Saudi banks extend $2bn in new home loans, hitting 16-month high

The housing market in the Kingdom is now beginning to regain some of the momentum and activity it had shown before interest rates rose. (SPA)
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Updated 07 July 2024
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Saudi banks extend $2bn in new home loans, hitting 16-month high

  • Bank profits come amid increased mortgage lending, with sector seeing a 13 percent rise in new home loans

RIYADH: Saudi banks extended SR7.67 billion ($2.05 billion) in residential new mortgage loans to individuals in May, reflecting an annual 13 percent rise, according to the latest data.

Figures released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, showed that this amount marked a 16-month high.

In May, lending for houses accounted for 67 percent of total new bank mortgages, a decrease from 69 percent compared to the same month last year.

Recent data on mortgage figures is a testament to the sustainable demand in housing coupled with an agile and efficient regulatory environment.

Elias Abou Samra, CEO at Rafal Real Estate Development Co.

Meanwhile, lending for apartments increased to 28 percent from 25 percent, while land constituted the smallest portion at 5 percent, down from 6 percent.

Elias Abou Samra, the CEO at Rafal Real Estate Development Co., said: “Recent data on mortgage figures is a testament to the sustainable demand in housing coupled with an agile and efficient regulatory environment.”

He added: “We believe that the market has priced in higher-for-longer interest rates and the buyers are convinced that waiting for normalization of interest rates to buy new homes could be offset by a larger increase in prices.” 

Interest rates in the Gulf Cooperation Council nations are significantly influenced by their currency pegs to the US dollar.

This pegging arrangement means that these countries typically follow US monetary policy decisions, particularly those set by the Federal Reserve. Recently, high interest rates in the market have posed challenges for individuals seeking housing loans, as the cost of credit has escalated.

Many had been anticipating a reduction in those rates by the Fed, which could potentially alleviate borrowing costs. However, the current outlook remains uncertain due to persistently high inflation rates in the US.

This uncertainty casts a shadow over the possibility of decreased rates in the foreseeable future, impacting both financial markets and consumer decisions in the housing sector across GCC economies.

However, according to Abou Samra, after a period of wait-and-see, the housing market in the Kingdom is now beginning to regain some of the momentum and activity it had shown before interest rates rose.

Essentially, potential buyers have overcome their initial hesitancy, likely influenced by elevated borrowing costs, and are now actively pursuing homeownership, thereby boosting their demand for bank credit.

The highest growth rate during this period was observed in apartment lending rising by 24.15 percent. In comparison, house lending grew by 9.17 percent, while land saw a growth of 6.54 percent.

“Another important factor is the availability of new products and typologies, particularly in the multi-family segment, that meets the aspiration of young Saudi families and resident expats. We are moving into a higher level of sophistication on the demand and supply side of the equation,” Abou Samra said.

A survey conducted by global property consultancy Knight Frank revealed in a March report a notable shift in expat preferences, with 68 percent expressing a strong inclination towards owning an apartment rather than a villa. This preference is particularly strong among those aged 35-55.

The firm also noted that many respondents are moving from villas to apartments, influenced by factors like the higher costs of the former, affordability concerns, and potentially differing cultural preferences compared to Saudi nationals.

Additionally, the appeal is further highlighted by the fact that 53 percent of surveyed expats expressed a preference for owning a two or three-bedroom apartment. This inclination is likely due to the smaller family sizes typically found among them compared to Saudi nationals.

A 2024 study by Deloitte revealed that in Riyadh, around 80 percent of apartment transactions the previous year fell within the SR250,000 to SR1 million range, primarily serving the low to mid-income segments.

It noted that north Riyadh has become a prominent residential area, while the south zone has seen significant transaction growth due to affordable housing options.

In Jeddah, there is increasing demand for upper-middle to high-end residential properties, particularly in the Northern part, which has experienced notable price increases.

In the Dammam Metropolitan Area, the report indicated that the residential supply is concentrated in the northern regions, targeting the midscale population segment with apartments priced mostly below SR930,000.

When asked about the potential risks of increased demand further driving up prices, especially given the lack of foreseeable interest rate reductions, Abou Samra said that he believes his real estate company has navigated through the challenges posed by high interest rates, noting a slowdown in growth over the past 18 months.

He expressed confidence in the sustainability of current demand levels, stating that a slowdown is not anticipated in the near future. The CEO also emphasized the importance of maintaining a balanced market to prevent excessive increases in land prices.


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.