Hey, big spender: UAE and Saudi firms among the most confident in terms of investing this year, says Amex

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Image for illustrative purposes only. The sales and distribution sector will provide 11,000 jobs for Omanis over the next three years

Image for illustrative purposes only. The sales and distribution sector will provide 11,000 jobs for Omanis over the next three years

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Executives from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were among the most confident in the world when it comes to spending on their business, according to a new survey by credit card firm American Express (Amex).

The firm's 2018 Global Business & Spending Survey found that 84 percent of finance executives from the UAE expect to increase spending and investment levels in their business by more than 6 percent next year. Globally, only Chinese (90 percent) and Japanese (87 percent) finance chiefs were more upbeat on spending levels. (Read more here).

The enthusiasm in the UAE was matched by executives in Saudi Arabia, where 83 percent of executives expected spending increases of 6 percent or more. Executives from Russia (80 percent) made up the top five.

Speaking at the survey's launch in Dubai on Monday, Saud Swar, American Express's vice president for commercial business and head of its UAE operations, said the survey is now in its 11th year, but that 2018 was the first year in which responses from the Middle East had been included. Swar said that 17 percent of the 870 responses it had gained to the study from senior finance executives had come from Middle East participants.

"Executives in the Middle East have signalled great confidence in the Middle East and North Africa," Swar said. "Ninety percent of respondents from these companies in the Middle East said they are expecting moderate-to-high growth in the countries that they [are] operating in. That is higher than the worldwide average of 85 percent," he added.

Across the Middle East, Swar said that 16 percent of firms were forecasting an "aggressive" increase in spending this year, 73 percent were expecting "moderate" spending increases and 11 percent said they expected spending to remain "controlled".

Swar also said that almost three quarters (73 percent) of Middle East respondents expect to increase headcount by 6 percent or more this year, compared to 71 percent globally.

In terms of technology, he added that 54 percent of Middle East firms (50 percent globally) said they were already making investments in automation, while 40 percent (54 percent globally) were investing in artificial intelligence.

At the same event, Graziela Martins, vice-president of merchant business and head of public relations for AMEX Middle East, said: "Companies are investing in robotics, they are investing in process automation. They are really leveraging technology to manage their own expenses management," she said. She added that firms were also looking to automate processes around procurement and supply chain management.

The survey was carried out for Amex by research firm Institutional Investor.

A separate study published last month by Chinese technology firm Huawei said that artificial intelligence could help to double the value of the global digital economy to $23 trillion by 2025, up from $12.9 trillion last year, or 17.9 percent of global GDP. However, Huawai also argued that this growth could be threatened by "a scarcity of AI talent worldwide". (Read more here).

The UAE ranked 23rd out of 79 countries worldwide on Huawei's Global Connectivity Index, which was the highest ranking in the Middle East. Kuwait ranked 37th, Bahrain 40th, Saudi Arabia 41st and Oman was 47th.

Further reading:

Extended welcome: Jobseekers' visas and overhaul of employee guarantee scheme gains business approval
Over 52% Saudi women reject myth about their lack of employment skills
Online job sites ‘most common tool for hiring in UAE
Artificial Intelligence 'will help increase UAE GDP by 35%
Artificial Intelligence to add billions to UAE, Saudi economies

(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Shane McGinley)

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© ZAWYA 2018

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