NEOM to invest in Saudi, foreign startups to develop talent

Exclusive NEOM to invest in Saudi, foreign startups to develop talent
Joseph Bradley, CEO, NEOM Tech and Digital Holding Co., told Arab News that the NEOM’s product roadmap is based around the idea of a cognitive product solution set. (AN photo)
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Updated 31 October 2021

NEOM to invest in Saudi, foreign startups to develop talent

NEOM to invest in Saudi, foreign startups to develop talent
  • Tech chief says company’s investment will be more than just making money but to back KSA’s economy

RIYADH: NEOM, the company building a futuristic city on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, plans to invest in technology startups in both Saudi Arabia and abroad, the head of its technology arm said.

NEOM already has an investment fund that is looking at companies in India and other parts of Asia as well as Silicon Valley and the UK, Joseph Bradley, CEO, NEOM Tech and Digital Holding Co., told Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh.

“We’re also looking at companies here that we can acquire to help accelerate their growth pattern and create value right now with Saudi tech that could be exported to the rest of the world,” he said.

However, NEOM’s investments will be about more than just making money, but an opportunity to develop the Saudi economy.

“There is a lot of talent here in Saudi Arabia, so you want to become decent, well, I would not say a venture capitalist in the sense of just buying it for pure investment,” he said. “We’re going to be looking at companies that could help us bring to market cognitive solutions.”

NEOM’s product roadmap is based around the idea of a cognitive product solution set. 

“These are predictive applications using advanced data science to help businesses create more profit, to help users simplify their lives,” Bradley said. “To help us control and be able to bring trust back into the data economy.”

One product NEOM expects to be rolling out is a consent management platform called Epsilon, and another is a tool that will help enterprises simplify and coordinate various pieces of the internet of things value chain, he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

● One product NEOM expects to be rolling out is a consent management platform called Epsilon.

● Another is a tool that will help enterprises simplify and coordinate various pieces of IoT value chain.

● The third product NEOM is preparing is called X versus X, which brings together the metaverse and the physical environment.

The third product NEOM is preparing will brings together the metaverse and the physical environment.

“A lot of people talk about the metaverse as their digital worlds, but they’re created in fictional environments, '' he said. “They’re created onto themselves because the physical world has already been built.”

“In NEOM’s case, we’re building the physical version of NEOM and the digital at the same time. So, we’re going to create some very unique experiences between the two that can only be accomplished if you were building to this platform.”

Saudi Arabia is fast becoming a global player for innovation thanks to a record year for startups and funding

Saudi startups in the financial technology sector emerged as the most funded in the Kingdom, and more private investors and venture capitalists are rushing to invest in these firms at early stages of their business lifecycle. The number of deals closed recently hit a record with over $150 million in the first half of 2021.

This represents a 1,738 percent year-on-year growth, topping other industries including food and beverage, as well as e-commerce, which was a star sector during the pandemic.

According to a report from Magnitt, fintech startups closed 12 deals during the said period, accounting for 24 percent of the 54 deals across the startup ecosystem in the Kingdom.


China In-Focus — S&P cuts GDP forecast; Chinese smartphone makers dominate Russian market

China In-Focus — S&P cuts GDP forecast; Chinese smartphone makers dominate Russian market
Updated 14 sec ago

China In-Focus — S&P cuts GDP forecast; Chinese smartphone makers dominate Russian market

China In-Focus — S&P cuts GDP forecast; Chinese smartphone makers dominate Russian market

BEIJING: Coronavirus lockdowns have hit Chinese growth more than expected, ratings agency S&P said as it slashed its forecast for the second time in two months, while emerging market economies will slow in the second half of this year amid high inflation.

S&P cut its gross domestic product growth prediction for China to 3.3 percent, in a report, having already downgraded it to 4.2 percent in May from a 4.9 percent forecast made in March.

It said higher than expected first quarter growth in many countries meant its 2022 growth forecast for emerging market economies excluding China was unchanged at 4.1 percent, but sounded a pessimistic note about the rest of the year and 2023.

S&P also increased inflation forecasts for a sample of 15 emerging markets, to 7.1 percent in 2022 and 4.1 percent in 2023, from 5.9 percent and 3.5 percent in March and said it expected inflation to breach most central banks’ targets until at least 2024 even as they tighten monetary policy faster.

China’s smartphones gain ground in Russia

Chinese smartphones accounted for two-thirds of all new sales in Russia between April and June, the country’s top electronics retailer said on Wednesday.

“The total share of Chinese brands in the Russian market in terms of smartphone sales is steadily increasing — from 50 percent in the first quarter, to 60 percent in April to more than 70 percent in June,” Russian electronics retailer M.Video-Eldorado said on Wednesday.

Overall, Chinese smartphones accounted for more than 65 percent of devices sold across the second quarter, up from 50 percent in the same period of 2021. Mobile operator MTS reported a jump in sales of Chinese phones in May.

M.Video said the average price of a smartphone sold during the three-month period was down 4 percent from last year as Russian consumers shift to lower-ticket goods amid an earnings squeeze and economic downturn.

Several major smartphone makers, including Apple and Samsung, have paused new sales in Russia following its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, while financial sanctions and airspace bans have hit supply chains, pushing Russian retailers and consumers to look toward China to fill the gap.

 

(With input from Reuters) 

 


India In-Focus — Rupee hits record low; Shares fall; UltraTech Cement paying for Russian coal in Chinese yuan

India In-Focus — Rupee hits record low; Shares fall; UltraTech Cement paying for Russian coal in Chinese yuan
Updated 1 min 7 sec ago

India In-Focus — Rupee hits record low; Shares fall; UltraTech Cement paying for Russian coal in Chinese yuan

India In-Focus — Rupee hits record low; Shares fall; UltraTech Cement paying for Russian coal in Chinese yuan

MUMBAI: The Indian rupee on Wednesday touched record lows for a second straight session on persisting concerns about rising inflation and weak growth, even as the central bank sold dollars to limit losses.

The partially convertible rupee ended at 78.9650 per dollar after touching a lifetime low of 78.97. The currency had closed at 78.77 on Tuesday.

The rupee has lost more than 6 percent against the dollar so far this year, and analysts believe it is likely to weaken further.

“The Indian Rupee has been adversely affected mainly by the FIIs pulling out funds from the equity market, rising crude prices, the deteriorating trade balance and dollar strengthening,” analysts at Emkay Wealth Management said in a note.

Indian shares fall

Indian shares fell on Wednesday to snap a four-day winning streak as worries over inflation resurfaced amid surging oil prices, while domestic explorers rose in late trade after the country approved a plan to give marketing freedom to sell crude.

The NSE Nifty 50 index closed 0.32 percent lower to 15,799.10 and the S&P BSE Sensex slipped 0.3 percent to 53,026.97. 

India cement maker paying for Russian coal in Chinese yuan

Indian cement producer, UltraTech Cement, is importing a cargo of Russian coal and paying using Chinese yuan, according to an Indian customs document reviewed by Reuters, a rare payment method that traders say could become more common.

UltraTech is bringing in 157,000 tons of coal from Russian producer SUEK that loaded on the bulk carrier MV Mangas from the Russian Far East port of Vanino, the document showed. It cites an invoice dated June 5 that values the cargo at 172,652,900 yuan ($25.81 million).

Two trade sources familiar with the matter said the cargo’s sale was arranged by SUEK’s Dubai-based unit, adding that other companies have also placed orders for Russian coal using yuan payments.

The increasing use of the yuan to settle payments could help insulate Moscow from the effects of western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and bolster Beijing’s push to further internationalize the currency and chip away at the dominance of the US dollar in global trade.

(With inputs from Reuters)


UAE’s Strata seeks to expand into biopharma, EV manufacturing

UAE’s Strata seeks to expand into biopharma, EV manufacturing
Updated 2 min 38 sec ago

UAE’s Strata seeks to expand into biopharma, EV manufacturing

UAE’s Strata seeks to expand into biopharma, EV manufacturing

RIYADH: UAE’s Strata, the aviation unit of Mubadala Investment Co., is expanding into biopharmaceuticals manufacturing and it is also in discussions with global electric vehicle makers to start EV production in the country.

The company seeks to form partnerships with existing companies as part of its long-term strategy to expand its advanced manufacturing capabilities and include more industrial sectors, the local media reported. 

“We have already started conversations with partners and the intention is to announce something before the end of the year,” Strata CEO Ismail Abdulla was quoted as saying.

The company is not interested in generic pharmaceutical products and is only looking to manufacture some drugs, treatments and vaccines.

“Strata is looking for partners that are hungry for growth, are willing to relocate and start new activities in this part of the world to serve the local market, the regional market and then the Russian market,” Abdulla added.

In March, Strata said it plans to focus on opportunities in a range of high-tech sectors such as biopharmaceuticals, digitalization, automation, artificial intelligence and advanced materials manufacturing as it seeks to diversify its business.


Honeywell signs up with Anchorage Investments for $2bn petro complex in Egypt 

Honeywell signs up with Anchorage Investments for $2bn petro complex in Egypt 
Updated 15 min 32 sec ago

Honeywell signs up with Anchorage Investments for $2bn petro complex in Egypt 

Honeywell signs up with Anchorage Investments for $2bn petro complex in Egypt 

RIYADH: American multinational conglomerate Honeywell has signed an initial agreement with industrial company Anchorage Investment to construct the planned $2 billion Anchor Benitoite Petrochemicals Complex in Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone.

As per the memorandum of understanding, the companies will enter preliminary discussions to appoint Honeywell Process Solutions as the Integrated Main Automation Contractor for the facility, MEED reported.

As part of the contract, HPS would also supply Anchorage Investments with a range of technologies designed to enhance operational safety, security, and efficiency at the complex.

Once completed, Anchor Benitoite production units are expected to produce 1.75 million tons a year of petrochemical products and intermediates, including propylene, polypropylene, crude acrylic acid, n-butanol and butyl acrylate. 

Honeywell has been operating in Egypt for over 60 years, with works with government-owned and private sector entities in many fields including oil and gas, refining and petrochemicals, automation and defense. 


Yamama Cement beats out negative market trend to register growth in output

Yamama Cement beats out negative market trend to register growth in output
Updated 17 min 23 sec ago

Yamama Cement beats out negative market trend to register growth in output

Yamama Cement beats out negative market trend to register growth in output

Saudi Arabia’s cement producers saw their output fall in May, with the exception of Yamama Cement, according to the latest figures.

In the first five months of 2022, the volume of cement output across all companies fell 12.0 percent from the same period of 2021.

April saw a 13.7 percent fall — the deepest since January 2019.

It was only Yamama that saw a rise, surging 53.5 percent year-on-year  — a cumulative increase of about 1 million tons of cement.

From January to May, Yamama managed to boost shipments by 1.1 millions tons, or 58.2 percent year-on-year.

It is also the only company that managed to achieve year-on-year increases in each of the first five months of 2022.

Responding to the figures, Mashael Alhuthaily, equity analyst at AlJazeera Capital told Arab News: “This can be attributed to the transfer plan to a new plant in Al Kharj Governorate in Riyadh, where the company provided a significant discount on its sale prices in Q1-22 of SR 106.9/ton ($28.49/ton) — a 19.4 percent decrease year-on-year — and to offload its inventory from the old plant, which in turn also helped the company gain greater market share.” 

Only two other companies achieved some improvement over the same period  – Tabuk and As-Safwa.

Tabuk increased sales by 88,000 tons, while As-Safwa saw a 25,000 tons rise.

Market Share

In the period from January to the end of May, Yamama’s share of the Saudi cement market has improved noticeably compared to the results for 2021.

Its share in the Kingdom’s total cement output increased by 3.5 percentage points to 13.4 percent, while in domestic cement sales it grew by 3.9 percentage points to 14 percent.

This has led to a reshuffle in the group of the three largest companies, as Yamama overtook both Southern and Saudi in terms of both output and domestic sales.

Saudi managed to retain second place in terms of cement output, while its market share slipped 0.1 percentage points to 11.6 percent.

Southern shifted down from first to third place as it saw its share fall 1.3 percentage points to 11.1 percent.

In terms of domestic cement sales, Southern ceded first place to Yamama and took second place with its share having declined 1.4 percentage point to 11.4 percent. Saudi took third place with 10.6 percent share.

Based on market data for May, Yamama's shares were the most expensive based on enterprise value per ton valuation in the group of three largest companies, according to a research note issued by AlJazeera Capital earlier this year. 

The multiple for Yamama was $307 per ton compared to $277 and $219 for Saudi and Southern, respectively.