Biban 23: PIF-owned Saudi Downtown joins Monsha’at to develop 12 projects  

Update Biban 23: PIF-owned Saudi Downtown joins Monsha’at to develop 12 projects  
The MoU was signed by Nayef bin Saleh Al-Hamdan, acting CEO of Saudi Downtown Co., and Monsha’at Governor Sami bin Ibrahim Al-Husseini on the sidelines of Biban 23.  (Supplied)
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Updated 14 March 2023

Biban 23: PIF-owned Saudi Downtown joins Monsha’at to develop 12 projects  

Biban 23: PIF-owned Saudi Downtown joins Monsha’at to develop 12 projects  

RIYADH: Master developer Saudi Downtown Co. signed a memorandum of understanding with the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority, also known as Monsha’at, to develop projects in 12 cities around the Kingdom.  

The agreement will support the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating business opportunities for the SME sector in line with the goals of Vision 2030, reported the Saudi Press Agency.   

Saudi Downtown Co., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, will establish urban centers of sustainable economic and social impact in 12 cities – Madinah, Al-Ahsa, Al-Khobar, Buraidah, Taif, Arar, Hail, Tabuk, Dumat Al-Jandal, Jizan, Najran, and Al-Baha.   

To be spread over a 10 million sq. m area, the scheme will contribute to stimulating the economy, improving the standard of living, and enabling opportunities in sectors like retail, entertainment, hospitality, tourism, and housing.  

The MoU was signed by Nayef bin Saleh Al-Hamdan, acting CEO of Saudi Downtown Co., and Monsha’at Governor Sami bin Ibrahim Al-Husseini on the sidelines of Biban 23.  

Al-Hamdan noted that the SME sector plays a vital role in the economy’s diversification, various sector development, and job creation, as well as in increasing the contribution to the country’s gross domestic product.   

SME opportunities in retail sector  

During the event, the Ministry of Commerce also discussed SME opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s retail sector to help achieve the socioeconomic goals set by Vision 2030.  

The ministry’s E-Commerce Council examined promising investment opportunities for SMEs in the retail sector, the largest female-empowering sector and the second largest non-oil economic sector in Saudi Arabia.   

In collaboration with Monsha'at, the council went over the enablers and incentives for entrepreneurs to invest in the retail sector.  

As per the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the retail sector plans to increase its proportion of modern trade to 80 percent and to provide 1 million employment opportunities to its locals.   

In 2022, the aggregate SMEs in the retail sector reached more than 440,000, whereas employment exceeded 1.7 million people during that period.   

During the fourth quarter of 2022, the sector's contribution to GDP was 8.7 percent, reaching approximately SR89.5 billion ($23.83 billion).    

COFE raises $15 million  

COFE, an online coffee marketplace, successfully raised $15 million of investment in its Series B funding round during Biban 23.  

Aramco-owned WAED Ventures was the lead investor with a $500 million venture capital fund focused on tech-based startups.   

The Riyadh-based VC firm eWTP Arabia Capital also participated in COFE’s Series B funding round.   

The company has also attained significant funding support from the eWTP Capital initiated by Alibaba Group in the Middle East region, in addition to the PIF.   

Red Sea Farms to design, build greenhouses

Red Sea Farms, a sustainable science and tech company, also announced plans to design, build and operate greenhouses in all of Saudi Downtown Co.’s projects.

“The greenhouses will not only be sustainable and incorporate the latest technologies, but will also be facilities designed to enrich the visitor’s experience for the local communities in which these facilities will be located in addition to their economic benefits and cultural development” said Ryan Levers, CEO and co-founder.  

In line with Vision 2030, the collaboration will examine ways to adopt sustainable large-scale farming techniques and develop sustainable urban living experiences in Saudi Arabia.  


PIF-backed Rakiza raises $1bn to invest in Oman and Saudi Arabia 

PIF-backed Rakiza raises $1bn to invest in Oman and Saudi Arabia 
Updated 17 sec ago

PIF-backed Rakiza raises $1bn to invest in Oman and Saudi Arabia 

PIF-backed Rakiza raises $1bn to invest in Oman and Saudi Arabia 

RIYADH: Public Investment Fund-backed Rakiza has raised $1 billion to invest in three projects in Oman and is close to signing off on several deals in the Kingdom, according to a statement.

The fund has taken a 30 percent stake in telecom firm Omantel’s passive tower assets in the Sultanate, a majority stake in Khazaen Fruit and Vegetable Central Market, and an estimated 31 percent stake in the Oman International Container Terminal in the Port of Sohar.  

These mean that 25 percent of its acquired capital has already been deployed in Oman, Rakiza said in a statement.

The fund is co-managed by Oman Infrastructure Investment Management and London-based infrastructure equity manager Equitix. 

Rakiza aims to invest in infrastructure projects in Oman and the Kingdom to drive stable returns as well as a stake in sectors like renewables, power, water, telecommunications, and logistics. 

“Our target of raising over $1 billion is an important milestone, on which Rakiza hopes to build with similar future initiatives,” Rakiza founder and OIM CEO, Muneer Al-Muneeri, said. 

The company is also close to sealing investment deals in Saudi Arabia as well as securing its first acquisition in the Kingdom, no further information about these deals was disclosed. 

“The Gulf Cooperation Council is an attractive home for smart capital and an exciting investment destination for those with local access,” said Hugh Crossley, Equitix co-founder and CEO. 

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s PIF committed $300 million to Rakiza. The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank has also invested $50 million in the infrastructure fund. 

“Driven by Rakiza’s local investment teams in our Riyadh and Muscat offices, we aim to deliver on the fund’s return objectives by investing in and developing compelling essential infrastructure projects in Oman and Saudi Arabia,” Crossley added. 

Saudi-Oman bilateral relations have been positively impacted in recent times with agreements being reached by both countries. 

Last month, Saudi Arabia and Oman signed 13 investment memoranda of understanding between the public and private sectors covering various industries.

Dubai inflation rises close to 5% in February on higher F&B prices 

Dubai inflation rises close to 5% in February on higher F&B prices 
Updated 20 min 3 sec ago

Dubai inflation rises close to 5% in February on higher F&B prices 

Dubai inflation rises close to 5% in February on higher F&B prices 

RIYADH: In line with the global trend, Dubai saw its annual inflation rate rising to 4.9 percent in February driven by an increase in food and beverages costs, the latest data from the emirate's Statistics Center showed.   

This comes as Dubai’s Consumer Price Index rallied by 0.32 percent in February from 4.58 in January.  

According to the report, food and beverage prices increased by 6.29 percent in February, while the prices of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels surged by 4.87 percent.  

The rise in inflation for the month of February was also driven by an increase in prices of restaurants and accommodation services and insurance and financial services which went up by 4.47 percent and 5.41 percent respectively.  

The report, however, added that the prices of furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance marginally went down to 9.42 percent in February, from 9.50 percent in January.  

Inflation in the UAE has stayed relatively low when compared to other parts of the world, as the emirate showed signs of recovering from the pandemic, amid global economic headwinds.  

According to the UAE Central Bank, the country’s economy had grown 7.6 percent in 2022, the highest in 11 years, after expanding by 3.9 percent in 2021.  

Earlier in March, data analytics firm Kantar said that inflation and the resulting price rises are putting pressure on consumers in the UAE.  

“Spending has remained high since 2019 and this ongoing financial strain is leading consumers to change the way they shop,” said Imtiaz Hashem, consumer insights director at Kantar Worldpanel, UAE. 

But despite this, he added the UAE economy ended 2022 solidly and signs suggest this growth will continue but might slow in the first half of 2023.  

In February, a report released by Kuwait-based investment strategy and research firm Kamco Invest said that the inflation rate in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries is showing a downward trend in 2023 compared to 2022.  

The International Monetary Fund, in its World Economic Report, also noted that nearly 84 percent of the countries in the world are forecasted to have lower consumer price index inflation growth in 2023 than in 2022.  

IMF added that global headline inflation would fall from an annual average of 8.8 percent in 2022 to 6.6 percent in 2023 and further to 4.3 percent in 2024.  

Amid economic uncertainties, Saudi Arabia also showed strong signs of combating inflation effectively in February.  

In March, a report released by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics showed the Kingdom’s inflation rate has softened to 3 percent in February 2023, against 3.4 percent recorded in January, driven by a slight decrease in food and beverage prices.  

The monthly consumer price index was affected by a 0.6 percent fall in food and beverages prices, as a result of the decrease in food by 0.7 percent.  

The GASTAT data revealed that transport prices also fell by 0.5 percent in February against the previous month, mainly due to the decrease in motor car prices by 0.9 percent.    

Saudi Venture Capital launches $80m Saudi fintech fund 

Saudi Venture Capital launches $80m Saudi fintech fund 
Updated 59 min 32 sec ago

Saudi Venture Capital launches $80m Saudi fintech fund 

Saudi Venture Capital launches $80m Saudi fintech fund 

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s booming fintech sector is set to be boosted by an $80 million investment fund launched by Saudi Venture Capital Co..

The ‘Investment in Fintech VC Fund’ was launched in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority and the Financial Sector Development Program to preserve the Kingdom’s fintech industry growth that attracted almost 25 percent of all Saudi venture capital funding last year. 

SVC aims to stimulate and sustain financing for startups and small and medium enterprises from early stage to initial public offering by backing venture capital and private equity firms all around the region. 

The firm has been keen to empower the startup landscape in the Kingdom, and also signed a memorandum of understanding last month with the Saudi stock market Tadawul to support SMEs going public. 

The company will strategically place the new fund to support Saudi Arabia’s fintech ecosystem which raised $239 million in funding in 2022, according to venture data firm MAGNiTT. 

Saudi Arabia’s venture capital market has been one of the most attractive markets globally, capturing $987 million in funding last year, a 72 percent increase from the year before. 

The Kingdom’s 2022 funding boom came as investment across the world decreased by 35 percent year-on-year, while the US venture market experienced a 37 percent drop, according to Crunchbase. 

The UAE and Egypt, which are the region’s leading venture markets, also witnessed a decline in funding activity last year. 

Founded in 2018, SVC is a government investment company under the SME Bank and has invested in 35 funds which financed 525 companies through 904 deals. 

Oil Updates — Crude down; Venezuela president accepts resignation of oil minister  

Oil Updates — Crude down; Venezuela president accepts resignation of oil minister  
Updated 21 March 2023

Oil Updates — Crude down; Venezuela president accepts resignation of oil minister  

Oil Updates — Crude down; Venezuela president accepts resignation of oil minister  

RIYADH: Oil drifted lower on Tuesday as more than a week of banking turmoil kept weighing on market confidence. 

Brent crude futures for May settlement dropped 84 cents, or 1.14 percent, trading at $72.95 per barrel at 11.00 a.m. Saudi time.  

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 56 cents, or 0.83 percent, to $67.08 a barrel. 

In the previous session, both Brent and WTI fell about $3 a barrel before settling higher. That followed Swiss bank UBS throwing a lifeline to Credit Suisse and major central banks saying they would enhance market liquidity and support the banking system. 

Venezuela’s Maduro accepts resignation of oil minister El Aissami 

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Monday accepted the resignation of the country’s oil minister Tareck El Aissami, following the detention of at least six high-level officials amid a corruption probe focused on state-run company PDVSA and the judiciary. 

El Aissami had said earlier on Monday on Twitter he would resign to fully support the investigations. The probe especially touches PDVSA, which is supervised by the oil ministry. 

Maduro did not immediately name a replacement for El Aissami, who has served as vice president, and as a minister and mayor over the past two decades. 

Brazil environment agency asks for more info from Petrobras  

Brazil’s environmental regulator Ibama has asked Petrobras for additional information on its plan to drill at the mouth of the Amazon river before authorizing the company to test its emergency oil spill response, the agency’s president told Reuters. 

Ibama has not defined a test date because Petrobras did not deliver all of the documents required, but it will be scheduled as soon as the company provides the information, the agency’s president Rodrigo Agostinho said. 

Petrobas views the mouth of the Amazon as the newest and most important frontier for oil exploration in Brazil and the company planned the test to assess its response in the event of a major spill. 

The company has been working for years to open up a new exploration frontier in a region close to Guyana, where Exxon Mobil has made important discoveries and many wells were drilled. 

Later on Monday, Petrobras said it had just filed details and responses to Ibama’s demands. 

“After analysis and agreement by the environmental agency, the date for carrying out the pre-operational assessment may be defined together with Ibama,” the company said in a statement. 

The area was auctioned in 2013 and Petrobras has planned to explore there for years after BP and TotalEnergies gave up on their assets, even after investing in studies, because of difficulties in obtaining drilling licenses. 

Iran counts on ‘huge volumes’ of oil and gas swaps from Russia 

Iran counts on “huge volumes” of oil and gas swaps from Russia this year, Iranian Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi said in an interview with Russia’s RIA state news agency.  

“This year will witness huge volumes of swap supplies. We are very pleased that Tehran and Moscow have started cooperation on the issue of swap supplies of oil and gas,” Khandouzi was cited as saying. 

There were no details on what volumes of oil and gas Iran is expecting. 

(With input from Reuters)  



Saudi Arabia issues 46 mining licenses in January 

Saudi Arabia issues 46 mining licenses in January 
Updated 20 March 2023

Saudi Arabia issues 46 mining licenses in January 

Saudi Arabia issues 46 mining licenses in January 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources issued 46 new mining licenses in January 2023 – a 33 percent drop compared to the previous month.

The ministry reported that the permits included 31 reconnaissance licenses, 14 building materials quarry licenses, and extra mineral ores license, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

It also reported that there are 2,230 mining licenses valid in the sector until the end of January 2023, with building materials quarry licenses accounting for 1,331.

This was followed by 647 reconnaissance licenses, and then 178 for mining and minor mine exploitation.

Some 42 were issued for observation, and 32 extra mineral ores licenses were granted. 

Riyadh region gained the most mining licenses in the sector, with 507 permits, followed by the Makkah region with 418 permits. The Eastern Province had 369 licenses, Madinah had 242 and 191 licenses for Asir. 

Saudi Arabia's Tabuk region had 139 licenses, Al-Qassim had 102 licenses, followed by 68 licenses in Hail, Jazan had 65 licenses, Najran was issued with 45, Al-Baha had 37 and the Northern Province area had 25, along with Al-Jouf’s 22 licenses. 

In accordance with the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 and the National Industry Development and Logistics Program, the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources seeks to protect and increase the mining sector’s value. 

To make mining the third pillar of the national economy and seek to harness the Kingdom's mineral resources, which are spread across more than 5,300 sites and are valued at approximately SR5 trillion ($1.33 trillion).