Land prices in Makkah are higher than in downtown Tokyo or Paris, this ensures that five-star luxury hotel supply growth is the norm. Makkah is also at a macro inflection point since 25,000 three-/four-star rooms were demolished or reclassified by the Saudi authorities. The Saudi government intends to triple Umrah visas to 15 million by 2020 as per the kingdom's Vision 2030 policy. Makkah hotel investing is also attractive because the Makkah's religious tourism market is dominated by tour operators who pre-book rooms en masse and place a premium on new hotels. Makkah is unquestionably the world's most resilient, low-risk, price/demand inelastic, supply constrained, foreign capital inaccessible, secular growth hotel market.
Saudi Arabia has sent a request for proposals (RFP) to banks for a planned U.S. dollar sukuk. The debt sale would be Saudi's second international bond offering, after the sovereign issued a debut $17.5 billion bond in October last year. Saudi Arabia is also expected to issue a conventional bond later this year. The kingdom's bond plans are part of its push towards a more diversified economy that is less reliant on oil exports. The RFP was issued at a busy time in the Gulf with other countries also planning to raise funds internationally to offset the impact of lower global oil prices. Bahrain launched a tap of its $1 billion 2028 bond on Tuesday, while Oman is expected to announce the launch of a new bond this week.
According to Fitch Ratings, the plan to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states could be a key test for the region's Islamic finance industry. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain approved the implementation of VAT in the GCC, however, local implementation laws must still be agreed in each country. This paves the way for the introduction of an expected 5% VAT rate as early as the beginning of 2018. Without tax neutrality or equality rules, the introduction of VAT would put Islamic finance transactions at a disadvantage to conventional transactions. A VAT charge adds to the instalment payments in a murabaha, while a conventional transaction would not have VAT for the sale of the asset added to the interest payments. Numerous countries with VAT have provided for some form of tax neutrality or equality for Islamic finance transactions, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan.
The UN appointed Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty in the Gulf has concluded his mission on 19th January. In his report Dr. Mohamed Ramady highlights that poverty encompasses non-financial targets that encompasses women’s right to work and move freely, inhibiting factors that lead to family poverty. It is meaningless to adopt an absolute line given a large variance in GCC GDP per capita, ranging from around $ 25,000 in Saudi Arabia to $ 95,000 in Qatar. National poverty line figures accordingly vary from $ 1,300 per month to $ 5,000 levels. Cash payment handouts to reduce subsidies to balance national budgets are short-term measures. The key to poverty eradication is education, access to work and removal of social restrictions. To varying degrees, all the Gulf countries have given emphasis to ensuring more female work and civil and political participation. The UN Report also highlighted an uneven corporate social responsibility to carry out effective training and offer more opportunities for female workers and handicapped employees.
#Saudi-based Alinma Bank’s chief executive officer, Abdul Mohsen Al Fares discusses the bank's earnings and lending growth. Alinma Bank achieved a new record in the last quarter. Growth drivers include the infrastructure projects that started two years ago and will take other three of five years to complete. In terms of net interest margins, Al Fares believes that the recovery will come gradually. As interest rate is rising, the margin will also go up. Alinma Bank has expansion plans for 2017, it currently has 164 branches across the kingdom and it plans to open 12 new branches this year.
Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) is negotiating with banks an extension of up to two years on a 10 billion riyal ($2.7 billion) Islamic credit facility used to pay for building work at the kingdom’s Grand Mosque in Mecca. Contractors in Saudi Arabia have had to deal with delays and late payment after the government trimmed spending to adjust to the impact of lower oil prices. Mecca’s mayor Osama bin Fadl Al-Bar told Reuters in September that the expansion would be completed in either 2017 or 2018. But the timeline for the mosque has now been delayed. SBG had received some of the backlog of payment owed to it by the government in recent months, but a large portion remains outstanding.
#Saudi Arabia’s Bank AlJazira has reported a drop in profits of 32.25% to SAR 872 million for 2016. Profits for Q4 2016 were down 4.4% on a year ago to SAR 152 million. Earnings per share were down from SAR 3.22 to SAR 2.18. However, the loans and advances portfolio contracted by 0.18% to SAR 42 billion. The bank attributed the fall in net income to a decrease in operating income by 14%. There is also a decrease in net special commission income, net trading income and other operating income against an increase in net exchange income and net banking fees. Total equity as of end-2016 was SAR 8,104 million, comparing with amount of SAR 7,413 million the previous year, an increase of 9%.
Saudi Arabia plans a new Islamic bond issue in a sale that could come as early as February. The sharia-compliant sukuk will form part of a pipeline of bond sales to finance the kingdom’s budget deficit and invest in economic diversification away from oil. Last year, Saudi Arabia set a record for developing countries with its first sovereign bond sale, attracting $67bn in investor bids for a $17.5bn issue. Bashar Al-Natoor, global head of Islamic finance at Fitch Ratings, said diversification is natural for any emerging market, but the fall in oil prices have made it a necessity for exporters like Saudi Arabia. Lower oil prices have led to a drop in government reserves held in banks, which in turn has had an impact on their willingness to lend, so they have to look for alternative sources of financing.
Debt issuance from the GCC is expected to surge in 2017 with sovereign issuers leading while conventional bonds outstripping sukuk both in terms of amounts raised and number of issues. The key drivers to bond issuances in the GCC during 2016, which more than doubled to $66.5 billion (Dh244.5 billion), was primarily the sovereign bond issuances by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. Saudi Arabia’s first international bond issuance valued at $17.5 billion in October last year was the biggest recorded emerging market bond. Saudi Arabia has indicated further bond issuances in the near term and the Kingdom has a target debt-to-GDP ratio of 30% by 2020 as compared to 13.2% for 2016. Banking sector contribution to bond issuance witnessed a steep decline from 22% in 2015 to 15% in 2016, although the size of the total offering increased by 36% $11.7 billion.
Saudi Arabia has met with banks to discuss the potential sale of Sharia-compliant bonds in the first quarter to help plug its budget deficit, according to five people familiar with the matter. The country is considering selling sukuk, or Islamic bonds, with different maturities to the five-, 10- and 30-year debt it sold in October, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. This could include tenors of seven and 16 years, the person said. No final decisions on the size or timing have been made.
Financial technology widely referred to as FinTech has grown primarily in the last decade due to growing Internet access worldwide and the emergence of smartphones and apps. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report published last year, 70 %bof the world’s population is expected to be using smartphones by 2020.
As smart devices are increasingly becoming part of everyday life for most people in the digital age, it is essential for the banking sector to become more innovative to enhance its productivity. “We’re transitioning toward a situation where growth for companies and economies will have to depend more on productivity than before,” said Jarmo Kotilaine, chief economist at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).
“To achieve that, you will need better management, better innovations, new distribution channels and new capital.” Increasing the efficiency of digital banking will particularly serve customers in Saudi Arabia, where banks’ working hours overlap with those of most employees.
With the growing demand for Islamic finance, the need for specially-educated professionals in the field becomes crucial. Ahmed Alkholifey, chairman of Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) elaborated this idea in his keynote speech on the second day of the 23rd World Islamic Banking Conference. As an attempt to tackle the lack of human capital in Islamic banking industry, the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) attempts to train individuals on the field providing degrees that combine theory and practice. Ahmed A. Hameed Al-Shaikh, deputy director of BIBF, said one of the most popular courses was Advanced Diploma in Islamic Finance (ADIF), which gives a general yet intensive overview of Islamic finance. Education provided at BIBF is tailored to cater to each group of students as needed.
Mohammed Al-Quwaiz, vice chairman of the #Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA), underscored the importance of Sukuk and debt instruments for investors. He made the remarks during the opening of Sukuk Conference with the theme of "Sukuk Market: Challenges and opportunities" in Riyadh. The two-day event was organized by CMA in collaboration with the World Bank. Al-Quwaiz noted that Sukuk and debt markets represent important options to provide funding for various projects and facilities. The conference covers the elements of Sukuk markets, the dynamics of Sukuk markets, ways to create an effective environment for Sukuk market, regulatory issues and corporate governance in Sukuk market, and the role of debt markets in economic growth. The conference is discussing the challenges in Saudi Arabia in particular and in the GCC states in general.
The local unit of HSBC Holdings is advising Saudi Arabia’s Public Pension Agency on the sale of its struggling financial hub to the country’s sovereign wealth fund. The Public Investment Fund is offering to acquire the Riyadh district for less than the pension fund’s 30 billion riyals ($8 billion) investment. The wealth fund is being advised by JPMorgan Chase, but a deal hasn’t been reached yet. The King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) is about 70% complete and is failing to attract its target clientele, banks, auditors and lawyers. The sale is meant to rehabilitate the 1.6 million square-meter district which includes over 70 buildings. The district will become a special economic zone with looser visa rules and direct links to Riyadh airport as part of plans to restructure the development.
Saudi Investment Bank closed a 500 million riyals ($133.3 million) Tier 1 sukuk sale on Monday. The subordinated Islamic bond was sold privately. The debt transaction will boost the bank's capital base and its capital adequacy ratio, in addition to diversifying the Saudi bank's funding sources and its maturity profile. The joint lead managers of the transaction were Alistithmar for Financial Securities and Brokerage and J.P. Morgan Saudi Arabia.
The latest #Saudi Arabian survey conducted by Riyali Financial Literacy Program shows that more than 86% of the respondents have suffered from some form of financial distress. This high percentage sheds light on the importance of spreading financial awareness to manage a stable financial life. The survey also showed that most of the commitments that the participants failed to fulfill were finance installments (44%), followed by borrowing from friends and family (34%), and then credit card payments (22%). In addition to that, the survey highlighted another noticeable problem, which is the high debt burden ratio where monthly installments of 42% of the participants exceeded 60% of their monthly salary. In this regard, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has set the limit at 33% for the monthly debt burden that a customer can afford, to be able to successfully pay off debts.
The Sukuk Conference organized by the Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) in collaboration with the World Bank will be held on Dec. 6, 2016. Government officials and representatives from the World Bank and the private sector will participate in the conference. The conference sessions will include topics such as: elements of sukuk markets, dynamics of sukuk markets, establishment of an effective environment for sukuk market, regulatory issues in the sukuk market and the role of debt markets in economic growth. The CMA aims to encourage the issuance of debt instruments and also to promote the economic development of the Kingdom within the 2030 Vision.
The international sukuk market received a major boost when Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf confirmed that the kingdom’s public debt issuance programme will not be limited to conventional bonds and that sukuk will play an important role. The global sukuk market had a flat year in 2015, impacted by the slump in the price of crude oil and other commodities. The signs are of a rebound this year, with sukuk issuances already reaching US$50 billion in the first four months of the year. The Saudi announcement augurs well for the sukuk market next year. The Saudi Finance Ministry had also stressed that the kingdom plans to raise US$120 billion from the international markets by 2020. Saudi bankers expect a debut Saudi sovereign sukuk early next year and stress the need for a well-structured public borrowing policy in the international market.
Bank AlJazira (BAJ) has announced an ambitious expansion plan. BAJ currently operates 40 Fawri remittance centers and plans to open several new branches across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Bank's Senior Vice President Sami Hamad Al-Rajhi said Fawri has a vast overseas network of payout locations in more than 200 countries and will continue to expand. He pointed out that money can be sent through Fawri to all major countries like India, Philippines and Pakistan, which are the three top remittance recipient countries, and Bangladesh, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Yemen, Turkey, Jordan, Morocco and many more countries around the globe. In addition, Fawri offers buying and selling of bank notes, namely for dollar and euro currencies. Fawri will be able to deal in all major currencies in the near future.
According to Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, Saudi Arabia may follow its first international debt issuance with an Islamic bond sale. The size of future borrowing hasn’t been determined, but it will not be limited to bonds. Assaf said that part of it will be by the way of sukuk, but he didn’t specify whether the sukuk sale would be local or global. Saudi Arabia raised $17.5 billion this month in the biggest-ever foreign bond from an emerging-market nation. The kingdom is seeking to finance a budget deficit that ballooned to about 15 per cent of economic output last year.