Investor licenses were granted to 348 new international companies in the first quarter of 2020, the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) said on Wednesday.
The figures mark a 19 percent annual increase over the same period in 2019, and a 20 percent quarter-on-quarter increase over the last three months of 2019. However, month-on-month slowed in March as the coronavirus pandemic began to hit business growth, MISA noted in a statement.
“The first quarter of 2020 was Saudi Arabia’s strongest period for investor interest in ten years. However, the economic effects of COVID-19 began to be felt worldwide towards the end of this period, and this becomes evident when we compare the rate of new investment on a month-by-month basis,” said Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid al-Falih, according to the statement.
The results were released by MISA as part of its Investment Highlights Spring 2020 report.
Businesses in the UK and US were both noted as significant partners in MISA’s statement, with 32 UK and 37 US companies awarded licenses in the first quarter of 2020.
“Investors are the most important enablers of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing transformation through Vision 2030, and in recognition of this MISA has been tasked with safeguarding the stability and security of the Kingdom’s full investment ecosystem. This is the central aim of our COVID-19 business continuity initiatives,” al-Falih added.
Experts have previously noted that setting up a business in Saudi Arabia has become much easier despite the coronavirus pandemic as the Kingdom’s temporary economic stimulus has made the process faster and cheaper than before.
Saudi Arabia has moved to curb the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, opening the Kingdom’s considerable coffers to shelter its private sector throughout the crisis.
In total, Saudi Arabia has planned more than 120 billion riyals ($32 billion) in economic stimulus, equal to around 4 percent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product, to combat the coronavirus.
“Saudi Arabia remains open for business. Investing in the global investor community, as they have invested in us, is at the forefront of how MISA is adapting our policies and regulations to support business continuity for local and international businesses as part of a unified national response to the pandemic,” al-Falih concluded.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) disbursed approximately 1.2 billion riyals ($319 million) to more than 400,000 Saudi nationals working in private sector companies that have been affected by the virus.
While these steps may have served to blunt the edge of the coronavirus recession, the Kingdom’s Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan warned earlier this month that more “painful” steps for the economy are ahead.