Saudi Arabia has seen a big demand for foreign investor licenses in Q1 2021 since its records began in 2005, the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) said in a report.

The issuance of 478 new licenses breaks the previous record, set as recently as Q4 2020, and marks a 2.6 percent quarterly increase and a 36.2 percent annual increase relative to the same quarter of last year, the report said.

The first quarter of 2021 also recorded the fourth consecutive increase in the number of new foreign investment projects since the peak of the pandemic in Q2 2020.

Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment of Saudi Arabia, said: "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."

While 114 new licenses were issued in Q1 2021 for the manufacturing sector, data from the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources show that $4.7 billion worth of industrial investments were made in the first quarter of 2021, more than four times higher than the same quarter in 2020.

The retail and e-commerce (78 licenses), construction (78 licenses), professional and scientific (62 licenses) and ICT (41 licenses) sectors also accounted for a significant proportion of growth, the MISA report said.

The report’s findings correspond with trends indicated by UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2021, published in June, which noted that FDI in Saudi remained robust, with inflows increasing to $5.5 billion and investments concentrating in financial services, retail, e-commerce and ICT.

(Writing by Seban Scaria ; editing by Anoop Menon)

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