Day 2 of LEAP24 sees $848m investments across 7 new funds 

Day 2 of LEAP24 sees $848m investments across 7 new funds 
LEAP is in its third edition.
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Updated 05 March 2024
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Day 2 of LEAP24 sees $848m investments across 7 new funds 

Day 2 of LEAP24 sees $848m investments across 7 new funds 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s international technology conference, LEAP, sets the stage for a thriving startup and venture capital ecosystem in the region, announcing seven new funds worth $848 million.

Following in the footsteps of its previous years, the third edition of the event continues to witness several significant announcements that seek to transform the technology sector locally and globally.

Kicking off the day, InvestCorp announced the establishment of a $500 million fund in Saudi Arabia, which includes a $35 million investment from Saudi Venture Capital Co. The fund will focus on investing in Saudi companies in their growth stages.

In another boost to emerging companies, Saudi Arabia’s Takamol Holding announced its $53 million venture capital arm, Takamol Ventures.

The VC is established to support early-stage technology companies in the Middle East and African markets.

Similarly, Oasis Capital unveiled their “Oasis Fund II,” a $100 million venture dedicated to empowering international tech founders in their early stages.

Plug and Play, a major startup accelerator, announced a $50 million fund, making it its first in the region.

P&P intends to invest in Saudi, Middle Eastern, and North African startups with a focus on software and technology development.

X by Unifonic, a startup itself, also unveiled its new seed fund worth $15 million investment, focusing on software as a service and business-to-business ventures in the MENA region, Pakistan, and Turkiye.

During the forum, the National Development Fund, Social Development Bank, Ignite, and the Saudi E-Sports Federation partnered to announce an $80 million accelerator VC fund managed by Merck Capital and a $40 million VC investment fund managed by Impact46.

The funds will focus on accelerating the growth of the local gaming industry and attracting VC investment in the sector.

Taking to the main stage in Riyadh, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s National Technology Development Program, Ibrahim Neyaz, announced the launch of five new products, marking another boost to the Kingdom’s technology, VC, and startup divisions.

Equipped with a $266 million budget, the entity’s first initiative, “Fuel,” seeks to support VC funds investing in deep tech and emerging tech from pre-seed to pre-initial public offering stages.

Its targeted technologies include generative AI, space tech, quantum computing, smart cities, and biotech.

Also, with a $266 million budget, NTDP’s second unveiled venture, “Artificial Intelligence Mission,” is a platform that provides access to research and development infrastructure, talent development, data, and venture building.

The CEO highlighted that the program’s intended outcomes over the next five years include 800 to 1,000 individuals trained in AI and machine learning, as well as 70-100 new AI-native ventures.

Neyaz outlined NTDP’s third announcement, Source Tech, a grant-based product designed to incentivize IT and outsourcing firms to establish and expand their services in the Kingdom. It will be equipped with a $15 million budget.

The initiative seeks to boost women’s participation in the information and communication technology sector, create upwards of 2,000 jobs, and provide grants up to SR5 million ($1.33 million) per company.

The body also announced another grant-based product, “Transform+,” which is designed to bridge the technology gap for startups and accelerate cloud adoption. It holds a $33 million budget.

Transform+ will mainly target startups as well as small and medium enterprises, with a grant possibility of up to SR 1 million per company and a target of over 1,000 tech companies adopting state-of-the-art cloud technology.

Marking its final announcement, the CEO unveiled a $26 million investment in “Fund Swift,” which aims to provide bridge financing for startups that close early-stage investments to be repaid after VC capital deployment.

The fund’s target beneficiaries are early-stage startups, which will be able to acquire financing amounting to 50 percent of VC’s commitment, up to SR5 million per startup.

Continuing the ongoing bid to “digitize” the Kingdom, Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser utilized the LEAP platform to announce two new initiatives to bring future technologies to the sector.

On the sidelines of the forum, the minister launched the new “Logistic 2” platform, which will replace multiple platforms with a unified window that includes more than 140 logistical services.

The initiative aims to unify the beneficiary experience, provide all logistical services through a smooth journey for beneficiaries, increase the quality and efficiency of logistical services, and improve operations.

This comes as part of the efforts to consolidate the Kingdom’s position as a global logistics center and enhance Saudi Arabia’s position in the Logistics Performance Index issued by the World Bank.

The minister also unveiled the new version of the Mawani community platform, which will automate all operational processes in the ports sector and connect all stakeholders from the government and private sectors on a unified platform, aiming to raise the ports’ competitiveness.

Mawani’s new framework seeks to facilitate the exchange of data between the government and private sectors via a secure interface, reduce the time spent on procedures by 50 percent, contribute to a 30 percent increase in port sector productivity, and lead to annual financial savings of SR10 million.

Continuing LEAP’s streak of significant investments in Saudi Arabia’s tech sector, global giant and leading provider of global hybrid cloud, AI, and consulting expertise, IBM, announced its plans to invest over $200 million in talent and infrastructure in a new IBM Software Lab in the Kingdom’s capital, Riyadh.

The lab will focus on accelerating digital innovation and product development, management, and design.

The IBM Software Lab’s goal will be to accelerate skills building and help create high-quality jobs for skilled young IT professionals in Saudi Arabia’s technology ecosystem, co-creating solutions to export globally.


Pakistan eyes new IMF loan by early July, finance minister says

Pakistan eyes new IMF loan by early July, finance minister says
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Pakistan eyes new IMF loan by early July, finance minister says

Pakistan eyes new IMF loan by early July, finance minister says

PAKISTAN: Pakistan could secure a staff-level agreement on a new long-term larger loan with the International Monetary Fund by early July, its finance minister said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. 

The country’s current $3 billion arrangement with the fund — which it secured last summer to avert a sovereign default — runs out in late April.

The $350 billion South Asian economy faces a chronic balance of payment crisis. The government is seeking a larger, long-term loan to help stabilize economic activity and financial markets so it can execute long-due, painful structural reforms.

If secured, it would be the 24th IMF bailout for Pakistan.

“We are still hoping that we get a staff-level agreement by June or early July,” Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb told a conference in Islamabad.

He returned from Washington last week after leading a team to attend the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings.

“We had very good discussions in Washington,” he said.

He said he did not know at this stage the volume and tenure of the longer program, although he has previously said that he was looking for at least a three-year bailout plan.

Both sides have said they were already in discussions for the new loan. A formal request, however, will be made once the current facility expires, with the IMF board likely to meet late this month to approve the second and last tranche of the current support scheme.

The economy is expected to grow by 2.6 percent in the fiscal year 2024, the finance minister said, adding that the inflation was projected at 24 percent, down from 29.2 percent in fiscal 2023. It touched a record high of 38 percent last May.

Aurangzeb said structural reforms would include increasing the government’s tax revenue-to-GDP ratio to 13 percent to 14 percent in next two or three years from the current level of around 9 percent, reducing losses of state-owned enterprises through their privatization, and better management of the debt-laden energy sector.


 


Oil Updates – prices stabilize, Middle East tensions remain in focus

Oil Updates – prices stabilize, Middle East tensions remain in focus
Updated 23 April 2024
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Oil Updates – prices stabilize, Middle East tensions remain in focus

Oil Updates – prices stabilize, Middle East tensions remain in focus

NEW DELHI: Oil prices edged higher on Tuesday, after falling in the previous session, as investors continued to assess the risk from geopolitical concerns in the Middle East, according to Reuters.

Global benchmark Brent crude oil futures traded 18 cents higher at $87.18 a barrel by 9:34 a.m. Saudi time, and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures also gained 16 cents to $82.06 a barrel.

Both benchmarks fell 29 cents in the previous session on signs that a recent escalation of tensions between Israel and Iran had little near-term impact on oil supplies from the region.

“The unwinding of geo-political risk premium has dented crude oil prices recently as supply was not disrupted meaningfully,” said Sugandha Sachdeva, founder of Delhi-based research firm SS WealthStreet.

But the evolving geopolitical landscape remains critical in steering crude oil prices, she said.

“While there are no indications of an imminent full-scale war between the countries involved, any escalation in tensions could quickly reverse the current trend,” Sachdeva added.

ANZ analysts echoed the sentiment and highlighted US approval of new sanctions on Iran’s oil sector that broaden current sanctions to include foreign ports, vessels and refineries that knowingly process or ship Iranian crude.

Also, EU foreign ministers agreed in principle on Monday to expand sanctions on Iran after Tehran’s missile and drone attack on Israel, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

“The geopolitical backdrop is still very fraught with so many risks at the moment, so clearly we’re going to see a lot of volatility until there’s a lot more clarity around it,” the ANZ analysts said in a podcast.

Israeli troops fought their way back into an eastern section of Khan Younis in a surprise raid, residents said on Monday, sending people who had returned to abandoned homes in the ruins of the southern Gaza Strip’s main city fleeing once more.

Investors are waiting for the release of the US gross domestic product figures and the March personal consumption expenditure data — the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge — later this week to assess the trajectory of monetary policy.

US crude oil inventories are expected to have increased last week while refined product stockpiles likely fell, according to a preliminary Reuters poll of analysts.

“Sticky US inflation figures, hawkish statements from key Fed officials, and rising US inventories are all acting as constraints on crude oil price growth,” Sachdeva said. 


Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister

Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister
Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister

Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister
  • Pakistan’s current $3 billion financial arrangement with IMF expires in late April
  • Islamabad is seeking “bigger,” long-term loan to ensure macroeconomic stability

Pakistan is hoping to reach a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund by June or early July, its finance minister said on Tuesday.

The country’s current $3 billion arrangement with the fund runs out in late-April, which it secured last summer to avert a sovereign default.

Islamabad is seeking a long-term bigger loan to help bring permanence to macroeconomic stability as well as an umbrella under which the country can execute structural reforms.

“We are still hoping that we get a staff-level agreement by June or early July,” Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb told a conference in Islamabad.

He returned from Washington last week after leading a team to attend the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings. “We had very good discussions in Washington,” he said.

He said he did not know at this stage the volume and tenure of the longer program.


Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum

Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum
Updated 22 April 2024
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Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum

Riyadh prepares to host special meeting of World Economic Forum
  • The aim of the gathering is to find solutions to global challenges relating to humanitarian issues, the climate and the economy

RIYADH: Final preparations are taking place this week in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for a special meeting of the World Economic Forum in the city on April 28 and 29.

Heads of state and senior executives from the public and private sectors are expected to be among the participants, who will discuss a range of global economic issues and developments under the theme “Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development.”

The aim of the meeting is to find solutions to a host of global challenges relating to humanitarian issues, the climate and the economy. On the sidelines of the main event, the Kingdom will host exhibitions and other events to highlight the latest developments and trends in areas such as sustainability, innovation and culture.

The selection of Riyadh as host of the special meeting reflects the extensive partnership between Saudi Arabia and the WEF, officials said.

It builds upon the Kingdom’s active participation and contributions to the WEF’s Annual Meetings in Davos.

The agenda is designed to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and collaboration with various panel discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities. It represents a significant gathering of global leaders and experts dedicated to forging a path toward a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world.


ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 

ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 
Updated 22 April 2024
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ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 

ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan 

RIYADH: Saudi energy giant ACWA Power is signing a new agreement to accelerate the development of renewable projects in Azerbaijan. 

The private water desalination company, known for its extensive green hydrogen storage capacity, announced it has now finalized an agreement with SOCAR, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic.

This development follows an initial cooperation understanding signed in February 2023.

This deal focuses on the joint evaluation of the “Low-Carbon/Green Fertilizer” project, in which the two bodies will collaborate on assessing the production of green hydrogen to support the decarbonization of SOCAR downstream assets.

Marco Arcelli, CEO of ACWA Power, said in a statement, “I am proud to announce our collaboration with SOCAR to ignite a new era of renewable energy development in Azerbaijan. With our shared vision and commitment to sustainability, this partnership will not only drive innovation but also pave the way for a cleaner and brighter future for this country.”

The primary directive of the agreement will be to enhance SOCAR’s carbamide fertilizer facility, striving toward more value-added low-carbon products.

As part of the project, SOCAR and ACWA Power will conduct feasibility studies to assess the potential production and sale of green fertilizers, aligning with Azerbaijan’s vision of achieving a clean environment.

ACWA Power will take a role in driving the project’s renewable energy and green hydrogen production aspects, bringing their expertise to bear on this initiative.

For his part, Anar Mammadov, vice president of SOCAR, said, “Azerbaijan is committed to building a sustainable future, and our partnership with ACWA Power underscores our shared dedication to driving renewable energy development in the region. Together, we will work towards realizing our vision of a cleaner, greener Azerbaijan.”

He added: “The cooperation with ACWA Power represents a significant step forward in Azerbaijan’s transition towards a low-carbon economy and underscores the commitment of both organizations to sustainable development practices.” 

Preceding this announcement, the two nations posed their intent to collaborate on renewables as Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman met with Azerbaijan’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev in March.

During the meeting, the counterparts discussed opportunities for work and cooperation between their two countries in the field of climate change. 

They also talked about joint efforts to achieve the goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, the Kingdom’s ministry said in a statement at the time.