Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's biggest economy, shifted the official weekend to Friday and Saturday to align the kingdom's economy with other regional markets, Saudi Press Agency said, citing a royal decree.
The change, which starts June 29, applies to all government bodies and monetary agencies, including the central bank, the Capital Market Authority and the stock exchange, the official news service said.
The decision was taken based on "the economic position of the kingdom and its international and regional obligations," the news service said, citing the decree. The move will "put an end to negative effects and lost economic opportunities" from having different working days than regional and international institutions, it said.
Saudi Arabia was the only country in the Persian Gulf that traded shares from Saturday to Wednesday. The kingdom's Shoura Council, an advisory body to King Abdullah, started in April to consider a shift in the weekend. On June 19, Savola Al-Azizia United Co. said it would change its weekend to Friday and Saturday.
The decision "aligns Saudi Arabia's work schedule with everybody else," John Sfakianakis, chief investment strategist at MASIC, a Riyadh-based investment company, said in a phone interview. "It will make the Saudi market more aligned with regional markets."
Weekend changes for schools and educational institutions will start the next academic year, the Saudi Press Agency said.