UN report: Saudi Arabia sees large falls in inward investment

Foreign direct investment into the UAE grew by eight percent last year to reach $10.4bn, according to a new report from the United Nations Trade and Development (Unctad) body.

The figures were in sharp contrast to Saudi Arabia – traditionally the largest FDI recipient in the region – where inflows slid from $7.5bn in 2016 to $1.4bn last year amid declining inward investment across the West Asia region.

“FDI to six countries (Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) rose but not sufficiently to help the subregion overcome the decline,” the report said, adding that the rise in FDI to the UAE was “in part due to rising cross-border M&A sales”.

Overall FDI activity in the region declined by around $5bn to $25.5bn in 2017.

Global FDI also fell by 23 percent to $1.43tr last year. The Unctad report said this was a result of a 22 percent decline in cross-border mergers and acquisitions.

The figures will be a disappointment to the Saudi government where a succession of reforms have been announced in recent months that aim to increase inward investment.

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Though its economy is the biggest in the region, it was hit hard by the collapse in oil prices since 2014 that saw the budget deficit projections for 2018 rise to $52bn, or 7.3 percent of GDP.