[DUBAI] JPMorgan Chase & Co is looking to hire in Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil exporter weighs asset sales and opens its stock market to foreign investors, according to Bader Alamoudi, chief executive officer of the bank's local investment banking unit.
"We will be looking to increase headcount by about 10 per cent this year across areas like investment banking, sales and trading and anti money laundering," Alamoudi said Wednesday in an interview in Riyadh. The US bank has about 65 people in the country across two offices, he said.
A drop in the price of oil - Saudi Arabia's principal source of revenue - is leading the ruling Al Saud family to take unprecedented measures to reduce its reliance on exports of crude. The government last month raised fuel prices and trimmed spending to narrow a deficit that may have been the widest since 1991 last year. It's also considering new forms of taxation and the sale of state assets, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told The Economist this month. The International Monetary Fund has cut its forecast for economic growth this year to 1.2 per cent.
"Even with the low oil price, there is still a huge opportunity here," Alamoudi said. "Volatility always creates opportunities whether it is as a result of the government reform measures and privatizations, equity trading and currency products, or advising clients on financing."
Saudi Arabia allowed foreign investors to trade stocks directly for the first time in June. In September, the country announced that it would open its retail and wholesale sectors to full foreign ownership, eliminating the requirement for a local partner.
JPMorgan was among banks that arranged a 3.9 billion riyal (US$1 billion) Islamic bond for National Shipping Co of Saudi Arabia in July and participated in a US$10 billion loan for oil producer Saudi Aramco in March. New York-based JPMorgan and HSBC Holdings Plc are among international lenders in the best position to win a role if the kingdom goes ahead with the sale of a stake in state-run Saudi Arabian Oil Co, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg earlier this month.