Oil Prices Edge Up on China Demand Recovery Expectations, Tight Stocks

A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
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Oil Prices Edge Up on China Demand Recovery Expectations, Tight Stocks

A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Oil prices edged up on Wednesday on expectations that easing COVID-19 restrictions in China will push up demand and as industry data showed drawdowns in US crude inventories.

Brent crude was up 23 cents, or 0.2%, at $112.16 a barrel at 0633 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude climbed 71 cents, or 0.6%, to $113.11 a barrel, reversing some of the previous session's losses, Reuters reported.

The authorities allowed 864 of Shanghai's financial institutions to resume work, sources said on Wednesday, a day after the Chinese city achieved a milestone of three consecutive days with no new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine zones.

"Less awful news on China offers a nip in the tail in the form of much higher oil demand and prices, which is positive for producers, but harmful for consumer sentiment," Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, wrote in a note.

Raising supply concerns, US crude and gasoline stocks fell last week, according to market sources who cited American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday. Crude stocks fell by 2.4 million barrels for the week ended May 13, they said.

US government data is due on Wednesday.

"Soaring diesel and distillate prices, along with tight crude stocks is supporting WTI and I believe that situation will limit the downside from here in oil prices over the next few sessions," OANDA senior analyst Jeffrey Halley said.

But prices could still face some pressure after reports that the United States was allowing Chevron Corp to negotiate oil licenses with Venezuela's national producer, temporarily lifting a US ban on such talks that could lead to more crude hitting the market, ANZ Research analysts said.

The European Union's failure on Monday to persuade Hungary to lift its veto on a proposed embargo on Russian oil could also weigh, although some diplomats expect agreement on a phased ban at a summit at the end of May.

For the economic outlook, US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday said the central bank would ratchet up interest rates as high as needed to stifle inflation that he said threatened the foundation of the economy.



Saudi Arabia's PIF, Bahrain's Mumtalakat Sign MoU to Promote Cooperation, Investment in Strategic Sectors 

The MoU provides multiple benefits to PIF and its portfolio companies by providing investment opportunities aimed at boosting PIF’s investments in Bahrain. (SPA)
The MoU provides multiple benefits to PIF and its portfolio companies by providing investment opportunities aimed at boosting PIF’s investments in Bahrain. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's PIF, Bahrain's Mumtalakat Sign MoU to Promote Cooperation, Investment in Strategic Sectors 

The MoU provides multiple benefits to PIF and its portfolio companies by providing investment opportunities aimed at boosting PIF’s investments in Bahrain. (SPA)
The MoU provides multiple benefits to PIF and its portfolio companies by providing investment opportunities aimed at boosting PIF’s investments in Bahrain. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Mumtalakat Holding Company, the sovereign wealth fund of Bahrain, signed on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to expand cooperation and enable new and promising investment opportunities in Bahrain.

The MoU provides multiple benefits to PIF and its portfolio companies by providing investment opportunities aimed at boosting PIF’s investments in Bahrain. It also allows for the creation of additional opportunities for the private sector in both countries, said a PIF statement.

“We are pleased to cooperate with PIF. This cooperation is an extension of the strong relations that bring the two kingdoms together,” said Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company CEO Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.

“The memorandum signed today aims to enhance cooperation between Mumtalakat and PIF by establishing strategic partnerships and stimulating partnership opportunities for the private sector to support the diversification of the economy in the two brotherly countries."

He added: “This is also in line with Mumtalakat’s efforts to invest in promising economic sectors, provide quality job opportunities, continue to contribute to the national economy, and work towards achieving the goals of Bahrain Vision 2030.”

Deputy Governor and head of MENA Investments at PIF Yazeed A. Al-Humied said: “The MoU with Bahrain’s Mumtalakat Holding Company is an important step that aims to contribute to enhancing collaboration and investment opportunities in various sectors in Bahrain.”

“The MoU also supports PIF’s objectives of building long-term strategic regional partnerships that bring additional value to local economies and create more partnership opportunities for the private sector. It also enables the achievement of sustainable returns that further contribute to maximizing PIF’s assets and diversifying the economy in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.”

Through this agreement, PIF seeks to increase its investments in multiple targeted sectors in Bahrain, while Mumtalakat aims to explore attractive investment opportunities for cooperation and partnership with PIF.

The MoU follows the establishment of the Saudi-Bahraini Investment Company – a PIF subsidiary – which aims to invest up to $5 billion in multiple promising sectors in Bahrain. The company has recently inaugurated its office, in Manama, to expand its range of investment activities.

PIF is one of the largest and most impactful sovereign wealth funds in the world. It plays a leading role in advancing Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation and diversification, as well as contributing to shaping the future of the global economy. Since 2017, PIF has established 93 companies in 13 strategic sectors locally and globally.

Mumtalakat Holding Company owns shares in more than 50 commercial companies covering a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, real estate and tourism, logistics, technology and media, communications, financial services, public services, consumer goods, healthcare, and education.


Saudi Arabia Advances Tech Hub Leadership Position with $888 Mln in Deals at LEAP 24 

Saudi Arabia further advanced its position as a regional tech and investment hub during LEAP 24, with the announcement on Tuesday of $888 million in investment funds and funding rounds backing innovation and tech entrepreneurship in the Kingdom and across the region. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Arabia further advanced its position as a regional tech and investment hub during LEAP 24, with the announcement on Tuesday of $888 million in investment funds and funding rounds backing innovation and tech entrepreneurship in the Kingdom and across the region. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Arabia Advances Tech Hub Leadership Position with $888 Mln in Deals at LEAP 24 

Saudi Arabia further advanced its position as a regional tech and investment hub during LEAP 24, with the announcement on Tuesday of $888 million in investment funds and funding rounds backing innovation and tech entrepreneurship in the Kingdom and across the region. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Arabia further advanced its position as a regional tech and investment hub during LEAP 24, with the announcement on Tuesday of $888 million in investment funds and funding rounds backing innovation and tech entrepreneurship in the Kingdom and across the region. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Arabia further advanced its position as a regional tech and investment hub during LEAP 24, with the announcement on Tuesday of $888 million in investment funds and funding rounds backing innovation and tech entrepreneurship in the Kingdom and across the region.

On the second day of LEAP 24 in Riyadh, Investcorp launched a $500 million growth-stage fund.

Oasis Capital launched "Fund II" with a capital of $100 million.

The National Development Fund and the Social Development Bank established the $40 million Gaming and Esports Investment Fund, managed by Impact46.

Merak Capital established a fund with $80 million to support game accelerators in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s Takamol Holdings launched a $50 million investment arm, focused on funding early-stage tech companies.

Plug and Play launched its first fund to invest in technology startups, while X by Unifonic announced its first investment fund to support business software services for startups.

Funding rounds

As part of Saudi Arabia's position as the largest tech and digital economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, startups raised more than $53.4 million through funding rounds during LEAP 24.

BRKZ, a Saudi-based international information technology company, raised $8 million in a Series A round.

FanZ, a Saudi AI-enabled sport tech company, announced a pre-seed funding round of $1.5 million.

Lawazem, an online Saudi B2B supplies player, announced a pre-Series A round of $8 million to expand its operations, while RemotePass, a cross-border team onboarding services company, announced a Series A funding round of $5.5 million.

Moyasar, a Saudi payment gateway, announced a Series A funding round to scale operations across the MENA region as it deepens services in the Kingdom with Saudi-based Jahez.

Buildnow, a Saudi fintech company, announced a seed funding round led by RAED Ventures and Khawarizmi Venture Fund.

A liquidity bridge initiative was launched to support startups by providing immediate financial assistance, covering up to 50% of capital investment financing. The SourceTech initiative will grant financial support to incentivize technology outsourcing companies to establish and expand their services across the Kingdom.

NTPD initiatives

Saudi Arabia's National Technology Development Program (NTDP) launched five initiatives to expand the IT sector. These initiatives guide and source funding for pre-seed and early-stage startups. They will support emerging technologies focusing on priority sectors, such as Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, space technology, biotechnology, smart cities, mobility technology, open radio access networks, and deep tech.

NTDP launched the AIM initiative to stimulate the AI ecosystem and provide access to R&D infrastructure. The AIM initiative aims to elevate local talent, address sector challenges, and create projects with lasting impact over the next five years.

NTDP announced the AdoptTech initiative to bridge the technology gap for startups and small and medium-sized companies in the Kingdom. The initiative will accelerate digital transformation for companies, enhancing a robust technological ecosystem and providing financial assistance and access to technological solutions.


Saudi-Turkish Business Forum Helps Boost Economic Ties

Saudi Arabia's flag.
Saudi Arabia's flag.
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Saudi-Turkish Business Forum Helps Boost Economic Ties

Saudi Arabia's flag.
Saudi Arabia's flag.

The Saudi-Turkish Business Forum and Turkish Products Fair was held on March 4, 2024 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, SPA said on Tuesday.
The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum.
Saudi Minister of Commerce Majid Al-Qasabi emphasized the strong relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkiye, and the potential for increased collaboration.
He highlighted Saudi Arabia's "unprecedented transformation", driven by the "wise leadership, an ambitious vision, and a population of which 80% are young people".
The Minister also said that the Kingdom's vast oil and mineral resources, estimated at $1.5 trillion, are contributing significantly to its ongoing transformation.
Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih met with representatives of Turkish construction companies and highlighted the growing Saudi economy and the numerous investment opportunities, particularly in the construction sector, valued at $152 billion.
The targeted capital expenditure exceeded $3.3 trillion from 2022 to 2030, he said, reiterating that potential construction contracts range from $1.6 trillion to $$1.8 trillion.
Turkish Minister of Trade Omer Bolat emphasized the forum's significance to bolstering trade and economic ties between the two nations. He highlighted the $6.2 billion trade volume achieved in 2023, and expressed optimism for further growth.
He also underlined the Turkish companies' keenness to capitalize on investment opportunities arising from Saudi Vision 2030.
Second Vice Chairman of the Riyadh Chamber Naif Al-Rajhi emphasized the forum's role in building on the partnerships established at the Saudi-Turkish Business Forum held in Istanbul last October, which resulted in several cooperation agreements.
The forum concluded with the signing of new agreements between Saudi and Turkish companies.


ADNOC Says AI Added $500 Mln of Extra Value in 2023

The ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi. (WAM)
The ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi. (WAM)
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ADNOC Says AI Added $500 Mln of Extra Value in 2023

The ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi. (WAM)
The ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi. (WAM)

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) generated $500 million of additional value in 2023 by using artificial intelligence, the company said on Tuesday.

"The value was generated from the integration of over 30 industry-leading AI tools across ADNOC's full value chain, from field operations to smarter and quicker corporate decision making," ADNOC said in a statement.

The use of AI also prevented up to 1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2022 and 2023, the state oil giant said.

"As we grow our diversified portfolio to ensure secure, reliable and responsible supply of energy, we are further integrating AI to future-proof our business and drive greater and more sustainable value from our assets and resources," group chief executive Sultan Al Jaber said in the statement.

AI tools used by ADNOC include ones developed by AIQ, a joint venture with Abu Dhabi artificial intelligence company G42.

AI is being applied to ADNOC operations including production activities, reservoir management and growing capacity, Chief Technology Officer Sophie Hildebrand said.

"Many of these initiatives generated greater automation, optimization of our processes, they improve efficiency, they've helped us make improvements to cap ex, op ex, working capital, production ... really, things that you can touch and measure," Hildebrand said.

"The ability for us to do more and more is growing as the technology grows," she said, adding that she expected the value generated by AI to rise.


Gold Hovers Near 3-month Peak

Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters
Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters
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Gold Hovers Near 3-month Peak

Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters
Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak. Reuters

Gold prices steadied near a three-month peak on Tuesday, supported by subdued US manufacturing and construction spending, as investors awaited testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and key jobs data for policy cues.
Spot gold was flat at $2,114.99 per ounce, as of 0740 GMT, hovering around its highest since Dec. 4 of $2119.69 it hit on Monday. US gold futures dipped 0.1% to $2,123.90.
London's gold price benchmark hit a record high of $2,098.05 per troy ounce on Monday.
"This rally in gold was triggered by the softer-than-expected U.S. data and the pullback in real rates... but there has been a general bias to buy dips and a positive underlying investor sentiment towards gold that has also made the market vulnerable to the upside," UBS strategist Joni Teves said.
US manufacturing fell further in February, along with a gradual easing of inflation, while consumer sentiment remained weak.
Fed's Raphael Bostic said on Monday the bank is under no pressure to cut rates urgently, highlighting a "prospering" economy and job market.
Market focus now turns to Powell's two-day congressional testimony on Wednesday and Thursday, in a jobs data-heavy week, as investors seek more clues on the health of the US economy and potential timing of the Fed's rate cuts.
Lower rates boost the appeal of non-yielding bullion.
The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust's holdings dropped 10% from the previous year as of March 4.
"Even though gold ETFs have continued to sell, the pace of the selling has been reasonably measured, which suggests these are tweaks to the composition of the investor portfolio rather than investors losing faith in gold necessarily," Teves said.
Spot platinum fell 0.6% to $891.95 per ounce, and palladium dropped 1.3% to $947.80, and silver fell 0.3% to $23.83.


China Vows to ‘Transform’ Economy, Sets Ambitious Growth Target 

China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)
China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)
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China Vows to ‘Transform’ Economy, Sets Ambitious Growth Target 

China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)
China's Premier Li Qiang delivers his work report at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (AFP)

Chinese Premier Li Qiang announced an ambitious 2024 economic growth target of around 5% on Tuesday, promising steps to transform the country's development model and defuse risks fueled by bankrupt property developers and indebted cities.

Delivering his maiden work report at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, Li also flagged higher defense spending, while hardening the rhetoric on Taiwan.

In setting a growth target similar to last year, which will be harder to reach as a post-COVID recovery is losing steam, Beijing signals it is prioritizing growth over any reforms even as Li pledged bold new policies, analysts said.

"It’s more difficult to achieve 5% this year than last year because the base number has become higher, indicating that the top leaders are committed to supporting economic growth," said Tao Chuan, chief macro analyst at Soochow Securities.

Last year's uneven growth laid bare China's deep structural imbalances, from weak household consumption to increasingly lower returns on investment, prompting calls for a new growth model.

China started the year with a stock market rout and deflation at levels unseen since the global financial crisis of 2008-09. The property crisis and local government debt woes persisted, increasing pressure on China's leaders to come up with new economic policies.

With awe at China's economic miracle fading rapidly, some economists have drawn comparisons with Japan's lost decades since the 1990s, calling for pro-market reforms and measures to boost consumer incomes.

"We should not lose sight of worst-case scenarios," Li said in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.

"We must push ahead with transforming the growth model, making structural adjustments, improving quality, and enhancing performance."

There was no timeline or concrete details for the structural changes China intended to implement, however, with Li also emphasizing stability as "the basis for everything we do".

Li acknowledged reaching the target "will not be easy," adding a "proactive" fiscal stance and "prudent" monetary policy was needed. The target considers "the need to boost employment and incomes and prevent and defuse risks," Li said.

The International Monetary Fund projects China's 2024 growth at 4.6%, declining towards 3.5% in 2028.

Chinese stocks and the yuan were largely unchanged.

"Policymakers seem happy with the current trajectory," said Ben Bennett, Asia-Pacific investment strategist at Legal And General Investment Management.

"That’s disappointing for those that hoped for a bigger push... There’s rhetorical support for local government debt and the property sector, but the key is how this is applied in practice."

Moderate stimulus

China plans to run a budget deficit of 3% of economic output, down from a revised 3.8% last year. Crucially, it plans to issue 1 trillion yuan ($139 billion) in special ultra-long term treasury bonds, which are not included in the budget.

The special bond issuance quota for local governments was set at 3.9 trillion yuan, versus 3.8 trillion yuan in 2023. China also set the consumer inflation target at 3% and aims to create over 12 million urban jobs this year, keeping the jobless rate at around 5.5%.

"China is unlikely to do bazooka-style stimulus," said Tommy Xie, head of Greater China research at OCBC Bank. "There are still a lot of constraints at the moment in terms of how China can support the economy via fiscal expenditure."

Budgetary plans included an increase in defense spending by 7.2% this year, similar to 2023 - a figure closely watched by the US and China's neighbors, who are wary about its strategic intentions as tensions rise over Taiwan.

China's defense budget has doubled since President Xi Jinping came to power more than a decade ago. This year marks the 30th in a row of increasing defense expenditure, based on research by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Li's report also dropped previous mentions of "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan.

"China is showing that in the coming decade it wants to grow its military to the point where it is prepared to win a war if it has no choice but to fight one," said Li Mingjiang, a defense scholar at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

‘New productive forces’

Faced with a demographic crisis that also threatens the switch to a consumer-led growth model, China's state planner vowed to improve policies supporting childbirth, while raising benefits and basic pensions for its growing elderly population.

On the property sector, Li vowed to finance "justified" projects, and provide more social housing as Beijing looks to resolve a glut of unfinished properties that have worried homebuyers.

While Li said China wanted to curb industrial overcapacity, he also flagged more resources for tech innovation and advanced manufacturing, in line with Xi's push for "new productive forces," Li said.

China will also lift all foreign investment restrictions in the manufacturing sector and formulate development plans for quantum computing, big data and artificial intelligence as it strives for technological self-sufficiency.

Some analysts have criticized China's policy focus on manufacturing, saying it exacerbates industrial overcapacity, deepens deflation and heightens trade tensions with the West.

"The pursuit of speed has given way to the change in the model of growth," said Hu Yuexiao, chief economist at Shanghai Securities.


Amazon Web Services to Launch Infrastructure Region in Saudi Arabia 

The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Amazon Web Services to Launch Infrastructure Region in Saudi Arabia 

The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, announced on Monday that it will launch an AWS infrastructure Region in Saudi Arabia in 2026.

The new AWS Region will give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit organizations, greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the Kingdom, ensuring that customers who want to keep their content in-country can do so.

As part of its long-term commitment, AWS is planning to invest more than $5.3 billion (approx. 19.88 billion Saudi riyal) in Saudi Arabia, said a statement by Amazon.

“Today’s announcement supports Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation with the highest levels of security and resilience available on AWS cloud infrastructure, helping serve fast-growing demand for cloud services across the Middle East,” said Prasad Kalyanaraman, vice president of Infrastructure Services at AWS.

“The new AWS Region will enable organizations to unlock the full potential of the cloud and build with AWS technologies like compute, storage, databases, analytics, and artificial intelligence, transforming the way businesses and institutions serve their customers,” he added.

“We look forward to helping Saudi Arabian institutions, startups, and enterprises deliver cloud-powered applications to accelerate growth, productivity, and innovation and spur job creation, skills training, and educational opportunities.”

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Engineer Abdullah Alswaha said: “The partnership with AWS and their announcement of an AWS Region, backed by a $5.3 billion investment, ignites a new era of technological excellence and innovation for the Kingdom.”

“This cloud Region demonstrates a firm commitment to research, innovation, and empowering entrepreneurs to achieve prosperity for our region and the world,” he stressed.

To support the growth in cloud adoption across Saudi Arabia, AWS will continue to scale its training programs and help accelerate the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal of empowering women to increase participation in the workforce.

To help support this goal, AWS is launching a new upskilling program, “AWS Saudi Arabia Women’s Skills Initiative,” in partnership with Skillsoft Global Knowledge.

AWS will train up to 4,000 women on AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials, at no charge, through classroom trainings with AWS-certified professionals. This initiative is designed to help women jumpstart a career in cloud computing.

In addition, AWS will continue to invest in upskilling students, local developers and technical professionals, nontechnical professionals, and the next generation of IT leaders in Saudi Arabia through offerings such as AWS Academy, AWS Educate, AWS re/Start, and AWS Skill Builder.


Saudi Foreign Ministry Launches ‘Dawli’ Platform to Boost Int’l Representation 

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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Saudi Foreign Ministry Launches ‘Dawli’ Platform to Boost Int’l Representation 

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri made the announcement at LEAP 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched on Monday “Dawli”, a platform dedicated to recruitment opportunities at international organizations.

The announcement was made during the LEAP 2024 exhibition underway in Riyadh.

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Executive Affairs Abdulhadi Al-Mansouri said Dawli aims to bolster Saudi representation at international organizations.

The platform also aims to enrich the international experiences of competent Saudi individuals, he said.

Dawli serves as a platform that brings together Saudi talents and available job opportunities at international organizations, he explained.

Moreover, he stressed that the platform is a testament to the support provided by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, to the development of the Kingdom’s diplomatic community on various levels.

He further underscored the commitment of Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah to all initiatives launched by the ministry in line with the ambitious goals of Saudi Vision 2030.


Suez Canal Head Says Egypt Studying Further Expansion of Waterway

The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)
The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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Suez Canal Head Says Egypt Studying Further Expansion of Waterway

The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)
The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is pictured from the window of a commercial plane flying over Egypt, December 18, 2019. (Reuters)

Egypt is studying further expansions of the Suez Canal to extend and complete a second channel of the waterway, the canal's head said on Monday, a move that could allow for higher volumes of shipping and prevent blockages from halting traffic.

The comments come as the canal is seeing a sharp fall in revenue due to shipping companies diverting away from the waterway, the shortest route between Europe and Asia, because of attacks by Houthi militias in Yemen against ships in the Red Sea.

Any new extension would come on top of current work to extend the second channel by 10 kilometers, and to deepen and widen a section of the canal.

That work was expedited after the Ever Given, a giant container ship, ran aground in a single lane section of the canal in March 2021, stopping traffic for six days.

The canal is a key source of scarce foreign currency for indebted Egypt, which spent an estimated $8.2 billion on an expansion of the canal that opened in 2015 and included the creation of a 35-km (22-mile) parallel waterway.

Canal revenues have increased gradually but by less than officials had forecast, reaching a record $9.4 billion in the financial year ending in June 2023, before dipping by at least 40% at the beginning of this year due to the Houthi attacks.

Initial studies on an additional expansion would take about 16 months, and would include feasibility, environmental and engineering studies, as well as soil and dredging research, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabie said in a statement.

The project would need governmental approvals and would be funded through the SCA's investment budget, to avoid "placing any additional burdens on the state's general budget", the statement added.

Rabie said it could raise the competitiveness of the canal and allow it to take more and bigger ships.

The 2015 canal expansion is one of a number of mega-projects pursued under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.


LEAP 24 Investments in New Technologies, Cloud Computing, Data Centers Reach Record $11.9Bln

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)
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LEAP 24 Investments in New Technologies, Cloud Computing, Data Centers Reach Record $11.9Bln

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha speaks at the launch of LEAP 2024 in Riyadh. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha announced on Monday investments worth $11.9 billion to support deep and emerging technologies, innovation, and cloud computing in Saudi Arabia and the world.

He made the announcement at the launch of the LEAP 24 exhibition in Riyadh. The event runs until March 7.

Alswaha highlighted "the unwavering support" that Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, has shown Saudi and global tech sectors to help the digital economy grow and prosper as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, read a statement from the exhibition organizers.

The investments will help consolidate the Kingdom’s position "as the largest market and digital economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)" for leading technology companies such as Amazon Web Services, IBM, Datavolt and ServiceNow.

The investments will go toward developing Saudi digital skills and supporting tech start-ups.

On the first day of LEAP 24, Amazon Web Services announced a $5.3 billion investment in a new cloud zone in Saudi Arabia. Datavolt also announced a $5 billion investment in Saudi data centers with a capacity of more than 300 megawatts.

IBM plans to invest $250 million in a global software development center in the Kingdom. ServiceNow will invest $500 million to localize its regional services in Saudi Arabia, with training and development programs to upskill and train Saudi talent.

Dell will open a manufacturing and fulfilment center in Saudi Arabia, the first of its kind in the MENAT region.

Aramco announced the establishment of the Saudi Accelerator Innovation Lab (SAIL). Aramco and MCIT co-founded SAIL to strengthen Saudi Arabia's digital capabilities and to launch the "Metbrain" GenAI model; it also announced "Aramco LLM", the world’s first industrial grade GenAI.

Datadog will establish the first cloud application security solutions academy in the Kingdom, and Uipath announced the establishment of its first-in-the-region automation academy to train, upskill, and foster Saudi talent.