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.


Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets
Updated 7 sec ago

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin falls below $19,000, further shaking crypto markets

Bitcoin dropped 6.1% to $18,866.77 at 2004 GMT on Thursday, putting the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency down $1,226.41 from its previous close and down 60.9% from the year's high of $48,234 on March 28.
Several big players in the cryptocurrency markets have had difficulties, and further declines could force other crypto investors to sell holdings to meet margin calls and cover losses.
Ether, the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 7.5% to $1,016.08 on Thursday, losing $82.38 from its previous close.
Both digital assets have struggled since U.S. based lender Celsius Network this month said it would suspend withdrawals. Bitcoin and ether were further rattled by the apparent insolvency of crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, which a person familiar with the matter told Reuters has entered liquidation.
Many of the industry's recent problems can be traced back to the spectacular collapse of so-called stablecoin TerraUSD in May, which saw the stablecoin lose almost all its value, along with its paired token. (Reporting by Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru and Hannah Lang in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)


Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge

Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge
Updated 01 July 2022

Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge

Crypto rules to make Europe global leader as prices plunge
  • EU to subject cryptocurrency transfers to money laundering rules

RIYADH: Europe prepares to lead the world in regulating the cryptocurrency industry at a time when prices have plunged, wiping out fortunes, fueling skepticism and sparking calls for tighter scrutiny.

The EU took a first step late Wednesday by agreeing on new rules subjecting cryptocurrency transfers to the same money laundering rules as traditional banking transfers.

A much bigger move was expected as EU negotiators hammer out the final details late Thursday on a separate deal for a sweeping package of crypto regulations for the bloc’s 27 nations, known as Markets in Crypto Assets, or MiCA.

Like the EU’s trendsetting data privacy policy, which became the de facto global standard, the crypto regulations are expected to be highly influential worldwide.

The EU rules are “really the first comprehensive piece of crypto regulation in the world,” said Patrick Hansen, crypto venture adviser at Presight Capital, a venture capital firm.

Patrick Hansen, analyst

“I think there will be a lot of jurisdictions that will look closely into how the EU has dealt with it since the EU is first here,” Hansen said.

He expected authorities in other places, especially smaller countries that don’t have the resources to draw up their own rules from scratch, to adopt ones similar to the EU’s, though “they might change a few details.”

Companies issuing or trading crypto assets such as stablecoins face tough transparency requirements requiring them to provide detailed information on the risks, costs and charges that consumers face.

Providers of bitcoin-related services would fall under the regulations, but not bitcoin itself, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency that has lost more than 70 percent of its value from its November peak.

Russia probes 400 cases

The Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation is trying to detect around 400 cases in which cryptocurrencies are involved, the agency’s director, Yury Chikhanchin, revealed the number during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Russian law enforcement authorities have already initiated 20 criminal cases related to digital assets, Bitcoin.com reported.

Chikhanchin acknowledged that Russians continue to actively use cryptocurrency platforms located outside the country.

“This phenomenon continues to exist. And only on two foreign sites, two exchanges, several hundred thousand Russian citizens participate in transactions worth tens of billions,” he said.

According to official data released earlier this year, the number of lawsuits related to cryptocurrency mining in Russia exceeded 1,500 in 2021.

$100 million crypto hack

Digital investigative firms have concluded that North Korean hackers are most likely responsible for an attack last week that took as much as $100 million in cryptocurrency from a US company, according to Reuters.

Cryptocurrency assets were stolen on June 23 from Horizon Bridge, a service provided by Harmony blockchain that transfers assets between blockchains. The hackers’ activity since then suggests they may be affiliated with North Korea, which experts say is among the most prolific cyberattackers.

The UN sanctions monitors say Pyongyang uses the stolen funds to finance its nuclear and missile programs.


Fitch cuts view on global sovereign debt over rise in borrowing costs

Fitch cuts view on global sovereign debt over rise in borrowing costs
Updated 23 min 10 sec ago

Fitch cuts view on global sovereign debt over rise in borrowing costs

Fitch cuts view on global sovereign debt over rise in borrowing costs

LONDON: Credit rating agency Fitch downgraded its view on sovereign debt on Thursday on concerns about the rise in global borrowing costs and the potential for a flurry of new defaults.

Fitch, which monitors over 100 countries, said the Ukraine-Russia war was stoking problems such as higher inflation, trade disruptions and weaker economies which are all now hurting sovereign credit conditions.

“Rising interest rates are increasing government debt-servicing costs,” Fitch’s Global Head of Sovereigns, James McCormack, said, cutting the firm’s view on the sovereign sector to “neutral” from “improving.”

“Most exposed are emerging market (EM) sovereigns, but some highly indebted developed markets are at risk as well, including in the eurozone.” The number of countries seeing their credit ratings cut has begun to rise again this year as the pressures have built.

Most of the governments Fitch covers have either brought in subsidies or cut tax cuts to try to cushion the impact of surging inflation. But that carries costs.

“While modest fiscal deteriorations can be absorbed by the positive effects inflation has on government debt dynamics, such effects depend on the retention of low interest rates, which are now less certain,” McCormack said.

While commodity exporters will benefit from higher prices, those who have to import the bulk of their energy or food will suffer.

Gross external funding needs will be highest this year in both nominal terms and relative to foreign exchange reserves for EM sovereigns that are net importers of commodities, McCormack added.

“They now face tighter global funding conditions, and with a record-high share of sovereigns rated in the ‘B’ category or lower, it is likely there will be additional defaults.”

The list of countries either in default or whose financial market bond yields suggest they will be currently stands at a record 17.

Those 17 are Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Lebanon, Tunisia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, El Salvador, Suriname, Ecuador, Belize, Argentina, Russia, Belarus and Venezuela.


Saudis reportedly in talks over stake in luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin

Saudis reportedly in talks over stake in luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudis reportedly in talks over stake in luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin

Saudis reportedly in talks over stake in luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin
  • The Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund is said to be considering taking a $243.5m stake in the British company that make the vehicles favored by movie spy James Bond

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is reportedly in talks with Aston Martin over acquiring what the Financial Times newspaper said would be a $243.5 million stake in the luxury carmaker.

The British manufacturer refused to confirm or deny the reports but following the news on Thursday, a fall in the company’s share price was reduced to nine percent from a 20 percent drop earlier in the day.

Since its initial public offering in 2018, the carmaker — whose vehicles frequently appear in James Bond movies — has struggled, with the share price falling by nearly 68 percent this year alone.

In January, Aston Martin blamed lower-than-expected profits on delays in shipments of its limited edition Valkyrie sports car, but the company said on Thursday that production of the model has started to pick up pace.

In a further effort to reassure investors, it added that its management team, led by new boss Amedeo Felisa, is increasingly focusing on the launch of new models beginning in 2023.

Citing four sources said to be close to the PIF investment talks, the FT said Aston Martin is seeking to raise additional funding for its new range of cars. Autocar magazine reported that the manufacturer is also in talks with a US-based investment fund as it looks to raise capital.


Nearly 60% of Saudi, UAE businesses lack ESG framework, survey shows

Nearly 60% of Saudi, UAE businesses lack ESG framework, survey shows
Updated 30 June 2022

Nearly 60% of Saudi, UAE businesses lack ESG framework, survey shows

Nearly 60% of Saudi, UAE businesses lack ESG framework, survey shows

RIYADH: Nearly 60 percent of businesses in Saudi Arabia and the UAE do not have an environmental, social and governance framework, a survey by ASDA’A BCW’s unit showed. 

Conducted by PSB Middle East, the survey also revealed that around half of those who have an ESG framework, are not sure their employees fully understand it. 

The survey marked the launch of OnePoint5, its new ESG advisory dedicated to the Middle East and North Africa region.

Out of the 200 respondents interviewed, 41 percent said their business already had an ESG framework in place, while 33 percent said they were developing one, while 26 percent admitted their company had no ESG policy. 

Around 52 percent of the respondents said their company had introduced an ESG framework and they did not fully understand it, which shows the need for raising awareness of the benefits of ESG standards. 

The research indicated that the Middle East’s business community had work to do to meet the high expectations of their governments on sustainability, Sunil John, president MENA of BCW, said.