Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations

Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations
Sustainable practices are proving expensive to implement, the Bain & Co. report said.
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Updated 13 May 2024
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Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations

Middle Eastern airports embrace sustainability and tech amidst rising passenger expectations

RIYADH: Middle Eastern airports are prioritizing sustainability, eco-friendly infrastructure and renewable energy to combat climate challenges, a recent study showed. 

In its latest report, Bain & Co., a management consulting firm, also underscored the rising demand for seamless and personalized travel experiences driven by evolving passenger expectations. 

To address this, regional airports are also heavily investing in digital solutions that offer real-time communication and integrated mobility platforms. 

Discussing the growing emphasis on sustainability initiatives among the region’s airports, Akram Alami, Middle East head of utilities, aviation, and sustainability & responsibility practices at Bain & Co., said: “They aim to reduce their environmental impact through efforts like achieving carbon-neutral certification, designing eco-friendly infrastructure, and adopting renewable energy.” 

He added: “These initiatives are part of a broader strategy to address climate change and meet passenger expectations for more sustainable travel options.”  

The report also highlighted that airports in the region face several obstacles while implementing these sustainable practices, including high expenses for renewable technologies and regulatory issues. 

“Key challenges include high initial costs for green technologies, regulatory constraints, and the need for stakeholder alignment. Technological limitations and the need to integrate sustainability into existing infrastructure without disrupting operations also pose significant challenges,” noted Ilya Yamshchikov, associate partner at Bain & Co. Middle East.  

The report stated that other factors driving the growth of airports in the region include the adoption of technology and the commitment to meeting passenger expectations. 

Moreover, digital biometric screening and contactless services are streamlining security and boarding processes, it added. 

The US-based firm further pointed out that airports are also leveraging technologies like computed tomography baggage scanners and body scanners to expedite security checks without compromising safety. 

“These trends are expected to continue shaping the development of airports, leading to more efficient and passenger-centric facilities. They will significantly transform airline operations and the overall travel experience, making air travel more accessible, enjoyable and sustainable for future generations,” said Mauro Anastasi, partner and a member of the Aviation practice at Bain & Co.  

In December 2023, Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Airports Co. partnered with Cognizant to bolster its digital capabilities in finance, human resources, procurement, and planning, with the goal of enhancing traveler experience. 

Moreover, in November 2023, Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, stated that the Kingdom is working to finalize a comprehensive systematic plan to address environmental sustainability in the aviation sector. 

In terms of passenger expectations, a report released by GACA in April revealed that all airports in Saudi Arabia that received passenger complaints in March resolved them on time. 


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

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


Oil Updates – crude set for best week in over 2 months on solid demand outlook

Oil Updates – crude set for best week in over 2 months on solid demand outlook
Updated 14 June 2024
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Oil Updates – crude set for best week in over 2 months on solid demand outlook

Oil Updates – crude set for best week in over 2 months on solid demand outlook

SINGAPORE: Oil prices eased on Friday as markets evaluated the impact of US interest rates staying higher for longer than anticipated, but crude benchmarks headed for their best week in more than two months after solid projections for crude and fuel demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were down 34 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $82.41 a barrel by 6:44 a.m. Saudi time. West Texas Intermediate US crude futures lost 41 cents, or 0.5 percent, to trade at $78.21 a barrel.

However, Brent and the US benchmark gained over 3 percent for the week — the best week since April 5.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries stuck to a forecast for relatively strong growth in global oil demand for 2024 and Goldman Sachs projected solid US fuel demand this summer.

This helped reverse losses in the previous week which were driven by an agreement by OPEC and its allies, together called OPEC+, to start unwinding output cuts after September.

“Overall, this week can be characterised as a recovery effort for oil,” said Tim Waterer, chief market analyst at KCM Trade based in Australia.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see oil prices head higher from here whilst the demand outlook continues to look rosier. Much may depend on how the northern hemisphere summer demand picture plays out.”

Providing further support to the market, Russia pledged to meet its output obligations under the OPEC+ pact, after saying it exceeded its quota in May.

However, the price rally this week cooled after the US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady and pushed out the start of rate cuts to as late as December.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency said in a report on Wednesday it sees oil demand peaking by 2029, levelling off at around 106 million barrels per day toward the end of the decade.

On the downside, concerns over economic outlook grew after the Fed’s view on rate cut, but that said, to the extent that this buoys the US dollar, it could offer a measure of support to Brent, BMI analysts wrote in a note.

Market focus is also on the ongoing Gaza ceasefire talks, which, if resolved, would alleviate concerns about potential disruptions in oil supply from the region.

The US is very concerned that hostilities on the Israel-Lebanon border could escalate to a full-out war, a senior US official said, saying that specific security arrangements are needed for the area and a ceasefire in Gaza is not enough. 


Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments

Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments
Updated 14 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments

Saudi Arabia’s PIF showcases achievements in balancing biodiversity conservation and investments

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has detailed its successful balancing of biodiversity conservation with its investment initiatives.

The Public Investment Fund highlighted its undertakings spanning diverse sectors, with a focus on sustainable, eco-friendly, and luxurious tourism, as well as responsible mining practices.

According to the UN, human activity, driven largely by unsustainable practices, is the primary driver behind an ongoing biodiversity crisis, with 44,000 species endangered, 70 percent of coral reefs at risk, and fertile land loss surging by 29 percent since 2000.

Saudi Arabia, home to a vast array of plant and animal species, is actively addressing these challenges. 

In a statement, PIF emphasized its role as a major contributor to the Kingdom’s goals for protecting the environment, climate, natural resources, and biodiversity.

The fund pointed out that “it is possible to align successful and realist investment with environmental priorities.”

This holistic approach also promotes responsible investment in protected areas, particularly in nations rich in biodiversity – a commitment echoed by PIF as it strives to achieve Saudi Arabia’s environmental and biodiversity conservation goals.

One of the Kingdom’s wealth fund’s initiatives is Red Sea Global, which was established to develop tourist destinations in harmony with sustainable practices. 

The giga-project has conducted extensive baseline studies of marine biodiversity in the Red Sea and Amala regions to inform strategic planning aimed at nurturing the region’s tourism sector while preserving its ecological balance.

Building on its environmental database, Red Sea Global aims to achieve a 30 percent positive biodiversity conservation return by 2040.

Its initiatives include species protection and habitat restoration efforts, supported by accolades such as the “Regional Sector Leader” award from the Global Real Estate Sustainability Index.

PIF is keen to preserve Saudi Arabia’s wide range of biodiversity. Supplied

PIF’s commitment extends beyond tourism to initiatives like Dan Co., which is dedicated to eco-friendly tourism projects across Saudi Arabia. 

Launched in December 2023, Dan Co. aims “to achieve leadership in the field of rural and environmental tourism” through partnerships with local communities, offering visitors experiences that showcase Saudi Arabia’s diverse cultural values.

Moreover, Soudah Development Co. focuses on creating luxury mountain tourism destinations in Asir, integrating environmental sustainability with cultural preservation and community empowerment. 

By partnering with local wildlife and vegetation conservation authorities, Soudah Development plays a crucial role in advancing Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Green Initiative to combat climate change and promote sustainable development.

In tandem with these efforts, mining company Ma’aden has embarked on environmental undertakings, including projects for vegetation improvement and mangrove preservation along coastal areas—crucial for community livelihoods and ecological stability. 

Ma’aden’s commitment to biodiversity management sets benchmarks for responsible mining practices across its operational spectrum.

According to PIF, these collaborative models illustrate that robust investment strategies can coexist with environmental conservation imperatives. 

The fund stated: “PIF is moving toward achieving sustainable economic and social development capable of ensuring continued economic growth while protecting natural diversity through an integrated system of vital initiatives and projects that shape the future for generations to come.”

The Kingdom boasts rich biodiversity, including 499 species of birds, 117 mammals, 107 reptiles, 266 coral, 1,230 types of fish, eight amphibians, and over 2,400 flowering plants, according to the National Center for Wildlife.

Recent events, such as Saudi Arabia’s participation at the High-Level Event on Ocean Action in San José, Costa Rica, on June 10, underscore the Kingdom commitment’s in this field. 

The event, attended by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Climate Affairs Envoy Adel Al-Jubeir, focused on sharing expertise in ocean governance and safety, addressing critical challenges marine environments face. 

At the accompanying exhibition, the Saudi delegation showcased national initiatives under the banner of “Blue Saudi,” highlighting efforts such as assessing and rehabilitating environmental habitats in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. 

Emphasizing the importance of preserving biodiversity, the delegation presented plans to designate protected areas and ambitious programs to plant mangrove trees and combat plastic pollution through legislative measures and waste management initiatives. 

Saudi Arabia reiterated its commitment to sustainable practices under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, underscoring its dedication to conserving marine biodiversity.

In May of this year, the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve in Saudi Arabia achieved accreditation as “the first major biodiversity site in the Kingdom,” confirmed by Key Biodiversity Areas. 

The reserve, spanning 130,700 sq. km, meets three global standards, including the presence of endangered species, qualifying it for this prestigious recognition, which coincides with the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22 each year.

Managed by the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve Development Authority, the Saudi reserve aims to safeguard endangered species, enhance natural habitats, promote environmental awareness, and mitigate threats from natural and human factors. 

This area is recognized as the largest nature reserve in the Middle East.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in red at 11,498 

Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in red at 11,498 
Updated 13 June 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in red at 11,498 

Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in red at 11,498 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index dipped on Thursday, losing 152.88 points, or 1.31 percent, to close at 11,498.93.   

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR10.97 billion ($2,92 billion) as 62 of the listed stocks advanced, while 165 retreated.    

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index decreased by 18.86 points, or 1.29 percent, to close at 1,437.54. 

However, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu increased by 104.55 points, or 0.39 percent, to close at 26,753.99. This comes as 30 of the listed stocks advanced, while as many as 27 retreated.  

The top-performing stock of the day was Rasan Information Technology Co., which saw its share price surge by 30 percent to SR48.10. 

Other top performers included Al Taiseer Group Talco Industrial Co. and Al Moammar Information Systems Co., whose share prices soared by 14.42 percent and 7.24 percent, to stand at SR49.20 and SR163, respectively. 

In addition to this, other top performers included Saudi Cable Co. and Chubb Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. 

The worst performer of the day was Saudi Manpower Solutions Co., with its share price dropping by 8.51 percent to SR8.28. 

Other poor performers included ACWA Power Co. and Miahona Co., with their share prices declining by 5.31 percent and 5.19 percent to reach SR331.80 and SR21.56, respectively. 

Furthermore, other underperforming stocks included Sahara International Petrochemical Co. and Savola Group. 

On the announcements front, Rasan Information Technology Co. surged in its Riyadh debut, raising SR841 million with its shares peaking at SR48.1, a 30 percent increase from the offer price of SR37. 

Bloomberg reported that the IPO saw strong demand, with orders totaling $29 billion, making it oversubscribed 129 times, reflecting Saudi Arabia’s push to diversify its stock exchange beyond traditional sectors like banking and industry.  

“Rasan, which operates online insurance platforms such as Tameeni and Treza, will be among the first fintech firms to go public in the kingdom, which has only seen a few tech listings so far,” Bloomberg added. 

Besides Rasan, buy-now-pay-later firm Tabby and online cosmetics retailer Nice One are considering IPOs, according to Bloomberg News. 


Flyadeal receives first fully-owned aircraft in landmark moment 

Flyadeal receives first fully-owned aircraft in landmark moment 
Updated 13 June 2024
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Flyadeal receives first fully-owned aircraft in landmark moment 

Flyadeal receives first fully-owned aircraft in landmark moment 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s low-cost airline flyadeal has taken delivery of its first-ever wholly-owned aircraft in a “milestone” moment, according to the CEO.

The airline received the Airbus A320neo, named Al Sama after an Arabic constellation star in Toulouse, Airbus’ main assembly site.

This acquisition is also the company’s first new aircraft in 2024 and marks the beginning of a delivery plan that includes adding four vessels this year and eight A320neos in 2025.

The newly acquired aircraft will join the airline’s expanding domestic and international route network, serving nearly 30 destinations across Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa.

Flyadeal CEO Steven Greenway, along with colleagues Ahmed Bakadam, director of maintenance and engineering, and Ali Al-Zahrani, senior manager technical fleet, gathered in France for the official exchange. 

“The addition of aircraft number 33 represents a symbolic double milestone for flyadeal, bringing in our first fully owned aircraft and inducting the first new aircraft into the fleet this year. Until now all flyadeal aircraft are leased,” Greenway said.

He added: “With a plan targeting around 50 aircraft by the end of 2025 that will double to 100 by 2030, we are on course for a dynamic delivery schedule over the next few years. An incredible growth path that is being accelerated by the shear demand for inbound and outbound travel catering to a diverse profile of travellers.”

Greenway expressed satisfaction with their partnership with Airbus and highlighted the aircraft’s comfort and eco-friendliness, emphasizing their commitment to providing passengers with a positive flying experience. 

As part of future fleet requirements, flyadeal placed its largest ever order last month for a further 51 Airbus A320 family aircraft comprising 12 A320neos and 39 larger A321neos. 

Sporting a spacious cabin of 186 seats in a three–three configuration that features seating of the highest standards and specifications for a low-cost airline and larger than normal overhead bins, the A320neo is the backbone of flyadeal’s fleet, which is among the youngest in the industry averaging just over two years old.