Allow foreign ownership of real estate, agri land: Saudi-India Business Council

Saudi Arabia wants a pie of India’s real estate sector and wants the government to allow foreign investment in it.

Kamil S Al-Munajjed, chairman of Saudi-India Business Council, told The Economic Times that this would lead to investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars in properties.

The Middle-Eastern country also wants the Centre to tweak laws so that Saudis can own agricultural land to lend a hand in firming up food security and reducing the dependence of oil, he said.

Before Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India, Al-Munajjed told the newspaper that firms from both countries may increase direct businesses, instead of going through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Mauritius to dodge legal issues.

“Wherever we go, we like to buy real estate for personal use or business. India forbids that for non-residents. This is one of the issues we are discussing, including agricultural land. We will not invest in infra projects as that is for the government. For the private sector in Saudi Arabia, real estate is the business,” he said.

Managing partner of real estate and construction firm Urjuan Property Developers, Al-Munajjed said that nearly 400-500 Indian companies were active in Saudi, as the Crown Prince has loosened legal issues around entrepreneurship.

One of the largest supermarket chains in Riyadh is run by an Indian. “He had a Saudi sponsor. Two years ago he bought 100 percent of the business,” he added.

On the other hand, about 50 Saudi companies operate in India directly, even though the unofficial number may be in the hundreds. “Legally they are incorporated under a UAE or Mauritius entity. With reforms of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it has changed. What he did was amazing. Businesses are undeclared due to tax reasons but now after changes, things are much clearer,” Al-Munajjed said.

When asked about the impact of the Pulwama attack on businesses of the countries involved, he said that Riyadh strongly condemned terrorism.