Saudi Arabia issued 478 new foreign investor licences in the first quarter of this year – the highest number is since records began in 2005.
The number of foreign investor licences issued rose 2.6 per cent from the last quarter of 2020, marking the fourth consecutive increase since the onset of the pandemic, said the Ministry of Investment.
"Despite common global challenges, more and more investors are starting businesses in the kingdom, FDI inflow into Saudi Arabia is at its highest level since 2016 when Vision 2030 was launched, and global interest in Saudi financial assets traded on our Tadawul stock exchange continues to grow," said Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia's economy grew an annual 1.5 per cent in the second quarter of this year, boosted by growth in its non-oil economy, according to the latest flash data released by the government this week.
The Arab world’s largest economy is now expected to grow 2.4 per cent this year and 4.8 per cent in 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund.
About 114 licences issued during the first quarter were for the manufacturing sector, the ministry said. Seventy eight licences each were issued for the retail and e-commerce and construction while 62 professional and scientific licences were given out.
The ICT (Information and Communications Technology) sector accounted for 41 licences.
Many of these investor licences have also transformed into investments for Saudi Arabia, according to the ministry.
Almost $4.7 billion worth of industrial investments were made in the first quarter of 2021, more than four times higher than the amount invested in 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.
About 59 per cent of new investment projects in the first quarter were fully owned by foreigners, with the remainder being joint ventures with local investors, the ministry said.
“Our goals are ambitious, but we are making progress at an accelerated pace to make it easier and quicker for international businesses of all sizes to access opportunities, opening up a wide and diverse range of economic sectors," Mr Al Falih said.
"So I am particularly delighted to see such a big increase in manufacturing, evidence that investors are looking beyond oil to other Saudi sectors like construction, retail and e-commerce, professional and scientific services, and ICT.”