Saudi Arabia’s M&A volume hits $955m in Q1, fueled by chemicals sector

Saudi Arabia’s M&A volume hits $955m in Q1, fueled by chemicals sector
Saudi Arabia was the only country in the region to show activity in the chemical sector in the first quarter of 2024. Shutterstock
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Updated 21 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s M&A volume hits $955m in Q1, fueled by chemicals sector

Saudi Arabia’s M&A volume hits $955m in Q1, fueled by chemicals sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia led the Middle East in mergers and acquisitions in the chemicals sector in the first quarter of 2024, with $500 million worth of deals, according to recent data.

Figures from financial markets platform Dealogic showed that the Kingdom’s total M&A deal volume during this period reached $955 million, with the chemicals sector accounting for 52.4 percent of the total. 

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the region to show activity in this sector, and a report from management consulting firm Kearney earlier this month suggested that chemical executives are expecting more M&As led by strategic investors such as national oil companies.

“Recent deals by major players like Aramco and ADNOC underscore the region’s commitment to leveraging M&A as a key growth lever, setting the stage for a dynamic and transformative period ahead,” said Jose Alberich, partner, Middle East and Africa at Kearney at the time.

The figures from Dealogic revealed that the professional services sector was the second targeted sector, with deals worth $160 million, accounting for a 16.8 percent share of the Kingdom’s total.

Technology was close behind with $138 million in deal value, capturing a 14.5 percent share. 

Retail and insurance sectors represented 7 percent and 4.1 percent of the total, respectively.

Across the region

The figures revealed that during the first three months of the year, the Middle East targeted M&A volume reached $6.21 billion, with technology being the leading sector with 42 total deals worth $1.56 billion. 

Finance followed with 9 deals amounting to $1.3 billion, while the oil and gas sector, which topped the list a year ago with deals valued at $3.5 billion, fell to the eighth place with just $273 million in deals.

According to Dealogic, domestic transactions were the dominant contributor, making up 55 percent of the Middle East’s M&A volume across 91 deals. In contrast, outbound transactions accounted for 45 percent with a total of 38 deals.

Kuwait emerged as the top contributor to GCC nations’ total M&A deal volume, amounting to $1.12 billion, all of which were outbound deals.

The UAE followed closely with a deal value of $988 million, of which 58 percent were domestic.

Saudi Arabia secured the third position with 18 deals valued at $955 million, of which 60 percent were outbound.

Compared to the same quarter of 2023, the Middle East’s deal volume declined by 27 percent. 

Global slowdown

In its report, Dealogic explained that global M&A activity experienced a significant decline during this period, with the number of transactions falling by 31 percent to 7,162, marking one of the quietest quarters for dealmakers in nearly two decades.

The slowdown was largely attributed to high capital costs, with Switzerland being the only major economy to cut interest rates in 2024. 

Additionally, geopolitical tensions, including the emergence of the Middle East as a new trouble hotspot alongside ongoing conflicts involving Russia and Ukraine, and tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, further contributed to the subdued activity in deal making.

Drivers of activity

In a paper published in September, the Boston Consulting Group said government support has been a driving force behind significant M&A activities among emerging market players in recent years, particularly in the Middle East, as firms aim at expanding their global presence.

Saudi Arabia’s SABIC acquired a 31.5 percent stake in Clariant, nearing the 33.3 percent threshold for a mandatory takeover bid under Swiss law. 

The UAE’s state-owned ADNOC purchased a 24 percent interest in OMV, increasing its indirect stakes in Borealis and Borouge, and is in talks to merge them.

ADNOC also made an $11 billion offer for Covestro, which was rejected, and expressed interest in Brazil’s Braskem. These moves highlight a trend of leveraging government support to enhance regional footprints and integrate into global value chains

Additionally, Saudi Aramco acquired Valvoline Inc.’s global products business for $2.7 billion in 2023. This acquisition, according to BCG, enhances Aramco’s lubricant portfolio by integrating Valvoline’s manufacturing and distribution network and its research and development capabilities.

The research highlighted three additional key reasons driving changes in macro trends in M&A, portfolio diversification, vertical integration, and technology acquisition.

Companies are increasingly expanding their portfolios through acquisitions to enter new markets and product segments, often over extended periods. Additionally, the focus has shifted from traditional feedstock-focused acquisitions to sustainable diversification of petrochemical value chains, prioritizing higher-margin and less cyclical businesses.

In essence, this means that rather than primarily acquiring companies to secure raw materials, the emphasis is now on achieving sustainable and balanced growth across the petrochemical value chain. The current priority is to invest in businesses that generate higher profits and are less affected by market fluctuations. This shift aims to create a more resilient and profitable business model in the long term.

This strategic emphasis on specialties is fostering vertical integration into downstream segments, as evidenced by significant acquisitions by industry leaders such as Saudi Aramco, SABIC, Thailand’s PTT, and Malaysia’s PETRONAS.

According to the BCG paper, gaining or retaining technology leadership is a key driver for M&A activity. Acquisitions and joint ventures are crucial for positioning companies as major suppliers in the e-mobility segment and the related electronic chemicals and battery industry.

As demand for sustainable solutions grows, companies are increasingly recognizing the potential of e-mobility. Through strategic M&A, including technology acquisitions and research and development investments, they aim to secure competitive advantages in this rapidly expanding market.

According to Dealogic, technology-focused deals accounted for 21 percent of the global M&A activity in the first three months of 2024. This was followed by healthcare at 14 percent and finance at 11 percent. 

Oil and gas stood at 9 percent, with utility and energy at 7 percent, and real estate and property sectors representing 5 percent of the total M&A activity.

AI attracting funds

Dealogic’s report highlighted that the largest global technology deals were driven by artificial intelligence. The surge in AI has significantly boosted Nvidia’s market capitalization to $2.4 trillion, with the company making investments in seven AI-related firms during this period.

Saudi Arabia also plans to establish a $40 billion fund dedicated to investing in artificial intelligence, according to a report from the New York Times in March. 

Set to launch in the second half of 2024 and spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, it aims to attract partnerships with US venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and other financiers, according to the report.

It will focus on supporting various AI-related ventures in Saudi Arabia, including chip makers and large-scale data centers, NYT wrote at the time.


SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation

SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation
Updated 25 July 2024
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SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation

SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation

RIYADH: Saudi Central Bank governor praised the “well-calibrated” monetary policies adopted by global financial institutions to tackle inflation and bolster the resilience of the world economy amid diverse challenges.

Ayman Al-Sayari spoke at a session titled “Global Economic Outlook and Ongoing Challenges” during the third meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of G20 held under the Brazilian presidency, according to statement issued on the apex bank’s X handle.

He presented a comprehensive perspective on global economic challenges and policies.

The top Saudi official stressed the importance of ensuring that the nominal growth rate exceeds the interest rate to mitigate risks to global growth in the near term. This principle advocates for sustaining economic expansion while managing debt dynamics effectively.

Al-Sayari highlighted significant medium-term risks confronting the global economy, including ongoing geopolitical conflicts and trade fragmentation. These factors contribute to uncertainty and potential volatility in the international economic landscape.

Regarding energy transition efforts, he acknowledged the global scale-up of renewable energy usage but expressed concern over increased fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions in 2023. Al-Sayari cautioned against rushed actions and underscored the need for a balanced approach toward achieving sustainability goals without compromising economic stability.

“We are all for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the SAMA chief said.

Al-Sayari identified rising income inequality as a critical issue. He underscored the importance of implementing targeted social benefits and well-designed labor market policies to bridge this gap.


Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes

Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes
Updated 25 July 2024
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Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes

Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes
  • Deal includes order of 30 wide-body A330neo aircraft and 130 narrow-body A320 family aircraft
  • Head of flynas, Bander Al-Mohanna, said agreement ‘reinforces our determination to establish flynas as a leading global low-cost carrier’

RIYADH: Saudi low-cost airline flynas has signed a deal to purchase 160 Airbus aircraft, doubling the volume of its orders to 280 planes. 

The “landmark agreement,” signed at the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow, includes an order of 30 wide-body A330neo aircraft and 130 narrow-body A320 family aircraft, the carrier said in a statement.

This falls in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 aimed at transforming the aviation sector and supporting flynas’ ambitious expansion under the slogan “We connect the world to the Kingdom.” It also cements the carrier’s status as one of the top four low-cost airlines worldwide.

The deal also aligns well with the Kingdom’s aviation goals, including tripling annual passengers to 330 million, expanding connectivity to over 250 destinations, and boosting air freight capacity to 4.5 million tons of cargo per annum by 2030.

“I congratulate flynas on this significant agreement, which reflects the rapid development and transformation of Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector under Vision 2030,” President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation Abdulaziz Al-Duailej said. 

“This deal is pivotal for achieving the National Civil Aviation Strategy’s goal to connect the Kingdom with over 250 international destinations and increase passenger traffic to 330 million annually by 2030,” he added, also describing the growth and expansion of flynas as “truly remarkable.”

Bander Al-Mohanna, CEO and managing director of flynas, said: “This agreement to purchase 160 Airbus aircraft reinforces our determination to establish flynas as a leading global low-cost carrier.”

He added that this is his firm’s first order for the wide-body A330neo with Airbus, with deliveries starting in 2027.

“By doubling our order volume to 280 Airbus aircraft, we ensure sustainable growth across our network of regional and international routes, spanning short, medium, and long-haul flights,” said the CEO, explaining that that this will enable the carrier to explore new long-haul markets and offer more seat capacity, with diverse and innovative products to their passengers.

Airbus CEO of Commercial Aircraft Christian Scherer described thee deal as “a significant milestone” for both A320neo and A330-900 aircraft.

“The A330neo will allow flynas to further grow into widebody markets by building on the A320, benefiting from Airbus’ unique commonality,” Scherer said. 

“Both aircraft types offer flynas the perfect versatility and economics to expand into new markets while offering their passengers the latest cabin experience and comfort,” he added. “We look forward to continuing our successful collaboration with flynas as they embark on this exciting new chapter.”

Earlier this month, flynas received its 53rd A320neo aircraft out of an order of 120 from Airbus as part of its strategic expansion plan. 

The next-generation model airplane touched down at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh at the time, further consolidating the company’s position as the leading low-cost airline in the Middle East and one of the top four low-cost airlines globally, according to UK-based consultancy firm Skytrax.


New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects

New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects
Updated 25 July 2024
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New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects

New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects
  • Initiative seeks to provide opportunities for contractors to implement projects in their specializations to raise their quality
  • Kingdom’s construction market has become a leader in the Middle East and North Africa

RIYADH: A database rating contractors in the Saudi construction industry is part of a new national strategy designed to help the Kingdom deliver its SR1.2 trillion ($319 billion) Vision 2030 projects.

The new initiative, launched by the Saudi Contractors Authority, seeks to provide opportunities for contractors to implement projects in their specializations to raise their quality. 

This falls in line with the authority’s mission to organize the industry by setting and executing high-quality organizational standards, encouraging innovation, developing skills, improving communication in the industry and achieving economic sustainability.

During a speech at a ceremony reviewing the achievements of the SCA over the past three years, the authority’s chairman said he wanted to prepare and equip a strong contracting sector that will be an executive arm for the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 projects.

Al-Abdulqader explained that the authority raised the number of contractors during the past three years by 400 percent, bringing the registered number to more than 18,000, including 1,200 international contractors.

The SCA has also signed over 10 agreements and memorandums of understanding with major global contracting sectors, in addition to participating in more than 50 government committees. 

In 2023, the National Housing Co. and SCA signed an MoU during the Future Projects Forum in Riyadh to develop a platform aimed at enhancing cooperation, ensuring the development of both entities, and improving the sector’s efficiency. 

The SCA, a semi-governmental organization, addresses the challenges of the contracting sector and fosters a more attractive and efficient environment. 

It also led the contracting sector in 57 countries by winning the presidency of the Islamic Contractors Union and establishing the Kingdom as its headquarters. 

The Saudi contractor industry is thriving, driven by significant investments in diverse sectors and ambitious projects under the Vision 2030 initiative, creating numerous opportunities for local and international contractors. 

This comes as the Kingdom’s construction market has become a leader in the Middle East and North Africa, with an estimated value of $70.33 billion in 2024, projected to reach $91.36 billion by 2029, according to the US International Trade Administration.  

The sector is categorized into residential, commercial, and industrial, as well as infrastructure, transportation, and energy and utility construction, presenting a sizable market for contractors seeking opportunities. 


Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red

Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red
Updated 25 July 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red

Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red
  • Total trading turnover of the benchmark index was $1.69 billion
  • Best-performing stock of the day was Retal Urban Development Co.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index dipped on Thursday, losing 75 points, or 0.62 percent, to close at 12,026.21. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.35 billion ($1.69 billion) as 54 stocks advanced, while 170 retreated.   

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index decreased by 10.76 points, or 0.71 percent, to close at 1,502.13.

However, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu increased by 82.88 points or 0.31 percent, to close at 26,420.01. This comes as 28 stocks advanced while as many as 27 retreated.

The best-performing stock of the day was Retal Urban Development Co. The company’s share price surged by 7.10 percent to SR12.98.

Other top performers included Saudi Real Estate Co. and Electrical Industries Co., whose share prices soared by 4.94 percent and 4.53 percent, to stand at SR23.38 and SR6.92 respectively.

Tanmiah Food Co. and Al-Rajhi Co. for Cooperative Insurance also performed well.

The worst performer was Miahona Co., whose share price dropped by 9.60 percent to SR36.25.

Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Saudi Manpower Solutions Co., did not perform well as their share prices dropped by 5.92 percent and 5.47 percent to stand at SR20.34 and SR10.02, respectively.

Profits of Zain Saudi Arabia fell to SR105 million, an 8 percent decrease during the second quarter of 2024, compared to profits of SR114 million during the same period last year, according to Al Ekhbariya.

The company attributed the decline to an increase in operating expenses by SR38 million, a rise in expected credit loss expenses by SR33 million, and an increase in financing costs by SR20 million.

The National Company for Glass Industries announced its interim financial results for the first six months of 2024, with revenues dipping by 13.1 percent to reach SR34.2 million. The company’s net profit, however, surged by 6.5 percent, reaching SR26.7 million.

It attributed the decrease to a lower production quantity, which resulted from line maintenance activities and installation of new machines to improve manufacturing quality.

Balady Poultry Co. also announced its preliminary financial results for the same period, with revenues amounting to SR449.6 million, marking a 30.4 percent surge compared to the previous year due to an increase in average daily production.

The company recorded an increase of SR71.9 million in net profit during the current half compared to SR40.3 million during the same half of the previous year, with an increase of 78.6 percent due to a rise in the average daily production.


NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems

NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems
Updated 25 July 2024
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NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems

NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems
  • The underground parking and light rail are key elements of NEOM’s advanced sustainable transportation plan
  • NEOM said this accomplishment supports its goal of building a city with zero carbon emissions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion megacity NEOM has completed the construction phases of its underground parking and light rail systems, marking a milestone in its ambitious zero-carbon initiative.

Assisted by 10 high-capacity rotary drilling rigs from Chinese construction manufacturing company XCMG Machinery, the world’s largest integrated development project completed three piles per day per drilling rig, according to a press release.

The underground parking and light rail are key elements of NEOM’s advanced sustainable transportation plan. This phase was accelerated by the efficiency of XCMG’s rotary drilling rigs, which handled deep foundation work despite challenging sandy geologies.

Led by the Public Investment Fund, the project will be a futuristic region in northwest Saudi Arabia powered entirely by renewable energy.

NEOM is home to The Line, Oxagon, Trojena, and Sindalah. It prioritizes people and nature, establishing a new model for sustainable living, working, and prospering.

The statement added that this phase was expedited due to the efficiency of XCMG’s rotary drilling rigs, which successfully managed deep foundation work even in difficult desert terrains.

The release noted that the XR600E is the largest-tonnage drilling rig deployed in the construction of NEOM city and the largest model exported from China.

Despite arriving a month later than other machinery, these rigs completed their tasks two weeks ahead of schedule, demonstrating reliability and superior performance in speed and efficiency.

In its statement, NEOM commented that this accomplishment supports its goal of building a city with zero carbon emissions and sustainable energy use.

Over 140,000 construction workers have been engaged on-site since its launch in 2017, and earlier in July it was announced the various projects underconstruction are set to receive cement worth SR104 million ($27.7 million) thanks to a partnership between Saudi Arabia’s Al Jouf Cement Co. and Italy’s Webuild SpA.

Other recent announcements from NEOM include a new marina and community on the Gulf of Aqaba called Jaumur.

The destination will be an exclusive residential community planned around a marina promenade for more than 6,000 residents, and will include 500 marina apartments and around 700 luxury villas.

Earlier this month, NEOM and American hospitality firm Equinox Hotels revealed plans to open a resort in the recently unveiled Magna development, on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba.

The luxury destination will feature 12 locations along 120 kilometers of coastline, and will include 15 hotels, 1,600 rooms, and over 2,500 residences.