SAUDI ARABIA [IntelliNews - Weekly Reports]
(IntelliNews - Weekly Reports Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) SAUDI ARABIASaudi Mobily awards USD 256mn contracts to Ericsson, Huawei
Saudi Arabia's Etihad Etisalat's (Mobily) has awarded USD 256mn worth of contracts to Ericsson and Huawei to help expand and upgrade its high-speed networks, Arab News reported. Ericsson got a SAR 563mn contract and China's Huawei grabbed a SAR 400mn deal. The projects will boost Mobily's 3G and 4G networks and will be implemented within a year.
Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Mobily and Zain are the three main mobile operators in Saudi Arabia. STC and Mobily are said to control 80% of the market. Spending on ICT services in Saudi Arabia jumped to SAR 83bn in 2011 from SAR 21bn in 2002, translating into average annual growth of 14%, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has recently said. Spending on ICT products and services will increase by more than 10% in 2012, the CITC said.
Saudi non-oil exports drop 6% in Nov 2012 on lower demand for petrochemicals
Saudi non-oil exports fell by 6% y/y to SAR 13.604bn in November 2012 due mainly to lower demand for petrochemicals, data from the statistics office showed. Lower commodity prices also played a role. Plastics topped the list of sales at SAR 5.288bn (39% of the total), followed by petrochemical products accounting for 36% and food items making up 5% of total non-oil exports. China topped the list of importers (18% of total exports) ahead of Singapore (9%) and the UAE (17%).
Saudi non-oil imports rose 14% y/y to SAR 45.565bn in November helped by strong private consumption and industrial demand. Electrical appliances and machinery topped the list of purchases at SAR 11.872bn (26% of total imports) followed by transport items at 21% of imports, metals and derivatives at 14% of the total and food items at 9%. The USA topped the list of exporters in November at SAR 6.462bn (14% of total imports) followed by China (12% of the total), Germany (8%) and Japan (7%).
Saudi Arabia sets May 4 deadline for MVNO licences
Saudi Arabia's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) set May 4 as final deadline for interested firms to apply for three mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licences in the kingdom, CITC said in a statement. A Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) provides mobile services by hiring network assets and capacity of another operator, without effectively building its own infrastructure. Instead, licensed firms lease capacity from local network operators and pay a percentage of their revenue as well as fees. Winners will lease capacity from either Saudi Telecom (STC), Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) or Zain Saudi.,br>Final winners will be announced 12 weeks after the bid deadline. So far, UAE's du and Oman MVNO Friendi have expressed interest to get a Saudi MVNO licence. The MVNOs will pay 15% of their annual income to CITC, the regulator said. There will be a further annual licence fee of 1% of revenue. The winning bidders are bound to launch services within 12 months of their licence being issued, the CITC said.
Saudi CPI inflation holds at 3.9% y/y in Dec 2012
Saudi CPI inflation stayed flat at 3.9% y/y in December 2012 as mild food price growth was offset by higher clothing and footwear prices, data from the Central Department of Statistics & Information showed. Price regulations, generous subsidies and social benefits helped anchor CPI despite strong consumption. In monthly terms, consumer prices rose by 0.2% m/m, down from a 0.3% growth in November.
Housing prices (18% of CPI), which include rent, electricity and fuel, increased just 0.4% m/m due to lower seasonal demand for cooling energy. Strong demand for affordable housing, however, fuelled rent charges. But annual growth edged down to 6.4% y/y from 6.5% in November despite remaining high in regional standards. Rent charges increased 7.0% y/y in December driven by strong local demand for affordable housing and ongoing undersupply.
Food and beverage prices (26% of basket) grew 0.2% m/m in December due to unfavourable seasonal factors that lifted mainly fresh fruits costs. The annual growth rate thus ticked up to 5.1% y/y from 4.8% in November.
Saudi CPI y/y
Other goods and services
Source: stats office
Saudi government sets USD 800 minimum wage for Saudis in private sector
The Saudi government decided that the minimum wage for Saudi nationals working in the private sector will be SAR 3,000 (USD 800) as of February 2, Arab News reported citing a statement by the labour ministry. The decision seeks to boost 'saudisation' in the private sector and ease the burden on the over-staffed public sector. Saudi nationals earning SAR 1,500 will be considered as "half workers" under the Nitaqat program and those gaining less will not be included in saudisation quotas.
Unemployment is one of the major hurdles facing the Saudi government that has been seeking to boost Saudi nationals' employment in the private sector. Saudi Arabia has recently introduced regulations on foreign worker visas that might slow cheap expat inflows in a bid to boost employment of Saudi nationals. The Nitaqat program gives incentives to firms that employ Saudi nationals. Nitaqat is a quota system imposing minimum numbers of Saudi employees on private-sector companies depending on their size and sector.
The government needs to create 3mn jobs for Saudi nationals by 2015 and 6mn jobs by 2030, according to government officials. The target will supposedly be reached through the 'Saudisation' of work now being done by expatriates. The unemployment rate hovers around 10.5%, according to official estimates. The total workforce of Saudis and expatriates is estimated at 9mn.
Saudi Savola's net profit climbs 17% y/y to USD 374mn in 2012
Savola Group, the kingdom's largest food conglomerate, saw its net profit increase 17% y/y to SAR 1.4bn (USD 373.3mn) in 2012, boosted by strong performance of foreign units, the company said in a statement. Savola runs operations in several MENA countries, including Egypt and Turkey. In Q4, Savola's net income shrank 17% y/y to SAR 413.4mn due to what it said was a capital gain of SAR 153mn incurred from the sale of two land plots in Q4 2011. Savola's net profit fell 2% q/q in Q4. Savola, which is said to own the Middle East's biggest sugar refining business, forecast a SAR 1.5bn net profit for 2013. The company said it set a dividend of SAR 0.5 per share for Q4. Late in 2012, Savola increased its stake in Saudi food firm Almarai to 36.5% from the previous 29.95% in a deal worth SAR 2bn.
Saudi king names Prince Saud bin Nayef governor of Eastern Province
The Saudi king appointed Prince Saud bin Nayef as governor of the troubled Easter Province in a move that could imply a harder government stance in the region which holds the world's largest oil fields and accommodate much of the minority Shiites, the state news agency SPA reported. The Eastern province borders Bahrain where the majority Shiites is calling for bigger political and social role. The region has repeatedly witnessed street protests which have turned violent. Prince Saud bin Nayef, who is seen as a hardliner, replaced Prince Mohamad bin Fahad bin Abdulaziz who quit his post upon his request, according to the news agency. Prince Saud is Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef's older brother.
Saudi Al Rajihi Bank's net income ticks up 0.6% y/y to USD 509mn in Q4 2012
Al Rajhi Bank, the kingdom's largest Islamic lender, saw its net profit increase 0.6% y/y to SAR 1.91bn (USD 509mn) in Q4, the bank said in a statement. On a quarterly basis, net profit rose 2.2% q/q. Total operating income increased 5% y/y to SAR 3.49bn over the period. Net income from financing and investments grew 7% to SAR 2.421bn in Q4, the bank said. The full-year net income climbed 7% to SAR 7.885bn and total assets increased to SAR 267bn at end-2012 from SAR 221bn the year before. Customer deposits rose 24% y/y to SAR 221bn. The bank will pay a dividend of SAR 2 per share for H2 2012 after the deduction of zakat (Islamic charity contribution). Saudi banks are benefiting from the government's expansionary public spending which in turn is boosting project finance.
Saudi British Bank's net income climbs 24% y/y to USD 217mn in Q4 2012
Saudi British Bank (SABB), Saudi Arabia's fourth-largest listed bank, saw its net profit increase 24% y/y to SAR 815mn (USD 217mn) in Q4 2012, the bank said in a statement. SABB attributed the profit rise to an increase in operating income and a decrease in operating expenses. Total operating income in Q4 rose 9.5% y/y to SAR 1.228bn. Total assets also grew 13% to SAR 156.7bn while loans and advances likewise rose 13% to SAR 96.1bn. SAAB had SAR 120.4bn worth of customer deposits at end-2012, marking a 14% rise. The bank's full-year net profit grew 12% y/y to SAR 3.24bn.
Saudi government approves USD 1.3bn loans for new houses
State-owned Real Estate Development Fund approved SAR 5.2b (USD 1.34bn) worth of loans to build 12,472 new affordable housing units to help meet rising local demand given a rapid demographic expansion, Arab News reported. The Saudi construction boom will be underpinned by the government's plan to spend USD 67bn on affordable housing and the recently approved mortgage law.
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