DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Almarai 2280.SE, the Gulf’s largest dairy company, plans to spend 10.6 billion riyals ($2.8 billion) in capital investment under a five year business plan aimed at boosting its efficiency and expanding its geographic footprint.

The investment for the period from 2019 to 2023 will be financed through growing operating cash flow, bank funding, local and international sukuk programs, as well as the Saudi Industrial Development Fund and the Agricultural Development Fund, it said.

“Given the persistent challenging economic conditions across the region, the focus on efficiency and cost optimization measures will continue throughout the plan period to ensure continuous competitive advantage,” the company said in a statement.

Consumer goods companies and retailers in Saudi Arabia have suffered as the combination of the introduction of Value Added Tax, higher energy prices and a fragile labors market have curbed consumer spending. Almarai and other Saudi exporters have also been impacted by the cutting off of the Qatari market as a result of a regional diplomatic rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

 

Almarai said its investment will focus on the replacement of existing assets, improvement of production within farms and factories, distribution and transport facilities, widening of its geographic footprint and product innovation.

 

“This article was first posted on Reuters.com. on 27 May,2018: 
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-almarai-growth/saudi-dairy-firm-almarai-plans-2-8-billion-five-year-capital-investment-idUSKCN1IS043 The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”

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Goldman Sachs has been building its presence in Saudi Arabia for some time, boosting headcount, securing a stock-trading license and getting involved in key deals including the kingdom’s dollar bond sale

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has approached a Saudi state-owned entity about a multibillion-dollar deal, according to the bank’s chief executive officer for the Middle East and North Africa.

“We’re very keen on deploying our principal capital in the region in both forms: credit and equity capital,” Wassim Younan said in an interview in Riyadh.

“We continue to prospect for opportunities to do so, and we’ve put forward at least one meaningful, multibillion-dollar proposal to a state-owned enterprise.”

Younan declined to name the enterprise or to be more specific about the type of deal. He said the bank is waiting for a response.

The US lender has been building its presence in Saudi Arabia for some time, boosting headcount, securing a stock-trading license and getting involved in key deals including the kingdom’s dollar bond sale. It wants to make sure it’s well placed to take advantage as the nation diversifies its economy away from oil and opens up to foreign investment.

Goldman has already been involved in sizable deals in the country. It was hired last year to advise Jabal Omar Development Co. on a potential merger with Umm Al Qura Development and is said to be among banks likely to manage the Saudi Aramco IPO, which could turn out to be the world’s largest initial public offering for the biggest crude exporter.

The New York-based firm also plans to double its headcount in Saudi Arabia, CEO Lloyd Blankfein said in a video message at a conference in Riyadh on Sunday. Goldman has already boosted its staffing in the city by two times over the past two years, according to Younan.

“If you ask me today what is the trend for our staffing levels, I’ll tell you for sure, upwards,” he said.


“This article was first posted on Forbesmiddleeast.Com. on 14 May,2018: 
http://www.arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/396474-goldman-eyes-multibillion-dollar-deal-to-fuel-saudi-expansion The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”

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Saudi Arabia revealed that its non-oil income rose by 63% during the first quarter of 2018 due to its tax collection drive and other economic reforms.

The government netted close to SAR 52.3 ($14 billion) in non-oil revenues thanks to the implementation of VAT and other fees levied. Meanwhile the overall revenues rose by 15% in Q1 2018, the finance ministry said.

The Kingdom also noted that the oil revenues increased marginally by 2% to reach SAR 114 billion as the country leads OPEC and a group of other countries in maintaining production cuts in an effort to make prices competitive.

However, the expenses too have risen within the economy. Government spending rose by 18% in the first quarter this year to reach SAR 200.6 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. Saudi authorities have ramped up public spending in order to boost the economic activity within the country.

Last year, the Gulf country announced a $19 billion stimulus package to help revive growth in an economy that was battered by low oil prices and lesser government spending. The authorities said that it is aiming to help SMEs and other beleaguered firms to cope in the current conditions.

Saudi Arabia has been introducing a slew of reforms in an effort to reduce its reliance on oil. The world’s top oil exporter has imposed value added tax while it has lifted subsidies on gasoline and utilities. The cutback on such largesse has helped the economy make some periodic gains, leading to the current growth in revenues.

“This article was first posted on Forbesmiddleeast.Com. on 08 May,2018: 
https://www.forbesmiddleeast.com/en/saudi-arabias-non-oil-income-jumps-by-63-as-reforms-take-effect/ The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco, the world’s top oil company which is preparing to go public, said on Sunday it has appointed new members to its board including a female executive, a milestone for Saudi Arabia and the oil industry where there are few women executives.

The appointments, which bring in more international experience, come as the Saudi government plans to float around 5 percent of Aramco in an initial public offering (IPO) – the world’s largest – later this year or early 2019.

Saudi Arabian Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan and Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed al-Tuwaijri were appointed as members of the board of directors, Aramco said in a statement.

They are joined by Lynn Laverty Elsenhans, the former chairwoman, president and CEO of U.S. oil refiner Sunoco Inc. (SUN.N) from 2008 to 2012.

Other new members also include Peter Cella, former president & CEO of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LP, and Andrew Liveris, director of DowDuPont Inc, and the CEO of the Dow Chemical Company. Liveris’s appointment is effective as of July 1, Aramco said.

The five new members of Aramco’s board will join six returning members including Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, who is also Aramco’s chairman, and Amin Nasser, Aramco’s CEO. Minister of State Ibrahim al-Assaf and Managing Director of the government-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) Yasir al-Rumayyan also remain on the board.

The outgoing board members are Majid Al-Moneef, advisor to the Saudi Royal Court; Khaled al-Sultan, Rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals; and Peter Woicke, former managing director of the World Bank and former vice president of the International Finance Corporation.

Appointment decisions to the new 11-member board of directors are made by the Saudi government.

FIRST WOMAN ON BOARD

Elsenhans was named by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful women in 2008. Prior to her role at Sunoco, Elsenhans was the executive vice president of global manufacturing for Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), where she worked for more than 28 years.

She also served on Baker Hughes’s board of directors from 2012 to July 2017 and sits on the board of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L).

Only a handful of Saudi women are appointed to the board of major Saudi companies but that is slowly changing in the conservative kingdom, where women are subject to a male guardianship system which in many cases restricts their opportunities to work.

Last year, the Saudi Stock Exchange appointed Sarah Al-Suhaimi, as its first female chair. She was the first woman to chair a major government financial institution in the kingdom.

In 2004, Lubna Olayan became the first woman to be elected to the board of Saudi Hollandi Bank, now called Alawwal Bank 1040.SE. In 2006, Lubna was one of four new appointments by PIF to the board of Ma’aden 1211.SE, the Gulf’s largest miner.

The Olayan family controls one of Saudi Arabia’s largest conglomerates.

“This article was first posted on Reuters.Com. on 29 April,2018: 
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-aramco-board/saudi-aramco-appoints-first-woman-to-the-board-idUSKBN1I004K The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”

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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir stressed the deep and strategic relations between the Kingdom and the United States and the shared mutual interests in several fields, particularly security, military, commercial, social, and educational fields.

Al-Jubeir was speaking at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh, stressing that the bilateral meetings that were held within the framework of his visit to the Middle East, were positive, constructive, and fruitful.

During the meeting, the pair reviewed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them in all fields. They also discussed the challenges in the region, including the situations in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as well as Iran’s negative interventions in the region, the crisis in Yemen, supporting the five countries in the African Sahel Region, and ways of dealing with the Libyan crisis. 

The Saudi Foreign Minister said the meetings highlighted the two sides “identical viewpoints” regarding several issues and the desire to intensify mutual efforts to to “enhance Iran’s Nuclear Deal” and tackle the issues of the region.

“We look forward to working with the Secretary of State in the future for the interests of the two friendly countries,” said Al-Jubeir.

Regarding Iran, Minister Al-Jubeir noted: “We said in the past that the Kingdom supports the policy of President Donald Trump and the efforts to improve the Iranian nuclear agreement, and we believe that it must have a limit to the quantity of uranium enrichment, it should be eliminated permanently and we believe monitoring Iran’s nuclear sites must be intensified.”

He added: “We believe that the Iranian problem must be dealt with by imposing further sanctions on Iran for violating international resolutions on ballistic missiles, supporting terrorism and for intervening in the affairs of the countries of the region.” 

For his part, Pompeo stressed the Kingdom is a key partner and long-time friend of the US and their bilateral partnership is growing to serve the common interests.

The US official thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their generous hospitality, saying: “I have had the opportunity to work closely with Saudi Arabian leaders for years, and I look forward to the constructive work as United States Secretary of State.”

The Secretary of State praised the outcomes of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to the US the last month, his welcome by Trump and his meetings with many administration’s leaders.

During his visit to Riyadh, which is the first leg of a Middle East tour, and talks with Mohammed bin Salman, Pompeo said topics related to Iran, Syria, and Yemen were discussed, as well as relations with Gulf countries.

He said the “Saudi Arabia’s security is a priority for the US and we will continue to work closely with our Saudi partners to counter threats to this country’s security.” 

“That, of course, starts with Iran. Iran destabilizes this entire region. It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It arms – it is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Iran conducts cyberhacking campaigns. It supports the murderous Assad regime as well,” he added.

Pompeo also said: “Unlike the prior administration, we will not neglect the vast scope of Iran’s terrorism. It is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and we are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon. The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance. 

“We will continue to work with our European allies to fix that deal, but if a deal cannot be reached, the President has said that he will leave that deal,” he stated.

Pompeo went on to say that the nuclear agreement has failed to moderate the regime’s conduct in many other areas, noting that “Iran has only behaved worse since the deal was approved,” as it has been supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen by providing military equipment, training and funding.
He described this as a violation of Iran’s commitments to the UN Security Council resolutions, also referring to the Houthi’s continued targeting of the Kingdom and the navigation routes in the Red Sea with ballistic missiles. However, he insisted a political solution was the only way to advance long-term stability in Yemen and end the suffering.

The Secretary of State also said there was an agreement to support the efforts of the new UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, and push for a lasting political solution to end the civil war and address the deteriorating security situation, pointing out that Al-Qaeda and Daesh took advantage of the long political and security vacuum left by this conflict.

He said: “The visit of President Trump to Saudi Arabia was historic. He attended the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (ETIDAL),” indicating that Muslim-majority countries should head the fight against extremism and violence.

“If we’re going to conquer extremism and defeat the forces of terrorism together, I know that Saudi Arabia will be at the front of it. We all must honestly confront the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires,” he declared.

He stressed his country’s readiness to stand with the Kingdom in its pursuit of common interests and bilateral security, noting that Vision 2030 and the reform agenda were inspiring initiatives that promote tolerance, respect, economic development and women empowerment.

Concluding, Pompeo stressed strong US support for promoting common economic and security interests and emphasized the necessity of Gulf unity to ensure regional security.

On Friday at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, the first stop on his trip, Pompeo repeated Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the Iran deal unless it is significantly strengthened. He said the US was “unlikely” to stay in if that was not done.

“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May,” Pompeo said.

Also looming over the trip is uncertainty over Trump’s policy on Syria, which has shifted between a speedy all-out withdrawal of American forces and leaving a lasting footprint to deter Iran from completing a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut.

Pompeo also is taking a leading role in President Donald Trump’s preparations for an expected summit in May or early June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pompeo, while en route to Israel, was asked whether a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would complicate negotiations
“I don’t think Kim Jung Un is staring at the Iran deal and saying, ‘Oh goodness, if they get out of that deal, I won’t talk to the Americans anymore. There are higher priorities, things he is more concerned about than whether the Americans stay” in the accord, Pompeo said.

“This article was first posted on ArabNews.Com. on 29 April,2018: 
http://www.arabnews.com/node/1293411/saudi-arabia The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”
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