ANALYSIS-With stick and carrot, Saudi starts winning over firms in regional race

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By Saeed Azhar, Davide Barbuscia and Hadeel Al Sayegh

DUBAI, March 29 (Reuters) – When CSG CSGS.O opted to shift its regional headquarters this year from Dubai to Riyadh, it marked an early win for Saudi Arabia and proved a surprisingly easy move for the U.S. technology firm: the new office was up and running in just two months.

CSG is among several foreign companies that agreed earlier this year to set up regional offices in Saudi Arabia rather than overseeing operations remotely from Dubai, the buzzing commercial hub in neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

A Saudi ultimatum in mid-February has prompted some firms to rethink their strategy: from 2024, companies seeking state contracts in the Middle East’s biggest economy must have offices in the kingdom.

But, alongside this blunt approach, the government has launched sweeping economic and social reforms to attract investors, aiming to make the kingdom an easier place to live and work in and cutting the red tape that long deterred them.