NEOM partners with Animoca to drive regional Web3 development 

NEOM partners with Animoca to drive regional Web3 development 
Under this agreement, NEOM Investment Fund will put in $50 million in Animoca Brands. File.
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Updated 30 October 2023
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NEOM partners with Animoca to drive regional Web3 development 

NEOM partners with Animoca to drive regional Web3 development 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s $500-billion giga-project NEOM has entered into a strategic partnership with Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands Corp. to drive regional Web3 initiatives, aligning with the objectives outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

As part of this partnership, Animoca Brands will collaborate with NEOM to develop new enterprise service capabilities with global commercial applicability. These will be deployed to support technological advancements in Riyadh and the NEOM region. 

Web3 represents the third generation of the World Wide Web, incorporating concepts such as decentralization, blockchain technologies, and token-based economics. This strategic agreement also aims to establish a hub within NEOM dedicated to nurturing the local Web3 ecosystem. 

Majid Mufti, CEO of NEOM Investment Fund, said: “We are excited to partner with Animoca Brands to support the development of NEOM’s digital infrastructure.”  

He added: “Web3 technology and infrastructure development will not only be an important foundation of NEOM’s tech stack and architecture but also has the potential to revolutionize global industries. By partnering with a market-leading company like Animoca Brands, we hope to accelerate Web3 technology development and adoption.” 

According to a press statement, NEOM has also entered into a convertible notes financing term sheet agreement with Animoca Brands.  

Under this agreement, NEOM Investment Fund will put in $50 million in Animoca Brands. Of this amount, $25 million will be through the issuance of convertible notes at a conversion cap price of $4.50 per share, with the remaining $25 million invested in purchasing the company's shares on the secondary market.  

However, the company said the execution of definitive documents for the notes is subject to various conditions precedent. 

“We are honored and excited to partner with and receive investment from NEOM, one of the world’s most ambitious projects seeking to use innovation and technology to redefine how we live, work, and play,” said Yat Siu, the co-founder and executive chairman of Animoca Brands.  

Earlier this month, NEOM signed an investment deal with the US-based electric seaglider manufacturer REGENT to enhance its transport offerings. NEOM aims to strengthen its capabilities in sustainable water mobility, providing state-of-the-art water transport services in the region. 


UAE national banks extend $4.24bn credit boost to business sectors in Q1 2024

UAE national banks extend $4.24bn credit boost to business sectors in Q1 2024
Updated 4 sec ago
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UAE national banks extend $4.24bn credit boost to business sectors in Q1 2024

UAE national banks extend $4.24bn credit boost to business sectors in Q1 2024

RIYADH: The cumulative credit balance in the UAE’s business and industrial sectors rose to 757.4 billion dirhams ($206.2 million) by the end of March, up from 741.8 billion dirhams in late December 2023.

A release from the Central Bank of the UAE showed that credit facilities extended just by the country’s national banks to these sectors reached 15.6 billion dirhams in the first quarter of 2024.

Comparing month-on-month figures, the credit balance saw a rise of 9.3 billion dirhams from 748.1 billion dirhams in February 2024, reflecting a steady upward trend in lending activities, the Emirates News Agency 

Year-on-year, the sectors experienced a substantial 3.02 percent increase in credit availability, amounting to 22.2 billion dirhams from 735.2 billion dirhams in March 2023, showcasing sustained financial support over the past year.

National banks emerged as the primary financiers, contributing 841.7 billion dirhams or 90 percent of the combined credit balance for these sectors by the end of the first quarter of 2024, according to WAM.

In contrast, foreign banks held a smaller share, providing 84.3 billion dirhams, highlighting the dominant role of domestic financial institutions in driving economic growth.

Geographically, Abu Dhabi-based banks played a significant role by extending credit amounting to 374.1 billion dirhams, while Dubai-based banks provided 363.3 billion dirhams. 

Additional Emirates banks collectively contributed 104.3 billion dirhams to support business and industrial activities during the same period, underscoring the balanced regional distribution of financial resources.

In terms of banking preferences, conventional financial institutes continued to be the preferred choice for credit financing, accounting for approximately 694 billion dirhams or 82.5 percent of the total credit extended to the trade and industry sectors by March 2024. 

Islamic banks, reflecting their growing influence in the financial sector, contributed approximately 147.7 billion dirhams, constituting 17.5 percent of the financing provided, reflecting their expanding role in catering to diverse financial needs.

In 2023, the UAE’s industrial sector alone contributed $54 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, up 9 percent compared to 2022 figures.     

The boost was attributed to four main pillars, including providing a business-friendly environment that supports the growth and attractiveness of UAE firms, the Emirates News Agency reported.


Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China

Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China
Updated 31 min 21 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China

Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has emerged as the top issuer of international bonds among emerging markets, surpassing China with $33.2 billion in bond sales to date, according to a new report.  

This marks the first time in 12 years that China has been displaced from the top spot, thanks to an 8 percent growth in Saudi Arabia’s bond sales this year, Bloomberg reported.  

The Kingdom’s record pace of borrowing is driven by increasing support from global debt investors for the nation’s Vision 2030 plan which aims to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil dependence and transform the country into a global business hub by the end of the decade.  

In contrast, Chinese borrowers are experiencing a significant shift in their financing strategies. A surge in demand for local-currency bonds has slowed China’s international bond issuance to one of its lowest levels in recent years.   

“Sentiment for Saudi bonds is very healthy,” Apostolos Bantis, managing director of fixed-income advisory at Union Bancaire Privee, told Bloomberg.  

“It’s not a surprise that the Kingdom has become the largest EM bond issuer given its large funding needs for large infrastructure projects,” he added.  

Saudi Arabia’s ascent is particularly notable given its relatively smaller economy compared to China.   

With a gross domestic product only 1/16th the size of China’s, the Kingdom’s ability to attract substantial international investment is a testament to the growing confidence in its economic reforms and strategic vision.  

The surge in bond issuance across emerging markets reflects a broader trend of falling borrowing costs and a robust appetite for higher yields among global investors.   

This favorable environment is enabling countries like Saudi Arabia to secure funding for ambitious projects aimed at economic diversification and enhanced global connectivity.  

In addition to boosting its bond issuance, Saudi Arabia is actively seeking alternative sources of funding to address an anticipated fiscal shortfall of approximately $21 billion this year, the report stated.  

The Kingdom expects its total funding activities for the year to reach around $37 billion to help accelerate the Vision 2030 initiatives.

The substantial turn to the bond market is partly a response to shortfalls in foreign direct investment and constrained oil revenues due to supply cuts.  


Al Habtoor Group initiates arbitration against Marriott over management agreement termination

Al Habtoor Group initiates arbitration against Marriott over management agreement termination
Updated 20 June 2024
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Al Habtoor Group initiates arbitration against Marriott over management agreement termination

Al Habtoor Group initiates arbitration against Marriott over management agreement termination

RIYADH: Business giant Al Habtoor Group has filed an arbitration case against Marriott International, the Dubai-based conglomerate confirmed to Arab News.

The corporation is seeking to terminate a management agreement with the hotel giant and is pursuing substantial compensation.

Al Habtoor Group’s spokesperson told Arab News that the arbitration case was lodged through its subsidiary in Budapest.

They added that the objective is “to terminate the management agreement of the Ritz Carlton Budapest and claim high compensation.”

The group noted that the details of the arbitration proceeding will remain confidential.

Arab News contacted Marriott International via the press office for comment on the arbitration case, but the company has yet to respond to a number of emails.

An arbitration case is a legal process where a dispute is resolved outside of the courts by one or more neutral third parties, called arbitrators. The arbitrators’ decision is usually binding and enforceable, providing a private and often quicker resolution compared to traditional court litigation.

Al Habtoor Group, a prominent player in the hospitality, real estate, and automotive sectors, has a substantial presence in Budapest. The move to arbitration indicates a serious escalation in the dispute, as this course of action is typically pursued when negotiations and other forms of resolution have failed.

Marriott International, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the world’s leading hotel chains, operating and franchising a broad portfolio of hotels and related lodging facilities. It has a prominent position and manages several highly successful properties across the MENA region.


Kuwait’s Al-Zour Refinery’s output hits 615k bpd

Kuwait’s Al-Zour Refinery’s output hits 615k bpd
Updated 20 June 2024
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Kuwait’s Al-Zour Refinery’s output hits 615k bpd

Kuwait’s Al-Zour Refinery’s output hits 615k bpd

RIYADH: The fully operational output of Kuwait’s Al-Zour Refinery has reached 615,000 barrels per day, in line with the country’s plan to boost oil refining capacity.   

The refinery’s daily output, which is the cornerstone of the state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corp., includes some 86,000 bpd of premium naphtha, 99,000 bpd of jet fuel, and 147,000 bpd of low-sulfur diesel, respectively, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

The facility is the second-largest refinery in the Middle East.

In 2023, the International Trade Administration revealed that oil accounts for around 95 percent of Kuwait’s exports, and approximately 90 percent of government export revenue.

According to OPEC, in 2022, the country’s crude oil exports stood at 1.879 million bpd. During the same year, oil accounted for $41,493 of gross domestic product per capita.

According to KPC CEO Sheikh Nawaf Al-Sabah, the nation will now “reap the benefits” of the facility, the principal among them being a sharp rise in Kuwait’s crude oil exports.

By operating at its maximum capacity, the Al-Zour refinery will further enhance Kuwait’s global competitiveness by producing high-quality oil-based products.  

Additionally, Al-Sabah noted that he was “proud” of the dedication and commitment of KPC’s national workforce, stressing that their experiences in handling such a critical project would serve them well throughout their professional careers, enabling them to better deal with future endeavors.

This daily yield is produced while keeping carbon emissions in check, aligning well with the commitment of the major oil supplier and member of the OPEC consortium toward environmental sustainability goals.  

Moreover, operating in full swing, the facility is positioned to elevate KPC’s regional standing by playing a significant role in achieving the company’s major objectives.

The output increase comes despite the fact that the OPEC+ member recently announced an extension of additional voluntary cuts of 135,000 million bpd for the second quarter of 2024 in order to support the stability and balance of oil markets.

Kuwait’s economy remains highly dependent on the oil sector, with the country holding approximately 7 percent of global oil reserves.


Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report

Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report
Updated 20 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report

Saudi Arabia among leading GCC nations in Global Energy Transition Rankings: WEF Report

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has secured the third position among the Gulf nations in a global Energy Transition Index, according to the latest findings released by the World Economic Forum.

The report, titled “Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2024,” evaluated 120 countries based on their energy systems’ performance, emphasizing equity, environmental sustainability, energy security, and transition readiness.

Saudi Arabia achieved the 58th position overall with an ETI score of 55.9 and a transition-readiness score of 45.4. 

The latter figure is rooted in various factors, including the stability of the policy environment, the level of political commitment, and the investment climate, as well as access to capital, consumer engagement, and the development and adoption of new technologies.

The rankings reflect the Kingdom’s progress in balancing its energy reserves with sustainability goals amidst global economic volatility and technological advancements.

Countries worldwide are overhauling their energy systems in response to global commitments, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, and decisions made at events like COP28, which concluded in Dubai last December.

In recent years, GCC nations have announced ambitious national goals and regional initiatives to combat climate change. The UAE and Oman have committed to achieving Net Zero by 2050, while Saudi Arabia is aiming for that goal by 2060 and has launched the Middle East Green Initiative. 

Qatar led the Gulf Cooperation Council states in the Energy Transition Index, ranking 50th with a score of 57.3. The UAE followed with a ranking of 52 and an ETI score of 57.

Oman was placed 62nd, while Bahrain and Kuwait secured the 103rd and the 104th positions respectively. 

The report emphasized the urgent need for nations to reform their energy systems, scale up clean energy solutions, and enhance efficiency to achieve sustainable global transitions.

It highlighted that while progress has been made, challenges such as geopolitical tensions continue to impact the trajectory of this transformation.

“The global landscape is marked by economic volatility, heightened geopolitical tensions, and technological shifts. This uncertainty is reflected in the ETI, where the rate of improvement over the past three years has decreased,” the report noted.

Leading countries in the ETI rankings for 2024 are predominantly European, with Sweden and Denmark securing top positions owing to their robust policy frameworks, investments in clean energy, and technological innovation, according to the document.

The disparity in ETI scores between advanced and developing economies has diminished, with a noticeable shift in the center of gravity of the energy transition toward developing nations. Despite this progress, investment in clean energy continued to be heavily concentrated in advanced economies and China.

The report emphasized the critical necessity for financial support from advanced nations to facilitate a fair energy transition in emerging and developing countries.

“Global average Energy Transition Index scores reached their highest levels, with 107 out of 120 countries making progress over the past decade,” the report said.

As countries worldwide strive toward sustainable energy futures, the report called for concerted efforts in policy-making: “The message from this year’s ETI is clear: there is no time to waste. Decision-makers across the globe must act decisively and collaboratively to accelerate the transition towards an equitable, secure and sustainable energy future.”

Saudi Arabia is emerging as a proactive leader in energy transition policies, he International Monetary Fund said in a report in March, as the Kingdom is pioneering green initiatives to mitigate economic challenges posed by the transformation toward sustainability.

The study emphasized that the Saudi Green Initiative, launched in 2021, aims to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions.  

It explained: “The Green Initiative is centered around three objectives, including targets for increasing the share of renewable energy in electricity generation up to 50 percent by 2030 and the deployment of circular carbon economy technologies, including carbon capture utilization and storage.”