Pakistan shares hit fresh record on rate cut hopes, IMF talks

A car drives past the building of Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, Pakistan on Novemeber 30, 2023. (AN photo/File)
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Updated 15 May 2024
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Pakistan shares hit fresh record on rate cut hopes, IMF talks

  • Pakistan last month completed a short-term, $3 billion IMF program, seeking fresh, longer-term bailout 
  • IMF mission is in Pakistan to discuss financial year 2025 budget, policies, reforms under potential new program

Pakistan’s benchmark share index touched a lifetime high on Wednesday, breaching the key level of 75,000, on hopes that easing inflation could pave the way for interest rate cuts as early as June.

Still attractive stock valuations, expectations of more foreign inflows, and the start of talks with the IMF on a new loan program added to the bullish sentiment.

The index was trading at 75,013 points at 0531 GMT, up 0.7 percent, after hitting an intraday high of 75,115. It has surged 80 percent over the past year, and it is up 16.1 percent year-to-date after an IMF rescue last summer helped the government avert a debt default.

On Monday, the index closed at a record of 73,822, up 1 percent.

Mohammed Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities, said Wednesday’s gains were fueled by foreign fund buying.

On Tuesday, the MSCI index added a Pakistani bank, National Bank of Pakistan, to the MSCI frontier market index. Its shares rose 1.6 percent on Wednesday, outperforming the benchmark index.

“We estimate Pakistan’s weight will also increase, thereby having the potential to attract more passive foreign funds,” said Sohail.

The market is picking up steam due to an anticipated decline in inflation to 13.5 percent for May and expectations of a monetary easing cycle starting in June, said Shahid Habib, CEO of Arif Habib Limited.

Investors were also optimism about discussions on a new International Monetary Fund financing program and the economic roadmap ahead, Habib said.

Pakistan last month completed a short-term, $3 billion IMF program, but the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has stressed the need for a fresh, longer-term program.

An IMF mission is in Pakistan to discuss the financial year 2025 budget, policies, and reforms under a potential new program.

Wall Street bank Citi expects Pakistan to reach a four-year agreement with the IMF worth up to $8 billion by end-July, and recommends going long on the country’s 2027 international bond.


Xi calls for more jobs for youth, migrant workers

Updated 28 May 2024
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Xi calls for more jobs for youth, migrant workers

  • (We should) insist that employment of young people including college graduates is a top priority: Chinese president

BEIJING: China’s President Xi Jinping called on Monday for efforts to promote high-quality and sufficient jobs for college graduates and migrant workers, while presiding over a Politburo group study session, state media Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

“(We should) insist that employment of young people including college graduates is a top priority,” the Xinhua report quoted Xi as saying at a group study session of the Politburo, a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party.

The Xinhua report did not give details on job promotion support measures or plans.

The survey-based jobless rate for 16-24 year-olds, excluding college students, was 14.7 percent in April, down from 15.3 percent in March, official data showed last week.

China’s statistics bureau revised its methodology by removing college students from the survey pool after youth jobless rate surged to around 20 percent last year.

Xi also said the government should take steps to promote the employment of migrant workers, guide them to return to their hometowns and for people to start businesses in the countryside.

He called for stabilizing the income of people who had been lifted out of poverty and preventing large-scale return to poverty due to unemployment, Xinhua said.

Companies and industries with strong job creation capabilities will be supported, the report said.

China created 4.36 million new urban jobs in the first four months, Human Resources Ministry data showed, 36 percent of its annual job creation target.


Saudis spent more money on electronic devices during the 4th week of May: SAMA data

Updated 28 May 2024
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Saudis spent more money on electronic devices during the 4th week of May: SAMA data

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale spending reached SR11.2 billion ($2.98 billion) in the fourth week of May, official figures showed.

The latest data from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed that spending on electronic and electric devices surged by 9.5 percent to reach SR240.4 million.

Beverages and food, which accounts for the largest share at 14.9 percent, saw a 5.9 percent decline, reaching SR1.66 billion, during the week from May 19 to 25.

Meanwhile, transactions at restaurants and cafes, holding a 14.6 percent share, recorded a slower decline of 4.8 percent, amounting to SR1.64 billion. 

Saudi spending on miscellaneous goods and services, including personal care items, supplies, maintenance, and cleaning, constituted the third-highest share and witnessed a 5.1 percent decline that week, reaching SR1.36 billion. 

Despite composing only 1 percent of the week’s overall POS value, spending on education recorded a minimal increase of 0.1 percent to SR152.48 million.

In the past few years, this sector has been allocated the largest share of government expenditure in comparison to other divisions of the economy. 

Efforts are underway to revamp the education system, aiming to equip the national workforce with the necessary skills to thrive in a technological and information-centric global economy.

The hotel sector experienced the largest decline in POS transaction value, dropping 10.9 percent to SR227.13 million.

According to data from SAMA, 35.44 percent of POS spending occurred in Riyadh, with the total transaction value reaching SR3.97 billion. However, this represents a 1.6 percent decrease from the previous week.  

Riyadh has undergone considerable expansion, evolving into a pivotal center for growth and progress. The city is witnessing a surge in new businesses setting up operations, drawn by its vibrant economic landscape and strategic prospects for investment and innovation.

Spending in Jeddah followed closely, accounting for 14.3 percent of the total and reaching SR1.60 billion; however, it marked a 3.1 percent weekly drop. 

The two cities that registered the highest declines in POS spending were Makkah and Madinah, with decreases of 11 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. The value of transactions in Makkah reached SR380.98 million, while in Madinah, it was SR393.26 million.


Saudi healthcare to advance with major digital tech partnership

Updated 28 May 2024
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Saudi healthcare to advance with major digital tech partnership

RIYADH: The Saudi healthcare system is set to advance as two of the country’s major companies partner to leverage digital technologies to enhance the Kingdom’s capabilities.

SAMI Advanced Electronics Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of SAMI, the nation’s defense and digital solutions provider, has signed a cooperation agreement with the National Unified Procurement Co., a Public Investment Fund company.

The agreement, signed on May 27, will provide solutions for medication tracking and IT infrastructure and increase local content through medical devices manufacturing and maintenance.

This partnership demonstrates SAMI-AEC’s unremitting efforts to build a harmonious and applicable healthcare system in Saudi Arabia based on digital technologies.

Ziad Al-Musallam, CEO of SAMI-AEC, commented on the agreement, saying that they are honored to collaborate with NUPCO, as this deal underscores the unwavering commitment of both entities to bolstering efforts aimed at enhancing the healthcare ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.

“At SAMI-AEC, we firmly believe in the significance of augmenting public health services through digital solutions and delivering e-health services. This involves integrating effective, fast technologies to empower the healthcare sector, aligning with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030,” he said.

Fahad Al-Shebel, CEO of NUPCO, highlighted the agreement’s importance and its role in fortifying the healthcare infrastructure and facilitating access to the integrated technology offered by SAMI-Advanced Electronics Co.

Aiming to upgrade the healthcare sector by improving its facilities in all public hospitals and medical centers in the Kingdom, NUPCO is the country’s largest central company providing medical purchasing, storage, and distribution services for medicines, devices, and supplies.

With a workforce of over 3,320 individuals, 85 percent of whom are Saudi nationals, SAMI-AEC has positioned itself as a leader in electronics, technology, engineering, and manufacturing. Its services span sectors such as defense and aerospace, digital, energy, and security.

Over 800 of the company’s employees are engineers and certified experts, reaffirming the dedication of SAMI-AEC, which was established in 1988, to excellence and innovation.

On the other hand, NUPCO was established in 2009 with SR1.5 billion in capital. It is the leading company in Saudi Arabia in procurement, logistics, and supply chain management for pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and supplies for governmental hospitals.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index continues downward trend to close at 11,660

Updated 28 May 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index continues downward trend to close at 11,660

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index continued its downward movement for the third consecutive session this week, as it shed 171.28 points to close at 11,659.94 on Tuesday. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.34 billion ($1.42 billion), with 23 stocks advancing and 202 declining. 

The Kingdom’s parallel market, Nomu, also slipped by 0.81 percent to 26,234.79, while the MSCI Tadawul Index shed 20.97 points to close at 1,449.44.

The best-performing stock on the main index was Sustained Infrastructure Holding Co. The firm’s share price soared by 6.2 percent to SR34.25.

Other top performers were the Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co. and AYYAN Investment Co., whose share prices edged up by 3.98 percent and 3.63 percent respectively. 

The worst-performing stock on the benchmark index was Saudi utility giant ACWA Power, as its share price slid by 4.68 percent to SR456.60. 

On the announcements front, Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. said that it was awarded two projects worth SR45.51 million by Technical and Vocational Training Corp. to provide dedicated Internet services in 77 locations. 

In a Tadawul statement, the telecommunication provider said that the first project has a value of SR23.64 million, while the second one amounts to SR21.87 million. 

Meanwhile, Mouwasat Medical Services Co. announced that its shareholders have approved the board’s recommendation to distribute a 17.5 percent cash dividend, or SR 1.75 per share for 2023. 

In March, Mouwasat Medical Services Co. had revealed that its net profit witnessed a growth of 10 percent in 2023 to SR657.7 million, compared to the previous year. 

Al Moammar Information Systems Co., on Tuesday, revealed that it received new orders to increase the capacity of data centers at a total value of SR 75.2 million. 

In a statement to Tadawul, the company added that further developments of the order will be unveiled in due course. 


PIF’s Halal Products Development Co. invests in Singapore-based cosmetics firm

Updated 28 May 2024
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PIF’s Halal Products Development Co. invests in Singapore-based cosmetics firm

RIYADH: In a bid to localize the Kingdom’s cosmetics and personal care industry, the Halal Products Development Co. announced an investment in a Singapore-based fast-moving consumer goods conglomerate.

The Public Investment Fund-owned company signed a binding agreement with Believe — a company specializing in the halal cosmetics and personal care field.

As per the agreement, the company will relocate its headquarters from Singapore to Saudi Arabia and establish a factory to manufacture its products, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The new headquarters will also serve as a major center for exporting the company’s products to various countries of the world.

This move is in line with the PIF-owned firm’s goal to strengthen the halal industries in Saudi Arabia and provide high-quality products compatible with Islamic standards.

Halal Products Development Co. CEO Fahad Al-Nuhait said that investing in this sector is a very important first step that serves as a major catalyst for developing and localizing the manufacturing of halal cosmetics and personal care.

In return, this is expected to raise the efficiency of the sector and support research as well as development efforts to improve the services provided locally and globally, Al-Nuhait added.

The CEO said it will also facilitate the transfer of the expertise and resources to the Kingdom.

Moreover, it will also contribute to achieving the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 by creating direct and indirect job opportunities.

Believe CEO Ankit Mahajan said this partnership represents a strategic opportunity to expand the scope of investment and boost manufacturing capabilities.  

The agreement will also provide contract manufacturing services for local brands in the initial stage and will expand to international brands in the future.

In August, Halal Products Development Co. signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Saudi Exports Development Authority to launch the Halal Products Manufacturing Accelerator Program.

According to a statement, the new program came amid the Kingdom’s efforts to become a global hub for halal food products and accelerate the growth of the sector.