Retail giant leads $30m fundraising for Saudi online grocery startup

Participants take photos of the crown prince during his address at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on Wednesday. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 25 October 2018

Retail giant leads $30m fundraising for Saudi online grocery startup

  • The deal is MAF’s latest investment in Saudi Arabia
  • The new funds will help Wadi group to expand outside its present sites in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, and will accompany MAF’s expansion of the 18-strong Carrefour chain in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Majid Al-Futtaim (MAF), an operator of malls, cinemas and leisure attractions across the Middle East, has re-enforced its commitment to Saudi Arabia by leading a $30 million fundraising to grow the online grocery delivery business of Wadi Group across the Kingdom.
Carrefour, the hypermarket business MAF owns in the region, will become a long-term strategic partner with Wadi in supplying food and groceries in Saudi Arabia, with plans to expand from its current business in three big cities.

The deal is MAF’s latest investment in Saudi Arabia, part of the $4 billion investment program that has seen it play a major role in the opening of cinemas in the Kingdom via its Vox chain and an ambitious program of mall building.

Alain Bejjani, chief executive of Dubai-based MAF, explained to Arab News the rationale for the deal on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative (FII)conference in Riyadh. 

“Saudi Arabia is a very important market for us and for the online business in particular. Our approach is to be as prominent digitally as we are physically.

“Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Arab world, with a population of 30 million, and it is opening up at an incredible rate. The importance of Saudi Arabia has been well understood recently — everybody is talking about it.”

Asked if he thought regional companies might do more business with Saudi Arabia if Western firms reduce their presence, Bejjani said: “Competition is a good thing, but if they don’t want to compete, that’s good too.”

The new funds will help Wadi to expand outside its present sites in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, and will accompany MAF’s expansion of the 18-strong Carrefour chain in the Kingdom. 

Bejjani declined to say exactly how much of the $30 million fundraising it was directly investing, but added: “Our valuation is beyond valued because we bring with us the strength of the MAF and Carrefour brands and network.”

In a statement, MAF said: “This partnership will provide customers access to over 12,000 high-quality products at the same great-value prices found in Carrefour stores, delivered within a two-hour window on the platform, making the quick delivery of such a wide product offering the first of its kind in the Middle East.”


France ready to take Trump’s tariff threat to WTO

Updated 08 December 2019

France ready to take Trump’s tariff threat to WTO

  • Macron government will discuss a global digital tax with Washington at the OECD, says finance minister

PARIS: France is ready to go to the World Trade Organization to challenge US President Donald Trump’s threat to put tariffs on French goods in a row over a French tax on internet companies, its finance minister said on Sunday.

“We are ready to take this to an international court, notably the WTO, because the national tax on digital companies touches US companies in the same way as EU or French companies or Chinese. It is not discriminatory,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France 3 television. Paris has long complained about US digital companies not paying enough tax on revenues earned in France.

In July, the French government decided to apply a 3 percent levy on revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than €25 million in French revenue and €750 million ($845 million) worldwide. It is due to kick in retroactively from the start of 2019.

Washington is threatening to retaliate with heavy duties on imports of French cheeses and luxury handbags, but France and the EU say they are ready to retaliate in turn if Trump carries out the threat. Le Maire said France was willing to discuss a global digital tax with the US at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but that such a tax could not be optional for internet companies.

“If there is agreement at the OECD, all the better, then we will finally have a global digital tax. If there is no agreement at OECD level, we will restart talks at EU level,” Le Maire said.

He added that new EU Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni had already proposed to restart such talks.

France pushed ahead with its digital tax after EU member states, under the previous executive European Commission, failed to agree on a levy valid across the bloc after opposition from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The new European Commission assumed office on Dec. 1.