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Saudi Arabia says 180 HQs moved to Riyadh so far

Construction of the Riyadh metro Reuters/Faisal Nasser
The Riyadh metro, due to open next year with 84 stations, is part of a drive to make the capital more attractive to companies as the base for their HQs
  • Firms must move to access contracts
  • Deadline of January 1
  • Drive for HQ openings passes target

Saudi Arabia has issued licences to 180 companies to set up regional headquarters inside the country, as a January deadline approaches for international businesses to move or be cut out of lucrative contracts. 

The kingdom’s investment minister, Khalid al-Falih, gave the figure, which he said exceeds the target of 160, at the Bloomberg New Economic Forum in Singapore. 

In 2021 the ministry set a target of January 1 2024 for companies to move their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia, the leading Middle East economy and world’s top oil exporter, in order to gain access to government contracts worth SAR1 million ($266,000) or more. 

Around 80 companies had been granted licences by March 2023, with many expected to be based in King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. 

Many companies have been finding workarounds to boost their presence in the kingdom without sacrificing their ties to the United Arab Emirates, which has built itself up over the past two decades as the region’s main international business centre. 

The Saudi government is offering tax incentives and a simplified regulatory environment to multinationals, especially if they locate inside special economic zones, economic cities and Riyadh’s financial district. 

Earlier this week the government announced that a new Center for Riyadh Special Economic Zones will oversee new special economic zones in the capital, issue licences to investors within the zones and manage services. 

Riyadh is striving to become a global city, although it still lacks a public transport system. The Riyadh metro is expected to open over the next year with 84 stations, according to the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.