Japan woos Saudi Arabia for world's largest IPO

Saudi Arabia and Japan have signed agreements to cooperate on manufacturing, energy and finance as King Salman visits Tokyo. There could be bigger prizes at stake for Japanese exporters and for a Saudi economy determined to end its dependence on oil.VIDEO: REUTERS
PM Shinzo Abe greeting the Saudi King, who is the first monarch from the Middle East kingdom to visit Japan in 46 years, before a meeting at the PM's official residence in Tokyo yesterday. Under the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, special deregulated econom
PM Shinzo Abe greeting the Saudi King, who is the first monarch from the Middle East kingdom to visit Japan in 46 years, before a meeting at the PM's official residence in Tokyo yesterday. Under the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, special deregulated economic zones will be set up in Saudi Arabia to woo Japanese investors.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

King Salman, Abe agree on nine-point plan to help both countries fulfil economic targets

Japan has offered to share its expertise in supply chain management, healthcare and renewable energy with Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom seeks to wean its economic dependency on crude oil.

Saudi King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first monarch from the Middle East kingdom to visit Japan in 46 years, met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a summit yesterday.

During their 35-minute meeting, the two leaders agreed on a nine-point blueprint titled Saudi-Japan Vision 2030.

The plan, which identifies some 31 "front runner projects", is aimed at helping the two countries fulfil their economic objectives.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, wants to diversify its economy with its revenues hit by falling crude oil prices. Japan is looking overseas for strategic growth markets to boost exports, investments and tourism at a time of shrinking domestic demand.

One of the 31 projects is the possible listing of Saudi national oil company Aramco on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The highly coveted initial public offering, slated for next year, is expected to be worth US$100 billion (S$141 billion) in what could be the world's largest.

The Nikkei business daily also reported that Toyota Motor is looking at building a car assembly plant in the Middle East country.

The King, who last visited Japan as Crown Prince in 2014, is in Tokyo for a four-day visit ending tomorrow, with what local media have described as a "mammoth delegation" in tow.

They include more than 1,000 Cabinet ministers, corporate executives and royal family members.

Local department stores have pulled out the stops with shopping deals for the visiting delegation, for whom about 1,200 rooms in Tokyo luxury hotels have also been reserved and 500 limousines hired.

A key thrust of the Vision 2030 strategy is the setting up of special deregulated economic zones in Saudi Arabia, featuring tax incentives, easier Customs procedures and relaxed visa rules, to woo Japanese companies and investors.

King Salman said: "I feel that this vision will further strengthen the strategic partnership between our countries."

Mr Abe, reaffirming that the two countries are "strategic partners", added: "Japan will further promote investment and technology cooperation in support of Saudi Arabian economic reforms."

The two countries will also work together in sea water desalination projects, and initiatives to promote Saudi art and culture.

Groundwork for the strategy began last August when Mr Abe met Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Salman in Tokyo.

This was followed by a ministerial meeting in Riyadh in October.

Yesterday, the two leaders also discussed the security situation in the Middle East, with the King describing Japan as a "core partner" in the fight against terrorism.

He said: "We are, too, a fundamental partner in this war. We must deepen serious dialogue between different religions and cultures, working with the international community, to fortify the spirit of tolerance and coexistence."

The two leaders agreed to hold talks at the vice-ministerial level to discuss security cooperation.

Today, the King will meet Japanese business leaders and attend an economic forum.

He will also be hosted to a lunch banquet by Emperor Akihito.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Japan woos Saudi Arabia for world's largest IPO'. Print Edition | Subscribe