Proper tea: Mideast investors snap up British homes in 2021

Proper tea: Mideast investors snap up British homes in 2021
Construction cranes are pictured near Tower Bridge in London at sunrise on January 18, 2017. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 May 2021

Proper tea: Mideast investors snap up British homes in 2021

Proper tea: Mideast investors snap up British homes in 2021
  • Figures from Knight Frank found that over the last decade (2010-2020), GCC states, excluding Oman, together invested £8 billion into London’s office market, £1.2 billion of that since 2018

DUBAI: Middle Eastern investors are making a return to the British property market, as the UK begins to emerge from the lockdown restrictions as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to the latest data compiled by global property consultancy Knight Frank, investors from the Middle East made up 16 percent of all sales to overseas buyers in the first three months of this year, compared to less than 10 percent during the second and third quarters of 2020.

While this is the highest level of Middle Eastern interest since the pandemic began last summer, the report said the total numbers were still lower than pre-pandemic levels.

The figures showed that investors from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states ranked third after investors from Asia (18 percent) and Europe (59 percent).

“International demand for London property has been building over the last 12 months despite global travel restrictions,” Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank, said in a statement.

“It has led to frustration on the part of some prospective buyers, particularly against the backdrop of the UK’s successful vaccination programme. Once travel rules are relaxed, we expect normal service to resume, including London’s long-standing relationship with buyers from the Middle East.”

Despite lower-than-normal levels of investment from GCC investors, Knight Frank’s Global Wealth Ambassador to the Middle East, who works closely with the region’s high net worth individuals and family offices, has completed almost £90 million ($125 million) worth of sales since Britain went into lockdown.

Knight Frank’s Middle East Global Wealth Ambassador Moreas Madani said: “There is a particularly high demand from GCC investors for best-in-class new build projects in and around Mayfair.

“We are seeing steady interest from the Middle East, however, the biggest challenge remains restrictions on international travel. As this eases, and post-Ramadan, we are expecting to see more activity from the region as pent-up demand is released.”

Gabriel York, co-CEO of Lodha UK, the developer behind the No.1 Grosvenor Square project — the former US Embassy and the Canadian High Commission — said he had also seen an uptick in demand from the region.

“We have seen a steady increase in enquiries from prospective purchasers from the Middle East since the start of the new year, and we expect this to continue through the summer as London re-opens and international travel resumes,” he said.

In February, Arab News reported that Arab investors had invested £1.2 billion in London’s office real estate market since 2018, with Saudi Arabia accounting for £103 million, according to industry data.

Figures from Knight Frank found that over the last decade (2010-2020), GCC states, excluding Oman, together invested £8 billion into London’s office market, £1.2 billion of that since 2018.

Investors from the UAE have been the most active since 2018, injecting £531 million into the British capital, followed by investors from Qatar (£435 million), Kuwait (£120 million), Saudi Arabia (£103 million) and Bahrain (£8.8 million).

One of the key mega projects in the UK that has seen interest from the region has been The London Resort, a $2.6-billion, high-profile theme park development backed by Kuwaiti money.

“Generally speaking, those whom we’ve spoken to have been of Middle Eastern origin,” James Hayward, investment director at London-based investment brokerage Farrbury Capital Partners, told Arab News in December.

“We market globally ... We still have healthy investment in the UK, although I’d also say those who invest from the UK have been predominantly of Middle Eastern descent. It’s very, very popular in this neck of the woods. So that’s predominantly where we’re seeing investment coming from.”

The London Resort was launched in October 2012 by the London Resort Co. Holdings, and is backed by the Kuwaiti European Holding Group.

The theme park will be the first major project of its kind in Europe since Disneyland Paris opened in 1992.

Located on a 535-acre site on Kent’s Swanscombe peninsula, 17 minutes on the train from central London, it has struck content agreements with international media partners including the BBC, ITV Studios and Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures.

The deals will see the partners’ media brands transformed into theme park rides and attractions. The first phase of the project is due to open in 2024.


Saudi Arabia approves international central securities depositories instructions

Saudi Arabia approves international central securities depositories instructions
Updated 35 min 12 sec ago

Saudi Arabia approves international central securities depositories instructions

Saudi Arabia approves international central securities depositories instructions
  • New instructions are effective May 6

RIYADH: Saudi Capital Market Authority announced on Thursday the approval of International Central Securities Depositories Instructions by the Securities Depository Center Company (Edaa), effective May 6, 2021.

The instructions regulate the linkage application process and its conditions, related Depository Center accounts, and additional general provisions, Edaa said in a filing.

The development is consistent with Saudi Vision 2030, which includes a program to create a regulatory environment in keeping with international best practices and to increase Saudi capital markets’ attractiveness to foreign investors.


Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2

Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2
Updated 07 May 2021

Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2

Abu Dhabi's IHC to list three subsidiaries on ADX in Q2
  • Emirates Stallion Group, Al Seer Marine to IPO on ADX Second Market
  • IHC took stakes in SpaceX and Oxford Nanopore in past year

ABU DHABI: Three subsidiaries of International Holding Company (IHC) will be listed on Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange’s (ADX) Second Market in the second quarter of 2021, the company said in a filing on Thursday.

Real estate company Emirates Stallion Group (ESG), Al Seer Marine Supplies & Equipment Co. and an as yet unnamed third company will be listed, IHC said.

IHC, one of Abu Dhabi’s largest conglomerates is chaired by HH Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, national security adviser to the UAE. Last year it listed Palm Sports, Easylease and Zee Stores on ADX’s Second Market.

ESG, founded in 2006, owns a diversified portfolio of businesses across engineering and construction, real estate investment, development and management. It had assets of 394 million dirhams ($107 million) as of the end of 2020 and over 1,000 employees, according to IHC.

Al Seer Marine, which provides services including yacht management, repair and maintenance, and boat building, was founded in 2002 and acquired by IHC in April 2020. It had assets of 717.8 million dirhams as at the end of 2020, IHC said.

Over the past six months, IHC and its subsidiaries have made investments in UK-based DNA sequencing firm Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Quantlase Lab and Tamouh Healthcare, which recently developed the concept of Containerized Aid for Respiratory Emergencies.

In 2020, it took a stake in Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX, launched a partnership with DAL Group for a significant agricultural development in Sudan, and helped marketing consultancy Multiply make an investment in New York data-driven marketing firm YieldMissouri

IHC reported on Wednesday first-quarter net profit of $408 million.


Saudi-based B2B platforms Sary and Retailo raise combined $37.2m

Saudi-based B2B platforms Sary and Retailo raise combined $37.2m
Updated 34 min 9 sec ago

Saudi-based B2B platforms Sary and Retailo raise combined $37.2m

Saudi-based B2B platforms Sary and Retailo raise combined $37.2m
  • Sary raised $30.5 million in a Series B round led by VentureSouq
  • Retailo secured $6.7 million in a seed round led by Shorooq Partners

RIYADH: Two competing Saudi business-to-business online marketplaces have announced fundraising, a further sign of the growing interest in the region’s startups.

Sary raised $30.5 million in a Series B round led by VentureSouq and joined by new investors US-based Rocketship.vc and STV, Sary said in a press release. Existing shareholders Ra’ed Ventures, MSA Capital and Derayah also contributed to the funding round.

Riyadh-based Retailo raised $6.7 million in a seed round led by existing investor Shorooq Partners and UK private equity shop Abercross Holdings, Retailo said a separate press release. Retailo, founded by former Careem executives, has now raised $9 million after being in operation for just nine months.

While Sary is the more mature business having being founded in 2018, both companies offer a platform to connect small businesses with wholesalers and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.

Sary plans to use the funds to grow geographically and expands the services it offers including credit provision.

“Core to VentureSouq’s overall fintech thesis is the emerging trend of embedded financial services,” VentureSouq Co-Founder and General Partner Suneel Gokhale said in the press release. “In Sary’s case, we see this move into credit as directly contributing to top-line growth, diversifying revenue streams, and improving unit economics for a strong, proven vertical-specific technology company.”

A rush to fund digital startups in the Middle East risks creating a valuation bubble, Fadi Ghandour, CEO of venture-capital investor Wamda, said last month.

“Since the pandemic the whole digital ecosystem which we were predicting to happen within ten years actually happened within a couple of months, so everything digital is growing exponentially,” he told Bloomberg Television. “Everything that is digital is exploding. So, lots of new money and lots of new startups.”

“There is so much new money coming into the market,” he said. “Sovereign wealth funds are starting to invest, and they are seeding a lot of VCs and so I think yes there is a little bit of a valuation bubble.”

Last month, 44 startups across the Middle East and North Africa raised more than $175 million, up $5 million from March, according to data from Wamda.

The biggest deal was by Riyadh-headquartered buy now pay later platform Tamara, which raised $110 million in a Series A round led by leading global payment processor Checkout.com. Helped by that transaction, Saudi Arabia topped the list in terms of number and value of startup investments for the first time.


Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April

Saudi financial liquidity rises to record at end of April
  • Money supply increased 1 percent in the week to SR2.199 trillion

RIYADH: Saudi liquidity reached its highest level ever at the end of last week, April 29th, at SR2.199 trillion ($586.2 billion), compared with SR2.177 trillion a week earlier.

Money supply increased by 1 percent during the week, and 2.3 percent since the end of last year, Al Eqtisadiah reported, citing Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority data.

Money supply has been above SR2 trillion since May 7, 2020.


Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic

Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in 2020 amid pandemic
  • Written premiums rose to SR38.78 billion
  • Net profit increased 61.1 percent

RIYADH: The Saudi insurance sector grew 2.3 percent in terms of written premiums in 2020, to SR38.78 billion ($10.3 billion), according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s (SAMA) 14th annual report on the Saudi insurance market, issued on Thursday.

Energy and accident & liability insurance classes showed notable increases in written premiums with penetration of the sector increasing from 1.3 percent in 2019 to 1.5 percent in 2020.

In terms of underwriting performance, the overall loss ratio improved to 77.5 percent.

Insurance net profit (after zakat and tax) increased by 61.1 percent compared to the previous year’s corresponding figure, thereby improving the return-on-assets and return-on-equity ratios.

The SAMA report also noted that the overall Saudization ratio increased from 74 percent in 2019 to 75 percent in 2020.