LEAP24 to witness $11.9bn tech investment deals, says minister

LEAP24 to witness $11.9bn tech investment deals, says minister
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdulla Al-Swaha.
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Updated 04 March 2024

LEAP24 to witness $11.9bn tech investment deals, says minister

LEAP24 to witness $11.9bn tech investment deals, says minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s international technology conference LEAP is set to witness $11.9 billion of investment deals over its three-day duration — eclipsing last year’s figure of $9 billion, according to a senior minister. 
During the opening remarks at the event, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdulla Al-Swaha highlighted that investments in generative artificial intelligence acceleration and cloud infrastructure sectors are set to be key benefactors from the funding blitz. 
The minister told those at the Riyadh-based gathering, which runs from March 4 to 7 and is the third edition of the event, that the Kingdom’s digital economy is “the most bold and audacious success story of the 21st century.” 
He added: “When it comes to resilience, while the whole world was facing headwinds when it comes to VC (venture capital) funding with negative 30 to 40 percent, the Kingdom, under His Royal Highness’s leadership, we adjusted the sail and changed the headwinds into tailwinds and we grew by 33 percent.” 
Al-Swaha highlighted a significant investment in regional cloud infrastructure in the preceding year, marking it as one of the sector’s most substantial and notable investments.  
Alongside this, he announced the introduction of Amazon Web Services in Saudi Arabia, establishing the Kingdom as the sole nation in the region hosting all key hyperscalers. 
Furthermore, AWS plans to establish an infrastructure region within the Kingdom by 2026, with the objective of providing support to developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises, as well as entities in healthcare, education, gaming, and nonprofit sectors. 
The minister also underlined the ongoing efforts, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and in collaboration with Saudi Aramco, to advance the diffusion of technologies and industries in the Kingdom. 
He announced Aramco’s largest industrial laboratory guidance model, METABRAIN, which aims to provide guidance and support to all industries in the Kingdom. 
“This LLM is powered by more than data — data for more than 90 years, with seven tokens of public and proprietary data. We aim to reach 1 trillion parameters by the end of today, starting with 250 parameters,” Al-Swaha stated.  
He continued: “Aramco is joining hands with one of the revolutionary technologies. I think it’s best to hear from the founders in this specific interview about how they’re doing that, aiming to build one of the largest AI inference capabilities for the industrial age.” 
In his keynote address, Aramco’s President and CEO Amin Nasser stressed his belief that METABRAIN will serve to increase productivity and growth as well as transform “the way we work.” 
Equipped with 90 years of exclusive data, the large language model is helping to analyze plans, get data as well as “historically drilling down cost and recommending options for downstream.” 
Last week, the energy giant announced a significant upward revision in the estimated reserves of gas and condensate in its Jafurah reserves. The CEO underscored that “this was made possible by combining advanced machine learning system together with the data gathered by our in-house experts.” 
During the event, Aramco also announced the establishment of the Saudi Accelerated Innovations Lab, or SAIL, a market-driven digital innovation engine with the first hub in Saudi Aramco and plans for national and global expansions. 
Commenting on this announcement, the CEO said: “Our goal is to create new digital products and digital ventures. An example is the Aramco IBM innovation strategic partnership, which through SAIL, is expected to be operational in early 2026.” 
According to the executive, Aramco and IBM will collaborate in areas such as cybersecurity, sustainability, circular economy, and material science. 
The global tech leader also unveiled plans for a software development lab to operate in Saudi Arabia. 
Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM, said: “We have decided to open a software development lab where we are going to be harnessing the talent of the local population. We are going to build AI-based technologies here that we are then going to take into our global market. I think that is incredibly exciting.”  
As part of a series of announcements, Dell Technologies revealed plans to open a new merge and logistics fulfillment center, incorporating a second touch manufacturing facility in the Kingdom. 
The new center, based out of Riyadh, will handle all Dell product lines in Saudi Arabia, including notebooks, desktops, and servers, as well as, storage, and networking.  
Dell is also relocating its Flat Panel Monitor Hub to Riyadh, ensuring stocked inventory is delivered directly to customers with same-day or next-day shipments.  
The event also saw several announcements from international companies in the field of up-skilling, education, and training. 
Among them, UiPath, a global software company, announced the establishment of the “Saudi School of Automation,” the first in the region, aimed at training skills and nurturing Saudi talents.  
UiPath will cover automation fundamentals through advanced developments, culminating in a professional certificate. 
Similarly, an American cloud-scale company unveiled a partnership with the Saudi Digital Academy to establish a new academy in the Kingdom. 
Datadog’s Academy focuses on the latest trends and regional priorities, offering a range of programs, including certifications, in-person workshops, and online training, as highlighted by Alexis Le Quoc, the company’s CEO during the forum. 
Marking the third announcement of a new academy in the nation, ServiceNow’s CEO Bill McDermott revealed that the company will be opening a ‘ServiceNow Academy’ in the Kingdom. 
The institute aims to train thousands of Saudis in “digital skills related to this new generation platform,” he said.  
The company also emphasized that it will be launching its ServiceNow platform in Arabic later this month, featuring domain-specific LLMs capable of operating in the Arabic language. 

Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  
Updated 14 April 2024

Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

RIYADH: Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom’s delegation to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group assemblies in Washington this week to discuss global economic developments.

Al-Jadaan will chair the first meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee under Saudi Arabia’s three-year chairmanship.
The meeting will review economic developments and the threats to overall global development. It will also discuss global economic policy, key priorities and the role of the Washington-based lender in providing financial assistance, advice, technical capacity building to member states, and financial support to countries in need.

The minister will also take part in the meeting of the World Bank Development Committee to discuss the global development plans implemented by the entity.  

Moreover, Al-Jadaan and the governor of the Saudi Central Bank, Ayman Al-Sayari, will also participate in the second meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 under the Brazilian presidency.

The meeting will discuss a number of economic and development issues as well as ways to enhance international cooperation to meet the challenges of the global economy.

The Kingdom’s delegation includes the CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development, Sultan Al-Marshad, the deputy chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the IMF, Ryadh bin Mohammed Al-Khareif, and Assistant Minister of Finance for the Macro Fiscal Policies and International Relations Abdulmohsen Al-Khalaf.


Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 

Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 
Updated 14 April 2024

Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 

Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Sunday, losing 38.52 points, or 0.30 percent, to close at 12,666.90. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.28 billion ($1.67 billion) as 103 of the stocks advanced, while 122 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu gained 137.34 points, or 0.52 percent, to close at 26,390.11. This comes as 31 of the stocks advanced while as many as 38 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped 16.03 points, or 0.98 percent, to close at 1,615.00.  

The best-performing stock of the day was Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. The company’s share price surged 9.98 percent to SR110.20.  

Other top performers include ACWA Power Co. as well as Saudi Steel Pipe Co. 

The worst performer was Sahara International Petrochemical Co., whose share price dropped by 4.72 percent to SR34.35. 

Other worst performers include the Arab National Bank as well as the Saudi National Bank.  

On the announcements front, Gulf Insurance Group has announced the board of director’s decision to distribute SR78.75 million in cash dividends to shareholders for the fiscal year 2023. 

According to a Tadawul statement, the total number of shares eligible for dividends amounted to 52.5 million, with the dividend per share standing at SR1.5. 

The statement also revealed that the percentage of dividends to the share par value stood at 15 percent. 

Moreover, Scientific & Medical Equipment House Co. has announced the signing of an SR180 million contract with the Ministry of Health to provide cooked nutrition to hospitals in Madinah.  

A bourse filing revealed that the financial impact of the five-year agreement will commence in the third quarter of 2024.  

Additionally, Al Kathiri Holding Co. has announced that one of its subsidiaries, Msandh Al-Emdad Co., has been awarded a project with the Presidency of State Security to establish a building in Riyadh with a total value of SR20 million.  

According to a Tadawul statement, this project includes the supply and implementation of structural, architectural, and mechanical as well as electrical and systems works for the building in accordance with competition drawings and documents.  

Furthermore, the Saudi Ground Services Co. has announced the signing of an SR2 billion contract renewal with flynas for a duration of five years.  

A bourse filing revealed that under this contract, the Saudi Ground Services Co. would provide ground handling assistance, including ramp and passenger services, for domestic and international flights at all airports in the Kingdom. 

Meanwhile, Gulf General Cooperative Insurance Co. has announced the completion of the sale of 3,321 fractional shares.  

According to a Tadawul statement, the sale revenue of the fractional shares stood at SR44,838, with the average selling price per share reaching SR13.50.  

This comes following the decrease of the company’s capital based on the approval of the extraordinary general assembly.

Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project    

Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project     
Updated 14 April 2024

Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project    

Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project     

RIYADH: Saudi master developer Knowledge Economic City Co. has signed two deals to deliver 396 residential apartments within the first phase of its mixed-use project Al-Alya.

In Tadawul filings, the listed firm announced the deals with Elkhereiji Commerce and Contracting Co., worth SR288.6 million ($77.92 million).

The first agreement entails fully implementing contracting works for additional residential buildings in the first phase of the Al-Alya mixed-use project. This comprises a group of four houses, offering 132 apartments of different sizes valued at SR117.5 million, excluding value-added tax.

The second contract involves the implementation of electromechanical, finishing, gardening, and site coordination works for a group of eight residential buildings valued at SR171.13 million, providing 264 apartments, the company said in a statement to Tadawul.

Based on work progress, both contracts will be paid in installments per monthly payment certificate.

The company commented on the second deal, saying: “Accordingly, the financial impact is represented in the cash outflow for the amount payable to the contractor over a period of 20 months starting from the end of May 2024.” 

The firm said that the financial impact of the first agreement is represented in the cash outflow for the amount payable to the contractor over a period of 24 months.

Al-Alya is one of the main projects in the Knowledge Economic City and represents a project with mixed-use components within a gated complex compound that combines hospitality, housing and offices as well as retail and education services.

It was designed to respond to the urban trend of humanizing cities and the quality-of-life program that relies on green areas and pedestrian walkways to create a style and vibrancy that meets the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The project aims to enable local and foreign companies, businessmen, and digital entrepreneurs to work in Madinah.

In October last year, Knowledge Economic City Co. signed an agreement with Gulf International Bank Capital for SR3.5 billion to establish a real estate investment fund.

The initiative is poised to launch the initial phase of the Islamic World District in Madinah and will span over 140,000 sq. meters, transforming the area into a mixed-use development.

The site will include hospitality, residential, retail, entertainment, and cultural zones, providing over 5,000 hotel keys, 743 residential apartments, plus a designated area of 24,000 sq. m. for retail shops.

GIB Capital is a subsidiary of Gulf International Bank, owned by the governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund holds a 97.2 percent stake, according to the bank’s 2022 annual report.

The project aims to enhance the visitor experience in Madinah, a city that holds historical significance as the first capital of Islamic civilization and a destination that draws millions of pilgrims and tourists annually.

Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 

Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 
Updated 14 April 2024

Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 

Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 

RIYADH: Jordan’s mining sector is set to grow substantially, with projections indicating that its contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product will reach 2.1 billion Jordanian dinars ($2.9 billion) by 2033. 

Up from 0.7 billion dinars in 2023, this ambitious target is part of the government’s newly announced initiative to transform Jordan into a mining state by 2033, as outlined in the country’s National Mining Strategy. 

This strategic overhaul aims to elevate the sector’s workforce to 27,500 and boost the value of its exports to 3.5 billion dinars from 1 billion dinars, according to a report issued by the state-owned Jordan News Agency, also known as Petra.   

The strategy emerges from its Economic Modernization Vision and is backed by directives from Jordan’s King Abdullah, emphasizing the need to accelerate investment-stimulating procedures in mineral exploration.  

A cornerstone of this transformation was the formulation of the strategy, spearheaded by the global consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie.  

In 2023, the Jordanian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources completed initiatives and projects under the EMV for the mining sector and set priorities within the vision’s executive program.  

The vision’s main pillars revolve around expediting the nation’s full economic potential while improving the quality of life for its citizens and maintaining sustainable measures. 

Moreover, the ministry’s proactive engagement has led to the signing of 11 memorandums of understanding to bolster investment in Jordan’s extractive industries.  

An additional three memorandums of cooperation were signed with various companies to further these goals.  

According to statements made to Petra, the ministry plans to continue advancing these undertakings throughout 2024, pushing these MoUs toward value-added mining operations.  

These initiatives are part of the nation’s ongoing efforts to boost its standing in the mining and minerals industry. 

In a report carried by Petra earlier in January, the ministry said that it aims to position the country on the global mining map by capitalizing on positive mineral exploration results. 

Over the past two years, the country established several partnerships with international companies in mining exploration.  

Moreover, it recently launched an investment platform to showcase national resources and opportunities in the energy sector. 

Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget

Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget
Updated 14 April 2024

Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget

Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget

RIYADH: Egypt will increase health sector allocations in the next general budget to 495.6 billion pounds ($10.4 billion), according to the country’s finance minister.   

The North African country’s upcoming fiscal year is set to begin in July. 

Mohamed Maait said in a statement that this reflects an annual growth rate of 24.9 percent compared to the funds allocated for the sector in the current fiscal.   

This is in line with the nation’s goal to improve medical services for citizens, which is also an objective of Egypt’s Vision 2030.  

Moreover, the minister added that allocations for the education sector will also be raised to 858.3 billion pounds, with an annual growth rate of 45 percent.   

Scientific research reserves are also on track to increase to more than 139.5 billion pounds in the next budget, reflecting an annual growth rate of 40.1 percent.

Mait noted that the country will continue to provide the necessary funds to expand healthcare initiatives, supply medicines and medical aids to hospitals, and increase support for health insurance programs. 

He emphasized how Egypt was also working on targeting the speed of gradual expansion in extending the umbrella of comprehensive health insurance.

Furthermore, the minister said the last social package implemented in March included allocating 15 billion pounds in additional increases for doctors, nurses, teachers, and university faculty members. 

The breakdown was divided into 8.1 billion pounds to approve an additional increase in the wages of teachers in pre-university education as well as 1.6 billion pounds to approve a raise for faculty members and their assistants at universities, institutes, and research centers. 

There was also 4.5 billion pounds to approve a supplementary rise for members of the medical professions and nursing bodies.

In 2022, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed strengthening cooperation with the World Health Organization to improve the country’s healthcare sector.