AS IT HAPPENED: Future Investment Initiative - Day Two

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in a virtual session in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in a virtual session in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talking about the development of Riyadh in a conversation with former Italian PM Matteo Renzi. (Screenshot: Future Investment Initiative)
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talking earlier about the development of Riyadh in a conversation with former Italian PM Matteo Renzi. (Screenshot: Future Investment Initiative)
A Saudi man walks past a logo of the Future Investment Initiative ahead of the opening ceremony of the fourth annual conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 27, 2021. (Reuters)
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A Saudi man walks past a logo of the Future Investment Initiative ahead of the opening ceremony of the fourth annual conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 27, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 January 2021

AS IT HAPPENED: Future Investment Initiative - Day Two

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in a virtual session in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
  • Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has conversation with Italy’s Matteo Renzi
  • Announced plans to accelerate Riyadh’s growth to join ranks of global top 10 city economies

LONDON/RIYADH: The second day of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) starts on Thursday in Riyadh, with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holding a conversation with former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi to begin the day's agenda.

The fourth edition of the forum opened on Wednesday with panels addressing how to rethink the future of the global economy around the theme “The Neo-Renaissance” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speakers discussed how investment can inspire an economic rethink and how it could support the energy sector to power a post-COVID-19 crisis recovery. They also discussed ways to re-imagine a new era of global sports and entertainment.

Follow day two of the event live below (All times GMT):

18:45 - And that brings an end to coverage of this edition of the forum, with its theme of Neo Renaissance and its many discussions, brought to a close by which have been brought to a close by FII Institute's Rakan Tarabzoni. We hope you enjoyed Arab News' coverage. See you in October for the fifth edition!

18:30 - ICYMI: The FII on Wednesday signed a number of major agreements, including a partnership aimed at protecting over 1.2 billion people from counterfeit and illicit trade in Africa.

Addressing a press conference on the second day of the fourth FII forum, Richard Attias, CEO of the institute, announced the three initiatives. READ MORE HERE.

18:20 - Princess Reema, Kingdom's ambassador to the US, is back for the final panel session of the day. This time, she is discussing a panel titled “Redefining leadership for the post-COVID era: How to inspire a 21st century economic renaissance,” along with former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

18:00 - Given the broader economic contraction, what is the pipeline for VC investment and what shifts are necessary to capitalize on the acceleration of digital transformation? The penultimate panel of the final day will discuss how booming technology stocks and rapid digitization across industries have driven a V-shaped recovery for VC.

Moderator: Nadira Tudor, International Broadcaster

•Rajeev Misra, CEO, SoftBank Investment Advisers, UK

• Jack Selby, Managing Director, Thiel Capital, US

• Christine Tsai, CEO and Founder, 500 Startups, US 

• Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital, China

17:40 - ICYMI: In order to achieve viable technological solutions for the future, venture capitalists need to overcome the need for immediate financial return and focus on long-term goals, according to speakers at FII.

Deep technology and solutions for the future that can cope with “feeding nine billion people, climate refugees and habitat provision” are seemingly within reach, but they will take time to accomplish, Interstellar Lab founder and CEO, Barbara Belvisi told delegates. READ MORE HERE.

17:30 - Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund launched on Thursday the Cruise Saudi Company, which aims to establish and develop the cruise industry in Saudi Arabia, enhance the Kingdom's efforts to become a tourist destination on the international cruise map, and develop the tourism sector in line with Saudi Vision 2030. READ MORE HERE.

17:15 - With 2020 becoming the year of biotechnology, the next panel ponders how the rapid development of several COVID-19 vaccines has changed, and will continue to change, the global healthcare industry. 

Having revolutionized everything from agriculture to energy to medicine, biotech firms traditionally incur high risks, require strict oversight and suffer from slow timelines before delivering a return on financial investments — but 2020 reinvigorated the sector, as the panel discuss.

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17:00 - ICYMI: The growing attraction of Riyadh as an economic, financial and investment hub has been underlined by the decision of 24 multinational companies to establish regional headquarters in the Saudi capital. The companies - including such heavyweights as PepsiCo, Schlumberger, Bechtel and Boston Scientific - announced their plans on the second day of the Future Investment Initiative (FII). In a sign of the growing appeal of Riyadh as a consumer hub, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons will also set up there.

The news came after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced ambitious plans to accelerate the city’s growth to join the ranks of the top 10 city economies in the world and double the size of its population by 2030. READ MORE HERE.

16:45 - Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, is chairing a panel on the future of education and why investment in education technology will help not just students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic today, but also students in developing nations in the future — helping them become “global students.”

16:35 - The GCC is witnessing a serious change, Saudi Minister of Finance, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, said, adding: “We’re in a very healthy competition. We are complementing each other and we are trying at you to build on.”

“Diversification for us is a win-win. I’m helping the economy to grow that will then basically grow the tax base, which means more revenues to the government that would enable it to provide better services to the people and citizens of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Jadaan said. READ MORE HERE.

16:25 - ICYMI: Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, could launch a second offering of shares to follow the historic initial public offering of 2019, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Future Investment Initiative (FII) gathering.

“This will yield a cash flow transferred to the Pubic Investment Fund (PIF) to be reinvested domestically and internationally for the benefit of Saudi citizens,” the Crown Prince said. READ MORE HERE.

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16:10 - ICYMI: Major issues related to health care, climate change, and education could be resolved through the appliance of advanced machine technology, delegates at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit were told. READ MORE HERE.

16:00 - Arab News columnist Roxana Mohammadian-Molina heads up the next panel, talking about the revolution in financial technology (or FinTech) and how its development has been fast-tracked by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read her opinion piece on Saudi Arabia's FinTech development below.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Moderator: Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer, Blend Network, UK

• Bob Diamond, Founding Partner and CEO, Atlas Merchant Capital, US

• Steve Jacobs, Managing Partner and CEO, BTG Pactual UK, 

• Tayo Oviosu, Founder and Group CEO, Paga, Nigeria

• Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and CEO, Paytm, India

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15:30: Social distancing and work from home protocols have accelerated digital transformation and will permanently reform workspaces and business models. So, how can investors capitalize on the warp speed of digital transformation and how can CEOs mobilize quickly enough to ensure their companies are not left behind? Our next panel is answering those questions.

Moderator: Edie Lush, Executive Editor, Hub Culture

• Marc Ganzi, President and CEO, Colony Capital, US

• Faraz Khalid, CEO, Noon, UAE

• Jacob Mullins, Managing Director, Shasta Ventures, US 

• Lu Zhang, Founder and Managing Partner, Fusion Fund, US

15:15 - We are now listening to a conversation about the need for infrastructure investment, but also investment in the global digital ecosystem, for progress in the 21st century, with executives from Emaar, Hyperloop-One and Bechtel Group.

 

 

15:00 - ICYMI: During his discussion with former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman explained how Public Investment Fund assets will increase over the next decade as the Kingdom moves forward with its development goals. WATCH BELOW:

 

14:40 - The next panel discusses a roadmap of new global environmental, social and governane (ESG) standards that incorporate the realities and limitations of emerging markets and encourage sustainable developments around the world. Panelists below:

Moderator: Cyba Audi, Senior News Anchor, Asharq News

• Eng. Khalid Abdullah Al-Hussan, CEO, Tadawul, Saudi Arabia (pictured below)

• Loh Boon Chye, CEO, Singapore Exchange, Singapore

• Sherif Foda, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO, NESR, Saudi Arabia 

• Scott Minerd, Chairman of Investments and Global CIO, Guggenheim Partners, US

14:30 - ICYMI: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talking earlier about the development of Riyadh in a conversation with former Italian PM Matteo Renzi. The crown prince explained how the Saudi capital will be transformed over the next decade, and how it will lead the transformation of the Kingdom as a whole. WATCH CLIPS BELOW:

 

 

14:15 - We have a string of short, quick-fire sessions for the next segment of the day. In the first one, Erin Burnett, host of of OutFront, CNN talks to James P. Gorman, Chairman and CEO at Morgan Stanley.

Then we have FII CEO, Richard Attias, back on stage talking to Bruno Le Maire, the French minister of Economy, Finance and Recovery.

14:00 - What are the investment opportunities presented by the new generation of ‘technology for good’ ventures? That's the topic of discussion up next with Barbara Belvisi, Founder/CEO of Interstellar Lab who is in discussion with Anthony Berkley, Head of ACT & Investments.

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13:30 - Following on from the crown prince's comments about the strategy for Riyadh going into 2030, Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Investment, and Fahd Al-Rasheed, President of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City are talking about what the future of the city holds with FII CEO Richard Attias.

And during the session, 20 companies signed MoUs to boost investment for the city of Riyadh as part of its strategy for the next decade. 

13:00 - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has a discussion with former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi about how the Kingdom is looking to further investment to achieve its Vision 2030 goals. The crown prince also spoke about strategies to turn Riyadh into one of the world's top-10 cities for infrastructure and services.

12:45 - We have kicked off with day two, and after a look back at day one’s action, we have former prime minister of Australia Kevin Rudd talking about how world leaders can realize the mandates offered during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency.

12:25 - Elsewhere on day one, Usain Bolt made a brief appearance during the discussion on investment in the sport industry, you can find out what he said here.

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12:15 - Saudi Arabia will be doing more than many Western countries to tackle climate change by the end of the decade, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (pictured below), the Kingdom’s energy minister, told a panel of energy leaders on day one. READ MORE HERE.

And to back that claim up, Saudi Aramco's Amin Nasser said the firm had been taking advantage of accelerated technology to build its reliability in the market as well as decreasing carbon emissions. READ MORE HERE.

12:00 - It was an intense day of discussions on Wednesday as the FII kicked off virtually, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to catch up on what happened on day one, click here.

 


EU rubber stamps S&P Global deal to buy IHS Markit

EU rubber stamps S&P Global deal to buy IHS Markit
Getty Images
Updated 10 sec ago

EU rubber stamps S&P Global deal to buy IHS Markit

EU rubber stamps S&P Global deal to buy IHS Markit
  • The companies said Friday they now expect to close the deal in the first quarter of next year

S&P Global Inc. won European Union approval to buy IHS Markit Ltd. after agreeing to sell off commodity price assessment and financial data businesses, Bloomberg reported.

The divestments removed “problematic overlaps” that could have “limited customers’ access to some competitive and reliable data which is essential to ensure fairness of physical trades and financial markets,” the European Commission said in an emailed press release last Friday.

The deal, initially valued at about $39 billion in stock, marries S&P, one of the most famous names in financial markets, with a research company that supplies forecasts to most of the world’s biggest companies.

“S&P Global and IHS Markit expect the proposed remedies to be sufficient to satisfy global regulators, the companies said.

 The companies said Friday they now expect to close the deal in the first quarter of next year.

The deal has sailed past the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority regulators, who also said they will clear the deal if concerns are addressed.


Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash

Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash
Updated 4 min 56 sec ago

Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash

Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash
  • SAMA is one of the first central banks in the G20 countries to experience distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies through the "Aber" digital currency project.
  • The government wants to boost e-payments to 70 percent of total transactions by 2030, the central bank said, as it has no intention of completely phasing out banknotes. 

CAIRO: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) is still examining some emerging technologies, including distributed ledgers and blockchain, before it makes any decision, according to a report from Al Eqtisadiah.

SAMA is one of the first central banks in the G20 countries to experience distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies through the "Aber" digital currency project.

These efforts are part of the central bank’s push to a less cash-dependent society, as outlined under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The government wants to boost e-payments to 70 percent of total transactions by 2030, the central bank said, as it has no intention of completely phasing out banknotes. 

SAMA is optimistic it would achieve this goal five years earlier than the 2030 target.


UAE's ADNOC to split water treatment project; costs double to $5bn: CNBC Arabia

UAE's ADNOC to split water treatment project; costs double to $5bn: CNBC Arabia
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 17 min 7 sec ago

UAE's ADNOC to split water treatment project; costs double to $5bn: CNBC Arabia

UAE's ADNOC to split water treatment project; costs double to $5bn: CNBC Arabia
  • The initial plan included an evaluation of the entire project at a projected cost of $2.5 billion

RIYADH: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is to divide a sea water treatment project into two separate projects, with costs set to more than double, to about $5 billion, two sources told CNBC Arabia.

The two stations will be developed in two new locations in Al Mirfa and Al Nouf areas, west of Abu Dhabi city. The first phase is expected to start later this year, the sources said. 

Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Group (SMBC) and Alderbrook will be the advisors.

The initial plan included an evaluation of the entire project at a projected cost of $2.5 billion, but the spiralling costs forced a rethink into dividing it into two projects, the sources said.

ADNOC announced last March that it would include the development, financing, construction, operation, maintenance and ownership of two new independent seawater filtration plants with a full treatment capacity of about 210 million gallons per day.

The project also includes the construction of pumping stations and pipelines necessary to transport treated water to the onshore oil fields, which requires a new infrastructure of pipelines with a length of about 450 km, according to the company's official website.


China's debt-ridden Evergrande resumes work on more than 10 property projects

China's debt-ridden Evergrande resumes work on more than 10 property projects
The China Evergrande Centre in Wanchai. Getty Images
Updated 32 min 48 sec ago

China's debt-ridden Evergrande resumes work on more than 10 property projects

China's debt-ridden Evergrande resumes work on more than 10 property projects
  • China's second-largest property developer last month also promised potential buyers it will complete building of their homes

China Evergrande Group said on Sunday it had resumed work on more than 10 projects in six cities including Shenzhen - a statement that comes after it appeared to avert default with a last-minute bond coupon payment last week.


Evergrande, deep in crisis with more than $300 billion in liabilities, has not disclosed how many of its 1,300 real estate projects across China it has had to halt work on.


The company said on Aug. 31 that some projects were suspended because of delays in payment to suppliers and contractors and it was negotiating to resume building.


On Sunday, it said in a post on its Wechat account that some of the projects it had resumed work on had entered the interior decoration stage while other buildings had recently finished construction.


Evergrande added that its efforts to guarantee construction would shore up market confidence and included several photos of construction workers on different projects, stamped with the time and date.


China's second-largest property developer last month also promised potential buyers it will complete building of their homes and said that work on one of the world's biggest soccer stadiums in the southern city of Guangzhou was proceeding as planned.


Last week's move to pay $83.5 million in interest on a U.S. dollar bond has bought Evergrande another week to wrestle with a debt crisis looming over the world's second-biggest economy.


Highlighting the stresses on its core business, Evergrande also announced on Friday plans to give future priority to its electric vehicles business over real estate.


Evergrande's woes have reverberated across the $5 trillion Chinese property sector, which accounts for a quarter of the economy by some metrics, with a string of default announcements, rating downgrades and slumping corporate bonds.


Its debt crisis is also being widely watched by global financial markets concerned about broader contagion. 


Jordanian company dives into Arabic mobile games market

Jordanian company dives into Arabic mobile games market
Hussam Hammo, founder and CEO of Tamatem, speaks during an interview at his office in the capital Amman in September. Getty Images
Updated 42 min 47 sec ago

Jordanian company dives into Arabic mobile games market

Jordanian company dives into Arabic mobile games market
  • With offices now in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Tamatem has published more than 50 mobile games

Its logo is a tomato, not an apple, but in just eight years Jordanian company Tamatem has already bitten a chunk out of the lucrative market for Arabic mobile games.


"Less than one percent of internet content is in Arabic, even though there are 400 million Arab users," said the company's founder and CEO Hussam Hammo.


"There is a very big gap in this market that we are trying to fill," added the 38-year-old entrepreneur, sitting in his elegant Amman offices.


Hamo founded Tamatem - which means tomato - in 2013 and it was the first Arab company to win investment from the "500 Startups" programme based in Silicon Valley, California.


Eight years on the company has grown to about 80 staff who convert mobile phone games into Arabic, also adapting content to fit Arab culture.


"Language was a barrier to mobile games growth" in the region, said Nour Khrais, founder and chief executive of games developer Maysalward.


"The Arabic language connects (the player) emotionally."


With offices now in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Tamatem has published more than 50 mobile games, which have been downloaded more than 100 million times on Apple and Google Play stores.


"Seventy percent of smartphone users in the Arab world have set their phones in Arabic, which means they like to use content in their mother language," said Hammo.


"Sadly when you search in English for a game in app stores you will find millions of games, but when you search in Arabic there are only a few thousand," he added.


But competition is fierce, and Khrais said the Middle East and North Africa region was "the largest growth region in the world in the field of electronic games".


Market analysts Mordor Intelligence said the global gaming market in 2020 was valued at $174 billion, and was expected to reach $314 billion in 2026.


Tamatem, which has partnerships with companies in the US, China, France, South Korea, Bulgaria and Croatia, converts games by replacing characters' voices and names, adapting music and clothing, adding Muslim holidays like Ramadan and even changing car licence plates.


"We don't only do translation, we do the most important thing which is educating by making the content relevant to the Arab culture," said chief operating officer Eyad Al Basheer.


"Hollywood Story" from Nanobit.com, in which players can become movie stars, strut the red carpet, hang out with fans and even shoot blockbusters, was renamed "Malekat al Moda" -- or "Queen of Fashion".


Instead of locations in New York and Los Angeles, the avatars travel between Dubai, Beirut and Cairo, in an Arabic game which has now been downloaded more than 15 million times.


Strategy multiplayer and civilisation-building game "Clash of Empire" from developer Leme Games launched its Arabic version "Tahadi Al-Molouk" or "Challenge of Kings" this year.

To fit Arab audiences, the figure of the notorious crusader Richard the Lionheart has been replaced by legendary dynastic Muslim leader, Salah al-Din al-Ayubi.


One of the company's biggest hits is "Shake the Metal" which taps into the popular sport of drifting. Featuring car models beloved in the Arab world, it has now been downloaded five million times.


The most popular of Tamatem's Arabic mobile games however, is "VIP Belote", which is based on the French card game and has been downloaded more than 20 million times.


In a 2019 report by the World Economic Forum, Tamatem was chosen as one of the best 100 Arabic companies "shaping the fourth industrial revolution".


And the Covid-19 pandemic has proved a boon, with the number of mobile gamers soaring by 150 percent, Hammo said.


"Tamatem made games easier, and we understand things that we didn't understand before, because it was in English," said player Khader Hamid, a 28-year-old civil engineer.


Mona Rummaneh, a 30-year-old working in e-marketing, said Arabic games left her "confident that all the content is appropriate for our culture and morals".


She recalled how after the Beirut port explosion in August 2020, she and other gamers voiced their solidarity with Lebanese players.
"So it is more than just a game," she said.