Gulf economies set to flourish on oil output increase, interest rate cuts

Gulf economies set to flourish on oil output increase, interest rate cuts
Inflation in the Gulf is expected to slow over the second half of the year, easing the squeeze on real incomes and supporting credit demand and consumer spending. (SPA)
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Updated 26 June 2024
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Gulf economies set to flourish on oil output increase, interest rate cuts

Gulf economies set to flourish on oil output increase, interest rate cuts
  • MENA region’s GDP forecast to grow by 1.5 percent this year, before accelerating to 3.9 percent in 2025

RIYADH: Growth of the Gulf economies is projected to pick up from September thanks to anticipated interest rate cuts and an increase in oil output, according to new data. 

In its latest Middle East and North Africa Gross Domestic Product report, UK-based independent research firm Capital Economics warned that the decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to keep output low until October means a boost to GDP will take longer to materialize than previously expected.  

OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, have implemented substantial output cuts since late 2022, totaling 5.86 million barrels per day, or about 5.7 percent of global demand.  

Earlier this month, OPEC+ extended 3.66 million bpd of cuts until the end of 2025 and prolonged 2.2 million bpd of voluntary cuts until September 2024. The voluntary cuts will be phased out gradually from October 2024 to September 2025. 

The countries which have made voluntary cuts to output include Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  Despite this delay, “non-oil sectors should continue to grow relatively strongly,” the report states.  

“A monetary loosening cycle should begin soon as the Gulf follows the Fed (US Federal Reserve), which we expect to start cutting rates from September,” it added.  

Furthermore, inflation in the Gulf is expected to slow over the second half of the year, easing the squeeze on real incomes and supporting credit demand and consumer spending. 

However, the report also notes that non-oil growth across much of the Gulf is expected to ease over the next few years. 

A decline in oil prices next year presents a challenge to non-oil sectors, with budget and current account positions likely to weaken. 




Non-oil growth across much of the Gulf is expected to ease over the next few years. (SPA)

The UAE and Qatar are expected to maintain loose fiscal policies, leveraging their strong balance sheets to support their economies.  

Kuwait may also utilize its strong balance sheet. In contrast, Oman and Bahrain will need to persist with a tight fiscal stance.

Saudi economy outlook

Saudi Arabia’s decision to maintain low oil output as part of the OPEC+ deal will constrain GDP growth in the near term, the report said.

Despite efforts to manage crude prices, the report suggests that revenue will fall back next year, potentially leading the Saudi government to scale back some spending plans.  

Nevertheless, the Saudi economy expanded by 1.4 percent quarter on quarter in the first three months of 2024, ending the technical recession. Both oil and private non-oil activities contributed to this growth, offsetting weaker government activities. 

The report further elaborates on the OPEC+ decision to extend oil output cuts until October, which will limit GDP growth in the short term.  

However, Saudi Arabia is expected to gradually unwind its 1 million barrels per day voluntary output cut starting from the fourth quarter of 2025, with a more aggressive increase in oil output projected thereafter. 

In light of the OPEC+ rollover, oil prices are anticipated to remain higher than previously expected for the rest of the year.  

Despite this, Saudi Arabia is projected to continue running budget deficits, which are likely to be wider than currently budgeted. 

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia’s economy is expected to grow by a modest 1.3 percent this year. As oil output increases from the fourth quarter and through 2025 to 2026, growth is projected to accelerate to 4.5 and 4.8 percent, respectively.

• The UAE’s GDP growth is expected to reach 3.3 percent this year, with an acceleration to 5.5 percent in 2025, the report stated.

The state has ample financing options, demonstrated by significant sovereign debt issuance and a recent Aramco share sale.  

The Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund also plans to ramp up local investments this year, equating to about 2 percent of GDP, relieving the central government of some financial burdens, the report further highlighted. 

Overall, Saudi Arabia’s economy is expected to grow by a modest 1.3 percent this year. As oil output increases from the fourth quarter and through 2025 to 2026, growth is projected to accelerate to 4.5 and 4.8 percent, respectively.

Elsewhere in the Gulf

Additionally, the UAE is forecast to raise oil output sooner than other OPEC+ members, bolstered by supportive fiscal policies.  

This positions the country as the fastest-growing economy in the Gulf for both this year and the next.   The UAE’s GDP growth is expected to reach 3.3 percent this year, with an acceleration to 5.5 percent in 2025, the report stated. 

Qatar’s economy is likely to record modest growth this year and much of next year, but is expected to take off as liquefied natural gas output surges from the end of next year.  

The report indicates that economic growth in Qatar slowed last year due to capacity limits in the hydrocarbon sector and the fading boost from the 2022 FIFA World Cup.  

Non-hydrocarbon growth is expected to pick up this year due to lower interest rates and slowing inflation. However, lower global LNG prices will shrink the budget surplus, limiting fiscal support. 

Qatar’s GDP growth is forecasted at 2 percent and 2.3 in 2024, 2025, weaker than consensus estimates, the report highlighted.  

Nevertheless, growth is expected to jump to 11.5 percent in 2026, making it one of the fastest-growing economies globally. 




The Saudi economy expanded by 1.4 percent quarter on quarter in the first three months of 2024. (SPA)

For Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, economic growth will be weaker this year than previously expected due to the OPEC+ decision.   Governments in Oman and Bahrain are likely to maintain tight fiscal policies, weighing on non-oil sectors.  

Capital Economics also stated that hydrocarbon receipts are expected to be weaker, leading to deteriorating budget and current account balances.  

Oman is better positioned to weather this due to recent government commitments to fiscal tightening, though strict measures are likely to continue.  

Bahrain, on the other hand, needs to aggressively tighten fiscal policy to stabilize and reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio, the report stated.

Beyond the Gulf

Outside the Gulf, current account deficits have narrowed, easing external strains.  

In Egypt, this forms part of a broader policy shift requiring tight monetary and fiscal policies. Although inflation has peaked, interest rate cuts are not expected until early 2025.  

Morocco is set to begin a monetary loosening cycle soon due to low inflation, potentially allowing the central bank to widen the dirham’s trading band, leading to appreciation against the euro. 

Tunisia remains an exception, with high inflation and dwindling foreign exchange reserves threatening a balance of payments crisis and potential sovereign default. 

Capital Economics forecasts the MENA region’s GDP to grow by 1.5 percent this year, before accelerating to 3.9 percent in 2025 and 4.6 percent in 2026, outpacing consensus estimates for the latter years.


Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation has inked a deal with German electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle manufacturer Lilium, propelling the Kingdom’s advanced air mobility roadmap.

The memorandum of understanding, signed between the authority and the aerospace firm at the Farnborough International Airshow, supports GACA’s development of AAM solutions in the Kingdom, according to a statement. 

This comes as the authority collaborates with stakeholders and companies globally to create a thorough national plan for AAM. 

This strategy encompasses the essential elements and regulatory framework needed to ensure AAM technologies’ secure and effective integration. During the implementation phase, the focus will be on incorporating eVTOL operations with existing aviation systems and other transportation modes.

The newly signed MoU falls in line with the authority’s engagement with global companies to bring new aviation mobility solutions to Saudi Arabia.

It also aligns well with GACA’s continuous efforts across the industry to ensure the Kingdom has regulations that encourage growth, ensure the highest levels of safety, and put passengers first.

“This agreement reflects GACA’s commitment to advancing innovative and sustainable air mobility solutions for Saudi Arabia in support of Vision 2030,” GACA President Abdulaziz Al-Duailej said. 

“By working with global advanced air mobility companies, we aim to establish a robust regulatory framework that ensures the safe and efficient operation of eVTOL aircraft,” Al-Duailej added. 

From Lilium’s side, CEO Klaus Roewe said: “Our goal is to jointly advance regulatory and practical steps for suitable framework conditions for electric aviation and our customers in Saudi Arabia.”

He added: “Today’s agreement delivers on one of the main ingredients required to successfully launch eVTOL operations — a definitive path to all relevant regulatory cornerstones.”

The announcement builds on the momentum of recent successful air taxi trials in support of GACA’s AAM roadmap development, the statement added. 

Last week, Lilium confirmed that it is making its debut in Saudi Arabia with a groundbreaking agreement to supply up to 100 eVTOL vehicles to Saudia, the Kingdom’s first national carrier.

The formalization of this agreement came after a framework deal was initially arranged in late 2022, making Saudia the first airline in the region to invest in sustainable air mobility. 


Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

RIYADH: Saudi logistics platform OTO is set to expand into the UAE and Turkiye, following a successful SR30 million ($8 million) series A funding round. 

The company announced that the financing was led by Sanabil Investments, a wholly-owned entity of the Public Investment Fund, with additional contributions from Sadu Capital, and Iliad Partners. Propeller and Soma Capital also participated in the deal, according to a press release. 

This follows a previous raise of SR12.3 million from venture capital funds and angel investors including Middle East Venture Partners, Derayah Ventures, and 500 Global.  

This investment supports Saudi Arabia's National Logistics Strategy, which seeks to rank the Kingdom among the top 10 countries globally in performance in the sector by the end of the decade, in line with Vision 2030 objectives. 

Mohammad Al-Razaz, co-founder and CEO of OTO, said: “Securing this funding round is a testament to our team’s dedication and our commitment to transforming the shipping and logistics sector in line with Saudi Vision 2030.”   

The company claims its platform integrates with over 250 local and international shipping companies and e-commerce platforms, enabling merchants to manage, ship, track, and analyze their logistics activities.   

The platform also offers merchants the option to connect their own shipping contracts or purchase shipping labels at pre-negotiated rates. 

He added: “We are focused on delivering innovative solutions that enable merchants to streamline their operations and manage logistics with unmatched efficiency.”

Investor confidence in OTO’s platform is bolstered by projections showing Saudi Arabia’s e-commerce revenue is expected to grow at 13.5 percent annually through 2027, outpacing the global average growth rate of 11.2 percent, according to Agility Logistics. 

The platform plans to use this funding to expand its presence in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Turkiye by adding new features and enhancing its platform, focusing on small and medium-sized businesses and e-commerce merchants. 

The release stated that the Turkish e-commerce market is projected to grow at an annual rate of 11.58 percent from 2024 to 2029, reaching $49.5 billion by 2029.   

“The last few years have put a significant spotlight on the shipping industry and increased the need for smart shipping solutions. OTO has built a platform with a fully integrated set of functionalities to help companies of all shapes and sizes meet their logistics requirements,” a spokesperson from Sanabil Investments stated.  

OTO serves over 10,000 local and international brands and has seen its revenue double along with a notable increase in orders processed year-over-year. 

Furkan Uzar, chief technology officer and co-founder of OTO, said that this funding propels the company toward its vision of becoming the shipping gateway of the internet.   

“By bridging the tech gap between sales channels and shipping providers, we can accelerate our growth and offer customers streamlined, automated shipping solutions,” he added. 


Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174
Updated 22 July 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 28.17 points, or 0.23 percent, to close at 12,174.76. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.34 billion ($2.22 billion) as 127 of the stocks advanced, while 96 retreated.  

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu rose 277.53 points, or 1.08 percent, to close at 26,040.47. This comes as 35 of the listed stocks advanced, while 30 fell. 

The MSCI Tadawul Index lost 6.03 points, or 0.39 percent, to close at 1,523.43.

The best-performing stock of the day was Dr. Soliman Abdel Kader Fakeeh Hospital Co. The company’s share price surged 7.02 percent to SR64.

Other top performers were Sadr Logistics Co. as well as United Cooperative Assurance Co.

The worst performer was Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co., whose share price dropped by 4.78 percent to SR21.90. 

Other stocks to fall were Miahona Co. and ACWA Power Co.

On the announcements front, Aldrees Petroleum and Transport Services Co. has announced its interim financial results for the period ending on June 30. 

According to a Tadawul statement, the firm’s net profit stood at SR159.8 million at the end of the first six months of 2024, up 13.4 percent from the corresponding period in 2023. 

The increase in net profit is due to the rise in petrol and transport division sales, deposit income, and sukuk, as well as the revenue from the joint venture project investment. 

There was a decrease in the other income and increase marketing, selling, and general costs as well as administrative, financing, and zakat expenses.

Saudi Exchange also announced the listing and trading units of SEDCO Capital Multi Asset Traded Fund as a closed ended investment traded fund on the main market on July 24 with the symbol 4703 and ISIN Code SA162G529FL8, and with +/- 30 percent daily price fluctuation limits and +/- 10 percent static price fluctuation limits.

A bourse filing revealed that these fluctuation limits will be applied during the first three days of listing, and from the fourth trading day onwards, the daily price fluctuation limits will revert to +/- 10 percent and the static price fluctuation limits will no longer apply.


Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has granted exploration licenses for salt deposits in Eastern Province’s Sabkha Ras Al-Qaryah to four companies following a competitive tendering process.     

The winning firms are Khalid Al-Zahid and Sons Co., Ibrahim Al-Issa and Partner Salt Co., Riyadh Salt Industry Co., and Rastan Limited, as announced by Jarrah bin Muhammad Al-Jarrah, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.    

Al-Jarrah noted that the ministry received six applications for the exploration licenses, announced in March through a mining platform. Five applications passed the qualification stage, while one did not meet the requirements.  

This aligns with the government’s goal of maximizing the Kingdom’s mineral resources, valued at SR9.3 trillion ($2.4 trillion), in line with Saudi Vision 2030. The initiative aims to enhance licensing transparency, promote national industries, and contribute to local content development and job creation.    

In its earlier release, the ministry revealed that the total area of the four sites offered for competition is 5 sq. km. The Ras Al-Qaryah complex, a coastal sabkha located approximately 4 km from the sea, has naturally exposed salt deposits in some locations on its surface.   

It added that the salt ore in the area is deposited in a stratified form and is suitable for various industrial applications. It supports the manufacturing and petrochemical industries, as well as the production of high-purity table salt and food-grade salt. This ore is refined into high-quality industrial salt with a purity of approximately 99 percent sodium chloride. 

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia unveiled its largest mineralized belts to date, covering 4,788 sq. km and granting five new exploration licenses. 

Three of these licenses are allocated to the Jabal Sayid site in Madinah, spanning 2,892 sq. km and containing minerals such as gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead. 

The remaining two licenses are for the Al-Hajjar site in the Asir region, which covers 1,896 sq. km and also includes gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead, according to a statement from the ministry.

According to a MineHutte and Mining Journal report, Saudi Arabia has experienced the fastest global growth in mining sector investments. Over the past five years, the Kingdom has enhanced its regulatory and infrastructural environment, achieving the second-best global ranking for mining licensing. 


Saudi giga-project NEOM and Equinox Hotels unveil luxury resort in Magna

Saudi giga-project NEOM and Equinox Hotels unveil luxury resort in Magna
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi giga-project NEOM and Equinox Hotels unveil luxury resort in Magna

Saudi giga-project NEOM and Equinox Hotels unveil luxury resort in Magna

RIYADH: Saudi giga-project NEOM and hospitality firm Equinox Hotels have announced plans to open a resort on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba as part of the recently unveiled Magna development.

In June, NEOM introduced the luxury destination, which will feature 12 locations along 120 km of coastline. It is part of the project’s sustainable portfolio, and will feature 15 hotels, 1,600 rooms, and over 2,500 residences. 

Magna will create 15,000 jobs, add SR2.6 billion ($693 million) to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030, house 14,500 residents, and attract 300,000 visitors annually, offering a unique investment opportunity with a focus on sustainability.

Equinox Resort Treyam will occupy one of the 12 locations, and the company’s CEO Christopher Norton said: “As a region, NEOM embodies the future of luxury hospitality, and Equinox Hotels is thrilled to create an unparalleled resort experience within this visionary destination.”

Norton added: “Our partnership with NEOM highlights a shared commitment to innovation, sustainability, and redefining the boundaries of hospitality. Located between THE LINE and the southernmost point of the Gulf of Aqaba, our resort will serve as the model for transformative luxury, activating the entire destination with experiences that only Equinox Hotels can offer.”

The resort will feature a 450-meter-long bridge-like structure suspended 40 meters above a lagoon.

An artistic impression of the resort. Supplied

Jeremy Lester, Magna executive director, said the collaboration with Equinox Hotels will “shape the future of luxury hospitality,” adding: “Equinox Resort Treyam embodies the convergence of innovation and luxury, and this partnership will redefine sustainable hospitality with a focus on truly immersive experiences and active lifestyles.”

Chris Newman, executive director of NEOM Hotel Division, described the plan as “a significant milestone in our journey to redefine luxury hospitality” within Magna.

He added: “This resort will be an example of transformative luxury, offering distinctive and inspiring experiences that only Equinox Hotels can deliver. Guests will have the opportunity to fully engage with this extraordinary location, where every detail is designed to enhance their well-being, elevate their journey, and support a high-performance lifestyle.”