The Unified Registry for Commercial Pledges Takes Effect in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Commerce and Investment (MCI) launched on 17 March 2019 the Unified Registry for Commercial Pledges (URCP) and published the regulations for its implementation. The announced procedural rules envisaged in the Commercial Pledge Law (CPL) that came into effect in April 2018. The CPL stipulates the regulations and procedures for creating, granting, perfecting, and enforcing pledges over movable and future assets as security for “economic” debts.

Whom Should the URCP Regulations Concern?

URCP regulations apply to creditors (pledgees), debtors (pledgers), and any interested third parties. Registering a pledged movable asset with the URCP in strict compliance with the relevant procedural rules gives the pledgee a valid priority security claims over the asset or a recognized right provided for by the CPL against other interested entities.

What are Pledgeable Assets?

According to the CPL, lenders can register commercial pledges with the URCP over any of the following asset categories:

•    Companies: An economic enterprise may agree to a pledge over its entire tangible and intangible business assets.

•    Receivables: The law now recognizes potential business earnings as valid collateral. For example, an organization may qualify for construction financing after agreeing to the registration of a pledge on its future revenue.

•    Bank accounts and deposits: Lenders can take security over pledged bank accounts, deposits, or balances. The pledge agreement on a current account remains valid even if the borrower deposits more funds after the date of the URCP contract registration.

•    Inventory: Enterprises can grant a pledge over their stocks to secure financing. One tool they can use is the floating pledge.

•    Shares: There is now a legal framework for pledging shares, including limited liability companies.

Registering a Commercial Pledge Under URCP Procedural Rules

A person must first open an electronic account to log a pledge with the URCP. The MCI has set up an online portal for this purpose as no other method is acceptable for registering movable assets going forward. Below are some of the mandatory steps in commercial pledge registration:

1.    The pledgee sends a registration application to the URCP via the official online registry. The applicant must attach a copy of the pledge contract and any other pertinent documents to the request. Vital information to provide includes the name and contact details of all parties to the pledge agreement, the value of the pledged asset, date of the security contract, and the secured debt’s maturity date.

2.    The URCP notifies the pledger of having received the pledgee’s application for registration. The URCP can decline the registration request if the pledger formally objects to it within seven days from the date of notification.

3.    The URCP continues acting on the pledgee’s registration request if the pledger approves it or does not object to it within seven days after receiving the URCP’s notification of the application.

Notifying Specialized Registries

Certain pledgeable assets require registration under other regulations besides URCP. For instance, the General Department of Traffic at the Ministry of Interior registers all vehicles in Saudi Arabia. Once the URCP completes the registration of a pledge over such an asset, it must share the contract details with the relevant specialized registry to tag the asset in question as pledged in the appropriate database.

Rules for Amending a Registered Pledge

The new CPL recognizes future assets as pledgeable, and it allows for the creation of securities over the same. What if the status of a future pledged asset changes to current? The pledger must, immediately or soon afterward, formally request the URCP to update the registry account in question with the new status of the pledged asset. The amendment request stands with or without the pledgee’s approval.

A typical case in point is when a bank creates security over future proceeds for money it lends to a business, and it registers the pledge with the URCP. In this scenario, the pledger (borrowing enterprise) must notify the URCP soon after collecting the secured or pledged receivables because they have become available movable assets.

If the pledgeable future asset is subject to pledging procedures in compliance with other relevant regulations, the URCP processes the amendment requests before sending any updates to the applicable specialized registry to capture the new asset status. The URCP notifies the pledger and the pledgee once the amendment is complete.

Criteria for Terminating Any Pledge Registration

Ways to terminate the pledge registration are:

1.    The pledgee can request termination, or a judicial body may order the cancellation;

2.    Expiry of the pledge duration, subject to condition three below;

3.    Termination can take effect 60 days after an enforcement document is issued. Nonetheless, the law permits the pledgee or enforcement agent to request the URCP to extend the pledge term by an additional 60 days.

The law requires the pledgee to end the pledge registration with the URCP not later than three days after terminating the pledge contract, or after the execution of relevant enforcement actions on the property in question.

Who Can Search the URCP Database?

Upon request, the URCP may allow the pledger and the pledgee to view all details pertinent to a registered pledge. To third parties, however, the URCP may only confirm whether an asset is the subject of a registered pledge.

For a fee and with the pledger’s consent, the URCP may provide specific details of a registered pledge to a third party. Approval is contingent on the URCP receiving the name of the individual requiring the information and the particulars that the person is requesting.

When to Commence Enforcement

The pledgee or execution agent may enforce a pledge on an asset registered by the CPL only after obtaining an enforcement document from the URCP. The regulator must not provide the requested paperwork until the pledgee has the legal right to enforce the pledge contract.

The pledgee should request and can only obtain the prerequisite enforcement paperwork before the pledge registration period with the URCP expires. The regulator cannot issue these documents for execution on a future asset. For example, the pledger must first own the pledged asset, such as a car, before the pledgee has the right to initiate the enforcement process.

Perfection and Priorities

To guarantee priority against third parties, the pledgee should complete the pledge registration process with the URCP. However, there can be multiple pledges of varying priority levels over a single movable asset. Still, the pledger may agree with the relevant pledgees to alter the pledgees’ order of precedence over the same pledged property.