Saudi Arabia’s M&A volume hits $955m in Q1, fueled by chemicals sector

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the region to show activity in the chemical sector in the first quarter of 2024. Shutterstock
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Updated 21 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s M&A volume hits $955m in Q1, fueled by chemicals sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia led the Middle East in mergers and acquisitions in the chemicals sector in the first quarter of 2024, with $500 million worth of deals, according to recent data.

Figures from financial markets platform Dealogic showed that the Kingdom’s total M&A deal volume during this period reached $955 million, with the chemicals sector accounting for 52.4 percent of the total. 

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the region to show activity in this sector, and a report from management consulting firm Kearney earlier this month suggested that chemical executives are expecting more M&As led by strategic investors such as national oil companies.

“Recent deals by major players like Aramco and ADNOC underscore the region’s commitment to leveraging M&A as a key growth lever, setting the stage for a dynamic and transformative period ahead,” said Jose Alberich, partner, Middle East and Africa at Kearney at the time.

The figures from Dealogic revealed that the professional services sector was the second targeted sector, with deals worth $160 million, accounting for a 16.8 percent share of the Kingdom’s total.

Technology was close behind with $138 million in deal value, capturing a 14.5 percent share. 

Retail and insurance sectors represented 7 percent and 4.1 percent of the total, respectively.

Across the region

The figures revealed that during the first three months of the year, the Middle East targeted M&A volume reached $6.21 billion, with technology being the leading sector with 42 total deals worth $1.56 billion. 

Finance followed with 9 deals amounting to $1.3 billion, while the oil and gas sector, which topped the list a year ago with deals valued at $3.5 billion, fell to the eighth place with just $273 million in deals.

According to Dealogic, domestic transactions were the dominant contributor, making up 55 percent of the Middle East’s M&A volume across 91 deals. In contrast, outbound transactions accounted for 45 percent with a total of 38 deals.

Kuwait emerged as the top contributor to GCC nations’ total M&A deal volume, amounting to $1.12 billion, all of which were outbound deals.

The UAE followed closely with a deal value of $988 million, of which 58 percent were domestic.

Saudi Arabia secured the third position with 18 deals valued at $955 million, of which 60 percent were outbound.

Compared to the same quarter of 2023, the Middle East’s deal volume declined by 27 percent. 

Global slowdown

In its report, Dealogic explained that global M&A activity experienced a significant decline during this period, with the number of transactions falling by 31 percent to 7,162, marking one of the quietest quarters for dealmakers in nearly two decades.

The slowdown was largely attributed to high capital costs, with Switzerland being the only major economy to cut interest rates in 2024. 

Additionally, geopolitical tensions, including the emergence of the Middle East as a new trouble hotspot alongside ongoing conflicts involving Russia and Ukraine, and tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, further contributed to the subdued activity in deal making.

Drivers of activity

In a paper published in September, the Boston Consulting Group said government support has been a driving force behind significant M&A activities among emerging market players in recent years, particularly in the Middle East, as firms aim at expanding their global presence.

Saudi Arabia’s SABIC acquired a 31.5 percent stake in Clariant, nearing the 33.3 percent threshold for a mandatory takeover bid under Swiss law. 

The UAE’s state-owned ADNOC purchased a 24 percent interest in OMV, increasing its indirect stakes in Borealis and Borouge, and is in talks to merge them.

ADNOC also made an $11 billion offer for Covestro, which was rejected, and expressed interest in Brazil’s Braskem. These moves highlight a trend of leveraging government support to enhance regional footprints and integrate into global value chains

Additionally, Saudi Aramco acquired Valvoline Inc.’s global products business for $2.7 billion in 2023. This acquisition, according to BCG, enhances Aramco’s lubricant portfolio by integrating Valvoline’s manufacturing and distribution network and its research and development capabilities.

The research highlighted three additional key reasons driving changes in macro trends in M&A, portfolio diversification, vertical integration, and technology acquisition.

Companies are increasingly expanding their portfolios through acquisitions to enter new markets and product segments, often over extended periods. Additionally, the focus has shifted from traditional feedstock-focused acquisitions to sustainable diversification of petrochemical value chains, prioritizing higher-margin and less cyclical businesses.

In essence, this means that rather than primarily acquiring companies to secure raw materials, the emphasis is now on achieving sustainable and balanced growth across the petrochemical value chain. The current priority is to invest in businesses that generate higher profits and are less affected by market fluctuations. This shift aims to create a more resilient and profitable business model in the long term.

This strategic emphasis on specialties is fostering vertical integration into downstream segments, as evidenced by significant acquisitions by industry leaders such as Saudi Aramco, SABIC, Thailand’s PTT, and Malaysia’s PETRONAS.

According to the BCG paper, gaining or retaining technology leadership is a key driver for M&A activity. Acquisitions and joint ventures are crucial for positioning companies as major suppliers in the e-mobility segment and the related electronic chemicals and battery industry.

As demand for sustainable solutions grows, companies are increasingly recognizing the potential of e-mobility. Through strategic M&A, including technology acquisitions and research and development investments, they aim to secure competitive advantages in this rapidly expanding market.

According to Dealogic, technology-focused deals accounted for 21 percent of the global M&A activity in the first three months of 2024. This was followed by healthcare at 14 percent and finance at 11 percent. 

Oil and gas stood at 9 percent, with utility and energy at 7 percent, and real estate and property sectors representing 5 percent of the total M&A activity.

AI attracting funds

Dealogic’s report highlighted that the largest global technology deals were driven by artificial intelligence. The surge in AI has significantly boosted Nvidia’s market capitalization to $2.4 trillion, with the company making investments in seven AI-related firms during this period.

Saudi Arabia also plans to establish a $40 billion fund dedicated to investing in artificial intelligence, according to a report from the New York Times in March. 

Set to launch in the second half of 2024 and spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, it aims to attract partnerships with US venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and other financiers, according to the report.

It will focus on supporting various AI-related ventures in Saudi Arabia, including chip makers and large-scale data centers, NYT wrote at the time.


Kingdom and Airbus can fly high together, says company chief

Updated 16 July 2024
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Kingdom and Airbus can fly high together, says company chief

  • $19 billion aviation agreement ‘will help Saudia to grow and also help the country to achieve its Vision 2030’
  • Saudia signed a deal with Airbus in May for 105 aircraft, the largest agreement in Saudi aviation history

HAMBURG: Saudi Arabia and the aircraft manufacturer Airbus can build on their $19 billion aviation agreement to expand their partnership even further, one of the company’s top managers told Arab News on Tuesday.

Airbus and Saudia airline signed a deal in May for the supply of 105 A320neo and A321neo planes, the largest aircraft agreement in Saudi aviation history.

Now Saudi Vision 2030 offers opportunities to develop the partnership, said Wouter van Wersch, president in charge of Airbus’s international operations. “I think it touches on a lot of very important points,” he said. “The whole sustainability angle, everything that the Kingdom wants to achieve in terms of energy, but also transportation, the NEOM opportunities.

 

“I think the future, airports, I think it really covers a lot of topics. And, you know, we need countries to take the lead on this.

“We, as Airbus, have a very clear strategy on what we want to do in terms of sustainability. You know, we work on innovation, bringing the best aircraft to the market today. But also tomorrow. We look at hydrogen. We look at sustainable aviation fuel. So, there’s a wide array of topics that need to be addressed and to be successful.

“You know, we've been in Saudi Arabia for a long time. We have a strong local team, of course, in commercial aircraft, but also in helicopters and in defense and space. So look, we want to do more. We are very committed to continue to work closely with the Kingdom and we’ll have to see what happens.”

 

The acquisition of the A321neo aircraft will help Saudia to grow, van Wersch said. “We have had a fantastic relationship with Saudia for many years. And I think this is a new confirmation of the partnership,” he said “You know, the first aircraft that we brought to Saudi Arabia was in the 1980s. So, it’s been a long while and we’ve gone from strength to strength.

“I think Saudia has a great vision. I think the Kingdom has a great vision on what it wants to achieve by 2030 and bringing this fantastic A321neo aircraft will really help to contribute, to satisfy and to realize this vision.

“I think the Vision 2030 of the country needs more transportation. And Airbus is a leader in aviation. So, we are very keen to contribute and look forward to great times together.”


 Aramco to acquire 50% stake in Air Products Qudra’s Blue Hydrogen Industrial Gases Co.

Updated 16 July 2024
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 Aramco to acquire 50% stake in Air Products Qudra’s Blue Hydrogen Industrial Gases Co.

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco is set to acquire a 50 percent stake interest in the Jubail-based Blue Hydrogen Industrial Gases Co.

The deal, pending standard closing conditions, will also grant the firm options to purchase hydrogen and nitrogen from BHIG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air Products Qudra.

Saudi Aramco anticipates that its investment will help develop a lower-carbon hydrogen network in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom, serving both domestic and regional customers.

This builds on its efforts to develop a lower-carbon hydrogen business and expand its portfolio of alternative energy solutions as Saudi Arabia steadily progresses to achieve its net-zero ambition by 2060.

After the deal closes, Aramco and APQ – a joint venture between Air Products and Qudra Energy – Aramco and APQ, a joint venture between Air Products and Qudra Energy, are expected to each own a 50% stake in BHIG.are expected to hold 50 percent of BHIG between them.

“We intend to leverage our growing capabilities in carbon capture and storage, as well as our technical expertise in hydrogen, with the ambition to support the establishment of a vibrant marketplace for lower-carbon hydrogen — helping lay the foundations of a future energy system,” Ashraf Al-Ghazzawi, Aramco’s executive vice president of Strategy and Corporate Development said.

He added: “This investment highlights Aramco’s ambition to expand its new energies portfolio and grow its lower-carbon hydrogen business. We believe there are promising commercial opportunities for hydrogen with lower emissions.”

It is also expected to serve the refining, chemical, and petrochemical industries

BHIG is designed to produce lower-carbon hydrogen while capturing and storing CO2 and is set to begin commercial operations in alignment with Aramco’s carbon capture and storage initiatives.

“We look forward to providing our expertise in hydrogen and pipeline operations and supporting Aramco’s need for a reliable supply of lower-carbon hydrogen for domestic and regional requirements,” Samir Serhan, chairman of APQ said.


NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration

Updated 16 July 2024
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NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration

  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed on behalf of the US
  • CEO of the Saudi Space Agency Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi signed on behalf of the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the US signed a framework agreement on Monday to increase cooperation between the two countries on civilian space exploration and research, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed on behalf of the US, and CEO of the Saudi Space Agency Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi signed on behalf of the Kingdom.

The agreement was titled “Framework Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Cooperation in Aeronautics and the Exploration and Use of Airspace and Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes.”

It will establish a legal framework to facilitate and strengthen collaboration between the two countries.

Abdullah Al-Swaha, chairman of the Saudi Space Agency, said that the agreement represented a “turning point in the Kingdom’s journey toward building a strong and prosperous space sector,” and noted that it reflected Saudi Arabia’s commitment to progress and innovation in the field of space travel.

The agreement also acknowledged the importance of the Artemis Accords — which the US signed in October 2020 and Saudi Arabia signed in July 2022 — reflecting their commitment to the transparent, safe and responsible exploration of space, a State Department statement said.


Saudi minister holds talks with Qatar, Hungary, and Solomon Islands on sustainable growth

Updated 16 July 2024
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Saudi minister holds talks with Qatar, Hungary, and Solomon Islands on sustainable growth

RIYADH: A Saudi minister held high-level meetings with officials from Qatar, Hungary, and the Solomon Islands to discuss using sustainable development goals as a key driver of growth.   

On the sidelines of the annual High-Level Political Forum 2024 on Sustainable Development held in New York from July 8 to July 18, the Minister of Economy and Planning, Faisal Al-Ibrahim, met with Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al-Khalifa, president of the Civil Service and Government Development Bureau and secretary-general of the National Planning Council in Qatar. 

He also held talks with Hungary’s Minister of State for Environment and Circular Economy Aniko Raisz and the Solomon Islands’ Minister of Planning and Development Rexson Ramofafia.

These meetings are in line with the Kingdom’s ongoing efforts to further bolster and propel relations with the respective countries.

According to the online data visualization and distribution platform Observatory of Economic Complexity, in 2022, Saudi Arabia exported $1.73 billion to Qatar, while the small, gas-rich Gulf nation exported $474 million to the Kingdom. 

OEC also revealed that while Saudi Arabia exported $7.65 million to Hungary in 2022, the European country exported $223 million to the Kingdom. 

OEC disclosed that in 2020, Saudi Arabia exported $20,800 to the Solomon Islands, while the latter exported $32,800 to the Kingdom.

“Accelerating the pace of progress requires policymaking that is ambitious and bold, but also clear, collaborative, and solution-oriented,” Al-Ibrahim said in his address during the event, according to a statement. 

“We need to develop a prioritization mechanism that enables nations to focus on the most efficient policies and the smartest solutions that unlock the greatest impact, for the greatest number of people, in the shortest possible timeframe,” the minister added.

He went on to note that sustainable progress hinges on creating and capturing opportunities to improve the overall standard of living to enhance quality of life. 

“We are taking a whole-of-economy, human-centric approach to unlocking our inherent potential under Saudi Vision 2030. We are also localizing sustainable action, whereby cities are publishing their Voluntary Local Reviews while integrating sustainable practices to reach all communities,” Al-Ibrahim further stressed. 

“Under the Saudi Green Initiative, the Kingdom is playing a key role in achieving global climate targets. With more than 80 initiatives, we are investing more than $180 billion to grow the green economy and cement our position as a renewable energy leader,” the minister added. 

He concluded by saying: “As we look ahead, let us take a smarter, more pragmatic approach to deliver more tangible progress. Let us prioritize the challenges we can address now, and fast, so that we can unlock more capabilities, more energy, and more hope.”

According to a post on X by the ministry, the officials also discussed enhancing international cooperation in different fields.   

The statement further stated that Saudi Arabia participated in this forum with a delegation that included 13 entities from the government sector headed by Al-Ibrahim. 

The Kingdom has participated in the forum every year since 2017, as the HLPF has been held annually since 2015 under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council.

In June, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud received the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, and his accompanying delegation during their official visit to the capital, Riyadh, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said on July 12.  

The ministry said in a statement that at the time, the two sides reviewed bilateral relations and ways to enhance and develop them in various fields and discussed intensifying joint coordination on many issues of concern to both countries.

Also in June, Hungary’s Deputy Minister and State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Tamas Vargha, said that the economic ties between Saudi Arabia and Hungary will continue to grow over the next few years.

“(Saudi Arabia’s) Vision 2030 … I think it’s a success story … it’s a good basis for our cooperation,” Vargha told Arab News during a recent interview.

“You have seen lots of changes since Vision 2030 started … both social changes and the economic changes and growth,” Vargha said at the time.

In December 2023, Saudi Arabia and Qatar announced that they were working to “deepen and expand” their economic, military, sports, and cultural ties. 

According to a statement issued at the time, this followed the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council meeting attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, the emir of Qatar.


Saudi PIF strikes 3 deals to boost renewable energy component manufacturing in the the Kingdom

Updated 16 July 2024
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Saudi PIF strikes 3 deals to boost renewable energy component manufacturing in the the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has partnered with the world’s second-largest manufacturer of solar cell components for a $2.8 billion-power production plant in the Kingdom.

A statement from TCL Zhonghuan Renewable Energy Technology Co. confirmed the agreement, which is one of three signed off by the sovereign wealth fund on July 16 as it seeks to boost Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy sector.

The deals – entered into by the PIF subsidiary Renewable Energy Localization Co. – all involve creating joint ventures with Saudi firm Vision Industries.

One plan will see RELC working with Envision Energy to transform Saudi Arabia into a manufacturer of wind turbines and components.

The third deal involves an agreement with Jinko Solar to localize production of photovoltaic cells and modules.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in diversifying its energy mix toward renewable sources to meet its pledge to cut carbon emissions and promote sustainable development. By 2030, the country aims to source at least 50 percent of its electricity from renewables.  

Welcoming the deals, Yazeed Al-Humied, deputy governor and head of MENA Investments at PIF, said: “The new agreements are part of PIF’s efforts to localize advanced technologies in the renewable sector in Saudi Arabia and meet commitments to increase the share of local content, as well as contribute to localizing the production of 75 percent of the components in Saudi Arabia’s renewable projects by 2030 in line with the Ministry of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Program.

“These projects will also enable Saudi Arabia to become a global hub for export of renewable technologies. PIF aims to achieve these targets through its projects and portfolio companies, including RELC, which support PIF’s progress in renewable energy and investment, and enhance partnership with the private sector.” 

In a press release setting out more details of the deals, it was revealed that the agreement with TCL Zhonghuan Renewable Energy subsidiary Lumetech S.A. PTE. will localize production of solar photovoltaic ingots and wafers with the capacity to generate 20 gigawatts of power a year.

Under this agreement, RELC will hold 40 percent of the JV, with Lumetech holding 40 percent and Vision Industries having 20 percent.

The JV with Envision Energy will involve the manufacture and assembly of wind turbine components, including blades, with an estimated annual generation capacity of 4 GW. 

In this arrangement, RELC will once again hold 40 percent of the JV, with Envision holding 50 percent and Vision Industries holding 10 percent.

The agreement with Jinko Solar entails localizing the manufacture of photovoltaic cells and modules for high-efficiency solar generation. Under the agreement, which envisages annual production of 10 GW generation capacity, RELC will hold 40 percent of the JV, with Jinko Solar holding the same amount and Vision Industries accounting for the final 20 percent.

Overall, PIF, through Acwa Power and Badeel, is currently developing a total of eight renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 13.6 GW, involving over $9 billion of investment from the wealth fund and its partners. 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz Al-Saud, recently launched the Geographic Survey Project for Renewable Energy, aimed at identifying optimal sites for solar and wind power initiatives across the Kingdom, marking it as an unprecedented endeavor.