‘Several projects’ already launched in wake of new Saudi privatization law

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Updated 18 March 2021

‘Several projects’ already launched in wake of new Saudi privatization law

  • Registry of Privatization Projects will include a comprehensive central database of information on opportunities

RIYADH: Further details have emerged regarding plans by the Saudi Cabinet to privatize 16 key industries, in a move intending to boost private sector involvement in the development of the Kingdom’s economy.

Part of the country’s new Private Sector Participation (PSP) program, the initiative was announced on Wednesday by Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan, who chairs both the privatization program committee and board of the National Center for Privatization (NCP).

Hani Alsaigh, Director General of Strategic Communication and Marketing at the National Privatization Center (NCP), gave Arab News more detail about the sectors that stand to benefit from the new Private Sector Participation (PSP) Law.

The 16 main sectors targeted for privatization are: environment, water and agricultural, transportation, energy, industry and mineral wealth, labor and social development, housing, education, health, municipalities, Hajj and Umrah, communications and information technology, media, sports, interior and finance.

“We are working with all the sectors targeted for privatization… Several projects have been recently selected and launched in the sectors of health, education, transport, municipalities, environment, water and agriculture and human resources and social development,” Alsaigh said.

The new system aims to support target sectors by working to enhance private sector participation in the Kingdom’s economy and provide investment opportunities. The NCP will handle the organization of all procedures related to privatization projects, as well as facilitating the provision of those opportunities to the private sector in a transparent and fair manner.

“The NCP is the competent authority that is responsible for applying the privatization law in cooperation and coordination with the targeted sectors and their supervising committees,” Alsaigh said.

The new regulations will promote “transparency, fairness and integrity of procedures related to contracts, as well as increasing the levels of inclusiveness and quality of services and the efficiency of assets related to privatization projects and improving their management level,” he added.

The NCP aims to become a “world-class center of excellence”, facilitating the process of allocating services in the aforementioned government sectors by providing assistance and support in drafting regulations, developing legislative frameworks, preparing implementation plans and time programs, overcoming obstacles and maintaining quality through continuous monitoring of privatization projects.

Additionally, the NCP announced the creation of the Registry of Privatization Projects, a register of privatization projects that constitutes the comprehensive central database of data and documents related to privatization projects.

The registry will serve as a means of preserving documents and information related to privatization projects, organizing the subject of disclosure of record information, and protecting confidential information related to privatization projects.

According to Alsaigh, the new system seeks to better enhance the existing privatization system, and one of the most important roles of the new system will be to strengthen the existing governance and ensure fairness and transparency.

“The law allows participants from the private sector to submit grievances related to the bidding and selection procedures of privatization projects, to set up a committee of experts to address the grievances related to the bidding and selection procedures of privatization projects and lay the regulatory basis to compensate the aggrieved in case the gap could not be addressed,” he said.


Aramco agrees $12.4 billion pipeline deal with EIG

Updated 10 April 2021

Aramco agrees $12.4 billion pipeline deal with EIG

  • Aramco to hold 51% stake in new company
  • Aligns with recently announced "Shareek" program

RIYADH: Aramco has agreed a $12.4 billion leaseback deal with a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners in one of the biggest energy infrastructure transactions.
It represents a continuation of Aramco’s strategy to unlock the potential of its asset base and maximize value for its shareholders, it said in a statement.
A newly-formed unit called Aramco Oil Pipelines Company will lease usage rights in Aramco’s stabilized crude oil pipelines network for a 25-year period.
In return, Aramco Oil Pipelines Company will receive a tariff payable by Aramco for the stabilized crude oil that flows through the network, backed by minimum volume commitments.
Aramco will hold a 51 percent majority stake in the new company and the EIG-led consortium will hold a 49 percent stake.
The Saudi oil giant said it would retain full ownership and operational control of its stabilized crude oil pipeline network and that the transaction would not impose any restrictions on Aramco’s actual crude oil production volumes.
“This landmark transaction defines the way forward for our portfolio optimization program,” said Aramco President Amin Nasser. “We are capitalizing on new opportunities that also align strategically with the Kingdom’s recently-launched Shareek program. Aramco’s strong capital structure will be further enhanced with this transaction, which in turn will help maximize returns for our shareholders.”

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Oil prices dip on mixed supply and demand outlook

Updated 10 April 2021

Oil prices dip on mixed supply and demand outlook

  • Downward pressure has been exerted by the decision of OPEC+ to increase supplies by 2 million barrels per day between May and July

LONDON: Oil prices edged lower on Friday on rising supplies from major producers and concerns over a mixed picture on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on fuel demand.

Brent crude futures for June fell 37 cents, or 0.59 percent, to $62.83 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for May was at $59.24, down 36 cents.

Both contracts are on track for a 2-3 percent drop this week but still far from a low of $60.47 hit two weeks ago.

Downward pressure has been exerted by the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, to increase supplies by 2 million barrels per day between May and July.

Analysts expect global oil inventories to continue to fall, but predict fuel demand will accelerate in the second half of the year as the global economic recovery gathers steam.

“A lot of destocking is going on, so we are well into the rebalancing process,” said Energy Aspects analyst Virendra Chauhan.

Physical markets will still need to pick up before prices and inter-month spreads can rally, he added.

For all the optimism, renewed lockdowns in some parts of the world and problems with vaccination programs could threaten the oil demand picture.

Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi, said oil prices are expected to trade in a range between $60 and $70 as investors weigh these factors.

“Oil is currently in a wait-and-see mode, with market participants looking at the vaccination pace to understand when oil demand will recover further and at nuclear talks in Vienna to see when more Iranian barrels might come back,” said UBS commodity analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Talks to bring Iran and the US fully back into the 2015 nuclear deal are making progress, delegates said on Friday, but Iranian officials indicated disagrement with Washington over which sanctions it must lift.

“If a fulsome framework can be crafted in the coming weeks, significant quantities of Iranian oil will likely hit the market in H2 2021,” RBC Capital analyst Helima Croft said in a note this week.


Pakistan's current $16 billion forex reserves will make import payments ‘easy’ — experts

Updated 10 April 2021

Pakistan's current $16 billion forex reserves will make import payments ‘easy’ — experts

  • The country's foreign currency reserves increased to $22.18 billion after four years, following significant Eurobond inflows
  • The situation has not done much for the national currency that may come under pressure in the long term due to debt servicing

KARACHI: Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves have reached $22.18 billion, with more than $16 billion held by the central bank, after a span of four years, as the country raised $2.5 billion by issuing Eurobonds, said an official statement released on Thursday.

"The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has received the proceeds of government's $2.5 billion Eurobond issuance in its account," said the statement circulated on Thursday night. "As a result, SBP's foreign exchange reserves closed above $16 billion, their highest level since July 2017."

According to economic analysts, the inflows have brought the government in a more comfortable position to pay for its imports, including any COVID-19 vaccines.

"The inflow of $2.5 billion has raised the cushion of the State Bank and it will also improve the country's current account position," Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, member of the government's Economic Advisory Council (EAC), told Arab News on Friday.

"The inflows have made it easy for the country to make payments for imports of COVID-19 vaccine, wheat or sugar due to an improved reserves position," he continued. "This is also the right time to tap international market."

Some economists also suggested that Pakistan should utilize the Eurobond proceeds to pay off some of its debts.

"The country has arranged the liquidity to pay off previous external debts because time to make these payments is due and the prices of oil are also increasing with the ease of lockdown," Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said.

"For the payment of external debts and oil imports the Eurobond proceeds can be utilized," he added.

The inflows did not generate any major fluctuations in the currency and interbank markets as the rupee only appreciated 0.05 percent to close at Rs152.94 against the greenback on Friday.

"Going forward the rupee can come under pressure due to debt servicing since the country is availing G20 debt relief at present," Samiullah Tariq, head of research at the Pakistan-Kuwait Investment, told Arab News. "Only strong and enduring inflows can resist the fall of rupee. Otherwise, we expect three to four percent depreciation in the long run."

Despite its limited impact on the national currency, an official statement announced that the country had returned to the international market for the first time by issuing securities since 2017.

"Pakistan has entered the international capital market after a gap of over three years by successfully raising $2.5 billion through a multi-tranche transaction of 5, 10 and 30-year Eurobonds," the finance ministry said on Thursday.

"The transaction generated great interest as leading global investors from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US participated in the global investor calls and the order book," it added.

This is for the first time that Pakistan has adopted a program-based approach with registration of Global Medium-Term Note program.

"The program will allow Pakistan to tap the market at short notice," the ministry continued in its statement. "The government intends to make full use of this program and become a regular issuer in the International Capital Markets."


Riyadh city chiefs deny Bloomberg report of unpaid Metro contractor claims

Updated 09 April 2021

Riyadh city chiefs deny Bloomberg report of unpaid Metro contractor claims

  • Pandemic leads to supply chain disruptions
  • All claims go through contractual process

RIYADH: The Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC) has denied claims it has not paid contractors building the city’s multi-billion dollar metro project.
It follows a Bloomberg report published earlier in the week headlined “Saudi Arabia’s Unpaid Tab With Metro Builders Runs Into Billions.”
It said that payments had been made in a timely manner on the project which started in 2013 and that any contractual claims were assessed through a dispute resolution process.
“All claims filed go through a dispute resolution process in order for all disputes to be resolved professionally and amicably,” it said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic affected the construction of mega projects, such as supply chain interruptions. However, despite the outbreak, we have ensured the project’s continuity, as we adapted business behavior and construction processes.”
The Riyadh Transit Network Project (RTNP) aims to support the Kingdom’s 2030 economic diversification agenda by boosting the transportation sector and raising the capital city’s profile.
With its six lines totaling 176km and 85 metro stations, the metro network will cover most of the densely populated areas of the city, public facilities, as well as governmental, educational, commercial and medical institutions.
It will connect to King Khalid International Airport and King Abdullah Financial District, in addition to main universities and the downtown area.
The metro service will also be integrated with the Riyadh Bus network, linking to 3,000 bus stops spread across the city over 1,900 km of routes.


Saudi MoF completes $57.8bn payment orders in first quarter of 2021

Updated 09 April 2021

Saudi MoF completes $57.8bn payment orders in first quarter of 2021

RIYADH: The Ministry of Finance (MoF) finalized the disbursement procedures for all payment orders received from the public and private sector with a total value of SR217 billion ($57.8 billion) in the first quarter of 2021, according to a ministerial tweet.
Expenditure for the public sector amounted to SR186 billion, while the same for the private sector reached SR31 billion, accounting for 99 percent of the total payments’ orders received.
Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that 24 local companies, the majority of which are listed in the Saudi market, will invest SR2 trillion by 2025, and another SR3 trillion by 2030, Al Arabiya reported.
Al-Jadaan indicated that the Public Investment Fund is a shareholder in most of these companies.