AutoStore, Norway's biggest IPO in two decades, valued at $12.4bn

AutoStore, Norway's biggest IPO in two decades, valued at $12.4bn
Picture: www.autostoresystems.com
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Updated 20 October 2021

AutoStore, Norway's biggest IPO in two decades, valued at $12.4bn

AutoStore, Norway's biggest IPO in two decades, valued at $12.4bn
  • Following the IPO, the free float of AutoStore shares will amount to about 17.4 percent of the overall equity

Norwegian robotics firm AutoStore said on Wednesday it had priced its initial public offering (IPO) at 31 Norwegian crowns per share, the top of its target range, valuing the company at 103.5 billion crowns ($12.4 billion).

SoftBank-backed AutoStore will be Norway's most valuable new listing for two decades when it goes public on Euronext's Oslo Stock Exchange later on Wednesday.

The company raised 2.7 billion crowns in cash from the issue of new shares, while existing owners such as Thomas H. Lee Partners, EQT and others sold stock worth 15.3 billion crowns.

"The money we get from the IPO will be used primarily to deleverage the debt to a level that is more normal for a public company," CEO Karl Johan Lier told Reuters.

He plans to bring down the leverage ratio to around 2.5 from the current ratio of between 5 and 6.

Following the IPO, the free float of AutoStore shares will amount to about 17.4 percent of the overall equity.

Founded in 1996, AutoStore has 20,000 robots deployed across more than 35 countries to automate warehouses. The company, whose customers include ASDA, Gucci and Lufthansa, uses robots to store and retrieve products, allowing customers to store four times the inventory in the same space.

In April, Japan's SoftBank bought a 40 percent stake in the Norwegian company for $2.8 billion, valuing AutoStore at about $7 billion at the time. SoftBank did not sell stock in the IPO.

"SoftBank is a very good partner, ready to help us drive more attention in the APAC region ... they have a large network of companies that can potentially be AutoStore customers so we see a lot of potential with the relationship," Lier said.

AutoStore is Norway's most valuable new listing since the 2001 debut of Statoil, now known as Equinor, which was valued at 151 billion crowns at the time of its IPO.

Four cornerstone investors, Alecta Pensionsforsakring, FIL Investments, Mawer Investment Management and WCM Investment Management, had each committed to invest $200 million ahead of the IPO.

AutoStore reported net revenue of $182.1 million last year and expects revenue of about $300 million in 2021, rising to more than $500 million in 2022 with a project pipeline worth $3.4 billion across 2,000 projects.

Bankers from Carnegie, J.P Morgan, Morgan Stanley, ABG Sundal Collier, Citigroup, Jefferies, Mizuho, SpareBank 1 Markets and Moelis were involved in the deal.


Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister
Updated 29 September 2022

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

Saudi Arabia launches $10bn food security plan: Minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, in coordination with its regional partners, has launched a food security action plan with an initial funding of $10 billion to tackle the global food supply crisis, the Kingdom’s minister of environment, water and agriculture said.

Speaking at a meeting of G20 agriculture ministers in Indonesia, Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli said the Kingdom will continue its role in helping stabilize the global food production supply chain.

On the domestic front, he added, the Kingdom has also succeeded in reducing the use of water for agricultural purposes by more than 40 percent, the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying.

Al-Fadhli also highlighted the Kingdom’s achievement in the agricultural sector, which according to him, grew by more than 7.8 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year. 

He said the Kingdom is applying modern techniques to boost its agriculture sector and reduce wastage of water.


PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO
Updated 29 September 2022

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

PIF-owned Savvy aims to transform KSA into gaming hub with $37.8bn investment, says CEO

RIYADH: With investments worth SR142 billion ($37.8 billion), Saudi Arabia’s PIF-owned Savvy Games Group seeks to transform the Kingdom into a global gaming hub with world-class gaming companies, said CEO Brian Ward.

Ward was addressing members of the media following the announcement of the company’s strategy by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday.

The investments will include SR70 billion to take several minority stakes in companies that support Savvy’s game development agenda and SR50 billion to acquire “a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner.”

Another SR20 billion will be invested in industry partners and SR2 billion will target industry disruptors “to grow early-stage games and esports companies.”

“Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and esports sector by 2030,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying.

Savvy's CEO Brian Ward

In the press briefing, Ward said: “Our mission will be to lead global investments in the sector.”

He said gaming and esports is the largest entertainment sector with a potential to “exceed $300 billion by 2020 and $400 billion by 2028.”

Ward said Savvy aims to accelerate the growth of the sector in the Kingdom and take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s “unique geopolitical position in the world.”

The PIF-owned company has five independent subsidiaries, including esports arm EFG, as well as Nine66, which "is building an ecosystem for game developers and studios,” and VOV company, which is building gaming and competition venues.

“We intend to make new investments in startups and (established) tech companies,” the top official said.

He also told the media that more details about the company’s acquisition deals and agreements strategy would be announced in the next six months.

Ward said the strategy unveiled on Wednesday seeks to help local gaming companies grow into global players producing world-class games.


UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023
Updated 29 September 2022

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

UAE In Focus — Damac Properties targets $150m in monthly online sales by 2023

DUBAI: Damac Properties has seen significant growth in pure online sales as a result of its fully interactive virtual real estate and communities designed in the metaverse, according to a senior official.

On the sidelines of the Metaverse Assembly in Dubai, Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac Properties and CEO of D-Labs, said that online-only transactions are accounting for an increasing portion of the company’s real estate activity, approximately 367 million dirhams ($100 million) a quarter.

By mid-2023, the UAE-based developer aims to grow this figure to $150 million per month, according to a statement.

The realty major has invested up to $100 million to develop and monetize a metaverse that could allow potential customers to check into their luxury properties virtually, choose an apartment, explore furniture options and toy with the paraphernalia on offer.

The company's metaverse platform D-Labs will create digital replicas of its top projects, including Damac Hills, Damac Lagoons, Safa by De Grisogono, and Cavalli Tower in Dubai. It will also host other notable projects such as Damac Tower Nine Elms in London and the upcoming Cavalli Residences in Miami.

AD Ports Group welcomes its first international shipment 

AD Ports Group, one of the leading providers of international trade and logistics, announced Thursday the arrival of its first international shipment at Mugharraq Port, according to a statement.

The UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure has recognized Mugharraq Port as an international port facility under the provisions of the International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities.

The port gained international recognition after a series of major upgrades including extending the quay wall and adding additional berths, deepening the facility’s depth to eight meters, and constructing additional Ro-Ro ramps.

Combined with its strategic proximity to Ruwais, Hail, Ghasha, and other key upstream oil and gas projects in the region, Mugharraq Port is well-equipped to meet the demands of international operations and will further solidify its position as an ISPS port in the region, the statement said.

As a premier maritime facility, the port offers a wide range of offshore, oil and gas, general cargo, logistic support, bulk, and break-bulk handling services.

Al Dhafra’s long-term development plan will be supported by the ongoing port extensions and the new international certification.


Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 
Updated 29 September 2022

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

Goods exports fuel 18% rise in Saudi Arabia’s current account balance: SAMA 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s current account balance has witnessed a 17.6 percent increase in the second quarter of 2022 to SR170.1 billion ($45.26 billion) , fueled by a rise in oil and non-oil exports, according to the Saudi Central Bank’s monthly bulletin.

The Kingdom’s exports of goods increased to SR272. 2 billion, showing a 23.1 percent surge from SR221.1 billion over the same period.  

Services such as transport and construction all witnessed declines over the second quarter of 2022, resulting in a 53.9 percent reduction in the sector.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign assets increased 2.4 percent from the first quarter of 2022, hitting SR4.9 trillion in the second quarter of 2022.

Portfolio investments — which include equity and investment fund shares and debt securities — slightly declined by 1.1 percent for the second month in a row, equating to 1.4 trillion by the end of June.

Trade credit, loans, and currency and deposits — which fall under the category of ‘other investments’ grew 2.9 percent to 1.1 trillion in this quarter, slowing down from a 9.6 percent growth in the previous quarter.

Inside the Kingdom, residential new mortgage loans to individuals soared 76.6 percent month-to-month, from SR7.2 billion in July to SR12.7 billion in August.

Moreover, consumer loans and credit card loans both increased 2.1 percent and 4.8 percent respectively from last month.

Consumer loans grew from SR436.5 billion in July to SR445.8 billion in August, and credit card loans increased from SR19.6 billion to SR20.5 billion over the same period.

As for Saudi Arabia’s total bank credit, it rose 1.6 percent — recording SR2.3 trillion worth of brank credit in the transition between July and August. 


TASI dives in September as recession fears mount: Monthly Recap

TASI dives in September as recession fears mount: Monthly Recap
Updated 29 September 2022

TASI dives in September as recession fears mount: Monthly Recap

TASI dives in September as recession fears mount: Monthly Recap

RIYADH: The Saudi main index ticked up on Thursday, but September still marked a dismal month for the stock exchange, marked by persistent inflation, unstable gas prices, and aggressive Fed hikes.

The Tadawul All Share Index ended September dropping 7 percent over the course of the month to reach 12,283 at the closing bell of Thursday’s session.  

This is despite closing the last session of September in green, with a 2.11 percent gain.

The monthly decline was led by a 9.23 percent drop in oil giant Saudi Aramco, and a 23.23 percent decline in Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Co.

Also during the month, Saudi Arabia’s utility developer ACWA Power dropped 5.84 percent, while Saudi Electricity Co. declined 7.15 percent.

In the financial sector, the Kingdom’s highest valued bank, Al Rajhi, shed 12.29 percent, while Alinma Bank fell 9.09 percent.

The Saudi National Bank, the Kingdom’s largest lender and a major market player, dropped by 12.48 percent, while Saudi British Bank fell 9.52 percent,

Among the Kingdom’s information technology firms, Elm Co. decreased 5.16 percent, while Al Moammar Information Systems Co. declined 9.79 percent.

Saudi pharma operator Nahdi lost 3.83 percent for the month, while its rival Aldawaa Medical Services Co. gained 3.9 percent.

Dallah Healthcare Co. topped the month gainers with a 26.91 percent gain, while Mouwasat Medical Services Co. led the fallers with a 16.92 percent decline.

At the end of September, the main index dropped below 11000 for the first time in over 9 months in response to the Saudi Central Bank raising interest rates in line with the Fed's steep rate hike.

Speaking to Arab News, Saudi economist Ali Alhazmi said that the rate hike is not the only factor for this decline.

“The decline is also from the uncertainty about the global economics, or also the decline of growth and the existence of recession in major economies, especially the US and the EU,” he said, adding: “We cannot avoid the continued closure in China, which affects supply chains. We also have the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.”

Ultimately, he concluded that the market direction is unpredictable, but he anticipated the decline to continue this week.

Fawaz Al-Fawaz, a Saudi-based independent economist and columnist, believes that the market will continue to shift.

“The markets are likely to continue to be volatile and in jittery mode until inflation is under control.”