Dubai-based OSN signs partnership with Netflix

Netflix boasts almost 120 million users globally, but has been relatively slow to pick up subscribers in the Middle East, figures from last year show. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2018
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Dubai-based OSN signs partnership with Netflix

LONDON: The broadcaster OSN has signed the Middle East’s first partnership deal with US entertainment giant Netflix, signaling a shift in the region’s media landscape.

Customers of pay-TV service OSN will be able to access Netflix movies and TV shows using a new OSN box that will be launched around June of this year. Additionally, customers will soon be able to pay for their Netflix subscription through their OSN bill.

“Our partnership with Netflix marks a bold first step for industry collaboration and integration,” Martin Stewart, CEO of OSN, told Arab News.

The Netflix partnership comes amid “a shifting global media landscape that sees demand for relevant and exclusive content across multiple platforms continue to grow,” OSN added.

François Godard, an analyst at Enders Analysis, said the infrastructure of the Middle East meant the OSN-Netflix deal made sense.

“When you are in a region where broadband penetration is lower, where payment systems are less developed, it makes more sense to (partner with) an established player,” he told Arab News.

“Netflix is very opportunistic company. They believe in their model, so they are not afraid to partner with other people. We may see deals like this more in the future — why not a deal between Netflix and Sky (in the UK)?”

Change may be taking place, but Netflix has been slow to chase the MENA market, where it has seen relatively sluggish growth in subscriber numbers, according to figures published last year.

The content streaming service had only managed to attract 137,000 paying subscribers by the end of 2016 in the MENA region, according to analysis by IHS Markit. The research firm estimates that number for the region will rise to 1.29 million by the end of 2021.

IHS Markit told Arab News in July that “Netflix needs to sign deals with telcos and mobile operators for direct operator billing. This is crucial for markets like MENA and already other (video) operators (like STARZ Play Arabia, icflix, Shahid Plus, Seevii) have inked relevant deals.”

Globally, subscriber numbers are looking more rosy. Last year Netflix raced through the 100 million subscriber mark, and it now boasts almost 120 million, with its market capitalization now standing at $120 billion.

The Netflix Nasdaq-listed share price has almost doubled year-on-year, standing at $278 in after-hours trading.

“The future of the entertainment industry in the MENA region will be shaped by providers who offer value and choice at every turn,” said OSN’s Stewart.

Maria Ferreras, VP for business development for EMEA at Netflix said, “With this regional partnership and thanks to hundreds of Netflix’s original titles slated for 2018, OSN’s customers will be able to seamlessly access and enjoy all the best entertainment in one place.”

The new partnership follows a recent announcement that saw OSN partner with Lamsa, an Arabic-language children’s “edutainment” platform.

OSN confirmed to Arab News that it is continuing to explore similar opportunities.


Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

Updated 23 April 2019
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Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

  • The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios
  • SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year

RIYADH: Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. (SRC), modelled on US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, aims to issue up to 4 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) of long-term sukuk this year, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios from mortgage financing companies and banks to boost the Kingdom’s secondary mortgage market.

SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview.

“Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said. “We are really looking at probably issuing something between ... 2 and 4 billion riyal that we may be issuing in two tranches.

He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10 to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said.

He said the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the local riyal.

In March, SRC completed a 750 million riyal sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to 11 billion riyals of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.

“The rule of the game for us is, like many projects across the Kingdom, attract liquidity from foreign investors,” Susini said.

He said SRC had spent 1.2 billion riyals from its balance sheet buying mortgages from local mortgage financing companies and provided liquidity to these firms.

It has also signed initial accords with several commercial banks to acquire housing mortgage portfolios.

Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry is targeting the mortgage market to reach a total value of 502 billion riyals by 2020 from around 300 billion riyals now.

The government wants to increase activity in the real estate market as it moves to revitalize the economy and is taking steps to reform the sector as part of its 2030 reform plan.

It has been working with developers and local banks to counter a shortage of affordable housing — one of the country’s biggest social and economic problems. Saudi Arabia wants 60 percent of its nationals to own homes by 2020, up from 47 percent in 2016.

The size of real estate financing relative to its gross domestic product is 5 percent in Saudi Arabia compared to 69 percent in the United States, 74 percent in the United Kingdom and 43 pct in Canada, the housing ministry has said.

“The goal of SRC in this market was to make sure that we will be able to refinance at least around 10 percent of the market in 2020, and 20 percent of the market by 2028,” Susini told Reuters.