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Saudi firm's Friday-Saturday weekend switch: Savola Group is first in kingdom to make move

Company says move will increase international work opportunities

Gulf News

Manama: Saudi food and drink manufacturer Savola Group is making history by becoming the first company in Saudi Arabia to switch its Thursday-Friday weekend to Friday and Saturday.

“The Savola Group would like to announce to its shareholders and all stakeholders that the Group is currently considering changing the weekend days to Friday and Saturday, instead of Thursday and Friday,” the company said. “This would be from the beginning of the second half of 2013, God willing. This change would facilitate communication and coordination between the Group and its subsidiaries inside and outside the Kingdom, such as Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Algeria, Jordan, UAE, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. It would also provide the advantage of having additional number of working days matching with the working days of these countries and their financial institutions,” the company announced on its website.

Abdul Raouf M. Mannaa, the Group Managing Director, said that the move was “compatible with working days in most of the countries where the group operates.”

“It enhances effective communication with regional and international markets, financially, commercially and economically. It will enable the Group to take advantage of a greater number of international working days in the week,” he was quoted as saying.

The Savola Group, one of the largest diversified conglomerates in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia region, manages a wide portfolio of businesses that includes three core sectors.

The Shura (Consultative) Council last week voted to change the weekend from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday.

The motion recommending the weekend change was endorsed by 83 members while 41 voted against it.

Supporters said that the change would be beneficial economically and socially for Saudi Arabia and addresses the issue of missing contacts with the rest of the world for four days.

They said that the move would align Saudi Arabia with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

However, a Shura member said that the process could take up to one year to become a reality.

“Following the recommendation by the Shura Council, the civil service ministry will conduct a study on the issue in coordination with the relevant parties to assess its advantages and disadvantages,” Sadaqa Fadhil said. “The study is expected to take up to six months. It will be then referred to the Shura Council and will take up to one month to be voted. The study suggestions are then submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques who will sign the draft into law if he approves it. The whole process might last one year,” he said.

The Shura member said that the strong support to the switch call indicated the people’s interest in aligning their weekends with those in the neighbouring countries.

The council has 150 members, including, for the first time in its history, 30 women. The call for the weekend switch sparked a lively online debate between supporters and opponents.

Oman announced earlier this month that it would shift to a Friday-Saturday weekend starting May 2 to align itself more closely with financial and economic activities elsewhere in the world.