Singapore investors among most active in Saudi Arabia

Mr El-Kuwaiz, who was in Singapore for two days to meet various large investors, including Singapore's GIC and Temasek Holdings, expects to see Singapore investment in Saudi Arabia pick up. He also visited the local exchange and had "very fruitful di
Mr El-Kuwaiz, who was in Singapore for two days to meet various large investors, including Singapore's GIC and Temasek Holdings, expects to see Singapore investment in Saudi Arabia pick up. He also visited the local exchange and had "very fruitful discussions" with the SGX.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Level of interest growing, says visiting Saudi official who had meetings with GIC, Temasek and SGX

Singapore-based investors are among the most active Asian investors in Saudi Arabia and this level of interest is poised to grow even stronger, a top Saudi official said yesterday during a visit here.

The comments from Mr Mohammed El-Kuwaiz, vice-chairman of the country's Capital Market Authority (CMA), come amid rising excitement over a mega-listing by Saudi Aramco, the national oil firm.

Observers believe Singapore could be in the running to host a secondary listing for the mooted initial public offering (IPO), set to raise up to US$100 billion (S$141 billion).

This would see Saudi Aramco - seen as "the jewel in the crown of the Saudi corporate sector", according to Mr El-Kuwaiz - launching the world's largest IPO.

But he told The Straits Times he would not be drawn into saying if the Republic stands a chance as it is a decision not involving the CMA.

Observers believe Singapore could be in the running to host a secondary listing for the mooted initial public offering (IPO), set to raise up to US$100 billion (S$141 billion). This would see Saudi Aramco - seen as "the jewel in the crown of the Saudi corporate sector", according to Mr El-Kuwaiz - launching the world's largest IPO.

"The choice and probability of choosing one country over another is something that is ultimately the decision of the company itself and its financial advisers which, as a regulator, we try to stay completely independent of," he said.

Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to offer up to 5 per cent of Saudi Aramco in the IPO, valuing the oil behemoth at a staggering US$2 trillion.

Singapore Exchange (SGX) chief executive Loh Boon Chye visited Saudi Arabia late last year to pitch a listing on the local bourse, said a Bloomberg report.

Mr El-Kuwaiz, in Singapore for two days to meet various large investors including Singapore's GIC and Temasek Holdings, expects to see Singapore investment in Saudi Arabia pick up.

He said the meetings with GIC and Temasek were "beneficial", with talks revolving around feedback on opening up the Saudi market. He also visited the local exchange and had "very fruitful discussions" with the SGX, including on possible areas of integration and cooperation, such as dual listings.

The CMA has been pushing market reforms in hopes of attracting foreign investment as Saudi Arabia moves to diversify its economy in the wake of the recent oil rout.

The regulator, for instance, plans to change its market settlement policies to a "T+2" cycle by the end of June, so trades will be settled two business days after they are made, in line with most major exchanges.

"While we've remained quite prosperous over the years and stable, I think there's been an increasing realisation - similar to the experience of Singapore (in the early days) - that we can no longer continue to prosper and grow while being closed off to the rest of the world," said Mr El-Kuwaiz, who left for Hong Kong yesterday.

Mr El-Kuwaiz was last in Singapore more than 15 years ago and noted significant changes since then.

"What is remarkable is not just how the physical infrastructure has changed, but how dynamic the economy is, and how it has progressed and developed and grown in terms of new sectors, new industries. That's a testament to both the competitiveness and the dynamism of the Singapore economy and the Singaporean people."

When asked if he would be returning in the near future, Mr El-Kuwaiz smiled and said: "I believe so."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore investors among most active in Saudi Arabia'. Print Edition | Subscribe