Startup of the Week: Arib puts digital financing on fast track, raises $2.3m

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Updated 04 May 2022

Startup of the Week: Arib puts digital financing on fast track, raises $2.3m

Startup of the Week: Arib puts digital financing on fast track, raises $2.3m
  • Startup hopes to achieve around SR100m in transactions: CEO Waleed Talat

RIYADH: Anybody purchasing a car on finance in Saudi Arabia is likely to face a bewildering array of leasing options. The vexed question on top of their minds: What is the best option given their credit rating?

Arib, a Riyadh-based fintech startup launched in December 2018, helped consumers solve the problem. The company’s journey started when the founders came across customers caught off balance by the deluge of choices.

“I was shocked,” Waleed Talat, CEO of Arib, told Arab News, “when I discovered that many customers spent weeks or even months to find the best financing offer. We started to think about how to resolve this issue.”

Talat, an Egyptian national residing in the Kingdom for 22 years, reached out to his friend and co-founder Mohammed El-Dessouki, who worked with a top auto leasing company, and reflected his thoughts.

A computer engineer with rich project management experience in various government entities, Talat pulled in the reins and developed a digital loan broking app called Syaarat, later christened Arib. 




Waleed Talat, center, manages operations, Mohammed El-Dessouki heads sales, marketing and finance, and Omar Al-Hammad handles government and banking relationships. (Supplied)

Instead of visiting every lender and asking them for their best quotes, the platform allowed a prospective loan applicant to fill out an online form and receive within 48 hours a tailor-made choice from about 25 lenders.

“Since the first month, we found a real demand from end-users because we solved a real problem,” Talat said.

Arib now has a staff of 25, with a technical team located in Cairo and a marketing team based in its Riyadh head office. Talat manages operations. El-Dessouki heads sales, marketing and finance. Omar Al-Hammad, the third co-founder, handles government and banking relationships.

In April 2020, Arib applied for a digital brokerage and financing license from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority. The permit covers auto-leasing and other personal financing products. The company expects approval within the next month.

“For now, we manually refer to the banks and get their response on each application. With the license, we will be able to integrate with the Saudi Credit Bureau (SIMAH) and see the credit score ourselves and connect with the financing institutions to get a real-time online offer for the end-user,” said Talat.

SPEEDREAD

• Arib allows a prospective loan applicant to fill out an online form and receive within 48 hours a tailor-made choice from about 25 lenders.

• In April 2020, Arib applied for a digital brokerage and financing license from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority.

• The permit covers auto-leasing and other personal financing products. The company expects approval within the next month.

He further added the license could enable his company to venture into home financing, personal loans, credit cards and other financing products available in the Kingdom.

The license will also boost the company’s earnings. Arib’s existing revenue model is based on commissions from car dealers with an incentive of 0.5-1 percent for each financing transaction. By the end of 2021, Arib achieved a total financing transaction of SR55.3 million ($14.75 million). Its total revenue to date is SR2.8 million.

“Once we integrate with SIMAH, our revenue could multiply three to four times. The whole process will be automated. In 2022 we hope to achieve around SR100 million in finance transactions and SR5.5 million in revenue.”

The numbers are stacked in Arib’s favor. According to Focus2move.com, a market intelligence firm specializing in the auto industry, the Kingdom in 2021 reported an annual increase of 24.6 percent in new cars to 585,351.

Recent data from SAMA also revealed the Kingdom’s car financing sector was worth over SR75 billion in 2021, with the entire market for consumer finance exceeding SR1 trillion annually. The business opportunity is already offering early birds a leg up.

“We’ve made two investment rounds,” Talat said. “We closed a pre-seed round in February 2021, in which we collected $800,00 from five angel investors, mostly linked to Riyadh Angel Investors.

“Then, at the end of 2021, we opened a seed round led by Merak Capital. They invested $1.5 million,” he said while adding that he plans to deploy these funds primarily on regulatory, development and marketing expenses.

The government, on its part, has been supporting fintech innovators through the Fintech Saudi programs and developing an ecosystem to nurture the industry. Soon, the digital broking opportunity will be huge, and no one will want to miss the bus this time.


Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022
  • The two countries will bolster ties further with the signing of 12 new deals this week

RIYADH: The mutual trade between Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Uzbekistan reached $95 million in the first half of 2022, a substantial increase considering that bilateral trade barely exceeded $17 million last year.

According to a joint news statement, the value is expected to grow rapidly by the end of 2022. The numbers assume significance in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In fact, the number of Uzbek companies running on Saudi funds increased from about nine to 38 in the last five years. Of the 38, 19 are sole proprietors, and the rest are joint ventures.

The two nations will bolster the ties further by signing 12 new agreements on Wednesday and Thursday when Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visits the Kingdom.

According to an Uzbek state agency, high-level talks will take place in Jeddah, where the two nations will discuss opportunities to enhance multilateral cooperation further.

The discussion will focus on the green economy, technology and digitalization, innovations, small business and entrepreneurship. 

Following the meeting, new agreements are expected to be signed in the energy, telecommunications, agriculture, chemical and petrochemical industries, besides encouraging ties in culture, sports and education.

The Kingdom has become one of the largest foreign investors in energy infrastructure and one of Uzbekistan’s most significant developers of green energy projects.

ACWA Power’s Uzbek interests

Recently, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan and Saudi energy company ACWA Power signed several investment agreements for about $3 billion.

ACWA Power will develop and operate a wind energy project with a production capacity of 1,500 MW in the Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan.

When commissioned, the plant will become the largest of its kind in Central Asia and one of the largest wind power plants in the world. 

FASTFACTS

• The number of Uzbek companies running on Saudi funds increased from about nine to 38 in the last five years.

• Recently, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan and Saudi energy company ACWA Power signed several investment agreements for about $3 billion.

• The Saudi Fund for Development has contributed to the implementation of many projects in Uzbekistan, including funding the Samarkand-Gozar Road project, with a total value of $30 million.

ACWA Power also signed an agreement to establish the 100MW Nokus wind farm project, the first renewable energy project to be implemented in partnership with Uzbekistan’s public and private sectors.

The power generating company also won a $108 million wind contract after proposing a tariff of 2.56 cents per kilowatt-hour, the lowest in Uzbekistan.

Additionally, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with ACWA Power to establish a combined-cycle gas turbine power plant in Shirin, located in Syrdarya, Uzbekistan. The deal amounts to $1.2 billion.

According to the statement, these projects will contribute to achieving Uzbekistan’s national goal of raising the total renewable energy generation capacity to 30 percent by 2030.

Saudi Fund for Development

Moreover, the Saudi Fund for Development has contributed to the implementation of many projects in Uzbekistan, including funding the Samarkand-Gozar Road project, with a total value of $30 million.

The fund also contributed to 20 projects in the republic, including building pumping stations and other projects involving sewage, chemicals, mining, building materials, water and agriculture.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan, the Saudi and Uzbek delegations have discussed issues of cooperation in agriculture, including the prospects for enhancing mutual trade in agricultural products.

Both parties will likely sign memorandums of cooperation in agriculture, veterinary medicine and livestock development at the meeting.

They also agreed to deepen cooperation in the agricultural sector to enhance trade in farming, livestock and other products between the countries.

After signing the memoranda, action plans will be prepared, including specific measures and areas for developing cooperation and joint projects.

The Saudi side invited the Uzbekistan delegation to attend its most prominent exhibition of the agro-industrial complex, which will be held at the end of October in Riyadh.


American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal
Updated 16 August 2022

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

CHICAGO: American Airlines Group Inc. on Tuesday agreed to buy up to 20 jets from aircraft maker Boom Supersonic, becoming the second major US airline to bet on ultra-fast passenger travel in the last two years.

The deal brings Boom’s order book to 130 airplanes, including options, valued at about $26 billion, Boom Chief Executive Blake Scholl said in an interview.

The return of interest in supersonic jets comes nearly two decades after Concorde, flown by Air France and British Airways, was retired following a deadly crash and high costs of fuel and maintenance.

Last year, United Airlines Holdings Inc agreed to buy 15 Boom Overture aircraft provided they meet certain safety, operating and sustainability requirements. A similar condition was part of the American Airlines agreement as well.

American also has an option to purchase 40 more of the jets, each of which can carry 65 to 80 passengers, the companies said.

The four-engine Overture jet can fly from Miami to London in just under five hours, cutting the nearly nine-hour flight time between the cities by about half.

American Airlines spokesperson Matt Miller said it was too early to discuss ticket prices, given the aircraft isn't expected to carry its first passengers until 2029.

Supersonic jets have come under criticism from environmentalists for burning more fuel per passenger than comparable subsonic planes.

The Overture jet, being designed to run fully on sustainable aviation fuel or a blend, will be rolled out of Boom’s Greensboro, North Carolina factory in 2025, followed by test flights in 2026.

Third Bridge senior analyst Christopher Raite sounded a word of caution on Boom’s delivery target, saying the delay in conducting test flights for Boom’s other jet, the XB-1, signaled that delivery of the Overture will be delayed.


87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022
Updated 16 August 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

RIYADH: The number of families benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s Sakani housing options and financing solutions has reached 87,467 since the beginning of the year until the end of July. 

Some 104,492 families also received possession of their first homes during that period, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The program seeks to raise the proportion of housing ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent by 2030.

The Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund formed Sakani in 2017 to facilitate homeownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase.

Earlier this year, Sakani program announced that it aims to enable 180,000 new families to benefit from the program’s housing options and solutions during 2022. 


Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns
Updated 16 August 2022

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell over 1 percent on Tuesday in volatile trading as economic data spurred concerns about a potential global recession, while the market awaited clarity on talks to revive a deal that could allow more Iranian oil exports.

Brent crude futures fell $1.41, or 1.5 percent, to $93.69 a barrel, after hitting a session high of $95.95. West Texas Intermediate crude decreased $1.33, or 1.5 percent, to $88.08 a barrel, after rising to $90.65.

The contracts fell about 3 percent in their previous sessions.

The EU is assessing Iran’s response to what the bloc has called its “final” proposal to save a 2015 nuclear deal, and consulting with the US, an EU spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Iran responded to the proposal late on Monday but neither Tehran nor the EU provided any details on the content of the reply.

“It is still unclear what Iran has told the EU last night, so some tricky items might impact the outcome of the nuclear deal,” UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo said.

Weak economic indicators weighed on prices.

US homebuilding fell to the lowest level in nearly 1-1/2 years in July, weighed down by higher mortgage rates and prices for construction materials, suggesting the housing market could contract further in the third quarter.

“Oil traders reacted because of concerns about an economic slowdown and housing uses energy,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures group. “That caught us by surprise.”

China’s central bank cut lending rates to try to revive demand as the nation’s economy slowed unexpectedly in July after Beijing’s zero-COVID policy and a property crisis slowed factory and retail activity.

State media quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying that China will reasonably step up macro policy support for the economy.

Barclays lowered its Brent price forecasts by $8 per barrel for this year and next, as it expects a large surplus of crude oil over the near-term due to “resilient” Russian supplies.


Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain
Updated 16 August 2022

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday authorized the minister of transport and logistic services to discuss with Bahrain two draft agreements to boost cooperation in the fields of road safety and maintenance. 

During the meeting, the council of ministers also authorized the chairman of Education and Training Evaluation Commission to discuss with the UAE a draft initial agreement to cooperate in the development of assessment, measurement and accreditation tools.

The ministers also approved two agreements in the fields of employment and domestic workers with Burundi, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The Cabinet has also authorized the health minister to discuss a draft memorandum of understanding with the Uzbek side for cooperation in the field. 

It also approved the rules governing the competency and contractor program.