Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia’s venture landscape receives influx of expanding startups

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia’s venture landscape receives influx of expanding startups
Retailo’s growth strategy focuses on expanding both its supplier network and customer base. Photo/Supplied
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia’s venture landscape receives influx of expanding startups

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia’s venture landscape receives influx of expanding startups

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s entrepreneurial space is getting bigger with more startups raising funding and others expanding into the Kingdom.

On the funding announcement front, Saudi-based business-to-business e-commerce startup Retailo has successfully raised $15 million in a new equity funding round, drawing the attention of both new and returning investors.  

The investor lineup includes Yusuf Bin Kanoo Group, Technology Group, and Majd Digital, alongside previous backers including Aujan Group Holdings, Shorooq Partners, Abercross Holdings, and Graphene Ventures, among others. 

Co-founded in 2020 by Talha Ansari, Wahaj Ahmed, and Mohammad Nowkhaiz, Retailo offers a next-day delivery service for retailers and restaurants, boasting a catalog of over 5,000 stock-keeping units.  

This recent capital infusion marks another significant milestone for the company, following its $36 million series A funding last year, which was a combination of equity and venture debt. 

Retailo’s growth strategy focuses on expanding both its supplier network and customer base. The fresh funds are earmarked to support this expansion within the Saudi market, reinforcing the company’s position as a key player in the region’s e-commerce landscape. 

Adding to its achievements, Retailo has also established several strategic partnerships, including a technology distribution collaboration with Dtonic, a South Korean data solution company.  

This alliance will empower Retailo’s technology by enhancing its service offerings and operational efficiency. 

UAE’s fintech Yabi raises $8m to boost Saudi expansion 

UAE-based fintech startup Yabi has secured an $8 million equity funding round, signifying a major step in its journey towards Saudi expansion and product development.  

The round saw the participation of Al Wafra Al Thanya, joining an array of existing investors in supporting Yabi’s growth. 

This milestone follows closely on the heels of Yabi’s recent foray into the Saudi market, marking an expansion beyond its UAE base.  

Since its launch in the middle of this year, Yabi has been aiming to enhance financial literacy across regional markets. It achieves this through strategic B2B partnerships, integrating its services into employee well-being programs offered by corporate clients. 

Founded by Ambareen Musa, Yabi has rapidly established a client portfolio including prominent entities like Al-Futtaim, Careem, Chalhoub, and Al Ghurair.  

The fresh injection of capital will be instrumental in fueling Yabi’s continued growth. It plans to invest significantly in product development, aiming to bring financial solutions to a broader audience. 

Additionally, the funds will bolster Yabi’s efforts in accelerating its expansion across the Middle East, as it seeks to establish a stronger foothold in key regional markets. 

Oman’s food technology firm KitchenomiKs raises $1.8m to enter Saudi market 

Oman-based food technology startup KitchenomiKs has successfully raised $1.8 million in a pre-series A funding round as it aims to expand its regional footprint. 

Founded by Aankush Bhatia, Aju Samuel, and Shrikanth Shenoy, KitchenomiKs operates as a cloud kitchen with a modern culinary model that steers away from traditional physical storefronts.  

The company currently holds a portfolio of 12 food brands, offering a scalable model for culinary ventures without the burdensome overheads associated with physical restaurant spaces. 

The latest round of funding represents a crucial step in KitchenomiKs’ ambitious growth strategy. A key focus of this strategic plan is the launch of operations in Saudi Arabia, slated for early 2024.  

This significant financial boost, contributed by Omani and regional investors, has elevated the company's total funding to an impressive $3.5 million since its inception in 2022. 

UAE-based Immensa raises $20m to boost product development 

UAE-based Immensa has successfully secured $20 million in its series B equity funding round led by Global Ventures. 

The funding round also saw participation from new investors such as Endeavor Catalyst Fund and EDGO, alongside continued support from Energy Capital Group, Shorooq Partners, and Green Coast Investments. 

Founded in 2016 by Fahmi Al-Shawwa, Immensa specializes in providing on-demand access to spare parts, eliminating the need for mass manufacturing in traditional hubs like Southeast Asia, China, or Latin America.  

This approach not only streamlines the production process but also significantly reduces the lead time and costs associated with traditional manufacturing methods. 

The latest round of funding is poised to turbocharge Immensa’s global growth ambitions. Part of the funds will be allocated to enhance its exclusive software, DIS RT, a critical component in Immensa’s operational toolkit.  

Moreover, the investment will also be channeled towards augmenting its artificial intelligence tools, further solidifying the company’s position in the manufacturing sector. 

UAE’s Flow48 raises $25m in pre-series A round 

Flow48, a UAE-based fintech startup, has successfully secured $25 million in pre-series A funding round in a blend of equity and debt. 

Key investors include Speedinvest, Daphni, and 212, as well as Blockchain Founders Fund, Unpopular Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst.

Founded in 2022 by Idriss Al Rifai, Flow48 provides services to small and medium-sized enterprises by transforming future revenues of SMEs into immediate capital, offering flexible terms that are tailored to support the growth and scalability of these businesses.  

The freshly acquired funds are earmarked to propel Flow48’s ambitious expansion plans, with a specific focus on penetrating the South African market.  

Egyptian startups receive $10k grants from She’s Next competition 

Three Egyptian startups have emerged as top contenders in the second edition of the She’s Next competition, jointly hosted by Visa and Commercial International Bank. 

Each startup has been awarded $10,000 for their solutions in their respective fields. The winners include Green Fashion, a sustainable clothing brand, Reme-D, a health tech startup, and Fincart, an aggregator of shipping services.  

Alongside the monetary prize, the competition also offered mentorship opportunities provided by the US Agency for International Development to the top 20 contestants.  

Tunisia’s Winshot raises six-figure round from 216 capital 

The Tunisia-originated and France-based software-as-a-service startup Winshot has successfully secured a six-figure investment from 216 Capital.  

Established in 2022 by Walid Mzoughi, Alaa Mokrani, Amjed Bouhouch, and Hela Gabsi, Winshot specializes in providing B2B SaaS solutions for retail operations management.  

With this fresh infusion of capital, Winshot is set to bolster its teams in both France and Tunisia, laying a strong foundation for the expansion and growth of its business. 

Middle East Venture Capital Association signs partnerships with Singapore’s GPCA 

The Global Private Capital Association and the Middle East Venture Capital Association announced a significant strategic partnership during Abu Dhabi Finance Week 2023.  

This collaboration will enable GPCA, headquartered in New York and Singapore, to establish a permanent base in the Middle East. This move will be supported by MEVCA and the broader Abu Dhabi and regional ecosystem. 

Members of MEVCA will benefit from an enhanced membership experience, gaining access to GPCA’s extensive global network. 

The partnership focuses on collaboration, innovation, and investment to strengthen the region’s vibrant venture capital landscape through a range of targeted initiatives. 


NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan

NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan
Updated 21 February 2024
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NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan

NEOM to launch new guest retreat Elanan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Gulf of Aqaba coastline is poised for enhancement with the introduction of a new guest retreat, Elanan. 

The latest addition to NEOM features 80 bespoke rooms and suites and is designed with a well-being theme, offering a nature resort.

Elanan adopts a contemporary approach to wellness, incorporating new technologies that promote relaxation.

Moreover, Elanan’s innovative architecture seamlessly integrates with the surrounding environment. By incorporating these unique design methods, Elanan also showcases detailed sculptures that merge with the outdoor areas. 

Although the overall design is modern, the development is committed to preserving the natural landscape.

Elanan follows the recent announcements of Leyja, Epicon, Siranna, and Utamo, all of which are sustainable tourism destinations in the Gulf of Aqaba.

On Feb. 18, the Kingdom’s $500 billion giga-project introduced a luxury resort in Trojena. It is set to unveil a 105-key hotel with Raffles Hotels and Resorts in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

Scheduled to open in 2027, Raffles Trojena aims to provide guests with opportunities to engage with the region’s natural beauty through its ring-shaped architecture.

Omer Acar, CEO of Raffles Hotels & Resorts, said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with NEOM on the creation of Raffles Trojena, an architecturally significant resort that will showcase the very best in modern luxury hospitality and underscores Raffles’ commitment to growing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

He added: “Trojena is set to be a destination unlike any other, and this mountainside retreat continues the Raffles legacy of growing in the world’s most compelling locales, providing our guests with an opportunity to ignite their passions through highly personalized service and experiences.”  

The company said the property will embody the brand’s distinctive characteristics, encompassing its renowned butler service, diverse dining experiences, and a dedicated focus on local arts and culture.

It joins as the latest hospitality collaborator within NEOM’s Hotel Division, located in the Discover cluster — a segment of Trojena dedicated to natural exploration.


Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 

Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 
Updated 21 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 

Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd in Global Retail Development Index: Kearney 

RIYADH: An increase in non-cash transactions has helped Saudi Arabia rise nine places to third in the Global Retail Development Index.  

The GRDI leverages a comprehensive set of criteria, including economic health, consumer wealth, and regulatory framework, to gauge the retail potential of 35 to 40 emerging economies, according to a statement. 

The 2023 edition of the bi-yearly survey findings, launched by the US consulting firm, mirrors the upward trajectory of global retail development in the Middle East and North Africa region.

They also cement the country’s strategic pivot away from oil dependency, which currently accounts for approximately 40 percent of its gross domestic product, and the establishment of a favorable business climate.

“The MENA region, and notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are at the forefront of retail’s next wave of growth,” said Debashish Mukherjee, partner at Kearney Middle East and Africa and Consumer and Retail Practice Lead.

“The 2023 GRDI illustrates how these markets are redefining the retail ecosystem with strategic digital adoption and consumer-centric approaches,” Mukherjee added. 

Mukherjee also stressed that the rise in this year’s GRDI is a clear indicator of its dynamic retail environment as well as its strategic initiatives to foster a competitive and diverse economic landscape. 

Moreover, the report attributed the Kingdom’s climb in the index to non-cash retail transactions surging from 16 percent in 2016 to 62 percent in 2022, aiming for 70 percent by 2030.

An additional reason for the jump was the country’s growth in the employment of Saudi nationals in high-skilled jobs and doubling female workforce participation, exceeding Vision 2030 targets.

On top of that, the growing popularity and adoption of buy now pay later services and the significant increases in investment deals and licenses in 2022 aided the Kingdom’s jump in the index. 

Other reasons entailed digital and artificial intelligence integration within the Saudi consumer market, the entry of international brands, and the expansion of entertainment and lifestyle sectors. 

The GRDI acts as a guide for retailers looking to navigate the complexities and capitalize on the prospects within these emerging markets.


Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn

Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn
Updated 21 February 2024
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Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn

Closing Bell: TASI closes in green with trading volume at $2.2bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index concluded Wednesday’s trading session at 12,634.33, marking an increase of 27.83 points or 0.22 percent. 

MSCI Tadawul 30 Index also increased slightly by 1.84 to close at 1,628.17 points. On the other hand, the parallel market, Nomu, closed the day at 25,507.66 points, reflecting a decrease of 80.45 or 0.31 percent.

TASI reported a trading volume of SR8.60 billion ($2.294 billion), with 90 stocks gaining and 130 losing steam. 

The best-performing stock was Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co., whose share price surged 9.83 percent to SR26.6.  

Today’s second top performer was Al-Baha Investment and Development Co., whose share price soared 7.14 percent to SR0.15.   

Other gainers included Salama Cooperative Insurance Co. and Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co., as their share prices increased by 4.89 and 4.41 percent to SR26.80 and SR101.8.

The worst performer was Al Gassim Investment Holding Co., whose share price dropped by 3.96 percent to SR19.40. It was followed by Maharah Human Resources Co., whose share price decreased by 3.26 percent to reach SR6.83.

On the parallel market, Nomu, WSM for Information Technology Co., emerged as the top gainer, with its initial share price surging by 26.53 percent to SR62, as it was the company’s first day of listing and commencement of trading.

International Human Resources Co. was the major loser on Nomu, as its share price slipped by 3.76 percent to SR4.10.  

On the announcement front, the Saudi National Bank announced the completion of its US dollar-denominated sukuk offer under its international sukuk program.

The bank raised $850 million from the sale of five-year dollar bonds. 

The financial institution received applications amounting to $3.6 billion, bringing the issuance coverage to more than four times or 4,250 total bonds.

According to a statement on Tadawul, these bonds’ final yield came in at 5.129 percent per annum with five years of maturity.

“The sukuk may be redeemed prior to the scheduled maturity date in certain cases and the sukuk will be listed on the London Stock Exchange’s International Securities Market,” the bank stated.


Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital

Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital
Updated 21 February 2024
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Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital

Saudi retail sector expected to have experienced robust net profit growth: Al Rajhi Capital

RIYADH: The retail sector in Saudi Arabia is projected to have experienced robust net profit growth in the fourth quarter of 2023, driven by strong sales, according to Al Rajhi Capital.  

In its latest report covering earnings previews for leading firms in Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh-based investment advisory service provider anticipates there was a 44.3 percent year-on-year increase in the fourth-quarter net profit of supermarket chain BinDawood Holding, reaching SR85 million ($22.66 million). 

The financial services firm added that this substantial increase in the net profit of BinDawood Holding is attributed to a surge in sales from its Harmain stores. 

It forecasts that Leejam Sports Co., another key player in the Kingdom’s retail sector, is expected to have achieved a net profit of SR124 million in the last three months of 2023, indicating a 15.3 percent increase compared to the preceding year. 

The report projects that the net profit of Abdullah Al-Othaim Markets, another prominent entity in the Kingdom’s retail sector, is expected to have experienced a marginal 0.8 percent year-on-year decline in the fourth quarter, reaching SR170 million. 

The investment advisory firm also noted that the revenue of energy firms in the Kingdom was likely to have fallen in the last quarter of 2023, with Saudi Aramco expected to report a net profit of SR113 billion in the period, reflecting a 9.8 percent year-on-year drop. 

The projection attributes the decline to the crude production cuts implemented by Saudi Arabia, in alignment with the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Production Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+.  

In an effort to maintain market stability, Saudi Arabia reduced oil output by 500,000 barrels per day from April 2023, a measure that has been extended until the end of December 2024. 

The Kingdom also committed to an additional oil output cut of 1 million bpd in July, which continued until the end of December 2023.  

On the other hand, ADES Holding, which went public in 2023, is expected to report a net profit of SR1.29 billion in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period of the previous year. 

However, Al Rajhi Capital pointed out that the net profit of Saudi Basic Industries Corp. is anticipated to have declined by 24.6 percent year-on-year over the final three months of 2023, reaching SR704 million.  

On a positive note, the projections suggest that SABIC’s net profit will have experienced a 31.3 percent increase in the fourth quarter compared to the previous three months. 

Saudi International Petrochemical Co., also known as Sipchem, is expected to register a significant decrease in net profit, with a decline of 52.1 percent to SR229 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in the previous year.  

Additionally, several prominent names in the Saudi cement sector are anticipated to have seen a decline in net profit during the same period. 

Al Rajhi Capital predicts there was a significant drop in the net profit of Arabian Cement Co. by 49.9 percent to SR18 million. Similarly, Yamama Cement Co.’s net profit is expected to have declined by 40.4 percent to SR80 million by end of 2023. 

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Saudi Telecom Co.’s net profit is anticipated to have stood at SR2.69 billion, reflecting a 2.4 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2022 and a 36.9 percent decline from the previous quarter. 

Meanwhile, Mobily’s net profit report is expected to show an increase of 0.4 percent to SR608 million during the last three months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. 

In the food and agriculture sector, National Agricultural Development Co.’s net profit is projected to have risen by 201.8 percent year-on-year to SR76 million, and Savola Group’s net profit is anticipated to have surged 88.2 percent, reaching SR88.2 million. 


GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets

GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets
Updated 21 February 2024
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GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets

GCC keen on working with OPEC to ensure stable global oil markets

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council has reiterated its resolve to collaborate with oil-producing nations to stabilize global energy markets and ensure secure and stable supplies.

The confirmation was made during a gathering hosted by GCC Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi in Riyadh for the secretary-general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Haitham Al-Ghais.

The reception took place on Feb. 20 at the General Secretariat headquarters in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, ways to enhance cooperation between the GCC and OPEC in several areas were discussed, specifically the continuous coordination of oil policies between the GCC and the organization.

This coordination aims to ensure secure and stable energy supplies, especially in light of the rapid regional and international developments, as well as circumstances that have impacted global energy markets.

Al-Budaiwi praised OPEC for its significant contributions and indispensable role in ensuring stability and equilibrium in the oil markets and for its proactive approach to addressing future challenges in collaboration with member nations.

On Feb. 20, the price of OPEC basket of 12 crudes stood at $82.82 a barrel, compared with $82.89 the previous day, according to calculations by the organization’s secretariat, published on its website on Feb. 21.

The Brent crude oil benchmark has risen about 6 percent since the start of the year as attacks on shipping in the Red Sea have raised supply fears, with January outages in major non-OPEC oil-producing countries such as the US adding to concerns.