Iraq Reopens North Refinery in Baiji Closed for a Decade 

In this handout picture released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office on February 23, 2024, workers pose for a picture with PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (C) during a ceremony held on the occasion of the reopening of North Oil Refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad. (Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office / AFP)
In this handout picture released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office on February 23, 2024, workers pose for a picture with PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (C) during a ceremony held on the occasion of the reopening of North Oil Refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad. (Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office / AFP)
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Iraq Reopens North Refinery in Baiji Closed for a Decade 

In this handout picture released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office on February 23, 2024, workers pose for a picture with PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (C) during a ceremony held on the occasion of the reopening of North Oil Refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad. (Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office / AFP)
In this handout picture released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office on February 23, 2024, workers pose for a picture with PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (C) during a ceremony held on the occasion of the reopening of North Oil Refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad. (Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office / AFP)

Iraq reopened on Friday what was once the country's largest oil refinery, a step the government hopes will lead to an end to its dependence on fuel imports.  

The North Refinery in the city of Baiji, 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Baghdad, was heavily damaged in some of the fiercest battles with the ISIS group after it swept across a third of Iraq in 2014.  

After the facility's full rehabilitation, "the refinery's effective capacity is 250,000 barrels per day," Assem Jihad, the spokesman for Iraq's oil ministry, told AFP.

Two smaller production units at the refinery complex were opened in recent years, but Friday's reopening restored the refinery closer to its previous capacity, with an additional unit capable of producing 150,000 bpd.

"With this accomplishment, we are getting closer to meeting the country's (oil) derivative needs no later than mid next year," Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's office said, adding that doing so would enable Iraq to end its fuel imports.  

The oil-rich country "produces four million barrels a day, but still imports oil derivatives," Sudani added during the inauguration ceremony aired on state television.  

Constructed in 1975, the refinery produced up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) before ISIS seized the city of Baiji -- Iraq's one-time industrial hub -- in June 2014.  

Government forces retook the facility and the city in October 2015 during fierce clashes with the extremists, but severe damage meant the refinery remained closed for years.  

Other refineries operate in Iraq, with facilities in the south recording a production capacity of 280,000 bpd, according to Jihad.  

In April, Iraq inaugurated an oil refinery in the central city of Karbala with a capacity of 140,000 bpd.  

Ravaged by decades of conflict, Iraq's crumbling infrastructure and endemic corruption have obstructed reconstruction efforts.  

Despite its tremendous oil wealth, the country remains dependent on imports to meet energy needs.  

Iraq has 145 billion barrels of proven oil reserves amounting to 96 years' worth of production at the current rate, according to the World Bank.  

Crude oil sales make up 90 percent of the Iraqi budget's revenues.



Saudi Investment Opportunities on US Business Radar

General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 21 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 21 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
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Saudi Investment Opportunities on US Business Radar

General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 21 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 21 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

Saudi Commerce Minister Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi has discussed Vision 2030 achievements and investment opportunities with US business leaders in Washington. The meeting highlighted the strong trade ties between the Kingdom and the US.

The Saudi-US Business Council recently held a virtual seminar on the future of car manufacturing in Saudi Arabia. Over 100 industry leaders from both countries attended.

During the meeting, Al-Qasabi talked about the progress of Vision 2030 and how it’s opening up new sectors and opportunities for businesses in Saudi Arabia. They also discussed improving the business environment in the Kingdom to attract more American companies.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Ambassador to the US, joined the meeting along with officials from the US Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, Al-Qasabi and his team visited Georgetown University to discuss collaboration and review the university’s research in areas like entrepreneurship, corporate governance, trade policy, and more.

Al-Qasabi also met with executives from EcoLab, a water and energy solutions provider, and Bechtel Corporation, a major engineering and construction company.


Oil Prices Climb amid US Stocks Decline, Mideast Conflict

FILE PHOTO: A motorist fills a car with fuel at a petrol station in Sydney August 18, 2004. REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: A motorist fills a car with fuel at a petrol station in Sydney August 18, 2004. REUTERS
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Oil Prices Climb amid US Stocks Decline, Mideast Conflict

FILE PHOTO: A motorist fills a car with fuel at a petrol station in Sydney August 18, 2004. REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: A motorist fills a car with fuel at a petrol station in Sydney August 18, 2004. REUTERS

Oil prices extended gains on Wednesday after industry data showed a surprise drop in US crude stocks last week, a positive sign for demand, though markets were also keeping a close eye on hostilities in the Middle East.
Brent crude futures rose 26 cents, or 0.29%, to $88.68 a barrel and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 26 cents, or 0.31%, to $83.62 a barrel at 0634 GMT, Reuters reported.
US crude inventories fell 3.237 million barrels in the week ended April 19, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures. In contrast, six analysts polled by Reuters had expected a rise of 800,000 barrels.
Traders will be watching for the official US data on oil and product stockpiles due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) for confirmation of the big drawdown.
US business activity cooled in April to a four-month low, with S&P Global saying on Tuesday that its flash Composite PMI Output Index, which tracks the manufacturing and services sectors, fell to 50.9 this month from 52.1 in March.
"This could help convince policy makers that rate cuts are required to support the economy," ANZ analysts said in a note.
US interest rate cuts could bolster economic growth and, in turn, demand for oil from the world's top consumer of the fuel.
Analysts were still bullish that any latest developments in conflicts in the Middle East will still support markets, though the impact on oil supplies remains limited for now.
"Overall, crude oil prices are well supported around current levels by on-going Middle East risk premium. On the topside, risk of possible renewed OPEC production increase from Jun will help limit any significant upside," said head of markets strategy for United Overseas Bank (UOB) in Singapore Heng Koon How.
"We maintain our forecast for Brent to consolidate at USD 90/bbl by end of this year," Heng added.
Israeli strikes intensified across Gaza on Tuesday, in some of the heaviest shelling in weeks.
"Recent reports suggest that both Iran and Israel consider the current operations concluded against one another, with no follow-up action required for now," ING analysts said in a note.
"The US and Europe are preparing for new sanctions against Iran – although these may not have a material impact on oil supply in the immediate term," they added.


Venezuela to Accelerate Cryptocurrency Shift as US Sanctions Return

Encouraged by US licenses allowing sales, oil exports reached some 900,000 barrels per day in March, the highest in four years. Reuters
Encouraged by US licenses allowing sales, oil exports reached some 900,000 barrels per day in March, the highest in four years. Reuters
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Venezuela to Accelerate Cryptocurrency Shift as US Sanctions Return

Encouraged by US licenses allowing sales, oil exports reached some 900,000 barrels per day in March, the highest in four years. Reuters
Encouraged by US licenses allowing sales, oil exports reached some 900,000 barrels per day in March, the highest in four years. Reuters

Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA plans to increase digital currency usage in its crude and fuel exports as the US reimposes oil sanctions on the country, three people familiar with the plan said.
The US Treasury Department last week gave PDVSA's customers and providers until May 31 to wind down transactions under a general license it did not renew due to a lack of electoral reforms, Reuters reported. The move will make it more difficult for the country to increase oil output and exports as companies will have to wait for individual US authorizations to do business with Venezuela.
PDVSA since last year had been slowly moving oil sales to USDT, a digital currency also known as Tether whose value is pegged to the US dollar and designed to maintain a stable value. The return of oil sanctions is speeding up the shift, a move to reduce the risk of sale proceeds getting frozen in foreign bank accounts due to the measures, the people said.
"We have different currencies, according to what is stated in contracts," Venezuelan oil minister Pedro Tellechea told Reuters last week, adding that in some contracts digital currencies might be the preferred payment method.
The US dollar is the preferred currency for transactions in the global oil market. Even though they are emerging in some countries, payments in cryptocurrency are not frequent.
Tether said in an email it respects the US Treasury's list of sanctioned entities and "is committed to working to ensure sanction addresses are frozen promptly."
Last year, PDVSA was rocked by a corruption scandal after the discovery of some $21 billion in unaccounted receivables for oil exports in recent years, partially related to prior transactions involving other cryptocurrencies.
The nation's oil exports have increased under Tellechea, who took over Venezuela's oil ministry following the scandal. Encouraged by US licenses allowing sales, exports reached some 900,000 barrels per day in March, the highest in four years.
SLOWLY BUT SURELY
By the end of the first quarter, PDVSA had moved many spot oil deals not involving swaps to a contract model demanding prepayment for half of each cargo's value in USDT.
PDVSA also is requiring any new customer applying to conduct oil transactions to hold cryptocurrency in a digital wallet. The requirement has been enforced even in some old contracts that do not specifically state the use of USDT, one of the people said.
In October, when Washington issued the six-month license that allowed trading houses and former PDVSA customers to resume business with Venezuela, most of them resorted to intermediaries to meet the digital transaction requirements.
"USDT transactions, as PDVSA is demanding them to be, don't pass any trader's compliance department, so the only way to make it work is working with an intermediary," one trader said, referring to how unusual it still is to pay for oil in digital currencies.
PDVSA has relied on middlemen for its own oil sales, especially to China, since the US in 2020 imposed secondary sanctions on Venezuela, disrupting its relationship with large trading partners.
LESS CASH
Increasingly relying on middlemen for transactions could help PDVSA skirt sanctions, but will mean a smaller portion of oil proceeds will end up in its pockets.
Minister Tellechea last week said the country expects to continue signing contracts and crude and gas project expansions during the 45-day wind down period set by the US, and will ask potential clients to request specific licenses after that.
Oil analysts expect that even if Washington promptly issues individual authorizations, Venezuela's oil output, exports and revenue will soon hit a ceiling.
Tellechea rejected that view, saying PDVSA has "a big strength in trading," and is prepared commercially to address the return of Washington's sanctions.


UAE, Oman Establish $35 Bln Investment Partnerships

FILE PHOTO: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman attend a state visit reception at Qasr Al Watan, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates April 22, 2024. Ryan Carter/UAE Presidential Court/Handout via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman attend a state visit reception at Qasr Al Watan, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates April 22, 2024. Ryan Carter/UAE Presidential Court/Handout via REUTERS
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UAE, Oman Establish $35 Bln Investment Partnerships

FILE PHOTO: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman attend a state visit reception at Qasr Al Watan, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates April 22, 2024. Ryan Carter/UAE Presidential Court/Handout via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman attend a state visit reception at Qasr Al Watan, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates April 22, 2024. Ryan Carter/UAE Presidential Court/Handout via REUTERS

UAE and Omani companies have signed deals worth 129 billion dirhams ($35.12 billion) in sectors including energy and transport during the Omani ruler's visit to the United Arab Emirates.

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman witnessed the announcement of several memoranda of understanding and agreements aimed at strengthening relations between the two countries to achieve further growth and prosperity.

The announcement was made as part of the official visit of Oman’s Sultan to the UAE.

The agreements were dominated by a 117 billion dirham industrial and energy "megaproject" grouping wind, solar projects and green metals production.

Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. (TAQA), Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), Emirates Steel Arkan (ESA), OQ Alternative Energy and Oman Electrical Transmission Co were among the companies involved, the ministry statement said.

Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund ADQ also signed an agreement to set up a 660 million dirham technology-focused fund with the Oman Investment Authority, while the UAE and Oman signed an 11 billion dirham agreement to connect the countries by rail.

“The agreements represent a major milestone in our bilateral ties, as they pave the way for us to leverage our collective strength to realize our shared vision of advancement and prosperity," UAE Minister of Investment Mohamed Hassan Alsuwaidi said.


Mawani Adds East Africa Shipping Service to King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam

Mawani added a new shipping service to East Africa to King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam.
Mawani added a new shipping service to East Africa to King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam.
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Mawani Adds East Africa Shipping Service to King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam

Mawani added a new shipping service to East Africa to King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam.
Mawani added a new shipping service to East Africa to King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam.

The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) has added a new shipping service, East Africa Express, by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), to King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam.
It will connect the Kingdom to the ports of East Africa, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
This move aligns with Mawani's efforts to boost investment and logistics services in the Kingdom, and support the National Transport and Logistics Strategy (NTLS), which aims to strengthen the Kingdom's position as a vital link connecting three continents and a global logistics hub.
The new shipping service links King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam with Mundra Port in India, Qasim Port in Pakistan, and Abu Dhabi and Jebel Ali Ports in the UAE through regular weekly trips, offering a capacity of up to 11,000 TEUs.


World Bank Explains to Asharq Al-Awsat Saudi Growth Forecast Surge for 2025

Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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World Bank Explains to Asharq Al-Awsat Saudi Growth Forecast Surge for 2025

Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The World Bank is forecasting a 5.9% growth for Saudi Arabia’s economy in 2025, surpassing previous estimates. This surge is fueled by heightened non-oil activities and anticipated increases in oil prices, as explained by Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank.

The bank now expects the Kingdom’s economy to expand by 5.9% next year, a significant increase from its earlier prediction of 4.2%. It also forecasts a 4.8% growth in the non-oil private sector in Saudi Arabia this year.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Gatti explained that the higher forecast for Saudi Arabia’s economy next year relies on two main factors:

Firstly, boosting non-oil activities through loose fiscal policy, large investments (especially public ones), and strong private spending, all while keeping inflation low with generous subsidies.

Secondly, expecting a significant rise in oil production in 2025 due to current trends and extending oil production cuts until mid-2024, leading to a 5.9% GDP growth.

Economic Shocks and Debt Impact

Discussing a report about conflict and debt in the MENA region, Gatti highlighted how conflict exacerbates major weaknesses in the region, notably the surge in debt compared to GDP.

Over the past decade, most regional economies saw their debt levels rise, a trend accelerated by the pandemic.

By 2023, debt had climbed to 88% of GDP in oil-importing countries, up from 81% in 2013. Importantly, debt levels are much higher for oil-importing nations, averaging 88% of GDP in 2023 compared to 34% for oil-exporting ones.

Gatti stressed the importance of transparency in debt management, particularly for oil-importing nations. She also underscored the need to address off-budget expenditures, which are not officially recorded.

She warned that financial adjustments made to handle high interest payments might not fully tackle the increasing debt burdens resulting from off-budget spending. This is especially pertinent for oil-importing countries in the MENA region, Gatti noted.

Oil-exporting nations face the task of broadening their economic and financial sources due to shifts in global oil markets and rising demand for renewable energy.

Gatti explained that uncertainty in the MENA region, already higher than in other emerging markets and developing countries, intensified after October 7 (the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas) and remains higher than in those regions.

While noting that the report assumes no escalation in conflict, she cautioned about its lasting effects.

As per Gatti, studies show that debt patterns after conflict differ from other disasters. Debt tends to rise after nearly any natural disaster, and GDP growth drops in the disaster year. But growth rebounds in the following years.

After armed conflict, debt spikes significantly, like in any disaster. However, economic recovery post-conflict doesn’t happen, meaning government actions after fighting may not boost economic growth. This means pre-existing debt vulnerabilities could worsen if conflict escalates in the Middle East and North Africa.


Oil Prices Stabilize, Middle East Tensions Remain in Focus

FILE PHOTO: A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, US June 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Richard Carson/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, US June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson/File Photo
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Oil Prices Stabilize, Middle East Tensions Remain in Focus

FILE PHOTO: A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, US June 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Richard Carson/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, US June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson/File Photo

Oil prices edged higher on Tuesday, after falling in the previous session, as investors continued to assess the risk from geopolitical concerns in the Middle East.
Global benchmark Brent crude oil futures traded 27 cents higher at $87.27 a barrel by 0308 GMT, and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures also gained 26 cents to $82.16 a barrel.
Both benchmarks fell 29 cents in the previous session on signs that a recent escalation of tensions between Israel and Iran had little near-term impact on oil supplies from the region, Reuters reported.
"The unwinding of geo-political risk premium has dented crude oil prices recently as supply was not disrupted meaningfully," said Sugandha Sachdeva, founder of Delhi-based research firm SS WealthStreet.
But the evolving geopolitical landscape remains critical in steering crude oil prices, she said.
"While there are no indications of an imminent full-scale war between the countries involved, any escalation in tensions could quickly reverse the current trend," Sachdeva added.
ANZ analysts echoed the sentiment and highlighted US approval of new sanctions on Iran's oil sector that broaden current sanctions to include foreign ports, vessels and refineries that knowingly process or ship Iranian crude.
Also, EU foreign ministers agreed in principle on Monday to expand sanctions on Iran following Tehran's missile and drone attack on Israel, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
"The geopolitical backdrop is still very fraught with so many risks at the moment, so clearly we're going to see a lot of volatility until there's a lot more clarity around it," the ANZ analysts said in a podcast.
Israeli troops fought their way back into an eastern section of Khan Younis in a surprise raid, residents said on Monday, sending people who had returned to abandoned homes in the ruins of the southern Gaza Strip's main city fleeing once more.
Investors are waiting for the release of the US gross domestic product figures and the March personal consumption expenditure data - the Fed's preferred inflation gauge - later this week to assess the trajectory of monetary policy.
US crude oil inventories are expected to have increased last week while refined product stockpiles likely fell, according to a preliminary Reuters poll of analysts.
"Sticky US inflation figures, hawkish statements from key Fed officials, and rising US inventories are all acting as constraints on crude oil price growth," Sachdeva said.


Saudi Diriyah Company Announces 'Zallal' in the Bujairi District

Upon completion, the project will feature two low-rise office buildings, offering a combined leasable area of approximately 6,000 square meters, alongside 12 mixed retail and F&B outlets spanning around 8,000 square meters. (SPA)
Upon completion, the project will feature two low-rise office buildings, offering a combined leasable area of approximately 6,000 square meters, alongside 12 mixed retail and F&B outlets spanning around 8,000 square meters. (SPA)
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Saudi Diriyah Company Announces 'Zallal' in the Bujairi District

Upon completion, the project will feature two low-rise office buildings, offering a combined leasable area of approximately 6,000 square meters, alongside 12 mixed retail and F&B outlets spanning around 8,000 square meters. (SPA)
Upon completion, the project will feature two low-rise office buildings, offering a combined leasable area of approximately 6,000 square meters, alongside 12 mixed retail and F&B outlets spanning around 8,000 square meters. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Company unveiled on Monday details of Zallal, its inaugural major versatile commercial office and retail project, slated to debut in the first half of 2025 in the Bujairi District.

Upon completion, the project will feature two low-rise office buildings, offering a combined leasable area of approximately 6,000 square meters, alongside 12 mixed retail and F&B outlets spanning around 8,000 square meters, said the company in a statement.

The project has garnered enthusiastic interest from potential tenants, with advanced leasing negotiations currently underway with numerous companies and organizations.

Zallal's strategic location adjacent to the popular Bujairi Terrace positions it to benefit from the proximity to a venue already drawing thousands of visitors daily. Situated near the recently concluded Diriyah Art Futures and the forthcoming Bab Samhan Hotel, the offering promises a dynamic environment for both visitors and tenants.

Diriyah Company's Group CEO Jerry Inzerillo said: “We have been thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive response to Zallal from the commercial sector, and we are currently in advanced negotiations with international and local companies eager to capitalize on the prime location in the heart of Diriyah and the diverse array of accessible retail, F&B, and office spaces available."

"With construction well underway, Zallal sustains the exhilarating momentum at Diriyah and, upon completion, will capitalize on the daily influx of visitors to Bujairi Terrace, emerging as the latest completed precinct in our rapidly evolving master plan,” he added.

Visitors and staff will enjoy the convenience of an easily accessible, 1,400-space basement car park beneath Zallal, featuring direct links to Wadi Hanifah, Al Imam Abdulaziz bin Muhammad ibn Saud Road, and public transportation. Coach drop-off points for tourists and visitors will ensure a seamless arrival experience in a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Among the companies currently engaged in leasing negotiations are esteemed international brands venturing into Saudi Arabia for the first time, locally grown enterprises, and innovative Saudi concepts.


Saudi PIF, stc Group Sign Agreements to Form Region’s Largest Telecom Tower Company

The new merged entity will boast approximately 30,000 mobile tower sites and will become one of the largest tower companies globally with estimated annual revenues of approximately $1.3 billion. (SPA)
The new merged entity will boast approximately 30,000 mobile tower sites and will become one of the largest tower companies globally with estimated annual revenues of approximately $1.3 billion. (SPA)
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Saudi PIF, stc Group Sign Agreements to Form Region’s Largest Telecom Tower Company

The new merged entity will boast approximately 30,000 mobile tower sites and will become one of the largest tower companies globally with estimated annual revenues of approximately $1.3 billion. (SPA)
The new merged entity will boast approximately 30,000 mobile tower sites and will become one of the largest tower companies globally with estimated annual revenues of approximately $1.3 billion. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Saudi Telecommunications Company (stc Group) announced on Monday the signing of definitive agreements whereby PIF will acquire a 51% stake in Telecommunication Towers Company Limited (TAWAL) from stc Group.

TAWAL is the largest telecommunications infrastructure company in Saudi Arabia and one of the largest in the region, with an enterprise value of $5.85 billion per the agreement.

Subsequently, PIF and stc Group will consolidate TAWAL and Golden Lattice Investment Company (GLIC) – in which PIF holds a majority shareholding – into a new merged entity, forming the largest regional company in the telecommunication infrastructure sector, said a PIF statement.

The combined new entity will be owned 54% by PIF and 43.1% by stc Group, with GLIC minority shareholders owning the remaining issued share capital.

The transactions are expected to be completed in the second half of 2024 after obtaining all required regulatory approvals and satisfying other necessary conditions under the agreements.

Head of MENA Direct Investments at PIF Raid Ismail said: “Today's announcement is a significant milestone for the telecommunications industry in Saudi Arabia and the wider region. By bringing together the assets of GLIC and TAWAL, we will establish a consolidated platform on which the telecommunications sector can flourish and give people a better experience to best connect communities and businesses.”

“It is also in line with PIF’s strategy and the Saudi Vision 2030. Fast, reliable and accessible connectivity is a key enabler of growth and a cornerstone for the society, and these agreements mark a major stride towards a more interconnected digital future,” he stressed.

Group Chief Investment Officer of stc Group Motaz Alangari said: “These agreements are part of stc Group’s continuous endeavor to grow and maximize value in the most sustainable manner, by recycling capital while retaining ownership in strategic value-added assets to benefit from the return on these assets and enable expansion into new domains.”

“Today’s announcement is in line with stc Group’s strategy and the pivotal role that the group is playing in accelerating the digital transformation of society and the economy in Saudi Arabia and the region,” he went on to say.

“Combining TAWAL and GLIC is a stepping-stone to consolidating the Saudi tower market and driving further efficiencies and operational excellence to deliver superior experiences and value for customers,” he added.

The new entity is expected to significantly enhance consumer experience and network coverage, as well as improve connectivity and mobile internet speeds by consolidating Saudi Arabia’s tower assets. It will also deliver operational efficiencies, help drive wider innovation in the telecommunication sector across the region and globally, and support development of a more efficient and frictionless business environment.

The agreements mark PIF and stc Group’s ambition to integrate and strengthen the Saudi telecommunication infrastructure sector to unlock its consolidated potential. This follows TAWAL’s acquisition of infrastructure assets in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia, making it the region’s largest independent tower company.

The new merged entity will boast approximately 30,000 mobile tower sites and will become one of the largest tower companies globally with estimated annual revenues of approximately $1.3 billion.

Today’s announcement aims to ensure the resilience and international competitiveness of a critical national digital infrastructure asset and aligns with the goals of Vision 2030. It also builds on PIF’s and stc Group’s strategy to enhance Saudi Arabia’s innovation capabilities as a globally competitive hub for the technology, media and telecommunication sector.


Saudi Aramco in Talks to Acquire 10% Stake in China's Hengli Petrochemical

Saudi Aramco entered into discussions with China’s Hengli Group Co., Ltd. regarding the potential acquisition of a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (SPA)
Saudi Aramco entered into discussions with China’s Hengli Group Co., Ltd. regarding the potential acquisition of a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (SPA)
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Saudi Aramco in Talks to Acquire 10% Stake in China's Hengli Petrochemical

Saudi Aramco entered into discussions with China’s Hengli Group Co., Ltd. regarding the potential acquisition of a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (SPA)
Saudi Aramco entered into discussions with China’s Hengli Group Co., Ltd. regarding the potential acquisition of a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (SPA)

Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s leading integrated energy and chemicals companies, said on Monday that it has entered into discussions with China’s Hengli Group Co., Ltd. (Hengli Group) regarding the potential acquisition of a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (Hengli Petrochemical), subject to due diligence and required regulatory clearances.

Aramco and Hengli Group signed on Monday a memorandum of understanding regarding the proposed transaction, which "aligns with Aramco’s strategy to expand its downstream presence in key high-value markets, advance its liquids-to-chemicals program, and secure long-term crude oil supply agreements", said Aramco in a statement.

Hengli Petrochemical, a controlled subsidiary of Hengli Group, owns and operates a 400,000 barrel per day refinery and integrated chemicals complex in Liaoning Province, China, and several plants and production facilities in Jiangsu and Guangdong Provinces.

Aramco Downstream President Mohammed Al Qahtani said: "This MoU supports our efforts to grow our global downstream footprint. We continue to explore new opportunities in important markets, as we seek to progress in our liquids-to-chemicals strategy."

"We look forward to forging new partnerships and are excited by the prospect of expanding our presence in the important Chinese market," he added.