UAE and Israel join forces on venture capital investments

Saudi-Emirati entrepreneur, Sabah Al Binali, has been made head of the Arabian Gulf region for a new partnership between the Dubai-based Al Naboodah conglomerate and OurCrowd. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 October 2020

UAE and Israel join forces on venture capital investments

  • A joint statement said the new venture would “identify and support UAE based start-ups seeking growth and development in Israel
  • Al Naboodah’s business development unit Phoenix Capital will aim to channel investment funds to start ups in the two countries

DUBAI: A well-known Saudi-Emirati entrepreneur has been put in charge of one of the biggest financial initiatives to come out of the renormalization agreement between Israel and the UAE.

Sabah Al Binali, who has been involved in big-ticket transactions in the Kingdom and the Emirates for the past two decades, has been made head of the Arabian Gulf region for a new partnership between the Dubai-based Al Naboodah conglomerate and OurCrowd, a $1.5bn venture capital investment group based in Jerusalem.

OurCrowd, with global activities in equity crowd funding, has teamed up with Al Naboodah, a leading UAE family business with interests in construction, real estate, transport and energy, to channel investment funds between Israel and the Gulf for start-ups in technology and other business areas.

A joint statement said the new venture would “identify and support UAE based start-ups seeking growth and development in Israel, as well as leverage its diverse portfolio of 220 companies to enhance business development for UAE start-ups seeking to collaborate on innovative solutions.”

Al Binali told Arab News: “The UAE and GCC governments have created great infrastructure for foreign firms to expand into the region. The Israeli government created a start-up nation with globally leading-edge tech. It is a natural match.”

Al Binali has advised on investment and transactions in the Gulf region, including the setting up of an investment bank in Saudi Arabia eventually sold to Credit Suisse and the multi-million-dollar takeover of the Zawya information agency by Thomson Reuters.

He said that he saw opportunities for joint Israeli-Gulf investment in such areas as technology innovation in defense, medical, finance and agriculture.

Al Naboodah’s business development unit Phoenix Capital will aim to channel investment funds to start ups in the two countries which last month signed the Abraham Accords, as well as other Gulf destinations.

Phoenix chairman Abdullah Al Naboodah said: “This first-of-its-kind major alliance will pave the way for the rapid expansion of business between our two countries.”

The OurCrowd-Naboodah deal is the latest initiative to come from the accord, following talks between big Israeli and UAE banks, as well as the recent link up between UAE conglomerate Al Habtoor and Israeli tech company Mobileye to develop “robo-taxis” in Dubai.


Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

Updated 27 November 2020

Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

  • Frustrated resort operators count the cost of holiday season restrictions

MEGEVE, France:  Megeve, in the foothills of Mont Blanc, was gearing up to welcome back skiers before Christmas after a COVID-19 lockdown was eased.

But France’s government — while allowing cinemas, museums and theaters to reopen from Dec. 15 — says its ski slopes must stay off limits until 2021, leaving those who make their living in the Alpine village frustrated and, in some cases, perplexed.

“When you’re outside, when you’re doing sport outdoors, that’s not the moment when you’re going to give COVID-19 to someone. COVID-19 is passed on in enclosed places,” said Pierre de Monvallier, director of ski school Oxygene, which operates in several resorts including Megeve.

Announcing a phased easing of the lockdown on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “impossible to envisage” re-opening ski slopes for Christmas and New Year, and that he preferred instead to do so during January.

“It felt like the door had been slammed in our face,” said Catherine Jullien-Breches, the mayor of Megeve, whose green slopes are generally covered with snow by mid-December.

“Unfortunately it’s a real drama for the economies of the villages and the winter sports resorts.”

People who live within 20 km of France’s Alpine resorts will able to visit from this weekend, but with the lifts staying shut, the main draw is missing.

“It’s like going on holiday on the Cote d’Azur and being told the sea is off limits,” said David Le Scouarnec, co-owner of Megeve’s Cafe 2 la Poste.

The problem for the resorts — and the hotels, restaurants, and workers who depend on them for their livelihood — is that their season is short, and they will have little time after the New Year to claw back lost revenue.

Other European authorities are wrestling with the same problem. Italy’s resorts regions are seeking approval for restricted skiing, but Austria, whose biggest cluster of the first wave of the pandemic was at the ski resort of Ischgl — where thousands were infected — is skeptical.

Prevarication cuts little ice, however, with Mathieu Dechavanne, Chairman and CEO of Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, which operates cable cars at Megeve and other resorts.

He said who could not understand why the government allowed trains and metros to operate, but barred him from re-opening. “It’s like we’re being punished. We don’t deserve this. We’re ready.”