Irish trade mission to Gulf states gets off to a lucrative start

Deals worth €100m announced on first day of visit led by the Taoiseach


Enda Kenny

held a number of high level meetings in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh yesterday as an

Enterprise Ireland


trade mission to the Gulf region began. Representatives of

87 Irish firms are participating in the mission, which continues until Thursday. The delegation will also visit Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Mr Kenny discussed economic and financial matters with officials from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and a number of banks.

The governor of SAMA, Saudi Arabia's central bank commended the Taoiseach for implementing tough reforms required to see Ireland exit its bailout programme.

Mr Kenny said the governor had accepted an invitation to visit Ireland in the coming weeks.

Irish visit
A Saudi delegation will meet officials from the National Treasury Management Agency to "discuss and understand the progress Ireland has made economically and in restructuring our banking system to deal with the challenges of the future," he added. Mr Kenny said the possibility of secondments between the Saudi and Irish central banks would be discussed.

Mr Kenny also met the minister for higher education with a view to strengthening links between the countries.

There are about 2,700 Saudi students in Irish institutions such as the Waterford and Athlone Institutes of Technology, and Mr Kenny said the figure would soon increase by 500.

A number of Irish companies announced deals yesterday during the mission, the largest of which involved civil engineering contractor John Paul Construction and the Saudi-based Absal Group.

The two companies , who will join forces in Saudi Arabia under the name Absal Paul, have secured contracts worth €100 million with Haliburton, Boeing and General Electric (GE) among others. Absal Paul said it had a further €300 million of business in the pipeline.

Business deals
Irish firm Instant Upright announced a deal worth $1 million to provide boiler systems to the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and mobile-phone top up services provider Ezetop is to embark on a venture with Saudi Arabia's largest bank Al Rajhi.

Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton said his hopes were "very high" for the trade and diplomatic visit to Saudi Arabia. "There are 87 companies from across a range of sectors where there is real opportunity for real partnerships to be forged and before the end of the week I believe there will be contracts signed that will make a difference for jobs in Ireland."

Ireland exported goods worth €626 million to Saudi Arabia in 2012, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll is an Assistant News Editor with The Irish Times