RIYADH: With eyes set on diversifying the Kingdom’s economy and ending its reliance on oil revenues, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund could bid for the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., “if the promotion puts itself up for sale,” reported Front Office Sports quoting sources.
Reports about selling the company are not new. Quoting people familiar with the matter, CNBC earlier reported that the wrestling company hired JPMorgan to help advise on a potential sale.
“If a deal occurs, it would likely occur in the next three to six months,” it said adding, WWE plans to talk to potential buyers before it makes a decision on TV rights renewal agreements.
Unconfirmed reports also suggest Amazon, Comcast, Fox Corporation and Liberty Media as potential investors.
The PIF, with assets worth $607.42 billion and occupying the sixth spot in the global ranking of sovereign funds, already owns more than 54 companies in 10 different sectors leading to the creation of more than 500,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The fund is keen on expanding its interests in the sports industry. It has served as the majority owner of Newcastle United in the English Premier League since 2021. Last year, PIF spent at least $2 billion to bankroll LIV Golf’s global challenge to the PGA Tour.
The move represented one of the single biggest investments in the history of professional golf.
The Kingdom has a strong base of wrestling fans which is evident from several key WWE events that took place in the country. Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in the sports sector as part of its Vision 2030 strategy. Renowned footballer Cristiano Ronaldo recently signed a contract to play in the Saudi Pro League for the Al-Nassr football club.
This week Vince McMahon returned to the board of the WWE and will assume executive control of the entertainment business.
“WWE is entering a critical juncture in its history with the upcoming media rights negotiations coinciding with increased industry-wide demand for quality content and live events and with more companies seeking to own the intellectual property on their platforms,” McMahon said in a statement issued on his return.
Arab News tried to contact PIF but did not receive any confirmation as of the filing of this report.
Arab nations seek to cement historic trade ties with Beijing at Riyadh event
10th Arab-China Business Conference to serve as networking platform to boost economic relations
Updated 17 sec ago
RIYADH: In a bid to strengthen trade ties between Arab nations and China, the Saudi capital Riyadh is set to host a major business event on June 11 and 12 at the King Abdulaziz International Conference Center.
The 10th Arab-China Business Conference is being organized under the theme “Collaborating for Prosperity.” The event aims to identify key areas of cooperation between the Arab countries and the Asian economic giant.
The conference is organized by Saudi Arabia’s Investment Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Arab League, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and the Union of Arab Chambers. It is touted to be the largest Arab-Chinese business gathering with more than 2,000 participants.
According to the conference’s website, the two-day event will feature networking events as well as panel discussions covering a wide range of topics including China’s Belt and Road Initiative, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, startups, esports, tourism, and food security.
Some of the keynote speakers at the event include Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Royal Commission of AlUla CEO Amr Al-Madani, Fahd Alajlan, president of King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, and Fahd Cynndy, CEO of Saudi Aerospace Engineering Industries.
Other speakers scheduled for the event include Laura May-Lung Cha, chairperson of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the League of Arab States, and Tong Li, CEO of Bank of China International Holdings.
As many as 20 panel discussions and workshops will be organized during the event where top CEOs, business owners, investors, and government officials will share their views to strengthen trade ties between the region and China.
The conference is expected to catalyze the trade ties between Saudi Arabia and the Asian giant, as both countries are currently focused on developing several strategic sectors.
Earlier in June, the Saudi energy minister met with Zhang Jianhua, administrator of the National Energy Administration of China, and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh to discuss ways to strengthen relations between the two countries in various fields of energy, in order to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and China’s BRI.
The meeting also discussed the importance of ensuring the security of energy supply to markets, joint projects to convert crude oil into petrochemicals, and innovative uses of hydrocarbons.
In May, China’s Baoshan Iron and Steel Co. announced its plans to invest SR15 billion ($4 billion) in a project in Ras Al-Khair’s economic zone to manufacture metal plates.
In March, energy giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co. also inked a deal with China’s Norinco Group and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group to form a joint venture to construct a refinery and petrochemical complex in China’s Liaoning province.
Saudi Aramco will own 30 percent stakes in the joint venture called Hujain Aramco Petrochemical Co., while Norinco Group and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group will hold 51 percent and 19 percent shares respectively.
Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih recently said that the trade and cultural relationship between Arab nations and China has always been strong.
“Trade and cultural ties between Arab countries and China extend over 2,000 years but have deepened significantly given the complementary nature of our economies in sectors critical to the global economy. The Arab-China Business Conference will enable public and private sector participants to discuss the future of these collaborations,” said Al-Falih.
He added: “China’s strategic direction aligns with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. In recognition of the importance of leveraging each region’s strengths, we look forward to the conference providing a forum to explore mutually beneficial opportunities.”
Floranow blossoms in the Saudi market with massive traction
Company’s mobile application generates over 80 percent of its online transactions: CEO
Updated 17 min 52 sec ago
CAIRO: As Saudi Arabia increasingly draws the attention of regional entrepreneurs, Middle Eastern firms from a range of sectors are actively examining the burgeoning opportunities in the Kingdom.
UAE-based online floral marketplace, Floranow, has left no stone unturned in its Saudi expansion, sealing its second acquisition in the market.
On June 5, Floranow acquired one of the largest wholesale distributors of fresh-cut flowers in the Kingdom, Bloomax, one year after acquiring Saudi-based floral distribution company Astra Farms.
In an interview with Arab News, Charif Mzayek, CEO and founder of Floranow, conveyed that the company’s emphasis on the Saudi market is fueled by remarkably high transaction rates.
Mzayek mentioned that the company’s mobile application, exclusively available in the Saudi market, generates over 80 percent of its online transactions.
“The acquisition of Bloomax follows our successful acquisition of Astra Farms’ floral distribution business early last year,” Mzayek told Arab News.
“The Astra Farms deal has subsequently yielded strong organic growth and fully digitized revenue while giving Saudi retailers and wholesalers access to the largest and richest assortment of flowers and plants in one convenient marketplace,” he added.
The founder further announced that, following a partnership with a select group of Kenyan growers, the Saudi market will soon have a range of exclusive products, including unique flower varieties.
Mzayek asserted that Floranow holds the distinction of being the first and largest online floral marketplace and stands as the sole provider of business-to-business solutions in the Saudi market.
He further indicated that the company’s presence in Saudi Arabia will expand from five cities to nine with the acquisition of Bloomax.
“The acquisition of Bloomax will enable Floranow to become the market leader in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf region in general,” Mzayek stated.
By leveraging Bloomax’s existing customer base, Floranow plans to penetrate the Saudi market via “the leading wholesale flower supplier which currently controls over 30 percent of main cities like Riyadh and Dammam,” Mzayek said.
“The acquisition of Bloomax will expand our existing operational footprint in the Kingdom, giving us a direct presence in nine cities across the market. It will further benefit our growth trajectory as it increases the number of companies in Saudi Arabia buying on Floranow’s platform to over 1,500. This will make us the largest importer and distributor of flowers in the country,” he added.
The company has also incorporated Bloomax’s chairman, Noushad Gafoor, into its executive team to boost Floranow’s operations in the Kingdom.
The Astra Farms deal has subsequently yielded strong organic growth and fully digitized revenue while giving Saudi retailers and wholesalers access to the largest and richest assortment of flowers.
Charif Mzayek, CEO and founder of Floranow
“We are delighted to have Noushad joining Floranow’s executive team. We are grateful for Noushad’s insightful and unique knowledge of the market, making it an obvious choice to ensure he remains in charge of the Saudi operations,” Mzayek said.
“Bloomax’s top management brings over 100 years of flower business experience that has enabled them to achieve success. The combination of Bloomax’s existing footprint with our transformative technologies is an exciting platform for growth and will greatly improve the importer and distributor process,” he added.
Mzayek further expressed Floranow’s deep commitment to expanding its presence in the Kingdom through Saudi nationals, in particular women.
The company’s strategy aligns with the digitalization goals of Vision 2030. As Mzayek explained, Floranow aims to digitalize the region’s traditionally inefficient floral market.
“The size of the floral market is growing rapidly, which is one of the main drivers for our focus more broadly on the Saudi market,” Mzayek said.
“We are seeing several programs and initiatives that have been launched under Vision 2030 to promote tourism, events, and festivals which will expand the flower business in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Floranow primarily targets sellers, including growers and flower exporters, and buyers, such as florists, hotels, supermarkets, and importers.
“We have identified several challenges facing the industry today, including the lack of transparency, price volatility, and long and inefficient supply chains that add up costs and impact product quality, all of which heavily impact the results for buyers and growers,” he added.
Connecting buyers and sellers, Floranow offers seamless transactions between both parties in addition to a logistics service that is twice as fast as traditional channels, Mzayek claimed.
“We manage the supply chain from the farm to the florist, including all freight stages, customs, clearances, quality control and last-mile delivery, connecting growers to buyers in over 20 markets,” he added
Mzayek further elucidated that Floranow operates under a commission-based structure on the various services provided.
Since its inception in 2017, Floranow has processed more than 150,000 orders, with over 1,200 customers and 200 employees.
“The Middle East, North Africa and Turkey market is currently worth $1.15 billion — 40 percent of which are markets we operate in, which are Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait. We are excited to continue our growth journey as we focus on consolidating our presence in our current markets,” Mzayek said.
In terms of financing, Floranow has secured $8 million in equity rounds since its launch with investors such as Jabbar Internet Group, Dash Ventures, Wamda Capital, Global Ventures, Sirocco Holdings, Adamtech Ventures, Zuaiter Holding Capital, and HB Investments.
Moderna plans regional expansion in 5 years, top official tell Arab News
Updated 20 min 57 sec ago
Reina Takla Reem Walid
RIYADH: Biotechnology research and early detection of viruses could soon ramp up in the Middle East, with the US vaccine maker Moderna planning to expand its presence in the region over the next five years, revealed a senior company official.
In an interview with Arab News, Dan Staner, vice president and head of the Middle East, said that the COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies have shown that countries must respond to infectious disease threats with tailored preparedness plans.
“In the next five years, we want to explore the opportunity to have a direct presence in the region and support governments and public health authorities with pandemic preparedness,” Staner stressed.
This move comes as regions like the Middle East are known to have different and more widespread diseases compared to countries like the US, Canada and others in Europe, he described.
“We are interested in working with governments in the Middle East to facilitate early discovery efforts and clinical development of those specific diseases, to identify potential mRNA (messenger RNA) targets that can treat or mitigate the symptoms of those diseases and develop lead candidates,” the vice president underlined.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk Pharmaceutical signed a contract with Moderna to sell and distribute its COVID-19 vaccine in the Kingdom.
The scope of the deal included providing proper handling of the products for distribution to wholesalers, hospitals, clinics and others.
In March 2022, Moderna rolled out a new program called mRNA Access which offers researchers worldwide use of the company’s mRNA technology to explore new vaccines against emerging or neglected infectious diseases.
According to the US-based National Human Genome Research Institute, mRNA is a single-stranded ribonucleic acid involved in protein synthesis from a deoxyribonucleic acid template during transcription.
In recent years, the technology has gained significant attention in medicine, particularly in developing mRNA vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Currently, the firm is working with several governments to facilitate mRNA vaccine manufacturing competencies in their respective countries, providing a reliable supply of vaccines against respiratory viruses, Staner added.
He explained that this would help countries with the required capabilities to respond swiftly to emerging crises using domestically manufactured COVID-19 vaccines.
So far, the pharmaceutical firm has announced collaborations with Canada, Australia, the UK and Kenya, Staner disclosed.
Speaking on the firm’s performance in Saudi Arabia specifically, Staner clarified that Moderna’s mRNA technology platform has a significant opportunity to elevate human health in the Kingdom.
“In the Kingdom, mRNA technology has the potential to help protect the population against a wide variety of diseases across rare diseases, infectious diseases, immuno-oncology, cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune diseases,” he said.
Moreover, Staner affirmed that there is also room for significant partnerships, technology and knowledge sharing in the Saudi market, propelling mRNA vaccines for various diseases, including infectious disease prevention, added the Moderna executive.
“We know that Saudi Vision 2023 — in its ambition to diversify the Kingdom and create a knowledge-based economy — values partnerships between the public, private, nonprofit and international organizations to achieve its aspirations,” added Staner.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk Pharmaceutical signed a contract with Moderna to sell and distribute its COVID-19 vaccine in the Kingdom. The scope of the deal included providing proper handling of the products for distribution to wholesalers, hospitals, clinics and others.
Meanwhile, in March 2022, Moderna rolled out a new program called mRNA Access which offers researchers worldwide use of the company’s mRNA technology to explore new vaccines against emerging or neglected infectious diseases.
The program aims to open Moderna’s preclinical manufacturing capabilities and research and development expertise to international partners.
The pharmaceutical firm and its partners are expected to investigate the possibility of mRNA to tackle some of the most severe public health threats worldwide.
“We are open to discussions with governments and institutions in the Middle East regarding our mRNA Access initiative,” said Staner.
“In the near-term, we are ready to support the Kingdom and the wider Middle East region with the rollout of updated COVID-19 vaccines to support vaccination campaigns in 2023 and beyond,” he concluded.
Bateel International grows culinary portfolio with launch of Bateel Bakery
Updated 09 June 2023
RIYADH: Bateel International has launched a new bakery which will feature food freshly prepared each day on the premises.
The inaugural Bateel Bakery outlet has opened in Waitrose Khalifa City Community Centre, Abu Dhabi, with the first Dubai outlet set to launch this summer in DIFC’s Index Tower.
According to a press release, every item on the menu – from single-origin coffees to organic breads, pastries, salads and sandwiches – is freshly prepared each day by the in-house team of bakers, chefs and baristas.
Caffeine-free options include date seed coffee, made with the roasted seeds of organic dates from Bateel’s own farms in Saudi Arabia.
Customers have the option to dine in the bakery, or order and takeaway directly from the counter.
Ata Atmar, CEO of Bateel International, said: “Bateel Bakery is a truly unique concept which leverages Bateel’s extensive culinary resource and uncompromising commitment to quality with an unprecedented level of convenience.
“This natural step forward is driven by consumer needs and backed by Bateel’s proven success in creating and operating new gourmet experiences.
“We are certain that our existing customers will be delighted with the latest addition to Bateel’s portfolio, and we are excited to share our passion for fine food with a whole new audience.”
UBS, Swiss government agree on Credit Suisse loss guarantee
Updated 09 June 2023
ZURICH: UBS and the Swiss government signed on Friday an agreement to cover up to 9 billion Swiss francs ($10 billion) in losses from its emergency takeover of Credit Suisse, the country’s largest bank, Reuters reported.
The deal comes with various conditions, including a requirement that UBS keeps its headquarters in Switzerland, the government said in a statement.
The loss protection agreement will become effective with the completion of the Credit Suisse takeover, expected as early as June 12, UBS said in a separate statement.
The guarantees will kick in if UBS incurs losses from the sale of Credit Suisse assets beyond 5 billion francs that the lender is due to cover itself.
The state money will not come for free however, with UBS having to pay various set-up and maintenance fees, as well as premiums on any money drawn.
The money was made available by the government to ease the emergency takeover of Credit Suisse, whose collapse risked triggering a global financial crisis.
“To make the takeover possible, the government granted UBS a guarantee for any losses incurred in the liquidation of Credit Suisse assets,” the government said in a statement.
“The guarantee will only come into effect if the losses from the liquidation of these assets exceed 5 billion Swiss francs and is limited to a total of 9 billion francs,” it added.
The agreement will cover a portfolio of Credit Suisse assets that were difficult to assess in the few days the banks had to hash out a deal and which are not needed as part of the future core business of UBS.
The government said the guarantee covered assets with a volume of around 44 billion Swiss francs, an equivalent of about 3 percent of the combined assets of the merged group, mainly made of derivatives, loans, legacy assets and structured products.
Valuations of the losses are expected to be made available during the third quarter of 2023, the government said, while their scale is “highly dependent on the actual wind-down of the assets concerned and market developments” it said.
“Consequently, it is not yet possible to estimate the probability of the guarantee being drawn and the amount involved,” the government said.
The government said its and UBS’s priority was to minimize potential losses and risks to avoid making use of the backstop “to the greatest extent possible.”
UBS said it would manage the assets in a “prudent and diligent manner and intends to minimize any losses and maximize value realization on these assets.”
The government said the agreement did not mention any federal participation in losses above the total agreed 14 billion francs because such a commitment would require “a legal basis as well as parliamentary approval of a corresponding guarantee credit.”
The agreement will remain in place until the final realization of the Credit Suisse assets.
Saudi National Bank’s almost 10 percent shareholding in Credit Suisse will convert to approximately 0.5 percent of UBS following the merger of the two Swiss lenders, a bourse statement said in May.
SNB, Credit Suisse’s top shareholder, said the carrying value of its investment in the troubled Swiss lender was SR1.3 billion ($346.63 million) on March 31, a decline of almost 70 percent during the first quarter.
Both the authorities and UBS are keen to assure the Swiss public that the takeover, orchestrated with the use of emergency laws and backed by public funds, will not become a burden for the taxpayers.
Concerns that the combined bank — with a balance sheet roughly double the size of the Swiss economy — would be too big for Switzerland, led the country’s Social Democrats to propose shrinking UBS assets.
There have also been calls for UBS to keep Credit Suisse’s Swiss operation as a separate entity, to ensure competition and preserve the legacy of the 167-year-old lender.
The loss protection agreement is among the final hurdles UBS needed to clear before it can officially finalize the biggest banking deal since the global financial crisis, possibly next week.
While the emergency takeover was hammered out over one weekend, talks about the exact scope and details of that loss protection had continued for several weeks.