Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions grow 11% to reach $14.35bn in January

The surge in POS payments reflects the Kingdom’s commitment to digitalization and investments in a tech-driven future. Saudi Arabia is taking several measures to foster sustainable cities and a robust digital economy embraced by a tech-savvy population.
The surge in POS payments reflects the Kingdom’s commitment to digitalization and investments in a tech-driven future. Saudi Arabia is taking several measures to foster sustainable cities and a robust digital economy embraced by a tech-savvy population.
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Updated 24 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions grow 11% to reach $14.35bn in January

Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale transactions grow 11% to reach $14.35bn in January

RIYADH: Point-of-sale payments in Saudi Arabia recorded an 11 percent annual increase in January to reach SR53.8 billion ($14.35 billion), the latest data issued by the Saudi Central Bank showed.

The surge in POS payments reflects the Kingdom’s commitment to digitalization and investments in a tech-driven future. Saudi Arabia is taking several measures to foster sustainable cities and a robust digital economy embraced by a tech-savvy population.

The largest portion of POS spending in January was allocated to beverages and food, comprising 16 percent of the total at SR8.44 billion. It was followed by spending on restaurants and cafes, accounting for 15 percent and reaching SR8.14 billion, according to the central bank, also known as SAMA, data.

The surge in spending on miscellaneous goods and services, encompassing personal care items, supplies, maintenance, and cleaning, represented the largest portion at 20 percent of the overall increase in POS sales during the aforementioned period. This category accounted for 12 percent of the total expenditure in January 2024, reaching SR6.47 billion with a growth rate of 21 percent.

Noteworthy increases in POS payments were observed in utilities, rising by 34 percent to reach SR516.77 million, and hotels, which grew by 28 percent, totaling SR1.56 billion. Spending on jewelry also experienced a substantial growth of 27 percent to reach SR957.58 million.

Saudi Arabia’s Digital Government Authority, established in March 2021, is driving the digitization of utility payments, to create an efficient digital government. It focuses on integrating state entities and improving service delivery through technology, emphasizing secure and accessible government services.

Riyadh stood out as the city where 34 percent of the total POS transactions took place, followed by Jeddah at 14 percent.

The growing population of Riyadh, from about half a million in 1972 to over 7.8 million in 2024, alongside the city’s increasing urbanization and the establishment of numerous international headquarters, has contributed to its evolution into a bustling business and digital hub, where the majority of sales transactions occur.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 targets a 70 percent non-cash transaction rate by 2030, paving the way for significant fintech expansion. With strong government backing and a tech-savvy millennial population eager to adopt innovative payment methods like digital wallets and contactless cards, the market holds vast potential.

Data from SAMA showed the closure of 354 ATMs since January 2023 and a 0.32 percent reduction in bank cash withdrawals. Conversely, the issuance of 5.16 million cards during this period suggests a shift from physical cash toward digital methods.

In February 2024, Mastercard signed a deal with Loop, a SAMA-licensed digital payments technology firm in Saudi Arabia, to broaden access to advanced credit card options and cutting-edge payment solutions for businesses and consumers.

Loop intends to enrich its products and services by tapping into Mastercard’s technology and expertise, as outlined in a statement from Mastercard.

Under the deal, both companies will jointly issue Bank Identification Number ranges, enabling access to cutting-edge payment solutions for consumers, merchants, and fintech entities throughout the Kingdom.

This collaboration signifies progress in Saudi Arabia’s digital payments infrastructure, potentially creating new opportunities for seamless and secure transactions.

According to Adam Jones, country general manager, MENA central at Mastercard: “Today, technology and innovation are the bedrocks of sustained success; particularly with businesses and financial institutions around the world being confronted with new and unprecedented challenges.”

“We work to empower our clients and partners with the tools to meet their targets and accomplish their goals. We aim to enable Loop to do just that, catering to the needs of Saudi businesses and consumers with an innovative range of payment solutions,” he added.

The agreement also highlighted the dedication of both parties to strengthen the Saudi fintech environment. Collaboratively, they will introduce a range of innovative offerings to the expanding community of small and medium enterprises and fintech firms in the Kingdom, empowering them to address the needs of a swiftly changing global economy.

Loop CEO Ali Al-Obaid said: “We believe financial inclusion is vital to powering social and economic reform in Saudi Arabia.”

“Partnering with Mastercard and leveraging the company’s technology will enable us to do that and more, contributing to the Kingdom’s prosperity,” he added.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia is focused on enhancing the tourist experience through collaborations and investments in technologies. For instance, in March of this year, Amazon Payment Services, a digital payments provider in the MENA region, partnered with Red Sea Global to enhance the online payment experience for travelers in Saudi Arabia.

This collaboration aims to deliver a suite of payment solutions customized to meet the needs of Red Sea Global’s customers.

In this partnership, the digital payments provider is also offering its core payment processing services to facilitate online booking and payments for Red Sea Global travelers. By collaborating with industry leaders, the provider aims to support Saudi Arabia’s citizens and businesses.

According to Peter George, managing director of Amazon Payment Services: “Our payment methods fully and seamlessly integrate with Red Sea Global’s infrastructure, making their offering even more accessible, reliable, and easy to use.”

This effort contributes to a diversified financial sector, aligning with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 to bolster the tourism and heritage sector.


Saudi PIF, French private equity group to acquire 38 percent of Heathrow airport

Saudi PIF, French private equity group to acquire 38 percent of Heathrow airport
Updated 15 June 2024
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Saudi PIF, French private equity group to acquire 38 percent of Heathrow airport

Saudi PIF, French private equity group to acquire 38 percent of Heathrow airport
  • Ferrovial to remain as shareholder under revised deal for UK’s busiest hub

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and a French private equity group will acquire a 38 percent stake in Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, officials announced on Friday.

Dutch-based transport company Ferrovial SE said the Public Investment Fund and Ardian had made a revised offer to acquire shares representing 37.62 percent of the share capital of FGP Topco, the parent company of Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd, for more than £3.2 million ($4.1 million).

Under the new agreement, Ferrovial, which operates in more than 15 countries, will remain as a shareholder with shares representing 5.25 percent of the issued share capital of FGP Topco.

Following the sale, the Topco shareholders and Ferrovial will together hold shares “representing 10 percent of the issued share capital,” while PIF and Ardian will buy 22.6 percent and 15 percent respectively of FGP Topco through separate vehicles, Ferrovial said.

“The parties have been working toward satisfaction of the condition for the sale of the Tagged Shares to be sold alongside Ferrovial’s shares by exploring different options to satisfy the same,” the statement added.

The deal remains subject to regulators’ approval, Ferrovial said.

In November, Ferrovial had said it was planning to offload its stake, with PIF taking 10 percent and Ardian taking 15 percent, but the deal has been amended to allow FGP Topco shareholders to sell their shares on the same terms under so-called “tag-along rights.”

“Ardian is pleased to have worked closely with the parties to find this revised agreement and reiterates its strong commitment to investing in the UK,” the French company said in a separate statement.

The private investment house, which manages or advises $166 billion of assets on behalf of more than 1,600 clients globally, added that it “actively supports its assets to accelerate their transformation by leveraging data and new technologies to reduce emissions, creating new, more sustainable revenue sources, becoming more independent and resilient to external shocks, and improving their impact on both local and global environments.”


IMF heralds Saudi Arabia’s ‘unprecedented economic transformation’ in glowing report

IMF heralds Saudi Arabia’s ‘unprecedented economic transformation’ in glowing report
Updated 14 June 2024
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IMF heralds Saudi Arabia’s ‘unprecedented economic transformation’ in glowing report

IMF heralds Saudi Arabia’s ‘unprecedented economic transformation’ in glowing report

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s “unprecedented economic transformation” is progressing well thanks to prudent government policies and successful diversification efforts, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In a report focusing on the changing economic landscape of the Kingdom, the organization highlighted growing domestic demand, ongoing financial reforms, and environmental policies as areas of strength.

The findings comes just days after the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released figures showing that Saudi Arabia’s economy witnessed growth above the G20 average in the first three months of the year.

In a release to mark the the end of an official visit to the Kingdom by the IMF, the organization projected Saudi Arabia’s overall GDP growth will accelerate to around 4.5 percent in 2025 before stabilizing at 3.5 percent per year over the medium term.

It forecast non-oil growth to reach 3.5 percent in 2024 “before picking up in 2025 onwards.”

It added: “Oil output is projected to contract by 4.6 percent in 2024 but increase by 5.1 percent in 2025, reflecting an extension of oil production cuts in 2024 and a gradual recovery to 10 mbpd in 2025.”

Reflecting on the transformation policies undertaken by the Saudi government, the IMF noted that “Efforts to diversify the economy have started to bear fruit.”

The report added: “Building on these successes, it will be important to sustain the non-oil growth momentum, maintain financial sector stability, continue mitigating risks of overheating, reverse declining total factor productivity and ensure inter-generational equity.”

The IMF welcomed the “recent recalibration” of funding requirements associated with the Vision 2030 objectives, and also praised the Kingdom’s drive to become a haven for private sector development.

“Reforms to enhance Saudi Arabia’s business environment and attractiveness for foreign investment are progressing well,” said the IMF, noting that Saudi Arabia climbed 15 notches in the IMD’s World Competitiveness ranking in two years, obtaining the 17th position globally in 2023. 

“Ongoing work to boost human capital through the Human Capability Development program, further increases in female labor force participation, significant strides in digital transformation and AI preparedness, streamlining of fees and levies, promotion of access to land and finance, and stronger governance would further enhance private sector growth, help attract more FDI, and contribute to total factor productivity growth,” the report added.

The IMF described Saudi Arabia’s financial sector as being on a “strong footing,” noting that bank credit growth – mainly to the corporate sector – continues to surpass deposit growth and is expected to remain at around 10 percent in 2024. 

“The continued efforts by SAMA to modernize the regulatory and supervisory frameworks are key to safeguarding financial stability,” said the report, adding: “SAMA should continue using macroprudential tools to forestall possible risks stemming from a lending boom.”

The report also noted Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives, saying that the Kingdom “remains committed” to achieving net zero emissions by 2060. 

“The authorities continue to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean hydrogen, and carbon capture technologies,” said the IMF, adding: “Eliminating energy subsidies would incentivize energy conservation and improve returns on investment in renewable energies. Augmenting the active green finance portfolio—including through the implementation of the Green Finance framework announced in March 2024 and by an inaugural sovereign green bond issuance planned for this year—would be critical for mobilizing private capital.”


China approves first ETFs tracking Saudi equities, fund managers tell Reuters

China approves first ETFs tracking Saudi equities, fund managers tell Reuters
Updated 14 June 2024
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China approves first ETFs tracking Saudi equities, fund managers tell Reuters

China approves first ETFs tracking Saudi equities, fund managers tell Reuters

SHANGHAI: China approved its first exchange-traded funds investing in Saudi Arabia equities on Friday, fund managers told Reuters, as Beijing expands ties with the Middle East amid rising tensions with the West.

The products, managed by China’s Huatai-Pinebridge Investments and Southern Asset Management separately, will track Hong Kong-listed CSOP Saudi Arabia ETF, which debuted in November by Hong Kong-based CSOP Asset Management, according to the two fund managers.

“The approval will further deepen the cooperation between Saudi and China in capital markets,” said Ding Chen, chief executive officer at CSOP.

The CSOP Saudi Arabia ETF, which tracks the performance of the FTSE Saudi Arabia Index, is down roughly 5 percent so far this year, compared with a 3 percent gain in China’s stock benchmark CSI 300 .

Reuters reported in August that China and Saudi Arabia’s stock exchanges were talking about allowing exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to list on each other’s bourses, as the countries look to deepen financial ties amid warming diplomatic relations.

Through the ETF, investors in China will be able to trade Saudi stocks including the oil giant Saudi Aramco and Saudi National Bank.

Beijing, frustrated by what it sees as Washington’s weaponization of economic policies, has sought to expand ties with countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Its diplomatic push to court others include US ally Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this week, China’s securities regulator told Reuters that it welcomes foreign financial institutions and investors, including those from the Middle East, to expand investment in China.

The statement was made in response to a Reuters request seeking comment on news that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund had agreed to buy a 10 percent stake in China Asset Management Co., the country’s second biggest mutual fund company.


Saudi deputy minister highlights Kingdom’s manufacturing sector potential to German businesses

Saudi deputy minister highlights Kingdom’s manufacturing sector potential to German businesses
Updated 14 June 2024
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Saudi deputy minister highlights Kingdom’s manufacturing sector potential to German businesses

Saudi deputy minister highlights Kingdom’s manufacturing sector potential to German businesses

RIYADH: Investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s manufacturing sector were set out to a host of German companies by the Kingdom’s deputy industry minister during a trade show in Frankfurt.

Engineer Khalil Ibrahim bin Salamah met with representatives from firms including systems suppliers the GEA Group, chemical company LINDE, and packaging solutions company IMA, in a bid to strengthen ties between the two nations at a trade show in Frankfurt.

The minister discussed increasing cooperation with the business people, as well as setting out the most prominent investment opportunities provided in the Kingdom’s industrial sector, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The meetings were held on the sidelines of ACHEMA, a global trade show for the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industry.

Bin Salamah also visited several big-name German petrochemical factories, such as Sanofi, during which he discussed enhancing innovation and sustainability and discovering opportunities to localize pharmaceutical industries.

He also held talks with representatives from global firms including Jagdamba Enterprise, Baker Hughes, and Panametrics.

 

 


Startup Wrap – Middle East SME funding activity flourishes with significant sums 

Startup Wrap – Middle East SME funding activity flourishes with significant sums 
Updated 14 June 2024
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Startup Wrap – Middle East SME funding activity flourishes with significant sums 

Startup Wrap – Middle East SME funding activity flourishes with significant sums 

CAIRO: The Middle East region has been witnessing a significant boost in startup activity, with numerous entrepreneurs securing funding across key sectors.  

Additionally, multiple investment pools were established, with Qatari and Emirati venture capitals aiming to further amplify the ecosystem. 

Regional startups are particularly eyeing the burgeoning Saudi market, with UAE-based proptech firm Stake raising $14 million in a series A funding round to enter the Kingdom.

The round was led by Middle East Venture Partners, with participation from Aramco’s Wa’ed Ventures, Mubadala, and Republic. 

Founded in 2021 by Rami Tabbara, Manar Mahmassani, and Ricardo Brizido, Stake is a digital real estate investment platform that offers options for income-generating properties in Dubai. 

The newly raised funds will be used to expand Stake’s services into Saudi Arabia this year. 

In 2022, Stake closed its pre-series A round at $8 million, backed by MEVP and BY Ventures, with participation from returning investors Vivium Holding and Combined Growth Real Estate. 

Saudi edtech Tahdir raises $270k in pre-seed round  

Saudi-based edtech Tahdir has closed a pre-seed funding round of $270,000 from a group of angel investors.  

Founded by Mohammed Al-Doukhi and Khalil Al-Haid, Tahdir’s platform automates daily school and educational management processes, and the company claims to be serving 92 schools with over 30,000 users. 

The investment will help the company enhance its capabilities and expand its operations within the Kingdom. 

Egypt-based medtech i‘SUPPLY secures pre-series A round  

i‘SUPPLY was founded in 2022 by Ibrahim Emam, Malek Sultan and Moustafa Zaki. Supplied

Egypt-based medical tech startup i‘SUPPLY has secured a pre-series A round, bringing its total funding to $2.5 million since its inception in 2022.  

This round saw participation from several investment funds, including Disruptech Ventures, OneStop Capital, Axian Investment CVC, and Egypt Ventures. 

Founded by Ibrahim Emam, Malek Sultan, and Moustafa Zaki, i‘SUPPLY aims to digitize the pharmaceutical business by offering a one-stop-shop solution to quickly predict and overcome supply chain disruptions.  

The new funding will bolster i’SUPPLY’s expansion plans, enhance its capabilities in financing small and medium-sized pharmacies, and further develop its fintech offerings and technological services. 

Egyptian fintech Sahl raises $6m in series A round 

Cairo-based fintech Sahl has raised $6 million in an investment that acts as a series A and seed funding round led by Ayady for Investment and Development. Existing investors Egypt Pay, Delta Electronic Systems, and E-Finance also participated in the round.  

Founded in 2020 by Ahmed Othman, Ibrahim Assal, and Abullah Assal, Sahl is a bill payment platform that allows users to recharge prepaid cards.  

The company is one of the few Egyptian firms integrating directly with several government entities.  

The new funds will help refine and develop Sahl’s offerings and extend its services to Saudi Arabia after its regional launch in the UAE.  

UAE’s Qstay raises $4.6m in pre-series A round 

Jumeirah beach residence. Supplied.

UAE-based hospitality platform Qstay has raised $4.6 million in a pre-series A funding round through a combination of conventional and convertible debt.  

Founded in 2020 by Artur Khayrullin, Ekaterina Rogozhina, Alec Fesenko, and Natalya Fesenko, Qstay operates as a virtual hotel brand with 200 units.  

Qstay provides digital app-based access to nearby pools, beaches, gyms, and spas for guests staying in beachfront properties.  

To date, the company has raised $11.1 million. In July 2022, Qstay closed a debt and equity Seed round of $6.5 million. 

UAE-based Polynome Group announces $100m fund for AI startups 

UAE-based event management company Polynome Group has announced a $100 million fund to invest in artificial intelligence startups.  

The fund will target startups in technology, AI software applications, and robotics, aligning with goals to expand the adoption of digital technologies beginning in the first quarter of 2025. 

The fund will adopt the “founders for founders” concept, investing in seed, series A, and growth stage startups with initial investments ranging from $500,000 to $5 million per company. 

UAE-based contech Tenderd secures $30m in series A funding 

Construction technology firm Tenderd has closed a $30 million series A funding round, led by A.P. Moller Holding, with new investors Quadri Ventures and Saurya Prakash joining existing investors Wa’ed Ventures, Nakhla Ventures, SOMA Capital, and Liquid 2 Ventures. 

Founded in 2018 by Arjun Mohan, Tenderd provides customers with AI-generated insights to increase asset utilization and reduce emissions, focusing on heavy industries such as construction and logistics.  

The capital will fuel technological innovations and support the UAE-based firm’s global expansion efforts. 

Qatar-based Rasmal Ventures launches first home-grown fund 

Qatar-based VC firm Rasmal Ventures LLC has launched its first home-grown fund, aiming to drive innovation and investment in Qatar and the Middle East and North Africa region.  

The Rasmal Innovation Fund I LLC targets high-performance startups in climate tech, fintech, business to business Software-as-a-Service, and AI sectors. 

For the initial closing, the fund has raised $30 million from institutional investors and family offices, with the goal of reaching $100 million in investment commitments. 

Kuwait-based travel tech Waves secures investment round 

Kuwait-based travel tech startup Waves has closed an investment round for an undisclosed amount, co-led by BNK Capital and Aujan Enterprises.  

Founded in 2021 by Abdulrahman Al-Sadoun and Sulaiman Al-Tunaib, Waves is an online marketplace for booking sea trips, marine activities, and chalets with operations in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE. 

The investment will be used to enhance Waves’ services in Saudi Arabia. 

E-commerce platform Orisdi raises six-figure bridge round 

Iraq-based e-commerce platform Orisdi has raised a six-figure bridge round of investment, backed by existing investors including Al Sharqiya TV Group, Iraq Venture Partners, and various angel investors.  

Founded in 2019 by Ahmed Al-Kiremli and Hala Usama, Orisdi offers a range of products across verticals such as perfumes, cosmetics, appliances, stationery, and electronics. 

This funding round, which closed in April 2024, will support Orisdi’s business development efforts and highlight the potential of the e-commerce sector in Iraq.