RIYADH — Bilateral trade and investment between Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Cyprus is expected to bring “sizable benefits” to both countries, the Cyprus Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said.
Addressing the first investors’ conference since a visit to Cyprus by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud to promote a series of bilateral agreements, Cyprus Ambassador Stravos Avgoustides described the “growing strength” of Cyprus-Saudi Arabia relations.
“It is not just business partnerships we are hoping to build here but long-lasting inter-personal relationships between two peoples and cultures,” said the Ambassador.
“Significant potential exists to produce sizable benefits for both societies and both governments are keen to move from potential to progress. Cyprus and Saudi Arabia will benefit from closer and stronger trade and a foreign direct investment relationship that will amplify growth and prosperity in short and long terms.”
Among the sectors that were ripe for investment in Cyprus was the tech industry, said George Campanellas, chief executive of Invest Cyprus.
He said: “As well as an established tourist destination, we have managed to develop Cyprus as an international shipping center, the largest maritime cluster in Europe, and this has created opportunities in the real estate market as well.
“Just as big multi-nationals in the shipping industry have established operations here because of the attractive and business-friendly environment, we are now trying to exactly replicate this for the tech industry, and well-known companies like Wargaming, Amdocs, TSYS, e-Toro and NCR have chosen Cyprus for their global or regional headquarters.
“It is very important to us to develop this further, with a vision to make Cyprus an international tech hub.”
The discovery of natural gas off the coast of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean also offered new opportunities, said Campanellas. “The whole region has so much to give in terms of oil and gas,” he said.
“The quantity of natural gas and with the absence of any infrastructure projects for these resources to be exported to international markets creates opportunities, opportunities not only in the exploration activities of natural gas, but the monetarization of these resources that will be so critical in years to come.”
Most investments in Cyprus were long-term, said Dr. Shadi Karam, chairman of Astro bank, Cyprus, and chairman and CEO of several major companies in the Middle East.
“As an investor, you don’t want to put money into a country and live in a situation where policies change suddenly. You want to plan and count on the government have predictable policies to protect and support you.
“Money coming into Cyprus is in long-term investments, into solid companies, corporate entities and real estate, things that are creating jobs and last for a long time.”
He added: “What is happening in Saudi Arabia is fascinating and I believe Saudi investors should think seriously about Cyprus as a target for investment because it is a remarkable platform in the middle of the Mediterranean for the European market and beyond.
“My advice is come to Cyprus and you will fall under the charm of the company and the people.”
New legislation introduced in Cyprus also aims to make it easier for businesses to re-locate or expand in the country, allowing company registration and incorporation to be completed in seven working days, said Maria Clappa, a Partner in the law firm Tassos Papadopoulos & Associates
Clappa said: “True to its business-orientated culture and by constantly seeking to improve its services, the Cabinet of ministers announced very recently the creation of a fast track business activation mechanism for setting up a business in Cyprus by a third-country national.”
Key opportunities for investment currently include several greenfield real estate projects in hospitality & tourism, higher education healthcare and workspaces for large tech companies conference participants were told by Stephanie Panayi of Invest Cyprus.
Tony Hadjiloucas, partner of Private Wealth Services at PwC Cyprus, pointed to asset security, access to the EU and Cyprus’s favourable tax regime among Cyprus’s advantages.
He added: “Cyprus is one of the ideal jurisdictions for Saudi Arabia. Having an entity here is very convenient. From your Cyprus company or your Cyprus’ registered investment fund you can invest in a number of countries in a very efficient manner.”
The conference was part of a series of roadshows organized by Invest Cyprus to boost economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. Other speakers at the Saudi Arabia investors’ conference included Charis Kynigou, of AstroBank, Nanette Kalava, of Kinanis LLC, and Anja Arsalides of Invest Cyprus.