Saudi startups raise $76m in the first quarter of 2021

Saudi startups raise $76m in the first quarter of 2021
Saudi Arabia recorded a 35 percent year-on-year increase in the number of investment deals in the technology startup sector in 2020. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 12 April 2021

Saudi startups raise $76m in the first quarter of 2021

Saudi startups raise $76m in the first quarter of 2021
  • Entrepreneurship platform Wamda says figure is a 137.5 percent increase on previous quarter
  • Nearly $400 million raised from 125 deals in the Middle East and North Africa

JEDDAH: Saudi startups raised $76 million in the first quarter of 2021, a 137.5 percent increase on the previous quarter’s fundraising total of $32 million.

Entrepreneurship platform Wamda said that $396 million was raised from 125 deals in the Middle East and North Africa in the first quarter of 2021. 

The UAE was the biggest market with 38 deals worth $256 million, while Egypt had 34 deals worth $22 million, and Saudi Arabia had 28 deals worth $76 million.

March boasted 43 deals worth $170 million, with agritech posting as the biggest sector with $50 million, followed by logistics ($37.5 million), food tech ($30.2 million), fintech ($26.5 million), mobility (10 million), and e-commerce ($8 million).

In the Kingdom, the number and value of deals increased dramatically quarter-on-quarter, rising 137 percent from the 13 deals worth $32 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Triska Hamid, editorial director of Wamda said: “The government’s push towards entrepreneurship is evident in the number of startups that have emerged in Saudi Arabia over the past few years. We are seeing more deal flow in the country and larger ticket sizes.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia recorded a 35 percent year-on-year increase in the number of investment deals in the technology startup sector. A study by data research platform Magnitt found that the Kingdom accounted for 18 percent of the 496 investment deals across the Middle East and North Africa last year.

Amal Dokhan, one of the Kingdom’s first female venture capitalists (VCs) and a partner at Californian venture capital firm 500 Startups, is confident that the Saudi market will continue to grow in 2021.

“What we are seeing now in 2021, the numbers will definitely increase when it comes to Saudi Arabia and the region as well. The reason is that last year, when it was not expected for things to increase, they actually turned out to be a positive year for many companies and startups, especially in fintech,” Dokhan told Arab News.

“The year has started with a positive sign for startups and VCs. Lots of international investors are looking into the Saudi market, so lots of prosperity I think is coming on this year and we are going to witness a good number of the deals as well,” she added.

In March, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu and Wa’ed, Saudi Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm, signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the growth of new startups and small and medium-sized enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s two largest industrial cities.

“The Saudi startup ecosystem remains strong in spite of — and because of — the challenges posed by COVID-19,” Wassim Basrawi, managing director of Wa’ed, told Arab News, adding: “Wa’ed announced major VC investments in the first quarter in five exciting, disruptive Saudi startups. Our Q2 pipeline is filling up quickly and we will soon be announcing new deals.”


Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles
Updated 8 min 54 sec ago

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company reported a more than doubling of net profit year over year in the first quarter as its financing costs fell.
First-quarter net profit was 40.7 million dirhams ($11.1 million), up from 16 million dirhams in the year earlier period, ADNH said in a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
Revenue fell to 224.7 million dirhams from 344.3 million dirhams, while costs dropped to 201.8 million dirhams from 294.1 million dirhams.
While financing costs fell to 9.5 million dirhams from 19 million dirhams, the big difference from a year ago was the 41.9 million dirhams settlement of a legal claim in Q1 2020 that was not repeated in 2021.
The legal claim related to construction of one of its hotels. The total settlement amount was 200 million dirhams against available accrual of 158 million dirhams, resulting in a loss of 42 million dirhams, ADNH said.
Profit from joint ventures, including ADNH Compass Middle East, was 44.3 million dirhams, up from 39.6 million dirhams a year earlier.
The company, which owns 12 hotels in the UAE, including two Radissons, a Sheraton, a Park Hyatt and a Ritz Carlton, ended the quarter with 89.5 million dirhams less cash or equivalents at 264.9 million dirhams.


Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor

Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor
Updated 9 min 35 sec ago

Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor

Dubai’s SHUAA sells 20% stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company to Japanese investor
  • MIPCO operates a power and desalination plant in Abu Dhabi
  • SHUAA invested in MIPCO in 2015

RIYADH: SHUAA Capital has sold its 20 percent equity stake in Mirfa International Power and Water Company (MIPCO), to Japan’s Sojitz Corporation (Sojitz).
MIPCO was established in 2014 under the Department of Energy’s privatization program.
The company developed and operates a power generation and seawater desalination plant in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, with a 1600MW net power capacity and a 52.5 MIGD net water capacity. SHUAA did not disclose the purchase price.
“In addition to acquiring shares in the project which has successfully achieved commercial operation, this transaction is also important for us from the perspective of establishing a business relationship with SHUAA which has a large presence in the financial sector in the Middle East,” said Masakazu Hashimoto, COO of Sojitz’s infrastructure and health care unit.
“Sojitz is aiming to continue and further expand its business in the Middle East,” he added.
Having originally invested in MIPCO in 2015 to support the development phase of the project, this divestment is in line with the group’s planned exit strategy, it said in a stock exchange filing.
MIPCO’s shareholders also include the Abu Dhabi National Energy Group (TAQA) and Engie, the French low carbon energy and services group, both of which will remain shareholders (with 60 percent and 20 percent stakes respectively).
Sojitz is a multinational trading and investment group, listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, with assets of about $21 billion across a number of sectors.
SHUAA has appointed Standard Chartered Bank as financial adviser on the transaction and Linklaters as legal adviser.


Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row

Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row
Updated 06 May 2021

Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row

Air Seychelles sets final terms in Etihad debt row
  • Etihad sold its stake in Air Seychelles to the government for one dollar last month

NAIROBI: State-owned Air Seychelles will not pay more than $20 million to holders of bonds worth $72 million, a government official told Reuters, even though creditors have threatened to wind the African airline up if they are not paid in full.
The standoff is the latest twist in broader efforts by creditors to recover $1.2 billion owed by Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and airlines it partly owned when the debt was issued in 2015 and 2016, such as Air Seychelles.
At the time, Etihad owned 40 percent of Air Seychelles and it was in a consortium along with the Gulf airline and other carriers that borrowed the money through special purpose vehicle EA Partners.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, Air Seychelles said it was struggling to honor its portion of the debt worth $71.5 million and it has been engaged in restructuring talks with a steering committee of creditors since July.
A senior government official from the Indian Ocean archipelago told Reuters it would not be able to offer bondholders more than $20 million to settle the debt.
“The $20 million which has been offered represents the upper limit with regards to the funding that Air Seychelles and/or the government of Seychelles can get approval for and successfully raise on the international market for settlement of the bond,” Patrick Payet, secretary of state for finance, said.
A committee of EA Partners creditors asked Air Seychelles last month to repay its debt, according to an EA Partners regulatory filing.
“Should Air Seychelles not comply ... the creditor will apply to the Supreme Court of Seychelles for an order that Air Seychelles be wound up,” the filing last month said.
The committee told Reuters this week it had rejected the $20 million offer but had not yet filed a winding-up petition to give the government a “grace period” to finalize a separate settlement with Etihad.
Etihad sold its stake in Air Seychelles to the government for one dollar last month and agreed to give it a 79 percent discount on the money it still owed the Gulf carrier, which is also about $72 million, Seychelles News Agency reported.
Creditors said it was unacceptable for Seychelles to offer financial investors a similar discount to the one it had received from Etihad, as the airline was a strategic shareholder.
Payet said that should creditors not accept the $20 million offer, the airline would have to consider other options, including insolvency and liquidation proceedings.
“It is the bondholders’ right to pursue legal options,” he said. “However, all our forecasts show in such an eventuality, the bondholders will recover significantly less than the $20 million currently on offer and it will take considerably longer to receive anything.”


KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery

KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery
Updated 06 May 2021

KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery

KSA property market shows signs of post-virus recovery
  • Resdiential mortgage growth supports sector
  • Retail stable despite upheaval across industry

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real estate market has shown the first signs of a post-pandemic recovery, according to a report from broker Knight Frank.
It said that the outlook for the Kingdom’s real estate market was improving, supported by growth in residential mortgages.
Faisal Durrani, head of Middle East Research at Knight Frank, said: “Like other global economies, the pandemic has driven a widespread economic slowdown across the Kingdom. However, improved business confidence during the closing months of 2020, underpinned by economic reforms linked to Vision 2030 and the rapid response to COVID-19, has helped to drive a turnaround in performance in all main segments of the real estate market.”
In the grade A office market, rents experienced fragmented performance in the Kingdom’s three main centers, with rents in Riyadh increasing marginally by 0.5 percent to SR1,465 ($390.67) per square meter during the first quarter, while in Jeddah rents fell 2.8 percent to SR1,008 per square meter.
In Dammam, grade A office rents declined 4.3 percent to just over SR900 per square meter in the first three months of 2021.
The recent decision to exempt real estate transactions from a 15 percent value-added tax (VAT) charge has helped to boost activity in the residential market.
“The overall improvement in business confidence and market sentiment has led to a surge in residential mortgage loans, which rose by 38 percent in the 12 months to the end of February. That has, in turn, materialized in the form of a marked increase in residential transactions across the country, with Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing a 25 percent and 34 percent increase in deal numbers over the last 12 months,” Durrani said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and retailers moving online, average vacancy rates in malls have remained stable. The market-wide vacancy rate in Riyadh increased by 1 percentage point in Q1 2021 to 16 percent.
Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest hotel construction pipeline, and the country’s supply is expected to increase by 61.1 percent over the next three years, the highest rate among the most 50 populated countries in the world, according to a report by hospitality data firm STR.
Durrani said: “The hospitality market has been somewhat of a bright spot. Despite continued weakness in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Dammam metropolitan area, these areas have experienced strong growth in both average daily room (ADR) rates, as well as revenue per available room.”
The resumption of the Umrah pilgrimage has underpinned performance in Jeddah’s hospitality market, where in the year to March 2021, ADRs grew by 18.7 percent, while occupancy decreased marginally by 2.2 percent.
Over this period, revenue per available room grew by 16.2 percent.


Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep

Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep
Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep

Saudi grocer Othaim sales dip a year on from panic buying supermarket sweep
  • VAT and school closures also hit performance
  • Global supermarket sector returns to normality

DUBAI: Saudi supermarket chain Abdullah Al Othaim Markets reported a 42 percent drop in first quarter profit, a year on from the early panic-buying days of the pandemic.
Net profit fell to SR57.7 million ($15.4 million) for the first three months of the year from almost SR100 million a year earlier, the company said in a Tadawul filing. Sales fell 11.9 percent over the same period to about SR2.1 billion.
The company said that the decline followed the “abnormal growth in retail sales as a result of high demand to buy groceries and food supplies,” following the coronavirus outbreak in the Kingdom last year. It also cited the closure of schools and an increase in value added tax as factors that weighed on its performance.
Supermarkets worldwide have benefited from a boom in grocery buying over the last year, especially at the start of the pandemic when supermarket shelves were stripped of essential items as consumers went in to panic buying mode. As restaurants and cafes closed their doors, many consumers compensated by buying more food to consume at home.
Now global supermarket chains are adjusting to the return of more normal consumer purchasing patterns as lockdowns are lifted and economies re-open.
Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts said on Wednesday that that while customers shopping more normally would impact sales growth this year, the costs of the crisis would also fall.
“Like our customers, we are all looking forward to things feeling more normal over the coming months,” he said.