Saudi Aramco signs new augmented reality deal with PIF-backed US startup Magic Leap

Saudi Aramco signs new augmented reality deal with PIF-backed US startup Magic Leap
Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap. (AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2021

Saudi Aramco signs new augmented reality deal with PIF-backed US startup Magic Leap

Saudi Aramco signs new augmented reality deal with PIF-backed US startup Magic Leap
  • Magic Leap’s technology has already proved useful during the pandemic in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and health

JEDDAH: Magic Leap, the US-based augmented reality startup backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund (PIF), has signed a collaboration with oil conglomerate Saudi Aramco, its CEO Peggy Johnson announced on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative (FII), the two-day event taking place this week in Riyadh, Johnson said: “We just announced a partnership with Saudi Aramco to work with them on using the technology for remote collaboration and 3D visualization.”

The technology can be extremely helpful in “bolstering the economy” post-coronavirus (COVID-19), Johnson continued. Similar to virtual reality (VR), the device allows a smooth exchange of content between users in different parts of the world.

“It’s very hard to build augmented reality; it’s not virtual reality. You’re actually placing digital content in the physical space around you,” she explained to FII delegates.

Magic Leap’s technology has already proved useful during the pandemic in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and health.

Johnson gave the example of a medical case of conjoined twins in California, where the device was used to train surgeons for the separation procedure.

While the CEO did not give any more details about Magic Leap’s agreement with Aramco, the American startup already has strong Saudi links, with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) announcing in 2018 that it was part of Series D equity funding in the company, with the investment valued at $400 million.

Johnson moved from Microsoft to Magic Leap during the pandemic. The executive spoke about her career shift and how she had only met some of her team virtually, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Workplace challenges were discussed in a separate FII session entitled “The new CEO playbook: How are leaders reinventing work for the post-COVID world?”

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) Vice Chairman and CEO Yousef Abdullah Al-Benyan said that speed, agility and effective communication were essential during these trying times.

“Before COVID-19, SABIC looked at a clear strategy for a seamless and engaged communication platform for its growth and competitive positions, which is why we invested heavily on digital mobility,” said Al-Benyan.

Consequently, the company’s transition to remote working was extremely seamless, carrying through 8,000 consecutive meetings for their agile platform since then.

With more than 33,000 employees around the globe, SABIC has had to pay attention to its employees’ well-being, socially, physically, mentally and financially, the executive said.

BNY Mellon CEO Todd Gibbons in the US said that the pandemic has made everyone turn more fluid when it comes to technology, but he can see the office experience changing with introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and voice-recognition.

“Ultimately, what’s not going to change is empathy. This experience has reinforced the importance of empathy around leaders recognizing what’s going on around them,” he said.


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 7 sec ago

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.


National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services
Updated 17 September 2021

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services

National Water Co. awards $95.4m contract to manage Riyadh water services
  • Contract awarded to Alkhorayef Group and France's Veolia
  • Restructuring of Saudi water sector almost complete

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company has awarded a seven-year contract to manage water services and environmental treatment in Riyadh to a consortium of Alkhorayef Water and Power Technologies and France’s Veolia, Argaam reported.

The SR358 million ($95.4 million) contract is tied to 14 main indicators, including improving and developing the customer experience, raising operational efficiency through cost savings and reducing water losses, and improving network management, according to a statement by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Management contracts are one of the main pillars to improve the sector and prepare it for full privatization, said National Water Company CEO Mohammed Al-Mowkley.

NWC has completed 92 percent of its project to restructure the 13 administrative regions into six sectors, and as of November 2021, the process will be complete when the northern sector has been created, he said.

Management contracts to improve the performance of the sector’s services will all have been awarded by the end of 2021, he said.

If the targets are achieved after the third year of the contract, the National Water Company will be able to move directly to the stage of concession contracts, in which the private sector will take full responsibility for water services, and not wait until the seven years are over, he said.


Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap

Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap
Updated 16 September 2021

Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap

Oil still hovers above $70 with US shut-in output: Market wrap
  • Brent crude was down 54 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $74.92 per barrel, while WTI slipped by 67 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $71.94

RIYADH: Oil prices are still trading at above $70 even as OPEC+ is increasing production and data showed today that Saudi oil exports are on the rise, due to the impact of hurricanes Nicholas and Ida on US offshore production.

Brent crude was down 54 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $74.92 per barrel, while WTI slipped by 67 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $71.94 after climbing to the highest since Aug. 2 on Wednesday.

US Gulf energy companies have been able to restore pipeline service and electricity quickly after Hurricane Nicholas passed through Texas early this week, allowing them to focus on efforts to repair the damage caused weeks earlier by Hurricane Ida.

Qatar Petroleum set official prices for the sale of Al-Shaheen crude, during November, at the lowest price premium in 5 months.

Sale prices for Qatari crude shipments came next November with an average premium of $1.53 a barrel to Dubai prices. 

Libya

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said Thursday that exports had resumed from several oil terminals in the country's east after young protesters demanding jobs ended blockades there.

"Announcing the resumption of crude oil export operations at the ports of Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf after a group of young people ended their sit-in inside the ports, which lasted for days," Libya's National Oil Corporation NOC said in a statement.

Russian ESPO oil prices at 21-month high

A rebound in China's crude demand has pushed up prices of a Russian grade popular with Chinese independent refiners to the highest in 21 months, several trade sources said on Thursday.

Russia's Surgutneftegaz sold three cargoes of ESPO crude loading in November at premiums of $4.10-$4.20 a barrel to Dubai quotes, the sources said, the highest since January 2020.

Malaysia

Exports of Malaysia's flagship crude oil Kimanis will fall in October and November following a production issue at an offshore oilfield operated by Royal Dutch Shell, three sources with knowledge of the matter said to Reuters.

Petroleum Brunei, one of the stakeholders, cancelled a tender to sell a Kimanis crude cargo that was supposed to load in early November because of the problem, one of the sources told the agency.


TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down

TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down
Updated 16 September 2021

TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down

TASI ends the week with slight increase, Nomu edges down
  • Shares of 81 companies increased, while those of 105 companies declined

RIYADH: The Saudi stocks index, TASI, ended the last trading of the week with an increase of 11.13 points, or 0.10 percent, and closed at 11,422.11 points.

The parallel market index, Nomu, fell today, by 189.35 points, or 0.74 percent, it closed at 25,369.09 points.

Liquidity in Nomu amounted to about 42.6 million riyals,  328.1 million shares were traded , in 1460 thousand deals .

Liquidity in the main market TASI amounted to about 10.2 billion riyals, which is the highest in more than two months, 223.1 million shares were traded, in 300 thousand deals.

Shares of 81 companies increased, while those of 105 companies declined.

Nine of the 21 market sectors rose, led by public utilities by 1.3 percent, capital goods by 1.1 percent, and food retailing by 0.7 percent, while the remaining 12 sectors fell, led by media and entertainment by 4.5 percent, pharmaceuticals by 1.4 percent, communications by 1.2 percent, and investment, finance, and insurance by 0.8 percent.

The biggest gainers on Thursday were Textile with 5.6 percent increase, PCI with 4.6 percent, SABIC Agri-Nutrients with 4.3 percent, Fitness Time with 4.2 percent, and Chemanol with 3.6 percent.

The biggest losers were research and media by 4.8 percent, Al-Naqoul and the Kingdom by 4.4 percent, Bupa by 3.7 percent, food development by 2.4 percent, construction by 2.2 percent, and Mobily by 1.9 percent.

Theeb Rent a Car Company announced Thursday the distribution of SR22 million as interim cash dividends to shareholders for the first half of 2021.