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Chapter | Alternative Investments from The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

The ongoing liberalisation of capital markets provides a positive long-term outlook for Saudi Arabia’s alternative investment segment. The Kingdom is a regional leader in mutual fund activity, with the deepest and most varied investment pool in the GCC. Nevertheless, some structural hurdles remain to fund expansion in Saudi Arabia. The lack of arrangements for the mutual recognition of fund licences between the GCC states means that regional funds face constraints to distribution. At the same time, early-stage investment – which has traditionally been dominated by government funds and accelerator schemes – is starting to attract regional interest. With markets in turmoil as a result of the spread of Covid-19 in the first half of 2020, alternative assets may prove to be a more resilient part of the investment landscape.

Chapter | Capital Markets from The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

Recent and ongoing reforms of Saudi Arabia’s capital markets have seen the Kingdom gradually liberalise its investment framework and overhaul the operations of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) – the largest exchange in the GCC by market capitalisation. Looking to initial public offerings, the state’s privatisation programme – a central component of Saudi Vision 2030 – is likely to generate further activity over the medium term. Targeted sectors include the environment, water and agriculture, transport, energy, housing, education and health. However, the timetable of the privatisation programme, as well as the movement of the Tadawul’s main index, is likely to be adversely impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak that is expected to upend global markets far into 2020. This chapter contains interviews with Khalid Al Hussan, CEO, Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul); and Rajiv Shukla, CEO, HSBC Saudi Arabia.

Chapter | Banking from The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

The Kingdom’s banking sector started 2020 on a promising note, with 13 local banks serving a population of over 30m people. However, low oil prices and the disruptive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to undermine asset growth over the course of the year, though the Kingdom’s banks have previously demonstrated the ability to remain profitable despite difficulties. Looking to the longer term, banks are likely to venture beyond the competitive corporate and retail segments and develop their offering in underserved areas of the market, such as lending to smaller enterprises and microfinance. This chapter contains interviews with Ahmed Alkholifey, Governor, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority; and Tareq Al Sadhan, CEO, Riyad Bank.

Chapter | Trade & Investment from The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

The revenue raised from outgoing shipments of oil fund the government’s social and infrastructural programmes, and are therefore central to the Kingdom’s economy. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the first quarter of 2020 has slowed economic activity and reduced investor sentiment around the world, thus its effect on the Kingdom’s trading activity and inward investment is yet to be seen. However, the process of legislative and regulatory reform that has altered the nation’s trading and investment landscape in recent years is expected to continue to long-term benefit. The government’s goal, according to Vision 2030, is to rank within the top-20 countries on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index – a feat that will require additional revision and innovation in the decade to come.

Chapter | Economy from The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

Four years after the launch of Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive development strategy, Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s non-oil economy is starting to see the benefits of sustained reform. Any decrease in revenue caused by lower oil prices is a significant challenge and presents a downside risk for the economy. Actions taken by the government to mitigate the effects of both the depressed oil price scenario and Covid-19 in the first half of 2020 are substantial. These will support non-oil growth and ensure a social safety net for citizens in the short term, while in the longer term the Kingdom’s increasingly diverse economy is expected to benefit from the implementation of Vision 2030 objectives. This chapter contains interviews with Fahd Al Rasheed, President, Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC); Anas Alfaris, President, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST); and Saad bin Othman Al Kasabi, Governor, Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation (SASO).

Report | The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

Saudi Arabia’s decision to weaken the link between hydrocarbons and economic growth, and pursue a policy of diversification has seen a wide range of projects come to fruition in the last several years. While at present the Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented plunge in oil prices are causing significant short-term uncertainty, the reforms that have been put in place in recent years should stand the Kingdom in good stead over the longer term.

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