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
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. Shutterstock
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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.” 


Demand for industrial and logistics assets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi surges 185%: Knight Frank

Demand for industrial and logistics assets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi surges 185%: Knight Frank
Updated 20 sec ago
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Demand for industrial and logistics assets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi surges 185%: Knight Frank

Demand for industrial and logistics assets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi surges 185%: Knight Frank

RIYADH: Industrial and logistics asset demand in Dubai and Abu Dhabi surged 185 percent year-on-year to 18 million sq. feet in the first half of 2024, a new report showed. 

In its industrial market review, Knight Frank noted that the sector’s performance is reflected in the Jebel Ali Industrial Area Second Category, where rents surged 38.5 percent to 36 dirhams ($9.80) per sq. foot.    

Key sectors driving this surge in demand include manufacturing at 11.7 percent, construction at 11.1 percent, and logistics at 10.2 percent, which collectively account for one-third of total demand.   

This growth aligns with Dubai’s Commercial and Logistics Land Transport Strategy 2030, which aims to double the sector’s direct contribution to the emirate’s economy to 16.8 billion dirhams.  

The strategy also targets a 75 percent increase in technology adoption within infrastructure, a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions, and a 10 percent improvement in operational efficiency. 

Maxim Talmatchi, associate partner and co-head of Industrial & Logistics, UAE, at Knight Frank, said: “The industrial and logistics market demonstrates robust fundamentals, characterized by strong demand, minimal vacancies, and a promising pipeline of upcoming projects as developers respond to the rising level of demand.” 

The property consultant also highlighted increasing interest from institutional investors in the US, China, and Europe, with the sector’s global appeal bolstered by attractive yields of around 8.25 percent. 

“There’s a noticeable shortage of high-quality industrial and logistics space in the UAE, especially in Dubai. As the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2023 aims to make Dubai a global industrial hub, there is an urgent need to develop new high-quality stock,” said Mikhail Vereshchagin, Knight Frank’s associate partner, Industrial & Logistics, UAE. 

The London-headquartered firm projected new supply in the UAE’s commercial capital to total 660,000 sq. feet in 2024, with 360,000 sq. feet in the Jebel Ali Free Zone and 300,000 sq. feet in Dubai Industrial City. An additional 1.3 million sq. feet is expected in 2025 across the National Industries Complex, Dubai South, and Dubai Investments Park 2.  

“There is a clear growth trend in demand for better quality, operationally efficient logistics and warehousing space within UAE, and specifically in Dubai,” said David Simons, founder and CEO of UAE-based Radius Group, as quoted in the Knight Frank report. 

The report focused on the Khalifa Economic Zones Abu Dhabi group, which accounts for 55 percent of the UAE’s industrial supply, stating that the group saw strong demand for storage products with occupancy rates reaching 88 percent in the first quarter of 2024.   

General warehouse rents in KEZAD’s 12 economic zones range from 320 to 450 dirhams per sq. meters., while cold storage rents range from 350 to 550 dirhams per square meter.   

“Additionally, we are witnessing a trend toward longer lease commitments, with the average lease length increasing to almost 6 years from around 4 years in 2022,” said Mohamed Al-Ahmed, CEO of KEZAD Group, as quoted in the report.  


Sovereign investors in Middle East exploring emerging markets as geopolitical tensions rise, study says

Sovereign investors in Middle East exploring emerging markets as geopolitical tensions rise, study says
Updated 4 min 29 sec ago
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Sovereign investors in Middle East exploring emerging markets as geopolitical tensions rise, study says

Sovereign investors in Middle East exploring emerging markets as geopolitical tensions rise, study says

RIYADH: Middle Eastern sovereign investors are following their global counterparts by prioritizing India and other emerging markets amid concerns over geopolitical tensions, an analysis said. 

In its latest report, Invesco, a US-based investment management firm, said that 88 percent of global wealth funds, including 100 percent of those in the Middle East region, consider the south Asian country the most attractive destination for investments among emerging economies.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has already expressed its appetite in emerging nations like India. In September 2023, the Kingdom’s Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih expressed the possibility of establishing a sovereign wealth fund office in the Asian country, as well as investing in Indian start-ups that cater to the Saudi markets via venture capital funds.

Commenting on his firm’s report, Josette Rizk, head of Middle East and Africa at Invesco, said: “Amid an unpredictable macro environment, sovereign investors are recalibrating their portfolios, pivoting toward equities, private credit, and hedge funds.”

He added: “Emerging markets are gaining traction, with funds adopting a selective approach.” 

According to the report, wealth funds are looking to reshape their portfolios to reflect the new macro environment, with 27 percent and 50 percent in the Middle East planning to increase allocations to infrastructure over the next year. 

Invesco’s findings are based on the views of 140 chief investment officers, heads of asset classes, and senior portfolio strategists at 83 sovereign wealth funds and 57 central banks, who together manage $22 trillion in assets. 

Geopolitical tensions posing risks to economic growth

The analysis revealed that 95 percent of sovereign investors in the Middle East region opined geopolitical tension as the most serious risk to economic growth over the next 12 months. 

According to the report, inflation also remains a significant concern for these investors, with 43 percent of sovereign wealth funds and central banks globally and 68 percent in the Middle East expecting it to settle above apex banks’ targets. 

The study further noted that almost three-quarters of investors — 71 percent worldwide and 70 percent in the Middle East — anticipate interest rates and bond yields to remain in the mid-single digits over the long term, indicating a shift in expectations.

The rise of private credit

The report noted that private credit is also gaining popularity, with only 35 percent of sovereign wealth funds globally and 22 percent in the Middle East currently having no investments in private credit. 

Invesco opined that the appeal of private credit is driven by diversification from traditional fixed income and its relative value compared to conventional debts. 

The study said that the US is the most attractive market for private credit, with the country being rated the favorite option by 67 percent of the wealth funds globally and 71 percent in the Middle East. 

However, Invesco said there is a growing interest in emerging market private debt, as more than half of the respondents, including 58 percent in the Middle East region, believe there are unexplored opportunities in these countries. 

“Private credit is increasingly attractive to sovereign wealth funds, with many investing through funds and direct deals. 

Sovereign wealth funds in the region developed markets but are also exploring emerging markets while balancing defensive and opportunistic strategies to navigate the competitive landscape,” added Rizk. 

The implementation of AI

Invesco also noted that more than one-third of sovereign investors globally are using advanced technologies like artificial intelligence in their investment process. 

The vast majority — 93 percent worldwide and 100 percent in the Middle East — believe AI will eventually play a role in their organization. 

The rise of generative AI has prompted 66 percent of sovereign wealth funds and central banks globally and 83 percent in the Middle East to reevaluate their current AI strategies and explore new applications for this technology. 

The survey also found that half of these investors globally and 80 percent in the Middle East are confident that the implementation of AI can enhance returns. 

“Sovereign investors in the region are increasingly adopting AI in their investment processes, recognizing its potential to become an essential tool. While challenges exist, funds are investing in training and partnerships to overcome barriers,” noted Rizk. 

Growing importance of ESG

Invesco said that investors who took part in the study consider greenwashing to be one of the biggest challenges, as cited by 84 percent of the wealth funds worldwide and 94 percent in the Middle East. 

The report also found that sovereign investors are moving toward greater accountability, with 50 percent of accounts in the Middle East modeling and tracking their portfolios to combat climate change. 

“ESG (environmental, social, and governance) adoption continues to rise among the Middle East’s central banks, while SWFs refine their approach as the market matures,” said Rizk. 

He added: “Investors are increasingly recognizing climate risk as a material factor and aligning portfolios with global climate goals. Engagement with and allocation to renewables are preferred over complete divestment to drive the energy transition.” 

The allure of gold

The analysis revealed that gold is gaining appeal. In the last three years, 70 percent of the central banks in the Middle East region have increased allocations for the yellow metal. 

According to the report, central banks are bolstering and diversifying reserves, with 53 percent worldwide planning an increase in the size of their holdings and 52 percent planning additional diversification. 

Rising US debt levels have a negative impact on the global role of the dollar, according to 64 percent of respondents globally and 33 percent in the Middle East.

Some 18 percent of central banks, including 20 percent in the Middle East, believe that the position of the US dollar as the world reserve currency will be weaker within five years. 

“Amid global uncertainties, central banks in the region are strengthening and diversifying reserves. Gold’s appeal is growing due to concerns about rising US debt levels. Allocations to emerging markets are increasing as central banks seek to enhance returns and mitigate risks,” concluded Rizk. 

In June, a survey conducted by the World Gold Council noted that more central banks plan to increase their gold reserves within a year despite the ongoing macroeconomic and political uncertainties and rising gold prices.

According to WGC, 29 percent of the central banks globally expect to boost their gold reserves in the next twelve months, the highest level since the survey began in 2018. 

“Despite record demand from the official sector in the past two years and rising gold prices, many reserve managers remain enthusiastic about the yellow metal,” said Shaokai Fan, head of Central Banks at the World Gold Council, at that time. 


Flydubai says expansion plans have been hindered by Boeing delays

Flydubai says expansion plans have been hindered by Boeing delays
Updated 22 July 2024
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Flydubai says expansion plans have been hindered by Boeing delays

Flydubai says expansion plans have been hindered by Boeing delays

DUBAI: Budget carrier flydubai’s fleet expansion plans have been hit by delays to Boeing’s aircraft delivery schedule, the Dubai airline said on Monday.
Flydubai said it is “evaluating its route development plans and potential frequency revision across the network due to a lack of new aircraft deliveries over the next few months.”
The statement added that Boeing’s delivery delays in recent years have placed substantial pressure on the airline and its ability to plan for its projected growth in the wake of strong post-pandemic demand for travel.


Saudi Arabia, Egypt to boost energy cooperation after high-level meeting

Saudi Arabia, Egypt to boost energy cooperation after high-level meeting
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Egypt to boost energy cooperation after high-level meeting

Saudi Arabia, Egypt to boost energy cooperation after high-level meeting
  • Ministers discussed various aspects of cooperation between the two countries

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Egypt are set to boost energy cooperation following a meeting between top officials to expand ties in petroleum, gas, electricity, renewable energy, and hydrogen. 
On July 21, Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman met with Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Karim Badawi and Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mahmoud Esmat at his ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh. 
During the meeting, the ministers discussed various aspects of cooperation between the two countries, aiming to align their efforts with the shared visions of their leaderships and the ambitions of their peoples, according to a statement from the Saudi Energy Ministry. 


National Housing Co. partners with Korean firm Naver to boost smart city solutions in the Kingdom  

National Housing Co. partners with Korean firm Naver to boost smart city solutions in the Kingdom  
Updated 22 July 2024
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National Housing Co. partners with Korean firm Naver to boost smart city solutions in the Kingdom  

National Housing Co. partners with Korean firm Naver to boost smart city solutions in the Kingdom  

RIYADH: The Saudi real estate sector is set to embrace advanced technologies after the National Housing Co. partnered with Korean tech firm Naver Corp. to enhance smart city solutions. 

The collaboration, formalized in the presence of Housing Minister Majid Al-Hogail, aims to integrate Digital Twin technology, utilizing Naver’s advanced cloud system.  

The technology mirrors real-world entities in a virtual environment, supporting real-time decision-making through data analysis, prediction, and optimization. It will be cloud-based, with a focus on three-dimensional digital modeling. 

This move aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals, aiming to use this technology for urban planning and flood predictions while advancing smart city development.

The integration of Digital Twin technology is part of the Kingdom’s broader strategy to modernize its real estate sector and adopt cutting-edge solutions to enhance urban management and infrastructure efficiency. 

Minister Al-Hogail highlighted the significance of this partnership, stating on X that the deal opens the doors for innovation in digital solutions.

“Together, we achieve strategic visions for the municipalities and housing sectors in our relentless pursuit of sustainable smart cities,” he said.

This deal builds on Naver’s initial entry into the Middle East and Saudi markets in 2023 by establishing a contract with the ministries of investment and housing to use their systems.

The ambitious roadmap also includes amalgamating advanced technologies such as AI, robotics, and cloud solutions. 

The company emphasized the platform’s open-ended architecture, fostering collaborations with local Saudi and South Korean entities.

Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, the president of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, visited the firm’s site in May, denoting the establishment’s long-standing relationship with the Kingdom.

During the meeting, potential collaborations between the two entities were discussed, as SDAIA is responsible for strategy, research, and development in the AI, data, and smart city sectors in Saudi Arabia. 

Officials from other major Saudi institutions, including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the National Information Center, and the National Data Management Office, have also paid visits to the site to experience the company’s technological advancements and discuss collaborative opportunities, a release on the Korean entity’s website revealed.

This comes after Naver became part of the “One Team Korea” consortium in November 2022. The partnership sought to secure Saudi projects under the patronage of South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.