Business

Saudi Arabia investor confidence 'strong' amid oil storm

Riyadh skyline Image copyright Getty Images

Investor confidence in Saudi Arabia remains strong, according to the deputy governor of a body which attracts investment to the kingdom.

That is despite an oil price that has halved in the past six months.

Sentiment is buoyed by heavy state spending and much-anticipated reforms to the Saudi stock market.

Lower economic growth is expected in the kingdom this year which is likely to experience its first budget shortfall since 2011.

The deputy governor of SAGIA, Saudi Arabia's government-run investment authority, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, told the BBC in Dubai: "We've seen investor confidence increase in 2015. That's been our observations."

Despite the lower growth forecast, Prince Saud said: "We haven't observed any negative effects to the lower oil prices from our side as an organisation."

Regulation

Saudi Arabia is in a strong position to weather major cuts to its oil revenues with an estimated $750bn (£507bn) in foreign exchange reserves built up during the boom times.

However, during the oil rush the effectiveness of regulations to help local businesses prosper in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh have worsened, according to a World Bank global comparison report.

From the 13th best placed amongst the nearly 200 countries that featured in the 'Doing Business' report five years ago, it is now 49th. Its business climate is seen as particularly bad when it comes to resolving insolvency, starting a business or enforcing contracts.

Image caption Prince Saud Al-Faisal, told the BBC in Dubai: "We've seen investor confidence increase in 2015."

Prince Saud, who is president of the National Competitiveness Centre, a think tank set up to improve the ease of doing business in the kingdom, said he is not concerned by the fall as long as the 70-year-old "momentum of change" in Saudi Arabia continued.

"They've changed [the World Bank/International Finance Corporation] the way they calculate specific indicators and reforms. I think this is a positive change and I think it will give us even more incentive to continue with our economic reform process," he told the BBC.

Saudi Arabia's economy still heavily depends on oil, the price of which dropped further on Monday.

That was due to oversupply fears as nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, including the US, progressed. Should negotiations succeed, sanctions against Iranian oil may be eased.

'Huge potential'

Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, told the BBC in March that a deal with Iran could lead to a nuclear fuel race in the region. A favourable deal for Iran could lead other states in the region to develop atomic fuel, he said.

However, Prince Saud bin Khalid al-Faisal, a younger member of the House of Saud, described the "huge potential" that the lifting of sanctions would bring if the political differences with Iran could be resolved - namely expanded trade and investment for the region.

"There's a value chain there, so the more investment that we can get in the region, the better. Whether it's any country in the region. Whether it's to the north, to the south, to the east, or to the west," Prince Saud told the BBC.

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