Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

The growth was primarily driven by a substantial rise in banks’ term and savings accounts, which recorded a rise of 31 percent to reach SR864.32 billion. File
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Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s money supply surged 10 percent in January to reach SR2.72 trillion ($726 billion), the central bank data showed.

The growth was primarily driven by a substantial rise in banks’ term and savings accounts, which recorded a rise of 31 percent to reach SR864.32 billion. The overall figure, however, also includes currency outside banks, demand deposits, and other quasi-money deposits.

Since the Saudi riyal is pegged to the US dollar, the rise in interest rates is also seen as a source of motivation for depositors who want to pursue more profitable avenues particularly term deposits known for their higher-yielding nature.

Fitch Ratings also noted that the liquidity boost in Saudi Arabia could be linked to a significant rise in funds from government-related entities.

According to the agency, the rise in these GRE accounts suggests that these entities chose to invest their surplus liquidity in higher income-generating deposits with commercial banks, rather than with the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

It highlighted that these deposits serve as an expensive source of funding for banks, which has significantly increased the average cost of funding due to heightened competition in the financial market.

Reflecting on the changes, demand deposits, which constituted a 53 percent share of the money supply a year ago, now stand at 48.42 percent, with a growth rate of only 1 percent during this period.

Despite the elevated cost of funding for Saudi banks, the increase in interest rates also bolstered profits on their asset side, as higher borrowing rates resulted in greater income.

Based on data from Bloomberg compiled by Arab News, the net income of listed Saudi banks surged by 12 percent annually in 2023, reaching SR69.96 billion.

Among these, the Saudi National Bank held the largest share at 29 percent, equivalent to SR20 billion. Notably, the most significant growth in net income was observed in Saudi Awwal Bank, with profits soaring by 45 percent to reach SR7 billion.

During 2022, SAMA increased key policy rates seven times followed by an additional four times in 2023. In its July 2023 meeting, the central bank last raised its repo rate by 25 basis points to 6 percent, reaching its highest level since 2001. This move was in line with the measures taken by the US Federal Reserve as part of its efforts to combat inflation.

Saudi Arabia has nevertheless demonstrated exceptional resilience and stability in managing inflation. This success can be attributed to the steadfast implementation of robust government policies designed to safeguard the economy.

Central to this stability is the Saudi Consumer Protection Association, a vigilant guardian of fair pricing practices for essential goods and services. The Kingdom’s strong regulatory framework ensures that consumers are shielded from unwarranted price escalations, fostering an environment conducive to business.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to social welfare is evident in its comprehensive policies. The Kingdom has strategically invested in initiatives such as subsidies on essential goods, affordable housing schemes, quality education programs, and accessible healthcare services.

A prime example of this commitment is the Citizen Account Program, a cornerstone of support for low- and mid-income families. Through this program, the government provides crucial cash transfers, alleviating the financial strains caused by the rising cost of living.

In January, Saudi Arabia maintained stable inflation at 1.6 percent, holding steady from December 2023, as reported by the General Authority of Statistics.

The primary driver of the inflation rate was the cost of rent, given their significant weight of 21 percent in the Saudi consumer basket.

Nevertheless, according to data from Trading Economics, the Kingdom ranked the second-lowest among G20 countries in terms of inflation, following Switzerland, which recorded a rate of 1.3 percent.

Looking ahead, Fitch Ratings anticipates that the cost of funding will continue to be sensitive to shifts in the Fed rate. However, the agency expects the average net interest margin, a crucial measure of banks’ core profitability, to stay at approximately 3 percent.

Fitch also projects a 10 percent growth in deposits for 2024, driven primarily by term accounts. The proportion of demand deposits will likely decrease, falling below 50 percent of total deposits.

The agency’s predicted Saudi banking sector financing growth stood at 10 percent in 2024, well above the Gulf Cooperation Council average of 5 percent but down from an estimated 12 percent in 2023 and 14 percent in 2022.


Riyadh Air and Saudia agree new joint training programs

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Riyadh Air and Saudia agree new joint training programs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s two national airlines will work together to train pilots, aircraft crews and other aviation employees thanks to a new deal.

Riyadh Air, the airline announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March 2023, has reached an agreement with the Saudi Academy – affiliated with the Saudia group, the national carrier of the Kingdom.

The memorandum of cooperation, signed at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, represents a turning point in specialized education in the field of aviation for Saudi Arabia’s national carriers, paving the way towards improving the training standards of pilots, aircraft crews and air operations, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The agreement will enable the two national carriers to integrate their expertise and resources to provide training programs covering a wide range of specializations, SPA’s report added.

These programs will include technical training, aviation basics, and ground operations, as well as management principles, linguistic proficiency, and compliance with regulatory provisions and standards.


Pakistan GDP grows 2.09% in Q3, supported by agriculture

Updated 10 min 56 sec ago
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Pakistan GDP grows 2.09% in Q3, supported by agriculture

  • Pakistan’s central bank in latest report projected real GDP growth of 2-3% for the fiscal year 2024 
  • Provisional 2024 financial year growth in agriculture estimated at 6.25%, 1.21% for industry and services

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s economy grew 2.09% in the third quarter of the financial year 2023-2024, supported by higher growth in agriculture, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said in a press release on Tuesday.

The estimated provisional growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) for the financial year ending June 2024 is 2.38%, the bureau said in a statement. That compares with a revised 0.21% economic contraction in the 2023 year when political unrest, a combination of tax and gas tariff hikes, controlled imports, and a steep fall in the rupee currency rapidly pushed up inflation.

Last week in its half yearly report, Pakistan’s central bank projected real GDP growth of 2-3% for the fiscal year 2024.

There was no comparable year-ago third quarter GDP data as Pakistan only began releasing quarterly growth numbers from November. That was done in compliance with the structural benchmarks of the current $3 billion bailout program agreed with the International Monetary Fund and completed last month.

The bureau revised the first and second quarter GDP estimates for financial year 2023-2024 to 2.71% and 1.79% respectively, compared to earlier estimates of 2.5% and 1%.

The provisional 2024 financial year growth in agriculture was estimated at 6.25%, and 1.21% for both industry as well as services, it added.

“The healthy growth of agriculture is mainly due to double-digit growth in important crops,” the bureau said, adding that bumper crop of wheat, cotton, and rice contributed to the positive result.


IMF expects UAE’s economy to grow by 4% in 2024

Updated 12 min 31 sec ago
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IMF expects UAE’s economy to grow by 4% in 2024

RIYADH: The UAE’s gross domestic product is set to expand by 4 percent this year, driven by robust domestic activities and relatively high oil prices, an International Monetary Fund has forecast.

In its latest Article IV end of mission statement, the IMF noted that the Emirates is experiencing strong growth in domestic sectors, including tourism, construction, and financial services. 

The report further noted that UAE’s oil GDP will also expand this year if the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, decide to ease the previously proposed output cuts. 

“Economic growth in the UAE is broad-based, led by robust activity in the tourism, construction, manufacturing, and financial services sectors. Foreign demand for real estate, increased bilateral and multilateral ties, and the UAE’s safe haven status continue to drive rapid growth in housing prices and an increase in rents while adding to ample domestic liquidity,” said the IMF in the statement. 

In its previous projection in April, the organization predicted that the UAE’s economy would grow by 3.5 percent in 2024. 

The UN financial agency added that the impact of geopolitical tensions in the Emirates so far is still minimal, and the country’s response to the recent flooding was rapid and effective. 

IMF further pointed out that the inflation rate in the UAE is expected to be contained at 2 percent in 2024. 

According to the study, the UAE’s fiscal and external surpluses are expected to remain high this year due to relatively surging oil prices. 

“The general government surplus is projected to be around 5 percent of GDP in 2024 and public debt is on track to decline further toward 30 percent of GDP, benefitting from active debt management strategies,” said IMF. 

It added: “Capital spending is expected to meet ongoing infrastructure needs, and the introduction of the corporate income tax will support non-hydrocarbon revenue with its full implementation in the coming years. The current account surplus is projected at around 9 percent of GDP in 2024.” 

The international financial institution also noted that accelerated public and private investment and structural reforms in areas like renewable energy and technology could further accelerate economic growth in the Emirates. 

However, the IMF noted that the UAE’s economic outlook is subject to uncertainty and external risks, including those related to geopolitical tensions, global growth, and commodity price volatility. 

The study highlighted that banks in the Emirates have considerable capital and liquidity buffers, while credit growth is resilient despite higher domestic interest rates. 

“The efforts to digitalize the financial system and payment landscape are welcome and should continue to follow a risk-conscious approach. Initiatives to develop and regulate the virtual asset industry should be informed by a careful assessment of macroeconomic and financial stability risks,” said the IMF. 

The report concluded by saying that gradual fiscal consolidation and further structural reforms will ensure the UAE’s economic prudence and medium-term sustainability. 


Saudi Power Procurement Co. signs two power purchase agreements with Japan’s Marubeni

Updated 20 min 36 sec ago
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Saudi Power Procurement Co. signs two power purchase agreements with Japan’s Marubeni

TOKYO: The Saudi Power Procurement Co. signed two power purchase agreements with a consortium led by Japan’s Marubeni Corporation on Tuesday in Tokyo. 

The deals are part of the fourth phase of Saudi Arabia’s National Renewable Energy Program, supervised by the Ministry of Energy. 

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Minister of Energy and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry SAITO Ken were present at the signing. 

The agreements pertain to the Al-Ghat wind power project, with a capacity of 600 MW, and the Waad Al-Shamal wind power project, with a capacity of 500 MW. These agreements were signed during the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum, held in Japan on Tuesday. 

On this occasion, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Minister of Energy, expressed his gratitude to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Energy, for the support, assistance and follow-up provided by the leadership, which aids the Ministry of Energy and its system in achieving the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 in the energy sector. 

Prince Abdulaziz stated: “I am pleased to announce that the Al-Ghat project has set a new world record for the lowest cost of electricity production from wind energy, with a cost of 1.56558 US cents per kilowatt-hour, equivalent to 5.87094 halalas per kilowatt-hour. The Waad Al-Shamal project achieved the second-best global record in this field, with a cost of 1.70187 US cents per kilowatt-hour, equivalent to 6.38201 halalas per kilowatt-hour.” 

The minister added: “The annual energy produced by both projects will be sufficient for the consumption of 257,000 residential units, demonstrating the significant success of these projects in enhancing energy efficiency in the Kingdom.” 

He noted that these projects are part of the objectives of the National Renewable Energy Program, which aims to utilize renewable energy sources available throughout the Kingdom to contribute to displacing liquid fuels used in the electricity production sector and achieving the optimal energy mix for electricity generation, with renewable energy sources expected to account for about 50% of the mix by 2030.


Saudi crude exports reach 9-month high: JODI

Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi crude exports reach 9-month high: JODI

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s crude exports reached 6.41 million barrels per day in March, according to an analysis from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative.

This figure increased by 96,000 bpd, or 1.52 percent, compared to the previous month, marking a nine-month high.

Furthermore, the data indicated that the Kingdom’s crude production fell to 8.97 million bpd, reflecting a monthly decrease of 0.42 percent. 

This can be linked to the voluntary oil production cuts adopted by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+. Saudi Arabia announced in March the extension of its 1 million bpd cut, initially implemented in July 2023, until the end of the second quarter of 2024.

The Ministry of Energy said that the Kingdom’s production will be approximately 9 million bpd until the end of June.

Meanwhile, refinery crude output, representing the processed volume of crude oil yielding gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil, fell by 4 percent compared to the previous month, reaching 2.56 million bpd, according to JODI data.

Saudi Arabia’s direct burn of crude oil, which involves using oil without substantial refining processes, decreased by 53,000 bpd in March, representing a 14.7 percent fall compared to the preceding month. The total direct burn for the month amounted to 307,000 bpd.

The Ministry of Energy aims to enhance the contributions of natural gas and renewable sources as part of the Kingdom’s goal to achieve an optimal, highly efficient, and cost-effective energy mix.

This involves replacing liquid fuel with natural gas and integrating renewables to constitute approximately 50 percent of the electricity production energy mix by 2030.