Saudi budget airline flynas signs $3.7bn deal with Airbus to buy 30 aircraft

Visitors attend the International Paris Air Show at the Paris-Le Bourget Airport, France. Reuters
Visitors attend the International Paris Air Show at the Paris-Le Bourget Airport, France. Reuters
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Updated 20 June 2023
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Saudi budget airline flynas signs $3.7bn deal with Airbus to buy 30 aircraft

Saudi budget airline flynas signs $3.7bn deal with Airbus to buy 30 aircraft
  • Paris Air Show begins with a flurry of deals as aviation industry seeks to rebound

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s budget airline flynas has signed a $3.73 billion agreement with Airbus to buy 30 aircraft, Saudi state TV reported on Monday.

The deal was signed at the Paris Air Show by Bandar Al-Mohanna, flynas CEO and managing director, and Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer and head of Airbus international, in the presence of Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser, Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and Ayed Aljeaid, chairman of the board of NAS Holding.

Looking to reach new long-haul destinations across its route map, flynas’ agreement includes 10 A321XLRs. These planes will join the airline’s existing fleet of 21 A320neos, 13 A320ceos, and four A330-300s. Between January and the end of this year, 19 A320neos would have been added to the operator’s fleet. Four have already been delivered in 2023 alone.

In a statement, Al-Mohanna said: “The A320neo Family brings unmatched benefits to our passengers, offering exceptional operational performance and environmental benefits while helping us provide unique travel experiences at low-cost.”

Commenting on the deal, Scherer said: “Unbeatable economics, longer range capability, and the most spacious single aisle cabin have made the A320neo Family the preferred choice of airlines worldwide.”

The planemaker also announced a record 500-plane deal with Indian airline IndiGo on the first day of the air show. The world’s largest air show, which alternates with Farnborough in Britain, is at Le Bourget for the first time in four years after the 2021 edition fell victim to the pandemic.

French President Emmanuel Macron flew in to the packed aerospace bazaar by helicopter and watched a flying demonstration including Airbus’ latest jet development, the A321XLR, and air power including the French Rafale fighter.

On the civilian side, plane makers arrived with growing demand expectations as airlines rush for capacity to meet demand and help reach industry goals of net zero emissions by 2050.

Industry executives say as many as 2,000 jet orders are up for grabs worldwide in a resurgent commercial jet market, on top of those provisionally announced already, as airlines try to fill a void left by sharp falls in activity in the COVID-19 crisis.

Only a portion of these potential fresh deals will be ready in time for this week’s air show, which could see a mixture of new and repeat announcements, they said.

IndiGo’s deal highlights the growing importance of India, the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, serving the largest population, to plane makers.

American Airlines ordered 460 single-aisle aircraft: 260 Airbus A320s and 200 Boeing 737, at a catalog price of $38 billion. Four Chinese airlines — Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and Shenzhen Airlines — placed simultaneous orders for a total of 292 A320neo aircraft from Airbus worth $37 billion at list prices.

United Airlines ordered 270 medium-haul aircraft: 200 Boeing 737 MAX and 70 Airbus A321neo worth $35.4 billion at catalog prices.

Defense side

France’s Thales also announced a contract from Indonesia for 13 long-range air surveillance radars.

Looking ahead to the rest of the show, Airbus is expected to confirm that Qantas is exercising options for nine more A220s, as announced by the airline this year.

The plane maker is also close to a potentially large order for narrow-body jets from Mexican low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus, industry sources said on Sunday.

The number of planes being discussed was more than 100, they said, though by Monday some sources said the number in the final deal could settle closer to 60.

The Mexican carrier has long been a fierce battleground between Boeing and Airbus.


Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest

Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest
Updated 03 March 2024
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Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest

Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest
  • Simon Coveney appeared on the “Frankly Speaking” show, the full episode of which will be released on Sunday
  • Described Gulf region as a “really good example of how international trade can create wealth and employment”

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia offers an “extraordinary opportunity” for Irish firms looking to invest in everything from technology to tourism, according to Ireland’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment.

Appearing on the Arab News current-affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” Simon Coveney singled out the Gulf region as a “really good example of how international trade can create wealth, can create employment, and also can ultimately provide stability and an absence of conflict.”

As part of a Gulf tour, Coveney recently paid a visit to Riyadh to meet with Majid Al-Qasabi, Saudi Arabia’s minister of commerce, and other high-level officials.

“The main topic of discussion was Saudi ambition, in terms of the vision for 2030, the extraordinary scale of project development that is currently happening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”

“Whether that’s on the Red Sea coast in terms of tourism, or whether it’s the scale of development in terms of some of the other projects around Saudi Arabia, and the opportunity for international business that comes from that.

“Whether it’s construction, whether it’s technology, whether it’s energy, whether it’s transport and tourism, whether it’s medtech and the pharmaceutical industry.”

Former Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney being interviewed by Frankly Speaking host Katie Jensen. (AN photo)

He added: “All of these sectors are very, very strong in Ireland. We have a lot of capacity. Ireland has become a very globalized economy, and some of the largest companies in the world, in many of these sectors already have a very large international presence in Ireland.”

The primary focus of Coveney’s visit to the region was the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference, which took place between Feb. 26 and 29 in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

There, trade ministers discussed a new dispute-resolution mechanism designed to even the playing field between larger and smaller economies.

Ireland is keen to see reforms to ensure that the WTO is able to meet the challenges of the modern economy, including a boost for digital trade — known as e-commerce — and stronger action on climate change — issues the body has been slow to adapt to.

“Ireland, like every small country, wants to see the WTO working, because the WTO and its dispute-resolution mechanisms and support programs is in many ways the great leveler to allow small countries to trade under agreed rules with larger countries and larger blocs of countries,” he said.

“Ireland is a big believer in the WTO as a basis for international trade. But like many others, we’ve been somewhat frustrated at the inability of the WTO membership to get agreement on certain things.

“We’re trying to get agreement on a functioning dispute-resolution mechanism so that small and large countries can operate under the same rules. And if they don’t, there’s a mechanism that countries can refer to, to get a resolution to breakdowns.”

However, Coveney said the prevailing climate of protectionism meant that very few breakthroughs were made in the talks, adding that the apparent “retreat” of globalization provides little room for positivity.


Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality

Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality
Updated 02 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality

Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality
  • The Kingdom is actively contributing to offsetting emissions through a comprehensive carbon credit program

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has emerged as a key player when it comes to environmental responsibility, setting ambitious targets to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions via carbon credit offsets.

At the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives is the dynamic approach to carbon neutrality. The Kingdom is determined to not only reduce its carbon footprint but also actively contribute to offsetting emissions through a comprehensive carbon credit program.

In an interview with Arab News, Louis Corapi, chief financial officer at Gulf Cryo, a Dubai-based gas firm, shed light on the significance of this initiative, following the company’s launch of a carbon capture and utilization facility in Rabigh.

“Through Vision 2030 and the 2060 commitment to carbon neutrality, Saudi Arabia set clear sustainability goals. Carbon credits are an important component of this strategy. Having an exchange is itself a signal to companies that this commitment is about action and requires broad participation,” Corapi said.

He added: “Secondly, credits will need to be independently verified to be counted. This field is still developing, but we’re confident that it will help to stratify the most and least effective projects.”

Corapi further added that the assignment of dollar values to carbon credits represents a transformative shift in incentivizing sustainability initiatives for companies. By attaching a monetary value to these credits, businesses gain a financial mechanism to support projects that might face challenges in traditional boardroom approvals. 

“We also recognize that there are industries that are both hard to abate and vital to global economies,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is pursuing carbon neutrality with a multi-pronged approach that touches on everything from transportation to energy.

The Kingdom realizes how critical it is to actively pursue offsetting measures in addition to actively reducing its own emissions.

“What’s less discussed is that there are also many industries that require carbon dioxide as a key component to their manufacturing process. That started to change in 2014 when Gulf Cryo, together with our partner Equate, started a carbon capture plant in Kuwait,” Corapi explained.

He added: “We just commissioned a new CO2 capture plant in Petro Rabigh and are constructing the plant at Ma’aden. Together these plants will capture over 1,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per day which means 1,000 tonnes per day of fossil fuel burning is permanently stopped.”

For many years, carbon dioxide emissions have been removed and stored using carbon capture utilization and storage methods, which also enhance the quality of natural gas.

In addition to ensuring fossil fuels satisfy the world’s pressing energy demands, carbon capture simultaneously lowers emission levels and provides a means of assisting in the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Saudi Arabia declared a target of 44 million tonnes of carbon capture year by 2035, setting a high standard for emission reduction.

By 2027, Aramco and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy hope to build a hub in Jubail with a 9 million tonne annual storage capacity.

“Today, projects are only viable when there is a clear end user for the CO2.  As long as businesses continue to evaluate investments with classical financial models, decisions are delayed, and emissions continue unabated,” Corapi said.

Furthermore, when asked for his opinion on what could be done better to implement carbon credit offset strategies, Corapi noted that “there is so much more to do, and that we don’t have time to waste,” adding: “We’ve demonstrated that effective technologies exist, but equipment is expensive to install.” 

He went on to say: “Today, projects are only viable when there is a clear end user for the CO2.  As long as businesses continue to evaluate investments with classical financial models, decisions are delayed, and emissions continue unabated.” 

FASTFACT

Saudi Arabia declared a target of 44 million tonnes of carbon capture year by 2035, setting a high standard for emission reduction. By 2027, Aramco and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy hope to build a hub in Jubail with a 9 million tonne annual storage capacity.

Corapi further emphasized that governments have the ability to influence investment decisions in sustainability by introducing new incentives. By strategically implementing policies, governments can sway the choices made by investors and businesses towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable options.

“In coordination with other countries across the region, decisions are needed on what standard credits will be certified to and experts are needed to verify the effectiveness of local projects,” Corapi explained.

Additionally, he highlighted that Saudi Arabia is actively pursuing a leadership role in the realm of sustainability through a comprehensive and proactive approach.

According to Corapi, the Kingdom achieves this “through its publicly stated commitments, forums and action platforms it hosts and participates in, to bring different interests together, funding sources it makes available, and openness to ideas from concerned individuals, international organizations, business and government agencies.”

He said: “Saudi Arabia is working hard to establish a leadership position in sustainability and to urgently implement actions that will make a real difference.” 

The new carbon capture and utilization facility further steps up Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainability efforts. (Supplied)

The new carbon capture and utilization facility, a collaborative project between Petro Rabigh and Gulf Cryo — the first of its kind in the western region of Saudi Arabia dedicated to the merchant market and the second overall in the Kingdom — further steps up Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainability efforts.

The plant, which opened on Dec. 21, resulted from a long-term strategic partnership inked in March 2022 between the two companies to develop Petro Rabigh’s mono ethylene glycol facility in the Red Sea town of Rabigh.

The newly launched facility can directly capture 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day from the MEG plant.  It is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 100,000 tonnes annually, achieving an 85 percent reduction in its total annual carbon footprint. 

The plant will process the captured carbon dioxide to a high-purity food-grade level and transport it in liquid form for reuse. 

“This landmark project anchors our leading position in CCUS solutions in the region and marks our first carbon capture project in the Kingdom,” said Abdul Salam Al-Mazro, vice chairman of Gulf Cryo, in a statement.

He added: “It underscores the importance of managing the full CO2 value chain. We reduce emissions at source while utilizing the recovered CO2 as a vital resource to help decarbonize supply chains of various industries.”

Petro Rabigh will utilize a portion of this carbon dioxide stream internally, while Gulf Cryo will supply the remainder to various industries across the Kingdom.


Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn

Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn
Updated 02 March 2024
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Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn

Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn
  • Saudi Arabia aims to revolutionize its container shipping sector, mirroring its efforts in non-oil industries

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports to Gulf  Cooperation Council countries saw a 42 percent annual increase in the final three months  of 2023, according to official data.

Information released by the Kingdom’s General Authority of Statistics showed the total value of these transactions reached SR20.8 billion ($5.55 billion), primarily due to an increase in re-exports, which rose by 106 percent to hit SR11.34 billion. 

Re-exports – goods imported into a country and then exported to another without significant processing or alteration – accounted for 55 percent of total non-oil shipments to Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman, as well as Qatar, and the UAE.

Among these GCC nations, the UAE emerged as the top destination, receiving 67 percent of the non-oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, totaling SR14 billion. Of these transactions, approximately 61 percent were re-exports, representing a 97 percent growth during this period.

Factors contributing to this surge in re-exports could include the solid economic bonds among GCC nations, fostering a unified market that facilitates the free flow of goods and services.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic position as a central hub within the GCC region could also minimize transportation expenses and transit durations due to its proximity. 

Moreover, the Kingdom’s modern and well-developed infrastructure, encompassing ports, airports, and road networks, further streamlines the movement of goods, potentially influencing this uptick in re-exports.

Additionally, the GCC region’s strategic location on major trade routes allows for efficient redistribution of goods and services. Taking advantage of this, the countries are developing logistics hubs to facilitate the movement of both domestic and transit goods.

Saudi Arabia also aims to revolutionize its container-shipping sector, mirroring its efforts in non-oil industries like electric cars and renewable energy.

With plans to expand inland logistics hubs and improve rail connections, the country seeks to increase annual container throughput to 40 million twenty-foot equivalent units by 2030.

This ambition aligns with the grand scale of projects such as the $500 billion NEOM scheme, featuring a 170-km. city and a container port with a 9 million TEU capacity.

The giga-project will also include the Oxagon port, slated to become the largest floating structure globally, situated at the nexus of three continents.

The robust economic ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia are further demonstrated through their mutual investments.

By the end of 2022, the UAE had amassed a significant foreign direct investment stock of SR104 billion in Saudi Arabia, as reported by the General Authority of Statistics. This substantial investment
plays a pivotal role in bolstering their economic partnership, fostering growth, and has paved the way for the expansion of non-oil trade activities between the two nations.

Transport equipment accounted for 31 percent of non-oil exports to the UAE from the Kingdom in the final quarter of 2023, reaching a value of SR4.39 billion in what is a 145 percent increase. 

Machinery and electrical parts constituted another 27 percent, totaling SR3.75 billion with a 67 percent rise.

Additionally, chemical industry products accounted for 10 percent, reaching SR1.44 billion – a 17 percent increase during this period.

Among the GCC countries, trade with Qatar experienced the most substantial growth, with non-oil exports to the country soaring by 439 percent. Of these exports, 61 percent comprised transport equipment amounting to SR888 million, while 18 percent were chemical industry products totaling SR255 million.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are actively working to enhance their economic, military, sports, and cultural ties. This push comes after the meeting of the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council, attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, in December.

The leaders consider the council vital for communication and coordination, underlining the importance of expanding cooperation to drive sustainable growth and prosperity for both nations and their citizens.

The trade balance with the GCC saw a substantial 90 percent annual increase in the fourth quarter of 2023, although imports still exceeded non-oil exports by SR489 million.

Around 68 percent of Saudi Arabia’s imports from the GCC countries originated from the UAE, which saw a 22 percent rise to SR14.37 billion. 

In contrast, imports from other nations in the economic bloc decreased, with Kuwait experiencing the most significant decline of 49 percent to SR351 million.

Mineral products account for the largest share of imports from the UAE at 33 percent, amounting to SR4.8 billion, followed by pearls and other jewelry at 19 percent, totaling SR2.7 billion. 

Industrial equipment, chemicals, and plastics made up 16 percent at SR2.3 billion.


Estonia’s Bolt eyes further Saudi expansion

Estonia’s Bolt eyes further Saudi expansion
Updated 02 March 2024
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Estonia’s Bolt eyes further Saudi expansion

Estonia’s Bolt eyes further Saudi expansion
  • Firm expresses keen interest in the rapidly growing Saudi market

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s dynamic business environment is continuously drawing attention from international companies, and now Estonian ride-hailing giant Bolt is looking to expand its operations in the Kingdom. 

Established in 2013, the company has become a prominent player in the global mobility industry, operating in 45 countries and 500 cities, with a current valuation of €7.4 billion ($8 billion). 

In an interview with Arab News, Martin Villig, chairman and co-founder of Bolt, expressed his firm’s keen interest in the rapidly growing Saudi market. 

“We have operated in Saudi Arabia since 2017 completing millions of trips with hundreds of thousands of drivers signed up to the platform. Our business in Saudi Arabia has grown 10 times over in the past three years and we now have operations in all cities across the country,” Villig told Arab News. 

“However, we still see room for growth. Our short-term objective is to continue on that growth trajectory and increase both the number of trips completed and the number of drivers signed up to the platform,” he added.

Supporting a national vision 

Looking toward the future, Bolt’s vision aligns closely with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, particularly in the development of smart cities and sustainable transportation systems.Villig said the company is “already part of this Vision,” adding: “This includes investments in public transportation, as well as the promotion of alternative modes of transportation, including shared mobility services.”

He added: “However, with demand growing for shared mobility services in Saudi Arabia in recent years, we see huge opportunity to grow our operations in Saudi Arabia providing a convenient, affordable and environmentally friendly way for people to move around.” 

Villig claimed this will help alleviate some of the problems cities in Saudi Arabia are facing due to over-reliance on private cars, such as increased travel time, congestion, accidents and pollution. Expanding its presence within the Kingdom remains a priority for Bolt, with Villig emphasizing the importance of growing the driver base to improve service availability.  

“Our belief is that this will reduce the reliance on private car usage which will help alleviate some of the problems facing cities in Saudi Arabia today,” he stated. 

Bolt is also actively engaging with government entities in the Kingdom to integrate ride-hailing services within the public transport ecosystem.   The company’s collaboration with Saudi authorities has been notably successful, including its role as a mobility partner for Riyadh Season 2022, showcasing Bolt’s commitment to enhancing transportation solutions in the Kingdom. 

In terms of new offerings, Villig indicates that the focus remains on expanding the reach of its core ride-hailing service.

A strategic Kingdom 

The expansion into the Saudi market is strategic for Bolt due to the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism sector and the proliferation of business and entertainment hubs, presenting a significant growth opportunity for the ride-hailing industry.  

“In 2023 alone, Saudi Arabia welcomed over 27 million foreign tourists, with Bolt playing a vital role in facilitating their mobility across the Kingdom,” Villig said. 

Our business in Saudi Arabia has grown 10 times over in the past three years and we now have operations in all cities across the country.

Martin Villig, Bolt chairman

He believes that private companies like his are instrumental in supporting Vision 2030 by aligning their operations with the Kingdom’s strategic goals.  

By leveraging its extensive experience in addressing urban mobility challenges across the globe, Bolt aims to be a key partner for Saudi government entities in enhancing the country’s transport infrastructure.

A regulatory leader 

Gaining experience from over 45 jurisdictions, Bolt is adept at navigating varying regulatory landscapes, from highly regulated environments to those still shaping their frameworks.  

Villig emphasizes the company’s commitment to collaborating with regulators in every market to foster competition and meet customer needs effectively. 

“Bolt was one of the main supporters of the internal policies promoted by the Saudi government and we fulfilled all the job localization program requirements,” he said. 

“We have also committed to sharing data with the Saudi authorities to ensure the most appropriate mobility solutions are implemented,” he added.

A multi-billion-dollar company 

Since its inception in 2013, Bolt has managed to secure large investment rounds, amassing over €1 billion to fund its growth. 

“While I cannot disclose an exact figure, we view Saudi Arabia as an attractive investment opportunity and I am a strong believer that healthy competition is good for all parties, including the population of Saudi Arabia,” Villig stated. 

Bolt is tackling the significant challenges posed by rapid urbanization and increased car ownership in cities across the Kingdom and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.  

“This has led to various environmental and social problems such as increased travel time, congestion, accidents and pollution. Riyadh highlights the problem — at the start of 2022 it was expected that 18 million cars would be on Saudi Arabia’s roads, 30 percent of which would be in Riyadh,” Villig explained. 

By expanding its services, Bolt aims to reduce reliance on private car usage, thereby alleviating urban congestion and environmental impact. 

The company operates on a global shared mobility platform, efficiently connecting suppliers and consumers across various services, including ride-hailing, food delivery, and micromobility.  

The company earns revenue by charging a small commission for facilitating these connections, with its micromobility service offering a direct-to-consumer model.  

Despite facing macroeconomic challenges such as inflation and rising interest rates, Bolt achieved significant revenue growth and profitability gains last year, with plans to continue this positive trajectory towards break-even while balancing growth with profitability, Villig stated. The inception of Bolt was influenced by several factors, including the burgeoning Estonian tech ecosystem, the vast potential within the transportation industry, rising smartphone adoption, existing ride-hailing systems, and the poor quality of local taxi services.  

Villig explained that these elements combined to inspire his brother, Markus Villig, the CEO of Bolt, to launch a company aimed at revolutionizing transportation through technology. “In every city we operate, the ultimate goal is to introduce our services in a way that enhances the existing transport infrastructure, making it easier and more affordable for people to move around in more environmentally friendly modes of transport,” Martin Villig said. 

“Bolt has also generated working opportunities for hundreds of Saudi people in our Riyadh office who have been able to increase their income and use the ride-hailing industry to develop their personal business skills,” he added. 

Martin Villig is scheduled to speak at Saudi Arabia’s largest startup and technology event, LEAP 2024, set to take place in Riyadh from March 4 to 7.


Regional startup activity continues to rise ahead of LEAP24

Regional startup activity continues to rise ahead of LEAP24
Updated 51 min 44 sec ago
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Regional startup activity continues to rise ahead of LEAP24

Regional startup activity continues to rise ahead of LEAP24
  • Regional venture capitals, enterprises gear up for a significant entrepreneurial uplift from March 4 to 7

CAIRO: Startup momentum in the Middle East and North Africa region is on the rise, with the eagerly awaited technology event LEAP24 just around the corner.  

Regional venture capitals have replenished their funds and burgeoning enterprises have secured financing – preparing Riyadh’s ecosystem for a significant entrepreneurial uplift from March 4 to 7.

US-based fintech MoneyHash sealed $4.5 million in a seed funding round to further expand its presence in the Saudi and regional markets.  

Founded in late 2020 by Nader Abdelrazik, Mustafa Eid, and Anisha Sekar, MoneyHash is in the field of payment orchestration. (Supplied)

The round was co-led by the UAE’s COTU Ventures and Saudi Arabia’s Sukna Ventures, with additional investments from RZM Investment, Dubai Future District Fund, VentureFriends, and several angel investors.  

Founded in late 2020 by Nader Abdelrazik, Mustafa Eid, and Anisha Sekar, MoneyHash is in the field of payment orchestration, offering a comprehensive payment operating system as a service designed to tackle the diverse technological and product challenges encountered by enterprise merchants.  

“COVID certainly boosted the adoption of digital payments in the region, but the infrastructure remains significantly underdeveloped,” Abdelrazik said.

Established in 2020 by Amir Farha, COTU Ventures boasts a dynamic portfolio of MENA startups, such as Huspy and MoneyHash. (Supplied)

“In MEA, payment failure rates are three times the global average, and fraud rates and cart abandonment are over 20 percent higher than in all other regions. This places merchants in a challenging position, viewing payments as a cost and risk center rather than a strategic enabler,” he added.

Following a $3 million pre-seed round in 2022, the newly acquired funds are earmarked for expanding the business team, enhancing growth capabilities, and sustaining technological advancement.

Saudi investment firm acquires startup platform VeFund   

The Saudi startup ecosystem is set to expand further with investment fund CoreVision acquiring VeFund, infusing artificial intelligence technologies for enhanced venture evaluation, innovation, and strategic growth.  

Third picture shows CoreVision CEO Faisal Al-Abdulsalam and VeFund cofounder Mohamed Gaber at  signing ceremony. (Supplied)

The acquisition of VeFund, a regional platform for venture evaluation and investor connections, represents a significant step in CoreVision’s strategic growth, enhancing its portfolio with advanced AI-driven technologies.  

The Saudi investment firm plans to use VeFund’s AI technology to support startups in navigating competitive environments.   

Following the acquisition, CoreVision CEO Faisal Al-Abdulsalam will lead VeFund as its chief executive.  

COVID certainly boosted the adoption of digital payments in the region, but the infrastructure remains significantly underdeveloped.

Nader Abdelrazik, MoneyHash cofounder

Al-Abdulsalam’s extensive experience and portfolio of over 80 investments in various sectors are set to bring a new strategy of leadership and vision to VeFund, the company said.    

“We at CoreVision are not just investors, we see ourselves as ecosystem builders. As such, our vision is to transform VeFund into a secondary market for startups, offering a platform for investors to trade safe notes, which is essential in contributing to the vibrancy of the startup community here in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Abdulsalam.    

Launched in 2023 by Mohamed Gaber, an AI specialist and serial entrepreneur, along with co-founder Ahmed Magdy, VeFund’s intelligent evaluator provides a suite of tools, including an AI Survivability Index, valuation calculators, and extensive portfolio management solutions.  

Hayi facilitates connections among residents within the same neighborhood for the exchange of news and services. (Supplied)

“I am excited about the future of VeFund and believe strongly that this transition will drive VeFund’s mission forward, fostering an environment of innovation and success for startups across the Middle East,” Gaber said.   

VeFund currently has over 1,400 startups registered on its platform and has a database of more than 400 angel investors and investments funds spanning across Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia’s Tawaref inks MoU with Plus VC

Saudi Arabia’s Tawaref, recognized for financing regional startups and providing entrepreneurial services, has inked an agreement with Kuwait-based venture capital firm Plus VC.

The memorandum of understanding will see both firms collaborate to facilitate accelerated Saudi expansion for Plus VC’s startup portfolio companies through Tawaref’s Saudi Landing program.

We at CoreVision are not just investors; we see ourselves as ecosystem builders, says Faisal Al-Abdulsalam, CoreVision CEO

This partnership underscores Plus VC’s recognition of the crucial role that Tawaref plays in minimizing the time to market for tech startups and assisting them in navigating the complexities of securing approvals from various government departments for establishing operations in Saudi Arabia.  

The Saudi Landing program by Tawaref serves as a comprehensive solution, liaising with over 10 entities within the Kingdom.  

It offers startups advice on market entry strategies, understanding regulatory requirements, and adapting to local business practices, thus streamlining the process for startups to establish and expand their presence in the Kingdom efficiently.

UAE’s COTU Ventures unveiled $54m fund

The UAE-based early-stage venture capital firm COTU Ventures has unveiled a $54 million inaugural fund dedicated to nurturing startups across the Middle East from pre-seed to seed stages.  

Established in 2020 by Amir Farha, COTU Ventures boasts a dynamic portfolio of Mena startups, such as Huspy and MoneyHash.  

This fund is set to provide robust support to startups from their inception to post-production launch, offering up to $2 million in investment, and earmarking additional capital for follow-on investments.

UAE’s Hayi raises seed round

The UAE-based social networking app Hayi has successfully raised an undisclosed amount in a seed funding round led by Plus VC, with additional backing from regional angel investors.  

Launched in 2020 by founders Chris Darnell and Rene Morgan, Hayi is designed as a community-centric platform, facilitating connections among residents within the same neighborhood for the exchange of news and services.  

This infusion of capital is earmarked for scaling Hayi’s operations, enhancing its marketing efforts, and broadening its presence both within the UAE and internationally.  

This follows a pre-seed investment of $325,000 in 2021 from Sarya Holdings and Falak Startups, marking a continued trajectory of growth and expansion for the company.