Regional Domino’s Pizza operator Almar Food gets CMA approval for IPO 

Regional Domino’s Pizza operator Almar Food gets CMA approval for IPO 
The request to offer almost 10.6 million shares on Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange was approved by CMA. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 June 2022

Regional Domino’s Pizza operator Almar Food gets CMA approval for IPO 

Regional Domino’s Pizza operator Almar Food gets CMA approval for IPO 

RIYADH: Saudi fast-food chain franchise firm Alamar Foods Co., which operates Domino’s Pizza across the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan, has got the necessary regulatory approval to proceed with an initial public offering of a 42 percent stake.

The request to offer almost 10.6 million shares on Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange was approved by the Capital Market Authority on Tuesday, according to a statement.

CMA also gave the green light for the IPO of Saudi Networkers Services Co. as well as the direct listing of Future Care Trading Co. on the Kingdom’s parallel Nomu market.

Saudi Networkers, which offers telecom, engineering, and technology consulting services, is looking to float 25 percent of its capital, representing 1.5 million shares.


Google Cloud partners with Saudi Aramco to launch a new data center in the Kingdom: Top official

Abdul Rahman Al-Thehaiban, Managing Director, Turkey, Middle East & Africa, Google Cloud. (Supplied)
Abdul Rahman Al-Thehaiban, Managing Director, Turkey, Middle East & Africa, Google Cloud. (Supplied)
Updated 26 sec ago

Google Cloud partners with Saudi Aramco to launch a new data center in the Kingdom: Top official

Abdul Rahman Al-Thehaiban, Managing Director, Turkey, Middle East & Africa, Google Cloud. (Supplied)
  • “The objective of this is really to train local talents, making sure that we bring them up to the standards of what Google Cloud can provide,” Al-Thehaiban said

RIYADH: Google Cloud has partnered with Saudi Arabian Oil Co. to distribute its cloud services in the Kingdom. The cloud platform will be launching its first data center in the region soon, said a senior company official.

According to Abdul Rahman Al Thehaiban, managing director of Turkey, Middle East & Africa, Google Cloud, the new cloud solution will allow organizations around the region to grow and scale their offerings while delivering digital products and services faster.

Al Thehaiban further said that the collaboration will expand cloud services demand in the Kingdom, which is forecast to reach a market opportunity of up to $10 billion by 2030, according to a statement issued by Aramco.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The cloud computing platform is currently setting up an office in the Kingdom, where it plans to increase the local content and transfer its know-how.

• It has also partnered with SDAIA to launch a new initiative called Elevate, which aims to empower women globally to pursue careers in AI and machine learning.

“Our objective is to launch a data center in Saudi that’s expected to be announced soon and to have some distribution for Aramco’s recently announced company called Context,” Al Thehaiban told Arab News on the sidelines of the Global AI Summit in Riyadh.

He added that the oil behemoth would be the reseller for Google Cloud solutions in the Kingdom.

The cloud computing platform is currently setting up an office in the Kingdom, where it plans to increase the local content and transfer its know-how.

It has also partnered with the state-run Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority to launch a new initiative called Elevate, which aims to empower women globally to pursue careers in AI and machine learning.

The initiative launched during the Global AI Summit held in Riyadh will train more than 25,000 women over the next five years.

The program offers a four-month curriculum, where participants can access free training sessions designed to train them with the skills and experience needed for roles like cloud architect, data engineer, machine learning engineer or cloud business specialist.

While the global AI industry has grown at a rapid pace, women remain underrepresented. According to a UNESCO study, women represent 12 percent of international AI researchers and 8 percent of professional software developers.

The study also revealed that only one fifth of employees in technical roles in major machine learning companies are women.

“The objective of this is really to train local talents, making sure that we bring them up to the standards of what Google Cloud can provide,” Al Thehaiban said.

Google Cloud has also widened its scope by addressing environmental, water, and agricultural challenges posed by climate change.

It collaborated with SDAIA, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and Climate Engine, to launch the Earth observation and science program.

“Climate change is all about data collection, we keep track of the nitty-gritty details of the climate application and then through certain algorism, we monitor the prediction and how it can be beneficial in issues related to sustainability,” he said.

 


MENA’s top 4 most funded agri-tech startups

Founders of Red Sea Farms, and Pure Harvest Farms. Agricultural technology can be services or applications. (Supplied)
Founders of Red Sea Farms, and Pure Harvest Farms. Agricultural technology can be services or applications. (Supplied)
Updated 9 min 29 sec ago

MENA’s top 4 most funded agri-tech startups

Founders of Red Sea Farms, and Pure Harvest Farms. Agricultural technology can be services or applications. (Supplied)
  • Technology is reshaping the traditional model of farming to improve profitability

CAIRO: With its severe environments and large areas of unused land, the Middle East and North Africa region is in prime need of agricultural and technological advancement.

Agri-tech, also called agtech, the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture, is reshaping the traditional model of farming to improve yield, efficiency and profitability.

Although agri-tech’s potential may be overlooked by investors, the sector has been performing well, raising $265 million in H1 2022 and ranking as the fifth best performing sector in terms of amount invested, according to a report by MAGNiTT.

Red Sea Farms Founders.

Arab News has compiled a list of four agri-tech startups headquartered in the MENA region which have received the highest amount of funding in the sector.

Pure Harvest Farms                          

Total Funding: $334.4m

Founders: Mahmoud Adi and Sky Kurtz

Main investors: Shorooq Partners, IMM Investment, Abu Dhabi Investment Office, Mohammed Bin Rashid Investment Fund, and Shuaa Capital

Headquarters: UAE

Founded: 2016

Pure Harvest Smart Farms is an agri-tech company based in the UAE focusing on the year-round production of premium fruits and vegetables. The company is not only ranked the first startup in terms of funding in the agri-tech sector, but also one of the most funded in the entire MENA startup ecosystem. In its last funding round, Pure Harvest Smart Farms secured $180.5 million by global investors to fuel its expansion across Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Asia.

Red Sea Farms

Total Funding: $38.8m

Founders: Ryan Lefers, Mark Tester and Derya Baran

Main investors: Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures, KAUST Innovation Fund, Savola Group, Global Ventures, and Future Investment Initiative Institute.

Hussein Abo Bakr, Co-founder of Mozare3 (L) and Gregory Lu, Founder of Natufia. (Supplied)

Headquarters: Saudi Arabia

Founded: 2018

Founded by three industry specialists, Red Sea Farms is an agri-tech company that allows farmers to crop using primarily salt water. The company tackles the region’s arid environment by providing farmers with the right technology to sustainably grow their produce. In April 2022 the company raised its most recent funding round of $18.5 million to expand its regional and global footprint.

Natufia Labs

Total funding: $4.8m

Founders: Gregory Lu, Lauri Kapp and Nadim Taoubi

FASTFACT

Although agri-tech’s potential may be overlooked by investors, the sector has been performing well, raising $265 million in H1 2022 and ranking as the fifth best performing sector in terms of amount invested, according to a report by MAGNITT.

Main investors: KAUST Innovation Fund and Butterfly Ventures

Headquarters: Saudi Arabia

Founded: 2014

Estonian-born agri-tech Natufia Labs relocated its headquarters to Jeddah after receiving an investment led by the Saudi-based KAUST Innovation Fund. The company is providing a mixture of advanced technology and years of research and development experience in sustainable indoor food production. Natufia Labs raised $3.5 million in a series A funding round led by KAUST which was used for the relocation as well as research and development.

Mozare3

Total funding: $1m

Founders: Hussein Abou Bakr and Tamer El-Raghy

Main investors: Algebra Ventures, Disruptech, and EFG-EV

Headquarters: Egypt

Founded: 2020

Founded in 2020, Mozare3 is aiming to provide over 20 million farmers in Egypt with access to credit and market solutions. The company helps farmers sell their crops by working with international buyers as well as reducing the risk of waste. In 2021, Mozare3 was able to raise $1 million in a pre-seed funding round co-led by Algebra Ventures and Disruptech, to build the first digital community for farmers that offers expert support.

 

 


Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth

Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth
Updated 25 September 2022

Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth

Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth
  • Companies throughout the Kingdom are cultivating careers in hospitality through vocational training programs

RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector continues to grow, with the Kingdom expecting to attract 100 million annual visitors and creating one million jobs by 2030, building a resilient hospitality industry has become a core focus.

The hospitality sector has risen up to the challenge by ensuring that there is enough qualified manpower to handle the ever-increasing demand by providing training programs for nationals to develop their skills across all career levels. The intention is to equip young Saudis with essential skills in the hospitality, tourism, and travel industries through programs supported by the world’s best tourism training schools.

Companies throughout the Kingdom are cultivating careers in hospitality through vocational training programs that emphasize resource efficiency and provide globally recognized qualifications.

In August, the Radisson Hotel Group launched a training program, A Brilliant Journey of Advanced Development Programme, aimed at developing Saudi talent. The program targets supervisors and equips them with the expertise to fill managerial positions across its portfolio of 26 operational hotels.

“All the programs that we have launched target Saudi employees. And that works well with Vision 2030 offering new jobs for Saudis,” Managing Director of RHG Saudi Arabia Basel Talal told Arab News. 

Talal added that 14 Saudis, over half of them women, are in the program at supervisory and assistant managerial levels.

Basel Talal

According to him, the group remains committed to upskilling Saudi nationals working in the hospitality sector as part of its expansion strategy in the Kingdom.

Talal said that the initiative aligns with the Saudi 2030 Vision, which aims to increase tourism’s contribution to the domestic product to 10 percent.

Among the group’s initiatives is the Concierge Navigation to Success program, which aims to provide Saudis working in the hospitality industry with the tools and resources they need to advance their careers and ultimately enrich customer experiences.

Talal said that five males and two females are currently enrolled in the concierge program. 

The NTS program was launched as a response to COVID-19, Talal said, adding, “As a result of the lack of visitors and business during COVID-19, the Ministry of Tourism advised all hotels to focus on concierge services.” 

The programs will be offered twice a year, “The idea is that we repeat the program every six months, twice annually,” he informed.

To cover certain core elements or pillars, RHG partners with training programs like Atton or Maximus: “We’ve seen that there are parts or gaps in the training program that require us to reach out to third parties,” Talal said.

With those programs, RHG improves employee retention and creates more loyalty to the brand, and to the unit as a whole. “Higher retention or improved retention will only result in a better quality of service, and reduce cost because you don’t get any employees to train them, you just work with the existing employees,” he said. 

RHG employs over 450 Saudi line employees and another 200 are supervisors and managers, he added. 

RHG also has a follow-up process for graduates on their progress, their skill set, and how to improve, which is reflected in their annual performance reviews, Talal concluded. 

Leading the way

The Red Sea Development Co. is also leading the way in establishing undergraduate and postgraduate hospitality programs.

TRSDC, in partnership with the University of Prince Mugrin and the École hôtelière de Lausanne, offers scholarships to high school graduates who are interested in studying international hospitality management, Fadi Alaseri, TRSDC’s associate educational director told Arab News. 

“TRSDC’s transformative education programs are designed to develop the brightest minds in the tourism and hospitality fields, by equipping young Saudis with the needed skills and competencies, allowing them to realize their full potential,” Alaseri said.

There are two tracks available in the program: Fast Track, which is a four-year program with no preparatory year, and Full Track, which is a five-year program with a preparatory year, which qualifies students to begin the major.

TRSDC and its partners will provide suitable job opportunities to graduates upon successful completion of the program, he added. 

“The program aims to prepare leaders and specialists in international hospitality management by providing a curriculum that combines theoretical knowledge and hands-on experiences based on Swiss and international hospitality standards,” Alaseri said

There were 2,653 applicants for the scholarship, 1,883 of whom were males and 770 were females. However, only 26 were selected, of which 14 were males and 12 were females. 

“Our talents will run the ground-breaking luxury, regenerative tourism destination in alignment with the Saudi labor market needs within our destination,” Alaseri said.

“TRSDC reshapes educational opportunities by opening new doors and empowering young Saudi professionals with the required skills and knowledge to excel in the hospitality field and tourism sectors,” he added.

Upskilling Saudi youth 

In order to provide students with job opportunities at Hilton Hotels in Saudi Arabia upon graduation, the group entered into a partnership with Bunyan Training Academy in July 2022. 

The training program, which is accredited by the Saudi Technical and Vocational Training Corporation and certified by the EHL, is available to select young Saudi talent, Hilton Group’s Senior Director of Human Resources for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Levant Fawaz Moumina told Arab News. 

Fawaz Moumina

“This is the first time in Saudi that an international hospitality provider such as Hilton is collaborating with EHL to offer this program,” he added. 

Students will receive sought-after theoretical and practical lessons across various functions of the industry, Moumina said.

Furthermore, participants will be able to pursue bachelor’s degrees based on the variety of professions they will be trained in, including culinary, F&B, front office, and housekeeping, if they choose to do so, he said. 

This program aims to identify more than 30 Saudi talents who are interested in pursuing a career in hospitality. “Following a meticulous selection process, Bunyan Training Academy carefully selected applicants with Hilton’s input,” Fawaz said. 

In 2024, students who complete the program will receive a diploma accredited by both the Saudi TVTC and EHL, he said.

As part of its efforts to mobilize the nation’s labor force, Moumina said the group has also established close ties with the King Khalid Foundation, the International Youth Federation, King Saud University and ministries and governmental organizations like the Saudi Tourism Authority. 

Fawaz stated that Hilton has 2,400 team members in Saudi Arabia across 16 hotels, to reach 10,000 by 2030 — half of whom will be Saudi nationals.


Saudi Arabia signs more than SR40 billion deal to develop local infrastructure in 11 cities

Saudi Arabia signs more than SR40 billion deal to develop local infrastructure in 11 cities
Updated 24 September 2022

Saudi Arabia signs more than SR40 billion deal to develop local infrastructure in 11 cities

Saudi Arabia signs more than SR40 billion deal to develop local infrastructure in 11 cities
  • This agreement provides more than 150,000 housing units of varying sizes and designs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing signed an agreement with the National Housing Company worth more than SR40 billion ($10.6 billion) to develop the infrastructure of 11 cities around the Kingdom.
The agreement, which deals with financing and developing a portfolio of projects between the ministry and the National Housing Company, was signed during a ceremony held under the patronage of the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, Majid Al-Hogail, and in the presence of Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, and Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser.
This agreement provides more than 150,000 housing units of varying sizes and designs, covering 11 cities in the Kingdom. It also covers an area of ​​more than 90 million square meters, while around 54 million square meters will be allocated for green and open spaces, public facilities, road networks and public transport.
The population capacity resulting from this agreement will reach 750,000 people.
The National Housing Company, in partnership with developers, will invest more than SR40 billion in the portfolio of these projects to develop comprehensive infrastructure, service delivery, and develop a range of quality of life facilities.
The company is the leading enabler of the real estate development sector and the largest major developer of suburbs and residential communities, and aims to increase the real estate supply in the Kingdom with various housing options, as part of the company’s endeavor to achieve objectives of the housing program as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, by raising the proportion of housing ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent.
The signing of the agreement came on the sidelines of the Exhibition of Projects of Distinguished Cities under the patronage of King Salman, which is being organized by MOMRAH from Sept. 24 to 28 in Riyadh, in which the National Housing Company is participating as a strategic sponsor.


First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision

First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision
Updated 24 September 2022

First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision

First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision
  • The metaverse is aligned with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s layout for Mars

DUBAI: The UAE-based Web3 pioneer BEDU launched the country’s first metaverse project under the name 2117, inspired by the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s vision to build the first colony on Mars.

BEDU’s CEO Amin Alzarouni told Arab News that the metaverse’s name, 2117, comes from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s announcement in 2017 that the first colony on Mars would be built a hundred years from then.

“So that’s why we call the metaverse 2117, inspired by that vision,” he said.

The newly launched metaverse is aligned with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s space layout for Mars, and BEDU plans to build a full world on it that includes residential buildings, hotels, entertainment centers, schools, universities, and healthcare facilities, Alzarouni informed.

According to him, millions of dollars have been invested in the metaverse project without providing a specific figure.

Besides claiming that the firm’s name is derived from the Bedouin term, Alzarouni added that the firm’s mission is to follow the nomads’ footsteps and discover the next planet.

“They [nomads] basically discovered the land here, discovered Earth, and now we are going to continue discovering different areas, and the next destination is Mars,” he said.

SPEEDREAD

According to the CEO, millions of dollars have been invested in the metaverse project. He says the firm’s mission is to discover the next planet.

He explained that 2117 is an immersive digital world that exists in parallel to reality. It will take 95 years for the Mars vision to become a reality in the real world.

The main focus of metaverse 2117, according to Alzarouni, is the value of humanity, regardless of its apparent space orientation.

“We are focusing a lot on humanity and the values of humanity, which is how people can live together with tolerance, with no differentiation between religion, culture and race,” he said.

Alzarouni explained that 2117 is an immersive digital world that exists in parallel to reality. It will take 95 years for the Mars vision to become a reality in the real world, but BEDU is already achieving it in the metaverse right now.

Aside from providing BEDU with the space layout, MBRSC also provides the data required to create a metaverse that is as real as possible, Alzarouni said.

Job creation

Alzarouni said that in the metaverse, companies can scale up much faster and easier, which could result in more jobs being created.

There will be new jobs to fill in the metaverse five to 10 years from now, he said.

“One of the jobs that I foresee being created in the future is a combination of an architect with the programming skills that exist in the metaverse,” he said.

As a result, he added, a new skill set could be created by introducing a curriculum in universities where students would graduate with an architect mindset and software programming skills to be able to fulfill a role in the metaverse.

Societal integration

As a concept, the metaverse already exists in different verticals, and games like Roblox and Fortnite have already briefly incorporated it into society, the CEO said.

“The concept of digital twin exists in the manufacturing business, automobile business, and the real estate business, which is one aspect of how the metaverse could help,” he said.

However, he added that the world is in its early stages of integrating the metaverse into reality. “It will take a bit of time, depending on the adoption rates,” Alzarouni said. The implementation of the metaverse into society could take five to ten years, he continued.

BEDU’s main objective and strategy is to become the next unicorn in the Web3 sector, Alzarouni said.

“At the moment, we are all equal. Nobody can claim that they are ahead of the game, not Meta, not Microsoft, not any other metaverse project, and not even us,” he said.

In metaverse 2117’s vision, people will be able to work in the metaverse, go to school, and enjoy concerts, he said.
2117 timeline

The journey will begin in “2117” with a take-off from Earth, taking users through space for seven months until they land on Mars. It is estimated that the journey will begin this December, Alzarouni said.

The public will be able to participate in the metaverse starting in October and it will close at the beginning of December 2022.

Alzarouni said the sale would be open for two periods. The first sale, which will be private, will amount to 0.2117 ETH. In the second sale, which is for the public, the price will be 0.25 ETH, he added.

Web3 users with digital wallets will be able to connect their wallets and gain access to 2117 using their crypto, he said. “So, it’s as simple as any e-commerce experience that people have nowadays,” he added.

Upon BEDU’s release by the end of October, people will be able to access the 2117 metaverse via a link shared by the firm, he concluded.