Digital asset deals in KSA top $20bn in 2021, says BitOasis executive

Alobaid says their core platform allows retail users to track and manage their crypto portfolio without the complexity of going through a sophisticated trading experience. (Shutterstock)
Alobaid says their core platform allows retail users to track and manage their crypto portfolio without the complexity of going through a sophisticated trading experience. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 15 May 2022

Digital asset deals in KSA top $20bn in 2021, says BitOasis executive

Alobaid says their core platform allows retail users to track and manage their crypto portfolio without the complexity of going
  • Ali Alobaid expects cryptocurrency use in the MENA to grow quickly over the next few years

RIYADH: The value of virtual asset transactions in Saudi Arabia was worth around $20 billion with over 800,000 Saudis using digital currencies last year, according to the managing director of trading platform BitOasis in the Kingdom, Ali Alobaid.

He told Arab News: “We believe that this can grow by five times over the next five years. Last year, KSA probably represented 15 percent of Gulf Cooperation Council and Middle East and North Africa activity.”
Alobaid joined BitOasis, a leading crypto trading platform operating in seven countries across the MENA region, as managing director for the Kingdom this year, following other roles in the payments and fintech space in the country.




By the end of the year across MENA, about 4 percent of the adult population will have
invested in crypto-currencies, says Ali Alobaid, Managing director of BitOasis in KSA

The executive added: “In terms of demographics, our user base in the Kingdom is primarily made up of millennials. More specifically, close to 45 percent of all trading activity on BitOasis is driven by 25-34-year-olds, while another 30 percent is driven by 35- 44-year-olds.”
He expected cryptocurrency use in the MENA to grow quickly over the next few years.

FASTFACTS

• BitOasis introduced a swap feature on its core platform last month, which allows users to simply buy cryptocurrencies with other digital coins.

• The platform also has a partnership with UK-based online payment firm Checkout.com, which makes it easier for users to transfer funds and ‘reduces friction.’

The BitOasis MD added: “We are still at an early stage in the region’s journey toward mass adoption of virtual assets or cryptocurrency. We estimate that by the end of the year across MENA, about 4 percent of the adult population will have invested in crypto-currencies. In the US the number is about 20 percent.”
He also expected this type of currency will be embraced more by a younger, tech-savvy, generation.
Alobaid said: “We do expect markets that are characterized by young, tech-savvy early adopters that are keen to get exposure to a diversity of investable assets, where nations such as Saudi Arabia, will witness accelerating adoption and growth in the next few years. The adoption of these assets in the MENA region grew by 15 times between July 2020 to June 2021 — twice the global average. The Kingdom is one of the fastest growing markets for crypto-adoption in the MENA region.”
BitOasis, which launched in 2015, allows retail and institutional investors across the region to buy, hold, and sell over 40 virtual assets or cryptocurrencies.


Alobaid said: “We offer trading pairs in the UAE dirhams and the Saudi riyals and provide Arabic-language customer support. We generate revenues from the commissions we charge on buying and selling just like an exchange or brokerage platform that operates with shares or other assets.”
However, BitOasis does not enable peer-to-peer trading of virtual assets on its platform.
Alobaid added: “Such activity is more likely to lead to frauds and scams. It’s simply not in the consumer’s interest, and that includes Saudi residents, to allow such trading. There is also a lack of supervision from a regulatory perspective. Our advice would always be to use a supervised centralized platform for trading activity.”
He added BitOasis introduced a swap feature on its core platform last month, which allows users to simply buy cryptocurrencies with other digital coins.
Alobaid said: “Our core platform allows retail users to track and manage their crypto portfolio without the complexity of going through a sophisticated trading experience. With the new feature, core users can now swap a chosen percentage of bitcoin, ethereum or other crypto assets in their existing portfolio with another, in a few clicks. Users also have full visibility on conversion rates in real-time as they start and execute a swap transaction.”
Alobaid said the platform also has a partnership with UK-based online payment firm Checkout.com, which makes it easier for users to transfer funds and “reduces friction.”
Alobaid expects cryptocurrencies will be gradually regulated over the next two years.
He said: “We currently have the Central Bank of Bahrain, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, and the Dubai World Trade Center that regulate virtual asset activity. The Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority has indicated that they intend to launch a framework for the UAE.”
He added: “This will further drive consumer protection, foreign investment, and innovation and ensure that the region develops its own relevant use-cases around Web 3.0 (blockchain-based) technologies.”
Alobaid is well aware of the debate about the volatility of digital coins, but maintains they are a useful asset class.
He said: “It is true that virtual assets are subject to volatility, not unlike many financial assets, however, over the long-term investors in virtual assets have reaped significant gains.”
The platform head added: “Virtual assets are another type of investable asset class and one that has increased in popularity globally over the last decade. Today the market cap of virtual assets is approximately $2 trillion against $12 trillion for gold. Investors can diversify their portfolios, which today may consist of stocks, or real estate, along with virtual assets to achieve diversification.”


AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months

John Northen Executive director — head of hotels  and resorts at RCU
John Northen Executive director — head of hotels and resorts at RCU
Updated 9 sec ago

AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months

John Northen Executive director — head of hotels  and resorts at RCU

RIYADH: The historic city of AlUla received more than 250,000 visitors in the past 12 months, far exceeding its forecast, said a senior government official.

The city developers had already covered huge ground, considering it had envisaged attracting one million visitors by 2025.

“The plan is to keep it preserve the nature. We don’t want to create a destination and then destroy it by bringing too many people,” John Northen, executive director – head of hotels and resorts at the Royal Commission of AlUla, or RCU, told Arab News.

“So, we are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors,” Northen said.

One such labor of love is the Banyan Tree Hotel, a sprawling destination with 79 villas slated to open in October this year.

The plan is to keep it preserve the nature ... We are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors.

John Northen, Executive director — head of hotels and resorts at RCU

The hotel is also a worthy neighbor of Maraya Hall, the largest mirrored building in the world and a centerpiece of the city’s growing cultural landscape.

The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October.

“It’s going to be completely different; you will feel like you traveled back in time and experienced something very unusual,” he said.

The city has also regenerated its 2,000 square kilometers of vast Sharaan Nature Reserve, a sanctuary to the Arabian leopards.

“Here, we are developing two exciting hotels, one designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, which will be crafted inside the mountain,” Northen said.

The destination is also home to international fine dining restaurants

“Food and beverage are already a great strength for AlUla,” he added.

Most of the restaurants in the city have been seasonal based on the tourism traffic. However, RCU will operate them throughout the year starting from next year.

Part of the RCU’s strategy is to engage the local community and offer training programs.

“The population of AlUla is 42,000 people. We are trying to hire as many as we can and give educational opportunities,” said Northen, adding that they have already opened a language school and will soon be setting up a hotel management school.


Dar Al Arkan acquires Compass Consulting to venture into project

‘Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom.’ (Reuters)
‘Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom.’ (Reuters)
Updated 12 min 35 sec ago

Dar Al Arkan acquires Compass Consulting to venture into project

‘Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom.’ (Reuters)
  • The company saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to start consolidating with their clients and get their assets out to the market quickly as soon as the market rebounded

RIYADH: Dar Al Arkan, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest real estate developers, has acquired a Dubai-based project consulting firm, Compass Project Consulting.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News at the Future Hospitality Summit, Spencer Wylie, CEO of Compass Project Consulting, confirmed the buyout.
According to Wylie, the rationale behind purchasing Compass Project Consulting is twofold.
One, it allows Dar Al Arkan to venture into the fast-growing project management space. Two, it equips the real estate giant to bid for the upcoming megaprojects as a project consultant.

Dar Al Arkan wants to approach the larger mega developers, the Public Investment Fund, and other giga programs as a project management company and not just a residential developer.

Spencer Wylie, CEO of Compass Project Consulting

“Dar Al Arkan wants to approach the larger mega developers, the Public Investment Fund, and other giga programs as a project management company and not just a residential developer,” Wylie told Arab News.
With regional coverage and multi-sector expertise, Compass offers clients fully tailored project development solutions that can take an initial concept through to construction completion and handover.
Widely known within the construction, fit-out, engineering and design industries, the company provides a turnkey project consulting service to clients of all sizes. The buyout assumes significance as both companies had entered into a strategic partnership late last year.
Wylie added that the growth of the tourism sector in the Kingdom has been phenomenal and well-grounded around Vision 2030.
The company saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to start consolidating with their clients and get their assets out to the market quickly as soon as the market rebounded.
“Sustainability will remain a key factor of expansion into the Kingdom and as the company aims to develop more assets in the Kingdom,” said Wylie.


Louvre Hotels advances its influence in KSA, signs up 12 properties

Paul Diab, vice president of operations, Middle East and North Africa region, Louvre Hotels Group. (AN photo)
Paul Diab, vice president of operations, Middle East and North Africa region, Louvre Hotels Group. (AN photo)
Updated 13 min 25 sec ago

Louvre Hotels advances its influence in KSA, signs up 12 properties

Paul Diab, vice president of operations, Middle East and North Africa region, Louvre Hotels Group. (AN photo)
  • We are currently looking at 14 properties and have 12 in the pipeline that are signed, top official says
  • We are concentrating not only on the big cities but also on other destinations. When the tourists come, they will also want to visit smaller cities

RIYADH: Paris-based Louvre Hotels Group has signed up 12 properties and identified 14 locations to fuel its expansion plans in Saudi Arabia, said a top executive.

“We are currently looking at 14 properties and have 12 in the pipeline that are signed. We also have another six to eight properties that are under negotiation across different destinations in the Kingdom,” Paul Diab, vice president of operations, Middle East and North Africa region, Louvre Hotels Group, told Arab News.
The locations under consideration include places such as Alkhobar, Jazan, Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and Riyadh.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The locations under consideration include places such as Alkhobar, Jazan, Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and Riyadh.

• According to the official, the Red Sea and Abha are important destinations as the Kingdom aims to attract 100 million visitors.

• Louvre Hotels Group already operates 16 hotels in some of the most sought-after locations in Saudi Arabia.

• The hospitality major ventured into the Kingdom in June last year with the launch of Golden Tulip Riyadh. The hotel has 94 rooms, including 15 suites.

“We are concentrating not only on the big cities but also on other destinations. When the tourists come, they will also want to visit smaller cities such as Abha, which has unique things to offer,” said Diab.
According to Diab, the Red Sea and Abha are important destinations as the Kingdom aims to attract 100 million visitors as part of the Vision 2030 blueprint.
“Louvre is keen to make sure that at least one or two of our brands are available to be part of the giga-projects,” he said.
Louvre Hotels Group already operates 16 hotels in some of the most sought-after locations in Saudi Arabia.
He further added: “With our experience being in the region for the last 35 years, we have seen different cities also have big growth, which gives us an advantage to be part of the growth that’s happening in the Kingdom.”
The hospitality major ventured into the Kingdom in June last year with the launch of Golden Tulip Riyadh. The hotel has 94 rooms, including 15 suites.


Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah port tops CPPI list of 370 global ports

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah port tops CPPI list of 370 global ports
Updated 27 May 2022

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah port tops CPPI list of 370 global ports

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah port tops CPPI list of 370 global ports

RIYADH: Saudi ports are on top of global indicators with three of them leading the second edition of the Container Port Performance Index 2021.

The King Abdullah Port ranks 1st on the list of 370 global ports, while Jeddah Islamic Port ranks 8th, and King Abdulaziz Port placed at 14th, a statement showed.

Strategically located on the Red Sea coast in King Abdullah Economic City, King Abdullah Port is the region’s first port to be fully owned, developed and operated by the private sector.

It enjoys close proximity to the key Saudi cities of Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and Yanbu.

Saudi ports' performance in April (Source: Mawani)

The CPPI 2021 is an indicator produced by the Transport Global Practice of the World Bank in collaboration with the Maritime, Trade and Supply Chain division of S&P Global Market Intelligence, to serve as a reference point for improvement for key stakeholders in the global economy.

President of the Kingdom's ports authority — Mawani — Omar Hariri said that the Saudi ports’ achievements on the CPPI 2021, which outdone the results of 2020, came as result of Mawani’s efforts of enabling operations, enhancing customers’ experience, and ensuring an effective, reliable commercial and regulatory environment.

The three Saudi ports recorded exceptional scores that indicate ports’ performance efficiency, despite challenges in 2021 that affected the world, according to the CPPI.

King Abdullah Ports rank increased from the 2nd position to the 1st , Jeddah Islamic Port from 55th position to the 8th, and King Abdulaziz Port which jumped to the 14th, surpassing 88 ranks from last year’s report.

Minister of Transport and Logistics Services and the Chairman of Mawani, Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser emphasized that the ports and maritime transport sectors are on a clear path towards achieving the objectives of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy, in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

 

 


Investment firm Amanat wants to revolutionize education in the Middle East

Investment firm Amanat wants to revolutionize education in the Middle East
Updated 27 May 2022

Investment firm Amanat wants to revolutionize education in the Middle East

Investment firm Amanat wants to revolutionize education in the Middle East
  • Investment firm Amanat aims to integrate video gaming with education to make learning more attractive
  • People are more likely to retain information acquired visually and experientially, says CEO Mohamad Ali Hamade

LONDON: The UAE-based healthcare and education investment company Amanat aims to revolutionize education in the Middle East by integrating experiential learning and virtual reality into the curriculum, its CEO told Arab News.

Speaking during the World Economic Forum, Dr. Mohamad Ali Hamade outlined how virtual reality would take “center stage” in how education was provided to children across the region.

“As a leading investor in the education space, Amanat is looking at what the future would look like in the education sector,” Dr. Hamade said. “We believe that experiential learning and virtual reality are going to take center stage in the future of how we provide education services to our kids.”

According to Dr. Hamade, Saudi Arabia is a promising market for this kind of investment as the Kingdom has recently opened up to foreign branch campuses across the country and is increasingly open to international curricula.

“I think if a product comes in and promises to have a more progressive curriculum, but also a technology aspect attached to it, I think we have a very good opportunity to prove a concept in Saudi Arabia,” Dr. Hamade said.

Targeting mainly stable markets in the region, Dr. Hamade explained that investment would focus in the interim on Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Gulf countries.

“Historically, we have been trying to solve a problem of access to education and quality of education while keeping the costs acceptable,” he said. “And I think this is what Web 3.0 would do, and what the technology aspect will allow us to achieve.”

Founded in 2014, Amanat Holdings is a listed investment firm in Dubai that seeks to make investments within the education and health care sectors in the MENA region.

In 2021, the company witnessed a twenty-eightfold increase in net profit to 280.8 million dirhams ($76.4 million). Additionally, the company saw a 2,680 percent increase in net profit on strong health unit performance.

Explaining how the new model of education would work, Dr. Hamade said that the company’s main idea was to integrate gaming with education, as gaming is usually very attractive to young people.

“Instead of channeling gamification to wasteful and non-productive time, we’re actually channeling it into a very productive thing, which is education and learning,” Dr. Hamade said.

He explained that people were more likely to retain and remember information that had been acquired visually and experientially. As such, integrating virtual reality in the curriculum would produce more positive outcomes than textbook-based learning.

CEO of Amanat since 2020, Dr. Hamade joined the company in 2017 as chief investment officer. He holds an MD and a BSc in biology from the American University of Beirut and an MBA from Cornell University in the US.

While it is a highly innovative idea, Dr. Hamade anticipates that there will not be much resistance from the region given how far countries in the Middle East have come in terms of modernization.

“I think we’ve come a long way in our region where policymakers are willing to listen, to accept, to ask the right questions, to push us, and together to put a solution that allows us to improve the quality of education in the region,” he said.