Upswing in fundraising across MENA region

Upswing in fundraising across MENA region
Established in 2011, KarmSolar provides several sectors with renewable energy as part of its target to enlarge Egypt’s private clean energy market. (AP)
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Updated 14 January 2023

Upswing in fundraising across MENA region

Upswing in fundraising across MENA region
  • KSA-based DAAL takes part in $5 million seed funding round

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia-based venture capital DAAL has participated in a $5 million seed funding round for Mexico-based proptech platform Pulppo alongside one of the leading accelerators in the world, Y Combinator.

Founded in 2021, Pulppo offers a platform for property brokers to boost their sales by providing them with tools to manage everything from property appraisals to visits.

“In 2022, the company allied with 30 real estate brokerages in Mexico, who have seen year-on-year growth of between 50 and 60 percent in the first three months of activity after the alliance,” Matias Gath, co-founder of Pulppo, said in a statement.

The company plans to reduce the period of selling a home in Latin America from 12 months to just 90 days using its unique tools.

“DAAL is always looking for outstanding companies that disrupt the market and add value to their space. Not only we found that in Pulppo but we also found an enabler that focuses on the human element and eases things for them,” said Abdulrahman AlQahtani, DAAL’s CEO.

KarmSolar secures $3m for its second solar grid

Egypt-based cleantech company KarmSolar secured $3 million in debt financing from HSBC bank to develop its Farfara Solar Grid.

Established in 2011, KarmSolar provides several sectors with renewable energy as part of its target to enlarge the private clean energy market. 




Founded in 2021, Pulppo offers a platform for property brokers to boost their sales. (Supplied)

“The kickoff of the Farafra Solar Grid enables us to achieve our vision of extending affordable, reliable solar energy to relatively inaccessible parts of the country,” Ahmed Zahran, KarmSolar’s co-founder and CEO, said.

The project aims to provide 60 percent solar penetration with a goal to reach 100 percent in three years.

“It is very refreshing to see institutions like HSBC willing to focus their efforts and trust towards investing in nonconventional projects like the Farafra Solar Grid,” Zahran added.

REM People partners with US asset management firm

The UAE-headquartered artificial intelligence-tech company REM People secured a partnership with US-based Ethos Asset Management through a $12 million investment.

Founded in 2015, REM People provides an AI-powered retail analytics and management solution in more than 50 countries.

“We intend to accelerate the scaling of our AI-based technology by investing these funds in AI-focused research and development activities, in our international expansion, in launching new products, as well as helping to establish a marketplace that provides one-stop retail analytics services for global consumer packaged goods companies and retailers,” Bulent Peker, CEO of REM People, said.

The company aims to expand its international network to 24 offices as well as reward its employees with bonuses by providing 10 percent of the company in employee stock option programs.

Healthtech platform At Home Doc raises $1.9m

Qatari healthtech platform At Home Doc raised $1.9 million in a pre-series A funding round led by Elaj Group investment arm Tawasol Holding.

Established in 2015, At Home Doc provides medical services on demand and at home through its online platform.

“Parties have a common interest to formulate a joint venture between Elaj and At Home and assign a workforce to execute the framework for the potential collaboration. The potential collaboration is to pilot operations in the Saudi market,” said Hesham Elfeshawy, At Home Doc CEO.

The company will accelerate its all-inclusive healthcare expansion of homecare services as well as at-home lab services for all Saudi and non-Saudi employees and their families in the private sector.

KSA’s Foodics inks partnership with France’s Partoo

Saudi Arabia-based leading cloud restaurant management company Foodics announced a partnership with France-based SaaS company Partoo to link the Kingdom and France’s food and beverage sector.

Through the partnership, the two companies will serve over 350,000 brands and offer the Middle East and North Africa’s F&B sector a unique digital management tool that cements restaurant relationships with clients.

“At Partoo, we make sure a brand’s customer journey starts with their business discoverability. Together with Foodics, we look forward to helping MENA restaurants increase their visibility online,” Rahul Chauhan, head of partnership at Partoo, said.

Recognized as a fintech company by the Saudi Central Bank, Foodics provides restaurants and cafes with a complete management solution infused with digital payments as it processed over 6 billion orders through its platform.

Founded in 2014, Partoo provides a SaaS platform to help businesses get closer to their clients.


 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion
Updated 22 sec ago

 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

 CRM platform Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

CAIRO: US-headquartered customer relations management platform Gameball secured $3.5 million in a seed funding round to fuel its Saudi operations as well as expand to European countries. 

Founded in 2020, Gamball provides an all-in-one customer intelligence and marketing CRM platform for consumer brands to analyze customer behavior, leverage first-party data, identify monetization opportunities, and execute retention strategies. 

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Ahmed Khairy, CEO of Gameball, said that the company plans to utilize its funding to expand sales and partnerships as well as customer support activities in the Kingdom. 

“We are planning to expand our commercial and customer support activities in the Kingdom. Our model is that we build a network of channel partners in each country in which we operate. This allows us to scale fast while benefiting from these partners who have local market knowledge and expertise,” Khairy added. 

The company witnessed organic growth since its inception and received positive feedback from large and small businesses using their platform to leverage customer retention with Gameball customers witnessing a three times increase in purchase frequency. 

“Saudi Arabia has powered our growth and as brands leverage insights from digital platforms, they are turning to us,” he added. 

Since its inception, Gameball served over 7,000 businesses, 20 million consumers, and processes more than $260 million worth of transactions every month. 

“With Gameball, it’s easy for brands to kick-start their journey on our platform. We anticipate at least 50 big retailers signing up this year. This will complement our diverse range of clients from around the world,” Khairy stated. 

Khairy explained that the business is not resource intensive and will continue to hire based on its growth and client demand as he plans to hire experts in business development and account management to be based in their office in Riyadh.  

Gameball has targeted Germany and the UK as part of its international expansion while investing in commercializing its product. 

“While we’ve secured funding, we want to be prudent about how we spend our capital. Right away, we’ll be hiring Country Managers in each of those countries and as our business scales, we’ll recruit for additional positions,” Khairy told Arab News. 


Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  
Updated 07 February 2023

Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

Oil Updates — Crude up on China outlook; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

RIYADH: Oil prices rose for a second straight session on Tuesday, driven by optimism about recovering demand in China, and concerns over supply shortages following the shutdown of a major export terminal after an earthquake in Turkiye. 

Brent crude futures rose 80 cents, or 0.99 percent, to $81.79 per barrel at 08.25 a.m. Saudi time, while West Texas Intermediate futures rose 78 cents, or 1.05 percent, to $74.89 per barrel. 

Colombia’s oil output in December rises 5.24 percent 

Colombia’s crude oil production in December rose 5.24 percent versus the same month a year earlier, the government said on Monday. 

Oil output was up to an average of 784,343 barrels per day in December 2022, compared with production of 745,325 bpd in the same month in 2021, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said in a statement. 

Colombia’s oil production in December was the highest since April 2020, when the country produced an average of 796,164 bpd, the government said. 

Average oil production for the year rose 2.42 percent to 754,199 bpd, the ministry said, up from an average of 736,357 bpd in 2021. 

Natural gas output in December was 1.06 billion cubic feet per day, the ministry said, without providing a comparative figure. 

Gas production for the year averaged 1.07 billion cubic feet per day, down 1.29 percent versus 2021, when gas production hit almost 1.09 bcfd, the government said.     

State-run Ecopetrol produces the majority of the country’s oil.  

Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal, Iraq’s KRG pipeline halted after quake 

A massive earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria on Monday halted operations at Turkiye’s major oil export hub in Ceyhan and stopped key crude oil flows from Iraq and Azerbaijan, officials said. 

The Tribeca shipping agency said in a notice that the BTC terminal at Ceyhan that exports Azeri crude oil will be closed through Wednesday pending damage assessments. Azerbaijan uses the Turkish port of Ceyhan as its main crude export hub, with a flow of about 650,000 bpd. 

BP Azerbaijan said a “small” oil leak had been found at Ceyhan, which led to operations being halted, and had been stopped.  

After Monday’s earthquake, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government halted flows through the pipeline it operates that runs from Iraq’s northern Kirkuk fields to Ceyhan, the region’s ministry of natural resources said. 

The KRG had been pumping 400,000 bpd and Iraq’s federal government was pumping 75,000 bpd through the pipeline, an oil industry source told Reuters. 

Oil exports will resume after a “careful inspection of the pipelines is finalized,” the MNR said in a statement. 

Most upstream oil producers have several days of storage capacity, so KRG production should continue in the near term, the oil industry source added. 

The eastern Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan is some 155 km from the area of the magnitude 7.8 quake which struck southern Turkiye and northwest Syria early on Monday, killing more than 2,400 people across a swathe of the two countries as buildings collapsed. 

It was the worst tremor to strike Turkiye this century and was followed in the early afternoon by another large quake of magnitude 7.7. 

Turkiye’s state pipeline operator BOTAS said natural gas flows were halted to Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces and some other districts as a result of damage to a gas transmission line. 

(With input from Reuters)  


Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead

Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead
Updated 07 February 2023

Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead

Trust key to safe expansion of use of AI solutions, says PwC Middle East’s AI lead
  • Dr. Scott Nowson discussed evolving relationship between humans and tech on the sidelines of LEAP in Riyadh
  • “We’re many generations away from when AI becomes greater than human capabilities,” he told Arab News

RIYADH: Trust is key to the safe expansion of the use of AI solutions around the world, Dr. Scott Nowson, PwC Middle East’s artificial intelligence lead, has told Arab News.

As the debate ensues over human capabilities compared to artificial intelligence solutions, Nowson said that while there are “some skills and some tasks that are better suited to automation with technology” the use of AI is “still contingent upon human intelligence and awareness.”

Through his work in AI over the past 27 years, Nowson has examined the evolving relationship between AI and humans.

“There’s as much optimism as there is pessimism over AI,” he told Arab News during the second edition of the LEAP technology conference.

“People believe AI will completely replace us when I really don’t think it will. I think we’re many generations away from when AI becomes greater than human capabilities,” he added.

Dr. Scott Nowson, Artificial Intelligence Lead at PwC Middle East discusses the growing capabilities of AI in the MENA region. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

However, we must acknowledge that AI can perform some tasks better than humans, Nowson said, using the evolution of AI-assisted unmanned aerial vehicles as an example.

Recent research has also shown that self-driving cars can employ a more accurate view of roads than humans, making them safer and more functional than traditional vehicles.

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error accounts for 94 percent of all road accidents.

Nowson began studying AI 27 years ago at the University of Edinburgh, which opened one of the first dedicated undergraduate programs for AI in the world.

After studying cognitive science and completing a Ph.D. in natural language processing, Nowson has spent the past 16 years exploring the constantly evolving relationship between humans and technology across four continents. He has worked at PwC since 2019.

AI and its development, said Nowson, is not as new as most people think. “AI has been around for 60-80 years now,” says Nowson. “But it is only now that the rise of technology is pushing it into the public consciousness with ChatGPT and DALL-E.”

The latter is a model developed by OpenAI to generate digital images from natural language descriptions, called “prompts.”

Nowson added: “People are now thinking about AI and its implications on daily life more. We already witnessed technological change with the industrial revolution through robotic process automation. AI is just the next step in that.”

FASTFACTS

  • AI the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.
  • Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine vision.

Undeniably, the development of AI technology is moving fast. For many people, there are psychological hurdles to overcome in order to grasp the influence of AI on daily life.

Nowson said: “We need governments and leaders to be able to understand the capabilities of AI and understand the economic, political and societal implications, and handle them with good governance and responsibility.”

Building trust is the most important factor in expanding AI, he said, adding: “Trust is paramount among clients of PwC.”

Nowson said that PwC internally tests AI before taking new solutions to clients.

“This way, we have confidence in any solution, any approach, any strategy that we use because we’ve done it internally first,” he added.

“To that end, we have upskilled hundreds, if not thousands, across the Middle East region from our teams on the different AI technologies. This broadens the conversation to enable finding the best solutions through AI for problem solving.”

 


India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn

India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn
Updated 07 February 2023

India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn

India’s Adani crisis spills over into street protests as losses top $110bn
  • The billionaire and Modi are from the same state and Adani has repeatedly denied allegations by Modi’s opponents that he had benefited from their close ties. Modi’s government too has denied allegations of favoring Adani

NEW DELHI: The crisis engulfing the Adani Group intensified on Monday as hundreds of members of India’s opposition parties took to the streets to press for a probe into allegations by a US short-seller against the conglomerate which triggered its market rout.
Shares in billionaire Gautam Adani’s companies have been in free-fall since a Jan. 24 critical report by Hindenberg Research, with group cumulative market losses now topping $110 billion, sparking fears of wider financial contagion.
Opposition parties, who last week called for a parliamentary panel to investigate the saga and disrupted proceedings, have questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closeness with Adani.
Protesters on Monday also expressed anger about investments made by state-backed Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and State Bank of India (SBI) in the Adani Group.
Adani has rejected in detailed rebuttals the Hindenberg report’s allegations of stock manipulation, use of tax havens and criticism that it had unsustainable debt.
The billionaire and Modi are from the same state and Adani has repeatedly denied allegations by Modi’s opponents that he had benefited from their close ties. Modi’s government too has denied allegations of favoring Adani.
At New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a Mughal-era observatory that doubles up as a protest site for all causes, protesters held up banners and shouted slogans against Adani. Some broke through barricades, forcing the police to detain them.
“Common man has invested his money in a businessman’s (Gautam Adani) company and the government is trying to save him. The government is supporting the businessman (Adani) and not the common man,” Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee General Secretary Shiv Panday was quoted as saying by ANI news agency.
Hundreds of members of the Congress party protested across the country, including outside several offices of state-owned insurer Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and State Bank of India (SBI), both of which have exposure to Adani group companies.
At Jantar Mantar some burnt a suitcase with an SBI logo on it. In Mumbai, a protester held a placard with Adani’s photo and the LIC logo, explaining with a bar chart “How much has LIC invested in Adani Group.”
LIC holds a 4.23 percent stake in the flagship Adani firm, while its other exposures include a 9.14 percent stake in Adani Ports and 5.96 percent in Adani Total Gas. SBI said last week its total exposure to Adani Group was 0.9 percent of its total loan book, or around 270 billion rupees ($3.30 billion).
LIC and SBI did not respond to a request for comment.
Separately, a move by Adani Group on Monday to calm investor nerves failed to stem the market rout. It said it would pre-pay loans of around $1.1 billion taken against pledged stocks in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, Adani Transmission and Adani Green Energy, allowing it to get back the shares.
Shares of Adani Enterprises closed down 0.9 percent on Monday after sinking as much as 9.6 percent in early trade. Adani Transmission dropped lost 10 percent, while Adani Green, Adani Total Gas Ltd. , Adani Power, and Adani Wilmar fell 5 percent each.
Adani Ports rose 9.3 percent, the only stock to buck the trend.
WORSENING CRISIS
The crisis has snowballed into the biggest business and reputational challenge for 60-year-old Adani, whose fortunes had rapidly risen in recent years as he expanded his conglomerate’s business interests that stretch from ports to mining.
Both houses of India’s parliament were adjourned on Monday, the third consecutive day, amid sloganeering and demands to launch an inquiry.
In the brutal fallout of Hindenburg’s report, Adani group flagship company Adani Enterprises Ltd. was forced to abandon a $2.5 billion share sale last week, and Adani lost his crown as Asia’s richest person and slipped down the global rankings of the wealthy.
Adani had planned to issue a credit report by Friday to address concerns raised by Hindenburg about its liquidity, Reuters reported. The report is expected to be released this week, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The stock market rout triggered a series of credit ratings warnings on Friday with Moody’s saying the group may struggle to raise capital, and S&P cutting its outlook on two group companies.
India’s banking and markets regulators, as well as the government, have initiated inquiries to calm spooked investors. The latter has written to various custodian banks asking for details on beneficial owners of offshore funds and foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), Reuters reported.

 


UAE’s Burjeel Holdings and Saudi Arabia’s Leejam Sports Company plan joint venture in Kingdom

UAE’s Burjeel Holdings and Saudi Arabia’s Leejam Sports Company plan joint venture in Kingdom
Updated 07 February 2023

UAE’s Burjeel Holdings and Saudi Arabia’s Leejam Sports Company plan joint venture in Kingdom

UAE’s Burjeel Holdings and Saudi Arabia’s Leejam Sports Company plan joint venture in Kingdom
  • They intend to develop a network of more than 60 physiotherapy, rehabilitation and wellness centers across the country

ABU DHABI: Burjeel Holdings, an Emirati healthcare company, and Saudi Arabia’s Leejam Sports Company, owner of the Fitness Time chain of gyms, has signed a memorandum of understanding for a joint venture, Emirates News Agency reported.

Under the terms of the agreement, signed on Monday at the headquarters of the Ministry of Investment in Riyadh, the companies will develop a network of more than 60 physiotherapy, rehabilitation and wellness centers in Leejam facilities across the Kingdom. Initially, six centers will open in Riyadh and expand across the Leejam network over the next year.

“Our collaboration with Leejam to provide high-quality services in rehabilitation and sports medicine is significant as we commence operations in (Saudi Arabia, which is) renowned for its love of sports, and especially football,” said Shamsheer Vayalil, the founder of Burjeel Holdings.

“Professional and recreational athletes of all levels, and passionate youngsters, stand to benefit from comprehensive care, ranging from prevention to rehabilitation, which will be tailored to their specific needs.

“These offerings will create a world-class support system enabling sportspersons to elevate their performance. We are also committed to supporting the transformative (Saudi) Vision 2030, which acknowledges the importance of partnerships with the private sector to promote sports for well-being.”

Ali Al-Sagri, the chairman of Leejam Sports, said: “The MoU confirms the company's commitment to harnessing the full extent of its capabilities to raise the level of healthcare and physical fitness, and to achieve a healthier life for body and mind.

“Our partnership with Burjeel Holdings, a leader in the field of healthcare services, ensures integrated sports medicine services of the best international standards.”