financial Co., and Saudi Fransi Capital Co. — as primary distributors of government debt instruments. 

These institutions join existing primary dealers including Saudi National Bank, Saudi Awwal Bank, and AlJazira Bank, as well as Alinma Bank, and AlRajhi Bank. This expansion aims to diversify the investor base and enhance opportunities for participation in the local debt market through additional distribution channels. 

Following the government sector, the financial segment, including quasi-government entities, raised $28.8 billion, or 38 percent of the total offerings. The utilities sector came next, raising $2.9 billion through five issuances, representing 4 percent of the market. 

Sovereign versus corporate 

The Markaz bonds report highlighted a notable shift toward sovereign debt issuance in the GCC for 2024. Total primary sovereign issuances surged 77 percent to $41.5 billion in the first half of the year, compared to $23.4 billion in the same period of 2023. 

Saudi Arabia led this increase with a $5 billion sukuk issuance, marking the largest sovereign issuance in the GCC. In contrast, Kuwait did not participate in sovereign bond issuance during this period. 

Corporate debt issuance in the GCC also saw growth, rising 8 percent to $34 billion in the first half of 2024, up from $31.4 billion the previous year. Government-related entities accounted for $9.1 billion, or 22 percent of the total corporate debt issued. 

The UAE emerged as the top issuer with $12.8 billion in corporate debt, while Saudi Arabia’s PIF made headlines with its $1.8 billion issuance, the largest corporate bond offering in the GCC during this period. 

Conventional versus sukuk 

In the first six months of 2024, Saudi Arabia led the regional sukuk market with a $5 billion issuance, significantly contributing to the overall rise in sukuk across the GCC. 

Sukuk volumes increased 14 percent compared to the same period in 2023, totaling $26.6 billion through 31 issuances. 

In contrast, conventional bond issuances surged to $48.8 billion, marking a 56 percent rise from the first half of 2023, with the Saudi government also leading in this category with a $4.8 billion offering. 

S&P Global Ratings projects a stable global sukuk issuance forecast of $160 billion to $170 billion for the year, reflecting strong early performance in 2024. 

Global sukuk issuance reached $91.9 billion in the first six months, up slightly from $91.3 billion the previous year. Notably, foreign currency sukuk saw a 23.8 percent rise, reaching $32.7 billion, driven primarily by issuers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman, as well as Malaysia, and Kuwait.

Saudi industry minister meets with Brazilian companies to discuss vaccine localization

Saudi industry minister meets with Brazilian companies to discuss vaccine localization
Updated 43 min 55 sec ago

Saudi industry minister meets with Brazilian companies to discuss vaccine localization

Saudi industry minister meets with Brazilian companies to discuss vaccine localization
  • Bandar Alkhorayef visited the Butantan Institute, which he deemed the world leader in biotechnology research

RIYADH: Following meetings between Saudi Arabia’s industry minister and Brazilian companies, the Kingdom aims to boost the localization of vaccines and pharmaceuticals by leveraging Brazil’s expertise.

During his discussions with several investors in the South American nation, Bandar Alkhorayef indicated the scope of the potential collaboration, as the sector plays a large part in the country’s National Industrial Strategy.

This is due to its crucial role in achieving pharmaceutical and health security and enhancing the Kingdom’s independence in this field by securing its medical needs and building specialized industrial capacities.

Saudi Arabia’s Vaccines and Biomedicines Industry Committee, led by Alkhorayef, aims to identify the best technologies for investment. Its goal is to transfer and localize knowledge, building local industrial platforms with international standards to establish the Kingdom as a logistics and industrial powerhouse for vaccines and vital medicines in the Middle East and the Islamic world.

In a release on his X account, the minister said he visited the Butantan Institute, which he deemed the world leader in biotechnology research, adding: “I discussed with the director of the institute ways to enhance cooperation in the localization of the vaccine and pharmaceutical industry."

During his discussions with investors and company heads, Alkhorayef underscored Brazil’s readiness to partner with Saudi Arabia across all targeted industrial sectors, particularly pharmaceuticals and vaccines. 

This collaboration is seen as a strategic move to leverage both nations’ strengths to develop supply chains, enhance technological exchange, and drive innovation for sustainable development.

Alkhorayef announced in June 2022 investment opportunities in the sector worth over SR11 billion ($2.9 billion). Saudi Arabia is keen to attract world-class interest in healthcare by offering financial incentives and leveraging its robust capabilities. The primary objective is to localize 80 to 90 percent of insulin production.

By building strategic partnerships with leading international companies, transferring technology and knowledge, and fostering public-private partnerships, the Kingdom aims to ensure sustainable growth in the healthcare sector. 

The focus on increasing local content and adopting the latest medical technologies underscores the nation’s ambition to become a major regional pharmaceutical manufacturing center.