Morocco inks deal with global renewable energy agency

Morocco inks deal with global renewable energy agency
Green hydrogen has been identified as a critical element of global decarbonization goals. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 15 June 2021

Morocco inks deal with global renewable energy agency

Morocco inks deal with global renewable energy agency
  • The collaboration will be focused on advancing the country’s national green hydrogen economy

DUBAI: Morocco’s energy ministry will be working with the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to accelerate the country’s energy transition.
The collaboration will be focused on advancing the country’s national green hydrogen economy, as it aims to become a major green hydrogen producer and export, state news agency WAM has reported.
“The Kingdom of Morocco has shown great leadership in advancing the deployment of renewable energy to meet growing energy demand while creating new industrial opportunities across the country,” IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera said.
Green hydrogen has been identified as a critical element of global decarbonization goals, and Morocco has expressed strong interest in developing domestic capacity and creating opportunities to share with the world.
“We will continue to promote and encourage the uptake of renewables in the context of climate change and sustainable development at a regional and an international level,” the country’s energy minister, Aziz Rabbah, said.
The pair will develop technology and market outlook studies, as well as design public-private models of cooperation in the hydrogen scene.

 


Will Unifonic be the Middle East’s next unicorn?

Will Unifonic be the Middle East’s next unicorn?
Updated 7 sec ago

Will Unifonic be the Middle East’s next unicorn?

Will Unifonic be the Middle East’s next unicorn?
DUBAI: It took a short while for SoftBank’s Vision Fund to make its first direct investment in a Saudi company, but it was well worth the wait.

The $125m funding round by Unifonic, in which SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 was a co-lead investor, was the largest ever Series B deal – second stage cash-raising – by a technology startup in the Middle East.

Vision Fund has invested in other companies in the region, notably in Turkey and the UAE, but has not backed a tech firm to such a degree at this stage of its corporate life.

The deal fulfills a pledge made by Rajeev Misra, CEO of SoftBank Investment Advisers, which oversees the Vision Funds, to use its billions to back businesses in the Kingdom, providing job opportunities and economic growth in Saudi Arabia.

It enhances the relationship between Vision Fund and the Saudi sovereign wealth investor the Public Investment Fund, which put $45 billion into the first Vision Fund, although the cash for the Unifonic deal came from its second (smaller) iteration.

Since some well-publicized past slips, like the WeWork episode, the Vision Fund has actually shown a healthy return for PIF, as the hi-tech sectors identified by Misra and his mentor, Masayoshi Son of SoftBank, came good in the rush to remote working and communications at the height of the pandemic lockdown last year. This put a big premium on technology firms, whether at start-up stage or in listed markets.

Unifonic ticks all the boxes in the Son-Misra investment manual. It is at the cutting edge of communications technology, and sits firmly at the center of the brave new world we are learning to inhabit as the pandemic slowly recedes.

Post-pandemic, customers will expect brands, governments, banks and other organizations to connect with them over a growing number of channels, like LinkedIn, Whatsapp and Twitter, as well as whatever is the next big thing in digital communication.

Unifonic allows providers an integrated digital platform for communication between customers and suppliers across these varied channels, allowing better communication and enhanced service.

For example, Unifonic is the force behind the system that allows secure OTP passwords between banks and customers, as well as the messages that remind you when your credit card bill is due, among other services we all take for granted.

It is the brainchild of entrepreneur Ahmed Hamdan, who in 2006 saw the need to accelerate digital transformation for the public and private sector in the Kingdom and elsewhere. It established a significant market presence first in the Kingdom, and then expanded around the region. Now, it has a corporate presence in the UAE, Pakistan and Jordan, as well as Riyadh, and handles 10 billion data events annually for 5,000 businesses and organizations, including big names like Uber and Aramex as well as several hospital groups.

Partnering with Vision Fund in the Unifonic investment is Sanabil, the Saudi investment organization owned by PIF, which targets venture capital and other private sector investment with an eye on long term cultivation and growth. It is one of Sanabil’s biggest investments in a high-growth, high-impact tech company in the Kingdom.

The cash injection will be used to expand activities both within Saudi Arabia, where new products and jobs can be expected, and across the Middle East and other emerging markets where the growth is fastest. “We are hiring!” Hamdan announced on LinkedIn after the series B deal was announced.

Can Unifonic become a unicorn by entering the ranks of regional start-ups that attain a valuation of more than $1bn? We will see in the next rounds of financing, and, ultimately, by its value in an IPO or a trade sale. But the backing of the Vision Fund has given it a kick-start on that journey.

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 9 min 18 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.