Saudi VC market ends 2023 on a positive note

The Saudi venture capital market witnessed an unprecedented growth in 2023. Investments worth millions were made in tech startups in the Kingdom. SPA
The Saudi venture capital market witnessed an unprecedented growth in 2023. Investments worth millions were made in tech startups in the Kingdom. SPA
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Updated 31 December 2023

Saudi VC market ends 2023 on a positive note

Saudi VC market ends 2023 on a positive note
  • Multimillion-dollar investment deals recorded with a positive outlook for 2024

CAIRO: Despite global headwinds, the Saudi venture capital market ended the year 2023 on a positive note recording multimillion-dollar investment deals.

The Kingdom’s Riyadh Valley Co., the investment arm of King Saud University, recently committed to an undisclosed amount of investment in IMPACT46 Fund III.

Founded in 2019 by Abdulaziz Al-Omran, IMPACT46 is a Saudi-based asset management and advisory firm specializing in alternative investment opportunities with a focus on technology startups ranging from growth stages to pre-initial public offerings. 

“We are pleased to have Riyadh Valley’s support for our company fund, which focuses on investing in technology companies providing innovative solutions to address social and economic challenges across various sectors. We reaffirm our commitment to seeking exceptional opportunities that deliver substantial returns to our investors. Our previous funds enabled us to invest over SR650 million ($173.3 million) in more than 35 technology startups,” Al-Omran, said. 

We are pleased to have Riyadh Valley’s support for our company fund.

Abdulaziz Al-Omran

IMPACT46, founder

The fund is designed to invest in both local and global startups, with an emphasis on sectors such as fintech, e-commerce, software as a service, and other emerging tech domains. 

Aramco’s Prosperity7 invests in China’s Cispoly 

Prosperity7 Ventures, the $1 billion growth-stage investment fund of Saudi energy and petrochemical giant Aramco, recently took the lead in a $14 million series B funding round for Cispoly, a femtech company based in China, according to a report by Tech in Asia. 

Founded in 2020 by Liu Pei, Cispoly specializes in developing advanced methylation detection tools. The equipment is used for the early detection of gynecological tumors, as well as tests for reproductive microbiota. 

Cispoly intends to utilize the funds to enhance its research and development capabilities and accelerate its global expansion. 

This investment in Cispoly marks Prosperity7 Ventures’ second significant venture into the Chinese healthcare market, following its investment in Fourier Intelligence which is known for its development of exoskeleton robotics products designed for physical rehabilitation. 

Singapore’s VC fund expands to KSA 

Golden Gate Ventures, a prominent Singapore-based venture capital fund, has recently expanded its global footprint by establishing an office in Saudi Arabia, as part of the firm’s broader expansion plan targeting the Middle East and North Africa region. 

Since its inception in 2011, Golden Gate Ventures boasts a diverse investment portfolio, having invested in over 90 companies across three continents. Notably, this includes nine unicorns and two companies that have successfully gone public with IPOs. 

Golden Gate Ventures’ commitment to the MENA startup ecosystem has been evident since 2018. The firm has actively engaged in the region, supporting the burgeoning startup landscape through partnerships with various entities, including Endeavour. 

Egypt’s MaxAB merges with Kenya’s Wasoko 

Egypt-based business-to-business e-commerce company MaxAB announced a merger with Kenya-based Wasoko. While terms of the deal have not been disclosed, this merger represents a significant consolidation in the African tech landscape. 

The amalgamation of MaxAB and Wasoko creates a formidable entity in the African e-commerce market. 

The combined operations of these two companies will cater to a customer base of over 450,000 merchants, serving an estimated 65 million consumers across eight countries, namely, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

MaxAB, co-founded in 2018 by Belal El-Megharbel and Mohamed ben Halim, has made significant strides in the B2B e-commerce domain by connecting suppliers with traditionally underserved retailers. 

The company has also ventured into fintech with the launch of MaxAB Payments in 2021, enabling local merchants to facilitate various customer payments. In 2022, MaxAB further expanded its services by introducing LAAS, which supports retailers in delivering business-to-consumer e-commerce shipments. 

Wasoko, founded in 2013 by Daniel Yu, stands as the largest e-commerce platform serving informal retailers across Sub-Saharan Africa. The platform offers a way for retailers to restock their businesses, offering a mobile app for ordering with the convenience of free same-day delivery. 

UAE’s fintech in deal with Skywards 

UAE fintech company Qashio formed a partnership with Emirates and flydubai’s loyalty program, Emirates Skywards. 

This collaboration will allow Qashio’s customers to convert their Qashio Points into Skywards Miles, adding significant value to their spending experience. 

Qashio, established in 2021 by Armin Moradi and Jonathon Lau, offers a spend management solution that simplifies tracking expenses and conducting payments through virtual corporate credit cards. 

Tameed closes series A funding   

Saudi Arabia-based Tameed, a digital lending platform specializing in Shariah-compliant financing for small and medium enterprises, completed a series A funding round, raising SR56.75 million led by Alromaih Group.   

The platform aims to use this investment to bolster its growth and cater to the increasing demand for its digital lending products which are fueled by the robust expansion of Saudi Arabia’s economy under various Vision 2030 programs and giga-projects.   

We are pleased to have Riyadh Valley’s support for our company fund.

Mohammed Al-Omayyer

Tameed, CEO and co-founder

Licensed by the Saudi Central Bank in January 2023, Tameed previously operated within the apex bank’s regulatory fintech sandbox.   

The company claims to have already provided over SR400 million in funding to SMEs, further supported by a mobile app that has garnered 50,000 downloads and achieved a growth rate surpassing 400 percent.    

“The coming years are promising for the growth of the Kingdom’s economy, and we in Tameed are keen on meeting the needs of SMEs by offering innovative funding products,” Mohammed Al-Omayyer, CEO and co-founder of Tameed, said.   

He also noted the platform’s recent introduction of Performance Bond financing for projects, broadening its support for SMEs involved in major national projects.   

Omar Al-Romaih, CEO of investments at Alromaih Group, reflecting on the funding round’s success, stated: “The results of the funding round reflect our belief in this opportunity and the sector, and we look forward to seeing Tameed continue its growth and expand its investment and funding opportunities to meet the needs of SMEs for financing and meet the demand for funding gap created by Vision 2030 programs and projects which is estimated to be SR300 billion by 2030.” 

Airbus cuts key targets and takes hefty Space charge

Airbus cuts key targets and takes hefty Space charge
Updated 25 June 2024

Airbus cuts key targets and takes hefty Space charge

Airbus cuts key targets and takes hefty Space charge

PARIS: Airbus softened key industrial and financial targets and took a hefty €900-million ($965 million) charge for its troubled space activities as Europe’s largest aerospace group sought a clean slate approach to supply disruptions and commercial risks, according to Reuters.

Yielding to growing skepticism among suppliers over its plans for jet output, Airbus lowered its widely watched forecast for deliveries this year to around 770 jets from around 800.

It also tempered plans to raise output of its best-selling A320neo family, by delaying the date at which it expects to reach a record production speed of 75 jets a month to 2027 from 2026. That compares with an estimated 50 jets a month now.

As a result of the lower delivery forecasts, which imply annual growth of 5 percent instead of 9 percent, Airbus lowered its main financial targets for 2024.

It now expects underlying operating income of around 5.5 billion euros, instead of a range of 6.5 billion to 7 billion, and free cashflow of 3.5 billion instead of 4 billion.

“We are facing headwinds right now; we have to bite the bullet,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury told analysts.

The downward revision in industrial forecasts comes weeks after Reuters first reported that Airbus was facing a new set of output delays as it grapples with increased parts shortages.

Industry sources said Airbus concluded it had exhausted its spare margin for deliveries after falling short in the first five months and then starting June on a weak note — with barely half the month’s anticipated total having been delivered so far.

The aerospace industry has been struggling to rehire workers and stabilize supplies after the pandemic left many suppliers with weak balance sheets.

Engine Shortages

As the no.1 plane producer, Airbus has borne the brunt of the problem as rival Boeing faces regulatory curbs and an internal crisis, but some experts and suppliers — including engine makers — have long voiced doubts about its plans, saying they were too ambitious.

One senior supply chain executive questioned on Monday whether the latest reductions went far enough.

Faury appeared to turn the tables, however, saying supplies of engines for its best-selling A320-family of narrow-body jets had deteriorated “significantly” in recent months.

The shortfall, he said, affects both engine makers for the A320neo narrow-body family, which competes with the Boeing 737 MAX and accounts for most of Airbus’ cash and profits.

Faury said engine makers would have to “face the consequences” of any delays, apparently referring to penalties.

RTX subsidiary Pratt & Whitney declined comment. French-US venture CFM International, co-owned by GE Aerospace and France’s Safran, said: “The supply chain environment remains challenging, and we are working to accelerate (engine) deliveries to meet demand from (Airbus).”

On larger jets, Faury said Rolls-Royce engines for the A330neo were behind schedule but not those for the A350.

Faury also told reporters that an uncertain outlook for the industrial commitments of aerostructures maker Spirit Aerosystems had contributed to the downward revision.

He declined to comment on the timing of a widely expected deal to acquire Spirit assets related to the A350 and A220 jet programs as part of a carve-up of the supplier with Boeing , which sources have said they expect in days or weeks.

Boeing is nearing a deal to buy back Spirit after its former subsidiary made substantial progress in separate talks with Airbus over a transatlantic breakup of the struggling supplier, Reuters reported last week.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Boeing has proposed funding its acquisition of the supplier with stock rather than cash after the companies were closing in on an all-cash deal this weekend when Boeing switched the offer.

Spirit said it remains “focused on providing the best quality products for our customers.”

Shortages of seats and cabin parts are another “very difficult situation,” Faury said.

Christian Scherer, who took over as head of the planemaking division in January, told German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt in an interview published on Saturday that engines, landing gear and cabin components are key problem areas.

In Canada, workers who produce components for some Airbus and Boeing landing gear at a Safran factory near Montreal have been striking for nearly four weeks. Safran said it was continuing to supply landing gear as planned. 

Oil Updates – crude steady, US consumer price data in focus

Oil Updates – crude steady, US consumer price data in focus
Updated 25 June 2024

Oil Updates – crude steady, US consumer price data in focus

Oil Updates – crude steady, US consumer price data in focus

SINGAPORE: Oil prices were little changed on Tuesday after rising in the previous session helped by expectations of increased fuel demand this summer, but investors were cautious ahead of US consumer price data, according to Reuters.

Brent futures for August settlement eased 5 cents to $85.96 a barrel as of 8:40 a.m. Saudi time after gaining 0.9 percent on Monday, while US crude futures were down 3 cents at $81.60 a barrel after climbing 1.1 percent a day earlier.

Both benchmarks rose about 3 percent last week, marking two straight weeks of gains.

Gasoline demand is rising and oil and fuel stockpiles have declined as the US, the world’s biggest oil consumer, enters the peak summer consumption period.

US crude oil stockpiles are expected to have fallen by 3 million barrels in the week to June 21, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday. Gasoline stocks were also expected to have declined, while distillate inventories likely rose last week.

“The surge in oil prices was triggered by an optimistic demand outlook and reduced US inventories. With the Northern Hemisphere entering a hot summer and the upcoming hurricane season, demand is expected to continue increasing in the coming months,” said independent market analyst Tina Teng.

Still, investors are cautious about the potential for further oil price increases on concerns that high interest rates will limit growth in fuel consumption by curtailing the economy.

The release of the personal consumption expenditures index, the Fed’s preferred measure of price gains, on Friday is expected to provide more clues to the outlook for rates. Delays to an interest rate cut would keep the cost of borrowing higher for longer.

Oil was also supported by continued Ukrainian attacks on Russian oil infrastructure that could cut crude and fuel supply. On June 21, Ukrainian drones hit four refineries, including the Ilsky refinery, one of the main fuel producers in southern Russia.

The EU adopted a package of sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine that will see 27 vessels, including ones run by Russian state-owned shipping firm Sovcomflot, added to its list of sanctioned entities.

“Adding to this, the market remains on edge ahead of elections in Iran later this week. A more hard-line president could result in more direct confrontations with the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia,” ANZ Research analysts said in a note. 

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year
Updated 24 min 22 sec ago

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s flynas has been named the Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for the seventh time in a row by a leading industry body.

The carrier was also ranked in the top three low-cost airlines in the world by the International Skytrax Organization, the global authority for assessing airline performance. 

In another success for the Kingdom, Saudia was named the 20th best airline in the world, rising three places from its 2023 ranking. 

Qatar Airlines reclaimed the top spot in the list, having slipped to second last year behind Singapore Airlines.

Bander Al-Mohanna, CEO of flynas, received the gong for the firm’s Middle East ranking during the annual Skytrax Awards ceremony held in London. 

“Consolidating our position among the top four in the low-cost aviation sector worldwide and being named the Best LCC in the Middle East for the seventh time in a row, according to Skytrax awards, is a success in the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Mohanna said 

“The Kingdom is at the forefront of the world's countries in various fields, especially in the travel, tourism, and aviation sectors, which have received significant attention and goals of Saudi Vision 2030,” he added. 

Al-Mohanna attributed the achievement to the enduring loyalty of their guests, the dedication of their team, and the tremendous support that all Saudi companies enjoy from the government.

“Scooping the award for the seventh time in a row reflects flynas’ persistent commitment to excellence in products and services within the expansion and growth plan we launched under the slogan ‘We Connect the World to the Kingdom,’” he added. 

Al-Mohanna explained that this aligns with the objectives of the National Civil Aviation Strategy, which aims to enable national air carriers to connect the Kingdom with 250 international destinations, accommodate 330 million passengers, and host 100 million tourists yearly by 2030.  

He also noted that it supports the objectives of the Pilgrims Experience Program to facilitate access to the Two Holy Mosques. 

Skytrax Awards are decided yearly by passenger votes through comprehensive surveys and are among the most coveted awards in the aviation industry worldwide. 

Flynas connects more than 70 domestic and international destinations with over 1,500 weekly flights, aiming to reach 165 destinations, in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt
Updated 24 June 2024

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt

CAIRO: The World Bank has approved $700 million in financing to support Egypt’s private sector, economic resilience and green growth.

The Development Policy Financing operation is designed to help Egypt address short-term economic challenges while advancing structural reforms to spur private sector growth.

It also aims to hasten Egypt’s green transition, including by scaling up renewable energy and increasing efficiency in the electricity, water and sanitation sectors.

Egypt’s minister of international cooperation, Rania Al-Mashat, said: “The government of Egypt is undertaking ambitious economic and structural reforms aimed at creating a more competitive, green and private sector-led economy.

“Through this budget support instrument, the DPF with the World Bank helps advance policy reforms on three of its top national priorities: Building macro-fiscal resilience, enhancing economic competitiveness and improving the business environment, and supporting the green transition.

“Our longstanding partnership with the World Bank underpins the realization of Egypt’s development and reform efforts.”

The DPF is the first in a series of three operations.

It will advance key reforms, including strengthening governance for state-owned enterprises, empowering the the Egyptian Competition Authority, ensuring accuracy in payroll taxes, scaling up renewable energy and launching a voluntary carbon credit market regulatory framework.

In March, the World Bank Group announced a three-year $6 billion program to support Egypt.

“Creating good, sustainable jobs and building resilience to climate change are critical for the current and future prosperity of Egypt’s citizens — especially the poor and vulnerable,” said Stephane Guimbert, World Bank country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.

“Reforms supported by this operation are an important step toward a more sustainable, inclusive economy,” he added.

Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation said that the DPF is aligned with the World Bank and Egypt’s Country Partnership Framework for FY2023-FY2027.

The framework is based on research by the World Bank Group on Egypt, including the Country Private Sector Diagnostic and the Country Climate and Development Report.

Of the $700 million in the DPF, $200 million is contingent on complementary financing from development partners.

The ministry added that the DPF aligns with Egypt’s development priorities and national strategies, including the Sustainable Development Strategy Vision 2030, the State Ownership Policy, the National Climate Change Strategy 2050, and the Nexus of Water, Food and Energy.

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey
Updated 24 June 2024

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey

RIYADH: The world’s largest renewable energy survey will take place in Saudi Arabia, it has been announced – with the installation of 1,200 measuring stations.

The Kingdom’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz Al-Saud inaugurated the Geographic Survey Project for Renewable Energy, stating that it is unprecedented in its scope and aims to pinpoint optimal sites for  solar and wind power initiatives across the Kingdom, according to an official release. 

The minister highlighted the project’s global significance, stating that no other country has undertaken a geographic survey of this magnitude. 

The undertaking, part of the National Renewable Energy Program, will conduct an extensive geographic survey covering over 850,000 sq. km, with contracts awarded to Saudi companies. 

This area, excluding populated regions, sand dunes, and airspace restrictions, is equivalent to the combined landmasses of the UK and France or Germany and Spain. 

The survey will identify the best locations for renewable energy development based on resource availability and strategic priorities.

The initiative will contribute to achieving the Kingdom’s goal of having renewable power sources make up about 50 percent of the energy mix for electricity production by 2030. 

It will also support the nation’s Liquid Fuel Displacement Program, which aims to displace 1 million barrels per day of liquid fuels across utilities, industry, and agriculture sectors by 2030.

Starting in 2024, Saudi Arabia plans to launch new renewable energy projects with an annual capacity of 20 gigawatts, aiming to reach between 100 and 130 GW by 2030, depending on electricity demand. 

The project’s initial phase will involve deploying stations across the designated areas to gather comprehensive data. 

These stations will then be relocated to identified sites for permanent installation, providing continuous data collection. 

Solar energy measurement stations will record Direct Normal Irradiance, Global Horizontal Irradiance, Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance, dust and pollutant levels, albedo, ambient temperature, rainfall, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. 

Wind energy stations will measure wind speed, direction, temperature, pressure, and humidity at heights up to 120 meters. 

Data collection will employ the latest technologies and adhere to global quality standards. 

A platform by the ministry will monitor, record, and transmit the information, using artificial intelligence to assess and rank sites for renewable energy projects. 

The minister noted that the accuracy and continuous updating of the project’s data make it financeable in accordance with the requirements of relevant local and international institutions.

He added that this will contribute significantly to the immediate allocation of land lots for renewable energy projects and expedite initiative announcement and execution, after coordination with relevant authorities.

The undertaking aims to reduce the current 18 to 24-month waiting period for data acquisition, minimizing risks and enhancing investment attractiveness in the renewable energy sector, he added. 

The minister further stated that this project reaffirms Saudi Arabia’s commitment to its ambitious renewable energy targets, including producing and exporting eco-friendly energy and clean hydrogen.