Britain to play major role in Saudi infrastructure projects

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SABIC Vice Chairman and CEO Mohamed Al-Mady holds talks with Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint, UK minister of state for trade & investment, in Riyadh. Photo - Arab News

Lord Green,British Minister of State for Trade and Investment, said Saudi Arabia, the UKs largest trading partner in the Middle East, is showing a keen interest in promoting cooperation in infrastructure development, education, airport development, vocational training and financial services.

He also said Britain was planning to send two business delegations toward the end of this month to explore opportunities in airport and railway development.

Lord Green wrapped up his three-day visit to the Kingdom on Wednesday after holding talks with several senior Saudi officials including Commerce and Industry Minister Abdullah Zainal Alireza.

Lord Green said he was encouraged by the talks with Saudi officials and businessmen.

Lord Greens visit coincided with the visit of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who is also in the Kingdom with an aim to reinforce bilateral relations.

Britain, according to Lord Green, has an interest in participating in airport development projects with its world-class expertise and experience.

He said a trade mission would start its weeklong visit to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on Sept. 30 to discuss airport projects.

There are a number of airport-related opportunities and expansion plans in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the minister announced, adding UK Trade and Investment mission aims to capitalise on the numerous opportunities emerging from both markets.

The minister, who was also elected vice chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce last year, pointed out that a railways trade mission would arrive in the Kingdom on Oct. 1.

The UKs Railway Industry Association (RIA) is arranging this mission offering UK suppliers an opportunity to visit the Kingdom and meet people seeking sub-contract partners for some massive projects, he added.

Lord Green said his business talks with senior officials of the Jeddah chamber, Saudi Telecom, Maaden and Saudi aviation officials have been very fruitful.

He said the Kingdoms commerce and industry minister would visit London this week. The Saudi minister is the keynote speaker at a seminar in London.

Lord Green hopes his visit would pave the way for closer cooperation in the oil and gas sector, air transport, health care, financial services, vocational training and infrastructure development.

The two countries have enormous potential, said Lord Green, while referring to the need to encourage and inspire young Saudis to develop the right skills to play a role in enabling our businesses to thrive.

The minister said Britain and Saudi Arabia are also keen on working together to promote the Kingdoms small and medium enterprises.

On the investment front, the UK is the second largest cumulative foreign investor in Saudi Arabia after the US. There are about 200 joint ventures with a total investment estimated at around $17.5 billion.

He also highlighted the growing commercial partnership between the two countries in several key sectors.

SABIC VISIT

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation’s (SABIC) Vice Chairman and CEO, Mohamed Al-Mady received Lord Green and his delegation, as part of the visit.

Al-Mady and Lord Stephen Green discussed the prospects for exploring new opportunities between Sabic and the UK companies, largely in light of the fact that Sabic has considerably boosted its presence in the country after its acquisition of Huntsman Petrochemicals in 2006.

Commenting on the visit, Al-Mady said that it comes at a time when Sabic is optimizing its international operations, pursuing new ventures for investments, and focusing on technology and innovation efforts. The creation of Sabic UK Petrochemicals was part of this global strategy, with the company now boasting a new state-of-the-art 400,000 metric tons/year LDPE plastics production plant in Wilton, Teesside – the largest of its kind in the world. Operations also comprise a cracker unit and aromatics compounding complex.

Al Mady concluded, “We work diligently to improve the business environment through simplifying the planning and development of new infrastructure processes and by maintaining a stable and clear organization. We believe that opportunities will be available in the UK, a world leader in manufacturing, technology, research and development, in addition to bio sciences and creative industries, which are receiving support from the widespread existing UK services sector.”

AMBITIOUS PLANS

According to recentfindingsfrom the country’s National Commercial Bank (NCB) Construction Index, the value of awarded contracts by the end of the first half of 2011 has exceeded SAR84.2 billion (U.S. $22.5 billion), an indication that the 2010 total value of awarded contracts is likely to be surpassed this year.

With Saudi oil production still thriving, huge construction contracts awarded to build the infrastructure needed for future generations, investment in renewable and atomic energy, Saudi Arabia continues to emerge as a true “kingdom of opportunities.”

Sources: News.maktoob, Huffingtonpost, ameinfo

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