News – 2012.04.19

Published: April 19, 2012

SUSRIS Daily News – Excerpts from International Media Reports
/Provided as a service from the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC/

4.19.12 EDITION

Fitch: Saudi Banks in Strong Position To Fund Loan Growth: ARAB NEWS


Saudi Arabian banks have plenty of scope to fund loan growth in 2012 as the sector relaxes the cautious approach to lending that has dominated in the last few years, Fitch Ratings says.

This growth is likely to be at a reasonable pace and therefore should not hurt asset quality or banks’ viability ratings, said a statement from the rating agency.
It pointed out that rising deposits and several years of subdued loan growth had allowed Saudi banks to build up substantial surplus liquidity in the form of government securities and deposits with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA). SAUDI MUST IMPROVE OVERSIGHT OF LARGE LOANS: Stricter regulation and supervision of Saudi Arabia’s banks’ large loan exposures to big corporate groups are necessary despite decent overall capitalisation, the International Monetary Fund said late on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

GCC Oil Revenue To Reach $572b On Higher Prices, Output: TIMES OF OMAN


Oil revenue for Saudi Arabia and the five other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states will reach a record $572 billion this year on higher crude prices and output intended to replace Iranian exports, a banking association said. The GCC countries, which together account for about 25 per cent of global oil supply, will generate 6.3 per cent more revenue from crude than last year, the Washington-based Institute of International Finance said yesterday in a report. The Gulf nations will boost production by a combined 800,000 barrels a day to 17.3 million barrels, and Brent crude will average $114 a barrel in 2012, the institute said.

Home Boom Aids Saudi Telecom Profit Surge: REUTERS

Matt Smith | 4.18.12

Soaring demand for broadband helped Saudi Telecom Co (STC) post a 60 percent increase in first-quarter profit on Wednesday, with the former monopoly reporting rising revenues in its mobile, fixed line, corporate and wholesale units. The former monopoly, which will pay a quarterly dividend of 0.5 riyals per share, made a profit of 2.52 billion riyals ($672 million) in the three months to March 31, up from 1.57 billion riyals in the year-earlier period.

Cement Sales Hit New Record: ARAB NEWS

Ibrahim Al-Ghamdi | 4.19.12

Cement sales in March 2012 grew by 12.6 percent to reach 4.9 million tons, a record high for monthly sales, based on a new report issued by NCB Capital on Wednesday.

According to the report, clinker production grew by 10 percent to reach 4.0 million tons, another record. However, clinker stocks declined sharply by 44.4 percent to reach 5.02 million tons, the lowest level since August 2008. “Domestic cement sales rose 12.6 percent year to year and 10.2 percent month to month to 4.89 million tons in Mar-12. Local clinker sales rose to 135,000 tons against 10,000 tons in February 2012,” the report said.

Saudi Property Sector Offers Robust Growth: TIMES OF OMAN

Times of Oman | 4.19.12

Fundamental factors are the strongest in Saudi Arabia given the country’s attractive demographic landscape, which offers a solid long-term scenario compared to that of the UAE and Kuwait, according to a report prepared by Global Investment House. The population of Saudi’s nationals represents 73 per cent of the aggregate versus only 32 per cent in Kuwait and 18 per cent in the UAE, implying a more sustainable organic demand for housing over the long-term, adds the research note.

Saudi Arabia’s Fast Food Boom is Finger Lickin’ Awful: GREEN PROPHET

Laurie Balbo | 4.19.12

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s fast food market is expected to reach $4.5 billion in gross sales by 2015, driven by growing demand from its young, western-influenced population, higher disposable incomes, and new financing arrangements, according to a report by Euromonitor, a leading analyst of global markets. Western coffee chains are less about catching a caffeine fix than they are about providing a cozy venue to check your email or write your screenplay.  Similarly, future expansion of junk food joints in the Middle East will be sold as “lifestyle destinations” that just happen to come with a side of sugar, fat and processed carbs.

Iran Boosts Output, Exports Of Crude As Saudis Cut, JODI Shows: BUSINESS WEEK

Wael Mahdi | 4.18.12

Iran increased output and exports of oil in February as Saudi Arabia cut back on production and shipments, official data posted on the Joint Organization Data Initiative’s website showed. Iran, the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, increased crude output by 0.9 percent to 3.752 million barrels a day in February, according to JODI figures posted late yesterday. Iran’s exports rose to 2.338 million barrels a day that month from 2.265 million in January.

Iran-Saudi Oil Relations To Be Affected If Overproduction Continues: PLATTS


Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi said Thursday that Tehran had communicated to OPEC its objection to overproduction by some members, including Saudi Arabia, and warned that relations with the OPEC kingpin would be affected if Riyadh does not comply. “It is our right as an OPEC member to object if production goes beyond the approved [OPEC] ceiling and I have communicated this to OPEC,” Ghasemi told a Tehran news conference when asked to react to reports that Saudi Arabia would make up for the loss of Iranian crude oil as a result of EU sanctions. “But some countries have not complied with this and Saudi Arabia is among them and this will definitely affect our oil interactions with them,” he added.

Saudi Students Throng US Stall At Education Fair: ARAB NEWS

Abdul Hannan Tago | 4.18.12

The number of Saudis studying in the United States has soared recently with more than 50,000 of them currently enrolled in US colleges and universities, reflecting the strong relationship between Washington and Riyadh in the education sector and other fields. Sixty-nine universities, colleges and institutes from the US are participating in this year’s International Exhibition and Conference for Higher Education (IECHE). These institutions represent the broad spectrum of post-secondary education opportunities in the US, said US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James B. Smith in a statement.

Saudi Aramco Testing New Karan Gas Units: REUTERS


State oil giant Saudi Aramco has started commissioning the first train of an expanded gas processing facility for Karan, its first non-associated offshore gas field, three industry sources said this week.

Flash Floods Continue To Kill: CROSSROADS ARABIA

John Burgess | 4.18.12

Mountainous desert climates are hazardous when it rains. In 2009, over 100 people were killed when flash floods roared down the mountains outside of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second city. Arab News reports that rain led to the death of 18 people in different parts of the country when they were caught in floods. The government repeated its warnings about driving through valleys and wadis – normally dry water channels. It also cautioned that rescue helicopters would not be available during storms.

Two Saudi Films In European Film Fest: ARAB NEWS

Fouzia Khan | 4.19.12

The two Saudi films “Hidden Evil” and “Carom” are going to participate again in the European film festival starting from April 21 at the Italian Cultural Center.

The 6th European Film Festival will run for 14 days until May 8, showcasing the vibrant cinema of the region. The film festival will be held for the sixth time in a row under the supervision of the European delegation in Saudi Arabia where nine European countries, including Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Belgium and Britain as well as Saudi Arabia will facilitate cultural exchange through cinema.

Saudi Tourists To Egypt Surge 42.8% In Q1: SAUDI GAZETTE


Saudi tourists to Egypt increased to 46,734 tourists during the first quarter of 2012 compared to 32,718 tourists in the same period in 2011, or a rise of 42.8 percent, the Egyptian Tourist Authority announced Wednesday. Furthermore, the number of nights Saudi tourists spent in Egypt is about 806,000 nights, compared to approximately 460,000 nights in the first quarter of 2011, which again shows an increase of 75 percent. In addition, the number of Saudi tourists amounted to 18,764 during March 2012, an increase of 75.2 percent compared with 10,711 tourists in March 2011.

More News and Commentary from SUSTG

Two weeks ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Saudi Arabia for bilateral talks with King Abdullah and other leaders in the Kingdom. She also participated in the inaugural US-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum while in Riyadh. Among the short list of topics on Clinton’s agenda for discussion at the forum, during a time of high anxiety over issues like Iran and Syria, was the preparedness of America’s Gulf allies in the area of missile defense. As tensions in the Gulf over Tehran’s nuclear program reach new heights the United States and its Gulf partners are more mindful than ever of the ballistic missile threat posed by Iran. A State Department official briefing the press enroute to Saudi Arabia identified missile defense among the key topics for discussion, “We’re working with each of our partners to develop that architecture because in order to protect the Gulf, no one nation can protect itself. It needs to rely on its partners in order to have an effective missile defense system.” A second briefer noted, “It’s something…appropriate for the GCC as a regional organization. Since missile defense requires a regional approach, it’s an appropriate topic to be discussed and addressed,” Pat Ryan (SUSRIS) writes.


As enthusiasm for Islamist parties grows in the Arab world and prompts questions about what shape political Islam will take, some say Hamas’s path from violent opposition movement to de facto government could be instructive: The Gaza-based rulers, many analysts say, have become more pragmatic and more self- interested — a bit more like common politicians. Whether that means Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, has altered its extremist ideology is far from clear. Israel and the United States, which deem Hamas a terrorist organization, are unconvinced. Israeli military officials say the movement remains dedicated to Israel’s ruin, as stated in its charter, and is hoarding arms for future offensives. Although some Hamas leaders voice admiration for Turkey’s moderate and democratic Islamism to foreign audiences, others unfurl militant, anti-Israel rhetoric to chanting supporters, Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) reports.


The nuclear talks with Iran have just begun, but already the smart money in Tehran is betting on a deal. That piece of intelligence comes from the Tehran stock index; the day after the talks opened, it posted its largest daily rise in months and closed at a record high. Tehran investors may be guilty of wishful thinking in their eagerness for an agreement that would ease the economic sanctions squeezing their country. My guess is that they probably have it right. So far, Iran is following the script for a gradual, face-saving exit from a nuclear program that even Russia and China have signaled is too dangerous. The Iranians will bargain up to the edge of the cliff, but they don’t seem eager to jump, David Ignatius (Washington Post) writes. WHO’S WHISPERING IN DAVID IGNATIUS’S EAR?: Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has been on a tear lately: breaking news on the files found in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad safe house, revealing details of the backchannel negotiations between Erdogan and Ayatollah Khamenei, and now, channeling the Obama administration’s negotiating strategy toward Iran, Blake Hounshell (FP) writes. SWISS GOVERNMENT FREEZES MORE IRANIAN ASSETS: The Swiss government has extended its financial sanctions against Iran by freezing the assets of 11 more companies and people but decided not to take any action against Tehran’s central bank, officials said Wednesday, AP reports.


Syria is not complying with its pledge to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from towns, the United Nations said Thursday, as it highlighted the need for the government to fully commit to a proposed peace plan.

The nation marks a week since a United Nations-brokered truce went into effect, CNN reports.


India has test fired a long-range, nuclear-capable missile which can reach targets in China and Europe.  The indigenously developed missile puts India in a small club of nations with intercontinental nuclear weapons capabilities, VOA reports.
The rocket, named Agni V, was fired a little after 8 a.m. Thursday from Wheeler Island in eastern Odisha state into its target in the southern Indian Ocean.


Afghanistan’s Taliban has condemned photographs of US soldiers posing with the remains of their militants, calling the images “inhuman” and vowing revenge.

The photos were taken two years ago but were published by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, reports.


Iraqi officials say a wave of bombings has hit the capital and cities in the north, killing at least 24 people and wounding more than 60 others. Authorities said many of the attacks Thursday – a mix of car bombs and roadside bombs – appeared to target security forces, VOA reports.



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