UAE-based stock fintech baraka raises $20m to fund expansion into KSA and GCC

Exclusive UAE-based stock fintech baraka raises $20m to fund expansion into KSA and GCC
Feras Jalbout, CEO and founder of baraka, said that the company will utilize the majority of its funding for expansion and licensing in new markets. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 November 2022

UAE-based stock fintech baraka raises $20m to fund expansion into KSA and GCC

UAE-based stock fintech baraka raises $20m to fund expansion into KSA and GCC

CAIRO: UAE-based fintech company baraka raised $20 million in a series A funding round to double down on Saudi expansion. 

With over 6,000 US-listed securities on its commission-free platform, baraka makes investing accessible to all with no minimum investment requirements. 

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Feras Jalbout, CEO and founder of baraka, said that the company will utilize the majority of its funding for expansion and licensing in new markets. 

“As (Saudi Arabia is) the largest market in the region, we are excited about the prospects of having a local presence. Of course, we need to first complete the licensing process, as mandated by the government,” Jalbout told Arab News. 

He added: “The Kingdom has adopted the world’s leading standards for equity investing, and we look forward to being a long-term partner to investors here in the future.”  

With Vision 2030 being a strong economic foundation, Jalbout expects the interest in equity markets to be bolstered by fintech like baraka. 

“With the backing of our investors, we have a long-term commitment to the Kingdom, where the young mobile-first population seeks intuitive and digital-friendly solutions,” he added. 

Jalbout further stated that the Kingdom’s gross domestic product is expected to grow by 8 percent this year with non-oil activities increasing by 5.9 percent, adding that “this is inspiring confidence and investor interest in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s largest economy.” 

Being the region’s largest economy, Saudi Arabia is attracting investor interest from around the world, said Jalbout, adding that “the listing of companies like Aramco on the Saudi Stock Exchange, known as Tadawul, sends a strong message to global investors.” 

“We want to be able to create access to local equity markets like Tadawul. This will not only boost investor interest, but also support the growth of the Saudi economy,” said baraka founder.  

“We are excited about the potential of the local markets and look forward to connecting investors from around the region to opportunities here.”  

Moreover, the CEO added that more companies are choosing to go public in Saudi Arabia which will boost economic growth as well as wealth creation. 

Giving the example of Tadawul, he said the Saudi stock exchange raised $4.7 billion through 27 new listings in the first half of 2022, with a healthy pipeline of companies looking to list over the coming months. “This is indicative evidence of the potential and positive impact of equity investing on the economy,” explained Jalbout. 

Established in 2021, baraka acts as a one-stop platform for investors by providing access to news and content for free to help users make informed and independent decisions. 

As part of safeguards, Jalbout pointed out that baraka users benefit from having their shares and exchange-traded funds registered in their names through its affiliation with a Securities and Exchange Commission Registered broker.  

“Dividends are paid directly to their brokerage accounts,” he said, adding that they get protection from the Securities Investor Protection Corp. with a limit of up to $500,000. 

Jalbout stressed that the company adheres to best practices as it is regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority in the Middle East region.  

Since its launch, baraka has seen robust growth with global investors like PayPal founder Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures leading the round along with Knollwood, as the platform saw users signing up to its free and premium plans. 

“Data shows that Middle East Exchanges have had a nearly 300 percent increase in IPOs in 2022 with retail investors leading a 16 percent increase in the Middle East’s total assets under management to $1.2 trillion, empowered by technology platforms like baraka,” Jalbout stated. 

“Once licensed in other markets, we expect to have further growth while contributing to the growth of regional equity markets,” he concluded. 


Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert

Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert
Updated 12 sec ago

Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert

Oil market to reach balance in 2023: KAPSARC expert

RIYADH: The oil market is on track to reach balanced levels between supply and demand in 2023, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center expert Colin Ward said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

During 2023, oil supply is projected to surge 2.7 million barrels per day while demand is expected to increase by 1.8 million bpd, the research expert disclosed.

“We're going to see a market that pretty much hit some form of balance,” Ward told Arab News on the sidelines of the International Association for Energy Economics conference in Riyadh. 

Despite this, the KAPSARC expert noted that many unprecedented events could consequently alter demand figures such as whether or not there is a recession coming.

In addition to this, China’s reopening also poses a factor that could impact the demand for oil, Ward revealed.

“We're already seeing indications that their demand for jet fuel is going up significantly because people are traveling a lot more,” he explained.

Speaking on the supply side, Ward reveals that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as well as the behavior of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other key market players could potentially influence supply figures.

“If we are worried that the price cap is going to somehow have pushed back to where Russia may not wish to provide as much oil to the market, the 2 million barrels that OPEC pulled off is acting as a supply buffer, which means that it could come back online,” he exposed. 

In response to the price cap, people have been stocking up in order to assure that supplies are going to last, the KAPSARC expert pointed out.

“Going forward, there's going to be a period of probably a month or two where the logistics of delivering oil from sources to the consumers are going to take some time to get sorted out,” the researcher highlighted.

“We expect that there's probably going to be an increase in fuels being produced by some nations like China, India, perhaps Turkey or some others who would be able to supply the global market with these fuels,” he added.

The 44th IAEE International Conference is being held in the Saudi capital from Feb. 4 to 9, in what is a first for the Middle East and North African Region.

The event’s theme is “Pathways to a clean, stable, and sustainable energy future”, and is being hosted by KAPSARC and Saudi Association for Energy Economics.

More than 500 delegates from 40 countries are anticipated to attend the conference, with topics set to be discussed including energy, economic development, and climate change, the Circular Carbon Economy, and the role of hydrogen in the energy transition.

The IAEE is a global non-profit organization formed in the US in 1977 and works to promote dialogue and the exchange of ideas around the economic analysis of energy resources.


Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  

Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  

Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s mining sector is witnessing unprecedented growth as the government is pushing to develop the industry with increased investment and upgraded laws to attract more private players.   

This saw the number of mining complexes in the Kingdom as of the end of 2022 rising to 377, with an estimated area of 44,365 sq. km, according to the latest government data. 

Makkah is home to the majority of 76 mining complexes last year.   

This is followed by Riyadh and Madinah with 60 and 53 complexes respectively, while Asir’s complexes totaled 34, revealed the ministry.   

Saudi Arabia possesses more than 20 different types of minerals, including gravel, gold, iron, copper, granite and marble, stated the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources in a tweet. 

The Kingdom has 35 locations with specific geological formations, called mineral belts, that contain abundant mineral deposits  

As of 2022, these belts represent 14 percent of the Kingdom’s size and cover 305,000 sq. km.  The ministry added that the mineral deposits of these belts are around 75 percent of the Kingdom’s total mineral deposits, which have a projected value of SR5 trillion ($1.3 trillion).   

Around 94 percent of the mineral belts are located in the Arabian Shield, which spans over 622,00 sq. km.   

The belts are spread over the country’s administrative regions, also led by Makkah which contains nine belts, revealed the ministry data.  

The remaining 26 belts are located around the Kingdom — seven in Asir, six in Riyadh, five in Tabuk, four in Madinah, two in Baha, and one each in Qassim and Najran. 

Most of the mineral belts contain gold and sulfides, where the former has 16 and the latter 15.  In addition, there are three belts for nickel and one belt for zinc. 

The Ministry upgraded its mining investment law in 2020 to develop the mining sector and designed a long-term integrated mining system aimed at protecting both employees and the environment.  

The government expects such improvements to spill over to adjacent sectors by way of providing jobs and boosting local spending in Saudi Arabia. 


Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event

Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event
Updated 06 February 2023

Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event

Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event

RIYADH: Representatives of Dubai’s government and private sectors are set to discuss developing a common vision for the future of the emirate at a three-day event starting on Feb. 6.

Organized by the Executive Council of Dubai, the Innovation Talks series will include substantial sessions and knowledge seminars delivered by government and private sector officials focusing on the importance of innovation at a time of prompt global change.

“The program has embraced innovation as an effective tool for developing government capabilities, and included it as one of the main criteria for evaluating the performance of government agencies,” said Sharina Lootah, coordinator of the UAE Innovates 2023 events.

The gathering will tackle the significance of innovation when it comes to offering services, boosting the effectiveness of procedures, and keeping pace with the latest technical and technological developments.

“The Government of Dubai is working to ensure that Dubai remains a leader in setting global standards in the field of government excellence and adopting innovation as a criterion for excellence by building global partnerships and developing capabilities in accordance with international best practices,” Lootah added.

The first day of the event saw an opening speech by the Secretary General of The Executive Council of Dubai Abdulla Mohammed Al Basti.

It also featured a knowledge seminar on “Innovation and Economy in the Media sector” and a keynote speech by CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation Khalfan Belhoul on the UAE’s future as well as other seminars hinged on innovation.

The second day will include a major speech by Chairman and CEO of DP World Sultan bin Sulayem on “Dubai’s Story in Sustainable Innovation in Shipping and International Logistic”.

On the final day of the event, Assistant Director General of Dubai Digital and CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment Younus Al Nasser is set to deliver a vital speech on the “Role of Data in Innovation and Future Shaping”.

The last day will also entail important knowledge seminars and will conclude with a panel discussion on “Social Innovation Towards Sustainability”.


Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference

Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference
Updated 06 February 2023

Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference

Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference

RIYADH: A catalytic event is needed to encourage the private sector to scale up renewable and sustainable energy projects to aid the transition to green fuel, according to Princess Noura Turki Al-Saud, a founding partner at AEON Strategy.

Speaking on the second day of the International Association for Energy Economics Conference, Princess Noura praised recent moves by world leaders in the battle against climate change, but called for more involvement from private companies.

She made the comments during a panel discussion on the pathways to energy transitions, where she also praised the impact of the 2016 Paris Agreement, saying it “brought in the private sector.” 

However, Princess Noura felt that pilot projects in this area need to be further developed, and added: “That would really come with private sector involvement, and for the private sector to really be involved and putting that capital that is necessary to drive innovation and to scale up these technologies and to find the necessary solutions, you really need to have strong governance and transparency.”

She added that the Paris Agreement not only brought in the financial sector, it also attracted civil society into the dialogue. 

“That in itself created the conversation that is wider than what's just happening within the negotiation rooms, which is a process in itself which takes, I would say more than decades,” said the princess.

This session further explored whether climate ambitions and energy security can be harmonized, and the realistic pathways to best meet global, and regional goals and the aspirations of a just energy transition. 

Khalid Abuleif, senior sustainability advisor to the Ministry of Energy, said he considers the climate accords signed in Copenhagen in 2009 – which did not have any legally binding commitments for reducing carbon emissions – as a success rather than a failure. 

“In Copenhagen, we realized at that point, that top-down type of agreement would not really help us get to our goals and reach a consensus of the whole world moving together to address this issue.”

Abulief spoke about the two approaches that currently exist in the world, saying: “One approach that is very much implemented by our partner in the EU, which is, you know, the top-down processing that focuses on the move away from fossil fuel. 

He went on: “The other path focuses on…getting to have a much wider scope to it, because it deals with both successes – that we have to move in the future towards renewable – but also we do not ignore ‘what do we have today?’”

Abulief said that the Saudi initiative is building in the wider band, adding: “We’ve done emission reduction aspects, and we have our targets on that basically doubled what we promised in 2015.”

He added that Saudi Arabia’s approach toward sustainability is holistic, with its energy policies balanced between trade-offs, and its climate actions accelerated to form one of the optimal energy transition pathways.

Princess Noura argued that what is missing is the catalytic effect necessary to scale up these pilot projects and the solutions right. 

“That would really come with private sector involvement, and for the private sector to really be involved and putting that capital that is necessary to drive innovation and to scale up these technologies and to find the necessary solutions, you really need to have strong governance and transparency.”

Ken Koyama, senior managing director, and chief economist at the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan, called for a “pragmatic, inclusive, and holistic approach” to tackle the transition to green energy, while “simultaneously addressing climate change and energy security.”

He added that promoting energy transition towards carbon neutrality means the demand for critical minerals and rare metals will increase exponentially.

The 44th IAEE International Conference is being held in Riyadh from Feb. 4 to 9, in what is a first for the Middle East and North African Region.

The event’s theme is “Pathways to a clean, stable, and sustainable energy future”, and is being hosted by The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center and Saudi Association for Energy Economics.

More than 500 delegates from 40 countries are set to attend the 44th International Association for Energy Economics International Conference, which is being held in the Middle East and North African region for the first time.


Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 

Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 
Updated 06 February 2023

Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 

Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 

RIYADH: International passenger arrivals in Dubai reached 14.36 million in 2022, up 97 percent from 7.28 million in 2021, the latest government data showed.  

The figures from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism indicate that the emirate is closing in on its pre-pandemic visitation levels when 16.73 million international passengers arrived in Dubai in 2019.

“The remarkable rise in international visitation in 2022 supports the ambitious goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to double the size of the emirate’s economy by 2033,” said the Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.  

He added: “The tourism and travel sector contributes significantly to the leadership’s aim of making the emirate a model for excellence in the global economy.”  

Al Maktoum further noted that Dubai is emerging as a greater catalyst for the growth of global tourism and travel connectivity in the years ahead.  

It should be noted that the latest data from the UN World Tourism Organization shows global tourist travel went down by 37 percent in 2022 compared to 2019. 

The Middle East, however, showed the strongest relative increase in 2022, with arrivals climbing to 83 percent of pre-pandemic figures.  

Dubai exceeded both global and regional barometers of recovery with visitors to the city reaching 86 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.  

“While the global economy remains in a state of flux, Dubai has emerged as a clear leader in the tourism industry. The robust performance is a testament to Dubai’s growing role at the vanguard of global tourism recovery,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism.  

Almarri added: “The effectiveness of our strategies and initiatives gives us the confidence to tap new growth opportunities in the global travel and business sectors over the next few decades.”  

Meanwhile, the hospitality sector in Dubai also achieved significant growth in 2022, as the average occupancy for the hotel sector last year stood at 73 percent, up from 67 percent in 2021, news agency WAM reported.  

This figure is just short of the 75 percent occupancy in the pre-pandemic period of 2019. 

Dubai’s hotel inventory at the end of December 2022 comprised 146,496 rooms at 804 hotel establishments, compared to 126,120 rooms available at the end of December 2019 across 741 establishments.