Why Saudi Arabia?

Trade Relationship Between The Two Kingdoms


Saudi - UK relations have always been important to both economies and continue to be so. The Kingdom is the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East. According to UKTI figures, UK exports of visible goods to Saudi Arabia increased by 6% to £3.258 billion (USD $4.9 billion) in 2012 and Saudi exports to the UK increased by 42% to £1.749 billion (USD $2.62 billion) in 2012. These figures do not include UK exports of services which account for another £4.4 billion per year and UK exports to KSA though ports in the UAE, which are very difficult to measure.

The UK is the second largest cumulative foreign investor in Saudi Arabia, after the United States. There are currently around 200 UK/Saudi joint ventures with a total investment estimated at around USD $17.5 billion and Saudi Arabia has been designated a 'High Growth Market' by UKTI. There are currently high value opportunities in airport and railway development, water and wastewater, education and healthcare, and petrochemicals. The mining, ICT and retail sectors are also developing quickly. Saudi investments in the UK are predominantly in property and portfolio investment, sectors for which UKTI has no responsibility. If we did factor in Saudi portfolio and property investment it would dwarf our trade figures.


Why Do Business in Saudi Arabia?

Although parts of the Middle East and North Africa have seen political turmoil since the start of 2011, Saudi Arabia has remained stable and investors still view it as an attractive place to do business.

The Saudi Riyal is one of the world's most stable currencies and there have been no significant changes in its exchange value during the last three decades.

The key reasons for investing in the Kingdom include:

  1. It is one of the world's 25 largest economies and the largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa Region - MENA.

  2. The Kingdom is one of the world's fastest growing countries worldwide, with per-capita income forecast to rise from USD $25,000 in 2012 to USD $33,500 by 2020.

  3. It has substantial cost advantages due to the low domestic cost of energy and industrial land due to generous subsidies and incentives.

  4. It provides duty free access to other GCC and MENA economies and enjoys good transport and infrastructure links which will soon be supplemented by a national rail system.

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Opportunities in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has a very fast growing economy - GDP growth in 2012 reached over 6%. The booming economy is creating great opportunities for both exporters and investors. These are further boosted by moves to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil and gas, economic reform, market liberalisation and a growing private sector.

Investors in Saudi Arabia enjoy increasingly well-developed business clusters and value chains that set the nation apart from its neighbours and from other emerging economies. The World Economic Forum ranks the Kingdom 6th in the world for Local Supplier Quantity and 24th for both Value Chain Breadth and Production Process Sophistication. Well established, competitive and efficient, Saudi Arabia’s domestic industries – from energy and chemicals to transportation – provide industrial projects with exceptional opportunities for cost savings.

There are opportunities at all levels in:

•       Oil, gas and petrochemicals

•       Power, including nuclear and renewable energy

•       Water and wastewater

•       Financial and professional services

•       Education, training and human capital development

•       Mass transport infrastructure including new rail, metro and bus links

•       Environmental technology and services

•       ICT

•       Consumer and luxury goods

•       Defence and security

•       Healthcare and Life Sciences

•       Mining


Key Sectors

The KSA’s most prominent sector is poised for unprecedented growth, diversification and profitability. The high oil revenue environment has spurred a boom in both oil and non-oil development projects. Unlike previous investment cycles the current round of investment projects is marked by heavy private sector participation with USD $79 billion in private-sector energy projects under development. Activity in the world’s premier energy economy will develop rapidly as large scale capital spending is applied to building new capacity and expansion of existing facilities. For example, the Arab Oil and gas directory forecasts major new energy investments in KSA, including:RS20299_CD00634CM00170_617138-1000pxW

-          Petrochemical projects USD $90 billion

-          Power generation USD $90 billion

-          Water desalination plans USD $88 billion

-          Natural gas-related projects USD $50 billion

Already the world’s 8th highest education spender, Saudi Arabia recently initiated a complete reform of the current education system, building new educational institutes and funding overseas degrees and training programmes for Saudi students. The primary focus regarding the education sector is to educate young Saudis to fill jobs which are currently being held by expatriates. Despite this budget figure, it's vital for Saudi Arabia to attract a substantial amount of foreign investment in education to meet rapid growth demands.

Security and Defence
Defence & Security sector is one of the important sectors in Saudi Arabia, providing enormous opportunities for British companies. Security is a fast growing sector which is currently estimated to be worth between SR 2.27 - 2.51 billion (USD $605 - $670 million.) Of this figure, around SR 318.8 million (USD $85 million) accounts for physical and electronic security for the banking sector. The balance is for government, industrial, retail, residential and commercial sectors. The Saudi government's defence budget continues to grow, standing approximately at SR 153.8 billion USD $41 billion. The Saudi defence relationship with the UK remains strong,as shown by the recent order for 72 Typhoon aircraft.

RS20301_CD00634CM00216_689465- 1000pxWSaudi Arabia represents the largest construction market in the Middle East and one of the fastest growing construction markets in the world. They key areas that are currently being focussed on are improving infrastructure, transport, education and real estate all of which will require construction related activity. According to SAGIA, there is a USD $100 billion planned investment over the next 10 years in transport projects.

Financial and Professional Services
The Saudi banking sector is stable and has not experienced much turmoil during the global financial crisis. The Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) is now the largest in the Gulf region. The Stock Exchange is keen to attract limited foreign participation, develop the derivatives market and to start up a future market for other than just oil. It will shortly move to the new King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh along with major banks and other service providers.

Healthcare is a thriving sector as the government continues to finance healthcare for its rapidly growing population. Saudi Arabia is the largest market for medical equipment and healthcare products in the Middle East, with the opportunity to cater to unmet demand across the healthcare value chain including medical education, research, facilities, provision and reimbursement.

Saudi Arabia is the region's largest IT market with strong growth in consumer and enterprise end markets. Huge public investments on infrastructure, health and education have paved the way for advanced technology and security systems in the country with the government planning for the industry to raise its contribution to the GDP by 20 percent by 2020. The IT market in the country was valued at USD $3.6 billion in 2011 and is expected to go up to USD $4.9 billion by 2014.

Liberalisation is occurring across the telecommunications industry, driving increases in competition, service levels and usage. Significant unmet demands for web-based and mobile services and increased enterprise and government commitment for web-based services provide large-scale opportunities for contractors and service providers, with massive public investment in connectivity for Economic Cities, providing unique opportunities for greenfield projects covering millions of users. 

Industrial CitiesRS26450_PD00463RF05052_552578-1000pxW
Today, industrial products make up more than 90 percent of the Kingdom's non-oil exports. Saudi Arabia exports petrochemicals, plastics, metal goods, construction materials and electrical appliances to more than 90 countries.

The Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON), is responsible for developing and supervising industrial land in the Kingdom. Their aim is to promote and regulate Industrial Estates and Technology Zones and to encourage the private sector to become involved in their development and operation. Since it was created in 2001, MODON has been working towards a Saudi development vision for the 21st century. They are currently building six new industrial cities and have expressed an interest in dealing with UK consultants for master planning, design, operation and maintenance, and facilities management.

Economic Cities
In addition to the sectors and industrial cities mentioned above, Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars into the launch of four Economic Cities in different regions of the country:

•       King Abdullah Economic City - Rabigh (near Jeddah)

•       Prince Abdul Aziz bin Mousdaed Economic City - Hail

•       Knowledge Economic City - close to Al Madinah

•       Jazan Economic City - close to Jazan City

These cities, once constructed, will be public-private partnerships that will create attractive investment platforms for foreign companies. Each is designed to maximise investment potential in all sectors and deliver huge advantages to business located there. The cities will promote economic diversification, create over a million new job opportunities, homes for 4-5 million people and contribute an estimated USD $150 billion to Saudi’s GDP.


Source - UKTI


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