(Bloomberg) —

Saudi Arabia added new incentives to keep its mortgage boom going by scrapping a 15% value-added tax on property sales and offering other relief for home buyers amid a push by the Arab world’s largest economy to expand residential ownership.

Property transactions will instead be subject to a new 5% real estate sales tax, according to state-run news agency SPA. The government will also shoulder the cost of taxes for first-time home buyers of properties worth up to 1 million riyals ($267,000), according to a royal order published on Friday.

The threshold for the tax exemption was increased from 850,000 riyals previously for citizens buying their first homes.

chart, bar chart: Mortgage Boost

© Bloomberg
Mortgage Boost

Saudi Arabia’s mortgage market has emerged as a bright spot at a time the economy is reeling from the global pandemic and lower oil prices, with citizen unemployment hitting its highest level on record in the second quarter. But the kingdom has still had to resort to austerity measures to stabilize public finances, including a tripling of VAT — which was introduced for the first time in 2018 — to 15% in July.


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“They’ve essentially revoked the tax increase on property purchases and that’s going to help maintain the momentum in the mortgage market,” CI Capital senior analyst Sara Boutros said by phone. “The bulk of the home-demand by Saudi middle-class buyers is within the 1 million-riyals range, which means those purchases will be tax-free.”

The world’s biggest oil exporter has taken a number of steps to boost home construction and lending. Home ownership among citizens reached 62% in March, according to the country’s housing minister, and the kingdom is now targeting a rate of 70% by 2030, as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic transformation plan.

The increase in mortgages has

(RTTNews) – Today’s Daily Dose brings you news about the first rolling review of a COVID-19 vaccine in the EU, reverse merger of privately held Chinook Therapeutics with Aduro, Enlivex Therapeutics’ positive top-line results of an investigator-initiated clinical trial of Allocetra in COVID-19 patients in severe/critical condition, FDA lifting the clinical hold on Solid Biosciences’ IGNITE DMD trial, and Vaccibody’s deal with Roche to develop neoantigen cancer vaccines.

Read on…

1. EU begins First Rolling Review of COVID-19 vaccine

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has started the ‘rolling review’ of AZD1222, the COVID-19 vaccine candidate, being developed by AstraZeneca plc (AZN) in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

This marks the first ‘rolling review’ of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the data being reviewed by the committee comes from laboratory studies (non-clinical data). The CHMP decided to start the rolling review of the AZD1222 vaccine based on preliminary results from non-clinical and early clinical studies which suggest that the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies and T cells (cells of the immune system, the body’s natural defense) that target the virus.

AZD1222 advanced into phase III testing in the U.S. in late August. The vaccine candidate is being tested in phase II/III trials in the U.K. and Brazil and in phase I/II trial in South Africa.

Early this month, AstraZeneca paused all the AZD1222 vaccine trials following a single event of an unexplained illness, which is believed to be transverse myelitis that occurred in the UK phase III trial. While the trials of the vaccine candidate in the UK and other countries have resumed, the trial continues to remain on hold in the U.S. as regulators have asked the company to furnish further data over its safety.

Gilead Sciences’ antiviral Veklury (remdesivir), which secured