Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report

Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report
According to the latest World Investment Report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the Kingdom's FDI outflows totaled $73.1 billion over the same period, with $16 billion recorded last year alone. Shutterstock
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Updated 23 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report

Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia attracted $65.1 billion in foreign direct investment in the three years post-pandemic until 2023, placing it among West Asia’s top recipients, according to new data.  

According to the latest World Investment Report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the Kingdom's FDI outflows totaled $73.1 billion over the same period, with $16 billion recorded last year alone. This places Saudi Arabia among the top 20 economies globally for FDI outflows, ranking 16th. 

In accordance with the goals set out in the National Investment Strategy and Vision 2030 targets, Saudi Arabia has enacted substantial legal, economic, and social reforms aimed at stimulating inflows of foreign direct investment.

Launched in 2021, NIS looks to develop comprehensive investment plans across various sectors such as manufacturing, renewable energy, transport and logistics, tourism, digital infrastructure, and healthcare.

Furthermore, it aims to increase annual FDI flows to over $103 billion and boost annual domestic investment to more than $453 billion by 2030.

The UN report also noted a 55 percent annual increase in the value of international project finance deals in Saudi Arabia in 2023, reaching $22 billion. 

Last year, the nation witnessed 19 deals, marking a 90 percent growth compared to the previous year. 

Additionally, Saudi Arabia saw 389 announced greenfield projects in 2023, totaling $29 billion, reflecting a 108 percent annual increase in value. 

On a global level, FDI experienced a marginal yearly decline of 2 percent in 2023, dropping to $1.3 trillion.  

The analysis highlighted that the overall figure was significantly influenced by substantial financial flows through a few European conduit economies. 

Excluding the impact of these conduits, global FDI flows were more than 10 percent lower than in 2022. 

Conduit economies refer to countries that act as intermediaries for financial flows, especially foreign direct investment. 

These economies attract multinational corporations with favorable tax laws and regulatory environments, allowing funds to pass through on their way to final investment destinations, often for tax optimization and regulatory benefits. Examples include the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, as well as Cyprus and Ireland.  

The challenges  

UNCTAD stated that the global landscape for international investment remains challenging in 2024. Factors such as declining growth prospects, economic fragmentation, and trade and geopolitical tensions are influencing FDI patterns. Industrial policies and the diversification of supply chains also present limitations.  

These factors have prompted many multinational enterprises to adopt a cautious approach to overseas expansion.  

“However, MNE profit levels remain high, financing conditions are easing and increased greenfield project announcements in 2023 will positively affect FDI. Modest growth for the full year appears possible,” the report stated.  

International project finance and cross-border mergers and acquisitions were particularly weak in 2023.  

M&As, which predominantly impact FDI in developed countries, fell in value by 46 percent, while project finance, a crucial factor for infrastructure investment, was down 26 percent.  

According to the report, the principal causes of this decline included tighter financing conditions, investor uncertainty, volatility in financial markets, and increased regulatory scrutiny for M&As.  

In developed countries, the 2023 trend was significantly influenced by MNE financial transactions, partly driven by efforts to implement a minimum tax on the largest MNEs.  

Regional deep dive  

Due to volatility in conduit economies, FDI flows in Europe shifted dramatically from negative $106 billion in 2022 to positive $16 billion in 2023.  

Inflows to the rest of Europe declined by 14 percent, while inflows in other developed countries stagnated, with a 5 percent decline in North America and significant decreases elsewhere.  

FDI flows to developing countries fell by 7 percent to $867 billion, primarily due to an 8 percent decrease in developing Asia.  

Flows fell by 3 percent in Africa and 1 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. The number of international project finance deals dropped by a quarter.  

Although greenfield project announcements in developing countries increased by over 1,000, these initiatives were highly concentrated in specific regions.  

Greenfield project announcements refer to the initiation of new investment undertakings where companies build operations from scratch on undeveloped land, leading to the construction of new facilities and infrastructure.  

South-East Asia accounted for almost half of these projects, West Asia for a quarter, while Africa saw a small increase, and Latin America and the Caribbean attracted fewer initiatives.  

FDI inflows to Africa declined by 3 percent in 2023 to $53 billion. Despite several megaproject announcements, including Mauritania’s largest worldwide green hydrogen project, international project finance in Africa fell by a quarter in the number of deals and half in value, negatively affecting infrastructure investment prospects.  

In developing Asia, FDI fell by 8 percent to $621 billion. China, the world’s second-largest FDI recipient, experienced a rare decline in inflows, with significant decreases recorded in India and West and Central Asia.  

The report stated that only South-East Asia held steady, with industrial investment remaining buoyant despite the global downturn in project finance.  

FDI flows to Latin America and the Caribbean were down 1 percent to $193 billion.  

The number of international project finance and greenfield investment announcements fell, but the value of greenfield projects increased due to large investments in commodity sectors, critical minerals and renewable energy as well as green hydrogen, and green ammonia.  

Conversely, FDI flows to structurally weak and vulnerable economies increased. FDI inflows to least developed countries rose to $31 billion, accounting for 2.4 percent of global FDI flows, the report stated.  

“Landlocked developing countries and small island developing states also saw increased FDI. In all three groups, FDI remains concentrated among a few countries,” the report added.  

The global downturn in international project finance disproportionately affected the poorest countries, where such finance is relatively more important.  

Industry trends showed lower investment in infrastructure and the digital economy but strong growth in global value chain-intensive sectors such as manufacturing and critical minerals.  

Weak project finance markets negatively impacted infrastructure investment, and digital economy sectors continued to slow down after the boom ended in 2022.  

The report further stated that global value chain-intensive sectors, including automotive, electronics, and machinery industries, grew strongly, driven by supply chain restructuring pressures. Investment in critical minerals extraction and processing nearly doubled in project numbers and values. 


Startup Wrap – cross-border funding and acquisitions flourish as MENA activity steps up 

Startup Wrap – cross-border funding and acquisitions flourish as MENA activity steps up 
Updated 6 sec ago
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Startup Wrap – cross-border funding and acquisitions flourish as MENA activity steps up 

Startup Wrap – cross-border funding and acquisitions flourish as MENA activity steps up 

CAIRO: Regional startup activity has seen many acquisitions and funding rounds in recent weeks, with climate technology, artificial intelligence, and Web3 garnering the most attention. 

Saudi Arabia’s venture capital firm Wa’ed Ventures, a $500-million Aramco subsidiary, led California-based AI platform aiXplain’s $6.5 million pre-series A funding round. 

Backed by US-based firms including Transform VC and Calibrate VC, aiXplain has raised a total of $16.5 million since its inception, aiming for a global rollout of AI solutions. 

Founded in 2020 by Hassan Sawaf, aiXplain has designed an integrated platform to simplify the creation, deployment, and management of AI solutions. 

The company aims to democratize access to AI innovation by enabling the building of advanced solutions through natural language prompts for users with no coding background. 

This approach allows businesses to maximize operational efficiencies by accelerating the time and effort needed for integrating AI into large-scale operations. 

“Hassan and his team deeply understand the global disparity in AI access and the potentially damaging effects of leaving this gap unaddressed,” said Fahad Alidi, managing director and CEO at Wa’ed Ventures. 

He added that aiXplain “has already helped close the AI innovation gap in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, and we see significant potential for the company to localize its solutions in the Kingdom.” 

To accelerate its entry into the Kingdom, aiXplain’s existing subsidiary in Saudi Arabia will function as the company’s MENA region headquarters. 

Beyond the Kingdom, aiXplain works with businesses worldwide to build AI solutions efficiently, as well as fine-tune and benchmark AI models. 

Oman-based climate tech 44.01 secures $37m in series A funding 

Oman-based climate technology startup 44.01 has closed a $37 million series A funding round, led by Equinor Ventures with participation from Shorooq Partners, Air Liquide Venture Capital, Alumni Ventures, and other investors. 

Founded in 2020 by Talal Hassan, Ehab Tasfai, and Karan Khimji, 44.01 specializes in eliminating carbon dioxide by converting it into rock. 

The funding will enable the firm to continue refining its technology, develop commercial-scale projects, and expand its deployment internationally. The company’s tech has been piloted in Oman and the UAE. 

Talal Hasan, founder and CEO of 44.01, said: “We believe mineralization can play a significant role in protecting and repairing our climate. We are grateful to our investors for committing to that mission and for demonstrating their confidence in our technology.” 

He added: “Our investors bring a wealth of international expertise and experience that will help us to accelerate our development and ultimately mineralize CO2 at scale world-wide.”

Sentient Labs raises $85m in seed investment 

UAE-based Web3-focused startup Sentient Labs has raised an $85m through a seed investment round co-led by Pantera Capital and Framework Ventures, with additional funding from Arrington Capital, Canonical, Dao5, and others. 

Founded in January 2024 by Sandeep Nailwal, Pramod Viswanath, and Himanshu Tyagi, Sentient Labs is dedicated to democratizing AI development to ensure its benefits are shared by humanity as a whole. 

Sentient Labs will use the capital to accelerate the development of its open-source AI platform. 

Muller & Phipps acquires Power League Gaming 

Supplied

Regional technology distribution house Muller & Phipps Middle East Group has acquired UAE-based gaming and esports agency Power League Gaming for an undisclosed value. 

The acquisition will see Muller & Phipps invest in scaling Dubai operations and expanding into Saudi Arabia in the fourth quarter of 2024. 

Founded in 2013 by John Lacey, Power League Gaming offers comprehensive solutions for brands entering the gaming sector and publishers engaging audiences through esports events, content creation, and omni-channel ecosystem development. 

Muller & Phipps will acquire all company assets, retaining the management team to lead the business. 

“With Power League Gaming we see market experts who have grown rapidly and who have the talent and drive to take the business and the category itself to the next level across our region. We are excited to launch into Saudi Arabia later this year and to offer local clients the latest and most commercially sound esports and gaming strategies in the field,” group CEO of Muller & Phipps Middle East Group Holdings, Trevor Price, said. 

Tokinvest secures $500k in pre-seed funding 

UAE-based tokenization platform Tokinvest has raised $500,000 in pre-seed funding from a group of investors, including Michael Ourabah, CEO of global infrastructure provider BSO. 

Founded in 2024 by Scott Thiel and Matthew Blom, Tokinvest creates virtual tokens representing rights to assets, connecting real-world asset issuers with global investors through its marketplace. 

The newly acquired funds will be used to enhance Tokinvest’s technological infrastructure, expand its team, and accelerate market penetration. 

“We are immensely grateful for the trust and support from our early investors. This funding fuels our technological and operational development and solidifies our strategy to lead in the real-world asset tokenization space. We are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and are keenly focused on launching our marketplace later this year,” Thiel, the company’s CEO, said. 

Swyt concludes undisclosed seed round 

UAE-based IT solutions provider Swyt has concluded an undisclosed seed funding round. 

Founded in 2022 by Edouard Bouvet, Swyt offers an all-in-one platform designed to simplify and secure IT operations for businesses. 

The seed funding will support Swyt’s mission to accelerate research and development on their platform and expand its presence throughout the Gulf region. 

Dopay closes $13.5m series A extension round 

Dopay team. Supplied

Egypt-headquartered fintech Dopay has closed a $13.5 million series A extension round, adding to a previous $18 million series A round raised in 2021. The new funding initiative was led by Argentem Creek Partners with participation from existing investors. 

Founded in 2014 by Frans van Eersel and Ahmed Nassef, Dopay offers a virtual banking platform that digitizes cash payments from employers to workers and other beneficiaries. 

The fresh funding will enable Dopay to expand in Egypt, launch new financial services, and extend its multi-bank, multi-country platform to other markets. 

“This funding comes at a pivotal moment, with our growth exhibiting a true hockey stick trajectory. The new funds will help us elevate our platform and, in collaboration with our partner banks, leverage deposited funds to create a self-financing lending model,” Eersel said. 

“This model will allow deposited amounts to fuel a lending portfolio, fostering a sustainable and mutually beneficial financial ecosystem. Our customers can look forward to new financing products that will be seamlessly embedded into our platform, enhancing their overall experience,” he added. 

Majarra acquires NLP technology provider Lableb 

UAE-based Arabic digital content provider Majarra has acquired natural language processing technology provider Lableb for an undisclosed amount. 

Founded in 2004 by Abdulsalam Haykal, Majarra provides Arabic content through its app, offering a vast library of over 50,000 articles, videos, and audio content. 

Lableb, founded in 2017 by Kinda Al-Tarbouch, offers Arabic AI services and NLP. The acquisition aims to solidify Majarra’s position at the forefront of Arabic digital innovation and marks its entry into the rapidly expanding AI sector. 

“Joining Majarra marks an exciting new chapter for Lableb. Our shared vision of advancing Arabic AI and NLP will drive innovation and deliver significant value to online businesses and their customers. Lableb’s tools are robust, ready to deploy, and capable of handling millions of queries weekly,” Al-Tarbouch said. 


Oil Updates – prices set for second straight weekly decline

Oil Updates – prices set for second straight weekly decline
Updated 19 July 2024
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Oil Updates – prices set for second straight weekly decline

Oil Updates – prices set for second straight weekly decline

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Friday, putting them on track for a second weekly decline, as a strong dollar and mixed economic signals weighed on investor sentiment, according tot Reuters.

Brent crude prices fell by 38 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $84.73 a barrel by 2:35 a.m. Saudi time. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 50 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $82.32 a barrel.

On a weekly basis, Brent crude was down 0.3 percent while WTI was trading marginally higher after slipping as much as 0.2 percent on Friday.

The US dollar index climbed for the second consecutive session after stronger-than-expected data on the US labor market and manufacturing earlier in the week. A stronger greenback dampens demand for dollar-denominated oil from investors holding other currencies.

Meanwhile, a lack of concrete stimulus measures from top oil importer China has weighed on commodities, ANZ analysts said in a note.

China’s economy grew at a slower-than-expected 4.7 percent pace in the second quarter, official data showed, sparking concerns about the country’s oil demand.

“Concerns over supply in the short term kept the losses minimal,” ANZ said, referring to worsening wildfires threatening production in Canadian oil sands.

Elsewhere on the economic front, Japan’s core inflation perked up in June, leaving the door open for an interest rate hike in the major oil market.

Oil prices found some support in the prior two sessions after the US government reported a bigger-than-expected weekly decline in oil stockpiles.

However, analysts at consultancy firm FGE said broader inventory trends look more bearish than expected this month. They noted that crude stocks have drawn at a slower than usual pace for this time of the year and global fuel stocks rose last week.

Meanwhile the OPEC+ producer group is unlikely to recommend changing the group’s output policy, including a plan to start unwinding one layer of oil output cuts from October, three sources told Reuters on Thursday.


Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188

Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188
Updated 18 July 2024
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Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188

Closing Bell – Saudi indexes end week in green, TASI closes at 12,188

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index ended the week in green, gaining 30.71 points, or 0.25 percent, to close at 12,188.32.         

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.7 billion ($2.3 billion) as 108 of the listed stocks advanced, while 113 retreated.   

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index also gained 6.61 points, or 0.43 percent, to close at 1,527.   

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu dropped 185.57 points, or 0.72 percent, to close at 25,702.34. This comes as 32 of the listed stocks advanced, while as many as 33 retreated.   

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Manpower Solutions Co., with the company’s share price surging 6.33 percent to SR9.41.    

Other top performers include Saudi Public Transport Co. as well as Tourism Enterprise Co., whose share prices soared by 5.83 percent and 5.06 percent, to stand at SR18.88 and SR0.83 respectively.    

In addition to this, other top performers included Saudi Industrial Development Co. and National Gypsum Co.  

The worst performer was Al-Baha Investment and Development Co., whose share price dropped by 7.69 percent to SR0.12.     

Others to see falls were Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Leejam Sports Co., whose share prices dropped by 6.19 percent and 3.12 percent to stand at SR23.34 and SR230, respectively.    

AYYAN Investment Co. and B MBC Group Co. also recorded falls.

On the announcement front, Advanced Petrochemical Co. announced a net loss of SR17 million for the first half of 2024, a significant decline from the SR103 million net profit recorded during the same period in the previous year. 

The company attributed this downturn to several factors, including a 20 percent year-on-year decrease in sales revenue due to scheduled maintenance activities in 2024. 

Advanced Petrochemical posted a SR67 million loss share in its investment in SK Advanced for the current six-month period, compared to a SR43 million loss in the first half of 2023. 

In the second quarter of 2024, the company’s net profit decreased by 30 percent to SR42 million, down from SR60 million in the same period of 2023. This reduction was primarily driven by a 12 percent year-on-year increase in propane prices, despite an overall rise in quarterly revenues. 


UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars

UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars
Updated 18 July 2024
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UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars

UAE’s debt market soars 11.8% to $281bn in H1, 71.5% dominated by US dollars
  • Emirate’s debt capital markets outstanding are expected to reach $300 billion in the second half of 2025

RIYADH: The UAE’s debt capital market outstanding surged by 11.8 percent annually to $281 billion in the first half of this year, with 71.5 percent of US-denominated dollars, a new report has revealed.
According to data released by the credit agency Fitch Ratings, the country’s debt capital markets outstanding are expected to reach $300 billion in the second half of 2025.
“The DCM structural reforms, the implementation of the Dirham Monetary Framework, and generally resilient investor appetite have led to notable growth over the past five years,” said the Global Head of Islamic Finance at Fitch Ratings, Bashar Al-Natoor.
“However, there are still gaps to address,” he added. “The dirham market remains nascent, the investor base is highly concentrated in banks and most corporates still prefer bank financing over bonds or sukuk.”
Following the UN climate change conference COP28 in the UAE in late 2023, environmental, social, and governance debt issuance in the first half of this year fell 35 percent to $3.3 billion, with sukuk accounting for the vast majority of 67.5 percent.
The Emirates was the third-largest US dollar debt issuer among emerging markets, excluding China, with an 8.9 percent share of the total in the first half of 2024.
Al-Natoor said that despite the growth in Islamic finance, many corporates still prefer traditional bank financing over issuing bonds or sukuk due to perceived complexities in adhering to Shariah standards set by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions.
The only countries with a larger percentage than the UAE were Saudi Arabia, with a 17.4 percent share, and Brazil, with 9.4 percent, according to Fitch Ratings.

Sukuk issuance in all currencies increased by 9.8 percent annually, totaling $8.4 billion, outperforming bond issuance, which decreased by 44.3 percent to $39 billion.

Dollar-denominated DCM issuances included a notable share of sukuk at 27.7 percent in the first half, down from 35.3 percent in the same period last year. 

Fitch has assigned ratings to $26.5 billion worth of UAE sukuk, with 94.3 percent maintaining investment-grade status.

Certain UAE banks, both Islamic and conventional, have been restricted from investing in specific sukuk unless they hold them until maturity due to guidelines from the Higher Shariah Authority of the Central Bank.

“We forecast consolidated UAE government debt at 24 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) at end-2024, well below the 49 percent ‘AA’ category median,” the credit rating agency said, adding: “Individual emirates have varied debt profiles; Sharjah stands out with a higher debt burden.”

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are expected to post surpluses, whereas deficits are projected for Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah, where Fitch upgraded RAK’s rating to “A+” from “A” in May 2024.


Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy
Updated 18 July 2024
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Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

Almarai, 30Export sign deal for nearly $16m export boost strategy

RIYADH: A SR60 million ($15.9 million) deal has been signed between food company Almarai and marketing logistics firm 30Export to boost the former’s foreign trade prospects.

The agreement, overseen by Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef and Abdulrahman Al-Thukair, the CEO of Saudi Export Development Authority, was signed by Abdullah Al-Bader, CEO of Almarai Co. and Ali Al-Malki, 30Export.

According to a statement by Thamer Al-Mishrafi, the spokesman of SEDA, this memorandum of understanding will empower the brand in international markets.

This comes as SEDA aims activate all its efforts and capabilities to explore available means of support in order to enhance the penetration of national products and services into targeted global markets.

The project also increases Saudi Arabia’s import-export capacity by improving its connectivity with international trade routes, aliginng with Vision 2030 goal.

The effort aims to diversify national income sources and increase the share of non-oil Saudi exports to at least 50 percent of total gross domestic product by 2030

It also comes as part of the Export Housing initiative launched by SEDA last year, which enables licensed export houses to facilitate the export of high-quality national products to international markets.

These export houses, licensed and qualified by SEDA, play a crucial role as commercial intermediaries, offering a range of services across the export value chain.

“This effort aims to assist local factories in accessing global markets, thereby facilitating the export movement and enhancing the reach of national goods and services to targeted international markets,” Al-Mishrafi said in a statement on X.

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports saw an annual rise of 3.3 percent in the first quarter of 2024, fueled by an increase in the value of re-exports.

According to the General Authority for Statistics, while national non-oil exports experienced a slight dip of 5.2 percent, the value of re-expored goods surged by 31.5 percent during the same period.

In October last year, SEDA and Saudi Post, also known as SPL, signed an agreement to promote the “Made in Saudi” brand across various channels locally and internationally.

The collaboration agreement was rolled out within the framework of the National Strategy for Transport and Logistics and the National Strategy for Industry.

Both parties also introduced joint services to support the national economy’s transformational goals in light of the Saudi Vision 2030.