Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm boosts investment in drone operator

Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm boosts investment in drone operator
The firm, based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), north of Jeddah, offers a range of drone services. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 June 2021

Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm boosts investment in drone operator

Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm boosts investment in drone operator
  • Wa’ed’s first investment in FalconViz came in 2016, and the new funding will help the company grow in Europe, the US, and Africa

RIYADH: The entrepreneurship arm of Saudi Aramco has invested a further $500,000 in a Saudi drone operator to help scale its operations to expand overseas, it was announced on Wednesday.

Wa’ed’s first investment in FalconViz came in 2016, and the new funding will help the company grow in Europe, the US, and Africa.

The firm, based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), north of Jeddah, offers a range of drone services, including 3-D surveying and mapping, inspections, construction monitoring, and data visualization.

Its drones have multiple uses including for land surveying, mining, urban development, and cultural heritage assessments. FalconViz’s clients include BCG, HSBC, Neom, and the Saudi Ministry of Culture. Its drones were also used by the city of Jeddah to survey 250,000 square meters of the historic Al-Balad Old Town neighborhood to support the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site application.

Mohamed Shalaby, FalconViz’s co-founder and vice president of business development, said the Wa’ed investment was “a welcome injection of funds and confidence in our offerings and business strategy. This will enable us to keep investing in our people, growing our services, and expanding our global presence across different sectors.”

Salman T. Jaffrey, the chief investment officer of Wa’ed Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wa’ed, said: “It’s great to see FalconViz flying high. To me, it’s gratifying to see one of our earliest venture capital investments commercialize its research technologies and grow globally.”

Wassim Basrawi, managing director at Wa’ed, said: “FalconViz is a perfect example of a Saudi startup identifying and filling a market gap by delivering innovative services.”

Founded in 2014, FalconViz currently has 24 employees and is licensed by the General Authority of Civil Aviation. Wa’ed was established by Saudi Aramco in 2011 to offer loan financing activities to entrepreneurs, while its Wa’ed Ventures VC arm oversees a $200 million investment fund and a portfolio of more than 30 Saudi-based companies.

In April, Wa’ed signed a collaboration agreement with the Falak Investment Hub to help drive venture capital investment in the Kingdom. Falak is a hybrid firm between a startup accelerator, co-working space, angel network, and an investment company targeting regional tech startups focusing on Saudi Arabia.

Founded in 2018 by female entrepreneur Adwa Al-Dakheel, Falak’s portfolio of startups has generated combined revenues of more than SR550 million ($146.67 million). Both organizations aim to exploit synergies to improve early stage and growth stage startups’ chances of success through support with training programs, market access, and mentorship.

Wa’ed also signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu to support the creation of new startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Saudi Arabia’s two largest industrial cities.

Dhahran-based Wa’ed announced in January that it had tripled the amount of money loaned to startups in the Kingdom last year. It gave out 12 loans to SMEs, up from four in 2019, with the total value surging to SR31 million, compared to SR10 million in 2019.

“In a very challenging year, I am proud of the Wa’ed family, which includes my team and our resilient entrepreneurs, for rising to the challenges and keeping us on track to deliver an even greater impact in 2021,” Basrawi added.


Accor’s Hyde to open first international property in Dubai

Accor’s Hyde to open first international property in Dubai
Updated 19 June 2021

Accor’s Hyde to open first international property in Dubai

Accor’s Hyde to open first international property in Dubai
  • The new five-star hotel will be located in Business Bay, which is close to the iconic Burj Khalifa

Hyde, a brand under global hospitality group Accor, said that it is launching its first property outside the US in Dubai — set to open in the last quarter of the year.

The new five-star hotel will be located in Business Bay, which is close to the iconic Burj Khalifa. It has 276 rooms and offers canal views.

Developer Emerald Palace Group (EPG) is working with hotel management company SBE to develop the property, which is part of Accor’s expansion plans.

“We couldn’t be happier to be working with Emerald Palace Group on bringing the Hyde brand to Business Bay in Dubai,” said Chadi Farhat, CEO of SBE.

“Hyde Dubai Business Bay will continue to bring additional lifestyle experiences to one of the most vibrant destinations in the world,” he added, saying they are set to bring well-known culinary concepts to the hotel.

The Accor group earlier announced it was expanding its global portfolio of hotels around the world, especially amid a challenging time for tourism and hospitality.

Recent Accor openings include the SLS Dubai and SLS Cancun.


EU threatens Lebanese politicians with sanctions over crisis

EU threatens Lebanese politicians with sanctions over crisis
Updated 19 June 2021

EU threatens Lebanese politicians with sanctions over crisis

EU threatens Lebanese politicians with sanctions over crisis
  • Lebanon’s economic crisis began in late 2019 and has intensified in recent months
  • Borrell said the EU stands ready to assist Lebanon and its people

BEIRUT: The European Union’s foreign policy chief Saturday berated Lebanese politicians for delays in forming a new Cabinet, warning the union could impose sanctions on those behind the political stalemate in the crisis-hit country.
Josep Borrell made his comments at the presidential palace near the capital Beirut after meeting with President Michel Aoun. It was the first meeting in a two-day visit to Lebanon.
Borrell said Lebanese politicians should quickly form a new government, implement reforms and reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund to start getting the tiny country out of its paralyzing economic and financial crisis.
Lebanon’s economic crisis — triggered by decades of corruption and mismanagement — began in late 2019 and has intensified in recent months. The World Bank said earlier this month the crisis is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in more than 150 years, adding that the economy contracted 20.3 percent in 2020 and is expected to shrink 9.5 percent this year.
A power struggle between premier-designate Saad Hariri on one side, and Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil on the other, has worsened the crisis despite warnings from world leaders and economic experts of the dire economic conditions tiny Lebanon is facing.
Hariri was named to form a new government in October and has not succeeded so far. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned days after a massive blast in Beirut on Aug. 4, that killed 211 people and injured more than 6,000.
“We cannot understand that nine months after the resignation of a prime minister, there is still no government in Lebanon,” Borrell said. “Only an urgent agreement with the International Monetary Fund will rescue the country from a financial collapse.”
“There is no time to waste. You are at the edge of the financial collapse,” he said in English.
Borrell said the EU stands ready to assist Lebanon and its people but warned that if there is further obstruction to solutions “we will have to consider other courses of actions as some member states have proposed.”
“The council of the European Union has been including other options, including targeted sanctions,” Borrell said. He added: “Of course we prefer not to go down this road and we hope that we will not have to but it is in the hands of the Lebanese leadership.”
Borrel rejected claims by some Lebanese politicians that refugees are the cause of the crisis, saying it is “homemade.”
“It is not fair (to say) that the crisis in Lebanon comes from the presence of refugees,” he said referring to a nearly 1 million Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country to Lebanon.


Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit

Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit
Updated 19 June 2021

Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit

Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit
  • It is part of the company’s long-term strategy to maximize its profit by optimizing its portfolio as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its income sources

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco has completed a $12.4 billion stake sale in its natural gas pipeline network to a global consortium that includes US-based EIG and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala.

The international consortium, which consists of broad cross-section investors from North America, Asia and the Middle East, acquired 48 percent of the Aramco Oil Pipelines Co.

It is part of the company’s long-term strategy to maximize its profit by optimizing its portfolio as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its income sources.

“We are pleased to conclude this transaction with the global consortium. The interest we have received from investors shows strong confidence in our operations and the long-term outlook for our business,” Aramco President Amin Nasser said.

“We plan to continue to explore opportunities to capitalize on our industry-leading capabilities and attract the right type of investment to Saudi Arabia,” he added.

As part of the transaction, Aramco and its subsidiary entered into a 25-year leaseback agreement for the company’s stabilized crude oil pipeline network.

In return, Aramco Oil Pipelines Co. will receive a tariff payable by Aramco for stabilized crude oil that flows through the network.

Aramco retains a 51-percent majority stake in the subsidiary, and the transaction does not impose any restrictions on Aramco’s crude oil production volumes.


Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup

Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup
Updated 19 June 2021

Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup

Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup
  • Al-Thawadi said the construction and tourism industries are expected to benefit the most from the event

DUBAI: Qatar is anticipating big returns from hosting the World Cup in 2022, Bloomberg has reported.

“We anticipate the contribution to the economy essentially would be around about $20 billion,” said Hassan Al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the committee for delivery and legacy, citing a “high-level study.”

That represents 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.

But a more detailed projection is yet to be declared, he added, as the event will take place in November and December next year.

Al-Thawadi said the construction and tourism industries are expected to benefit the most from the event.

Qatar has developed massive infrastructure ahead of the cup, which could be the first widely attended sporting event since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is building a new metro system, an airport expansion and an entirely new city, which Bloomberg estimates to be worth $300 billion.


Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race

Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race
Updated 19 June 2021

Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race

Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race
  • The region has the potential to be one of the most competitive globally for green hydrogen production thanks to its abundant wind and solar resources

RIYADH: Another week, another huge green hydrogen project announcement in the Middle East. This time, it was Egypt’s turn. The most populous Arab nation is planning to invest up to $4 billion in a project to create hydrogen through electrolysis powered by renewable energy, Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker said on June 14.
The disclosure follows a flurry of announcements last month, including Oman’s plan for the biggest green hydrogen plant in the world, to be built over the coming 27 years along with 25 GW of solar and wind power.
Also in May, Dubai launched the region’s first industrial scale solar-powered green hydrogen plant, a demonstration facility built by Siemens Energy and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).
Later in the month, Abu Dhabi got in on the act as it revealed plans for a $1 billion facility with capacity to produce 200,000 tons of green ammonia from 40,000 tons of green hydrogen (hydrogen is turned into ammonia for long-distance transport before being transformed back for use).
As for Saudi Arabia, it unveiled plans in July last year for a green hydrogen facility powered by 4 GW of wind and solar, the world’s largest such project at the time. The $5 billion plant will be built by Air Products, ACWA Power and Neom and will be capable of producing 650 tons of green hydrogen a day, enough to run about 20,000 hydrogen-fueled buses.
“The Middle East has joined the green hydrogen wave with mega project announcements,” said Flor Lucia De la Cruz, a senior research analyst for hydrogen and emerging technologies at Wood Mackenzie. “The Middle East has now positioned itself to become a key player in the green hydrogen economy leveraging its solar and wind capabilities and strategic position in between the European and Asian markets.”


The region has the potential to be one of the most competitive globally for green hydrogen production thanks to its abundant wind and solar resources, industrial infrastructure and its location as an export hub, Dii Desert Energy and Roland Berger said in a report on the industry this month.
The Gulf alone could create a $200 billion green hydrogen industry by 2050, generating up to one million jobs, the report said as it predicted a long-term renewable energy deployment of up to 1,000 GW, 500 GW of electrolyzer capacity producing 100 million megatons of hydrogen.
“The GCC region is on the verge of a new era similar to the discovery of oil decades ago,” Vatche Kourkejian, a partner at Roland Berger, wrote in the report. Green hydrogen could allow the Gulf to continue being the main energy supplier to the world in a sustainable manner, he said.
The majority of the world’s hydrogen today (about 95 percent) is considered brown or gray, in that it is produced by steam reforming of natural gas, partial oxidation of methane or coal gasification. While the end product is a clean fuel, the production process uses huge amounts of energy and creates significant amounts of carbon dioxide.
So-called blue hydrogen uses the same process as gray hydrogen, but captures the carbon. Green hydrogen creates the gas through splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen via electrolysis and powering the process with renewable energy, leaving no dirty byproducts.
As well as allowing for the storage of intermittent wind and solar power, hydrogen can also be used to heat homes and cook as a replacement for natural gas, power vehicles, including planes and ships as well as cars, trucks and trains, and be used in industry to reduce the environmental impact of making metals, chemicals and refining oil.
However, the Middle East is not the only region looking to green hydrogen for future industrial development.
So far, 17 countries, (including Japan, South Korea, Canada and UK) have announced a hydrogen roadmap, strategy or vision, according to Wood Mackenzie.
Last year, the EU’s Green Recovery Package earmarked €150 billion ($178 billion) for green hydrogen, including targets for 6 GW of electrolyzer capacity in the first phase between 2020 and 2024, with 40 GW to be installed by the end of the second phase in 2030.
“The last year has seen a decisive pivot toward decarbonization globally, which is extremely positive for zero-carbon technologies,” said Ben Gallagher, lead analyst, emerging technologies at Wood Mackenzie. “Green hydrogen is a key beneficiary, with this pivot pushing it to the fore ahead of other methods for producing the gas. In fact, electrolysis-based low-carbon production now makes up 67 percent of the overall pipeline for hydrogen.”