New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

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Updated 02 December 2023
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New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

  • Michael Mainelli, heading to COP28 in UAE, says appointment of new UK foreign secretary will ‘help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia’
  • Mainelli tells Arab News he is ‘extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero’ in both Gulf states

LONDON: Maturation of Gulf states’ economies presents further opportunities to deepen the relationship between the region and the UK, the new Lord Mayor of the City of London told Arab News before departing for COP28 in the UAE.

Just a few weeks into the role and Michael Mainelli was on hand, like his predecessor, to witness yet another British Cabinet reshuffle.

But with the return to frontline politics of former Prime Minister David Cameron, Mainelli is optimistic that this will further strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, one of several Gulf states to have announced participation in a £30 billion ($37.9 billion) investment pledge into the UK.

“When it comes to that investment it’s enormously welcome, but what I think is great is it shows how Saudi and other Gulf states have really matured their economies,” Mainelli said.

“They’ve gotten a better understanding of what they want to achieve with their sovereign wealth funds beyond just investments and returns, and that includes knowledge transfer. That’s really exciting as it offers two-way transference between us and them,” he added.

“With Cameron’s appointment (as foreign secretary), you get undoubted foreign policy expertise, including in the Gulf, which I think will prove a good move and help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia.”

Pushing the idea of London as a “hub of connectivity” appears central in Mainelli’s year-long tenure, which he said he is serving under the theme “Connect to Prosper.”

Asked where the Gulf figures in this, he replied: “The Lord Mayor typically spends 100 days traveling each year. Of this, three weeks will be in North America, three in Asia, after which a smattering of other countries.

“And then, interestingly, the Lord Mayor will typically spend two weeks of travel around the Gulf each year. This shows you just how important it is as a destination, being right up there with Asia and North America.”

COP28 in Dubai has been designed with a strict focus on carbon, which plays into Mainelli’s “personal ambition.”

While he would be “going in with an open mind,” he said he would also use the event to revive interest in the notion of voluntary carbon markets, which first emerged during COP3 in Kyoto in 1997.

“I believe there’s a lot more work to be done when it comes to carbon markets … but we do need to get these to work,” he added.

“The initial idea was to have emission trading permits and businesses paid to remove carbon from the atmosphere — typically this would involve planting trees or seagrass — with the idea being we reduce our environmental impact by taking it out of the atmosphere.

“But it became subject to a lot of issues, ranging from the difficulty of measuring to ensuring the carbon was sequestered properly, and frankly also issues of fraud and corruption.”

Despite the initial difficulties, Mainelli remains convinced that it is a feasible and practical solution to reducing carbon levels in the atmosphere.

“It’s just the market hasn’t been fully formed and the basis upon which prices are set not properly calculated,” he said.

Of particular concern is what he described as the “final bit,” adding: “Let’s say I pay you to for a ton of carbon offset a year over a 25-year period, which you agree to facilitate through the planting of a forest.

“Now let’s say having planted that forest, a hurricane hits and uproots the trees, or there’s an avalanche, perhaps there’s a parasite, and the trees are destroyed, maybe the soil doesn’t allow them to grow, or maybe at the end of the 25 years you simply chop the forest down.

“Were any of these to happen, then nothing really has been achieved. All that has happened is you’ve deferred 25 years of emissions.”

For Mainelli, the solution to the issue and restitution of carbon markets as a tool in the route to net zero resides in the “appropriate use of insurance,” which he said would put a financial impetus behind the idea and “drive clearer, harder standards.”

Of particular pertinence, he noted, would be the fact that insurers would not insure carbon capture sites without having conducted “sufficient due diligence.”

Insurers “would crawl all over whoever was planning to set up one of these carbon capture sites, and they’d want to know what trees were being used, where seeds were sourced,” he said.

“They’d survey the ground, they’d ask why it was located at the base of a mountain. They’d do all this, and not only would they insure the site, they’d be building knowledge.”

This, said Mainelli, would be pivotal as that increased understanding would serve to improve the means and methods of carbon capture deployed in these carbon markets, leading to standardization.

It is “fairly evident” that the Gulf is determined to find workable solutions to address the climate crisis, he added.

“I spent a week earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, and also spent a week last year in Saudi, really trying to understand the situation on the ground there, and I was extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero in both nations and in other areas,” he said.

Pointing to the 25 substantial hydrogen projects in place in the UAE and the 40 Saudi Arabia has in the pipeline, Mainelli said there is an opening for closer ties with the City of London.

While development of hydrogen production would always be of interest, he said there is also reason to considering the creation of a sufficient transport mechanism for getting this hydrogen out into the world. This, he added, offers “great potential for collaboration.”


Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

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Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

RIYADH: Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom’s delegation to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group assemblies in Washington this week to discuss global economic developments.

Al-Jadaan will chair the first meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee under Saudi Arabia’s three-year chairmanship.
The meeting will review economic developments and the threats to overall global development. It will also discuss global economic policy, key priorities and the role of the Washington-based lender in providing financial assistance, advice, technical capacity building to member states, and financial support to countries in need.

The minister will also take part in the meeting of the World Bank Development Committee to discuss the global development plans implemented by the entity.  

Moreover, Al-Jadaan and the governor of the Saudi Central Bank, Ayman Al-Sayari, will also participate in the second meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 under the Brazilian presidency.

The meeting will discuss a number of economic and development issues as well as ways to enhance international cooperation to meet the challenges of the global economy.

The Kingdom’s delegation includes the CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development, Sultan Al-Marshad, the deputy chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the IMF, Ryadh bin Mohammed Al-Khareif, and Assistant Minister of Finance for the Macro Fiscal Policies and International Relations Abdulmohsen Al-Khalaf.

 


Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 

Updated 14 April 2024
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Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Sunday, losing 38.52 points, or 0.30 percent, to close at 12,666.90. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.28 billion ($1.67 billion) as 103 of the stocks advanced, while 122 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu gained 137.34 points, or 0.52 percent, to close at 26,390.11. This comes as 31 of the stocks advanced while as many as 38 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped 16.03 points, or 0.98 percent, to close at 1,615.00.  

The best-performing stock of the day was Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. The company’s share price surged 9.98 percent to SR110.20.  

Other top performers include ACWA Power Co. as well as Saudi Steel Pipe Co. 

The worst performer was Sahara International Petrochemical Co., whose share price dropped by 4.72 percent to SR34.35. 

Other worst performers include the Arab National Bank as well as the Saudi National Bank.  

On the announcements front, Gulf Insurance Group has announced the board of director’s decision to distribute SR78.75 million in cash dividends to shareholders for the fiscal year 2023. 

According to a Tadawul statement, the total number of shares eligible for dividends amounted to 52.5 million, with the dividend per share standing at SR1.5. 

The statement also revealed that the percentage of dividends to the share par value stood at 15 percent. 

Moreover, Scientific & Medical Equipment House Co. has announced the signing of an SR180 million contract with the Ministry of Health to provide cooked nutrition to hospitals in Madinah.  

A bourse filing revealed that the financial impact of the five-year agreement will commence in the third quarter of 2024.  

Additionally, Al Kathiri Holding Co. has announced that one of its subsidiaries, Msandh Al-Emdad Co., has been awarded a project with the Presidency of State Security to establish a building in Riyadh with a total value of SR20 million.  

According to a Tadawul statement, this project includes the supply and implementation of structural, architectural, and mechanical as well as electrical and systems works for the building in accordance with competition drawings and documents.  

Furthermore, the Saudi Ground Services Co. has announced the signing of an SR2 billion contract renewal with flynas for a duration of five years.  

A bourse filing revealed that under this contract, the Saudi Ground Services Co. would provide ground handling assistance, including ramp and passenger services, for domestic and international flights at all airports in the Kingdom. 

Meanwhile, Gulf General Cooperative Insurance Co. has announced the completion of the sale of 3,321 fractional shares.  

According to a Tadawul statement, the sale revenue of the fractional shares stood at SR44,838, with the average selling price per share reaching SR13.50.  

This comes following the decrease of the company’s capital based on the approval of the extraordinary general assembly.


Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project    

Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project    

RIYADH: Saudi master developer Knowledge Economic City Co. has signed two deals to deliver 396 residential apartments within the first phase of its mixed-use project Al-Alya.

In Tadawul filings, the listed firm announced the deals with Elkhereiji Commerce and Contracting Co., worth SR288.6 million ($77.92 million).

The first agreement entails fully implementing contracting works for additional residential buildings in the first phase of the Al-Alya mixed-use project. This comprises a group of four houses, offering 132 apartments of different sizes valued at SR117.5 million, excluding value-added tax.

The second contract involves the implementation of electromechanical, finishing, gardening, and site coordination works for a group of eight residential buildings valued at SR171.13 million, providing 264 apartments, the company said in a statement to Tadawul.

Based on work progress, both contracts will be paid in installments per monthly payment certificate.

The company commented on the second deal, saying: “Accordingly, the financial impact is represented in the cash outflow for the amount payable to the contractor over a period of 20 months starting from the end of May 2024.” 

The firm said that the financial impact of the first agreement is represented in the cash outflow for the amount payable to the contractor over a period of 24 months.

Al-Alya is one of the main projects in the Knowledge Economic City and represents a project with mixed-use components within a gated complex compound that combines hospitality, housing and offices as well as retail and education services.

It was designed to respond to the urban trend of humanizing cities and the quality-of-life program that relies on green areas and pedestrian walkways to create a style and vibrancy that meets the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The project aims to enable local and foreign companies, businessmen, and digital entrepreneurs to work in Madinah.

In October last year, Knowledge Economic City Co. signed an agreement with Gulf International Bank Capital for SR3.5 billion to establish a real estate investment fund.

The initiative is poised to launch the initial phase of the Islamic World District in Madinah and will span over 140,000 sq. meters, transforming the area into a mixed-use development.

The site will include hospitality, residential, retail, entertainment, and cultural zones, providing over 5,000 hotel keys, 743 residential apartments, plus a designated area of 24,000 sq. m. for retail shops.

GIB Capital is a subsidiary of Gulf International Bank, owned by the governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund holds a 97.2 percent stake, according to the bank’s 2022 annual report.

The project aims to enhance the visitor experience in Madinah, a city that holds historical significance as the first capital of Islamic civilization and a destination that draws millions of pilgrims and tourists annually.


Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 

Updated 14 April 2024
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Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 

RIYADH: Jordan’s mining sector is set to grow substantially, with projections indicating that its contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product will reach 2.1 billion Jordanian dinars ($2.9 billion) by 2033. 

Up from 0.7 billion dinars in 2023, this ambitious target is part of the government’s newly announced initiative to transform Jordan into a mining state by 2033, as outlined in the country’s National Mining Strategy. 

This strategic overhaul aims to elevate the sector’s workforce to 27,500 and boost the value of its exports to 3.5 billion dinars from 1 billion dinars, according to a report issued by the state-owned Jordan News Agency, also known as Petra.   

The strategy emerges from its Economic Modernization Vision and is backed by directives from Jordan’s King Abdullah, emphasizing the need to accelerate investment-stimulating procedures in mineral exploration.  

A cornerstone of this transformation was the formulation of the strategy, spearheaded by the global consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie.  

In 2023, the Jordanian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources completed initiatives and projects under the EMV for the mining sector and set priorities within the vision’s executive program.  

The vision’s main pillars revolve around expediting the nation’s full economic potential while improving the quality of life for its citizens and maintaining sustainable measures. 

Moreover, the ministry’s proactive engagement has led to the signing of 11 memorandums of understanding to bolster investment in Jordan’s extractive industries.  

An additional three memorandums of cooperation were signed with various companies to further these goals.  

According to statements made to Petra, the ministry plans to continue advancing these undertakings throughout 2024, pushing these MoUs toward value-added mining operations.  

These initiatives are part of the nation’s ongoing efforts to boost its standing in the mining and minerals industry. 

In a report carried by Petra earlier in January, the ministry said that it aims to position the country on the global mining map by capitalizing on positive mineral exploration results. 

Over the past two years, the country established several partnerships with international companies in mining exploration.  

Moreover, it recently launched an investment platform to showcase national resources and opportunities in the energy sector. 


Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget

Updated 14 April 2024
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Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget

RIYADH: Egypt will increase health sector allocations in the next general budget to 495.6 billion pounds ($10.4 billion), according to the country’s finance minister.   

The North African country’s upcoming fiscal year is set to begin in July. 

Mohamed Maait said in a statement that this reflects an annual growth rate of 24.9 percent compared to the funds allocated for the sector in the current fiscal.   

This is in line with the nation’s goal to improve medical services for citizens, which is also an objective of Egypt’s Vision 2030.  

Moreover, the minister added that allocations for the education sector will also be raised to 858.3 billion pounds, with an annual growth rate of 45 percent.   

Scientific research reserves are also on track to increase to more than 139.5 billion pounds in the next budget, reflecting an annual growth rate of 40.1 percent.

Mait noted that the country will continue to provide the necessary funds to expand healthcare initiatives, supply medicines and medical aids to hospitals, and increase support for health insurance programs. 

He emphasized how Egypt was also working on targeting the speed of gradual expansion in extending the umbrella of comprehensive health insurance.

Furthermore, the minister said the last social package implemented in March included allocating 15 billion pounds in additional increases for doctors, nurses, teachers, and university faculty members. 

The breakdown was divided into 8.1 billion pounds to approve an additional increase in the wages of teachers in pre-university education as well as 1.6 billion pounds to approve a raise for faculty members and their assistants at universities, institutes, and research centers. 

There was also 4.5 billion pounds to approve a supplementary rise for members of the medical professions and nursing bodies.

In 2022, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed strengthening cooperation with the World Health Organization to improve the country’s healthcare sector.