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DUBAI: Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had licensed 44 international companies to set up regional headquarters in the capital Riyadh under the kingdom's push to become a regional commercial hub and vie for foreign capital and talent.

Among the 44 companies are multinationals in sectors including technology, food and beverages, consulting and construction including Deloitte, Unilever, Baker Hughes and Siemens, a press release on the announcement said.

No details on which companies would move what operations were given, and it was not immediately clear if all would do so.

The moves would add 67 billion riyals ($18 billion) to the economy and provide around 30,000 job opportunities by 2030, state news agency SPA reported the President of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City Fahd al-Rasheed as saying.

Saudi Arabia launches national infrastructure fund with BlackRock

The world's top oil exporter and largest Arab economy in February said it would give foreign firms until the end of 2023 to set up headquarters or risk losing out on government contracts as it competes for foreign capital and talent.

On Sunday, Rasheed said the move to attract companies into Saudi Arabia was not aimed at dismantling corporate operations elsewhere.

The push is part of a drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to make the kingdom a regional business hub, putting it in competition with the United Arab Emirates.

Several foreign companies, including PepsiCo, Schlumberger and Bechtel, agreed earlier this year to set up regional offices in Saudi Arabia rather than overseeing operations remotely from the UAE's business hub of Dubai.

Saudi media companies in Dubai have also started to move staff to Riyadh, sources said last month.

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