Startup Wrap – Regional startup ecosystem sees wide range of activity

Founded in 2021 by Aahan Bhojani and Ashmin Varma, Silkhaus brings a unique approach to the short-term rental space, aiming to transform it into a real estate asset class and an accommodation experience across emerging markets. (Reuters)
Founded in 2021 by Aahan Bhojani and Ashmin Varma, Silkhaus brings a unique approach to the short-term rental space, aiming to transform it into a real estate asset class and an accommodation experience across emerging markets. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 January 2024
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Startup Wrap – Regional startup ecosystem sees wide range of activity

Startup Wrap – Regional startup ecosystem sees wide range of activity
  • UAE property tech startup Silkhaus closes funding round aimed at fueling its expansion into Saudi market

CAIRO: The startup scene in the Middle East and North Africa experienced a flurry of activity this week, with various firms securing funding, engaging in cross-border acquisitions, and acquiring strategic licenses.

In funding news, Silkhaus, a property tech startup based in the UAE, closed a pre-Series A funding round aimed at fueling its expansion into the Saudi market.  

Although the exact figure was not disclosed, a press release confirmed that the company raised a multi-million-dollar investment from US-based Partners for Growth.




Established in 2017 by Mohamed Ezzat and Ahmed Gaber, Bosta provides delivery solutions, encompassing first, middle, and last-mile delivery. (Supplied)

Founded in 2021 by Aahan Bhojani and Ashmin Varma, Silkhaus seeks to bring a unique approach to the short-term rental space, aiming to transform it into a real estate asset class and an accommodation experience across emerging markets.

The company has set out significant plans to enter the Saudi market with the establishment of a local office and the appointment of Sabine El-Najjar as founding general manager last year.

“Our primary goal is to ensure properties operated as short-term rentals generate the highest possible returns in a rapidly expanding market while removing the obstacles associated with long-term leases,” El-Najjar told Arab News in November.

El-Najjar explained that the increasing interest in short-term rental models coupled with the Saudi Ministry of Tourism’s push towards private accommodation for travelers underpin the fast-growing sector.




Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s executive vice president of technology and innovation

“If you look at Saudi Arabia, there’s a constant influx of visitors throughout the year, whether for business, sport or the large number of leisure events being held here,” she added.     

Moreover, El-Najjar stated that Silkhaus is set to have a positive impact on other verticals in the hospitality sector like food and beverage, facility management, and personal services.

UAE’s travel tech startup Tumodo raises $35m pre-seed round

UAE-based travel tech platform Tumodo successfully raised $35 million in a pre-seed funding round co-led by MENA-focused angel investors.

Founded in 2023, Tumodo is an online business travel platform designed to streamline the process of booking business trips, offering an average saving of 35 percent on travel expenses for businesses.

By injecting an additional $4 billion in funding over the next four years, we intend to provide the financial backing required to take game-changing solutions to the next level.

Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s executive vice president of technology and innovation

The newly acquired funds are set to propel Tumodo’s growth in the UAE market, with a focus on investing in product development and exploring new partnership opportunities within the MENA region.

Tumodo has set plans to expand its platform to 25 additional countries by 2026, aiming to broaden its global footprint in the business travel sector.

Singapore venture fund Adaverse expands to Saudi Arabia with an investment in Takadao

Adaverse, a web3 and blockchain venture fund and ecosystem builder, has expanded its operations to Saudi Arabia, marking its entry with an investment in Takadao, a Shariah-compliant fintech that focuses on ethical and community-driven solutions.

Boasting over 60 investments across 13 countries, Adaverse is an initiative of Cardano, which ranks as the 8th largest cryptocurrency globally.  

With a substantial footprint in Asia, Africa, the US, and now the Middle East, Adaverse strengthens its presence through a new office in Riyadh.

The firm has committed to investing $10 million in leading web3 startups in 2024, further cementing its commitment to the region’s burgeoning tech landscape.

Egyptian logistics startup Bosta secures investment from Axian Group

Egyptian logistics startup Bosta has secured an undisclosed amount of investment from Axian Group.

Established in 2017 by Mohamed Ezzat and Ahmed Gaber, Bosta provides delivery solutions, encompassing first, middle, and last-mile delivery.




Our primary goal is to ensure properties operated as short-term rentals generate the highest possible returns in a rapidly expanding market, says Sabine El-Najjar, Founding GM of Silkhaus

This latest investment is expected to bolster Bosta’s growth and enhance its delivery and logistics services in the region.  

In 2022, Bosta expanded its operations to Saudi Arabia, following the completion of a pre-series B funding round.  

This round, which also remained undisclosed, was led by Khwarizmi Ventures and Hassan Allam Holding, along with other investors.

Qatar’s Droobi and India’s Smit.fit merge to create DroobiSmit

Qatar’s Droobi Health and India’s digital healthcare provider Smit.fit have merged to create DroobiSmit, with plans to relocate their headquarters to Singapore.  

Droobi Health, founded in 2017 by Abdulla Al-Misnad, specializes in assisting individuals with chronic conditions in adopting healthier lifestyles.  

Smit.fit, established in 2020 by Sujit Chakrabarty, offers an app-based solution for managing metabolic health conditions through diet and fitness training.

This strategic merger is poised to establish DroobiSmit as a leading digital healthcare provider for chronic health conditions in both the Middle East and South Asia regions.  

To date, DroobiSmit has secured approximately $5 million in investment, receiving support from several entities, including QSTP, QDB, Barzan Holding, Doha Tech Angels, and MVP.

Paymob receives license from Oman’s central bank

Paymob, a prominent financial services enabler operating in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan, has been granted the Payment Service Provider license by the Central Bank of Oman.  

This PSP license empowers Paymob to facilitate both online and in-store payments in the country. The company will leverage its local integration with OmanNet, CBO’s secure payment infrastructure, to ensure efficient transaction processing.

This achievement marks a significant step for Paymob, as it now enables merchants in Oman to accept both local and international payments through Paymob’s gateway.  

Saudi Aramco allocates $4bn to its global venture capital program  

Saudi Arabia’s startup funding ecosystem is set to receive a boost after Aramco allocated $4 billion to its global venture capital arm.  

This financing more than doubles the capital previously allotted to Aramco Ventures, raising its total investment allocation from $3 billion to $7 billion.  

The move is set to elevate the energy giant’s overall venture capital commitment to $7.5 billion, which also encompasses the existing $500 million fund, Wa’ed Ventures, dedicated to nurturing the startup ecosystem within the Kingdom, according to a press note.  

“By injecting an additional $4 billion in funding over the next four years, we intend to provide the financial backing required to take game-changing solutions to the next level. This will provide crucial impetus to businesses at various stages of development around the world while also contributing to Aramco’s own long-term objectives,” Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s executive vice president of technology and innovation, said.  

The firm’s decision to bolster its venture capital program is part of the growing importance of fostering disruptive technologies, diversifying opportunities, and collaborating with innovative startups.  

This initiative aligns with Aramco’s long-term strategy, which emphasizes new energy solutions, chemicals, and transitional materials, as well as diversified industrial ventures, and digital technologies.

 


Oil Updates – prices rise as investors look for signs US rate cuts to begin

Oil Updates – prices rise as investors look for signs US rate cuts to begin
Updated 22 July 2024
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Oil Updates – prices rise as investors look for signs US rate cuts to begin

Oil Updates – prices rise as investors look for signs US rate cuts to begin

TOKYO: Oil prices rose in early trade on Monday as investors keep a lookout for signs of a rate-cut cycle expected to begin as soon as September, according to Reuters.

Brent crude prices were up 48 cents, or 0.57 percent, at $83.10 a barrel by 2:35 a.m. Saudi time, and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 42 cents, or 0.52 percent, to $80.55.

“Since the June FOMC meeting, inflation and labor market data have signalled that disinflation and labor market rebalancing are in place, which we expect will allow the Fed to begin its interest rate cutting cycle in September,” ANZ Research said in a note.

The US Federal Reserve will next hold a Federal Open Market Committee meeting on interest rates on July 30-31, at which investors expect the Fed to keep the rates unchanged, while looking for any signal of a cut coming later in the year.

On the political front, US President Joe Biden abandoned his reelection bid on Sunday under pressure from fellow Democrats and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the party’s candidate to face Republican Donald Trump in November.

Slower-than-expected economic growth of 4.7 percent for China in the second quarter sparked concerns last week over the country’s demand for oil and continues to weigh on prices.

On Sunday, China released a policy document outlining known ambitions, from developing advanced industries to improving the business environment, with analysts spotting no sign of imminent structural shifts in the world’s second-biggest economy.

The 60-point document’s publication follows last week’s closed-door meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Committee that takes place roughly every five years. 


Global AI Summit in Riyadh to host top-level discussions on AI impact 

Global AI Summit in Riyadh to host top-level discussions on AI impact 
Updated 22 July 2024
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Global AI Summit in Riyadh to host top-level discussions on AI impact 

Global AI Summit in Riyadh to host top-level discussions on AI impact 
  • The event, organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority, will focus on one of today’s most pressing global issues — AI technology

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will welcome economic policymakers, major technology and artificial intelligence companies, international thought leaders, and heads of international organizations to Riyadh this September as the Global AI Summit returns for its third edition.

The event, organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority, will focus on one of today’s most pressing global issues — AI technology — and will attempt to find solutions that “maximize the potential of these transformative technologies for the benefit of humanity,” a statement released Sunday said.

The third edition of the event will be held at the King Abdulaziz International Conference Center from Sept. 10 to 12 under the patronage of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his capacity as chairman of the board of directors at SDAIA, the statement added.

The GAIN Summit will take place amid increasing concerns about the impact of AI technologies and will reaffirm the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting international efforts aimed at enhancing human welfare in the face of the challenges associated with developing technology.

GAIN 2024 will focus more on AI than its previous editions in 2020 and 2022, with topics including innovation in the sector, key developments shaping a better future for AI, and fostering a supportive environment for human resources in the field.

Other topics include AI at local and global levels, the complementary relationship between humans and AI, business leaders in AI, the relationship between data and applications, GenAI, AI ethics, AI processors and infrastructure, and AI and smart cities.


Saudi industry minister to visit Brazil, Chile to explore lithium production

Saudi industry minister to visit Brazil, Chile to explore lithium production
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi industry minister to visit Brazil, Chile to explore lithium production

Saudi industry minister to visit Brazil, Chile to explore lithium production
  • Alkhorayaf will land in Brazil on Monday and leave for Chile, the world’s second-largest producer of lithium, next Sunday

RIYADH: Bandar Alkhorayaf, Saudi Arabia’s mining and industry minister, will visit Brazil and Chile this week, the ministry said on Sunday.

In Brazil, he will hold meetings with officials to discuss expanding the Kingdom’s mining capacity, food processing, and aviation, while in Chile he will explore lithium production, needed for electric vehicle batteries.

“This aligns with the Kingdom’s direction towards expanding the production of EVs,” a Saudi government statement said. 

Alkhorayaf will land in Brazil on Monday and leave for Chile, the world’s second-largest producer of lithium, next Sunday.

On the first leg of the tour in Brazil, Alkhorayaf will meet agricultural and industrial groups, including Minerva Foods, JBS, and BRF SA, as well as the Brazilian Mining Association and mining company Vale.

Brazil’s Energy Minister Alexandre Silveira said last month that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund plans to invest $15 billion in Brazil in areas such as green hydrogen, infrastructure, and renewable energy.

In Chile, the minister will meet his counterpart Aurora Williams, as well as mining companies Antofagasta, and Codelco, a state-run company tasked with bringing the Chilean government into the lithium industry.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, and the Kingdom’s mining company, known as Ma’aden, which is 67 percent owned by the PIF, formed a joint venture called Manara Minerals to invest in mining assets abroad.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,195  

Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,195  
Updated 21 July 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,195  

Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,195  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Sunday, gaining 6.73 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 12,195.05.   

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.12 billion ($1.63 billion), as 74 of the listed stocks advanced, while 154 retreated.   

The MSCI Tadawul Index also closed in green, gaining 2.46 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 1,529.46.   

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu rose 67.8 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 25,770.14. This comes as 27 of the listed stocks advanced while as many as 34 retreated.   

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Manpower Solutions Co., whose share price surged 9.88 percent to SR10.34. 

Other top performers include Maharah Human Resources Co. as well as Al-Baha Investment and Development Co., whose share prices soared by 8.35 percent and 8.33 percent, to stand at SR6.88 and SR0.13, respectively.   

The worst performer was Electrical Industries Co., whose share price dropped by 5.51 percent to SR6.00.    

Other notable declines included Alinma Hospitality REIT Fund and The Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co., with share prices falling 3.38 percent to SR8.29 and 3.25 percent to SR29.80, respectively. 

On the announcement front, Saudi Tadawul Holding Co. reported a profit increase to SR146 million for the second quarter of 2024, reflecting a 55 percent rise from SR105.2 million in the same period last year.  

The company attributed this growth to a 50.3 percent increase in operating revenues, which reached SR741.1 million in the first half of 2024, up from SR493.0 million in the corresponding period of the previous year. 

According to a release on the bourse, Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co. reported a net profit of SR5.11 million for the second quarter of 2024, reversing a net loss of SR10.08 million from the same quarter last year, marking a 150.7 percent improvement.  

This positive shift was attributed to a 17.4 percent increase in revenue due to expanded sales and a higher volume of new orders. 

Kingdom Holding Co., Sumou Holding Co., and Jeddah Economic Co. have signed an agreement to establish a new SR6.8 billion fund to acquire the Alinma Jeddah Economic Fund, currently fully owned by Jeddah Economic Co. Kingdom Holding Co. will hold a 40 percent stake in the new fund. 


Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year-on-year to $136.3bn

Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year-on-year to $136.3bn
Updated 21 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year-on-year to $136.3bn

Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year-on-year to $136.3bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s possession of US treasury bonds increased to $136.3 billion in May, compared to $111.3 billion for the same month in 2023.

The figures mark a 22.46 percent year-on-year increase.

Data released by the US Treasury Department placed Saudi Arabia in 17th spot among the largest investors in such financial instruments in May.

The report revealed that the Kingdom held bonds valued at $135.4 billion in April, compared to $135.9 billion and $131.1 billion in March and February, respectively.

The figures illustrate Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in international financial markets, highlighting a keen understanding of leveraging sovereign wealth to secure and strengthen the Kingdom’s global economic position.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia is the only Arab and Middle Eastern country among the top 20 major holders of US Treasury securities.

A report published in January by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed that its investments in foreign securities stood at $1 trillion at the end of December 2023.

SAMA also has $361.75 billion as deposits with banks abroad, the report added.

The data analysis also revealed that Japan emerged as the largest investor in US bonds in May, with holdings totaling $1.128 trillion. China and the UK followed, with portfolios valued at $768.3 billion and $723.4 billion, respectively. 

Luxembourg claimed the fourth spot with assets valued at $385.4 billion, while Canada and the Cayman Islands secured the fifth and sixth positions with treasury portfolios worth $354.5 billion and $336.5 billion, respectively. 

Ireland attained seventh spot with treasury reserves worth $317.7 billion, followed by Belgium and Switzerland, with assets amounting to $313 billion and $290.4 billion, respectively.

France held the 10th position with treasury assets amounting to $283 billion, while Taiwan and India occupied 11th and 12th places with portfolios worth $263.3 billion and $237.8 billion, respectively.

The data collected is primarily from US-based custodians and broker-dealers. Since American securities held in overseas accounts may not be attributed to the actual owners, the department said, the data may not provide a precise accounting of individual country ownership of treasury securities.