CFOs discuss new economic strategies |
Arab News - 01 June, 2012
Despite some global economies experiencing a slowdown, the Saudi economy has remained strong and buoyant, which reflects the Kingdom's positive policies, said Ahmed Al-Jogaiman, Saudi Electricity Company's (SEC's) executive vice president for finance and chief financial officer (CFO).
He was speaking at the annual CFOs Strategic Forum.
In his keynote address on "Dynamism of the current economic trends and their impact on the Kingdom," he said the crisis had brought down the so-called developed economies to their knees and "currently they are struggling to recover from the consequences of the crisis."
The two-day event themed "Enabling financial excellence for accelerated sustainable growth" is being organized by French business information group Naseba, which produces, promotes and hosts business summits, professional training courses.
According to Al-Jogaiman, Saudi Arabia has demonstrated its economic resilience when the global economy was in crisis. Due to this, many global companies are willing to take part in the Kingdom's huge economic development programs.
"Foreign investment not only brings in foreign expertise and capital, but also prepares Saudi companies that can be successful players in the competitive global market," he said.
"As you are aware, Saudi Arabia's is the largest economy in the GCC with a population of around 27 million and GDP of SR 1.7 trillion by the end of 2010," he said adding that the real GDP is expected to grow by around 5 percent in 2012. The oil industry represents around 45 percent. Oil revenues play a dominant role in the economy with crude prices moving around $ 100 a barrel," he added.
The Kingdom announced a record SR 690 billion surplus budget for 2012.
Though oil plays a vital role and is expected to continue in future, the Kingdom understands the need to diversify its oil-based economy.
The Kingdom is one of the few countries, which not only survived the crisis but also smoothly continued and is continuing its economic development programs without any major obstacles.
With the unending economic problems, most of the countries, including the developed countries, have been downgraded by the credit rating agencies. On the other hand, the Kingdom was able to protect its strong rating from these agencies.
The Kingdom currently has A1/AA-/AA- credit rating from Moody's Fitch/S&P respectively with stable outlook from all the three rating agencies, he said.
If the global economy is in the boom phase, the volume of investments will overlook the quality of investments. However, the mindset will change when the global economy encounters a decline phase. In this case, the quality of investments will take the front seat. This is exactly what is happening now, he added.
Also, the good and well-known corporate role of Saudi Arabia is able to raise debt with very competitive pricing. One classic example is huge success of SEC international sukuk. The Kingdom's strong and stable economy has helped SEC in getting tremendous response and coverage, which resulted in closing the issuance at very tight pricing.
The corporate world is closely connected to economy through a number of factors and for a variety of reasons. As such, a strong economic performance will be an added advantage not only for the government but also for the companies operating in the economy.
Aastah Govil, event project manager, said in a statement that in recent years, the Kingdom had become a globally recognized force.
During this time, many industries have risen, start-ups have flourished, and the country has seen increase in inward investments. As such, the roles and responsibilities of CFOs have grown tremendously.
This event has brought together the top CFOs from all over the Kingdom to discuss the expectations of the country's financial leaders. These expectations are categorized under Think Global, Act Local; Organizational Readiness; Projecting Trends, Driving Excellence; and Safeguarding the Organization.
In his opening address, Syed Moazam Ali Shah, group head of finance at the Supreme Foods Group, emphasized the need for a rapid and continuous increase in global relationships of culture, people, and economic activity.
IMB and Wipro, two of the world's leading financial services providing companies, urged the CFOs to assess and adapt. Praveen Sharma, finance and accounting practice head, Middle East & Africa at IBM, wanted them to be the "fact-based voice of reason in the midst of uncertainty."
Sharma also highlighted how CFOs can help ensure they are equipped with the right skills and knowledge to provide strategic insights for their organization.
Suraj Nair, partner of finance and accounting at Wipro Arabia Ltd., focused on how the shared services model for finance is now used by over 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies and enables CFO to focus more on value-added activities like managing risk and acting as an advisor to the business. Educational workshops were also held at the summit - focusing on IPO readiness, sukuk, the innovative financial world from a CFO's perspective, and how CFOs can drive efficiency and accuracy in enterprise risk management processes.
The morning session featured keynote addresses by Ahmed Al-Meghames, secretary general of Saudi Organization for Certificate Public Accountants.
He dealt with key viewpoints; how can an organization in the Kingdom maximize its benefits using the changing financial trends and why does defining the responsibilities of CFOs facilitate a great return from the current and projected financial scenarios.
There was also a panel discussion on facilitating international trade for organizations' growth and sustainability moderated by Shah and addressed by Abdurahman Albizioui, group chief financial office at Fawaz Al Hokair Group, Les Janka, chairman, American Business Group Riyadh and Khalid Saleem Abdallah, senior PMO & ERM consultant, PM-Partner Group, UK.