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Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange gets a revamp ahead of IPO this year

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Investors monitor a screen displaying stock information at the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) following the debut of Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) on the Riyadh’s stock market, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 11, 2019.

Ahmed Yosri | Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, the Tadawul, has announced its conversion into a holding company with four subsidiaries as it prepares for an initial public offering this year.

“The setup that we have, the market momentum, our financial performance, all of these indicators just give us the comfort to say this is the right time to float the company and to be among developed exchanges and listed also on their platforms,” Saudi Tadawul Group CEO Khalid Al Hussan told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble after the announcement Wednesday.  

The Tadawul All Share Index, made up of 198 companies, is up 15% year-to-date. And investors who’ve accumulated cash during the course of the pandemic are looking for places to put it. 

The new parent company is now called the Saudi Tadawul Group, instead of Tadawul, with four portfolio companies: the Saudi Exchange (its stock exchange business previously known as the Saudi Stock Exchange Company – Tadawul), a securities clearing company, a securities depository company, and Wamid, a new technology services business focused on innovation in the Saudi economy.  

This is all in the effort to further develop the $2.5 trillion stock market’s infrastructure before listing. The Saudi exchange is among the 12 largest globally.  

It’s also aimed at attracting foreign investors and diversifying investment opportunities, the core mission of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to modernize its economy and reduce its dependence on oil. 

“The transformation of Tadawul into a holding group structure is another important step forward in the ongoing development of the Saudi capital market, its infrastructure and members’ offerings,” the Saudi Tadawul Group said in a statement Wednesday. 

Details on what percentage will be floating and who will be able to invest are still in the works, the CEO said.  

Saudi arabian flag in Asir province, Abha, Saudi Arabia.

Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us | Corbis News | Getty Images

“We are in a very early stage of that decision and the structure of the IPO the regulatory framework set 30% as a minimum float,” Al Hussan said. “However, we have seen in the last two years CMA (Capital Market Authority) approving lower percentage than 30%. Depends on the size, depends on the condition of the market, and depends on the demands.”

As for the company’s valuation, a topic of much interest to investors, Saudi Stock Exchange Chairwoman Sarah Al-Suhaimi told journalists “we will announce it at the right time inshallah.”  

Saudi Arabia has been home to a number of regional IPOs in recent years, most notably the $29.4 billion listing of a tiny fraction of state oil giant Saudi Aramco, which at the time became the world’s most valuable publicly-traded company.  

2020 was also a bumper year for Saudi IPOs despite the Covid-19 pandemic, seeing four Gulf-based companies list on the Tadawul and raising a combined $1.45 billion, Reuters reported, putting it ahead of Germany’s combined IPOs last year which raised $1.3 billion.  

The two largest regional companies in the region to go public in 2020 were Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Services and BinDawood Holding, both listing on the kingdom’s main exchange, while several more are reported to be preparing listings for 2021, a pipeline Al Hussan expects to be “historic.” In 2019, the Tadawul completed its full inclusion on the MSCI emerging markets index. 

Asked if the Saudi Exchange would IPO before December, Al Hussan replied, “of course.”

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U.N. experts say life in danger, call for medical evacuation

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021.

Moscow City Court | Reuters

WASHINGTON – United Nations human rights experts called for the immediate medical evacuation of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from Russia, citing concerns over his deteriorating health and prison conditions that they say may amount to torture.

“We believe Mr. Navalny’s life is in serious danger,” the group wrote in a statement Wednesday. “We are deeply troubled that Mr. Navalny is being kept in conditions that could amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in a facility that reportedly does not meet international standards,” the statement added.

“We urge the Russian authorities to ensure Mr. Navalny has access to his own doctors and to allow him to be evacuated for urgent medical treatment abroad, as they did in August 2020. We reiterate that the Russian Government is accountable for Mr. Navalny’s life and health while he is in detention,” the group added.

A Russian court in February sentenced Navalny to more than two years in jail for parole violations, charges he said were politically motivated. His detention came after spending nearly half a year in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that took place last August.

The Kremlin has denied any role in Navalny’s poisoning. On the heels of his arrest and subsequent detention, the West called on the Kremlin for Navalny’s immediate release.

Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics in recent years, was transferred to a prison hospital on April 19, three weeks into a hunger strike protesting against his treatment in prison and denial of urgent medical treatment.

Russian authorities had previously said that they offered Navalny medical care but that he continued to refuse it. The prison had declined to allow a doctor of Navalny’s choice from outside of the facility to administer his treatment.

On Sunday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration warned the Russian government to not let Navalny die in custody.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“We have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies,” he added.

Confrontation over Navanly’s imprisonment and worsening health condition is the latest drumbeat in the already tense relations between Moscow and the West.

In an annual address on Wednesday, Putin warned countries of crossing Russia’s “red lines” as international pressure mounts over a massive military buildup on the border with Ukraine.

In March, the United States sanctioned seven members of the Russian government for the alleged poisoning and subsequent detention of Navalny. The sanctions were the first to target Moscow under U.S. President Joe Biden’s leadership. The Trump administration did not take action against Russia over the Navalny situation.

Last week, the Biden administration slapped Russia with another round of U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, sweeping cyberattacks and attempts to influence U.S. elections.

In an address announcing the new measures, Biden said he was prepared to take further actions against Moscow.

“If Russia continues to interfere with our democracy, I’m prepared to take further actions to respond. It is my responsibility as president of the United States to do so,” Biden said from the White House.

Washington also expelled 10 officials from Russia’s diplomatic mission in the United States.

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HSBC manager vows to change work-life balance following heart attack

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HSBC tower at Canary Wharf financial district in London, England

Mike Kemp | In Pictures | Getty Images

After suffering a heart attack, a HSBC manager in the U.K. vowed to change his work-life balance in a post on LinkedIn, which has gone viral. 

Jonathan Frostick, a regulatory programme manager at HSBC, described in a LinkedIn post last week how he suffered a heart attack on a Sunday afternoon, when he sat down to prepare some work for the week ahead. 

But instead of seeing his life flash before his eyes, Frostick said that one of his first thoughts was that “I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow, this isn’t convenient.” 

Frostick said he had decided he wouldn’t spend “all day on Zoom anymore” and that he planned to restructure his approach to work. 

“I’m really not going to be putting up with any s— at work ever again — life literally is too short,” he said, alongside a picture from his hospital bed following the heart attack. 

Frostick also said he wanted “every day to count for something at work,” or he would change his role. 

The post has attracted more than 200,000 reactions on LinkedIn. 

Responding to some of the more than 10,500 comments on the post, Frostick said that he didn’t expect the message to “hit home” as it much as it did — “but I’m pleased as it has seemingly helped a lot of people.” 

A spokesperson for HSBC said: “We all wish Jonathan a full and speedy recovery.” 

They said the firm recognized the importance of personal health, wellbeing and a good work-life balance and had redoubled its efforts in these areas over the last year. 

“The response to this topic shows how much this is on people’s minds and we are encouraging everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority,” they added.

Check out: A 4-day work week might be edging closer — here’s why

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UAE floats movement restrictions on unvaccinated people

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A health worker checks a man’s temperature before receiving a dose of vaccine against the coronavirus at a vaccination center set up at the Dubai International Financial Center in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, on February 3, 2021. The United Arab Emirates has suffered a spike in cases after the holiday period.

Photo by KARIM SAHIB | AFP via Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates will consider “strict measures” to limit the movement of people unvaccinated against the coronavirus, as it seeks to ramp up a national inoculation campaign that has already administered more than 9.9 million shots. 

“Strict measures are being considered to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals and to implement preventive measures such as restricting entry to some places and having access to some services, to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” Saif Al Dhaheri, a spokesman for the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, said in a statement late Tuesday.

No further details were given for the “preventive measures” beyond restrictions on access to certain places and services in the country. The new measures would add to public health measures already in place aimed at keeping the virus at bay during the holy month of Ramadan. 

The announcement sparked some negative responses online. One Twitter user by the handle Fawzia al Hashemi wrote, “Why restrict when vaccine is freedom of choice, not mandatory? When majority have taken vaccine, we are worried on them [sic] from the ones not taken? How!” 

Another user by the name of Abeer Essa tweeted, “Where were the constraints on the travelers coming from the countries that were suffering from wide spread?” 

The UAE’s coronavirus cases hit a peak of some 4,000 per day in late January, but have since fallen to fewer than 2,000 per day. The peak was due in large part to travelers coming to the UAE’s commercial capital Dubai for tourism, particularly from the U.K., which was then gripped by a new and more contagious variant of the virus. Dubai did not shut its doors to tourists nor restrict the movement of visitors or residents. 

The UAE has overseen the second-fastest vaccination campaign in the world after Israel, announcing on Wednesday that 9.9 million vaccine doses had been administered to its mostly-expat population of roughly 10 million.  

Abu Dhabi approves Pfizer-BioNTech jab

Abu Dhabi approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, reversing course on its previous strategy of only using the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine.

Residents of neighboring Dubai, the Gulf country’s most populous emirate, can choose from Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, or Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine free of charge, though Sinopharm was made universally available to adults months before the others. The UAE became the first country to approve the shot for use last year, and partnered with China, a major buyer of Gulf oil, to manufacture vaccines locally.

“The more tools we have at our disposal, the better,” Simon Bland, CEO of the Global Institute for Disease Elimination told CNBC on Wednesday. “Many countries have got several vaccine candidates that they’re using and I don’t think there is anything unusual in that, I think some diversity is valuable.”  

Authorities said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be available at designated vaccination centers by appointment only. The Sinopharm vaccine, which has been the only available shot in Abu Dhabi for the general public since December, would still be available to use. 

“We call on the public, both citizens and residents above the age of 16 who did not get vaccinated, to visit the nearest vaccination center and get the vaccine” NCEMA’s Al Dhaheri said. “Delaying or refraining from taking the vaccine poses a threat to the safety of society. The vaccine is our best means to recover and return to a normal life.” 

Abu Dhabi opted for a Chinese-only strategy for its local vaccination drive. Most people in the emirate received the Sinopharm shot, despite a lack of details surrounding its efficacy results and peer-reviewed data.  

It wasn’t clear how the decision to rollout Pfizer-BioNTech alongside Sinopharm would impact Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries, also known as Julphar, which signed a contract with Abu Dhabi’s G42 to produce the vaccine locally. A new vaccine plant with an eventual production capacity of 200 million doses a year was scheduled to be operational this year. 

Julphar, G42 and The Abu Dhabi Media Office did not reply to CNBC requests for comment.

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