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.

 


Saudi Arabia closes July sukuk issuance at $856m 

Saudi Arabia closes July sukuk issuance at $856m 
Updated 23 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia closes July sukuk issuance at $856m 

Saudi Arabia closes July sukuk issuance at $856m 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia completed its riyal-denominated sukuk issuance for July at SR3.21 billion ($855.7 million), according to the National Debt Management Center.  

The level once again remained above SR3 billion, following a June issuance level of SR4.4 billion, SR3.23 billion in May, SR7.39 billion in April, and SR4.4 billion in March. 

NDMC revealed that the Shariah-compliant debt product in July was divided into five tranches. 

The first tranche is valued at SR612 million and is set to mature in 2029, while the second amounted to SR159 million maturing in 2031. 

The third tranche’s value stood at SR961 million, maturing in 2034, and the fourth was a SR1.25 million tranche with a maturity date in 2036. 

The fifth tranche had a size of SR226 million maturing 2039. 

This is part of the Kingdom’s Sukuk Issuance Program, which started in 2017, with the aim of establishing an unlimited riyal-denominated sukuk initiative under the NDMC. 

The announcement from NDMC came as Kuwait’s financial center Markaz published its own figures for bond and sukuk issuance across the Gulf Cooperation Council region for the first half of 2024.

The analysis showed that Saudi Arabia was the leading player in the six months to the end of June, raising $37 billion through 44 issuances.

A report released by S&P Global in April said that sukuk issuance globally is expected to hover between the $160 billion to $170 billion mark in 2024, holding steady compared to the $168.4 billion seen in 2023 and $179.4 billion in 2022. 

According to the US-based firm, the issuance of this Shariah-compliant debt product began on a “strong footing” in 2024, with Saudi Arabia becoming a key contributor to the performance. 

The credit rating agency also noted that the sukuk market will continue to grow in the near term driven by financing needs in core Islamic finance countries, along with the ongoing economic transformation programs which are currently underway in nations like Saudi Arabia. 

It added: “The drop in issuance volumes in 2023, which mainly resulted from tighter liquidity conditions in Saudi Arabia’s banking system and Indonesia’s lower fiscal deficit, was somewhat compensated by an increase in foreign currency-denominated sukuk issuance.” 

In April, another report released by Fitch Ratings also echoed similar views and noted that global sukuk issuance is expected to continue growing in the coming months of this year. 

Fitch noted that economic diversification efforts and the rapid development of the debt capital market in the Gulf Cooperation Council region will propel the growth of the sukuk market in the coming months. 


Flydubai in early talks for largest ever airplane order

Flydubai in early talks for largest ever airplane order
Updated 23 July 2024
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Flydubai in early talks for largest ever airplane order

Flydubai in early talks for largest ever airplane order

FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom: Government-owned airline flydubai is in early talks with planemakers Boeing and Airbus to place its largest-ever airplane order, CEO Chief Executive Ghaith Al-Ghaith said on Tuesday.
“The last order we did was 175 and this (next one) is going to be the biggest, I’m sure,” Al-Ghaith told Reuters in an interview at the Farnborough Air Show. Flydubai announced the purchase of 175 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes in 2017. 


Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105

Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105
Updated 23 July 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105

Closing Bell: Saudi main market slips to close at 12,105

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Tuesday, losing 69.22 points, or 0.57 percent, to close at 12,105.54.        

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.8 billion ($1.8 billion) as 55 of the listed stocks advanced, while 173 retreated.    

The MSCI Tadawul Index also dropped 10.49 points, or 0.69 percent, to close at 1,512.94.    

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu gained 123.53 points, or 0.47 percent, to close at 26,164. This comes as 33 of the listed stocks advanced, while 32 retreated.  

Sumou Real Estate Co. was TASI’s best-performing stock as the company’s share price surged 9.98 percent to SR47.95.        

Other top performers included Kingdom Holding Co. as well as Perfect Presentation for Commercial Services Co., whose share prices soared by 9.93 percent and 4.04 percent, to stand at SR7.86 and SR15.96 respectively.        

Other top gainers included Nayifat Finance Co. and Gulf Union Alahlia Cooperative Insurance Co.      

Miahona Co. was the worst performer, wth its share price dropping by 6.82 percent to SR39.60.    

Nama Chemicals Co. and Jadwa REIT Saudi Fund saw their share prices drop by 3.39 percent and 3.22 percent to SR27.10 and SR12.02, respectively.

Other poor performers included Rasan Information Technology Co. and National Medical Care Co.

On the announcements front, First Mills Co. reported a net profit of SR45.5 million in the second quarter of the year, representing a rise of 30.3 percent compared to the same period in 2023.

Revenue also saw an annual increase of 13 percent in the second quarter of this year to reach SR242.3 million.

The company announced that it will distribute cash dividends of SR1.55 per share to shareholders for the first half of 2024.

The total dividend distribution amounts to SR86.03 million, to be allocated across 55 million shares.    

Saudi telecom Etihad Etisalat Co., also known as Mobily, reported a 33 percent increase in profits, reaching SR661 million in the second quarter of 2024, compared to SR497 million in the same period last year.  

The company attributed the rise in net profit to higher operating profits and a 26.2 percent reduction in financing expenses, which decreased to SR130 million due to a reduced debt portfolio.    

Lower zakat and income tax expenses also contributed to the improved financial performance, it added.  

Saudi Telecom Co. also reported a 9 percent increase in profits, reaching SR3.3 billion in the second quarter, compared to SR3.0 billion in the same period last year.  

The company attributed the rise in net profit to a revenue increase of SR828 million, which was partially offset by a SR272 million rise in the cost of revenues, resulting in a gross profit increase of SR556 million.    

Operating expenses decreased by SR48 million, and zakat and income tax expenses fell by SR23 million, it added.


Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 

Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 
Updated 23 July 2024
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Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 

Fitch Ratings withdraws from Lebanon 

RIYADH: The unavailability of certain key data has led Fitch Ratings to withdraw from categorizing Lebanon, as the agency no longer has sufficient information to maintain its assessment of the nation. 

The global credit rating agency has affirmed Lebanon’s long-term foreign and local-currency issuer default ratings as restricted and has subsequently withdrawn the nation’s IDR and country ceiling. 

Restricted default indicates a country has neglected specific financial obligations while continuing to meet others. 

This means that the agency has confirmed Lebanon’s long-term debt ratings as restricted and ceased providing assessments and analysis for the country due to insufficient data. 

Lebanon has been in default on its foreign-currency obligations since March 2020, significantly influencing its rating assessment. 

The government’s failure to repay the Eurobond, which was due on March 9, 2020, led to its categorization as restricted default.

“The government has stopped servicing its outstanding stock of Eurobonds pending a debt restructuring,” the agency said.  

The local-currency IDRs remain in restricted default due to the government’s failure to resume interest payments on Banque du Liban’s holdings of local-currency securities despite continuing to serve local-currency debt to private creditors. 

Fitch also stated that the authorities have not initiated a local-currency debt restructuring. 

The agency’s decision to withdraw Lebanon’s ratings was driven by the issuer’s cessation of publishing national accounts and fiscal data, which are now only available up to 2021. 

This lack of up-to-date financial information has made it unfeasible for Fitch to maintain accurate ratings. 

The agency added that Lebanon’s environmental, social, and governance relevance score for political stability and rights and for the rule of law, institutional and regulatory quality, and control of corruption stands at five. 

This reflects the high impact of the World Bank Governance Indicators in Fitch’s Sovereign Rating Model. 

“Lebanon has a low WBGI ranking at 14.8, reflecting the absence of a recent track record of peaceful political transitions, relatively weak rights for participation in the political process, weak institutional capacity, uneven application of the rule of law and a high level of corruption,” the agency added. 


Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets

Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets
Updated 23 July 2024
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Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets

Qatar Airways orders 20 Boeing 777X long-haul jets
  • The order was worth $8.8 billion at catalogue prices
  • Qatar Airways held out the prospect of a ‘sizeable’ order for wide-body jets around the turn of the year

FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom: Qatar Airways on Tuesday ordered 20 Boeing 777X long-haul aircraft worth $8.8 billion at list prices, boosting the US aviation giant at Britain’s Farnborough International Airshow.
“Qatar Airways is proud to announce an expansion to the existing Boeing 777X aircraft order with an additional 20, totalling 94 Boeing 777X aircraft,” said the airline’s chief executive Badr Mohammed Al-Meer.
“We... are an industry leader and operate one of the youngest fleets, offering unparalleled innovation and quality. Keeping an eye on the future, we continue to ensure that all Qatar Airways passengers are only met with the best products and services available in the industry.”
The order was worth $8.8 billion at catalogue prices although major aviation customers typically secure big discounts from aircraft manufacturers.
Boeing’s 777X began test flights earlier this month in preparation for certification to enter service. That is expected in 2025, which is five years behind schedule.

The blockbuster news came on the second day of the biennial Farnborough Airshow, which traditionally features a dogfight between Airbus and Boeing for multi-billion-dollar orders.
More plane orders flowed in at the Airshow on Tuesday despite supply chain pressures on jetmakers and the complaints from airlines about delivery delays.
Airbus announced deals with Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, while Boeing bagged an order from Macquarie Airfinance. 
Delegates have been expecting limited deal-making at this year’s showcase aviation industry event, with Airbus and Boeing sold out for several years of production and struggling to ramp up output amid supply chain problems.
Delays in plane deliveries have limited some airlines’ ability to take advantage of a post-pandemic travel boom which some say is starting to fade.
“I think all of us on the airline side are slightly surprised by the long impact of COVID on the supply chain,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss told Reuters, as his airline ordered seven Airbus A330-900s in a deal worth $807 million, according to estimated delivery prices from Cirium Ascend.
“We’re urging our ... engine suppliers, the manufacturers, to do everything they can to get back on track.”
Boeing in particular had to scale back production as it came under legal and regulatory scrutiny after a panel blew off mid-air on a near-new 737 MAX 9 in January.

RUNNING PLANES FOR LONGER
Japan Airlines finalized an order for 20 Airbus A350-900 and 11 A321neo jets to be delivered from 2028, worth just over $3 billion in total, according to Cirium Ascend estimates.
The airline had said in March it would buy 21 wide-body A350s and 11 A321neo narrow-body jets, but it is only ordering 20 A350s now as it will receive one as a replacement for a jet destroyed in January in a collision with a Coast Guard aircraft.
Macquarie Airfinance, meanwhile, ordered 20 Boeing 737 MAX-8 planes to be delivered in 2029-2030, worth just over $1 billion, according Cirium Ascend estimates.

Also at the show, Al-Meer said Qatar Airways would decide on a “sizeable” new order of wide-body jets around the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2025.
He added the company had also decided to extend the service life of its Airbus A380 jets and would carry out upgrades including new wifi.
Airlines are increasingly looking to run existing planes for longer as jetmakers struggle to deliver on their order backlogs.
Consultancy Bain said in a report last week that airlines faced their longest-ever waits for engine maintenance amid the shortfall in new aircraft, adding to their costs.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said at the air show that his airline was being “very vigilant” on new plane deliveries, but that at the moment “our planes are broadly coming in the timelines that we need them to come.”
(With AFP and Reuters)