SUSRIS Daily News – Excerpts from International Media Reports
/Provided as a service from the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC/
Which Weekend?: CROSSROADS ARABIA
John Burgess | 4.18.12
There have been discussions in the past about changing the Saudi work week to Sunday-Thursday, but they never result in any concrete actions. Now, Saudi Gazette/Okaz report, there’s another move to shift the work week, but only for the financial sector. As that makes up a huge portion of the Saudi economy, it makes sense. On the other hand, there are going to be problems when one part of a society is working while the other is relaxing. It will create difficulties for those in the financial sector who will be working on a Thursday while all local commerce is shut down. Eventually, the work week and weekends will have to shift together. Starting with the financial sector, though, will provide the wedge that makes it happen.
Saudi Arabia topped the list of countries exporting to other Arab countries valued at $7.9 billion in 2011, accounting for 37.2 percent of total Arab exports, followed by the UAE at $2.8 billion, according to a report by Arab Monetary Fund (AMF). The volume of inter-Arab trade between the Arabian Gulf countries and other Arab countries amounted to $49.6 billion in 2011 compared to $33.5 billion in 2010, an increase of 18.2 percent, the report said.
Arab News | 4.18.12
A new specialized report launched recently about the Information and Communication and Technology (ICT) sectors revealed the positive impact of investments in these sectors of more than SR200 billion. SAUDI STOCK MARKET JUMPS 3.21% DRIVEN BY SABIC EARNINGS, RISING OIL PRICES: The Tadawul All Share Index or Tasi closed at 7,511.72 Tuesday, up 3.12% after the index chart touched the lower end of the Bollinger Bands the day before. Bellwether Sabic, the world’s largest petrochem producer, gained 4.34% to hit SR102.25, AME Info reports.
US And Saudi Team Up For Renewable Energy Projects: CONSTRUCTION WEEK ONLINE
Cathal McElroy | 4.18.12
The United States and Saudi Arabia are prepared to sign a number of deals related to the establishment of investment and service projects depending on renewable energy resources, Arab News reported. US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services, Nicole Lamb, said the US would support the Kingdom on its drive to develop clean energy and that they are waiting for greater cooperation between the two countries in order to realise Saudi goals.
Last week, Princess Basma bint Saud bin Abdulaziz set out five ways she thought Saudi Arabia could change for the better. She focused on the constitution, divorce laws, education system, social services and the custom of women having a driver.
The Mortgage Law Catalyst (1-2): ARAB NEWS
Turki Al-Hugail | 4.18.12
The enactment of Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited mortgage law will act as a catalyst for the domestic real estate sector. The law should enhance the market’s sophistication and widen funding options for middle and low-middle income groups if applied and enforced. The law’s approval had been prioritized and believed to be at its final stages in the Bureau of Experts at the Council of Ministers. Until now, someone hoping to buy a home would either dip into family savings or get a bank loan-options reserved for those who could afford substantial down payments, repayment schemes of 15 years or less, and high interest charges. Mortgage recipients thus fell into a relatively low-risk profile for banks. A mortgage law could change the entire equation, but it would do so at the expense of some social protections, which safeguard tenants against eviction from their homes. The law could challenge this norm by allowing banks to repossess properties and evict owners who default on loan repayment.
AP | 4.17.12
Saudi Arabia claimed Tuesday that Al-Qaeda has taken responsibility for the kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in Yemen last month and is demanding release of prisoners and a ransom payment. Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said a Saudi citizen who is on the kingdom’s most-wanted list of terror suspects relayed the demands by telephone to the Saudi embassy in Yemen, adding a threat to kill the captive. Diplomat Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden, was abducted in the Yemeni port city of Aden on March 28.
Glen Carey | 4.17.12
“There is a lag effect of low prices in the fourth quarter,” Faisal Potrik, an analyst at Riyad Capital, said before the results were announced. “Demand has been good but a slowdown in China is on people’s minds.” Al-Mady said earlier this month that demand growth from China, one of Sabic’s biggest markets, was moderating as the nation’s economy slows. Sabic sales rose 11 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, while production gained 9 percent, Al-Mady said. It seeks to triple output to 130 million tons by 2020.
Aramco To Train 2m Saudi Youth By 2020: SAUDI GAZETTE
Maher Abbas | 4.18.12
Saudi Aramco is launching a “Youth Enrichment” program that will see two million Saudis trained by 2020, said Khaled Al-Faleh, Saudi Aramco President and CEO. During his speech at the International Exhibition of Higher Education here Tuesday, he said the training focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In 2012, the program will provide 500,000 training hours, he said. “We’re proud that the illiteracy rate in the Kingdom has been on the decline. The literacy rate is currently 85 percent compared to 15 percent in the seventies.” The Kingdom has allocated billions of riyals to education and job creation, Al-Faleh added. One of the biggest challenges in the Kingdom today is the fact that 80 percent of its citizens are below 40 years of age while over 35 percent are below 15, he noted.
Shaji Mathew and Glen Carey | 4.18.12
Banque Saudi Fransi, a Saudi Arabian lender part-owned by Credit Agricole SA (ACA), set up a $2 billion Islamic bond program as part of the Riyadh-based lender’s plans to diversify its sources of financing. “We are properly equipped to raise funding when and if needed from the international market,” Chief Financial Officer Philippe Touchard said in a phone interview from Riyadh today. “The $2 billion program might be used during different phases over the next five years.”
AP | 4.18.12
Amnesty International says a Saudi Arabian court has convicted a prominent rights activist of anti-state crimes and sentenced him to four years in prison. The London-based group says activist Mohammed al-Bajady was tried in secret. He was detained a year ago and is believed to have been on a hunger strike for a month. IRAN THANKS SAUDIS FOR SPARING DEATH ROW CITIZENS: Iran — a country slammed by international rights groups for its state executions — on Wednesday welcomed Saudi Arabia suspending death sentences against several of its nationals convicted for drug trafficking, AFP reports.
Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital is looking at three to four investments in Saudi Arabia valued up to $150 million each, a senior executive said on Wednesday. The Middle East’s largest private equity firm will close one of these deals in the next three to four months, Ahmed Badreldin, senior partner at Abraaj, said on the sidelines of an industry event in Dubai.
Saudi Arabia is edging closer to setting a minimum age for marriage, a Justice Ministry official was quoted as saying on Wednesday, following international criticism of cases of child brides. “The ministry has adopted a clear stance on under-age marriages and the issue was raised to the regulators,” Mohammed al-Babetein, head of the Justice Ministry’s marriages department, was quoted as saying in the daily al-Madina newspaper.
AFP | 4.17.12
Saudi Arabia’s hopes of Olympic showjumping glory this summer could be hit hard amid a doping probe into two of the country’s top jumpers, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday. Khaled Al Eid, a bronze medalist at the 2000 Sydney Games, and Abdullah Sharbatly, world silver medalist in 2010, face Wednesday and Thursday International Equestrian Federation tribunals in Lausanne and may miss the Games after winter tests of their mounts produced positive results for use of banned anti-inflammation products.
Arab News | 4.18.12
A Saudi girl won a bronze medal in the European Girl’s Mathematical Olympiad 2012 conducted at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge University, in the UK. Abrar Al-Sheikh of the Saihat Girls Secondary School in the Eastern Province won the bronze medal on Monday having solved four complex problems in four and a half hours on each day of the two-day event.
Zain Saudi Nears SR9.75bn Financing Deal: ARAB NEWS
Indebted telecoms operator Zain Saudi on Monday said it was finalizing the refinancing of a SR9.75 billion $2.6 billion facility due in July after it posted another quarterly loss. This facility will be replaced by another with a five-year term as the operator, an affiliate of Kuwaits Zain, looks to bolster its balance sheet, with current liabilities now worth more than its assets, according to a statement to the Saudi bourse.
Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura refinery, parts of which have been shut for maintenance since March, is expected to come back online in early May, three traders with knowledge of the plans said.
ARMS: THE ARMS SPENDING MAP OF THE WORLD
How much do countries spend on their militaries? This data from the Stockholm International Peace research Institute shows the world in arms spending – both in dollars over time and as a percentage of GDP, Simon Rogers (The Guardian) writes.
IRAN: NEW ATMOSPHERE IN NEGOTIATIONS
The just-concluded first round of Iran negotiations with Western powers has produced “a new atmosphere,” says Ray Takeyh, CFR’s top Iran expert. Just months ago, there was talk of Iran potentially closing the Strait of Hormuz, and of possible Israeli military attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but now all parties, Takeyh says, would like “to take a step back and relieve some of the tensions that have surrounded this Iranian nuclear issue in the past couple of months.” Takeyh says the Iranians understand that the harsh tone was not serving them well, and that ending tough economic sanctions and forestalling an Israeli military strike are factors in their “being receptive to a negotiating process” and perhaps even willing to curb some uranium enrichment activities, GPS/CNN/CFR writes.
US-ISRAEL: OBAMA-NETANYAHU MISTRUST IS THE TICKING TIME BOMB OF IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS
It took only one round of preliminary nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries for a trans-Atlantic ruckus to break out between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Obama over whether Tehran had or hadn’t been given a “freebie.” One can only imagine the open hostilities that might break out between the two leaders if, contrary to expectations, the talks begin to yield real results.
EGYPT: THE MEANING OF OMAR SULEIMAN
Egyptian citizens are massing in Tahrir Square protesting anti-democratic manipulation by the Commission as well as protesting in various pockets of the square this or that candidate on the roster — or, as it were, not on the roster.
Of those in the current public glare, however, Omar Suleiman is the person I find most fascinating and perhaps consequential, Steve Clemons (The Atlantic) writes.
LIBYA: EXPORTS TOTAL 1.29 MBPD
Libyan crude oil exports are expected to amount to 40 million barrels in May, or 1.29 million barrels per day (bpd), a senior official at Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Monday, Reuters reports.
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