Retail, e-commerce lead record Saudi new foreign investment licenses

Retail, e-commerce lead record Saudi new foreign investment licenses

The number of licenses for new foreign investment projects in Saudi Arabia hit a record of 575 in the second quarter of this year, according to a recent report by Invest Saudi, the country’s promotion vehicle overseen by the Ministry of Investment. 

The number of new investment licenses awarded for such projects showed a consistent increase during each month of the second quarter posting annual growth rates of 128 percent, 313 percent and 316 percent in April, May and June of 2021, respectively.

The increase in the number of new investment licences granted to foreign projects have been driven by retail and e-commerce, accounting for 30 percent of the total number of new licences, data provided in the report show.

The share of new licences awarded to foreign projects from this sector almost doubled compared to the previous quarter as the number of projects grew by a quarterly rate of 123 percent. 

The manufacturing sector came next with a share of 18 percent. In the previous quarter, the manufacturing sector made up the highest percentage of the number of new licences granted to foreign projects, at around 24 percent.

Construction was the third most attractive sector for foreign investors with the number of new foreign projects amounting to 87 in the three-month period ending on 30 June.

Overall number of new foreign investment projects rose by a quarterly rate of 20 percent while the annual rate was a high 264 percent, probably owing to low base effects in the second quarter of 2020 during the pandemic’s peak.

The report did not provide information about the value of the proposed investment in new projects to which the Ministry has awarded licenses. However it cited data from the Central Bank showing quarterly FDI inflows hit the highest value since 2010, having risen to $13.8 billion in the second quarter of 2021. The report explained this was mainly attributable to a $12.4 billion infrastructure deal between Aramco and a global investor consortium. 

On June 18, Aramco and an international investor consortium, including EIG and Mubadala, announced the closing of the share sale and purchase agreement, in which the consortium acquired a 49 percent stake in Aramco Oil Pipelines Company, a subsidiary of Aramco.

If the $12.4 billion amount is deducted, FDI inflows will be valued at only $1.4 billion, which nevertheless reflects a strong annual growth rate of 73 percent, the report said. Excluding the Aramco deal, second quarter FDIs fell 20 percent from $1.8 billion in the first quarter.

Regarding the shareholding structure of new foreign investment projects in the second quarter, the report pointed out that joint ventures with Saudi companies represented a larger share of new licenses, with 46 percent awarded to joint ventures, an improvement from the same quarter a year ago, when joint ventures accounted for 25 percent of the issued new licenses.

The report also highlighted the transport and logistics sector in particular, presenting opportunities in the sector following the establishment of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program. 

The program aims to benefit, growth-wise, the chemicals and retail sectors among others.

The sector of transport and logistics has a market size of $18 billion and an expected $30 billion public sector investments in the coming decade, the report indicated.

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