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HIGH GROWTH OUTLOOK FOR GCC

New Saudi PPP move to boost renewable energy sector

RIYADH, February 9, 2019

With new regulations such as the PPP (public-private partnership) law in Saudi Arabia, an increased number of PPP projects will get off the ground around the region, with a growing focus on renewables, transportation, education and healthcare, said a report by global law firm Hogan Lovells.
 
The impact of key market regulations will become clearer as they are approved and implemented: 
with possibly a new PPP law in Oman; foreign investment law in UAE and Qatar, stated Hogan Lowells in its recently released "Investment Outlook 2019 Report: Economic trends and corporate transactions in the GCC."
 
The third annual Investment Outlook report investigates the fiscal environment in the GCC, the key macroeconomic factors impacting the region, as well as investment trends and capital inflows over the next 12 months.
 
In this year’s report, alongside trends for capital markets, privatization and PPPs, Hogan Lovells takes a close look at the prospects for foreign direct investment (FDI), growing trade and investment ties with Africa and China, and the Gulf region’s emergence as Silicon Valley’s leading venture investor.
 
The global law firm pointed out that Emirati investors will continue to expand out of their slowing home market and take advantage of growth potential in Saudi Arabia, as well as increasing ties in Africa, China, India, Russia and Latin America, it stated.
 
Sovereign wealth funds like Mubadala and Saudi's Public Investment Fund (PIF) are likely to expand their investment in global ventures, increasingly financed by loans. 
 
They could start investing more actively into their home economies to make up for lack of foreign investment and struggling private sectors, it stated.
 
Hogan Lowells pointed out that the macroeconomic picture had improved significantly across the GCC over the last 12 months. 
 
Increased oil production and the more benign fiscal environment translated into improved GDP growth. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar returned to fiscal surpluses in 2018, Oman's deficit narrowed very sharply, while Bahrain pulled back from crisis, after receiving support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, it stated.
 
According to Hogan Lowells, there are some challenges from 2018 which will make the transition into 2019. GDP growth has not yet delivered a better environment for the private sector. 
 
"Also the low hanging fruit has gone, hindering the high growth rates we have become used to. The global and regional framework grows ever more challenging and harder to navigate," it stated. 
 
"However, there are also key opportunities shaping Gulf markets this year, including: Growing trade and investment ties. With the US becoming a less predictable partner, Gulf countries are making efforts to develop ties in new markets," it added. 
 
In Saudi Arabia, a number of privatisation deals, currently in the pipeline, are likely to be completed in 2019. Also the sovereign wealth funds are investing into global ventures. 
 
"The major opportunities shaping Gulf markets include the UAE's strong position as a gateway for investment into Africa besides the transformation in China’s relations with the Gulf over the past year, and Brexit, whilst causing financial markets to suffer, could be seen as an opportunity for GCC nations to strike mutually beneficial trade deals directly with the UK," it stated.
 
The Tech Boom
 
The Gulf region has emerged as Silicon Valley's leading venture investor, with key players establishing offices there to focus their high-value tech investments. Within the Middle East, a wave of tech start-ups, mostly founded after the recession, are now reaching critical mass and attracting serious capital investment.
 
GCC governments continue to attract foreign investment by offering far-reaching reforms,  unlocking state-owned assets and loosening restrictions. 
 
New regulations such as the PPP law in Saudi Arabia, and possibly Oman, as well as the Foreign Investment Laws in the UAE and Qatar are encouraging investors to take a real look at the Middle East, remarked Rahail Ali, the managing partner of Hogan Lovells Middle East.
 
"GCC economies have proved to be resilient in the face of, at times, depressed oil prices. The growth potential of these markets is huge and the reform drive is continuing, while government infrastructure spending has grown - a key hook for foreign investment," noted Ali.
 
"That is not to say that there isn't room for further development. Privatization, for example, takes time and local businesses need to adjust to the new regulatory environments," he pointed out. 
 
"However, government initiatives, such as Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, are committed to positive change – which we can already see in the development of sustainable market sectors," he added.-TradeArabia News Service



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