Monthly briefing: 14 key developments in the region

21 November 2022
Opec+ slashes production target; UAE and US sign $100bn clean energy partnership; Saudi Arabia signs deal with BlackRock to explore infrastructure projects; Dubai developer Binghatti plans world’s tallest residential building

By MEED staff

Lukewarm Cop27 ends
UAE and US sign $100bn energy programme
BlackRock looks to invest in projects with PIF
Riyadh signs construction deals during Seoul visit
Middle East outpaces global economic growth
Riyadh Grade A office occupancy hits 98 per cent
Dubai developer plans world's tallest residential building
Saudi Arabia launches national automaker
Alba reaches Block 4 financial close
Partners award contracts for $8.5bn US chemicals project
Investors launch Sohar industrial projects
Aramco and IBM plan Riyadh innovation hub


Egypt climate conference ends with agreement on payout

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries at the 2022 UN climate summit Cop27, which took place in Egypt on 6-18 November, have agreed to set up a loss and damage fund aimed at helping vulnerable countries to cope with climate disasters. They also agreed that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut nearly in half by 2030. 

The agreement also reaffirmed the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, a deal to phase out the use of fossil fuels, and not just coal, could not be agreed upon after a number of nations, including China and Saudi Arabia, blocked the proposal. Read more

The Middle East was thrust firmly onto the global stage on 20 November when football’s 2022 World Cup kicked off in Qatar  

Region pitches to be global sporting hub


Opec and non-Opec partners cut 2 million b/d of production

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, has started to cut its exports as Opec+ begins to reduce its overall target production by 2 million barrels a day (b/d).  

Saudi Arabia had cut its crude oil exports by more than 400,000 b/d by the third week of November, while exports from Opec could be on course to drop by 1 million b/d.  

In October, Opec+ announced it would slash its collective target by 2 million b/d from November. Although the actual reduction is expected to be about 1.1 million b/d, it is still the biggest cut since the record reduction announced in April 2020, when oil demand plunged at the start of the pandemic. 


UAE and US sign $100bn clean energy partnership

The UAE and the US have signed a partnership that aims to catalyse $100bn in financing and other support, in addition to deploying 100GW of clean energy in the US, UAE and emerging economies around the world by 2035. They also reaffirmed their commitment to climate action, in line with their 2050 net-zero goals. 

The two countries plan to stimulate private and public sector support in four areas: clean energy innovation, financing, deployment and supply chains; carbon and methane management; advanced reactors; and industrial and transport decarbonisation. Read more


PIF and BlackRock agree to explore infrastructure projects 

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with US asset manager BlackRock to jointly explore infrastructure projects in the Middle East, with a majority of the investment activity focused on Saudi Arabia.

The target projects are in several sectors, including energy, power, utilities, water, environment, transportation, telecommunications and social infrastructure. 

BlackRock will look to build a dedicated infrastructure investment team in Riyadh to cover the Middle East region.

In a statement, the PIF said that the aim is to leverage positive Saudi and regional market dynamics to deliver sustainable long-term returns.

The sovereign wealth fund added that the two entities plan to work together to attract regional and international investors to participate in investment projects, and boost foreign direct investment into Saudi Arabia. 

This will add value to the Saudi economy and the wider market while facilitating knowledge and skills transfer. Read more


IMF predicts economic growth for the Middle East in 2022

The real GDP of oil exporting countries in the Middle East is projected to grow at 5.2 per cent in 2022, up from 4.5 per cent in 2021, according to the Washington-based IMF. 

Growth is projected to slow to 3.5 per cent in 2023 as Opec+ production wanes, oil prices ease and global demand slows. 

Crude producers are projected to accrue a cumulative oil windfall of about $1tn in 2022−26, which the IMF said oil-exporting countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE could use to continue to invest in projects that support future economic growth. Read more


Deals worth $30bn signed during royal visit to Seoul

Agreements totalling an estimated $30bn were signed during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud’s visit to Seoul, South Korea on 17 November. 

The biggest deal was a commitment from Saudi Aramco to invest $7bn in building an integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex in South Korea through its local affiliate S-Oil.

The new plant will have capacity to produce 3.2 million tonnes a year of petrochemicals.

Five South Korean companies – Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), Korea Southern Power Company, Korea National Oil Corporation, Posco Holdings and Samsung C&T Corporation – have also signed agreements with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to build and operate a green hydrogen and green ammonia production facility in Saudi Arabia. Read more


Riyadh Grade A office occupancy hits 98 per cent

Occupancy levels for prime office space in Riyadh have risen by four percentage points to 98 per cent according to a report by property consultancy Knight Frank. 

Average lease rates for prime office space have increased by 18 per cent over the past 12 months to about SR1,775 ($473) a square foot. The company said there is unprecedented demand for Grade A office space. 

“As the kingdom’s economic transformation plan unfolds, business activity is rising at an extraordinary pace. Seventy firms have now committed to relocating their regional headquarters to Riyadh, including Aldeham Education Group and French rolling stock manufacturer Alstom,” Knight Frank said. Read more


Dubai developer plans world’s tallest residential building

Local real estate developer Binghatti and jewellery brand Jacob & Co have announced plans to build the world’s tallest residential structure in Dubai’s Business Bay district.

Known as Burj Binghatti Jacob & Co Residences, the tower will comprise more than 100 storeys and will offer two- and three-bedroom apartments. Amenities in the building will include an infinity pool, a spa and a gymnasium.

Companies recently moved onsite in Business Bay to work on a 116-storey tower for Binghatti. The contractor is Granada Europe Construction. The consultant is Silver Stone Engineering Consultants. Read more


Saudi Arabia launches electric vehicle manufacturer

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud has announced the launch of Ceer, the first Saudi electric vehicle brand. Ceer is the first Saudi automotive brand to produce electric vehicles in Saudi Arabia.

The company is a joint venture of Saudi sovereign wealth entity the Public Investment Fund and Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, which trades as Foxconn internationally.

Foxconn will license component technology from BMW for use in the vehicle development process, with the first vehicles – sedans and sports utility vehicles – expected to be available in 2025.

Foxconn will develop the electrical architecture of the vehicles, which will feature infotainment, connectivity and autonomous driving technologies.

Ceer is expected to attract over $150m in foreign direct investment and create up to 30,000 direct and indirect jobs. Read more

Further reading

Alba agrees Block 4 financing
Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) has reached financial close on the 681MW combined-cycle gas turbine plant that comprises Block 4 of the smelter’s Power Station 5. China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) will provide a $225m facility.

Contracts awarded for US plant
QatarEnergy and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company have reached final investment decision on the Golden Triangle Polymers Plant, an $8.5bn integrated polymers facility in the US. The plant will include the biggest ethylene cracker in the world with a capacity of 2.1 million tonnes a year.

Investors launch Sohar projects
Investors have launched two non-oil industrial projects in Sohar Freezone in Oman. The sultanate’s first petroleum coke calcining facility will be built at a total investment of about $155.9m, while a titanium dioxide production facility will be established at a cost of $112m.

Aramco plans innovation hub
Saudi Aramco and US technology company IBM plan to establish an innovation hub in Riyadh. The hub will support tech-driven economic growth in Saudi Arabia with the help of emerging technologies in hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

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