Saudi Arabia plans to move real estate transactions onto digital platform

Buildings are seen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where efforts are being made to modernize the real estate sector. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 March 2021

Saudi Arabia plans to move real estate transactions onto digital platform

  • 10 million documents already digitized
  • Part of broader push to modernize sector

DUBAI: A planned digital platform will allow properties to be bought and sold in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Minister of Justice, Walid Al-Samaani told Al Saudiya Channel, on Tuesday, Al Arabiya reported.
It would give investors peace of mind by guaranteeing the accuracy of information about the properties being transacted.
He added that some 10 million real estate ownership documents out of an estimated 100 million had already been digitized as part of the process.
Modernizing the real estate sector is a key part of the Kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economy.

Abu Dhabi's ADNOC said to invite banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for drilling unit IPO

Updated 09 May 2021

Abu Dhabi's ADNOC said to invite banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for drilling unit IPO

  • ADNOC is planning to take the unit public in the third quarter
  • ADNOC Drilling owns and operates a large fleet of rigs

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) has invited investment banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for the initial public offering of its drilling unit, two sources told Reuters on Sunday.
The oil giant invited a handful of international and local banks to take part in the process of the public share sale of ADNOC Drilling, which is due later this month, they said.
ADNOC is planning to take the unit public in the third quarter, they added. One of the sources previously said ADNOC could raise at least $1 billion from the share sale.
ADNOC, which supplies nearly 3 percent of global oil demand, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters on Sunday.
ADNOC Drilling owns and operates a large fleet of rigs, including 75 onshore rigs, 20 offshore jackup rigs, and 11 well water rigs, according to its website.
The drilling business is critical for ADNOC’s upstream operations, helping the oil company reach its production targets.
ADNOC Chief Executive Sultan Al-Jaber has been chief architect of the transformation strategy the company embarked on more than four years ago, building an investment team to monetise assets and raise funds from international private equity groups.
It is also planning to float Fertiglobe, a fertiliser joint venture with Dutch-listed chemical producer OCI later this year.


Long-haul carrier Emirates to ship aid for free into India

Updated 09 May 2021

Long-haul carrier Emirates to ship aid for free into India

DUBAI: Dubai’s long-haul carrier Emirates will begin shipping aid for free into India to help fight a crushing outbreak of the coronavirus, the airline said Sunday.
The offer by Emirates, which has some 95 flights weekly to nine cities, comes as air freight costs have skyrocketed. That’s as air cargo demand has risen to its highest recorded level ever amid the pandemic, which has seen carriers including Emirates fly cargo in otherwise-empty passenger seats.
Emirates made the announcement at Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, already home to a World Health Organization warehouse that’s been crucial to the distribution of medical gear worldwide.
Nabil Sultan, the divisional senior vice president for Emirates SkyCargo, said the initial priority would be shipping aid out of Dubai, rather than elsewhere from its network. He acknowledged airfreight costs were high, but said the priority remained getting help to India.
“At the moment, cost is not the issue,” Sultan told journalists. “India is going through a major crisis.”
The first shipment, including tents to expand hospital capacity and other gear, is being prepared to be shipped later this week, Sultan said.
Since the founding of the long-haul carrier in 1985, Emirates has flown to India. The airline over time grew its network into flying into nine destinations across the country.
As India’s economic fortunes have grown, so too have Emirates as a key link in East-West flights from its hub at Dubai International Airport, long the world’s busiest for international travel. Passenger numbers from India for Emirates, just under 3 million in 2008, grew to 5.5 million a decade later. Millions of Indians live in the United Arab Emirates and comprise a key part of its labor force.
Then came the pandemic and the fierce outbreak now burning through India. Infections have surged there since February, fueled by variants and the government’s permission for massive crowds to attend religious festivals and political rallies. On Saturday alone, India reported over 400,000 new cases and more than 4,000 deaths. Since the pandemic began, India has reported 21.8 million cases and nearly 240,000 deaths, though experts say even those figures likely are undercounts.
The UAE banned in-bound passenger flights from India in late April, though cargo flights continued and passenger planes return with their seats now empty.
All this comes as air cargo has reached record levels after flights around the world halted when the pandemic first took hold. The International Air Transport Association, an aviation trade organization, said in March it saw the highest levels of demand ever as the world’s economy slowly began to pick up.
Per pound, costs for airfreight worldwide are up by some 75 percent, according to data provider WorldACM.

US pipeline company halts operations after cyberattack

Updated 08 May 2021

US pipeline company halts operations after cyberattack

  • The company transports gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil from refineries primarily located on the Gulf Coast through pipelines running from Texas to New Jersey

WASHINGTON: A US energy company says a cyberattack forced it to temporarily halt all operations on a major pipeline that delivers roughly 45 percent of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.

Colonial Pipeline said the attack took place on Friday and also affected some of its information technology systems. The company transports gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil from refineries primarily located on the Gulf Coast through pipelines running from Texas to New Jersey.

The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company said it hired an outside cybersecurity firm to investigate the nature and scope of the attack and has also contacted law enforcement and federal agencies.

“Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue,” the company said in a late Friday statement. “At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline.”

Oil analyst Andy Lipow said the impact of the attack on fuel supplies and prices depends on how long the pipeline is down. An outage of one or two days would be minimal, he said, but an outage of five or six days could causes shortages and price hikes, particularly in an area stretching from central Alabama to the Washington, DC area.

Lipow said a key concern about a lengthy delay would be the supply of jet fuel needed to keep major airports operating, like those in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The precise nature of the attack was unclear, including who launched it and what the motives were. A Colonial Pipeline spokeswoman declined to say whether the company had received a ransom demand, as is common in attacks from cyber criminal syndicates.

Ransomware scrambles a victim organization’s data with encryption. The criminals leave instructions on infected computers for how to negotiate ransom payments and, once paid, provide software decryption keys.
While there have long been fears about US adversaries disrupting American energy suppliers, ransomware attacks are much more common and have been soaring lately.

Mike Chapple, teaching professor of IT, analytics and operations at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and a former computer scientist with the National Security Agency, said systems that control pipelines should not be connected to the internet and vulnerable to cyber intrusions.

“The attacks were extremely sophisticated and they were able to defeat some pretty sophisticated security controls, or the right degree of security controls weren’t in place,” Chapple said.

Colonial Pipeline said it transports more than 100 million gallons of fuel daily, through a pipeline system spanning more than 5,500 miles.

The FBI and the White House’s National Security Council did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The federal Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency referred questions about the incident to the company.

New funding rules to ‘revolutionize’ traditional Saudi banking models

Updated 08 May 2021

New funding rules to ‘revolutionize’ traditional Saudi banking models

  • Regulations on open banking, crowdfunding platforms helping to modernize fintech sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s new rules on crowdfunding and open banking platforms will revolutionize traditional models and benefit financial technology (fintech) providers, developers, and corporate bank customers, an international expert has predicted.

Paul Kayrouz, head of fintech, blockchain, and emerging technology at global consultancy firm PwC Middle East, said traditional banks would need to think hard about their business models to remain relevant.

“Digital banking is here to stay. So, for these incumbents, they have to decide where they place themselves on this spectrum, to what extent they want to adopt digital banking and make strategic moves to have strong relationships with their customers,” he added.

Crowdfunding, a process whereby a large group of people invests small amounts of money to collectively fund a project, has been popular since the turn of the century and took off with the launch of platforms such as Kickstarter, in 2009.

According to database company Statista, in 2019 the global crowdfunding market was valued at $13.9 billion, and that figure was forecast to triple by 2026.

In January, the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) issued new regulations for debt-based crowdfunding in the Kingdom. The framework provided more opportunities for startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country to access capital and source funding to expand.

The rules provided a licensing structure for crowdfunding activities and outlined the minimum requirements for crowdfunding players wishing to enter the Saudi market, Kayrouz said.


• Crowdfunding is a process through which a large group of people invests small amounts of money to collectively fund a project.

• In 2019 the global crowdfunding market was valued at $13.9 billion, and that figure was forecast to triple by 2026.

• In January, the Saudi Central Bank issued new regulations for debt-based crowdfunding in the Kingdom.

He pointed out that the main benefit for SMEs was being able to raise funds and gain access to capital without having to give up a stake in their business to investors, a situation many smaller firms had been struggling within the Saudi market. The new regulations would also increase competition between venture capital (VC) organizations, and crowdfunding platforms themselves, he added, meaning improved interest rates and terms for startups.

“With the rise of these crowdfunding platforms the rules around these financial technologies may have a ripple effect on the VC ecosystem, therefore, other VCs will adopt some of these similar financial technologies,” Kayrouz said. In January, SAMA also issued its policy on open banking, enabling bank customers to securely manage their accounts, share their data with third parties, access bespoke financial products and services from the same platform, and experience smoother daily banking activities.

“Open banking is a global phenomenon, and each country has a different approach based on its market needs.

“For Saudi fintech providers and developers, this is really a big gain. The fintechs, or what we call the third-party providers, will have access to financial data that they do not have at the moment and, more importantly, access to it will be free of charge. This is really an evolution in the fintech space,” Kayrouz added.

He noted that besides technology benefits, customers would also be able to take advantage of additional products, not currently available, through open banking platforms.

As with all new forms of technology, he said that the rise of digital platforms would lead to some roles disappearing. But among new openings likely to emerge were know your customer roles, as organizations looked to incorporate new users quickly while making sure they were complying with global and regional regulatory requirements in doing so.


General Motors sees Q1 sales surge in Saudi Arabia

Updated 08 May 2021

General Motors sees Q1 sales surge in Saudi Arabia

  • General vans recorded a 203 percent year-on-year increase in sales

RIYADH: US carmaker General Motors (GM) last week reported that its global first quarter profit was $2.98 billion, 12 times what it was last year, despite a global shortage of computer chips affecting production. In the Middle East, sales for the quarter increased 15 percent year-on-year, but in Saudi Arabia the results were even more impressive, with triple-digit increases for some segments.

“We continue to maintain a strong position in the Saudi market, in part this is due to some strong vehicle launches throughout 2020,” Sajed Sbeih, managing director of GM’s commercial operations for Africa and the Middle East, told Arab News. “Overall, Saudi Arabia is the largest market for GM and alone it accounts for 19 percent of all our sales in compact SUVs across the region, up from just 4 percent last year. We also dominate in the full-size SUV segment.”

GM has operated in the Kingdom for around 90 years and currently has 85 sales outlets and 2,700 dealer employees across its three brands: Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.  In the compact SUV sector, Q1 sales in Saudi Arabia surged by 626 percent year-on-year. The medium-sized SUV segment was up 319 percent year-on-year, pickup trucks saw a 25 percent increase and general vans recorded a 203 percent year-on-year increase in sales. 

Sajed Sbeih

Like many sectors, the pandemic saw GM ramp up its digital platforms in the region to cater to the travel restrictions in place. 

“This was due to the massive efforts our dealer partners have and continue to perform, exceeding all expectations, especially in the Kingdom. We also quickly pivoted and accelerated our e-commerce platform, and the results have been very positive as many customers swapped to digital sales platforms,” Sbeih said.

Another clear trend in 2020 was the rise in demand for cleaner and greener options. 

“In December, GM announced a $27 billion investment in autonomous and electric vehicles (EVs) as well as a plan to launch 30 new EVs globally by 2025, and here we are just weeks later delivering on that promise in the Middle East with the Chevrolet Bolt EUV and GMC Hummer EV SUV,” Sbeih added.

GM also made regional inroads in the driverless sector. Last month, it signed an agreement with Dubai’s transport authority to operate its autonomous vehicles in the emirate by 2023. The move will make Dubai the first location outside the US to operate self-driving vehicles and the fleet will reach 4,000 vehicles by 2030.

A catalyst for the Kingdom’s automobile sector was the ban on women driving being lifted.

“Women were always involved in the purchasing process. In fact, some of our Chevrolet vehicles for example were already registered to women prior to the ban and, when the Cadillac XT4 was first introduced in 2019, it was a leader in its segment, witnessing exceptional sales results with women comprising 65 percent of owners in Saudi Arabia.”