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
Ahmed Hamdan and Hassan Hamdan co-founded Unifonic in 2006. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 September 2021

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.

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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.


Zimbabwe's Central Bank studies digital currency, rejects cryptocurrency

Zimbabwe's Central Bank studies digital currency, rejects cryptocurrency
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 19 sec ago

Zimbabwe's Central Bank studies digital currency, rejects cryptocurrency

Zimbabwe's Central Bank studies digital currency, rejects cryptocurrency
  • The country plans to send a team to Nigeria to learn from their experiences

RIYADH: Zimbabwe's Central Bank is exploring using its own digital currency instead of allowing cryptocurrency as legal tender, its Governor John Mangudya told Bloomberg.

“As a central bank we don’t believe in cryptocurrencies,” Mangudya said in an interview on Monday.

“We believe in central bank digital currency which is basically trying to say how do we have an e-Zimbabwe dollar as opposed to cryptocurrency,” he said.

The country plans to send a team to Nigeria to learn from their experiences in launching the first digital currency in Africa in October.

“We have got our fintech group and they are working very hard, most central banks in the world are working on this CBDC and we are definitely almost there," he said.

The government decided to pay annual bonuses to civil servants in US dollars rather than the local currency. Use of the Zimbabwean dollar would have increased its recent decline. 

The government paid annual bonuses to civil servants in US dollars instead of the Zimbabwean dollar. Using the latter could have added to its recent depreciation, according to Mangudya.


Korean bioscience firm tops list of world’s best-performing IPO in 2021: Bloomberg

Korean bioscience firm tops list of world’s best-performing IPO in 2021: Bloomberg
Updated 1 min 54 sec ago

Korean bioscience firm tops list of world’s best-performing IPO in 2021: Bloomberg

Korean bioscience firm tops list of world’s best-performing IPO in 2021: Bloomberg

RIYADH: South Korean SK Bioscience Company has topped the list of the world’s best-performing IPO in 2021 after raising more than $1 billion.

The biopharmaceutical firm, which is a local COVID-19 vaccine production partner with AstraZeneca, led a ranking dominated by listings from its home country, according to an analysis by Bloomberg.

The IPO raised $1.3 billion for SK Bioscience to become the first among five Korean firms that raised more than $1 billion each through public offerings this year, with several tech-related names also surging in their trading debuts, Bloomberg said.

SK Bioscience outperformed two major listings in Shanghai, China Three Gorges Renewables Group and Zhuzhou CRRC Times Electric Co., which are each up more than 140 percent. 

US Affirm Holdings came fourth, followed by South Korean Kakao Pay, and India’s Zomato.


Phasing out gas-powered cars depends on customer demand: Nissan exec

Phasing out gas-powered cars depends on customer demand: Nissan exec
Updated 7 min 14 sec ago

Phasing out gas-powered cars depends on customer demand: Nissan exec

Phasing out gas-powered cars depends on customer demand: Nissan exec

DUBAI: Nissan is eco-friendly but also consumer-led, a top official from the Japanese automaker said in the wake of the company not signing a COP26 global pledge to phase out gas-guzzling cars. 

As many as 30 national governments joined the deal struck in Glasgow last month, as the transportation industry races to fix decades of environmental damage due to carbon emissions.

They were joined by six automotive giants, including Ford and Mercedes-Benz, but Nissan, with its French partner Renault, skipped the pact. 

“If customers say remove it (gas-fueled vehicle production), we will remove it,” Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s chief operating officer told Arab News on Tuesday. 

“If (a customer) doesn’t find any more excitement in internal combustion engines cars; if he doesn’t find any price competitiveness in ICE cars; if he has to pay a CO2 penalty, why will he keep it?”

Gupta, who was in Dubai for a media tour, emphasized the importance of making the transition smooth for Nissan’s customers.

“I think it’s up to us how to make it competitive, so customers will naturally do it,” he explained, adding: “In Europe, it will happen very soon.”

The Japanese automaker is ramping up efforts to introduce new electric car models in the next 10 years, aiming for a 50 percent electrification mix by 2030, as it also doubles down on being carbon neutral across the life cycle of its products by 2050. 

Last week, it announced a $17.6 billion investment to develop solid-state batteries for its planned electric model line-up, as well as to establish a pilot plant by 2024, with production starting by 2028. 

Europe is the company’s biggest market for electrification, and it plans to increase sales of electric vehicles in the region by more than 75 percent — followed by Japan, China, and the US. 

As for the Middle East, Gupta said the region has the vision for sustainability and global excellence. 

“Timing could be different because other markets started before, but the Middle East is starting now,” he said.

In an earlier statement, Gupta said his company’s vision is focused on creating “customer pull through an attractive proposition.”

The company is planning to localize manufacturing and sourcing to make electric vehicles more competitive — starting with its core markets of Japan, China, and the US, drawing from its EV Hub concept in the UK. 

“Nissan is working for the future,” Gupta said, downplaying remarks of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who said the carmaker is “visionless.” 

 


Egypt's sovereign fund aims to increase its investment portfolio to $1.5bn

Egypt's sovereign fund aims to increase its investment portfolio to $1.5bn
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 13 min 10 sec ago

Egypt's sovereign fund aims to increase its investment portfolio to $1.5bn

Egypt's sovereign fund aims to increase its investment portfolio to $1.5bn
  • Egypt's sovereign fund signed an agreement with a winning US consortium to develop and rehabilitate the Tahrir Complex

Egypt's sovereign fund aims to increase its investment portfolio in 2022 to 23 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.5 billion) between managed, owned or liquid assets, its executive director has said. 

Ayman Soliman pledged to increase cooperation with various sovereign funds during the coming period, including those from the Gulf.

He stated that the green economy, infrastructure, logistics and tourism sectors are the most prominent sectors targeted by the fund for investment during the next year, with three-four new agreements planned to be signed to produce green hydrogen in Egypt. 

Egypt's sovereign fund signed an agreement with a winning US consortium to develop and rehabilitate the Tahrir Complex, with a total investment of more than 3.5 billion Egyptian pounds. 

“We aim to attract billions of dollars in projects in the next two years. We hope that the Tahrir Complex development project will be the beginning of many pioneering projects and future investments,” Soliman added.

Last month, the Egyptian president El-Sisi urged the fund to continue studying the state's under-utilised properties and assets, with maximising the return from them to ensure the sustainability of its investments. 


Economic rebound in GCC induces stable outlook for banks: Moody’s

Economic rebound in GCC induces stable outlook for banks: Moody’s
Updated 26 min 49 sec ago

Economic rebound in GCC induces stable outlook for banks: Moody’s

Economic rebound in GCC induces stable outlook for banks: Moody’s

An economic recovery and stronger oil prices prompted Moody’s to set a stable outlook for banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council region for the upcoming 12 to 18 months, the ratings agency said in a report.

“Economic growth in 2022 will reflect a gradual increase in hydrocarbon production and a strong recovery in other segments of the economy,” said Ashraf Madani, a vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s.

He added that quality of assets is set to stay healthy despite a marginal rise in non-performing loans.

As for next year, the firm indicated that regulatory measures and large projects, including stadiums for the World Cup and Saudi Arabia’s giga projects, will boost credit growth in the region and raise credit demand.

The US-based company added that liquid assets account for about 25-30 percent of total GCC banking assets and are predicted to stay this way to safeguard against any unforeseen crises.

Loan performance will likely deteriorate when payment holidays end, Moody’s pointed out. The UAE and Bahrain are two countries that will be most affected.

GCC governments still maintain a strong disposition to protect the banking sector due to their large sovereign wealth funds, the report added.