Saudi G20 faces up to global challenges

Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the Saudi Arabia’s finance minister.
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Updated 26 January 2020

Saudi G20 faces up to global challenges

  • Riyadh summit’s top three priorities will be empowerment, environment and tech change, minister tells Davos

DAVOS: The G20 summit to be held in Saudi Arabia later this year will help the world resolve some of its biggest challenges in geopolitics, climate change and social issues, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the Kingdom’s finance minister, told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

“Fortunately, the world is becoming more connected as well, and that means we can think about solutions through consensus,” he said at a special session on the Kingdom’s strategic priorities ahead of the G20. 

Al-Jadaan said that the top three priorities for the summit were empowerment, the environment and technological change. 

“We have to continue empowering people — women, young people, small- business people,” he said. 

Another big priority was “protecting planet Earth, and at the centre of that is climate change,” but the “most ambitious” was the search for “new frontiers in technology and innovation that is shaping the world,” he said. 

G20 summits in the past have played a big role in stabilizing global financial systems, especially during the crisis of 2009. Al-Jadaan said that would be a “very significant element” of the Saudi presidency, and he highlighted sustainable growth, debt vulnerabilities and the prospect of digital taxation as three financial focal points for the Riyadh G20 Summit. 

Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia was not a newcomer to the G20. “We have been involved for some time, and that is in recognition of the Kingdom being a vital part of the modern world,” he said. 

He added that the Saudi energy industry — Saudi Aramco being the biggest oil company in the world — played a key role in the global economy and was therefore a crucial member of the G20. “There is only one country in the world that has excess capacity in the oil market, and that is being used to mitigate the problems we face from wars, conflict and disasters.” 

Davos delegates also heard that women in Saudi Arabia had gender equality with men in the workplace after recent advances in employment across the country. 

Iman Al-Mutairi, assistant minister for commerce and investment, said that the Kingdom was the top performer in a recent World Bank survey of employment and that it had reached the average global level of gender equality. “We have gender equality now. Women can be builders, welders, fireman and lots of other professions. We are serious about inclusiveness,” she said. 

Al-Mutairi was speaking at a special session of the WEF on the strategic priorities of the Kingdom 

She said that the progress made by Saudi Arabia sent a strong message to the Arab and Islamic world about Saudi Arabia’s modernization plans, but more remained to be done. “We have to keep reskilling women, especially in finance, artificial intelligence and other STEM subjects. 

“Saudi Arabia has to act immediately and spread this ‘good virus’ to our neighbors,” she added. 

Other Saudi members of the top level panel reinforced her comments about importance of inclusion as an element of the G20 agenda. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, the Kingdom’s minister of economy, said that making progress towards the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) would also be a big priority. “Every one of the 17 SDGs is addressed in the G20 agenda. We want the summit to take action and be practical,” he said. 

He was uncertain whether the world could meet all of the SDGs by the target date of 2030, though. “We will achieve a lot by 2030, but much depends on how other global institutions deal with policymaking and financial aspects of the SDG targets,” he said. 

Abdullah Alswaha, the Kingdom’s minister for communications and information technology, said that the biggest challenge of the G20 presidency was with regard to new technology.

“How do we make sure that artificial intelligence and new technology acts in the interest of human kind?” he asked, adding that the digital world was a major potential source of employment. 

The digital world was also a “social equalizer, but the analog world is polarized, so it needs to come together in the digital world.”  

Al-Swaha highlighted the need for cyber-resilience in modern technology. “In a few years’ time quantum computers will be able to decrypt most of the encryption mechanism that are in place today,” he said. 

Prince Abdul Aziz said that the environment remained a top priority for the Saudi energy industry. “We have to provide energy for the world, and still deal with climate change. If we’re going to be good G20 hosts, we have to have ideas and suggestions on these issues.” 

He added that the G20 would highlight the role of the energy industry in reducing harmful emissions and utilizing the potential for carbon capture technologies. It would also showcase the Neom mega-project, and its emphasis on renewable energy and hydrogen fuels, as well as developments in climate-friendly fuels. 

Al-Jadaan said the success of the G20 would be judged according to how it implemented existing policy initiatives, advanced new concepts being developed in the Kingdom, and showcased Saudi Arabia as a destination for tourists and business visitors.

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Egyptian transport start-up Swvl to list on Nasdaq after $1.5bn SPAC merger

Updated 12 min 59 sec ago

Egyptian transport start-up Swvl to list on Nasdaq after $1.5bn SPAC merger

  • Investors including Zain, Agility, Luxor Capital inject $100 million
  • Proceeds to be used to expand to 20 countries by 2025

CAIRO: Egyptian mass transit start-up Swvl said it plans to list of the Nasdaq stock exchange through a merger with US special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital.

Swvl will be valued at $1.5 billion in the deal, which will generate proceeds of as much as $445 million, including $100 million from investors including Kuwaiti logistics company Agility, Saudi telecoms company Zain and Luxor Capital Group, it said in a statement.

The proceeds will be used to fund expansion of the company’s business to 20 countries by 2025, it said. Swvl operates buses along fixed routes and allows customers to reserve and pay for them using an app in 10 countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Kenya, and Pakistan.

More than 1.4 million riders have booked more than 46 million rides to date, it said.

“We have succeeded in executing our business plan in some of the most challenging emerging markets, where inefficiencies in infrastructure and related mass transit systems represent a universal problem, and have now reached a critical inflection point where we are ready to share our expertise and technology with the rest of the world,” said Mostafa Kandil, Swvl founder and CEO.


Saudi Arabia Plans $15bn technology fund with private investors

Updated 39 min 18 sec ago

Saudi Arabia Plans $15bn technology fund with private investors

  • Investments in the fourth industrial technology expected to reach $200 billion in the Kingdom
  • Fund to invest in robotics, artificial intelligence, and wireless technology

RIYADH: A Saudi public-private partnership will launch a $15 billion technology fund to advance the digital infrastructure in the Kingdom, Haytham AlOhali, vice minister of the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT) announced on Wednesday, during the Saudi 4th Industrial Revolution conference held in Riyadh.

Telecom and technology operators invest between $3 billion and $4 billion annually in digital infrastructure, fiber infrastructure, Internet networks and 5G services, and this is not enough for the Kingdom to take a lead, said AlOhali.

"We will transform in Saudi Arabia into an economy based on technology, information, capabilities and skills, and it will bear fruit for the future with huge investments from more than 10,000 industrial facilities worth $25 billion," he said, during the two-day-conference.

The investments in the fourth industrial technology are expected to reach $200 billion in the Kingdom, with value creation coming from improved efficiency and reduction in cost over a 10 year period, said AlOhali.

There are 13,000 solar energy centers that rely on 5G to implement their services, with 10 million smart meters in the Kingdom, while 60 percent of cities are covered by 5G and 45 percent of the Kingdom's populated areas receive 5G, he said.

Saudi Arabia has invested in the mobile infrastructure leading the Kingdom from rank 105 in terms of speed to the 4th in the world, he said.

Advanced technology from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is expected to generate around $1 trillion for the Saudi economy in new revenue streams, a senior Saudi official said on Wednesday.

The Kingdom will enjoy economic boosts from robotics, artificial intelligence, and wireless production models as it pushes for more smarter cities and infrastructure.

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Saudi Arabia suspended world’s largest desalination and power plant privatization due to pandemic — official

Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Arabia suspended world’s largest desalination and power plant privatization due to pandemic — official

  • Tender process began in summer of 2020
  • National Center for Privatization & PPP CEO Rayyan Nagadi spoke

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has suspended the privatization of Ras Al Khair Desalination and Power Plant due to the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, which slowed the responses it got from bidders, National Center for Privatization & PPP CEO Rayyan Nagadi said.

“It is clear that the pandemic repercussions affected the response of companies in the world to a project of the size of the Ras Al-Khair plant,” he said.

Suspension of the world’s biggest desalination and power plant privatization was announced by the Privatization Supervisory Committee for the Environment, Water and Agriculture on Monday.

This decision was made to capitalize on knowledge and capacity built in the Kingdom as a result of many years of experience in the areas of water desalination, new technologies, R&D and supply chains, the committee said at the time.

Reaching the decision to cancel the project had passed through stages that took into account that the desalination assets had developed their own strategies for a long time, and the tender process began in the summer of 2020 through the development of studies, with the interest of local and international developers, he told Al Arabiya on Wednesday.

The country aims at launching such major projects with efficiency, and will resume privatization of other projects in other sectors, including the education sector, said Nagadi.

Several ministries are working on initiatives aimed at facilitating the process of establishing companies, and facilitating the process of participation from the private sector, all in the context of strengthening the privatization environment in the Kingdom, he said.


Volkswagen lifts margin outlook again after record profit

Updated 29 July 2021

Volkswagen lifts margin outlook again after record profit

  • H1 operating profit reached 11.4 billion euros
  • Lowers outlook for deliveries on chip shortage

FRANKFURT: Europe’s largest carmaker Volkswagen on Thursday raised its profit margin target for the second time in less than three months, pointing to record earnings in the first half of 2021 that even blew past pre-pandemic levels.
The company said it now expected an operating return on sales of 6.0-7.5 percent, having previously guided for 5.5-7 percent and nudged up its forecast for net cash flow at its automotive division, now expected to be much stronger in 2021.
First-half operating profit before special items reached 11.4 billion euros ($13.5 billion), above the previous record of 10 billion euros achieved in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc in the global economy.
The strong increase was in part driven by high demand for high-margin luxury Porsches and Audis.
“We’re keeping up our high pace, both operationally and strategically,” Chief Executive Herbert Diess said in a statement, published only hours after the carmaker, along with partners, launched a bid for French-listed Europcar.
“Our electric offensive is picking up momentum and we will keep on increasing its pace in the months to come,” said Diess, who aims for Volkswagen to overtake Tesla as the world’s largest electric vehicle player by 2025.
Porsche SE, Volkswagen’s largest shareholder, also raised it outlook following the carmaker’s result, now forecasting profit after tax of 3.4 billion to 4.9 billion euros in 2021.
Shares in Volkswagen were indicated to open 0.7 percent higher in pre-market trade.
The global car sector has been hit by a shortage of crucial semiconductors, with numerous rivals, including Daimler , BMW and GM, adjusting or halting production, and Volkswagen accounted for that in its deliveries forecast.
“The risk of bottlenecks and disruption in the supply of semiconductor components has intensified throughout the industry,” the company said, lowering the outlook for deliveries to customers.
It now expects deliveries to be up noticeably in 2021 from the 9.3 million last year, having previously expected them to rise “significantly.”


Shell profit soars to two-year high as oil and gas prices rebound

Updated 29 July 2021

Shell profit soars to two-year high as oil and gas prices rebound

  • Profits surge to $5.5 billion, highest since late 2018
  • Shell boosts dividend by 38 percent

LONDON: Royal Dutch Shell boosted its dividend and launched a $2 billion share buyback program on Thursday after a sharp rise in oil and gas prices drove second quarter profits to their highest in more than two years.
As profits across the industry recovered from last year’s pandemic-led collapse in energy demand, peers TotalEnergies and Norway’s Equinor also announced share buybacks.
The Anglo-Dutch company saw a surge in cash generation, boosted by higher commodity prices and a recovery in global energy demand, which also helped it to cut debt.
“We are stepping up our shareholder distributions today, increasing dividends and starting share buybacks, while we continue to invest for the future of energy,” Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in a statement.
Adjusted earnings rose to $5.53 billion, the highest since the fourth quarter of 2018, exceeding an average analyst forecast provided by the company for a $5.07 billion profit.
That compares with earnings of $638 million a year earlier.
Apart from higher fuel prices, stronger profits from Shell’s marketing division, the world’s biggest network of petrol stations, also boosted the results.
Still, fuel sales in the quarter were well below pre-pandemic levels at 4.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the second quarter, up 9 percent from 4.16 million bpd in the first quarter.