Saudi Arabia puts buzz back into Mideast startup scene

Saudi Arabia puts buzz back into Mideast startup scene
Visitors are seen at the Saudi Aramco stand at an exhibition in Manama. The oil giant has become increasingly active in startup funding. (Reuters)
Updated 30 November 2017

Saudi Arabia puts buzz back into Mideast startup scene

Saudi Arabia puts buzz back into Mideast startup scene

LONDON: A maturing investment ecosystem is bolstering startups across the MENA region, according to a new report, with a notable increase in activity from Saudi investment institutions over the past year.
Since 2005, the top 200 funded startups in the MENA region have attracted more than $2 billion in capital, according to a report issued by MAGNiTT, which tracks the development of startups across the region.
To date, the majority of top funded startups in the region were established in the UAE, and the primary financial backers have also tended to be UAE-based.
But a recent uptick in funding from Saudi investment firms points to a developing ecosystem for startups in the Kingdom, according to MAGNiTT founder Philip Bahoshy.
“The Crown Prince has made it part of his Vision 2030 to try to push for further entrepreneurship in the region. While previously it was just an idea, now it is becoming a strong reality,” Bahoshy told Arab News.
As the Kingdom and governments across the Middle East diversify national portfolios away from natural resources and heavy industry, waves of startups providing everything from financial services to digital football fan clubs have burst onto the scene.
Following a number of success stories — including the high-profile acquisition of UAE-based Souq by the American e-commerce giant Amazon — the investment culture supporting startups has developed apace.
In August, Saudi Aramco Ventures, a unit of the Kingdom’s national oil company, invested more than $20 million in the payments startup PayTabs.
The momentum continued this fall when the Saudi-based restaurant management startup Foodics raised $4 million, with inputs from local funds Raed Ventures and Riyad Taqnia Fund (RTF).
The movement in Saudi Arabia follows a broader regional trend, Bahoshy said, where investors are beginning to see meaningful returns on startups established between 2012 and 2015.
Investors across the region have shown a preference for early-stage funding, according to the report, pouring more than $400 million into Series A funding rounds since 2005.
Still, increasing investment at the earliest stages of the startup cycle remains a challenge. On average, regional startups require over three years to close Series A funding but raise just $1.5 million in the Seed and pre-Seed stages.
Citing the lack of a transparent angel investing community in the region, Bahoshy said that governments and international financial institutions such as the World Bank should help incubate startups in their nascent stages and support local entrepreneurs.
“As more startups enter the ecosystem, you need to continue to fuel the base of that pyramid so (the companies) continue to grow,” Bahoshy explained.
According to the report, Middle East Venture Partners, 500 Startups and Wamda Capital are the most active investors in the region, contributing significant capital to the sector.
E-commerce startups have attracted the most funding to date, generating some $700 million since 2005. But of late, investors have shown a preference for startups providing financial technology products, like remittance payments and peer-to-peer lending.
Bahoshy said that startups providing solutions for broader regional challenges such as sticky logistics and cross-border banking frictions stand the best chance of attracting meaningful investment.
More than half of the top-funded startups in the MENA region were founded in the past five years, suggesting a momentum around financing entrepreneurship that has not seen previously been seen.
Broadly speaking, Bahoshy said the outlook for startup funding across the region was one of cautious optimism.
“The general trend is positive. We’re beginning to see new entrances into the space (including) Saudi venture capitalists and international investors,” he said.

 

Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
Updated 20 April 2021

Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
  • The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations

RIYADH: South Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook has invited Saudi Arabia to attend the Global Infrastructure Cooperation Conference (GICC2021).

The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations.

The ambassador met Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr, undersecretary at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing for housing subsidies, and general supervisor of the International Cooperation Department at the ministry in Riyadh.

GICC2021 is scheduled for “later this year,” the ambassador told Arab News, adding that the meeting “reviewed the close, friendly and cooperative relations” between the two countries, and “agreed to continue to expand bilateral cooperation in the housing sector.”

He said: “I commended the Saudi government’s efforts to help Saudi families own their house through the Sakani program, taking note of the signing of four agreements during the Sakani Forum held last Thursday in Riyadh.”

The Sakani program helped 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing its target of serving 51,000 families.

It was formed in 2017 by the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund, with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom by creating new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70 percent home ownership by 2030.

The program aims to serve 220,000 Saudi families this year by creating 50,000 housing units, facilitating the reservation of 30,000 residential land plots, and arranging 140,000 real estate loans. To date, Sakani has enabled more than 350,000 families to own homes.


Finance giant Fitch partners with SIDF Academy for Saudi talent program

SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries. (File Photo)
SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries. (File Photo)
Updated 20 April 2021

Finance giant Fitch partners with SIDF Academy for Saudi talent program

SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries. (File Photo)
  • Fitch Learning: Scheme will ‘set professionals on fast track for success’
  • SIDF Academy: ‘Collaboration represents major step on path to train, develop keen talent’

LONDON: Fitch Learning, the knowledge and training arm of global financial leader Fitch Group, has announced a partnership program with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) to boost financial education in the Kingdom.

The delivery of the Certified Investment Financing Professional (CIFP) training program will “enrich the financial skills of local talent,” and “provide them with a better insight into the increasingly complex global financial landscape,” Fitch Learning said in a statement.

The program will be delivered in cooperation with SIDF Academy, which aims to build knowledge in key sectors in line with Saudi Arabia’s industrial vision.

It will “allow CIFP participants to keep pace with the Saudi economy, and also offer them a pathway to building global expertise and qualifications,” Fitch Learning said.

The CIFP program will target employees in the finance, credit and investment industries. It will include three levels with 18 distinct training modules, including financial accounting, financial analysis, lending, business development and financial modeling.

“Saudi Arabia is a key strategic market for the Fitch Group, and we are delighted to play a key role helping the Kingdom enrich financial training skills across the Kingdom,” said Fitch Learning CEO Andreas Karaiskos.

“We will deliver exactly the right international financial certification opportunities via our CIFP program to set professionals on the fast track for success.”

SIDF Academy Director Dr. Kholod Ashgar said: “We are proud to be working together with Fitch Learning, a leading global provider of professional development courses for the financial services industry, to deliver this CIFP program via SIDF Academy.

“This collaboration represents a major step on our path to train and develop our keen talent to stimulate future prosperity, jobs and growth in this vital sector of the Saudi economy.”

SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries.

In 2019, SIDF was aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, enabling the fund to play a vital role in shaping the Kingdom’s future. 


Abu Dhabi issues major schools and lighting PPP tenders

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) has advertised the procurement of the schools. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) has advertised the procurement of the schools. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 20 April 2021

Abu Dhabi issues major schools and lighting PPP tenders

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) has advertised the procurement of the schools. (Shutterstock/File Photo)

RIYADH: Abu Dhabi is seeking private sector partners for three new schools and a street lighting project.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) has advertised the procurement of the schools and phase 2 of its street lighting upgrade program, WAM reported.

Potential bidders can now submit expressions of interest.

“Collaboration with the private sector is an integral part of the Abu Dhabi leadership’s vision to drive long-term economic growth in the emirate. In 2020, ADIO laid the foundations to supercharge collaboration between business and government,” said the director-general of ADIO, Tariq Bin Hendi.

The Zayed City Schools PPP project will provide three new schools with a capacity of 5,360 students in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed City.

The contract will include the design, build, finance, maintenance and transfer of three schools with a concession period of 22 years, inclusive of a construction period of 24 months and a maintenance period of 20 years.

Phase 2 of the Street Lighting LED PPP program will see approximately 140,000 of the emirate’s streetlights replaced with energy-efficient LED technology.

This will offer a 76 percent reduction in their power consumption — equivalent to cost savings of 705 million dirhams — and will be structured as a 12-year concession agreement with the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT).

ADIO is the central Abu Dhabi government authority with responsibility for delivering infrastructure projects through a PPP framework.


Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss

Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss

Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss
  • Operates 135 gyms in UAE and KSA
  • Pandemic has hit fitness sector hard

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swung to a first quarter loss as the pandemic forced the closure of thousands of fitness clubs worldwide.
Leejam Sports Company reported a net loss of more than SR6.9 million in the first quarter compared to a profit of SR6.2 million a year earlier, it said in filing to the Tadawul stock exchange where its shares are listed.
Overall revenues dipped by about a quarter over the period to SR148.5 million, it said.
Total gym memberships, personal training revenues and rental income fell by more than SR49 million as a result of gym closures in the Kingdom from Feb.5, 2021 to March 6, 2021, it said.
Meanwhile the need to apply precautionary measures in response to the pandemic reduced the number of members joining the clubs.
Leejam operates some 135 Fitness Time centers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN

‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN
Updated 20 April 2021

‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN

‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN
  • Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker gave a bleak assessment of the challenges facing the industry as it struggles to recover from the collapse in global air travel

DUBAI: Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker has warned that many more airlines will be forced out of business by the pandemic.
In an exclusive interview on CNN’s Quest Means Business, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker gave a bleak assessment of the challenges facing the industry as it struggles to recover the collapse in global air travel.
“By the time this pandemic is over, there will only be few airlines that are strong and will continue operating,” he said. “A lot of other airlines will go under. And this will continue to happen, because we have not seen the worst of it over yet.”
He said that returning the airline industry to full strength should be a key priority to boost the global economic outlook.


“If this pandemic prolongs for too long, this will completely destroy the world’s economy which is so dependent on airlines for delivering business, carrying freight around, and most importantly creating jobs,” he said.
The outspoken airline chief highlighted some of the safety measures adopted by the airline and its hub at Hamad International Airport in Doha.
These include high-tech temperature sensors, ultraviolet disinfectant processes, and mask-wearing on flights.
He also spoke about the process of asking the company’s shareholders – the Qatari government – for a cash injection during the pandemic, “I couldn’t just jump the queue and go and tell my boss, the ruler of my country, that our situation is so dire, and this is what we need. Because I am sure there were a lot of other people in the queue before me telling him the same thing.”

The CEO also spoke about access to vaccinations and mitigating the risks amid the slow roll out of vaccines in some countries. He told Quest, “It will be a problem for the aviation industry. And we will have to work a way within this risks that we will have to take. But we will have to do things, we'll have to put processes, we'll have to put systems in place to mitigate that risk.” A resurgence of the coronavirus in many countries in recent weeks is threatening to quash some positive signs that had been slowly emerging from the sector. At the same time many passengers are reluctant to fly even where permitted, because of safety concerns and confusion over the different vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements of different countries. Industry body IATA has been trying to address that challenge with its trial Travel Pass initiative aimed at informing passengers about what tests, vaccines and other measures they require at their destinations.