UAE and Israel join forces on venture capital investments

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

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.


Saudi CMA enhances Fintech regulatory framework

Saudi CMA enhances Fintech regulatory framework
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi CMA enhances Fintech regulatory framework

Saudi CMA enhances Fintech regulatory framework
RIYADH: The Capital Market Authority (CMA) announced on Thursday the approval of amendments to Financial Technology (Fintech) Experimental Permit Instructions, to enhance the fintech regulatory framework, according to bourse filing.

The amendments include adding definitions to clarify the nature of the Fintech Lab and adding instructions for business practice in the Fintech Lab.

The amendments also include updating the application form for the Fintech ExPermit.

“The continuous progress in the technical infrastructure development in Saudi Arabia such as wider implementation of Digital Identity and data privacy laws and data classification framework will accelerate the wider adoption of digital services extended by banks and Fintechs,” Nejoud Al Mulaik, Head of Saudi Fintech, told Arab News.

Amendments will become effective from the date of their publication, the statement on Saudi Stock Market (Tadawul) said.

South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip

South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip
Updated 50 min 10 sec ago

South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip

South Africa, Saudi Arabia seek to boost trade following pandemic dip
  • Saudi South African Business Council pledges to boost cooperation in infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and energy, tourism

JEDDAH: South Africa and Saudi Arabia are looking to boost trade between the two countries following a pandemic-hit year that saw imports from the Kingdom fall to a four-year low in 2020.

South African imports from Saudi Arabia slid to $2.69 billion in 2020 from $3.66 billion in 2019 and $5.41 billion in 2018, according to data from the UN Comtrade database. The vast majority of that was made up of oil and fuels ($2.27 billion or 84 percent in 2020), followed by fertilizers at $145.3 million and plastics at $124.5 million.

South Africa imports approximately 40 percent of its oil from Saudi Arabia, according to the EIA.

Far fewer goods went the other way, with Saudi Arabia importing $347.8 million from South Africa last year, down from $423.8 million in 2019 and $423.0 million in 2018.

The Saudi South African Business Council under the umbrella of the Federation of Saudi Chambers, held the Saudi South African business webinar on Thursday, co-organized with the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce.

The two countries have committed to strengthen their ties by working more closely in sectors such as infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and energy, tourism, and other areas.

“Despite the progress in our relations, we look forward to expanding the scope of our cooperation with South Africa in line with our respective capabilities,” said Chairman of the Saudi-South African Business Council Hisham Al-Amoudi. “The Saudi market has the capacity to host more South African investments, namely in mining, health care, small to medium enterprises (SMEs), agriculture and information technology, among others.”

Al-Amoudi said that a number of measures must be taken to achieve this, including activating the agreements and memorandum of understanding (MOUs) signed between the two countries, increasing activities of the Saudi South African Business Council, “developing programs that support our goals, and enhancing our overall dialogue on topics of mutual interest.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made a state visit to the Kingdom in 2018 to meet King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to assess relations, focusing primarily on strengthening economic linkages between South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and South Africa are both G20 countries, and the Crown Prince has met with the South African President on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina.

“Saudi Arabia is also a large investor in South Africa, especially in the area of renewable energy,” said Al-Amoudi.

“We seek to work with our South African friends to facilitate the access of Saudi products to the South African market, and enhance the Saudi-South African balance of trade,” he said. “I hope that these initiatives will elevate a strong relation to a higher level,” he added.


World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence

World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence
Updated 17 September 2021

World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence

World Economic Forum to return to Davos in January 2022 after two-year absence
  • The meeting will focus on accelerating stakeholder capitalism

ZURICH, Sept 16 : The World Economic Forum (WEF) is to take place in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos next year on Jan. 17-21, reverting to an in-person meeting of world and business leaders, organizers said on Thursday.
The meeting will focus on accelerating stakeholder capitalism, harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensuring a more inclusive future of work, WEF organizers said in a statement.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers last year to shift the WEF annual meeting to Singapore and then cancel it altogether, raising questions over whether the high-profile event would return to Switzerland at all.


Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO
Updated 17 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO

Saudi Arabia’s Unifonic focuses on profitability, IPO after Softbank, PIF deal — CEO
  • Unifonic plans to enter new markets, including Pakistan and Nigeria
  • CEO expects company to double in size every two years

RIYADH: Unifonic, the first Saudi startup to receive investment from SoftBank, would like to become profitable before listing its shares on a stock market, CEO Ahmed Hamdan said on Thursday.

“Over the next six months, we will have a bigger vision regarding the offering,” he said in an interview with Al Arabiya. The main criterion is to maximize the company’s profitability and the appropriate market in terms of the quality of the products we offer, and the appetite of investors in the public markets, he said without specifying which market Unifonic might list on.

Unifonic, which currently has offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Pakistan, plans to expand its customer engagement offering into new markets in the Middle East and Africa, including Nigeria, over the coming five years, he said.

Japan’s SoftBank and Sanabil Investments, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, led a $125 million Series B funding round for Unifonic, it said in an announcement this week.

SoftBank’s $30 billion Vision Fund 2 made its first investment in a UAE-based company in July when it led a $415 million Series C round in cloud kitchen Kitopi, pushing its valuation above the $1 billion mark that makes it a unicorn.

The investment will help Unifonic grow, according to Hamdan, who said the company plans to hire more than 1,000 employees to develop its expertise in cloud, artificial intelligence and data.

Since 2018, the company’s shareholders have doubled the value of their investments, among the best returns in venture capital, he said. It has quadrupled sales in the past three years, and the company will continue to achieve high growth rates, which requires capital injections from time to time, he said.

“We expect this rate of growth to continue during the next three years, with the volume of business doubling every two years,” he said.

Growth will be through direct investment or acquisition, Hamdan said.


Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase
Updated 17 September 2021

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase

Wataniya Insurance board recommends $53.3m capital increase
  • Proceeds to help boost solvency margin

RIYADH: Wataniya Insurance Company’s board of directors recommended on Thursday to increase the company’s capital through a SR200 million ($53.3 million) rights issue, according to a bourse filing.

The company plans to use the proceeds to support its future plans and increase its solvency margin, Wataniya said in a statement on Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul). An insurer’s solvency margin is the difference between its assets and insurance liabilities and is designed to prepare it for unforeseen claims.

The financial adviser for the offering will be announced once appointed, the company said.