Saudi, Indian firms explore investment options (Lead)

February 24th, 2011 - 10:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Private companies from India and Saudi Arabia are exploring investment opportunities in each other’s countries, capitalising on high economic growth and excellent political relations, senior officials said Thursday. “We have excellent political and economic relations. But investment and trade data is not satisfactory. There are a lot of unexploited opportunities,” Abdulrahman Al-Rabiah, chairman of the India-Saudi Arabia Joint Business Council, said at a meeting here.

He said private companies from both countries are actively exploring business and investment opportunities.

“Saudi Arabia is confident of attracting Indian investment because it is the largest market in West Asia. Businesses have to take the lead and work with the government,” Rabiah said at the meeting, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Rabiah, who is leading a 24-member business delegation to India, said the council was encouraging the private sector of both the countries to engage more deeply.

“Investment and business opportunities from India in the areas of education, information technology, tourism, health care, biotechnology, telecommunications and automobiles should be explored,” he said.

Indian companies have invested $2.07 billion in Saudi Arabia between 2000-2009 while Saudi Arabia has invested $29.81 million in India so far.

India-Saudi economic relations have shown remarkable growth with bilateral trade registering a three-fold increase in the last five years. Bilateral trade of the two countries was nearly $21 billion in 2009-10.

On investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Rabiah said: “More than 65 percent of the Saudi population is less than 27-years-old. It offers huge business opportunities. There is huge scope for collaboration in different sectors especially services, education and healthcare.”

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to India Faisal Hassan Ahmed Trad said the governments of both countries were taking the necessary steps to facilitate private investment and trade.

“We are providing all possible support to private companies. Our economic and political relations are on the upswing,” said Trad, adding Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Riyadh last year had given a fillip to bilateral relations.

“To facilitate two-way investments, India and Saudi Arabia have signed an agreements for protection of investments and avoiding double taxation,” Trad added.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Qahtani Sons Group Wednesday signed a joint venture agreement with Indian firm SledgeHammer Oil Tools to build one of the largest manufacturing plants for oilfield and drilling equipment in the Gulf nation.

Chairman of CII Gulf Committee Atul Punj said more Indian companies were exploring such business opportunities in the Gulf region.

“We are constantly looking for investment opportunities in Gulf. It is a high growth region,” said Punj, who is also the chairman of construction and engineering firm Punj Lloyd.

Punj emphasised on the need for diversifying the trade basket of the two countries.

“We need to diversify our trade basket and move up the value chain. The sectors of potential for investments in Saudi Arabia relate to oil and gas, education, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology and manufacturing industries such as chemicals, plastics, and food processing, among others,” he added.

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