Saudi Arabia granted 20% more foreign investment licenses in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, with India and Egypt driving the increase despite efforts to attract American and European interest.
The kingdom licensed 306 new foreign projects from June to September, compared to 254 in the corresponding quarter of 2019, according to data released Tuesday by the Ministry of Investment.
Egypt and India led the way, with 30 licenses being awarded to investors from each country, followed by the U.K. and Lebanon with 16 permits apiece. The U.S. lagged with 10 licenses, while investors from France were granted 11 -- fewer than Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan.
The data didn’t include a dollar figure for the third quarter; foreign direct investment inflows reached $1.2 billion in the same period last year.
Attracting more foreign investment is a key pillar of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic diversification plan for the oil-dependent kingdom. The data appears to show a sharp rebound from the second quarter, when new foreign investment licenses plummeted to 156 as the shock of the coronavirus pandemic and a strict lockdown dampened interest.
In 2018, the prince spent weeks in the U.S. courting top executives in New York and Silicon Valley. But the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul later that year spooked many potential investors, with some suspending or cutting their ties to the kingdom.
The global outcry eventually quieted, and many executives who canceled appearances in the kingdom at the time have since returned. This week, French company Engie SA announced that it had acquired a Saudi Arabia-based facilities management firm, Allied Maintenance Co.