RIYADH: Saudi firm Nuqtah, a marketplace for non-fungible tokens, is seeking to raise $5 million through a new funding round, CEO Salwa Radwi told Al-Asharq.
In the first round of financing, the company managed to attract prominent investors, such as Sanabil, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, Shorooq Partners, and 500 Global, an early-stage venture fund.
The company expects to attract these investors again in the second round. It looks to use the funds for attracting human resources, developing technologies and products, and enhancing the marketing process of the company's activity locally and regionally.
Kingdom is moving toward Vision 2030 by developing the trade sector and ensuring its sustainability
Updated 13 August 2022
CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s bank loan portfolio rose by SR289 billion ($77.1 billion) in the second quarter of this year from the same quarter a year ago, according to a recent statistical bulletin released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.
Bank loans totaled SR2.42 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2022, up from SR1.95 trillion in the second quarter of 2021, showed the SAMA report.
The SR289 billion increase was led by an SR191.1 billion growth in miscellaneous activities. Its share increased by 2 percentage points to 52 percent in the second quarter of 2022.
The data showed that the value of Saudi banks’ aggregate loan portfolio totaled SR2.24 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2022, up 14.8 percent from the year before and up 4 percent from the previous quarter.
The annual growth in bank loans dropped to a negative in 2017 and remained below zero until the third quarter of 2018. However, bank loans have been seeing an upward trend ever since, according to the SAMA report.
From the third quarter of 2018 until the end of 2019, the value of Saudi bank loans grew at an average rate of 3.7 percent year on year; between 2020 and the second quarter of this year, it grew at an average rate of 14.8 percent year on year.
The dominating segment in the Kingdom’s loans was miscellaneous economic activity, which acquired 52 percent of the total loans this quarter.
Commerce came in second, holding 17.2 percent of total loans in the country, recording SR385.7 billion in the second quarter, showed the data.
The Ministry of Commerce in the Kingdom has been moving toward the Saudi Vision 2030 by developing the trade sector and ensuring its sustainability, according to the Kingdom’s Unified National Platform.
The platform stated: “The Ministry of Commerce’s mission focuses on improving the business environment in Saudi Arabia through enacting, developing and supervising the implementation of flexible and fair trade policies and regulations.”
Even though total bank loans expanded this quarter, two economic activities saw a quarterly decline in bank credit in the second quarter of this year: manufacturing and processing and transport and communication.
Bank loans to transport and communication fell by SR6.2 billion in the second quarter of 2022 from the same quarter the previous year.
Compared to the previous quarter, the sector dropped from 2.1 percent of total loans in the first quarter to 1.9 percent, showed the SAMA bulletin.
Bank loans given to manufacturing and processing fell by SR4 billion in the second quarter of 2022 from the same quarter the previous year.
The data showed that the sector dropped from 7.2 percent of total loans in the first quarter to 6.9 percent compared to the previous quarter.
Platform currently operates in 72 countries: Managing director Burak Karapinar
Updated 13 August 2022
RIYADH: UAE-based global food trade startup QS Monitor has created a platform for food traders to ship their goods risk-free.
Established in 2020, the company mitigates the risk for exporters as they streamline their shipments to avoid food loss by providing traders with the requirements for their goods to pass security measures.
Burak Karapinar, the managing director and founder of QS Monitor, told Arab News that the platform currently operates in 72 countries, which amounts to almost 90 percent of the global food trade industry.
“We are in 72 countries and growing, but this represents almost 90 percent of the global food trade. So, the ones we don’t have on the platform right now are either small countries or ones that are not big in the food trade,” Karapinar said.
Calling it the “Google for food trade,” Karapinar explained that traders input the product along with the destination, and QS Monitor will provide a complete list of requirements.
But that is not at all. Joe Hawayek, the board member of QS Monitor, told Arab News that the platform also links users to testing laboratories in their country.
“We are linking them with a testing laboratory in their country that can conduct these tests, issue them with the relevant certification that says they have passed, and they take it and travel with it for their product from the start,” he added.
By linking these players, Karapinar is trying to mitigate the food loss in the supply chain caused due to contamination.
• As the Ukraine-Russia war affected the global food trade sector, the company plays a huge role in ensuring importers are still connected with exporters.
• Saudi Arabia and the UAE import most of their eggs from Ukraine, and because of the platform, importers could find alternative sources for their products.
“To give you an idea, 72 percent of global food loss happens in the supply chain, not at home or on the consumer’s plate,” he pointed out.
As the Ukraine-Russia war affected the global food trade sector, the company plays a huge role in ensuring importers are still connected with exporters.
“That’s another beauty that we can provide to this platform. The onboarding of a supplier takes months. You need to be able to verify all the information and make sure the supplier meets your criteria and standards.
“Through our platform, you don’t need to do that. You can gather this information. And you can make your decision. So, we also add the trust element between the buyer and the seller,” Karapinar said.
Hawayek also added that Saudi Arabia and the UAE import most of their eggs from Ukraine, and because of the platform, importers could find alternative sources for their products. With a network of over 400 laboratories, the company provides several services through its platform and certification for Halal requirements for certain foods.
“We did more than 10,000 transactions last year; this includes certification testing, inspection, product registration, and supplier audits,” Karapinar added.
With 6,000 traders on the platform, Karapinar stated that the company currently has 1,000 traders on QS Monitor from the Kingdom and is planning to grow that number by a minimum of five times.
In addition, the company is currently in series A funding stage and is on its way to raising $8 million and expanding its staff from 18 to 60 people in the next five months.
QS Monitor also won UAE’s FoodTech Challenge provided by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, which features almost 600 companies.
Gazprom ramps up gas flow to Hungary via Turkstream pipeline, official says
The agreement with Gazprom is for 15 years, with an option to modify purchased quantities after 10 years
Updated 13 August 2022
BUDAPEST: Russia’s Gazprom has ramped up flows to Hungary via the Turkstream pipeline that brings gas to Hungary via Serbia, a Hungarian Foreign Ministry official said on Saturday.
EU member Hungary has maintained what it calls pragmatic relations with Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, creating tensions with some EU allies keen to take a tougher line.
Hungary, which is about 85 percent dependent on Russian gas, firmly opposes the idea of any EU sanctions on Russian gas imports and Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also lobbied hard to secure an exemption from EU sanctions on Russian crude oil imports.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow last month, seeking a further 700 million cubic meters of gas on top of an existing long-term supply deal with Russia.
Under a subsequent agreement, Gazprom started ramping up gas flows to Hungary on Friday, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Tamas Menczer said in a statement.
Menczer said Gazprom would add 2.6 million cubic meters of additional gas per day to previously-agreed deliveries via Turkstream through August, with the amount of September deliveries being negotiated.
Hungary’s reserves stored 2.84 billion cubic meters of gas by the middle of July, the lowest level for that period over the past five years based on data by the national energy regulator.
Under a deal signed last year, before the start of the war in neighboring Ukraine, Hungary receives 3.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year via Bulgaria and Serbia under its long-term deal with Russia and a further 1 bcm via a pipeline from Austria.
The agreement with Gazprom is for 15 years, with an option to modify purchased quantities after 10 years.
DCO startup passport cuts the red tape on cross-border trade
Program helps startups do business across borders more efficiently while maintaining their local footprint
Updated 13 August 2022
RIYADH: The Digital Cooperation Organization, a global initiative focused on improving the digital economy, is working toward encouraging fledgling companies to tap international markets through its startup program.
Called Startup Passport, the program helps startups do business across borders more efficiently while maintaining their footprint in their country of origin, said Hassan Nasser, vice president of international affairs of DPO.
The program has opened up potentially lucrative markets with a combined population of over half a billion people and a combined gross domestic product of nearly SR7.5 trillion ($2 trillion), reported the Saudi Press Agency.
“By creating a new market expansion in DCO countries and beyond, you will positively impact these other markets,” said Naseer.
He said that the expansion of startups would create new economic entities, improve employment within DCO member states and nurture innovative solutions.
By creating a new market expansion in DCO countries and beyond, you will positively impact these other markets.
According to Nasser, these innovative solutions could find wider acceptance with most startups focusing on sustainability and conservation.
In fact, the DCO Global Roundtable Series at the World Telecommunication Development Conference in June was meant to bring together global leaders to advance digital prosperity.
Naseer explained that the roundtable provides a platform for leaders worldwide to exchange perspectives on improving cooperation in the digital space and delivering an inclusive, sustainable digital economy.
The first roundtable had around 35 participants from 20 different countries.
The program has opened up potentially lucrative markets with a combined population of over half-a-billion people and a combined gross domestic product of nearly SR7.5 trillion ($2 trillion).
In Nasser’s view, cross-border cooperation is one of the critical reasons for the existence of DCO. “That’s one of the reasons DCO exists, to help on that and drive this cross-border cooperation,” he said.
Developing an efficient model requires cooperation, reducing costs and increasing return on investment by defining the best solution.
“There are a lot of challenges when it comes to digital investment, digital skills, digital empowerment, where we need more cooperation,” Nasser said.
As Nasser explained, DCO does not compete with anything but addresses a gap and complements a need.
The DCO will deliver its future roundtables in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Commenting on the UN General Assembly, he said it “will be a place where we get a global audience for this important session.”
He added: “A vital component of the organization’s mission is launching initiatives that will benefit all member states.”
With 11 member nations, DCO aspires to bring inclusive growth in the digital economy across its member nations, such as Bahrain, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and Cyprus.
The organization was launched in early 2022 at LEAP, a global event for future technologies held in Riyadh.