Interview with Steve Kelly, General Manager of the Saudi British Economic Offset Program
Q. What is the main objective of the British Economic Offset Programme in Saudi Arabia?
A. The Saudi British Economic Offset Programme has been in operation for more than twenty years and continues to attract inward investment into Saudi Arabia in the form of high technology joint ventures. The Offset programme originated following the purchase of military equipment and associated support services by the Saudi government in the mid 1980’s. The prime contractor for the sale was and still is BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace)
Q. What opportunities do you offer through the program?
The Saudi British Economic Offset Programme offers unprecedented opportunities for international companies to take part in lucrative joint ventures in Saudi Arabia. The British Offset Office manages the Saudi British Economic Offset Programme on behalf of the UK Government and is part of the UK Ministry of Defence's Saudi Armed Forces Project.
Q. What are the projects that originated in Saudi?
A. Early successes of the programme included the United Sugar refinery and the Glaxo SmithKline pharmaceutical facility both located in Jeddah. The past two years have been particularly busy resulting in a number of projects implementing under the Offset programme including a SR2.4bn ($640m) seamless gas and oil pipe manufacturing facility which currently employs in excess of 700 staff with an impressive Saudisation rate of approximately 60%. The facility, a joint venture between the local Saudi firm Taqa and the Swiss company Durferco is located in Jubail Industrial City which is reputed to be the largest industrial complex of its kind in the world. The industrial city is also home to Arabian Amines, which is a joint venture between the Al-Zamil Group and the US Huntsman Corporation, and manufactures a wide range of ethyleneamines for use in a variety of applications from asphalt additives to fabric softeners.
Q. What is the British Offset overall strategy?
A. During the initial years, British Offset focussed on attracting investment only from British companies, but after a period of time and with the agreement of the Saudi side, the scope of the Offset programme was expanded to allow investment from companies from most countries around the world. British Offset is currently dealing with companies from the UK, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. British Offset is able therefore to widen its net globally to attract foreign joint venture partners from around the world and assist companies to plan joint venture projects from first concepts through to formal proposals and implementation.
Q. What are the British Offset investment priorities?
A. Although British Offset is interested in all market sectors (except the extraction of oil and gas), we are particularly interested in pursuing opportunities in downstream petrochemicals, and with an increasing population currently at 28million, pharmaceuticals and healthcare offer attractive opportunities., With an estimated 80% of the population under 23 and 40% under 15, education and training are major growth markets. It is also the largest free market economy in the Middle East and North Africa holding 25% share of the total Arab GDP. The Kingdom`s geographic location also provides easy access to export markets in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Q. What would you qualify as the main competitive advantage of the British Offset?
A. Over a period exceeding two decades British Offset has build up considerable experience of assisting with the setting up of joint ventures in Saudi Arabia and its links with the key decision makers in the Saudi Government can bring early resolution of problems standing in the way of joint venture agreements.
Q. What are the advantages that an Offset program offers?
A. A project facilitated through the Offset programme offers many advantages, including free investment bank advice in the early stages of a project and help and support in obtaining the necessary Saudi Government approvals., But perhaps the major incentive offered to the foreign partner of a JV is access to non-recourse equity finance know as the BAE SYSTEMS Project Finance Initiative (BPFI). In a typical joint venture project supported by British Offset, 50% of its capital requirement will be sourced through a loan from the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF), a minimum of 25% will be equity (shared between the Saudi and foreign partners (with the foreign partner securing up to 50% of his equity share from BPFI)), with the remaining capital funded through loans from (local) banks. Many projects facilitated through the Offset programme have taken advantage of this BPFI facility.
Much more information on the Saudi British Economic Offset Programme and the role of British Offset can be found at www.britishoffset.com. Alternatively please contact British Offset at email@example.com to discuss your proposal and to discover how they can help you to pursue a successful joint venture in the dynamic and lucrative Saudi market.
UK: British Offset Cromwell House, Dean Stanley Street London SW1P 3JH Tel: 00 44 (0)30 6770 2349
Saudi Arabia: British Offset PO Box 1003 Riyadh 11431 Tel: 00 966 (0)1 445 9400 x 3436 Fax: 00 966 (0)1 445 9406
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