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The founding partners of Hilal ESG Holding Limited, Zafar Sarashwala, Irshad Akhtar and Zaheer Muneer, recently held an interactive session on investment opportunities, at the Holiday Inn Gateway in Jeddah. Topics for discussion included global and regional trends, more specifically in the economic, social and governance and Shariah spaces.

The event brought together industry experts, seasoned investors, and enthusiasts to explore and discuss the latest trends, insights, and potential investment opportunities.

The idea for setting up Hilal ESG Saudi Arabia Limited began when Sareshwala met Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih on the sidelines of the G20 in New Delhi last year. That meeting, in turn, led to Sareshwala visiting Saudi Arabia. Sareshwala said Saudi Arabia and India were both rising powers and a special relationship has developed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the GCC, particularly Saudi Arabia, which is presently experiencing a boom under the leadership of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman. “Saudi-Indian relations have never been better,” Sareshwala said.

In his keynote address, Sareshwala said: “The growth of ESG and Shariah investments is significantly outpacing conventional investments. Saudi Arabia has great potential and we want to make it the core of our operations. We are therefore looking forward to Hilal ESG Saudi Arabia becoming fully licensed and operational.”

In his remarks to the group, Akhtar, who had an illustrious career in Saudi Arabia during the establishment of HSBC in Riyadh, said the Saudi Arabia-India-China private equity triangle offers a potentially lucrative landscape for investors. “Investing in this trilateral private equity strategy creates a range of compelling opportunities for investors seeking diversification, high-growth potential, and unique access to emerging markets, while further strengthened by strong relationships at the highest levels in each jurisdiction,” he said.

Akhtar, the founder and managing partner of Hilal ESG, said: “We decided to domicile our funds in the GCC because local regulators provide investors a lot of protection and are now well regarded internationally so there is no need to domicile in the UK, Europe or the US. There is amazing local talent in the region and we hire local talent wherever possible. Saudi Arabia’s Capital Markets Authority is a world-class regulator and I interacted with them in setting up HSBC Saudi Arabia in 2006 and I am looking forward to getting Hilal ESG Saudi Arabia Limited fully licensed soon.”

The world’s focus on climate change and renewables creates great opportunities for the region and helps it diversify from hydrocarbons, said Akhtar. “The region has all the ingredients to lead this transition — the sun, the money and the will — and all in ample quantities,” he added. Akhtar, who is also the founder of BuzzEV, a UK-based EV and charging company, said that, however, more awareness was needed at the public level. “Many individuals and businesses will be very successful if they take this opportunity.”

The opening of the Saudi real estate market to foreigners will draw in a lot of foreign direct investment. “We see a boom in the real estate market driven by FDI,” Akhtar said. “The desire of the Muslim world to live near the holy places is so great that it will be difficult to sustain the demand once awareness spreads. Healthcare, food security, tech and real estate will all perform very well.”

The partners earlier met with the Ministry of Investment and were encouraged by the welcome they received. They were assured by the Ministry of providing Hilal ESG with all the assistance required to set up and begin operations in Saudi Arabia.

Muneer, founder and managing director, said: “Saudi Vision 2030, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has so far achieved almost all its goals. We would like to work toward Vision 2030 by bringing in a top-class fund management investment team from all around the world.”

Muneer said they would apply their proven strategies in Saudi Arabia, which has the largest economy in the Middle East with a GDP of over $1 trillion. He pointed out that the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul, is the largest in the Arab world, with a market capitalization of more than $2.5 trillion. “Significant investments will be made in the Kingdom’s physical infrastructure, including megaprojects like NEOM, a planned $500 billion futuristic city, which is expected to be a hub for innovation and investment,” he added.

The event’s partner was Zakariya Biladi’s Jeddah-based Marketing Support Services. Asim Zeeshan conducted the proceedings.

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