The Red Sea project secured capital for 1st phase; moving into operations: CFO

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Updated 07 March 2022

The Red Sea project secured capital for 1st phase; moving into operations: CFO

The Red Sea project secured capital for 1st phase; moving into operations: CFO
  • It has already hired the first general manager of the three hotels and is identifying top executives for the other two hotels

RIYADH: The Red Sea Development Co., the developer of one of the world’s largest sustainable tourism sites, has secured all necessary funds for the first phase of the project and it’s now accelerating work on the project, its chief financial officer said.

The company, known as TRSDC, which until now was focusing on execution and delivery of three hotels, has shifted gears and turned its attention toward operations. It has already hired the first general manager of one of the three hotels and is identifying top executives for the other two hotels, Jay Rosen told Arab News.

“We are at the starting point of the pre-opening process as we ramp up our operations over the next 12 months,” said the executive while adding that they remain on schedule to welcome first guests by next year.

FASTFACTS

• The Red Sea Project is a 28,000-square-kilometer sustainable tourism resort featuring more than 90 unspoiled islands along Saudi Arabia’s west coast.

• By completion in 2030, it will consist of 50 hotels with 8,000 rooms and 1,300 residential properties.

It has secured all the needed equity from the Public Investment Fund to partner with nine international hospitality brands that will operate resorts in the first phase of development at the Red Sea project.

“We made some additional signings. We haven’t announced those yet. And there are others we’re completing as well,” said Rosen. The company last year roped in marquee brands such as Marriott International, Fairmont Hotel & Resorts, Accor group, Hyatt Hotels, IHG Hotels & Resorts, and Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts.

The project is a 28,000-square-kilometer sustainable tourism resort featuring more than 90 unspoiled islands along Saudi Arabia’s west coast. By completion in 2030, it will consist of 50 hotels with 8,000 rooms and 1,300 residential properties. 

Using equity and green finance

TRSDC have seen a lot of interest from Saudi banks to provide green financing for its development. Rosen said the company is considering to rely on both equity and debt as well for its other development AMAALA, an ultra-luxury site north of TRSDC's main project.

True to its commitment to creating opportunities for the locals in the transformative Vision 2030 blueprint, the company is exploring avenues for Saudi citizens and investors to invest in the advanced stages of the project execution.

"At some point in time, we will make opportunities available for the retail investors", he said, adding that they are keeping all options open. They can come in many forms, either through REITs, a fund or through a public offering of some business units, said the executive. 

The company early last year received a $3.76 billion loan to fund phase one of the project from Saudi National Bank, Riyad Bank, Banque Saudi Fransi, and Saudi British Bank.

Last month, A consortium led by ACWA Power closed the financing for a $1.59-billion power project to generate clean energy for the destination.

World's largest battery storage system

As the world gets serious about fighting climate change, Saudi Arabia's TRSDC is leading the pack with increasing emphasis on renewable energy and inclusive growth.

The energy requirements for the development will be generated on a sustainable, fully dispatchable basis by a 340MW solar photovoltaic plant with an associated storage system utilising a battery energy storage system plant for captive use, which at a design capacity of around 1.200 GWh will, upon deployment, be one of the world’s largest utility-scale BESS systems.

Acwa Power and its partners will design, build, operate and transfer a 100 percent renewable energy infrastructure to ensure sustainable power generation, water production, wastewater treatment, and district cooling.

Fresh from its recent ISO14001:2015 accreditation, the company is partnering with the best minds in business and finance to build the world's largest sustainable tourism project and encourage the ethos of responsible tourism.

"While there may be a cost associated with sustainability, we believe it is a great value add because it preserves and protects our environment. We think that's what luxury guests and travelers want these days. They want to travel to responsible and sustainable destinations," said TRSDC's Rosen.

"When people generally talk about sustainability, they mean using renewable energy during the day and switching to fossil fuel at night. When we talk about 100 percent renewable energy, we truly mean it's 24 hours a day and 365 days a year," said the executive.

TRSDC is going to be one of the main projects supporting Saudi Green Initiative, which aims at planting billions of trees to fight climate change. 

The developer of the world's largest sustainable tourism sites is planning to create artificial wetlands to further improve the environment as the company is advancing construction work. 

It will create 38 hectares of artificial wetlands which are expected to attract birds and bats to feed on the many insects and invertebrates that colonize the wetlands, Damian Smith, a senior manager in the project's environmental team told Arab News in February.


Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals

Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals
Updated 35 sec ago

Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals

Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals

RIYADH: Johnson & Johnson, the global medical technology provider, is providing digital solutions that will shorten the time spent by patients in hospitals.

According to Marzena Kulis, managing director of Johnson & Johnson MedTech Middle East, the move is crucial in countries with lower bed capacity.

“The digital solutions that we currently offer help to shorten the time of patients’ stay, so the capacity can absorb more patients, especially in the geographies where capacity is limited,” Kulis said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

“Our digital procedure software empowers, for example, surgical teams to design, apply and analyze surgical workflows. It provides valuable data analytics to reduce variability in surgery time, improve procedural efficiency and enhance education approaches,” she said.

Johnson & Johnson MedTech provides a broad range of medical technology devices used in interventional solutions, orthopedics and surgery. Their offerings include products to treat cardiovascular diseases, hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke, and a combination of products supporting hips, knees, trauma, spine and others.

“We want to strengthen this industry by tapping the full potential of technology to save and sustain and improve lives of patients through a wide array of potential technologies that can be applied in the healthcare sector,” she said. 

The company’s surgery portfolios include advanced and general surgery offerings. These devices are used predominantly in the professional fields by physicians, nurses, hospitals, eyecare professionals and clinics, according to a statement issued by the company.

“We apply the expertise in medical devices and advanced technology to ensure that our healthcare solutions are smarter, less invasive, and more personalized,” Kulis added.

The healthtech provider participated in the 33rd Annual Conference of the Saudi Heart Association, one of the largest cardiac meetings in the Middle East that were held in Riyadh from Oct. 13-15.

Heart of the matter

The company unveiled its “Get Smart About AFib” global campaign at the conference with cardiac scientists, caregivers, and several cardiac working groups to improve care and treatment for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, or AFib.

AFib is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, and nearly one in four adults currently over the age of 40 across the globe is at risk of developing it. According to statistics from Saudi Health Ministry, cardiovascular diseases account for 37 percent of all deaths in the Kingdom.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the disease to help reduce risks.

The health campaign will specifically focus on supporting education and detection of the life-threatening AFib condition that impacts nearly 40 million people globally.

Johnson & Johnson MedTech has been operating in the region for a couple of decades, establishing a headquarters in Riyadh back in 2017, along with two other offices in Jeddah and Dammam.

The US-based company employs around 180 people in Saudi Arabia, nearly half of them Saudis, with a target to increase its Saudization rates by 20 percent in the next couple of years.

“We are getting close to 50 percent in our medtech business, and we aim to grow by 10-20 percent in the next year or two,” said Kulis.

Kulis believes that the Saudi market is steadily growing and becoming one of the largest emerging markets for Johnson & Johnson. 

The digital solutions that we currently offer help to shorten the time of patients’ stay, so the capacity can absorb more patients, especially in the geographies where capacity is limited.

Marzena Kulis, Johnson & Johnson MedTech Middle East managing director

Saudi Arabia is planning to build medical facilities worth $13.8 billion by 2030, according to Faisal Durrani, Knight Frank’s partner and head of research in the Middle East.

“Vision 2030 has sharpened the focus on the public realm, liveability and habitability of Saudi cities. Wellness and well-being sit at its heart, with $13.8 billion worth of medical facilities expected to be built by the end of the decade,” Durrani told Arab News.

Digital health

The expenditure is part of a more comprehensive plan to invest $66.67 billion in the Kingdom’s healthcare infrastructure and boost private sector participation to 65 percent by 2030, targeting the privatization of 290 hospitals and 2,300 primary health centers.

“We look into the development of healthcare in the countries we operate in, and the healthcare market in Saudi Arabia is steadily growing, and we’ve seen and observed that for decades, and the forecast is to continue growing for the next decades as well,” Kulis said.

The Kingdom is expected to be the fastest-growing digital health market in the Gulf Cooperation Council, with the government allocating $1.5 billion for healthcare information technology and digital transformation programs.

Saudi Health Minister Fahad Al-Jalajel said during the opening of the digital event of the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society last year that digital technologies were one of the essential tools for dealing with the pandemic.

It helped develop the first interactive map of COVID-19 data, providing accurate statistics and employing AI to analyze data and make national strategic decisions.

The Kingdom is allocating about 14.4 percent of its 2022 budget to healthcare and social development, which amounts to $36.8 billion, the third largest expense after education and military, according to Dubai-based Omnia Health, a global medical directory.

With life expectancy in Saudi Arabia projected to increase from 76.4 to 81.8 years by 2050 and the Kingdom’s population expected to grow to 39.4 million by 2030, increased investment in the healthcare infrastructure and innovation is necessary to drive strong growth in the Kingdom’s healthcare sector, the medical directory reported.


Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity

Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity
Updated 13 min 17 sec ago

Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity

Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity
  • Founded in 2014, the firm provides fintech companies, banks and financial institutions with the proper technology solutions

CAIRO: Far from the business frenzy around the FIFA World Cup in neighboring Qatar, Saudi Arabia is laying the ground for a business opportunity that could change the fortune of the Kingdom. In the last few months, its banking sector has invited a slew of financial technology companies that could not only offer digitization benefits to its customers but also bolster its economy with better spending avenues.

One of the latest players to join the bandwagon is India’s financial technology enabler M2P, which is expanding its regional footprint by offering financial solutions in Saudi Arabia by 2023.

Founded in 2014, M2P provides fintech companies, banks and financial institutions with the proper technology solutions to boost their financial services.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Madhusudanan R, founder of M2P, said that the company is entering the Saudi Arabian market after seeing massive growth in its fintech sector.

“We managed to support many companies with our products, and I believe we will be able to do the same in Saudi Arabia,” Madhusudanan said. 

We are present in about 20 markets; we serve 700 fintech companies, 100 banks and 120 non-banking financial institutions. India is our largest market with over 400 fintech.

Madhusudanan R, Founder of M2P

He added that the company will launch in the Kingdom by the end of January 2023 and announce a few of its partnerships.

Many regional companies have recognized Saudi Arabia’s growing financial technology sector as multiple players have been expanding their operations into the country.

UAE’s fintech startup Pemo is also planning to launch its services in Saudi Arabia by 2023, in addition to YAP, another Emirati fintech that expanded to the Kingdom in July.

The Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, has also been pushing toward digital transformation as the country plans to enable open banking in the first quarter of 2023.

India’s M2P first started its expansion in the UAE, where it established a regional headquarters to cement its presence in the Middle East.

The company later began to attract clients from different parts of the region, as it currently serves companies in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Madhusudanan explained that the company has over 900 clients worldwide, with about 20 current customers from the Kingdom.

“We are present in about 20 markets; we serve 700 fintech companies, 100 banks and 120 non-banking financial institutions. India is our largest market with over 400 fintech,” he added.

The founder also explained that M2P could easily reach over 50 clients in Saudi Arabia within the next year because it is a financial technology enabler and does not require licenses from the central bank or the government.

“Although it is not yet officially announced, we have already started working with several banks and companies in Saudi Arabia as we have huge plans for the market,” he added.

The company is in talks with three to four banks and around 14 fintech companies in Saudi Arabia looking to use M2P’s platform.

Economic force

The Kingdom has been pushing toward creating a regional financial technology hub by easing the process for fintech companies to operate in the country as it plans to develop over 500 fintech companies by 2030.

“Hopefully, we will be able to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 in making the Kingdom one of the most enabled fintech ecosystems in the region,” Madhusudanan added.

M2P aims to provide Saudi companies with all its 25 financial solutions that range from payment, buy now, pay later and banking services.

To highlight the Kingdom’s move to digital, Saudi Arabia’s banking sector saw massive advancement in 2021, with financial inclusion reaching 83 percent and around 16 million bank accounts opened digitally.

Moreover, the Kingdom has witnessed massive changes in its payment sector as Vision 2030 aims to increase the share of non-cash transactions to 70 percent by 2025.

The strategy also aims to increase the sector’s contribution toward the gross domestic product to $3.46 billion by 2030.

Global digital payment firms like Visa and Mastercard have also recognized the changes in consumer payment, with both companies agreeing that the Kingdom has witnessed one of the highest contactless payment growth curves in history.

Last month, Visa also announced the establishment of its innovation center in Riyadh to enable access to payment technologies.

“Payments executed via smart devices by individuals on point-of-sale terminals increased by 282 percent in 2021,” the Financial Sector Development Plan stated.

Easier payments

Madhusudanan explained that fintech startups could easily launch new payment offerings with its solutions that have already laid the foundations to integrate with banks easily.

The company managed to process over $10 billion in transactions through its solutions as well as serve more than 35 million end customers.

M2P has been well-positioned to cater to fintech companies with the right solutions. The company received a total of $110 million in funding, with its last fundraising of $20 million announced in January 2022.

Investors include New York-based private equity firm Insight Partners, MUFG Innovation Partners, Tiger Global and Better Capital.

Madhusudanan stated that the company is currently valued at $620 million to invest its money into expanding its regional footprint.

The company reached profitability two years ago but decided to sacrifice its positive cash flow to reach more customers and grow its client base as it plans to get back to a green balance sheet by next year.

“Now we are focusing a lot more on growth, we’ve also been acquiring many companies, and so we have to compromise on the profitability because we’ve hired many team members and we’re going to new markets,” Madhusudanan explained.

He added that the company currently has an office in Riyadh and is adding 10 more members to the team by next year.

The company is not yet considering going public, but Madhusudanan said, “we will think of doing it, maybe sometime in the next three or four years.”


Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report

Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report
Updated 26 November 2022

Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report

Qatar reviewing London investments after advert ban: Report
  • City’s transport authority bans adverts by Gulf state reportedly due to human rights concerns
  • Decision ‘interpreted as message that Qatari business not welcome in London,’ source tells FT

LONDON: Qatar is reviewing its London investments following a decision by the city’s transport authority to ban Qatari adverts from its bus, taxi, train and underground network, the Financial Times reported.

Transport for London’s decision is reportedly due to concerns about the World Cup host’s human rights record.

A person involved with the review told the FT that the Gulf state is “reviewing current and future” London investments and “considering investment opportunities in other UK cities.”

The source added that the ban has been “interpreted as a message that Qatari business is not welcome in London.”

Through its sovereign wealth fund, Qatar is now one of the biggest investors in London, and owns nearly 2.1 million sq. meters of property in the UK.

Among its London assets are the Harrods department store; Britain’s tallest building, The Shard, built with £2 billion ($2.4 billion) of Qatari investment; the Savoy and Grosvenor House hotels; co-owning Canary Wharf; and a 20 percent stake in Heathrow Airport.

In May, Qatar pledged to invest £10 billion in the UK over the next five years, including in the technology, healthcare, infrastructure and clean energy sectors.


Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism

Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism
Updated 26 November 2022

Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism

Saudi Arabia, Morocco sign deal to enhance cooperation in tourism

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Morocco signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday to encourage and develop cooperation in tourism, and coordinate efforts to achieve the sustainable development of the industry in both countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The memorandum was signed in the presence of Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, and Fatima-Zahra Ammor, the Moroccan minister of tourism, handicrafts, and social and solidarity economy, on the sidelines of the 117th session of the executive council meeting of the UN World Tourism Organization.

Al-Khateeb said: “Saudi Arabia and Morocco enjoy a common commitment to protecting the rich heritage sites and natural marine, mountainous and desert areas in both countries, in addition to their keenness to give priority to youth in their development plans.

“The issue of sustainability occupies an important place in Saudi tourism ambitions, so cooperation with partners who have a similar vision, like Morocco, helps to strengthen the sector in our region and the world as a whole, and contributes to consolidating the sustainability, flexibility, and inclusiveness of the tourism sector for the benefit of people and societies.”

The Moroccan tourism minister said: “The memorandum reflects the strong relations between the two countries and the common vision toward strengthening partnership and raising prospects for cooperation in the tourism sector.

“It will lead to more joint initiatives and the exchange of experiences and best practices, allowing the two countries to develop their capabilities in tourism.”

The agreement will also help to support an increase in training and knowledge-sharing opportunities, and provide new openings for investment.

Saudi Arabia is currently one of Morocco’s largest trading partners in the Arab world. In 2020 the Kingdom invested $26.6 million in its real estate, tourism, and agricultural sectors.


Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends

Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends
Updated 25 November 2022

Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends

Flurry of R&D cooperation deals signed as Sustainable Partnerships Conference ends

RIYADH: More than 50 cooperation and research partnership agreements were signed between universities and various sectors at the Sustainable Partnerships Conference held in Riyadh.

The two-day conference, held under the theme “Research and Innovation Towards A Prosperous Economy” was part of an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Education to foster ties between Saudi universities and the industrial and development sectors.

The event hosted 150 ministers, decision-makers, local and international leaders — of which 100 were from the industrial and development sector — and 40 Saudi universities and colleges.

Some 1,000 research products and industrial models for universities were presented, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

On the sidelines of the conference, 40 training workshops specialized in research and innovation were held, along with 25 dialogue sessions, in addition to a presentation of 220 scientific inventions through the “Promising Technologies and Innovations” exhibition for the country’s citizens and graduates of Saudi universities.

The conference also saw the Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih announce a new strategy for research and development would soon be launched in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Industry and minimal resources Bandar Al-Khorayef also addressed the forum, revealing that a budget for research and development will be allocated soon. 

Al-Khorayef pointed out that the innovation strategy will enhance Saudi Arabia’s exports, and will contribute to national gross domestic production. 

According to SPA, the Ministry of Education sought to use the conference — the first of its kind in the Kingdom — to not only strengthen the links between the higher education sector and industry, but also to identify research and innovation needs of national priority and provide effective solutions to them.

The event was held with a growing focus on Saudi Arabia’s R&D sector, as the Kingdom seeks to diversify its economy away from oil in keeping with the Vision 2030 program.

Saudi Arabia is aiming to become one of the top 10 countries in the Global Competitive Index by the end of this decade, increasing from 24th in 2022.