Greece can be European market ‘entry point’ for Middle East solar power: PM Mitsotakis

Greece can be European market ‘entry point’ for Middle East solar power: PM Mitsotakis
Mitsotakis participated in the Middle East Green Initiative and in the Future Investment Initiative. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 October 2021

Greece can be European market ‘entry point’ for Middle East solar power: PM Mitsotakis

Greece can be European market ‘entry point’ for Middle East solar power: PM Mitsotakis
  • Mitsotakis made comments during the Middle East Green Initiative being held in Riyadh
  • Greek-Saudi ties have deepened in recent months in matters of defense, tourism and culture

RIYADH: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday his country can be an entry point into the European power market for cheap electricity produced from solar sources in the Middle East.

Mitsotakis made his comments during the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) Summit, which was being held in Riyadh, a gathering hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and attended by other world leaders.

The Greek prime minister will also attend the Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia and will meet with the crown prince during his two-day visit to the Kingdom.

During the MGI Summit, Mitsotakis also said 32 billion euros ($37.1 billion) will be allocated for green projects in Greece over the next seven years, while a dedicated ministry will be launched to protect forests following the wild fires that hit the country last year.

Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the MGI in March, alongside its domestic counterpart, the Saudi Green Initiative, as pillars of the Kingdom’s efforts to reverse environmental degradation and climate change. 

Part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to reshape its economy, both initiatives provide an ambitious roadmap for Saudi Arabia and the region to meet worldwide emissions targets. 

Greece, meanwhile, is also taking an active role in combating climate change, promoting “green diplomacy” both across the EU and the wider region.

The two countries have become close recently, sharing a common vision on stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf. 

Mitsotakis’ first visit to Saudi Arabia came in February 2020, a few months after he took over as prime minister. He also met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan at the Philia Forum in Athens in February this year.

Bilateral ties have deepened particularly in the field of defense, with the deployment of a Greek Patriot anti-aircraft missile system, or PAC-2, to Saudi Arabia in September to boost the Kingdom’s role in combating Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

In addition, 120 Greek soldiers are stationed in Saudi Arabia to operate it, while the PAC-2 is set to be upgraded to the PAC-3 system in due course. The heads of the countries’ joint general staffs have also developed close and frequent contacts.

“The deepening of Greek-Saudi relations is of strategic significance for both nations as well as for the entire Eastern Mediterranean-Middle East regional complex,” Prof. Michael Tanchum, senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy and a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., told Arab News. 

“2021 has witnessed landmark events raising the level of the Greek-Saudi security partnership, notably Saudi Arabia’s first bilateral military exercise with Greece, ‘Eye of the Falcon 1,’ in March 2021, and the Kingdom’s participation in the September 2021 ‘Hercules 21’ exercises — the first multilateral joint military exercises between Greece, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

“In the absence of a convincing security guarantee from its European partners, Athens has skillfully developed its defense relations with Egypt, Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, while engaging with select EU member states to achieve a sufficient deterrence capability,” he said. 

“Athens similarly needs to deepen its economic relations with each of these countries to create a robust Mediterranean-Middle East commercial corridor … that can even extend from Israel and the Gulf states to India,” he added. “Raising the level of the Greek-Saudi business relationship, resulting in large-scale investments in each country, is the next step and is likely a high priority agenda item for Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ upcoming state visit to Saudi Arabia.”

Prof. Spyros Litsas from the University of Macedonia said: “The new official visit of the Greek premier … must be seen as another decisive step towards the construction of a strategic triangle of security and stability in the Arabian Gulf, with Athens, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi forming its related durable angles — especially after the signature of the mutual defense cooperation and assistance pact between Greece and the UAE, and the (deployment) of the Greek PAC-2 to Saudi Arabia.

“It goes without saying that the construction of this triangle of security and stability is of paramount importance for the dynamic deterrence of radical groups and revisionist states too in the post-COVID-19 era, while it also enhances the geostrategic role of Greece, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as regional pillars of smart defense and cooperation,” he added.

Bilateral ties, though, are not confined to defense, and are blossoming in tourism, culture and investment.

At a meeting on May 20, Saudi Arabia’s culture minister, Prince Badr bin Farhan, met the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou in Athens to discuss a memorandum on international cooperation in culture, which will be signed later this year in Riyadh. 

In September, tourism, investment and trade topped the agenda of talks between Greek Minister of Tourism Vassilis Kikilias and Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Fatih during the latter’s visit to the Greek capital. Al-Fatih also met with Greece’s investments and development minister, Adonis Georgiadis.


US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis

US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis
Updated 26 November 2021

US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis

US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis

RIYADH: US investment bank Moelis & Co. plans to open an office in the Saudi capital Riyadh and will soon begin hiring staff in the Kingdom, Bloomberg reported.

The New York-based company sees the Kingdom attracting more foreign investors and benefiting from an “energy supercycle,” Vice Chairman Eric Cantor said in an interview.

The boutique financial adviser, founded by Wall Street veteran Ken Moelis, wants to do more deals in the region as the world’s biggest oil exporter prepares for as many as 160 privatizations in 2022, as well as a flood of initial public offerings to the Kingdom’s stock market.

“We are waiting for a final stamp on our license,” Cantor said. “It’s forthcoming and part of that is hiring Saudis,” he said, without saying how many people the bank wants to employ.

Moelis has its main office for the Middle East in Dubai. The move to open one in Riyadh comes as Saudi Arabia pushes international firms to relocate their regional headquarters there.

 


Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO

Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO
Updated 26 November 2021

Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO

Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO

RIYADH: Oil demand will return to 2019 levels by the end of 2022, despite some delays in projects due to repercussions from the pandemic, Baker Hughes CEO Lorenzo Simonelli told Al-Arabiya.

National oil companies in the Middle East have been preparing for the increased demand, while international oil companies, especially those in North America, have been maintaining financial discipline in returning funds to shareholders, he said.

However, some independent oil companies have already begun to increase their capital spending, he said.

Currently, Baker Hughes sees an improvement in oil and gas services activity, not only in North America, but also in international basins with low costs, he said.

When it comes to developing its products, Baker Hughes always takes into account carbon emissions and the Texas-based energy services company is trying to shift its sources in its manufacturing operations to renewables and has contracted with suppliers, Simonelli said.

The company pledged to reduce carbon emissions of the first and second scope by 50 percent by 2030, and to zero by 2050, Simonelli said. The company is now concerned with dealing with third scope emissions, he said.

 


Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 

Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 
Updated 26 November 2021

Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 

Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 

RIYADH: Venture capital impact investment in Saudi Arabia reached a new high in 2021 in both total number of transactions and capital deployed, according to a report produced by MAGNiTT and Saudi Aramco.

Impact investments are those aimed at generating a measurable social and environmental benefit alongside a financial return. 

Impact funding in the Kingdom up to the third quarter of 2021 was 130 percent higher than in 2020 in terms of funding, and 21 percent higher in transactions.

Some $444 million were invested through 403 deals with impact-driven startups across the Middle East and North Africa between 2016 and the third quarter of 2021, according to the report.

Of those deals, 20 percent involved Saudi-based firms.

Flat6Labs was the leading impact investor in startups based in the MENA region with 45 transactions between 2016 and the third quarter of this year to date. 

The Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center, 500 Startups, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Innovation Fund, Oasis 500 and Falak Startups invested in 12 or more funding rounds raised by impact-driven startups in MENA.

The education and healthcare technology sectors accounted for the highest share in total impact VC deals, collectively registering 40 percent of all transactions in MENA from 2016 to the third quarter of this year to date.

The energy sector played a key role in impact investments across MENA, with 95 percent of all funding going to startups within the impact ecosystem.

 


Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap

Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap
Updated 26 November 2021

Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap

Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap

Bitcoin led a rout in cryptocurrencies on Friday as investors fled assets considered riskier, including stocks and commodities, and headed for the refuge of government bonds, the Japanese yen and the US dollar.

Concerns over a new COVID-19 variant that may evade vaccines and spread more quickly than previous mutations were seen as responsible for the movements.

Bitcoin, the largest digital currency, fell as much as 9.2 percent to $53,551, its lowest since Oct. 10. That would be Bitcoin’s biggest one-day decline since Sept. 20, leaving it more than one-fifth lower since hitting a record high of nearly $70,000 earlier in November.

The second-largest cryptocurrency, Ether, fell over 13 percent to its lowest in a month, trading at $3,924, down almost 20 percent from its record high, hit on Nov. 10.

A number of European and Asian nations have suspended travel to and from southern Africa after a potentially more deadly COVID-19 variant emerged in Botswana and South Africa. The variant has so many mutations that current vaccines may not be effective against it, according to scientists.

“The spread of (the variant), especially to other countries, could wither investor appetite further,” said Yuya Hasegawa at Tokyo-based exchange Bitbank. “BTC's upside will likely be limited and the market should brace for further loss.”

While cryptocurrencies wobbled, a plot of land in Axie Infinity, an animated, metaverse pet-training game, sold for $2.5 million on Thursday, according to a tweet on the game’s Twitter account.

The sale, for 550 ether, was the highest for a single plot of virtual land, according to the tweet. The transaction was for a section of Genesis land, one of several types available in the game.

A larger sale of virtual real estate took place on Monday in Decentraland. In that transaction, 618,000 MANA, worth about $3.2 million at the time, bought 116 land parcels, according to Tokens.com, whose Metaverse Group subsidiary made the purchase.

Interest in the metaverse has surged in recent months, spurred by Facebook, which changed its name to Meta in October in a sign of its increasing focus on the sector.

Revenue from virtual gaming worlds could grow to $400 billion in 2025, from $180 billion in 2020, Grayscale Investments said on Thursday. The overwhelming majority of that $400 billion will be in-game spending, compared to spending on premium games, the company said.

Grayscale defined the metaverse as “interconnected, experiential, 3D virtual worlds where people located anywhere can socialize in real-time to form a persistent, user-owned, internet economy spanning the digital and physical worlds.”


Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says

Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says
Updated 26 November 2021

Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says

Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says
  • Maroun said the company’s priority is growth not profitability as it seeks to increase its market share from 6 percent

RIYADH: Lebanon’s Anghami, known as the Spotify of the Arab world, will not postpone its merger with the blank-check company Vistas Media in a potential $90 million deal, according to the firm’s CEO.

Eddie Maroun said the agreement had suffered a delay due to the procedures of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, but the deal will still go ahead.

The process is currently in its final stages, and the implementation will be announced very soon, he told Al-Arabiya on Thursday.

Maroun said the company’s priority is growth not profitability as it seeks to increase its market share from 6 percent.

He expects Anghami to achieve profitability within three years, he added.

Subscriptions represent 80 percent of the company’s revenue with the rest coming from advertising, Maround said.

Founded in 2012 in Lebanon, Anghami is the first legal music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa region.