Saudi Arabia: Visit by Lord Mayor – March 2014
British Embassy Riyadh
The Lord Mayor’s visit to Saudi Arabia provides an excellent opportunity to promote UK strengths and expertise in financial and professional services, and to help attract Saudi inward investment in new areas. The visit comes during a period of significant engagement between the UK and Saudi Arabia, and builds on the successful Joint Ministerial Committee in London earlier in February.
The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Fiona Woolf, will visit Saudi Arabia on 22-25 February accompanied by a business delegation. Calls have been confirmed on the Minister of Economy & Planning; the Deputy Governor of the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency (SAMA); the Chairman of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA); and the Secretary General of the Public Investment Fund (PIF). The Lord Mayor will also visit the massive King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh being developed by the Public Pensions Agency. In Jeddah the Lord Mayor will call on the President of the Islamic Development Bank(IDB); will join senior sheikhs at Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) for lunch; attend a tea at the Residence for lawyers, financiers and other professionals; and be hosted by Sheikh Khaled Ali Reza of the Xenel Group for dinner. In Al Khobar, the Lord Mayor will call on Saudi Aramco, attend a lunch hosted by Sheikh Khaled Olayan, Chairman of the Saudi British Bank , and meet the local business community at an evening reception
The visit builds on the successful Joint Ministerial and Business Council meetings in London on 4/5 February, and the agreement to form a PPP working group to take forward Saudi interest in accessing UK expertise in management and delivery of large projects. The visit also provides an opportunity to follow up the JMC’s discussion on Islamic finance and SME development.
The Saudi economy continues to perform strongly, and SAMA is sitting on reserves of over US$700 billion despite the generous increase in government expenditure, particularly in healthcare, education and infrastructure, which hold enormous potential for our HVO programme. UK exports of goods and services increased by some 40% to £7.5 billion in 2012, not including defence sales and goods imported via the UAE. Services exports increased by over 60% to £4.4 billion in the same period and were more than the rest of the Gulf combined, and more than any other non-OECD market including China.
The Riyadh leg of the visit will help to promote UK expertise in PPP and facilities management, and explore potential for a more diverse programme of Saudi inward investment to the UK. The calls on the Minister of Economy and Planning and SAMA will be opportunities to explore how the UK can assist in the further diversification of the Saudi economy, particularly in terms of support for professional services and SME development.
There is keen interest in UK experience of PPP, outsourcing and facilities management, as Saudi Arabia endeavours to increase the role of the private sector in infrastructure development and improve service delivery. It also has ambitious plans to grow knowledge driven industries and diversify its economy through industrial and high-tech clusters. The Ministry of Commerce and inward investment agency SAGIA are very keen to access UK expertise in technology cluster development, and to attract innovative UK companies to partner in this. The Governor of the Public Pension Agency and the Board of Rayadah Investment Company will be calling on the Lord Mayor on 20 May in London to take this forward.
In Jeddah, the Lord Mayor will meet with the President of the IDB to further broaden the already strong relationship and exploit commercial opportunities within the Bank’s development projects and from an Islamic Finance perspective. Specifically, we will be seeking to obtain the IDB President’s agreement on taking work forward on sterling Sukuk, and in an exchange of PPP expertise in IDB funded infrastructure projects.
Other meetings in Jeddah will continue the promotion of UK strengths and expertise in financial and professional services and in attracting Saudi inward investment. The meeting at Saudi Binladin Group will be hosted by Sheikh Yehia Binladin (Vice-Chairman of SBG). The Lord Mayor and the delegation will meet the SBG senior leadership and explore any further opportunities for the City of London as SBG undertakes several IPO initiatives and undertakes many mega-projects both within and outside Saudi Arabia, including Jeddah Airport, Saudi rail projects and the expansion of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madina – each one a multi-billion dollar project.
The Jeddah dinner, hosted by Sheikh Khalid Ali Reza, will be an opportunity to mix informally with some of Jeddah’s senior business community. In Al Khobar the visit will help to raise the profile of the UK with Saudi Aramco, and to highlight some of our high value opportunity interests and the Saudi-British Energy Week which will take place from 1-4 December 2014.
Saudi investment in the UK
The UK is a major recipient of Saudi foreign investment in the form of private equity, bonds, and commercial and residential property. Saudi investment in the UK is currently estimated at around £120 billion. The Saudis do not have a sovereign wealth fund on the lines of other Gulf states, but we can provide a targeted service to Saudi institutional investors, and the main Saudi trading families and high-wealth individuals. While London remains a key target, the Minister of Commerce and delegation were impressed by their Manchester visit earlierin February, and there will be an opportunity for the Lord Mayor to point up wider regeneration and infrastructure investment opportunities in the regions too. The Lord Mayor could also engage Saudi interest in investment into the UK power sector following Electricity Market Reform.
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